“Wait, we’re supposed to swim across that?”

Emily, Mauricio, Mark and I arrived yesterday to Tarifa and holy mother of winds–it’s seriously blowin’ here! It’s actually hard to stand up straight.  It feels like we’re in a hurricane. It’s no wonder that no one has been allowed to attempt a swim in three weeks. Image


 It’s pretty cool to see where the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean. 




When we first saw the Strait, Emily and I both had a “This is a really bad idea!” moment which Mauricio caught on camera.  Emily turned to me and exclaimed: “Wait, we’re supposed to swim across that!?” 


Um, whale watching?




The Final Stretch

As I sit here at JFK awaiting to board my flight back to Barcelona, I’m thinking about how the only thing in front of me now is Gibraltar.  A year ago, when we decided to do this, I incorporated training into the daily juggle of life.  I’ve swam a total of 528 kilometers– that’s up from about 20 the year before (Emily’s logged 656 km and Mauricio 851 km!).  And I’ve gotten through all the stuff on my to-do list– the last being taking my kids to camp in North Carolina.  Now there’s nothing in front of me except this overseas flight and then the cross-continental swim.  

I’m scared, more scared of anything I’ve ever done.  The closest thing I can liken this to is having a baby.  Even the language is something familiar… I’m asked: “Estas al punto, no?” “Cuanto te queda?”  I remember feeling scared of childbirth, but this feels downright terrifying.  Even though having a baby hurts like hell– ultimately you’re bringing a tiny, harmless creature onto the earth.  Swimming Gibraltar has so many threatening aspects of it out of our control– and the ocean is so BIG.  I’m trying to calm my nerves, but it’s not easy. 

While I’m scared of finishing the swim, Mauricio is scared that we won’t get to start it.  As I write this, there are three teams ahead of us who are stuck in Tarifa waiting for the strong Levante winds to lighten up– people say they have never seen anything like it.  The weather is so bad that the port is closed!  We are supposed to fly down there Thursday the 4th to be ready to swim anytime from the 6th to the 11th, but we’re pretty sure we won’t be able to go until the later part of the week.  

ImageWhat keeps me focused is thinking about all the support we’ve gotten for Worldreader.  I just checked and we’re at a whopping $94,626.  Holy Mackeral!  I’m simply stunned with the generosity of friends all over the globe.  THANK YOU!

We’ll keep you updated on Facebook and Twitter using #swim4good hashtag (Carrington and all other non-tweeters, all you have to do is go to Twitter, sign up and click on the Discover tab.. and then type #swim4good and you’ll see all of Emily, Mauricio, Mark and my tweets)

Fingers crossed we will get to start soon and mother nature will be kind! 

Cold Water Swimming

Emily and I are not real cold water swimmers, but we’re exploring that option. We’ve started doing some cold water swims, which for us living in Barcelona, means swimming in 20ºC water this time of the year. Emily recently wrote a post on her initial cold water experiences, and particularly on the sudden drop in energy she felt when we moved to do a 1k swim in a 28ºC pool after doing 2K in 19/20ºC.   We’ve also reached out to the real cold water swimmers out there, and they have been very generous with their insights. These are some of the things we’ve learned.

“Cold” is relative.

In the process of trying to learn more about this subject I have discovered a breed of swimmers who excel in cold water and who have redefined the meaning of cold. For swimmers such as Loneswimmer, I now know that cold water starts at 7.9C, and that at 16ºC British and Irish swimmers “actually feel a bit guilty about swimming in such warm water”. His post introduces a precise (and shocking) open water swimming temperature scale which helps put “cold” in perspective. 


Being able to swim in cold water requires discipline and it’s not something you can rush into.  It involves a gradual process of cold water acclimatization and trying to do too much too soon is not the way to go.  Once you gain a certain level of cold water tolerance, it can be quickly lost if you do not maintain a certain frequency of cold water training.  Cold water acclimatization will improve your tolerance and your ability to swim gradually longer distances.

My suggestion – is little and often. Then extend your range as you find it easier. Build it up gradually and not try to push your body too much too son.  Carl Reynolds, Cold Acclimatization

Getting cold water exposure at least once every two weeks, once every week if possible. Don’t worry about doing more than 30 minutes at temps from 9C to 10 C. At temps about 10C extend your time.  TheGreatCthulhu, Swimmit


When you swim in cold water, the reaction of sprinting to try to warm up seems natural, but is it the right thing to do? I’ve been able better tolerate cold water when I make a conscious attempt to swim at a relaxed pace instead of going all out.   You don’t want to overdo the relaxed swimming though, as swimming too slow could accelerate the initial signs of hypothermia.  Sled_Driver recommends to start fast and then settle on a paced rhythm.  Our conclusion is that each swimmer needs to test how their bodies and minds react to cold water under various paces and combinations, but chances are that a relaxed slightly exerted pace will do the trick.

