This post is written by Ambassador Paul Feltoe, a competitive long distance swimmer who has been training with MySwimPro for years in New Plymouth, New Zealand. 🇳🇿
Meet Paul Feltoe
Paul Feltoe is 45 years old has been swimming since he was 8 years old. He spent his childhood competing on a swim team in the the 50, 100 and 200 backstroke events. In his 20’s, he started a masters swimming club and continued that until he found his calling–long distance ocean swimming.
Paul has completed several ultra-marathon swims (20-40k, and over 10 hours long!), including 2 of the Oceans 7 Circuit – The Catalina Channel (California), and Cook Strait (New Zealand).
Over the last several years, endurance swimming (swims of 20k +) has become a huge part of my life. Some will wonder why I spend so much time in the water as it doesn’t come across as something that humans would enjoy. For me, the enjoyment comes from the physical and mental challenge.
“Each swim I do is very much an expedition.”
Everyone who swims in this space will have a different model that drives success for them, however here are a few of my learnings from over the years:
1 – Patience Is Key
If you haven’t done much swimming at the “marathon” distance of 10k, work up to getting several 10k swims under your belt before stepping up. Your body and mind need time to adjust for longer swims.
2 – Mix Pool & Open Water
Mix your training between open water and the pool. Both are important. Your events will be in open water, so comfort with conditions is critical, however pool swimming allows you to keep some focus on your technique and speed. Your speed will likely drop off if your swim training is pure open water. In my experience, trying to retain some speed is an insurance policy against changing conditions in open water. The longer you are out thee, the higher the risk conditions change against your favor (weather, currents, physical condition etc).
3 – Build a Team Around You
It is a lonely sport. Support of friends and family is critical.
4 – Recovery. Recovery. Recovery.
Look after your body. Massage, days off, and recovery nutrition are crucial. I get a sports massage every 2 weeks as a preventative measure against injury.
5 – Strength Training
Work in some dryland training into your routine. A different environment works wonders in addition to keeping your shoulders and body in good health.
6 – Plan Your Nutrition
Spend time to determine what nutrition plan works for you. Nutrition needs over 2 hours of swimming is not the same as swimming for 12 hours. Have a plan. Don’t trial anything new on event day.
A mixture of sports drinks, gels and solid food is your likely combination. Hot drinks may be needed for cold water swims to keep your core temperature up. Work in some treats to your feeding schedule. Don’t make your feeding schedule too complex as conditions out in the open water don’t make it easy for your kayaker to serve you up your planned 3 course meal.
7 – No Grit. No Glory.
In training, plan to take yourself into some “dark places” in preparation. This will help your prepare mentally for the inevitable tough hours of the event. I always plan on training up to 70% of the planned duration of the swim. You can learn more about my training here.
8 – Have A Plan B
There are things you can and cannot control. You can control your preparation, but you cant control the water conditions. The latter can and will likely lead to the occasional DNF (“Did Not Finish”). This is hard to deal with but the experience you get from DNFs is invaluable. Completing a ultra swim after a DNF is much sweeter.
I hope these tips help you prepare for your next ultramarathon swim! Have questions for me? Leave them below!
Need some open water swim workouts? Use code PAULF20 and take 20% off ELITE. Get your free 7-day trial >