At the end of April a group of 8 Vladswimmers and myself headed down to the glorious water of Brighton, Melbourne to harden up and enhance their channel training with a spot of cold water swimming. The coach was very kind to them and only made them swim twice a day in water that was between 14-15 degrees. We all stayed in a house together at the beach which meant for a very funny time with a wide range of personalities living together but all with a common goal to adapt to cooler water in preparation for their upcoming English Channel attempt. The basic itinerary is below and I’ve also attached a few viewpoints of some of the guys who were on the camp.
Thursday – swam at Brighton baths – water 14.5 degrees, 5pm in water so cool outside as well and after 1 hour when they got out it was dark.
Friday am – swam for 3 hours around the Brighton pier with conditions inside the pier being flat and not much wind and conditions outside windy, choppy and messy – good channel conditions. A few here discovered that Yes you can get seasick while swimming.
Friday pm – back to Brighton baths, 1 ¾ hours only this time – dark and cool again.
Sat am – Up to half moon bay / Black Rock for a long session. 6am start, dark no idea where they were going cold and a little windy. Ultimate aim was 8 hours which Tori, Wayne, Lachlan ( with a couple of gentle words from the coach needed at times to get him back in water) and Ali ( with time out for a wee vomit or 2 – seasick) all conquered. Ben and Wyatt made 6 hrs 15mins – Ben was doing Argyle the following weekend, Wyatt was a tad hypothermic – bit more food needed here, and Marty made 4 ½ hours – hypothermia got him as well.
Sat Evening yes nasty coach Charm did make them get in again, we spent ¾ hour mucking around in the water to again adapt to the cold but instead of swimming throwing a ball Frisbee etc around and having a bit of fun.
Sun am – Joined the Brighton Iceburgers for their regular Sun morning Swim of about 1 ½ km and then upstairs at their clubhouse being the Royal Brighton Yacht Club for brekky. I actually did let them use the steam room after this swim as a treat.
Even though it was not smooth sailing for each swim it was a fantastic learning experience for everyone especially as to how much prep before swims like this is needed, how much food you do need, how much of it is mental and how much the sea can change and move you around.
From Wayne Arthur
It was fantastic to feel a part of a team for the first time in a long time and for me that was the best part about the trip. Ocean Swimming and marathon swimming is generally such
An individual sport that although there are fantastic people supporting you, it’s hard not to feel a bit alone in the sport. The weekend in Melbourne helped foster some great relationships outside of the pool, we all learned a lot about the fundamentals of channel training…..
– Optimal feeding sequence
– What worked best as fuel?
– Pacing during the 8 hour swim
However the one thing that I gained from the trip that stands out for me the most, was total confidence. In all honesty, the 8 hour swim in 14.6 degree water was the toughest day I’ve experienced to date and I’ve put myself through some tough situations before. The physical strain was entirely manageable; the tough part was the mental battle…. Constantly keeping motivated, enthused, interested and most of all tricking your brain into feeling warm.
The body is always willing; it’s only ever the mind that will let you down. Bring on the channel.
From Marty Filipowski
When I stood on the starting line for the Rottnest race, I said to a few Vlad Swim mates I felt it was going to be somewhat like another one of our long Saturday training sessions with Coach Charm. I knew I could do the time in the water, even if I was going to learn some things along the way to the finish line.
Now I am preparing myself to start an even longer swim in much colder water next year with the same degree of confidence. Beyond taking Charm’s advice to drop the word “cold” from my vocabulary, she is organising time in colder conditions to help get us ready. The biggest part of this to date for me, personally, has been taking part in Charm’s cold-water boot camp in Victoria.
I didn’t even think about the cold when I jumped-in for my first swim in Victoria with the group in the darkness that was Friday morning. I just told myself many times to relax, reach and breath, and I played a favourite song in my head over and over. I also told myself the conditions were nothing compared to the illnesses some people have had to deal with. That got me through three hours. It also got me through another swim of about an hour and forty-five minutes later in the day, although I did not feel as rested and felt that I had to increase my stroke rate to help counter the cold.
The second morning we were meant to swim at least six hours or up to eight. There was so much to do in the lead-up that once again I didn’t even think about the cold. I just jumped in. It was darker than the day before and for a while the best guide was a blinking light on the back of a faster swimmer’s head. I could feel myself shivering in the water. But after the first feed and as time went on, I began to feel somewhat comfortable. I guess so comfortable that Charm and others pulled me out of the water after four and a half hours. The cold had claimed me. Later that day Charm got us back in the water, not for a swim, but just to spend time in the cold. This was a good confidence boost for me. We tossed a ball around and had a good time. The club race Charm organised for us to do the next morning was also good in that it got me back in the cool conditions right away. Relax, reach, breath served me well once again.
Beyond time in cooler conditions, I am working with a dietician to help put on some insulation. And did I mention sleep?? I need a lot more of it these days, among other things. I am also grateful for the advice I have been given from many others who enjoy open-water swimming, have made it to France and much more. And I am very grateful to be swimming with a great group of like-minded mates who help make the experience even more enjoyable!