Racing will begin Saturday, August 4, at precisely 6:02 am. Swimmers will complete a 1.5 mile loop on a triangular race course, every hour. Racing will continue every hour until no swimmer completes a loop. If we reach 6:02 pm on Sunday, August 5, without a winner, race directors will implement a swim-off. There will be one award for our first-place finisher.
Big Ring Cycles is hosting the Second Annual Colorado Women’s Ride Day on Sunday, August 5 at Tony Grampsas Memorial Park in Golden. The day begins with a variety of women-led road and mountain bike rides on routes ranging from casual to challenging. Riders return to a delicious brunch prepared by The Basted Egg and drinks. Besides scoring prizes and swag, this is a great chance to connect with other women cyclists, including special guest, 14-time national champion Katie Compton.
The G’Knight Ride is a celebration of cycling, and is meant for cyclists of all ages, sizes, and abilities. The Ride is a great excuse to dust off that old 10-speed, mountain bike, or cruiser and hop on with 2,000+ other riders on a great evening tour. The G’Knight Ride helps to fun cycling education and bike refurbishing programs throughout the year by Bicycle Longmont, the area non-profit bike advocacy organization.
In just 50 minutes you’ll learn techniques for specific skills:
++Get Your Mind Right—planning for a great swim
++Breathe easy—key insights from physiology for comfort in the water
++The Warm up—how to have a great start and finish
++Wee (and not so wee) Besties—what is in that water anyway, and how to regard the marine life
++Feet and Elbows—overcoming getting touched by other swimmers
Don’t just endure the swim—learn to love it.
Presenter Will Murray is our Team’s mental skills coach, a USA Triathlon certified coach, and co-author of The Four Pillars of Triathlon: Vital Mental Skills for Endurance Athletes.
Grant Ranch will offer swimmers an opportunity to train for their upcoming events or to simply practice their open water skills. There will be two courses available, 1/2 mile triangle or a 1.2 mile loop. Grant Ranch is free of motorized boats, which allows for a very safe environment.
Grant Ranch Address:
7255 West Grant Ranch Boulevard
Lakewood, CO 80123
Open Water Swim Days/Times: May 19th – September 9th
Tuesdays, May 22nd – Sept. 4th – 5:30AM – 7:00AM (Must be out of water by 6:50 AM Thursdays, May 24th – Sept. 6th – 5:30AM – 7:00AM (Must be out of water by 6:50 AM) Saturdays, May 19th – Sept. 8th – 7:00AM – 9:30AM (Must be out of water by 9:20 AM) Sundays, May 20th – Sept. 9th – 5:30AM – 9:30AM (Must be out of water by 9:20 AM)
NO SWIMMING DATES (swim meets at Grant Ranch) – June 9th, July 7th and July 14th
Drop In, Punch Passes and Season Passes are available.
All the details and swim waiver can be found on the SwimLabs websiteHERE
It looks like triathletes who swim at Grant Ranch may need to find other options for open water swimming this year.
Presently, Grant Ranch and Swim Labs have not come an agreement on operating open water swimming for 2018. Paul Lefever of Grant Ranch said the board is not actively soliciting proposals from any other organization that may want to offer open water swimming. He added they are open to proposals, but the board is satisfied operating without the revenue of open water swimming. Michael Mann of Swim Labs is still hopeful a deal can be worked out so stay tuned and hopefully we will have good news to report in the near future.
We will be sure to keep everyone up to date. Be sure to check our 2018 event calendar for all of the OWS opportunities this season.
Last week Sarah Thomas got up at 5am and drove the 25 miles from her home to the swimming pool in Lakewood, Colorado, as she does most mornings. There she completed her 6,000-yard workout before heading to work as a healthcare recruiter. She was untroubled by autograph hunters; no TV crews stopped her to seek an interview.
And yet Thomas is, according to Steven Munatones, founder of the World Open Water Swimming Association, “an outlier, a once-in-a-generation athlete, and a motivator who is showing others how far they can push themselves”. In August she completed what must rank as one of 2017’s greatest achievements in endurance sport, swimming further than anyone — man or woman — has swum before without the assistance of currents: a scarcely believable 104 miles, nonstop, in three days and nights in the water.
“The record wasn’t really the big incentive for me,” Thomas tells me from her home in Denver. “It was about finding and pushing my personal limits.” What could be a weary trope coming from many athletes rings true from Thomas. She swims without sponsorship — fitting her training around her full-time job. Her achievements have received little media attention; her record-breaking swim has not, to date, even been mentioned in a national newspaper.
