A local swimmer, John Polansky, is seen in the photo below. The photo was taken a week ago when there was still ice on this Colorado lake. (That smooth "water" is really ice.) John said the water temperature was 48 to 49 degrees Fahrenheit. I know you’re thinking…why??!!
John is training for the 2010 English Channel Swim. I decided to find out more about his swimming adventure:
Date of the event: Approximately June 25th - depending on weather
Swim distance: John is swimming on a four-person team. Each person will swim three segments at 2.0 to 2.5 miles per segment. The exact distance depends on the currents and swim pace of each team member. He’s hoping to be in the water around an hour for each one of his “shifts”.
Predicted temperature of the Channel: It will be about 52 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. No wetsuits allowed during the event.
How does someone decide to swim the English Channel? I went to a CU football game last fall with my uncle Kevin and some cousins. While tailgating at half-time I got sucked into the conversation that was going on about an English Channel swim attempt. The group talking about it said that they had been planning on this event for three years and they were suddenly a person short. (One team member could no longer participate.) It seemed logical to someone that since I’m from England and a swimmer I would be a perfect substitute – or a target. I figured I was going to be over there during June to see my two new nieces and this swimming the Channel has been something on my "to do" list. I had a few too many beers and before I left I had official become a member of the team.
I guess training for enduring cold water begins now…
I mentioned in last week’s blog that the Wednesday temperature was 70 degrees. I was mountain biking on that day. Just two days later on Friday we had a big snowstorm. With San Diego friends Rob Klingensmith and Julie Gildred in town, it was perfect timing to snowshoe in Rocky Mountain National Park on Saturday. Sunday was a 100-mile road ride. Now if I could have squeezed in a water skiing afternoon…
Big temperature swings are common for Colorado in March. It is also our biggest snow month. While the unruly weather can make some endurance athletes anxious, it affords others the chance to play in the snow just one more time before Mother Nature turns it into drinking water.
The Bear Lake trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park sits at a tidy 9,450 ft. elevation. It is a popular trailhead both summer and winter. Though I’ve snowshoed this trail before, I didn’t realize it was so popular for backcountry skiers, until last weekend.
The trail begins as a gentle walk and it doesn’t take long for it to get steep. With the recent snow and wind, the trail was off-camber and was challenging in a few areas. There were some perfectly flat areas, three to be exact – frozen Nymph Lake, Dream Lake and Emerald Lake. Below is a photo of Scott Ellis with Hallett Peak behind his right shoulder. (I think just before we crossed Dream Lake.)
I forgot to mention that when we left the town of Estes Park, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, the temperature was a blazing 4 degrees Fahrenheit. I don’t remember what the temperature was when we left the Bear Lake parking lot, but don’t let the sunshine deceive you. Sun or no sun, the wind was whipping and it was cold.
Below is a great shot of the snowshoe trail barely visible through the wind.
I don’t have any shots of crossing Emerald Lake, which I admit creeped me out. I don’t really like the thought of crossing a lake on showshoes with winter clothes on. Below are links to photos taken by other people that give you a seasonal perspective of the Emerald Lake and Hallett Peak:
Notice the rockslide area above the lake on the Novak photo. In winter, that area is captured up close and personal in the photo below. The person closest to you, in the middle of the photo, is Rob Klingensmith. He hiked up through deeply drifted snow to capture photos of skiers. You can see the tiny figures hiking up the mountain in front of Rob. They are using “skins” on backcountry skis to hike uphill. They remove the skins at the top of the hill and ski down. They are tough to see, but there are the ski tracks coming toward Rob, near dead center of the photo. Barely visible in this photo, to the left of those tracks, are more tracks originating higher up the mountain.
USAT, our sanctioning body, does not have a cold water policy, like ITU does. They leave the decision up to each sanctioned event.
However, Ironman has a cold water policy that considers water temperature, air temperature, and whether the water is fresh or salt. Ironman has altered swims due to cold water and/or rough conditions and will always consider environmental conditions and the safety of its participants. If necessary, a decision to alter the swim will be made one hour prior to race start and will be clearly communicated to the athletes.
Bottom line, with regard to St. George, race operations feels confident, based on historical data, that the water will be “warm” enough for the full swim distance.
For those of you doing any cold water swim event, here are a few tips I give my athletes:
Consider purchasing a neoprene cap to wear under your official race swim cap. (Don’t wait until the last minute, in the race town, to make your purchase.)
