Tag Archives: open water swimming

Glossary of (pool) swim terms

If you’re new to competitive swimming, then the whole insider language can seem intimidating. There are a lot of people in masters swimming who grew up on swim teams, but while I had enough in the way of informal lessons and swimming experience as a child to be a solid, competent swimmer as an adult, I’d never participated in a swim team in my life when, pretty much out of the blue, I took up open water distance swimming at 45.  What did I know from descends and negative splits?

Today I came across a helpful glossary of terms via the Mountain View Masters web site.

Now if someone could just explain exactly HOW you descend (I mean really — “descend :02 on each 100.”  Seriously, are there swimmers who have such minutely calibrated sense of pace that they can do that?).


More on the circumstances surrounding Fran Crippen’s death

Christine Jennings, who also swam in the 10K in which Fran Crippen died, spoke to the Washington Post about race conditions and her own experience, suggesting that both the warm water and a lack of race support likely contributed to Crippen’s death:

The other American, Christine Jennings, said she vomited several times in the water. Jennings, 23, got dizzy and veered off course. Fearing she would black out, she turned over and swam on her back with an arm in the air to signal her distress to the safety boats that are supposed to follow the swimmers in such races.

But when no one responded, Jennings struggled to the finish, where she staggered out of the water with the help of a fellow swimmer and was taken to a hospital.

“It was a disaster,” she said. “I’m floating on my back for several minutes, thinking ‘Why isn’t anybody checking on me?’ “

Jennings said she noticed a referee’s boat and several people on jet skis before the race, but not as many as typically patrol the water given swimmers’ vulnerability to extreme temperatures, jellyfish stings and other problems. U.S. teammate Eva Fabian, 17, rode in the same ambulance as Jennings to the hospital; both were treated for dehydration and heat exhaustion.

The Post also reports that, according to Crippen’s family, “On a death certificate sent Sunday night from the United Arab Emirates, heat exhaustion and drowning were listed as the causes of Fran Crippen’s death.”

In the LA Times, physician and swimmer Larry Wiesenthal said that “having a 10k (2 hour) race in 86 degree water is criminal.” Wiesenthal explained that dehydration, more than heat, would have been the greatest concern in this race.  A swimmer competing at race pace in 86-degree water would sweat profusely, he noted.

With swimming in warm water, you are killed not by heat stroke but by dehydration. More sinister than in running, where you are upright and you’ll faint/pass out in relatively early stages of dehydration, with swimming you are already lying down and can maintain blood flow to your brain. So you won’t pass out until you are so dehydrated that you essentially go into frank shock, with total circulatory collapse.

Could Crippen could have been saved had he been pulled from the water immediately upon collapse and received emergency medical care?  It may be impossible to know for certain.  However, Jennings stated that she tried to signal for help but that her efforts went unnoticed.  Many people have asked whether FINA needs to establish an upper limit on water temperatures, but race support seems to have been just as important an issue in this tragedy.

Diana Nyad tries again: Cuba to Key West

At 61, Diana Nyad is hoping to attempt the swim she couldn’t complete in 1978: Cuba to the Keys.  She swam for nearly 42 hours in 1978, but was defeated by wind, waves, and current. (The story of Nyad’s 1978 swim can be read here in Sports Illustrated.)

Interestingly, Nyad apparently only got back in the water in 2009, after a 30-year hiatus, as noted in a story in the Miami Herald:

Nyad didn’t swim a single lap for three decades, from 1979-2009. “Major burnout,” explains the International Swimming Hall of Fame inductee, who kept busy as a journalist, speaker and radio commentator. “Couldn’t pay me to get in the water.”

This time, she plans to forgo the shark cage she swam with in 1978.  Ironically, however, at the moment the biggest threat to her swim appears to be bureaucratic:  she’s waiting for a travel visa from the Cuban government.

Per her USA swimming bio (long version), Eva Fabian (phenomenal young OW swimmer–she won the 5K at the 2009 Open Water National Championships and then in July 2010 won the women’s World Open Water 5K) trains 15,000 – 20,000 yards each day, 6 days a week.  Set your training goals, kids!

Beware the swift and deadly strike

No, we don’t mean sharks.  The Florida Department of Natural History‘s Ichthylogy Department shows that you’re far more likely to be killed by lightning, dogs, even deer, than by a shark, and that far more people are injured every year by  room deodorizers than by those toothy predators of the deep.

Take away?  Never swim with your AirWick.

Why they do it

Great multimedia piece in The Sydney Morning Herald on OW Swimmers.

USMS 2010 Open Water Championships Info

Get out your calendars: the 2010 USMS open water championships schedule is posted.  All the events will take place in inland bodies of water (lakes & reservoirs, that is).  No ocean swims.