Start relaxed to stretch out the muscles, then up your pace if you feel the need to. For myself, relaxed all through is better. It’s partly a physical thing – cold water contracts muscles, so I take it easy to start, but feel no need to be speedy. Carl Reynolds, Cold Acclimatization

Swimming slow in cold water is highly dangerous, far more dangerous than swimming fast, because you are still losing heat from moving, but not generating enough heat internally. Swimming slow means quicker onset hypothermia. TheGreatCthulhu, Swimmit

You want to get yourself red hot as soon as possible to start generating heat….and THEN maybe do some of those stretches after you’ve acclimated to the best of your ability. Swimming always requires a warm-up period that is a combination of stretching and getting the blood going. With extreme cold water your priority is getting your blood going and wits about you first. You can switch gears after the initial. Sled_Driver, Swimmit 

Hard core

Don’t take swimming in cold water lightly.  You can improve your cold water tolerance and even enjoy the feeling of turning into an ice cube, but cold water swimmers need to be highly aware of the dangers associated with this activity. Hypothermia is inevitable and cold water swimmers need to learn to recognize the different signs and stages of hypothermia so they can get out before it’s too late. Any activity that requires you to detect signs of your body starting to turn off qualifies as hard core.

In Understanding Hypothermia in Swimmers,  Loneswimmer shows that at water temperatures below 15ºC (see chart below), hypothermia is inevitable.  It’s just a question of time. Loneswimmer also describes in his post the signs of hypothermia progression that swimmers need to be aware of.

Survival Time and Water Temperature

Yes I am cold, but I’m not dying or going to die anytime soon.” I have found that I relax into the cold. I know I’m in trouble if I cannot touch my fingertips to my thumb tip. For others there will be a different physical sign. Carl Reynolds, Cold Acclimatization

I think most ‘cold water’ swimming will involve some level of hypothermia. It’s important to know what the signs are, so you can look out for them when swimming and know when you need to get out. Ellethemermaid, MyChallenge

You offset the possibility of hypothermia through acclimatisationCold shuts off peripheral blood flow. But movement means thermogenesis, generating heat through burning ATP. But …at the very same time, you are moving heat into your periphery, and dissipating it faster. It’s a race that no-one can win. All you can do is train. TheGreatCthulhu, Swimmit

As the water temperature drops in Barcelona from the current 17-19ºC to around 14ºC in March (still not worthy for British and Irish swimmers), we’ll continue to relate our experiences with colder waters swims.

Swimming for Books

This past July when Carrington, Emily and I met for dinner in NYC, we thought the idea of swimming from Europe to Africa was preposterous. I have stood on the southern tip of Spain before and stared at Africa off in the distance. I never dreamt of swimming there. Let me tell you, 20 kilometers over the ocean looks frighteningly far away. The only way we could even fathom such a challenge was to do it for a good cause. That’s why we are braving chaffed necks, training in cold waters way below our comfort zone, entering 10K swim after another, and logging in long practices.

Just 2 ½ years ago, I went to Africa with Worldreader and brought Kindles into places where books don’t historically reach- bringing access and choice of reading material to children the same age as my own. It felt exhilarating: We were offering possibility to places where cycles of poverty are seemingly impossible to break.

What struck me then was how communities were poor, yet you scanned the horizon and saw cell phone towers everywhere. Did you know that there is a cell phone signal over 80% of sub-Saharan Africa? That’s how Worldreader sends more books to kids—wirelessly, like a text message. Sometimes when I tell people what Worldreader is doing with Kindles, they ask if we should not send food or medicine. What’s mind boggling is that finally the pieces of the puzzle have come into place for real change- for everyone to get an education.

Here’s how:

1. The 3G infrastructure is in place in most of the developing world and books can be downloaded in the most remote areas as a text message.

2. Books are digital instead of having to be printed and shipped. And teachers welcome more books in the classroom- as opposed to computers which can pose a threat.

3. Kindles are quite rugged, have a long battery life, are dropping in price, and hold thousands of books.

This is exciting: It means kids can have a library in their hand that they can take home with them, share with their family, and read what they need to improve their lives.

Driving out of the bustling capital cities to more remote communities you see this a lot (this truck stayed put for weeks!) Roads are bad and it is enormously hard to transport heavy goods— like physical books. That’s one of the reasons why more than 200 million children in sub Saharan Africa will never have a book of their own.

I visited a school in Ghana and the headmaster told me that they were lucky because they were one of the few that had a library. Indeed there were some books inside, but upon closer inspection I found discarded books from a school in Atlanta– before zip codes! These books were sandwiched between History of Utah and History of Texas–multiple copies of each. Book drives, like the ones we did when growing up, are done with the right intention, but it doesn’t mean that the right book will get into a child’s hand.

I was recently back in Ghana and saw that the kids with Kindles were reading a ton and improving in school. They were reading international stories like The Magic Tree House, newspapers like The New York Times, and many local stories that address events in their lives (thanks to the work Worldreader is doing to digitize hundreds of African storybooks) like Kofi has Malaria.