“Sarah herself doesn’t seek out publicity,” Ken Classen, her coach and training partner, tells me. “If it wasn’t for her friends and mother-in-law she’d probably have no publicity and quite frankly I don’t think she’d care either way.”
Last year Thomas swam a record 82 miles nonstop in Lake Powell but felt she could go further — the 100-mile barrier beckoned. In choosing the current-free Lake Champlain for her swim, Thomas was attempting something no one of either gender had previously done. “A few people have swum over 100 miles before,” explains Evan Morrison, co-founder of the Marathon Swimming Federation, that adjudicated Thomas’ swim, but only with the assistance of strong, predictable currents.
These include a 139.8-mile effort by the late Croatian swimmer, Veljko Rogosic, in the Adriatic. “His swim was very impressive, but it belongs in a separate category,” explains Morrison. According to his records, only three athletes active today have finished “current-neutral” swims of 63 miles or more — all three of them women.
Beat Knechtle, a Swiss doctor and endurance athlete who has studied female performance in open-water swimming, offers two possible explanations for this dominance. “Women have an advantage due to their higher body fat, which provides insulation against the cold and better buoyancy.” As wetsuits may not be worn for official open-water swims, this could be an important advantage. Then there is the mental side. “In open-water swimming women have learnt that they are able to beat men and therefore expect to compete at a higher level,” says Knechtle.
Thomas agrees. “Women have a long history of swimming: it’s been socially acceptable for us to be athletes in the pool and open water for much longer than in other sports. I think having that strong foundation has really helped women to compete and train at a high level.”
Open water swimming and the emotions swirling around it get plenty of attention these days. Many triathletes describe the “panic attacks” as feelings they experience in open water and not in their pool swims.
Maybe their attacks are not panic at all. Make no mistake, these sensations are awful and real. But they may have a physical origin. And, fortunately, there are simple, effective and fast techniques to quell open water swim issues and make swimming one of the most comfortable parts of triathlon.
First, let’s describe the feelings of discomfort that some triathletes call an attack. Then let’s look at the physiological causes of this feeling. Finally, let us practice a couple of specific, fast and easy techniques for relieving those sensations once and for all.
Maybe it’s not a panic attack.
Triathletes often describe the sensations that they interpret as an attack: shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, dizziness, light-headedness and strong self-talk. Symptoms of a panic attack, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), sound similar:
Difficulty breathing, feeling as though you ‘can’t get enough air’
Terror that is almost paralyzing
Dizziness, lightheadedness or nausea
Trembling, sweating, shaking
Choking, chest pains
Hot flashes or sudden chills
Tingling in fingers or toes (pins and needles)
Fear that you’re going to go crazy or are about to die
However, there are some important differences. Again, according to the APA: “A panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming fear that comes without warning and without any obvious reason.”
The main difference here is “without any obvious reason.” In the case of open water swimming, there could be some very obvious reasons.
For starters, let’s see if perhaps there aren’t physiological rather than psychological causes.
Get off my neck.
One way to induce the symptoms some swimmers feel is a tight collar. On either side of your neck you have a carotid artery. Inside the carotid artery below your jawline is the carotid body, a small area that includes pressure sensors. Pressure on the carotid body increases blood pressure, which then signals your heart to slow down. Your carotid body sends this signal to your heart via the vagus nerve, which will become even more important later in the story.
This carotid sinus reflex is sufficiently dependable that doctors sometimes use mild pressure on the carotid sinus to reduce heart rate in patients whose hearts are beating too fast. According to Selvin and Howland (1961), males older than 50 years and with high blood pressure can be disproportionally susceptible to carotid sinus reflex.
The location of carotid body, high up on your neck under your jaw, is well out of the way of most collars on wetsuits specifically designed for swimming. However, neoprene swim caps with a chin strap may get close to this area of your neck.
One of the easiest things to do to avoid all those icky feelings: make sure that nothing much is pressing on your neck.
Before you don your wetsuit, try putting a plastic grocery bag on your foot, then slip into the leg of your suit and when your suit is all the way on your leg and your foot protrudes, pull off the bag. Repeat with the other leg and both hands. The slippery plastic bag helps your limbs slide into your suit effortlessly and completely, to get your legs and arms well into the suit. Make sure you create a little gather of neoprene at the front of your shoulder to avoid having any tension on your collar. Once you are in your suit, pull the collar away from your throat.
