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Monday, March 25, 2013

Darren Miller's Rock Solid Six Pack

With his crossing of the Cook Strait last week, Darren Miller has accomplished six of the seven channels of the Oceans Seven challenge.

His 10 hour 42 minute crossing was done stroke for stroke - with a few loops thrown in for warmth - together with Craig Lenning who is also climbing the charts of the Oceans Seven with five channels etched on his Speedos.

Miller provides his first-hand descriptions of his swim Down Under between New Zealand's North and South Islands:

1. After not training in cold water - or any open water for that matter - how was the Cook Strait?
Miller: New Zealand was one of the most beautiful countries I have visited. I have nothing but love for the friendly people who made our trip a memorable one. The countryside was breathtaking, the food was excellent and I highly recommend visiting at some point in your life.

I will always remember reading Lynne Cox’s first-hand account of her incredible journey across the Cook Strait and how difficult it was. I had expectations going into this swim that it would be tough; especially since few people have completed it and not much is written about it. When I travel, I focus 99% of my attention on the swim I have to complete. I am not worried about traveling around or doing anything other than completing the adventure I set out for myself. The swim comes first.

Having a full sponsor is something I never take for granted. I look at this blessing as something which could be taken away from me at any time. The motivation to never lose such a gift has set my focus on a ‘do-or-die’ approach to every swim I attempt. I understand luck and Mother Nature has a huge role in completing these swims; however I cannot control those factors so I can only focus on my physical and mental attitude.


I wanted to have an incredible crew around me for this swim, and it was an honor to have Shelley Taylor-Smith offer to come along. She, as well as having veteran Philip Rush, was a duo on the open water which is difficult to top. I knew Craig and I had the team to give us the increased motivation to complete this swim – it was an honor to be in their presence.

The swim itself was on a sunny, cool Thursday morning. We left the hotel at 6:30 am and were going to meet up with Philip down at Oriental Bay, however he was eager to get on the road so we actually met him at the same time coming out of our car park. We followed him in his Ford-150 (while hauling two rubber inflatable boats) to the Mana Cruising Club – about 20 minutes outside of Wellington. After off-loading the rafts, we pulled over and parked near the marina where our ‘boat to victory’, the 40-ft Tangaroa was docked. Captain Chris gave us the run down on his safety procedures, followed by Philip, and his swimming instructions. We left the dock, and took the 1.5-hour trip to the starting point on the North Island. The air temperature was about 15.9ºC (60.6ºF) with southwest winds blowing at 5-10 knots. We left at 9:42 am from the North Island, and started on our journey to the South Island. Water was incredibly clear, and cool – around 16ºC (60.8ºF). We could see straight down to the bottom. The sun was shining, and our swim was underway.

For the most part, our swim went along perfectly. The first feed went off at :45, and then every :30 afterwards. In addition to Gu products, Craig fed with Cytomax, Maxim, splash of apple juice and water. I feed with warm CarboPro and Cytomax, along with either Gu Roctane, or Cliff Bar Shot Bloks. I took children’s ibuprofen every 3-4 hours to help with alleviating any shoulder pain we might be feeling. The crew noted a seal at the start; otherwise all we saw was an occasional jellyfish.

Around half-way across we hit an upwelling of chillier water. It dropped down to about 15.5ºC (59.9ºF) and held that constantly until about two miles off-shore, where it went back up to about 16.4ºC (61.5ºF) for the remainder of the swim. We hit a tide which pushed us quite off course to the north, and made for a fitting ‘S curve’ which left many people asking questions from back home. Mother Nature decides where we swim. We were pushed pretty hard to the north, and had to continuously fight to make sure we were not pushed around the bend; otherwise we would have been in the water much longer. It was quite relentless and very annoying when you are trying to finish.

Craig and I became separated and I swam up ahead just as the sun was going down. Philip caught back up to me and I got a glow sticks and a blinker so I could actually be seen. He informed me to “swim as hard as you have ever swum before” into the finish, or we risked getting pushed around the tip. I swam as hard as I could the final hour or so, and was able to finally touch the rock wall to signify the completion.

It was estimated we swam upwards of 40 km (24.8 miles) for the crossing in total due to the currents pushing up and away. Apparently the faster way was south to north, however due to the conditions, we had to take the long approach. It was an incredible feeling to get this swim over with.


2. How much ocean swimming did you get in between the time you left how and the time you dove into the Cook Strait?
Miller: Acclimatization to cold water is the most important aspect I focus upon. The training for this swim was arguably the most difficult thus far, as all I had available to me was 26-29ºC (78-84ºF) swimming pools to train. Doing really long pool work-outs can get old very quick; it was tough mentally.