Talking to kids like Linda (please meet her in this short video) you see what Worldreader is doing isn’t just nice– it’s urgent. She is downloading books on heath and science and is hungry for more. When I asked her about it she told me she wants to be the best nurse possible. Then she told me that her mother died last year– “she woke up with pain all over her body and was sick all over and died.” I asked her if she knew then what her mother died from; she had no idea. She told me: “If I were a great nurse and my mother were alive today, I would never let her die.” Embarassingly, tears were streaming down my face as I spoke to her. This just isn’t fair, I thought.

For Mauricio, Emily, Carrington and me, we can’t possibly imagine our lives without books, and we’re sure you can’t either. Even reading about open water swimming is making us push ourselves harder that I thought possible. And most of all, we cannot imagine what it’d be like for our kids to grow up without books. That is why we are doing this. We hope you’ll join our cause and donate for more e-books and e-readers for kids like Linda and the millions of others like her. Books For All!

Pool-less again, thanks to Hurricane Sandy…


Sandy’s aftermath at the DCC pool

Things were looking up – word on the street was that the new Asphalt Green would open in December, which would mean finally I could properly train for Gibraltar! And in the meantime, I still had the DCC on the weekends (even if it did feel like a jacuzzi). Then came Hurricane Sandy, the worst storm to hit NYC in a century, taking out both the DCC and my hopes for Asphalt Green. Is this a message from the gods? Or just from my parents, who really don’t want me swimming Gibraltar anyway…

So today I called 6 clubs in Manhattan trying to find a pool where I could get a day or a week pass. Many of them list a pool on their websites, but it turns out to be 18 yds or a sauna, so you have to do some research. I called Equinox to ask what the pool length was before making the trek up there, and the guy on the phone told me: I’m sorry, I can’t give that information over the phone. Huh??? When did pool dimensions become classified??

So I’m pool-less again. Anyone have any ideas for dryland training I can do at home (ie. while the kids are asleep and minimal equipment required)??

Damian Blaum – Open Water Olympian and 2nd in the World

(Si quieres leer esta entrevista en español, por favor pincha aquí)

It´s a real honour and pleasure to have olympian and 2nd in the FINA world rankings Damian Blaum in our blog.  Damian has an outstanding swimming resume, including 3 victories in the grueling 88 km Hernandarias – Paraná race, the longest open water swimming competition and marathon race in the world.  At 8 hours and 17 minutes, Damian also holds the fastest time in that race’s 20 year history. Below the interview, you can also see the many places that open water swimming has taken Damian in the last few years. 

 Thank you Damian for your graciousness and for the time you took to respond to our questions.  Congratulations for all your accomplishments and we wish you the best for what is coming. 

At what age did you decide to become and open water swimmer?

When I was 13 years old, I was training at the Club Gimnasia y Esgrima de Buenos Aires, which was the pioneer in Argentinian open water swimming.  At that time there were two swimmers that were participating in the World Tour and they were undoubtedly very influential in my growing interest in the sport. Also, Nestor García, my coach at the time, who was my coach until last year, insisted that I start competing in open water, and my first  results were good, so my motivation grew and I got increasingly into the sport.

It seems like there is lots of interest in Argentina for open water swimming.  Why is this so?

Traditionally Argentina has always had many open water swimmers. The reason behind this interest is essentially the fact that Argentina has three important races in the open water World Circuit.  The Rosario City Marathon (15km), the Santa Fe Coronda (57km) and the Hernandarias Paraná, the world’s longest water race with a distance of 88km. The Santa Fe Coronda, is a magnificnet river celebration, with more than 150,000 people follow the event along the river, with almost 20.000 people waiting for the swimmers at the end of the 88 kms.  This day, people forget their problems and turn to the river to celebrate, encourage the swimmers and be part of this celebration.  Having a river as important as the Paraná is at the root of Argentina’s love for open water swimming.

Tell us about the Hernandarias – Paraná?. Aside of being the longest race, is it also the hardest?

The Hernandarias Paraná in 2009 took me 10 hours 20 minutes to swim the 88 kilometers.  It was a race that should have been cancelled.  There was a very strong southeasterly wind, which is the worst for swimming in the Parana river. I won the race but I had some difficult moments, especially the last 5 km, where I suffered from cramps and vomiting. That race was hard, but I don’t think as hard as the swims in the cold Canadian waters. Lake St Jean, with its majestic 32km race, receives us with hostility every year and we have to prepare body and mind for this challenge every season.

What is it that you most enjoy in open water swimming?

I enjoy not having to fight against the clock, or having to stare at the line at the bottom of the pool. I like to discover new sensations in different natural environments, compete intensely against my opponents and against the difficulties that nature puts in front of us.  I like that each race has its own particular difficulty, and that I need to have a specific preparation for each one. This makes this sport truly unique.

Are there any animals out there that you don’t particularly like to swim into?

