Dr. Richards: I train in an Endless Pool due to my personal and professional commitments coupled with the lack of 50 meter pools in the north county of San Diego. I am a single parent and physician (outpatient with a 40 hour work week) and couldn’t make the time to drive daily to a pool, do a workout with masters, as I had responsibilities and this would have been exhausting for my lifestyle and take away from my family.
I love to go to La Jolla Cove on the weekends, but for weekday training, the Endless Pool was perfect. I did a test swim in one in about 2003 and was impressed. Subsequently, I researched the different types and found a contractor who had experience with them and by 2004 I took the “plunge” (pardon the pun), and invested the money and it has been worth it 100 times over.
With being a single parent, it gave to me the ability to get up at 4:00 – 4:15 am, stretch and then begin a workout by 5 am, allowed me to be out by 7:00 – 7:30 am with 5 miles done and still get breakfast for the kid’s and get them to school. The ability to train on a moment’s notice is a great feature. And the current is adjustable and allowed me to simulate open water much better than an 80˚F (26.6˚C) degree pool as I keep the temperature in the winter at 62-62˚F (16-17˚C)and in the summer no warmer than the mid 70’s˚F (23˚C). I’d also swim in the evening while the kids were doing homework and could add an extra 4-5 km without too much interference for my family.
Dr. Richards: One has to be personally motivated as I trained with no coach. The Endless Pool necessitates having a very self-motivated person. I can’t stress this enough. I just love to swim and with the use of personal workouts that I began to develop, I just really had fun. I also have the 45˚ angle mirror on the front bottom so I would constantly see where I was entering my stroke and my underwater technique.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Do you have any special methodologies when training in the Endless Pool?
Dr. Richards: The use of a pace clock, coupled with the adjustable current, is really good for understanding speeds and stroke-per-minute counts that are used in marathon swims. I began to feel what 62˚F (16-17˚C), 66˚F (18.8˚C), 70˚F (21˚C) and such would feel like. I began to know what RPMs were, what stroke counts were, and as I got more efficient and stronger, I used less strokes at the same speed. John York of the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation said I had one of the most consistent stroke counts for the entire Catalina Channel swim he had seen in years. I really attribute that to training in the Endless Pool.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What is your swimming background?
Dr. Richards: I had been a competitive swimmer from ages 8-22 and then masters swimmer from ages 26-38, but I was really tired of the heavy interpersonal competitiveness that was happening at masters swimming, especially when triathletes would swim and try to beat the old fat guys. The you-against-the-elements was what drew me into the marathon swims. At my age (now 49) the goal is to get to the other side. I know that if I had attempted the swims in my 20s, I would have put so much more pressure to have world-class times.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Hhow many hours you trained in the Endless Pool?
Dr. Richards: When I was in training for the marathon swims, I had a Monday-Wednesday-Thursday-Friday schedule for the Endless Pool and at least one day on the weekend would be in the ocean at least 2-3 times a month. If I didn’t make the ocean, I would use the Endless Pool for long swims on Saturday with Sunday being a shorter workout.
Note that the Endless Pool automatically shuts off after 31 minutes and 45 seconds. Therefore, I did sets based on the 30-31 minute length with no more than 1-2 minutes of rest in between. Each morning would start with a warm up that was 31 minutes and 30 seconds long (15:45 at an easy pace, 10:30 on a faster pace and 5:15 at “ocean speed”). Based on what I learned my speed was, this would be about 2,300 yards as I can hold 1:15-1:20 for 100 yards on a regular basis. 1:20 pace for 30 minutes is 2,250 yards. So my yardage is approximate during the workouts between 5-7:30 am. On Monday, I would front load the week with at leat 14,000 yards and the most I ever did on a Monday was a 21,000 yard day over three separate workouts.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What was a typical training week?
Dr. Richards: A typical week in the Endless Pool would be as follows:
Monday between 5:00-7:15 am
31:30 Warm up
31:30 Swim at pretty fast pace
3 x 10 minutes descend on 10:30
31:30 swim pace (5-4-3-2-1 set). The 5-4-3-2-1 set is 5 minutes easy, 10 seconds rest, then 4 minutes faster, 10 seconds rest, 3 minutes faster, etc. till the 1-minute swim is all out. I did this to simulate the end of the Channel requiring that extra gear to break through the tide.
10′ swim down
Wednesday between 8:30-9:45 am
31:30 warm up
31:30 pad/pull – 10 x 3′ on 3:15 pace
4 x 7:30 on 8′ pull
10 x 2:30 swim on 3 minutes, descending by 2’s with the last 2 at max heart rate
Thursday between 5:00-6:50 am
31:30 warm up
31:30 with Zoomers
10 x 3 on 3:10 desc
5′ easy swim down
Friday between 5:00-7:00 am
31:30 warm up
6 x 5′ on 5:15 pull
31:30 pace swim
Saturday/Sunday (if not in the ocean)
31:30 warm up
2 x 15′ pull on 15:30 – 2nd faster pace than first
3 x 10′ swim with Zoomers on 10:20 descending each with faster speed on pool 5-4-3-2-1 set
10 x 6′ swim descend on 6:15
5′ swim down
I usually averaged 14-18 km on Monday. Occasionally, I’d add an extra swim on Thursday evening that would be more of a “sprint” or backstroke to give the arms a different feel. This would add an extra 3-4 km per week.
Weekday average was about 35-40 km yards. Then on Saturday, I would go to La Jolla Cove and swim at least 2-3 hours which would be about 10-12 km and on Sunday an easy endless swim of 3-4 km.
The total weekly yardage averaged 45,000-60,000 and I would vary this depending on how my shoulders would feel.
I also use my Swimman MP3 player when I train so I can listen to music, books and even medical journals when I train. This allows my training to be another of my multi-tasking times. I have taken education days and spent 6 hours in La Jolla listen to medical lectures and get home and send in the test answers. It’s been neat to learn and train at the same time.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What were your times and dates for your Manhattan Island, the English Channel and Catalina Channel swims?
Dr. Richards: Manhattan was in June 2006 in a time of 8 hours 8 minutes. Catalina was in September 2006 in a time of 10 hours 39 minutes. The English Channel was in 2007; the full story is on my blog.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What is your medical specialty? What do your patients think of your open water swimming accomplishments?
Dr. Richards: I am a board certified psychiatrist with also being clinical/research fellowship trained in mood and Eating Disorders (anorexia/bulimia). Since an article about me in 2007, a number of patient’s were amazed and my family has put up my England map course on my wall. I was initially uncomfortable with this, but it has been a big positive as some will say, “You walk the talk of self control and hard work.”
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