If possible, have a thermos of warm fluid to consume pre-race (tea, coffee, chicken soup, etc.) Pre-heating your core seems to keep people comfortable for a longer period.
Stay as warm as you can pre-race. (Keep your shoes on, sweatshirt, etc.)
Don’t “warm-up” pre-race in really cold conditions. Just take the first part of the swim as your warm-up.
If you haven’t practiced cold water swimming pre-event, know that the first time you put your face in the water, it feels like your breathing disappears. Know this is coming, relax and take a few strokes to settle into a rhythm.
An update for inquiring IM racers. I have not heard back from IM yet on the water temperature question. I don't know if they don't plan to have any guidelines, are working on it, have not seen my requests (to two sources now) or what. As soon as I know anything, I'll post it here.
Yesterday was the first time I was on the mountain bike, on the trails, since November. Rocks the size of my fist looked enormous. Technical sections I could easily navigate last fall freaked me out and caused walking. Ridiculous.
My skills did improve by the end of the ride, as did the weather. It’s been a tough winter in Colorado. It’s the first time in years that we’ve had snow on the ground from November through March. Yesterday many locations along the Front Range hit the 70-degree mark.
The trail was packed with people. It was more like a Saturday crowd rather than a typical Wednesday light day. Everyone has a bit of cabin fever and wanted to enjoy that warm sun…before the snow comes again.
Today we’ll eek into the low 60s before the bottom drops out. At midnight the snow begins and tomorrow’s high temperatures will barely get to the low 30s. We’re predicted to get 5 to 10 inches of heavy, wet spring snow.
I've had questions about Ironman St. George's water temperature and if there is a chance the swim could be canceled or modified. I've looked at rule sets for USAT and cannot find guidelines for minimum temps. There are ITU guidelines posted (see pages 14-15) but I'm not sure these rules apply to Ironman. If anyone out there knows the minimum temperature rules for IM, let me know. I'll do some more digging too.
ITU to host Elite Sprint and Team World Championship in Lausanne
(Vancouver, Canada - 2 March, 2010) - The International Triathlon Union is pleased to announce the addition of the inaugural ITU Elite Sprint Triathlon World Championship to its 2010 race calendar, to be held in Lausanne, Switzerland on August 21. Additionally, Lausanne will host the ITU Team Triathlon World Championship on August 22. These two events will replace the Lausanne ITU Triathlon World Cup event, previously scheduled for the same weekend. There will be $100,000 in prize money on offer over the weekend's racing. The weekend festival of racing will also contain an age-group competition that is expected to attract a large number of competitors.
"We are very excited to host the ITU Elite Sprint Triathlon World Championship and the ITU Team Triathlon World Championship in Lausanne, a city with a history of great sporting events," said ITU President Marisol Casado. "The distances are short, exciting and we think the spectators and viewers will enjoy watching our athletes race at such a high intensity. The shorter-distances present a great opportunity for our younger athletes to compete in the sport in a sustainable way."
Competitors in the ITU Elite Sprint Triathlon World Championship will complete a 750-meter swim, 20-km bike and 5-km run. Each of the four athletes in the ITU Team Triathlon World Championship will complete a 275-meter swim; 6 km bike and 1.5-km run.Each team will be comprised of two men and two women, racing in the order of female-male-female-male. After each athlete finishes his or her swim-bike-run segment he or she will tag the next athlete in the relay for the exchange.
The 2009 ITU Team Triathlon World Championship was hosted by Hy-Vee in Des Moines, Iowa, alongside the prestigious Hy-Vee ITU Triathlon Elite Cup, with the Swiss Team taking home top honours, topping Australia by only eight seconds. Team Canada rounded out the podium.
A sprint-distance triathlon and a 4 x mixed relay triathlon will be on the programme for the first-ever Youth Olympic Games, set for Singapore on August 14-26, 2010. For more information on the Youth Olympic Games visit www.singapore2010.sg.
Side Note:As with the Cross World Championships, holding a sprint world championship event is one of the steps on the checklist for inclusion into the Olympic Games.
I wrote a short blog about a story that NBC's Tom Brokaw did about the Gander airport. I've received multiple requests to let people know if I get information about when the story will run again. Due to the overwhelming number of requests for follow-up information, I dropped NBC a note and asked when the story might run again or how to access the video to show at civic group functions and in the classroom.
I sent the note to NBC moments ago. It may take them awhile to get back to me. If and when I hear anything, I'll post it here ASAP.