Animals don’t bother me, except jellyfish.  During the races I have no problems with animals.  I get very focused on the race itself and don’t pay too much attention to other things.  I have run into sea lions and although everybody says that they are harmless, when you see them, they do command respect!

What are your biggest strengths as an open water swimmer? Any area that you would like to improve? 

I think my strengths are my mental toughness and my desire to always improve. Technique is my weak point.  I try to improve, but with so many kilometers of swimming per day, it’s not easy.  It’s never too late though.

What are the ocean conditions and distances in which you most excel as a competitive swimmer?

The races that are 25km or longer are the best for me.  I like swimming in cold water and I don’t mind swimming with waves. I think that the worse the conditions, the better for me.  I sometimes suffer from stomach problems and dizziness in the waves, but in the last two years it has gotten better.

What do you think about during your races? 

Damian Blaum - Maraton Santa Fe - Coronda --Foto Luis Cetraro-

I try to stay focused on the event, think about my race, on what is going on with my rivals, and think about things that motivate me, like my wife, my family, my coach, friends and colleagues.  I try to block all that does not help me, although during the first hour of each race of 8 or 9 hours, I inevitably wonder why I’ve gotten into this…hehe! but I enjoy thinking about the finish line, the people waiting for us to greet us with affection. This helps me to keep going.

Have you ever been afraid in the water? 

In 2002 in a race in China, I got scared in a 25 km race.  I was very young and did not have much experience.  There were lots of jellyfish and strong waves. I laugh now when I remember that I stopped another competitor and asked him if he minded if I swam with him until the end of the race.  As I gained more experience, I learned to tune off my fears and enjoy what is around me.

What do you drink and eat in the races?

I always drink Carbohydrates.  In the long races I drink 300 cl of a carbohydrate beverage, about ¼ liter every 15 minutes.   Every hour I eat bananas.  I also drink some gel with a bit of caffeine when I’m near the end to to finish strong.

Damian Blaum - Maraton Santa Fe - Coronda

How much do you swim per week? How much in the pool and   how much in open water?

I normally train a minimum of 80 km a week, and a maximum of 115 km per week in altitude training.  I normally do not train in the ocean.  I do everything in the pool because that’s where I have a total control of the rythms and technique.  If I go swimming in the ocean, it’s just out of pure pleasure.  On a weekly basis, I have 11 training sessions in the pool, 3 sessions in the gym and run 3 times a week.  Other important aspects of my training are to eath healthy and go to sleep early.

Your wife is Esther Nuñez, open water FINA world champion.  Lots of talent in this marriage.  Do you compete with her? What have you learned from her and viceversa?  

We do not compete … well, sometimes in workouts, but the reality is that we help each other out a lot on a daily basis and we try to continue growing and getting better, both of us and together. It’s good that the two of us do the same thing.  Many hours of training and work every day.  It is hard for someone who does not dedícate so many hours to this to understand us.  I learned from her to get my head down when things get tough and work harder to reach my goals, to enjoy my daily workouts, the races and all that we can do together. What has she learned from me? This is what she says: “I learned from him to keep my cool, to keep on fighting when there is pain, and to be happy”.

What has the water taught you for your life outside of it?

I think that my main learning is to be perseverent, fight for what I want, be polite and respectful.

What do you think of what Marnaton has done for the development of open water swimming in Catalonia?

I think it’s great.  Marnaton is making this sport better know, allowing people to discover this beautiful sport, particularly in Catalonia.  Many people are finding a special motivation to improve themselves year after year and take part of the various open water challenges.

And, to end up, in Open Water Source (Damian Blaum Travels the World) I found a list of some of the places around the world where Damian has competed in.  Pretty impressive: 

Maratona del Golfo Capri-Napoli , Italia (36 km) 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012
Marathon de Cancún, México (15 km) 2012
Santa Fe – Corondo, Argentina  (57 km) 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012
Rosario, Argentina (15 km) 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012
Sabăc Marathon Swim, Serbia (19 km) 2005, 2006, 2008, 2011
Traversée international du lac St-Jean, Canadá, FINA World Cup (10 km) 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011
Setubal, Portugal, FINA World Cup (10 km) 2006, 2011
Santos , Brazil, FINA World Cup (10 km) 2011
Repulse Bay, Hong Kong (10 km) 2005
Hernandarias – Parana, Argentina (88 km) 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011
Ohrid Lake Marathon, Macedonia (30 km) 2007, 2008, 2010
Traversée International du lac Memphrémagog, Canadá, FINA World Cup (34 km) 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011
Cañon del Sumidero Marathon, México (15 km) 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010
Abu Dhabi FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix, UAE (15 km) 2005, 2009
Sharjah FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix , UAE (10 km) 2009
Dubai, UAE, FINA World Cup (10 km) 2005, 2009
Al Fujairah, UAE, FINA World Cup (10 km) 2005
La Patagones – Viedma UAE, FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix (15 km) 2008, 2009 Marathon de Cancún, México (10 km) 2008
FINA Open Water Swimming Championships , Sevilla (10 km) 2008
FINA Open Water Swimming Championships , Barcelona (10 km) 2003
FINA Open Water Swimming Championships , Montreal (10 km) 2005
FINA Open Water Swimming Championships , Melbourne (10 km) 2007
London (10 km) 2005, 2006
Sevilla Marathon, España (10 km Sevilla) 2006

