As my swim date approaches, many people have been asking me for details regarding the logistics of the crossing as well as the safety precautions, so I decided to put together this information post to outline what really goes on behind a marathon swim. While I will go into detail about the specific roles of the team for my crossing, there are so many more people who are also helping out behind the scenes.
Why am I doing this swim?
I have been enchanted by the idea of swimming the Catalina Channel ever since I first picked up Swimming to Antarctica by Lynne Cox when I was 11 years old. It took until now for me to gain the confidence and abilities that I needed to train and do this swim. I am really excited to see where this challenge takes me.
Where/when will I swim?
I plan to swim from Catalina Island to Palos Verdes, crossing the Catalina Channel. In a straight line, this distance is approximately 20 miles, but currents and other factors are likely to increase the distance I will swim. My pace is about 2 miles/hour, but this is also influenced by currents and weather. I will begin my swim from Catalina sometime in the middle of the night on Sunday, July 24th. The swim starts at night because the water is calmer and there is less shipping traffic to deal with.
How will I feed during the swim?
Optimal marathon swimming nutrition is a very personal choice that depends on a variety of factors including caloric need, digestive necessity, and flavor preference. Throughout my training I tried plenty of feeding drinks that I found to be nasty, but I know others who swear by them. The timing of feeds also differs for every swimmer. I feed every half hour on either one scoop (100 cal) of a carb powder called CarboPro dissolved in 10oz of water or squeezable applesauce (60 cal). My feeding plan follows a two hour cycle where I get CarboPro for the first three feeds and an applesauce for the fourth. The CarboPro is unflavored and basically tastes like sugar water and the applesauce has cinnamon and basically tastes like apple pie filling. By feeding every half hour, I ensure my energy never dips drastically but there is also enough time in between to digest. In terms of the logistics of a feed, my kayaker hands me a bottle and I kick along on my back until I am finished. I am practicing keeping my feeds short in order to save time and minimize heat loss that occurs when stopped.
What safety precautions are there?
I will have both a motorized boat (Outrider) and a kayak accompanying me on my crossing and making sure I am safe. Dr. Christie (Paige’s father) will also be on board as an extra precaution.
Who else will be on the boat?
I have several team members who will make my swim possible and each have specific roles during the crossing. In addition to Dr. Christie, I will also have a boat captain, crew chief, two kayakers, a support swimmer, and two observers.
The boat captain is in charge of everything nautical and navigational during the swim. He will also provide a wealth of knowledge as he has been on many, many successful Catalina crossings. My captain is John Pittman and his boat is Outrider (fun fact: he was also the captain for Rebecca and my friend Charlotte Samuels’ swims).
My crew chief‘s job is to make sure all other members of the team are working together and to look out for the best interests of the swimmer and will also be my coach during the crossing. My crew chief is Rebecca Nevitt, who swam Catalina in 2014 and the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim in 2015. I know that I will be safe during my crossing, because Rebecca will take care of me.
The kayaker stays along side the swimmer for the whole swim and makes sure they are safe. In addition to providing safety, my kayaker will also handle my feeds. I have team of awesome kayakers, who I will highlight later.
The support swimmer is allowed to swim for 3 separate 1 hour segments during my crossing. She is mostly there to provide emotional support to me as the swim gets tougher. My support swimmer is my friend and mentor, Paige Christie, who crossed the English Channel in 2014 and is currently completing the 120 mile 8 Bridges Swim in New York. I know that even when the swim gets really hard, Paige will be there pushing me to keep going.
The observers are there to make sure my swim adheres to marathon swimming rules, track my progress, and record my official time.
Will my parents be on the boat?
My parents will not be on the boat. As much as I love them, they will be way too anxious and I don’t want to be worrying about them worrying about me. They will be monitoring my swim via a live tracker while firmly on dry land.
How have I prepared for the swim?
My training plan was written by my coach Kim Bierwert and consists of 5-7 pool swims that are each 5000-7500 yards (3-5 miles), 2-3 short (2-6 miles) ocean swims, and one long (8+ mile) ocean swim, per week. When I swim in the pool, I swim primarily alone but when I swim in the ocean I always swim with at least one other person.
My training buddies have gotten me through so many tough practices, both in the pool and ocean. Back at Smith, when I was first beginning my training, my main training partners were Eliza Cummings and Desi Stoyanova. Eliza is training for a different marathon swim, the P2P on Cape Cod, and Desi is always up for a grueling practice. In Los Angeles, I have been training mainly with Gino Hanrahan, @NatalieRadtke, and Rebecca Nevitt. Gino and Natalie are also training for Catalina crossings this summer. It has been awesome to be able to train with such amazing and passionate people!
What is the water temperature and will I wear a wetsuit?
The summer water temperature in the Catalina Channel can range from the high 50s to 70, and is currently around 65 degrees. By marathon swimming standards this is not actually that cold, but still requires acclimatization and training. I have been training in the ocean (60-69 degrees) to help my body become used to swimming in cold water. Marathon swimming rules dictate that swimmers can only wear a normal porous suit, cap, goggles, and earplugs.So I will not be wearing a wetsuit. Also, I really hate swimming in a wetsuit so I’m not complaining.
Can you track my swim?
There is a GPS tracker available on the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation that will go live on the day of my swim.