Sunday, August 9, 2015

Fueling Long Swims

Among the other things that seem problematic about a 12 mile open water swim, it's easy to forget about fueling. Will my arms fall off? alligators? sharks? can my brother stay on a kayak for 6 hours? all totally legitimate. But keeping myself from dehydrating and sunburning is kind of an afterthought.

Sol RX was recommended to me for sunscreen. Since my race starts at noon and is expected to take me 6 hours, Michael and I will both need waterproof sunscreen that will not sweat off. That's the hottest part of the day, and even in late September, Charleston is still going to be quite warm in both the air and water temp. like, mid-80's for both. This stuff is made for athletes, so I'm really hoping it will hold up. I may or may not get to try it in open water before race day.

But fueling is a much more challenging puzzle to solve. In a marathon or Ironman, you have aide stations every X miles that cater to everything you would need, as long as you can take the stuff that they serve on the course. Ironman Perform tastes like motor oil by the second half of the bike leg. It's easy to walk through an aide station on a marathon, grab a gel and 2 cups of water and go to town. It's not so easy to walk when you're face down in the middle of a river; and there are no aide stations.

I think the key to solving this puzzle is going to be water soluble nutrition. Electrolytes are a key point, as is water (volume) to combat dehydration. Foot and calf cramps are common problems when swimmers get dehydrated, and running out of calories to burn is a serious concern. My plan is to bring 1 bottle per hour plus one extra bottle for the finish line and float on my back to drink every 20 to 30 minutes.

Those bottles will all have to be fully loaded of course. I'm using Skratch right now, and the orange flavor is amazing. Very subtle flavor, all natural ingredients, 100 calories per scoop, this is some of the neatest stuff out there. It is very soluble, so you can double dose one bottle if you want to, but I'm not.

The king of the hill for electrolytes, of course, is still SaltStick. SaltStick provides everything you need to stay fueled up and I seem to get an anti-hunger benefit from it too, that's why I love this stuff. I've been using it almost exclusively to keep me going on longer runs for a while now and I really enjoy it. To use it in the swim bottles, I pop open 2 of the capsules and dump the powder into the bottle. it tastes very bitter, so to counter that I add a spoonful of sugar.

After the 5 mile Lowcountry Splash OWS

So between the Skratch, SaltStick, and sugar I end up with about 220 calories in each bottle, 24 oz of water, and plenty of protection against dehydration and cramping. I've been packing 2 bottles for my long weekend swims, and it seems to be working. My long days have been a saturday where I run long in the morning and swim long soon after that. Today all I got in was a long swim, but 5k in Pullen Park Pool still took 2 bottles packed up like that. It rocked, was easy to drink, and I felt great for the whole swim. Only stopped because the pool closed.

1 comment:

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

I never thought about how you would fuel for a this swim - that is very tricky!! Sounds like you've got a good plan and I'm glad your brother will be out there - I assume he'll be carrying some of the fueling supplies for you as you can't swim with it, right?

I just started using SaltStick during this marathon training cycle and I think it is really helping! I just swallow the tablets about once an hour but it seems to be helping!