Damian Blaum – Campeón de aguas abiertas

(If you want to see this interview in English, please go here)

Es un honor y un placer contar con la contribución de Damian Blaum, nadador olímpico y Subcampeon Mundial 2007, 2009, 2010 y 2012 en el ranking mundial de aguas abiertas de FINA (Federation Internationale de Natation).  El historial de Damian es espectacular, incluidas sus 3 victorias en la Maraton Internacional Hernandarias – Paraná (88 km),  la competencia más larga del mundo en la cual Damian también tiene el mejor tiempo en la historia de esta carrera, con 8 horas 17 minutos. Debajo de la entrevista, pueden ver algunos de los lugares a los que la natación en aguas abiertas ha llevado a Damian estos últimos años.

Muchas gracias Damian por tu amabilidad en atendernos y te felicitamos por todos tus éxitos y te deseamos lo mejor en lo que viene. 

A qué edad y por qué decidiste dedicarte a la natacion en aguas abiertas?

A los 13 años yo entrenaba en el Club Gimnasia y Esgrima de Buenos Aires, que era el club por historia pionero en todo lo que es aguas abiertas en Argentina. Había en ese momento 2 nadadores que participaban en el Circuito Mundial y sin dudas influyeron en que yo empezara a tomar cariño con este deporte. También mi entrenador en ese momento; quien fue mi entrenador hasta hace 1 año Nestor García, insistió para que empezara en las aguas abiertas y los resultados me acompañaron y me fui involucrando con mucha motivación.

Parece que en Argentina hay bastante afición a este deporte. A qué se debe?

Tradicionalmente en Argentina siempre hubo muchos nadadores de Aguas Abiertas. Lo que hace que haya una gran afición es fundamentalmente que aquí se disputan cada año 3 etapas de la Copa del Mundo

La Maratón Ciudad de Rosario (15KM), la tradicional Santa Fe Coronda (57KM) y la Hernandarias Paraná, que es la prueba de aguas más larga del mundo con un recorrido de 88KM. En especial la Santa Fe Coronda, se constituye en una verdadera fiesta del rio, con más de 150,000 personas siguiendo la prueba en todo su recorrido, y con casi 20000 perso

nas esperando a los nadadores en la llegada, la gente por un día se olvida de sus problemas, y se vuelca al río y a toda su costa para alentar y ser parte de esta gran fiesta. El hecho de tener un río tan importante como el Paraná hace que sin dudas en muchas provincias se practique hasta con más afición las aguas abiertas.

Cuéntanos un poco de la Hernandarias Paraná?. Además de ser la carrera más larga, es también la más difícil? 

En la Hernandarias Paraná del 2009 tardé 10hs 20min en cubrir los 88 KM, fue una carrera que debería haberse suspendido, y eso nunca sucedió, había mucho viento Sudeste, que es el peor para nadar en el Río Paraná. Gané pero viví momentos difíciles, especialmente los últimos 5 KM, en donde sufría calambres y vómitos. Esa prueba fue dificil, pero no creo que tanto como las Travesías en las frías aguas Canadienses. El Lago St Jean, con su majestuosa travesía de 32KM, nos trata de manera hostil casi cada año y hay que prepararse en cuerpo y mente para ese desafío cada temporada.

Qué es lo que más disfrutas de la natación en aguas abiertas?

Disfruto mucho no tener que pelear contra un crono, y tener que estar viendo una linea en el fondo de la piscina. Me gusta descubrir sensaciones en distintos ambientes naturales, competir intensamente contra todos mis rivales, y tambien contra todas las dificultades que te impone habitualmente la naturaleza, que cada carrera tiene su dificultad, y te debes preparar particularmente para cada una de ellas. Eso hace de este deporte, un deporte distinto y por eso lo disfruto mucho.

Algún animal que no te guste ver cuando estás nadando?  

No me molesta ningún animal, excepto las medusas, después no tengo problema, aunque confieso que en una carrera trato de estar enfocado en la prueba y no presto mucha atención a otras cosas, aunque me ha pasado de que me aparezcan Lobos Marinos al lado, y aunque todo el mundo te diga que no te hacen nada, sinceramente cuando los ves al lado imponen respeto.

Cual es tu punto fuerte como nadador de aguas abiertas? Algún punto en el que puedes mejorar?

Pienso que mi fortaleza mental y mis ganas de superarme a cada momento y en cada carrera son mis puntos fuertes. La parte técnica es mi punto más débil, intento mejorarla, pero nadando tantos KM cada día no es fácil. Igual nunca es tarde, y trato de hacer cosas para mejorar siempre.

