By Sam Sheppard
‘Swim the Gold Coast’ is the newest distance ocean swim to be added to the Australian open water calendar in 2021. The new race sees swimmers covering a distance of 21 km along the Gold Coast, starting at Coolangatta and finishing at Surfers Paradise, allowing for what will undoubtedly be amazing views of the coastline as you swim.
Whether you plan to complete this ‘marathon’ distance swim solo or as a team, the distance will make this swim very challenging and all entrants should prepare accordingly. I have shared my specific training preparation below:
As an experienced open water and marathon swimmer, I have tried many different approaches to preparing for these types of events. Since retiring from professional sport, I was forced to try a new strategy leading up to the Solo Rottnest channel swim in 2019 to fit around full-time work at an engineering consultancy. It was particularly challenging to fit in training when traveling for work, and when I was only able to swim a few times a week during busy work periods. However, I found that in the short space of 4 months, I was in one of the best shapes of my life and ready to take on the marathon distance.
Some specific elements that my new training program had included:
In adapting my program to fit around my work, family and social life, I realised that time was of the essence, and therefore less time was spent on warming-up and cooling-down, and replaced with pace-specific, shorter sessions that I could complete in under 60 minutes. This will be the same training strategy I will be adapting for Swim the Gold Coast.
Additionally, a few larger swims are recommended and practice eating while swimming, however most of the training can be shorter and around 3-4 km sessions 3-4 times a week if they are of high intensity.
There are plenty of great open water coaches and groups all around Australia that will be able to design a training plan specific to yourself swimming a 21 km marathon event. I’m sure plenty of the solo swimmers are already part of these ocean swim groups or being coached by one of these coaches. If you aren’t currently a member of one of these groups or would want some specific coaching support, please contact Would Series Swims or jump onto one of the discussion boards and they will find someone near you that can help you achieve your goals your goals.
Nutrition is a big part of any marathon open water swim. I have personally found that the difference between getting nutrition correct during a race will be the difference to enjoying the race or turning it into a struggle to the finish line. My strategy is always to get in as much food as possible in the first half (the first 10 km in swim the GC) of the race before increasing by breaks between feeding in the later half. For past races I have often feed every 20 minutes with a mixture of carbohydrates and electrolytes. I like to choose food that is high in energy and that I can easily eat while under stress. Therefore, make sure you practice feeding during training and when your heartrate is elevated so that you know how you will feel while feeding in a race. My key tips are:
For specific individual feeding and nutrition plan please seek advice from a dietitian.
Marathon swims are raced in the mind as much as they are physical efforts. A simple race strategy and planned pacing will ensure that you have a benchmark to keep you on track for a successful race. It’s important that you share you pace and strategy with your support crew ahead of time so that everyone on your team is working towards the same goal.
My simple strategy is as follows: