Swimming Milestones: Open Water and a Mile

One of my favorite underwater pictures from my vacation. Taken in the ocean after my 1 mile swim.

In swimming one of the major milestones for me has been the ability to swim a mile.  I think this proves a cornerstone for allot of new swimmers and it understandable why this distance is so daunting.  Similar to the 5k distance in running, a mile in swimming is a huge test of basic endurance. In a 50 meter pool a mile equates to roughly 1500 meters or 30 laps, in a 25 meter pool this equates to 60 lengths.  With this target set for my swimming goals, I set out to build the endurance and stamina to complete this task.  I started with a simple program aimed to gradually increase the number of laps of distance swam concurrently and gradually decreased time between sets, the end goal swimming one long set of 1500 meters or one mile.  Gradually every week the work has paid off, first I swam 300 meter, my previous max, then 600 and lastly 1000 meters.  Unfortunately my vacation cut into my planned next week, so I had to put it off til I got back. That week consisted of swimming a mile without rest.  This last Monday, I successfully accomplished that goal and have now swam 1 mile in two separate swim workouts without stopping, in about a 40 minute time.  I know it is slow, but heck, I swam a mile!

The Half Moon Cay beach. In the distance you can see the white buoys, I swam the entire length of those and back.

The other major goal I had regarding swimming involved open water swimming.  Historically since I started training in the summer I have struggled swimming in open water.  The issues were numerous, but basically my endurance was fairly week and swimming greater than 300 meters without a bottom to rest on was a daunting task. Additionally, my lack of endurance would often play a key role in my panicking while swimming in open water.  Usually within a few seconds of starting my arms would get heavy and I would panic and start to use my arms to float and look around. By that point it was a no go, the rest of the swim would be chaotic and uncontrolled.

Allot has changed since then though. Before this trip I started spending every swim workout swimming over a mile, granted not continuously.  My confidence in the water soared and I feared open water less now that I knew physically I could handle it.  This is why the week before my cruise, during a vacation planning session, my wife and I were discussing what we wanted to do when we got off at Half Moon Cay, a private beach owned by Holland America. The conversation went like this:

Wife: What are we doing at Half Moon Cay?

Chatter:  What is it?  Is it a beach day?

Wife: Yup, sun and relaxation and whatever else you want to do.

Chatter: (without a moment of thought) I want to swim in the ocean!

Wife: You have swam in the ocean numerous times, so what.

Chatter: No, I want to Swim in the ocean, like freestyle, like  I swim laps in the pool… I want to do a mile!

Wife: You sure? There is tides and … and … its the ocean!

Chatter: Yup!

I thought that conversation was hilarious but never thought twice about what I was trying or wanting to try.  So the day came and I finally was going to swim in the ocean, for a mile. I did exactly that. The first half of the mile was allot of starting and stopping as I figured out how to deal with waves pushing salt water into my mouth and calmed my arms and stroke as the water pushed me.  The second half was much smoother and I went further and longer.  I learned that its best to breath in the direction the waves are pushing towards to keep allot of salt water out of the mouth.  I also learned to relax and deal with the taste and occasional burn of the salt water.

Capture

My GPS swim route in red.

A big difference was actually the calmness I had developed. I never panicked, I just swam. When I took in too much salt water, I just lifted up, calmly moved my arms, coughed, reset and began to swim again. None of the old panic and worry was there.  I felt strong and confident in my ability Being able to swim a mile distance and the increased endurance proved great motivators in creating a calm and very enjoyable swimming experience.  In the video I have that my wife took of my swimming, I notice now some things that I corrected later that she did not catch. The biggest one I see is the swinging of the arms.  Initially I did not have as calm of a stroke.  In the video it is initially evident that my stroke is long and arms are way too high out of the water. Later in the video, the fingers and hand go less out into the air and are closer to a correct form.  What she did not catch was later when my muscle memory took over I began to keep my elbows more forward and my fingers just tickling above the water.  This is one thing I have to practice more though, my stroke and correct position.

Its still cool that she cought some of my swim on video, as I can look at it and figure out what I need to improve upon.  Also it just looks really cool swimming like that in the big vast ocean.  It was not til later when I was back on the cruise ship, sitting in the hot tub with other people that I realized how odd my planned activity was.  Sitting there, some of the people talked about relaxing on the beach or splashing around in the water, then they asked me what I did.  I grinned and clearly stated ” I swam a mile in the ocean, it was awesome”!  Most of them were in awe.  Your on vacation and you wanted to swim in the ocean? Were you not afraid of salt water, the tide and sharks and wild life? I just grinned as it hit me how odd of an undertaking the days activity proved to be.  Even now, I just grin and smile, I swam a mile in the ocean.  I remained calm and in control and did not ever feel panicked.  Of course then I came home and completed all 30 laps without stopping (1 mile).  Swimming wise it has been a great two weeks. Til next time.

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8 comments

  1. CHATTER! I’m thrilled for you!!!

    1. Time to get back to drill focus and start a new swim routine. I think 40 minutes is slow for a mile, but heck allot of people at my gym can’t do a mile in the pool. A mile from 250 meters in two months ain’t tippy bad. Thanks for the support.

  2. What a great accomplishment, wow!!! The video was cool, you’ve not only swam a mile in the ocean, but you also overcame your fears. Congrats Chatt ! It just goes to show that you can do anything you set your mind to. Way to go!

  3. […] over my successful ocean open water swim and completed a mile in the pool without stopping (details here).  I  followed that with an intense spin session. Then on Tuesday I had a great workout, except […]

  4. […] November with an exhilarating open water swim in the ocean for a total distance of a mile (details and video here) starting and stopping, but it was a mile.  Then I began December and the next base phase with a […]

  5. Im gonna be honest with you, that’s BEAST!!! lol Im a good swimmer Marine Corps 4 years but rite now Im not in shape to do that lol Great Post sir!! Ill definitely keep in touch with you. It’s always so much you can learn from others. I love it!

    1. You got the muscle, at least what I could tell from your blog. While I am not focused as much on lifting there is allot of good stuff there. It is amazing what you can do in a few short months if you put your mind to it.

  6. […] that I did one of the craziest things of my life… I swam freestyle for a mile in the ocean (details here).  In that post there is a very high in the sky areal photograph of my swim as that is the largest […]

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