Cuales dirías que son las condiciones del mar y  la distancia idónea que mejor se adaptan a tus condiciones de nadador?

Las pruebas de mas de 25 km son las que más me favorecen, me gusta nadar en agua fresca, y no tengo problemas de nadar con olas o sin, siempre pienso que cuanto peor son las condiciones, al resto de la gente le gusta menos que a mí. Muchas veces sufro problemas de estómago, o mareos en el oleaje, pero en los últimos dos años lo fui superando bien.

En qué piensas cuando estás nadando largas distancias?

Damian Blaum - Maraton Santa Fe - Coronda --Foto Luis Cetraro-

Intento mantenerme enfocado en la prueba siempre, pensar en mi carrera, en que pasa con mis rivales, y mantener en mi cabeza cosas que me motiven, como mi mujer, mi familia, mi entrenador, amigos y compañeros y eliminar lo que no me ayude, aunque en la primer hora de cada carrera de 8 o 9 horas, inevitablemente me pregunto quien me mando a hacer esto… jeje! pero disfruto mucho pensando en la llegada, en la gente que nos espera y nos recibe con cariño , y voy siempre hacia adelante.

Has pasado miedo en el mar? Como lo superas?

En 2002 en una carrera en China, pase miedo en una prueba de 25 KM, pero yo era muy joven, no tenia mucha experiencia, y pase miedo con las medusas y eloleaje, recuerdo con gracia, haber parado a un nadador rival, que nadaba detrás mío y preguntarle si le molestaba que nadara con el hasta el final, que tenía miedo. A medida que pasan las carreras, y que se tiene mas experiencia, eliminas los miedos, y disfrutas de todo.

Qué comes / bebes durante en estas pruebas?

Siempre bebo Carbohidratos, en las pruebas largas, bebo 300 centimetros cubicos de los cuales se pierden siempre 50 mililitros, por lo cual bebo 1/4 de litro cada 15 minutos!  Como bananas cada 1 hora. También bebo algún gel con un poco de cafeina cuando estoy cerca del final para intentar cerrar fuerte la prueba.

Damian Blaum - Maraton Santa Fe - Coronda

Cuantos kilometros nadas por semana?  Cuanto en aguas abiertas y cuanto en piscina?  

Normalmente entreno un mínimo de 80 KM semanales, y un máximo de 110 o 115 KM en las concentraciones en altura. Normalmente no entreno en el mar, todo lo hago en piscina, porque es donde tengo un control absoluto de los ritmos y de la técnica. SI salgo a nadar al mar es por absoluto placer. Hago 11 sesiones de entrenamiento en piscina, 3 sesiones de gimnasio, y salgo a correr 3 veces a la semana. Hacer un trabajo serio fuera del agua, comer sano, y dormir pronto son partes claves del entrenamiento.

Tu mujer es Esther Núñez, campeona mundial GP FINA. Mucho talento en ese matrimonio. Compiten entre ustedes? Qué has aprendido de ella, y que ha aprendido ella de tí?

No competimos… bueno, alguna vez en algún entrenamiento, hacemos calculos para saber quien entrena mejor que el otro, pero la verdad, es que nos alentamos mucho en el día a día, nos ayudamos e intentamos seguir creciendo ambos, juntos. Es bueno que los dos hagamos lo mismo, son muchas horas de trabajo diarias, y difícilmente alguien que no practique y destine a tantas horas a esto, nos podría entender.

Yo aprendí de ella a bajar la cabeza cuando las cosas se ponen difíciles y trabajar mas fuerte para conseguir logros importantes, a disfrutar de cada día de entrenamientos, y de competencias, y de que podemos hacer esto juntos.

Y lo que ella aprendió de mi; lo dice ella en el siguiente párrafo: “yo aprendí de el a mantener la calma, a seguir luchando cuando hay dolor, y a ser feliz” (Esther)

Qué has aprendido en el agua que te ayude en tu vida fuera de ella?

Creo que mi principal aprendizaje, es ser perseverante, luchar por lo que quiero, ser educado y respetuoso.

Qué te parece la labor de Marnaton en el desarrollo de la natación en aguas abiertas en Cataluña?

Me parece fantástico, están haciendo que este deporte sea mas conocido, que cada vez mas gente lo conozca, lo quiera practicar, y especialmente en Cataluña, están logrando que mucha gente tenga una motivación para superarse cada año y por tomar parte de los distintos desafíos en las aguas abiertas.

Imagino que una labor importante es la búsqueda de sponsors.  Como te ha ido con esto?

Con los patrocinadores me ha ido bien, más allá de que hay una situación complicada en todo el mundo, intento llevar a las marcas y empresas que me acompañan en todo el mundo, intento transmitir mis valores y relacionarlos con los de mis patrocinadores, y muchas veces doy conferencias en las distintas empresas. No puedo dejar de agradecer a quienes confian en mi OSPAT, SGBATOS, Banco Galicia, YPF y Sailfish. Sin el apoyo de patrocinadores no tengo posibilidad de competir en el exterior y de conseguir los resultados que consigo.

