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Monday, February 2, 2015

Guest Mermaid -- Jackie Blue (Part 2)

Thanks to Jackie Blue for her guest mermaid posts. This week, in Part 2 of our virtual interview, Jackie shares some practical advice for open water swimmers.

I know that you had thought about doing a marathon and instead decided to focus on swimming.  What is your training routine to prepare for a 1 mile swim (how much time does it take to prepare)?  

I didn’t really “train” much to do my first one mile race. I was already swimming fairly regularly in the pool, for at least 30 minutes at a time, and I nearly hit a mile in that 30. So even though open water is harder, I didn’t feel like it took that much more effort. I did train more for my first 5K, since I don’t often get that much pool time (my gym limits time if there’s a wait) - so that meant putting in some 2-3 mile swims on the weekends at the beach.

What kind of cross training do you need to do?  What is the time commitment?

Honestly, I didn’t really cross train. I stopped running last May to focus on swimming, and although I should add a weight routine, I haven’t found time yet. Time commitment for a one miler wasn’t much - about 3-4 hours a week perhaps.

What advice would you give to someone who is a good swimmer but has little experience with open water swimming — what is the best way to start, and what are the critical things to do (i.e., how do you learn how to orient yourself, etc.)?

First off, find someone to swim with. I don’t recommend that someone who hasn’t done open water go out alone. Start close to shore - if you’re at a beach with jetties, like Coney Island, do laps between jetties before venturing out further and doing distance.

Sighting is VERY important out there - to make sure you aren’t heading too far out, to avoid hitting jetties, and to keep boats and jet skis in your vision. I recommend using landmarks - like a particular building, to keep in your sight and make sure you’re heading the right direction. Learn to look up without lifting your head out of water, assuming you’re doing freestyle stroke. It’s usually just a glance up in the direction of your landmark. Also - practice bilateral breathing. I’m still terrible at that - but you want to be able to breathe on either side to avoid waves crashing into your face.

Do you have any recommendations for resources in the NY area (swim groups, good races/swims for beginners, equipment/good places to buy equipment, nice pools to train in)?

There are many good resources around NYC for swimmers - a lot of Masters teams where you can get really good coaching and team workouts - I plan to join a Masters team in January. It’s going to take my pool swimming to the next level. I haven’t found a great pool in Manhattan yet. Asphalt Green is probably the best, but it’s expensive and not at all convenient to where I live.

For open water swimmers - there is CIBBOWS, which I have already mentioned - and NYC Swim holds a lot of swim races - unfortunately they are cutting down on all the short distance swims and focusing mainly on marathon distance swims.

A great race for beginners is Grimaldo’s Mile - it’s short (just a mile) and a lot of fun. That’s a CIBBOWS race.

I buy most of my swim gear online - is my favorite - but there’s a good shop near me (Leisure Pro, on 18th St.) that has a lot of gear. Paragon Sports is good for swimsuits and goggles.

What events have you done this year or plan to do next?

This past October I traveled to Bermuda with several CIBBOWS friends to swim the 24th Annual Round The Sound swim. It’s varied distances from 0.8K to 10K - I was going to do the 4K - but for the first time ever the race was CANCELLED because we had a hurricane that day! It was a huge bummer, but I did learn that nothing keeps swimmers down - we swam in the bay by our hotel in the midst of 50mph winds. Crazy? Yes. Tons of fun? Definitely. It’s an experience I won’t forget - and yes, I do plan to return to Bermuda this year to try again. This time I might go for the 10K!

In January I will do my first indoor event - a Masters swim - called the One Hour Postal Swim. Basically you swim for an hour and see how far you can go. The results are compared nationally with other Masters swimmers.

The one shorter distance NYC Swim is keeping is called the Little Red Lighthouse swim which is a 10K in the Hudson - I plan to do that in 2015. Looks like I have some training ahead of me!

Thanks, Jackie!

- MM