I am officially in training for SCAR Swim 2018. I have been thinking about swimming SCAR since I found myself next to the organizer right before Swim the Suck 2015. We were in line, standing in the parking lot in our bare feet and our swimsuits, and he was explaining to me about how to train for cold water when you live in a warm climate. He told me to get a horse trough, fill it with water and ice, and sit in it. And I thought, “This is my kind of crazy person.”
The acronym SCAR stands for Saguaro, Canyon, Apache, and Roosevelt, four lakes on the Salt River in Arizona. The challenge is four days, four lakes, 40 (or so) miles. There are two important things embedded in that last sentence. First, it’s a challenge, not a race: no one wins anything but the joy of swimming. Second, it’s 40 miles, give or take. As the FAQ says, “There is nothing ‘official’ about the swim distances of these lakes other than it’s from buoy to buoy . . . If you are overly concerned about the distance you are missing the point of the swims.”
These really are my kind of crazy people.
Here’s the plan for getting ready for SCAR:
1) Increasing my distance. I continue to swim five days a week, most weeks, but one of those days is now a long swim, and I’m steadily lengthening that long swim by 1000 yards a week. Right now, I’m up to 12,000 yards.
I’ve bought myself a 10-swim pass so that I can swim the long swim at the pool that used to be Westside but is now Greenville County Aquatic Complex. The sessions at my home pool are not long enough for me to get in that kind of distance.
2) Yoga. I feel I need more strength and more flexibility, and that means I need yoga. I’ve been going to a studio in town that allows you to pay by the class, and I get myself to two classes a week. Once my university starts back up for the spring semester, I can take yoga there too.
It’s fascinating how the yoga poses I couldn’t do when I was in college are the same yoga poses I can’t do now. It takes a person back.
3) Getting used to cold water. This is the most difficult thing for me to do. I’m expecting water in the low 60s to low 70s F (16 to 22 C), and my pools are too warm while my lakes are too cold.
I have been taking cold baths twice weekly; they are not a lot of fun, but they aren’t unbearable. I take the temperature of the bath water, set a timer, and get in, muttering, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” over and over as I settle down into the water.
It is much more fun to go swim in a lake. Thanks to my husband, who agreed to be my driver and lifeguard, I went out yesterday. I had been watching the forecast and the water temperature in Lake Hartwell and decided that yesterday was going to be one of the warmest days we’d have for a while. So we drove out there and took the temperature with my nifty new infrared thermometer: 56.2 F.
I am not a natural at this. It was very cold getting in. But as I swam all the joy of open water swimming flooded back. It was a relief. It’s so much better than sitting in a cold bathtub. All told, I was in the water about 25 minutes and swam three-quarters of a mile. Then I got out, wrapped up with a warm drink, and shivered most of the way home.
I’ve just got to find a way to make this happen regularly.
4) Eating well. I have always been of the mind that I swim a lot so that I can eat what I want. I eat reasonably healthy food, but I don’t begrudge myself some junk food.
However, we’re talking now about preparing for a four day swimming challenge. I have to be able to get up and swim the second day, and the third day, and the fourth day. Usually the day after I swim a long distance is a day I do a lot of eating: in this challenge, I’ll have to stay fueled for four days.
For now, I’m making sure I am getting more protein and fewer added sugars. I’m making tofu milkshakes and eating more nuts and nut butters. I’m eating a lot of broccoli and hummus. I like broccoli and hummus. It’s not a sacrifice.
For later, I’m trying out different kinds of sports nutrition products designed for consumption during an event. I ordered a variety, and I’m waiting for them to come in the mail. I can try them during my one long swim a week.
And one more thing —
5) More butterfly. I’d slacked off swimming butterfly for a while. In fact, I stopped completely; I was in London for a month, and I was swimming in crowded pools that were not good places for butterfly: too easy to hit someone (see How to Share a Lane).
But butterfly does two things: it protects your shoulders, and it builds your character. And I’m going to need strong shoulders and strong character for this swim, even if I don’t do a stroke of butterfly in it. So I’m back to butterfly — in every workout from here on out.
These are my plans for SCAR Swim, April 25-28, 2017: increased distance, lots of yoga, cold water acclimation, better food, and more butterfly. I’m open to suggestions. Please leave your advice in the comments.