Y por último, en Open Water Source (Damian Blaum Travels the World) me encontré con el siguiente listado de algunas de las competencias alrededor del mundo en las que Damian ha participado: 

Maratona del Golfo Capri-Napoli , Italia (36 km) 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012
Marathon de Cancún, México (15 km) 2012
Santa Fe – Corondo, Argentina  (57 km) 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012
Rosario, Argentina (15 km) 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012
Sabăc Marathon Swim, Serbia (19 km) 2005, 2006, 2008, 2011
Traversée international du lac St-Jean, Canadá, FINA World Cup (10 km) 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011
Setubal, Portugal, FINA World Cup (10 km) 2006, 2011
Santos , Brazil, FINA World Cup (10 km) 2011
Repulse Bay, Hong Kong (10 km) 2005
Hernandarias – Parana, Argentina (88 km) 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011
Ohrid Lake Marathon, Macedonia (30 km) 2007, 2008, 2010
Traversée International du lac Memphrémagog, Canadá, FINA World Cup (34 km) 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011
Cañon del Sumidero Marathon, México (15 km) 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010
Abu Dhabi FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix, UAE (15 km) 2005, 2009
Sharjah FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix , UAE (10 km) 2009
Dubai, UAE, FINA World Cup (10 km) 2005, 2009
Al Fujairah, UAE, FINA World Cup (10 km) 2005
La Patagones – Viedma UAE, FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix (15 km) 2008, 2009 Marathon de Cancún, México (10 km) 2008
FINA Open Water Swimming Championships , Sevilla (10 km) 2008
FINA Open Water Swimming Championships , Barcelona (10 km) 2003
FINA Open Water Swimming Championships , Montreal (10 km) 2005
FINA Open Water Swimming Championships , Melbourne (10 km) 2007
London (10 km) 2005, 2006
Sevilla Marathon, España (10 km Sevilla) 2006

How swimming in cold water affects muscles

How Swimming in Cold Water Affects Muscles

After reading about how so many OW swimmers swim without wetsuits I decided that I needed to toughen up.  Mau took me to his 20C ocean water pool for my first cold water pool training.  Our objective was to do 1-3k; it was really mentally hard as I was constantly looking at my watch and the laps were not increasing fast enough. The first 1k felt ok, but during the 2k the coldness had entered my body; my toes were numb and I couldn’t feel my hands. I was swimming fast because I wanted to get out. After 2k, I decided I needed to warm up and went to the indoor pool. What happened here was very weird; I got into the indoor pool and I had no strength. The water temp was probably 26C so it was significantly warmer than the outdoor pool but it still wasn’t as warm as the pools I usually swim in.  When I started swimming I could not dig down with each stroke and find power. Usually when I am tired, I can find power within tired muscles but I couldn’t feel anything. My arms felt empty. I was also doing 24-25 strokes a lap which is much higher than my average.  I extended the length of my strokes and slowed down my turnover but I couldn’t decrease stroke count. It was completely un-gratifying.  I am convinced that I need to do more cold-water training so my muscles get used to these adverse effects.

The rest of the day I was in a state of exhaustion and in total we had only done 3k. What happened to cause such unfavorable effects on my muscles? I searched Google for “How swimming in cold water effects muscles” but got mostly hypothermia explanations and the water temp was not cold enough be qualify for hypothermia. Mauricio has a theory and I will post it here. But I would love any medical professionals or anyone who might have an idea to chime in.

“What I think is happening is that because of the drastic temperature change, our bodies are led to believe that we are swimming in much warmer water than what it actually is.  Our bodies feel changes in temperature very dramatically when the temperature changes SUDDENLY, and that is what happened today.  So, our bodies adjust as if the water was hot.  So, what do our bodies do if the water is hot (remember, our bodies thought that the water was much hotter than what it actually was)?  They immediately try to cool the system down. The body’s biggest concern is the brain and internal organs, so warm blood flows away from our core to our extremities and skin in order to cool our body (since the body thinks that the water we are swimming in is hotter than our blood’s temperature), leading to less blood in our muscles, muscle relaxation and less oxygen in our muscles –> Less energy.  That’s my bet. “

Strait of Gibraltar by the Numbers

Since 1928, 625 swimmers have swam across the Strait of Gibraltar. 85% male swimmers and 15% female.

Where swimmers come from

66% of swimmers are from four countries: Spain (38%), USA (11%), UK (10%) and India (8%). 62% of male swimmers come from 3 countries: Spain (38%), UK (10%), and the USA (9%). On the women side, 64% of them come from the USA (24%), Spain (20%) and India (20%). Big news for me to see the large representation of Indian female swimmers in this group.