It’s in your face.
A second physiological phenomenon that can cause similar symptoms is a result of you being a mammal. Maybe you have seen stories of children who fall through the ice and get rescued many minutes afterward being submerged, only to recover fully. All mammals have this natural ability, called the mammalian diving reflex (DR), to respond to submersion.
It works like this:
When you put your face in cold water and hold your breath, the trigeminal nerve in your face sends a signal to your vagus nerve (there’s the vagus again) to slow down your heartbeat. Your body also shunts blood flow from your extremities to your internal core and brain.
You could imagine this conversation:
“Hey, wait wait wait wait! I feel cold water and pressure on my face and I’ve stopped breathing!”
“What do you think this means?”
“What, are you dense? We are drowning!”
“What should we do?”
“OK, well first let’s slow down the heart rate and ship more blood to the brain, so we can keep that going at least and conserve as much as we can until we surface.” “Hey, good idea.”
This mammalian diving reflex is just fine for keeping you from dying too fast underwater, but it really feels inconvenient when you are trying to swim. You slip into the water, and it’s cold. For the purposes of your trigeminal nerve, anything in the 70s and below (F) qualifies as cold. As you start to swim, your mammalian diving reflex kicks in, your vagus nerve reduces your heart rate and your blood departs your extremities.
But also when you start your swim, another part of your system wants to elevate your heart rate and flush your swimming muscles with blood.
When you jump into cold water and swim away, if you feel as though you have a war going on in your chest, you are not far off. According to Rennie (2012) “A disadvantageous consequence, however, is that the muscles in the limbs must then rely more on anaerobic energy metabolism to keep working, so they build up lactic acid and tire more rapidly than they would from comparable exercise at the surface.” Maybe this feels true to you. And according to Panneton (2013),“The DR is the most powerful autonomic reflex known.” He goes on to say, in laboratory experiments, “100 percent of rats get it 100 percent of the time.”
You are dealing with very strong forces here.
Fortunately again, there is an easy solution to the mammalian diving reflex war in your chest.
Recall your first swim lesson — blow bubbles.
Even before you start your swimming warm-up, you might consider doing your breathing warm-up. You do this by bobbing in the water. Yes, bobbing. As in, bobbing up and down. The easiest way to prevent that feeling is to warm up a little before you swim off.
Get in the water. Let the water trickle into your wetsuit. Float around for a few moments and feel the temperature of the water on your hands, feet, face and head. Adjust the collar of your wetsuit off your neck to make sure that your wetsuit is not pressing on your carotid arteries.
Bob. Take a breath. Put your face in the water and in a relaxed way exhale bubbles for 10 or 15 seconds. Lift your face into the air, take in a relaxed breath and then bob again. Repeat this for perhaps a minute or two.
Swim a little. Do some 25- or 50-meter easy swimming back and forth along the shoreline to get your muscles and your heart on the same page.
By gently bobbing for perhaps a whole entire minute before you start swimming, you settle down your trigeminal-vagus nerve cascade, get your inner mammalian diving reflex part to realize that indeed you are not drowning and you can just calm down. Then you can settle into your swim warm up and carry on.
Those two physiology issues, carotid sinus reflex and mammalian diving reflex, can explain a lot of that panicky feeling. Let’s get back to psychology for a moment.
One of the things about panic attacks: they can lead to altered behavior. Most important is to avoid developing panic attacks by attending to the physical causes and gaining the calmness in the water that makes open water swimming so rewarding.
APA. Panic attacks: the hallmark of panic disorder. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/topics/anxiety/panic-disorder.aspx
Panneton, W. Michael. (2013). The Mammalian Diving Response: an enigmatic reflex to preserve life? Physiology: 28(5) p. 284-297
Rennie, J. (2012). How the dive reflex extends breath-holding. Scientific American, March 22, 2012
Selvin, B and Howland, WS. M.D. (1961). New concepts of the physiology of the carotid sinus reflex. Journal of the American Medical Association. 1961;176(1):12-15. doi:10.1001/jama.1961.03040140014004.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Will Murray is a USA Triathlon Certified Coach and is the mental skills coach for D3 Multisport. He is co-author, with Craig Howie, of “The Four Pillars of Triathlon: Vital Mental Conditioning for Endurance Athletes.”