One Swimmer's Training For Manhattan
I swam the Manhattan Island Marathon race in 1983, when I was 32, a very long time ago! But, helped by detailed training logs and seeing many friends train for the race in the intervening years, my thoughts on preparing for this amazing event are very clear.
I was primarily a "pool swimmer" when I decided to swim Manhattan, although I had grown up swimming in the ocean, so salt and open water did not bother me. My job kept me from having the time to do lots of open water training in the summer of ‘83. And, I found it was not necessary. But it is the most enjoyable part of training for a long race, so I encourage you to do as much lake, ocean, etc. swimming as possible in your preparations.
I began training for Manhattan in mid-May, with the race at the end of July -- about 10 weeks. I was in good shape from competing in the Masters short-course season. When I got back from Short Course Nationals, I began to increase my yardage about 10% a week, starting at 3,500 yards/day and working up to an average of 5,000 yards a day during the week and 10,000 yards a day on the weekends. I always took one day off a week. Rest and recovery are essential!
I continued to do interval training. I always thought about my stroke and my pace. I never just slogged through slow "garbage yardage." A good friend, Sally Friedman, also trained for the race that year. Having a training partner is terrific. I’d also talk anyone in my lane into doing intervals with me; swimming with a friend makes the yards go much more quickly. I swam several regular Masters workouts a week, even though they weren’t geared to the Manhattan swim. I considered sprints and other strokes as cross-training.
I had several favorite sets. Alternating 1 x 1000 with 5 x 200 for a total of 5,000 yards to 10,000 yards was one. My favorite 5000+ yard workout was 1,000, 900, 800, etc. down to 100, all on a set interval per 100 yards. A great way to whip off 3,500 yards is 1 x 500, 2 x 400, 3 x 300, 4 x 200, 5 x 100.
You get the idea. These sets keep the mind interested while getting your body accustomed to much longer workouts than you normally do. And, amazingly, as the idea of swimming 10,000-yard workouts become routine, the challenge of swimming 7-9 hours in the Manhattan Island race became less intimidating.
Let me leave you with a few other scattered thoughts. I always included a kick set of at least 500 yards, to work my legs, rest my arms, and for variety. I also pulled occasionally, but never more than 1,000 yards. Do not become addicted to your pull buoy. Zoomers did not exist in 1983, but the same comment applies. They are a great aid and good for variety, but the bulk of your training must be real swimming. I recommend against paddles. They cause too many shoulder injuries. Treat any injury with respect. Back off to give yourself time to heal. If you train with weights, stop 3 weeks before the race. And plan a taper of at least 2 weeks (3 weeks if you are really tired). Tapers work. It is essential to be rested and energetic for the race. Finally, have fun, have confidence in yourself based on the training you have done, and enjoy the adventure of the Manhattan Island Marathon.