Country Total swimmers Men Women
Spain 38% 43% 20%
USA 11% 9% 24%
UK 10% 10% 6%
India 8% 5% 20%
Italy 5% 5% 1%
South Africa 4% 3% 5%
Argentina 3% 3% 1%
Germany 3% 2% 4%
Australia 2% 2% 3%
Ireland 2% 2% 2%
Mexico 1% 2% 2%
Portugal 1% 2% 0%
Brazil 1% 1% 1%
France 1% 1% 1%
Greece 1% 1% 2%
Other 9% 9% 8%

How long it takes them to swim across the Strait

The average time it has taken swimmers to cross Gibraltar is 4 hours 41 minutes. Male swimmers’ average is 4 hours 39 minutes, while women’s average time is 4 hours 51 minutes.

Relative speed by swimmer segments (of at least 10 swimmers)

Setting the overall average crossing time as index = 100, we see that the fastest segment of swimmers are South African men. Also faster than the average crossing time are Australian men, Spanish men, Spanish women and US women. The slowest segments are Indian men and women. Also slowern than the average are Argentinian men, UK men, German men and Italian men.

Swimmer segments Average = index 100
Women India 110.2
Men India 110.2
Men Argentina 105.1
Women average 103.3
Men UK 101.1
Men Italy 100.7
Men Germany 100.7
Total Average 100
Women US 99.6
Men average 99.3
Men USA 98.9
Women Spain 97.1
Men Spain 95.6
Men Australia 93.1
Men South Africa 91.3

Swimmers getting faster

From 1929 to 1949, the average swim across the Strait of Gibraltar took more than 11 hours. between 1950 and 1999, the average swim came down to between 5.5 hours and 6 hours. In the last decade, swimmers’ average has further come down to 4:31.

Year of crossing Time
1929 – 1949 11:17
1950 – 1969 05:37
1970 – 1989 06:00
1990 – 1999 05:27
2000 – 2012 04:31

When they swim

August and September are the most popular months to cross the Strait of Gibraltar.

May and July are the months with the fastest average crossings.

August has the warmest waters with July and September temperatures slightly colder.

Crossings Average time Water temperature in Tarifa
May 4% 04:23 18 C (64.4 F)
Jun 11% 04:35 21 C (69.8 F)
Jul 17% 04:32 23 C (73.4F)
Aug 28% 04:44 24C (75.2 F)
Sept 29% 04:43 23 C (73.4F)
Oct 11% 04:44 21C (69.8F)
Total 100% 04:41

How they cross (solo or in a group)?

A large majority of successful swims are done solo. The second most popular format is in pairs, which accounts for 26% of crossings. Crossing in groups of 3 or more account for less than 10% of successful swims. The time it takes to swim across the Strait of Gibraltar varies, but it is tough to say if there is any correlation.

Number of swimmers in crossing % of crossings Time of crossing
Solo 64% 04:41
2 26% 04:46
3 4% 04:14
4 3% 04:37
More than 5 2% 04:07

If any of you wants me to take a look at these stats with a different angle, just leave a comment and I’ll look into it.

Energy Bars, Gels and Drinks

Food is so important to any athlete and as I have gotten older, I have found that my body needs a lot more TLC that when I was in my 20s. For example, last year while training for a half Marathon my iron levels fell dangerously low.  I don’t eat meat and I eat very little fish so I have to be careful about my protein and iron. Energy bars can be a great addition to my diet for supplementing where I may be weak and for simply providing more energy when I am on the go or between workouts.

Unfortunately, most of the literature I have read about these bars, drinks and gels is that most of the “energy” products and supplements are full of sugar and chemicals.  As it is unlikely that I am going to produce my own natural granola bar, the last time I was in the US I went to the local heath stores and bought almost one of every energy bar I saw.  I tried to be conscious of how much sugar, animal products or unpronounceable items were listed in the ingredients but I still felt lost.

Some of the bars that I tried include: Luna, Cliff, PowerBar, Probar, LaraBar, Raw Revolution, Vega Energy Bar, Balance Bar

Honestly, they all seemed just like the Special K Breakfast Bars or like weightlifters food.  While the Luna and Balance had been favorites because of the taste, I have recently found them too filling and too much like candy bars – no surprise that even Snickers has an “energy bar” product.  The Cliff Bar really stands out to me because it feels hearty, homemade and doesn’t fill overfill me. I stick to few flavors; Oatmeal Raisin, Chocolate or Peanut Butter and most of the literature I have read has been positive about the product. I also like the Vega Energy bar as I am trying to eat more Vegan and edible products in this category are far and in between.  Unfortunately these products are not available in Barcelona, so I buy in bulk and fill my suitcase when I am in the States.

As for gels, I just stay clear of them. I mean, is there anything natural about them? On the 10K Sitges swim earlier this month, I had some gel that tasted like cola and some orange drink and they both just about made me sick during the swim.  I now stick to water and bananas as I wait for something better to arrive.

I would love suggestions, experiences and nutritional content tips for choosing an energy bars or energy supplements and drinks. But not from distributors or product reps please!

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