Colder, Further, Tougher, Older To Islas Cíes

Courtesy of Ned Denison, Ría de Vigo to Islas Cíes, Spain.

As open water swimmers get older, some get tougher, go longer, and acclimate better.

If you assume that it is more difficult to swim further and faster in colder water, then open water swimming is one of the few sports in the world where you can get better as you get older,” observed Steven Munatones.  “Especially on the mental side of the equation, it seems that the older and older swimmers are psychologically more capable to doing more in the open water.

Look at the events of the International Winter Swimming Association and the International Ice Swimming Association as well as channel crossings and marathon competitions around the world. 

In 1979, one of the most famous swimming coaches in the world, Doc Counsilman whose men’s  team won 12 of 13 gold medals in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, became the oldest man to cross the English Channel at the age of 58. His well-documented effort made headlines and brought marathon swimming to the attention of the aquatic world.

While his swim was subject of a 1980 documentary, Doc: The Oldest Man in the Sea, a 58-year-old in the contemporary open water swimming world is not considered old.  There are many 60 and 70 year olds tackling tough swims, from the Ice to channels, around the world nowadays.

Doc may have been an outlier way back in the 1970s, but now he is considered a precursor to open water swimming in the 21st century.”

One race that shows the capabilities and potential of the human species in the open water is the 27 km La Batalla de Rande a Nado held between the Islas Cíes, at the mouth of the Ría de Vigo, and the small island of San Simón island in Galicia in the northwest of Spain.

61-year-old Ned Denison flew down from Cork, Ireland to take part in the event.  “94 swimmers started and 86 completed the 27 km.  It was excellent, well-organized by Loli PazJulio Castro, and the Asociación Deportiva Islas Cíes – San Simón.  The event ran on time and the pre-race briefing was accurate.  There was a strong adverse tide to the first feeding station at the 4 km mark – and helpful tide and winds towards the end. 

I was very impressed with the unbelievably hard-working and pleasant crews at each of the feeding stations.”

Denison, who has completed numerous marathon and channel swims as a hardcore bioprener, observed that the format posed challenges to tradition marathon swimmers.  “85% of the swimmers wore wetsuits and the swimmers were required to wear a tow float.  For pacing in the race, the swimmers needed to stay in groups (up to 20) for the first 13 km.  Feeding at the feed stops took 4 – 5 minutes so the non-wetsuit swimmers got cold at the stops.  Other than water and bananas, all the feeds were different than most swimmers trained on.

The group pace, long feed stops and different feeds contributed to the high percentage of non-wetsuit swimmer who dropped out…not to mention the mental agony of being passed by many wetsuit swimmers.”

With the day overcast with a few minutes of sun and water temperature of 14-16°C and air temperature 19-20°C, the event culminated in a celebratory party with all finishers presented with very nice custom laser print plaques.

Top 15 Overall Results:
1. Gerard Alemany Mora 5:51:45
2. Guillermo Matas Velasco 6:21:08
3. Adrián Bouza Padrón 6:22:50
4. Andrea de la Hera Martin 6:27:23 [first female]
5. Lluís Pijuan Oro 6:28:39
6. Carmelo Santana Sanchez 6:28:40
7. Fernando Tellez Echeandia 6:40:05
8. Marcos Badallo Prieto 6:40:53
9. Eduardo Porset Llantada 6:41:03
10. Sergio Andres Ortega Garcia 6:44:01 [no wetsuit]
11. José Eduardo Do Amaral Ferreira 6:44:18
12. Iskander Sagarminaga Ateaga 6:46:14
13. Alexander Rickett Moratinos 6:54:01
14. Estibaliz Perez Mayorgas 6:55:29 [second female]
15. Alex Zabala Arriola 6:56:39

Top Bioprene [non-wetsuit] Results:
1. Sergio Andres Ortega Garcia 6:44:01 [no wetsuit]
2. Jose Ramon Sanz Rodenas 7:26:40
3. Jesus Carlos Quintas Barros 7:39:02
4. Sergio Castelnuovo Ruiz-Peinado 7:42:50
5. Pablo Tapia Soler 7:49:20
6. Ned Denison 7:56:56
7. Marti Colet 7:58:12
8. Santiago Castello Almazan 8:11:37
9. Alexis Rodriguez Castedo 8:29:24

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