Every swimmer will develop his or her own training programme. This will be based on previous experience, coaching ideas, conversations with other swimmers and/or facilities available. There are, however, some aspects that will apply to everyone. To swim the Loch Ness, you must consider the following factors: Train safe. Above all else, please train safely, particularly in the sea. Carry out your own risk assessment, swim in company, let someone responsible know what you're planning and, if swimming away from the shore, obtain appropriate boat and crew-support.
Water temperature. This is between 6°C to 12°C. Try to train in temperatures around 10°C. There is no need to train in water that is too cold (below 6°C) and do not convince yourself that if you are swimming in 16°C then it is almost the same.
Bi-lateral breathing. Train yourself to breathe bi-laterally. This will mean that you can swim on either
side of the escort boat using the shelter of the hull if the wind gets up or avoiding the exhaust fumes if the
wind is in the wrong direction.
Air temperature and chill factor. This varies considerably depending on the weather and the hours of
daylight. The longest day is around the 21st of June, giving daylight from about 0230 to 0000 hours. This
decreases to 0400 to 2000 hours by the end of September. Body heat is lost from the parts of the swimmer
exposed to the air (head and shoulders, etc.). The air temperature is higher during daylight hours,
therefore the longer the day, the greater the period of higher air temperature, and the smaller the loss of
Hypothermia. The normal body temperature is 98.6°F (37°C). Hypothermia develops when the body
temperature falls below about 95°F (35°C). Moderate hypothermia can usually be reversed, and a complete
recovery made if it is recognised and treated quickly. However, if the body temperature falls below 75°F
(24°C), recovery is unlikely. The symptoms and signs of the onset of hypothermia are difficult to recognise
to the inexperienced eye. They are basically bouts of shivering, disorientation, irrational behaviour,
blueness of the lips, inability to concentrate or co-ordinate speech, and inability to respond to simple
requests or questions. If hypothermia arises your team must do as they are instructed - your life may
depend on it!
Feeding. This needs a great deal of thought on behalf of the swimmer and his/her team. Keep the feeding
time to a minimum. (For example 3 minute feeds every hour for the first 2 hours then 3 min feeds every
1/2 hour will add over an hour to a 12 hour swim). Arrange the feeding pattern well in advance. The most
common pattern is hourly feeds for the first 2 hours then 1/2 hourly feeds for the remainder of the swim.
Your feed time should be less than 1 minute a stop. Try the different types of feed to see which suits you.
These days most swimmers use a high carb feed like Maxim. You must however get used to these feeds
well in advance as they have a high input and it can take some time for your body to adapt. Make sure you
get the quantities right as too much at a time can upset your system. Almost every swimmer will go
through a bad patch around the 5th, 6th, or 7th hour when the body starts to convert its own fat to energy.
Understand this problem and try to train through it. It's important for you to know this is going to happen.
Swim technique. Ask your coach, or someone with a professional eye, to analyse your stroke to ensure it is technically correct for swimming in the sea. The importance of outdoor training cannot be emphasised enough. The body reacts and performs differently in cold water. Do as many of your long swims as possible in open water. Pool swimmers and national champions have found that the transition to open water takes a lot of time and effort. You must start early to acclimatise to long periods in cold water. To obtain the maximum benefit from pool work, do not swim for long periods without a break. Far from building up your stamina, it will make you sluggish. Lots of interval work is far better. Try to get that extra centimetre out of every arm-pull. The more efficient your stroke, the better your chances of success.
Speed. Keep a regular check on your speed. Your pilot will want to know your swim rate and this must be a realistic timing, taken at the end of your training period. It is important for your pilot, you and your team to have a good idea of the time you will take to complete your swim. Time yourself over a distance (1,000 yards or 1,000 metres) then you can calculate your approximate crossing time.
The shortest distance is 21 nautical miles from Fort Augustus to Loch End. 1 nautical mile is approximately 2000 yards or 1852 metres. 21 nm x 2000 yd's is 42,000 yards to swim Loch Ness by the shortest route. 21 nm x 1852 mtrs is 38,904 metres to swim Loch Ness by the shortest route. You can work out your approximate crossing time by simple mathematics once you have your average swim distance for an hour.
Yards Example: at 3,000 yards an hour you will take (42000 yards divided by 3000 yards) which is 14 hours. To this you need to add your feed time (14 hours x 4/5 min's feed per hour) giving a total of about 15 hours for the crossing.
Mental attitude. Many a failure has come about by not having the right mental attitude. Willpower is needed to push through the pain barriers that never go away. A "split swim" two or three weeks before your crossing is an ideal way to mentally and physically test yourself, i.e. do a 7 hour swim one day then a 7 hour swim the next, then you can taper down your training to just an hour or two on the days before you swim.
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