That is what all the marathon swimmers have under their swim caps.
Yet, as open water swimmers, they must expect the unexpected…and that is what they are getting in Setúbal Bay along the Portuguese coast 40 km south from Lisbon, Portugal for the 2012 FINA Olympic Marathon Swim Qualifier.
With the water hovering around 16°C (61°F) some of the athletes are caught off-guard, but the most experienced are ready to go whether the water is 16°C or 32°C.
With the water temperature at this level, we do not expect major changes at the end of the race as is usual in competitions at warmer-water venues. When the water is colder, not only does the closing sprinting speed tend to be slower, but also the initial pace tends to be faster than normal. These conditions mans that the races will tend to shape up differently than perhaps some of the athletes and coaches expected.
But it does favor athletes who live and train in colder climates like Richard Weinberger of Canada and Chris Bryan of Ireland. In particular, Bryan has swum and set the record in the famous Sandycove Island training grounds, a renowned English Channel training venue where cold water and rough conditions provide an ideal venue for Setúbal Bay.
It also favors the experienced swimmers like Petar Stoychev of Bulgaria (shown above) and Yuriy Kudinov from Kazakhstan who are undoubtedly the most prepared of all. With their years of pro marathon swimming and their English Channel experienced, these men are some quite accomplished hardened swimmers with Olympic dreams.
It is one thing is swim in 16°C water across the English Channel – a tremendous feat in itself. And it is quite another realm of the open water swimming world where athletes must race in 16°C water for 2 hours as their muscles are burning with lactic acid, their hearts are beating so hard it feels like their organs will explode, and their lungs are screaming for oxygen while they are sandwiched in a large aggressive pack of competitive athletes who do not shy away from physicality.
It will be a survival of the fittest and a race to remember.
Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source