Preparing For North Channel Training Swim No. 1: Swim the Suck (10 miles on 10/13/18)

Sorry in advance that this post is a bit disjointed. I guess that’s just what happens when the writer’s life is chaotic and full of distractions. Aside from making nutritional changes to hopefully support my endurance for this swim, I haven’t yet completed any other important preparations. Therefore, Part I is the “to do list,” I’m still trying to complete, and Part II is more thorough like my real life preparations.


Last February, 2018, I swam on a 24 hour relay at aquatic park in San Fransisco Bay. A non-swimmer friend accompanied me on a long weekend, and while we were out red wine tasting between my relay shifts, I got a text from my Team Yeti captain that my name had been drawn, and I won the only draw prize. A swim (I was extremely excited)! I had a choice between a marathon swim in Nebraska or Swim the Suck in Chattanooga, TN. I’ve never been to either state, but Swim the Suck was recommended by my team mates, who commented on how the event sells out in minutes of registration being opened. The swim also happened to fall on a long weekend for educators in Oregon, so decision made. As indicated earlier, the swim was already sold out, but the race organizer, Karah Nazor, helped me bypass the “Sold Out” registration page and secured my safety kayaker a kayak for the event.

Eight months of anticipation and not enough training (I literally was sick on the couch and didn’t swim for a month at the end of summer), and Swim the Suck is almost here. Aside from nutrition changes (please read farther below), I haven’t had time to accomplish much after work this week. I have been chipping away at a “to do list” and given I still have several big items left, I’m going to busy trying to complete it after work tomorrow. Please let me know if you think I’m missing something!

Part I: 

To Do List: 


-Print Airline Confirmation       X

-Print Additional Car Insurance For Rental Car          X

-Start Knitting Project for Plane       X

-Chose Swimming Suit (I swim skins, Channel Swimming Rules, No Wetsuit!)     X

-Pack (can everything fit in a carry on? Do I bring my swim parka? Where’s Hurricane Michael?) 

-Buy travel size contact solution in case all fits in carry-on bag     X

-Download “swimming” music that I can live having in my head for 10 mile swim    X

-Read Swim the Suck Handbook

-Help Tiernan with Spanish Homework     X

-Laundry     X

-Tidy House

-Buy Pet Supplies so House Sitter is Prepared     X

(*Key X=Completed)

Part II:

Nutrition Preparation: 

Smooth, Dark, and Dirty (oops I meant “Earthy!”) with a Hint of Oak: 

I was a finicky eater as a child. Not as picky as my students with autism (I’ve worked with many who will only eat white foods (bread, crackers, tater tots, cheese), while others tantrum when given a bowl of ripe, Farmer’s Market blueberries, instead of their usual frozen blueberries), but still particular. My mom once coached me, before we went to dinner at my aunt’s and uncle’s, to at least try a few bites of everything I was served. I remember wanting to gag on the cooked carrots, but must have choked down enough nickel-sized pieces to appease my mom, since she later complimented me for trying a variety of things, as we scraped my un-eaten food into the kitchen garbage.

Somehow, I outgrew my food aversions for the most part, when I went away to college. I increased my vegetable intake through salads, and I realized I enjoyed raw vegetables, rather than the boiled ones that I was exposed to growing up. Despite this gustation improvement, I’ve never enjoyed broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and beets (maybe my food restrictions are veggies beginning with /b/!).

Despite my distaste of these /b/ vegetables, I am impressing myself for the second time in a year and a half, by drinking at least two full glasses of beet juice a day. Yes you heard that correctly. Not a Syrah, Pinot Noir, or Malbec, but Beet Juice!

Ten days before my first marathon swim, The Portland Bridge Swim, in July, 2017, after my last practice having water bottles full of protein drinks flung toward my head by my safety kayaker, my dad suggested that I start drinking beet juice to increase my endurance. He didn’t have a New York Times article to support his recommendation, as he often does, but he suggested I google the benefits of beet juice and make a decision for myself.

A quick google search led me to the article Beet Juice: A Super Drink For Endurance Athletes? that summarized a research study following high-level swimmers who drank 17 ounces of beet juice, daily for six days. In a comparison of the performances between the control group and the beet juice drinkers, the swimmers who drank beet juice were able to swim harder than the control group, while using the same amount of oxygen.  Another article, Can Beet Juice Instantly Improve Your Endurance?, found that cyclists drinking beet juice increased exercise endurance compared to cyclists drinking currant juice.

The amount of information available from my “beet juice and endurance athletes” search convinced me that beet juice could only increase my own endurance abilities, and worst case, it wouldn’t hinder my attempt to swim 11 miles. Why not take on an additional challenge this time for my taste buds?

I started drinking a wine glass full of beet juice, nightly each day leading up to the event. I hoped that camouflaging the juice as wine would make it more palatable. Maybe it would taste peppery with hints of chocolate and blackberries?  Of course it didn’t, and I’m sure I made a hideous face after every sip I took, yet I stuck with it! Ten days later, I swam my first 11 miles and felt that I could have continued on for least another three miles more. There is no way to show if the beet juice contributed to my swim, but my positive feelings from the experience outweigh the cringe and smearing of mascara from the tears I produce when I chug it in the mornings as I head out the door to work. I’m currently trying it again, although twice a day this time, for my third/next marathon swim, Swim the Suck. I’m hoping PDX has a juice bar open at 5:00am for a pre-flight drink before I leave the state, but I did find that Chattanooga has a Whole Foods near my hotel. I’ll be stopping there to stock up on my “in-race” feeds and to pick up more beet juice for the morning of the race.

In June, 2018, I swam my second marathon swim event. The Mercer Island Marathon Swim. This was 12-13 miles around Mercer Island in Lake Washington. I didn’t prepare by drinking beet juice one-to-two weeks ahead of this swim, as I had for the previous swim. I finished the race, slower than I had anticipated and experienced such significant calf cramping at the halfway point that I nearly Did Not Finish. Despite this being what my marathon swimmer friend Michelle Squyer calls a “Bummer 10 Swim,” I feel finishing it was an amazing feat. The weather was rainy and the air temperature was in the upper 50s, while the water temperature hovered around 60 degrees. The difficulties I experienced during that swim were likely influenced by temperature, weather, and my under preparation, however, I wonder if beet juice could have made my experience any better.  I’ll never know, but as I don’t want my subsequent swim to be another “Bummer 10,” it’s back to the beet juice.

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Bottoms Up! 



Project Couch to North Channel Swim in Eight Months:


Swim approximately 21.5 miles from Donaghadee, Northern Ireland to Portpatrick, Scotland (Start date window 6/24/19-6/29/19).  

The Participant: 

Veteran full-time single mom; Full-time Speech Language Pathologist (SLP), on school days; Weekend Tasting Room Associate at a winery; “Guppy” Open Water Marathon Swimmer.


Hypothermia, Lion’s Mane Jellyfish stings, not finishing and receiving a “DNF” (Did Not Finish. Fingers crossed that if this were to happen it would not be from drowning or being lost at sea).


To show my teenage son, and my students that with perseverance, they can accomplish anything they want to.

Driving Question Behind Goal: 

Is it possible for a single parent working full time, to effectively train enough to successfully swim the North Channel in less than a year?

Let’s find out!