While Craig and I spent an average of about :30-1:30 each day of swimming, I took an additional :45-1:00 each day to simply float around. This approach is something I have done on every swim, and it has worked perfectly. Even though I would begin to shiver around :45 of not moving, I would continue to sit until about 1:30-2:00 each day. We would swim without caps, without ear plugs and a drag suit each day – once the day came, we would be ‘that much warmer’ once we began the swim.


3. The water temperature (62ºF) was not as cold as you feared. How did that make you feel?
Miller: The temperature in the Strait varied from 15.5-16.5ºC (59.9-61.7ºF) throughout the day, so at times it gave me a chill. The sun was out for the majority of the day, and it was nice to have the warmth on our back. We finished in the dark, so the air temperature (slightly warmer than the water temperature) did drop towards the end of our journey. I have always sprinted towards the end of my swims, as I want to get into the shoreline as soon as I can. My stroke rate remains constant (around 65 strokes per minute) for the majority of the swim, and increases (to around 70 SPMSPM) the closer I get toward the finish.

4. There are always cold spots in every channel. Did you hit any?
Miller: The water temperature dropped to the low point around half-way, and maintained that temperature until about 2-miles (3.2 km) off-shore. At this point, it warmed back up to the higher point. It was enough of a drop to cause a slight concern, and made me focus even more on doing what I could to stay warm. I have the confidence to know I can swim in this water, but the concern is always there.

5. How was it swimming with Craig?
Miller: Craig is one of the most widely respected cold water swimmers in the marathon swimming community. He is the only American who has been successful in the North Channel and has, for the most part, remained off the radar with his swimming. I have the utmost respect for him, as he is by far one of the toughest men I know. His beautiful wife, May, was, and has been with him every step of the way – I am proud to call them my friends.

He was not concerned with the water temperature, and actually swam without a cap for almost the entire swim. We did our best to stay together, however that is never easy in the open ocean. Since my need to stay warm was the focus, I took an approach to swim out-and-in (Philip referred to this as completing a circle away from the support craft) for most of the swim in order to keep warm. The additional distance was not an issue, and I knew I would have to do this in order to stay warm. We had spoken earlier in the week about swimming fast enough; as I knew Craig was concerned. He kept his pace strong and I simply did what I had to do in order to stay warm! It was an honor to Craig by my side every stroke of the way.


6. One more to go, arguably the hardest one in the North Channel. How are you going to prepare for that one? Are you going to do the longer, more proven route or are you going to attempt the riskier, shorter route?
Miller: I am very relieved to only have the North Channel left. I also know that this will be the toughest by far. Craig has been a fine mentor in regards to learning all about the North Channel and what I can come to expect. I want the Irish and Scottish swimming community to know this swim is being given my utmost respect, as I have learned a lot from Craig Lenning and Stephen Redmond. I will train to the best of my ability, and hope to have enough time to acclimate in Ireland before an attempt is made.

The training will be comparable to the Molokai Channel training, in that I will increase the weekly mileage to around 100K+/week for the final weeks leading up to the swim. I will continue to take cold showers, keep my home temperature cold and continue adding any weight I can. I do have sprint work built into my training as I know I will need as much speed as I can to move fast enough in the North Channel to stay warm. I am throwing around a few ideas to ‘think outside the box’ in regards to cold water training when the coldest water I can find would be a traditional pool at 26-29ºC (78-84ºF). I also hope to make trips to swim in the Colorado Mountains with Craig over the summer, as well as Jamie Patrick in San Francisco – both of these areas offer much colder water than I can swim back in Pittsburgh.

I am excited to continue my conversation with Brian Meharg and the Bangor Boat crew. I cannot say I have been one to focus too much on map charts, tide tables or weather – I like the ‘point-and-go’ approach to marathon swimming. These pilots know the conditions in the channels, and I rely on their judgment as to when an attempt should be made. Whichever is the traditional, proven path across the North Channel is the one I will attempt. I know 10-12ºC (50-53ºF) water is quite painful, but I will be ready for the challenge. My charitable mission has come quite a way, and I know what I am fighting for.


Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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The Staff of the World Open Water Swimming Association

2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference

Learn more...
Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR THE CONFERENCE

The Global Open Water Swimming Conference is a conference on the sport of open water swimming, marathon swimming and swimming during triathlons and multi-sport endurance events.

The conference which has been attended by enthusiasts and luminaries from 6 continents, is devoted to providing information about the latest trends, race tactics, training techniques, equipment, psychological preparation, race organization and safety practices used in the sports of open water swimming, marathon swimming and triathlons.

The conference's mission is to provide opportunities to listen and meet many of the world's most foremost experts in open water swimming, and to meet and discuss the sport among swimmers, coaches, administrators, event organizers, sponsors, vendors, officials, escort pilots, and volunteers from kayakers to safety personnel.

Dozens of presentations at the 2014 Conference at the Mount Stuart House cover numerous aspects of the vast and growing world of open water swimming where attendees can learn and share the latest trends, race tactics, training modalities, swimming techniques, equipment, race organization, logistics, operations, and safety practices for open water swimming as a solo swimmer, competitive athlete, fitness swimmer, masters swimmer, triathlete, multi-sport athlete, administrator, race promoter, sponsor or referee.

The conference was first held in Long Beach, California as part of the 2010 USA Swimming National Open Water Swimming Championships. It has since been held on the Queen Mary in California, at Columbia University and the United Nations in New York City, and in Cork, Ireland. This year in September, it comes to another iconic location, the Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute in Scotland.

"The Global Open Water Swimming Conference was started due to the desire and need for athletes, coaches, referees, administrators, race directors, promoters and sponsors from around the world to share, collect and learn information about the growing sports of open water swimming, marathon swimming and triathlons," said founder Steven Munatones. "Other swimming conferences usually offering nothing on open water swimming or perhaps a speech or two, but we thought open water swimming deserves its own global conference. It is great that the community shares its information via the online social network, but there is nothing like meeting other open water swimming enthusiasts face-to-face and talking about the sport from morning to night."

Speakers at the conference include English Channel swimmers, ice swimmers, record holders, renowned coaches, world champions, professional marathon swimmers, renowned race directors, officials and administrators from the Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania.

"Because the audience is passionate and educated about the sport and its finest practitioners, the Global Open Water Swimming Conference is also the location of the induction ceremonies for the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame and the annual WOWSA Awards that recognize the World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year, the World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year, the World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year, and the World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year. Special Lifetime Achievement Awards are also occasionally presented to individuals who have made significant contributions to the sport over their career."

The 2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference Programme

Wednesday, September 17th
Leave Glasgow to commence 2-day tour of Scotland [closest international airport is Glasgow]

Thursday, September 18th
Stay Mainland, North of Scotland

Friday, September 19th
14:00 - Swim Loch Lomond
17:00 - Head to Isle of Bute
19:30 - Scottish Banquet
21:30 - Dinner Dance

Saturday, September 20th
09:00 - Registration & Coffee
10:00 - Speeches
12:20 - Lunch and WOWSA Awards
13:40 – Speeches
15:40 - Round Table
19:00 - International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Dinner & Induction Ceremony

Sunday, September 21st
09:00 - Registration & Coffee
10:00 - Speeches
14:30 - Swim in St Ninian's Bay on the Isle of Bute

The luminaries of the open water swimming world who will be honored in Scotland will include:

* Sandra Bucha (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer and International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer
* Jon Erikson (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Claudio Plit (Argentina), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Judith van Berkel-de Njis (Netherlands), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* David Yudovin (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Mercedes Gleitze (Great Britain), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* George Young (Canada), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Dale Petranech (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Contributor
* Melissa Cunningham (Australia), 2013 Irving Davids-Captain Roger Wheeler Memorial Award winner
* Vojislav Mijić (Serbia), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer
* James Anderson (U.S.A.), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Administrator
* Dr. Jane Katz (U.S.A.), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Administrator
* Indonesian Swimming Federation, , International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Organisation
* Elizabeth Fry (U.S.A.), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer
* Pádraig Mallon (Ireland), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year
* Olga Kozydub (Russia), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year
* Bering Strait Swim (international team), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year
* International Ice Swimming Association (Ram Barkai, founder, South Africa), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year

For additional articles on the 2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference, visit:

* Olga Kozydub To Be Honored In Scotland
* Pádraig Mallon To Be Honored In Mount Stuart Castle
* Mount Stuart House, Splendid Setting For Swimming
* Colleen Blair To Kick-off Global Open Water Swimming Conference
* The Man Who Swims Better Than He Walks
* Joining In The Sea Goddess At The Hall Of Fame
* Mercedes Gleitze To Be Honored In Scotland
* The Incredible Career Of Merceded Gleitze
* Jon Erikson To Be Honoured In Florida
* The Incredible Career Of Mercedes Gleitze
* St Ninian's Bay To Host International Swim Conference

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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Open Water Swimming Magazine

The Open Water Swimming Magazine is the monthly magazine entirely focused on open water swimming heroes and heroines of every age, ability, and background. Published by the World Open Water Swimming Association, the Open Water Swimming Magazine is a free benefit to WOWSA members.

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2014 Open Water Swimming Almanac



An Almanac for Open Water Swimming

An almanac is essentially a body of knowledge which is so complete that it enables people in different fields to make predictions about the future of their respective industries.

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The trends are very clear.
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