2016 Rottnest Channel Training – Part 2

Swimfari Duo

Almost two weeks on and our 2016 Rottnest Channel Training is kicking into gear. The past week has seen an increase in intensity with regular squad training (interval training), Wednesday and Friday morning Bay swims (distance OWS), and to top it off, a very busy weekend competing in the Mentone Open Water Swims. Plus we also took part in an event organised by Masters Swimming Victoria, the 100x100s.

Interval Training

Fresh from her triple English Channel crossing, Chloë McCardel explained on a recent podcast with Tri Swim Coach’s Kevin Koskella how important it is to not only increase your distance but also to work on increasing your intensity. In the interview Chloë said that many swimmers aiming to do marathon swimming continue to swim slowly and only work on increasing their distance. She went on to explain that it was equally important to also increase intensity with interval training. Interval training is used to increase your heart rate and usually consists of shorter sprints with set rest periods. It’s great for building fitness as well as endurance. Chloë said that throughout the year about 75% of her swimming is in a pool working on her interval training. Take a listen to the podcast as she goes on to discuss a number of considerations like diet and being mentally prepared.

Our interval training is pretty well covered as we both already attend regular sessions with our squad the Nunawading Orcas. We each train 2-3 nights a week with our coach creating a varied set ranging from 25m sprints through to more pace focussed longer distances up to 400m. Beyond the dryland warmups our coach also gets us to focus on technique with and without swimming aids. If you don’t already belong to a swim squad we highly recommend joining one. Masters Swimming Australia is a great organisation with branches in every state and can point you to a squad nearest to where you live. You could also consider joining a triathlon club, check out Triathlon Australia for further details or to find a club near you.

OWS Distance Training

Pablo has braved the cold waters of Port Phillip Bay since 2014, initially to acclimitise for his ‘Escape from Alcatraz’. Temperatures drop as low as 7–8°C during winter and can reach over 24°C in summer. I am a little less brave and only joined Pablo late October, when the temperature was a more acceptable, and un-seasonally warm, 16–17°C.

Twice a week now we swim somewhere between 2.6km–3km in one session, sometimes even a double lap of the Brighton Marina totalling over 5kms (depending on which GPS watch you want to believe).

Bay training doesn’t have quite the intensity of interval training but can be equally challenging. There’s of course the fluctuating temperatures, fewer stops and being exposed to the elements. We’ve had sessions swimming through icy patches, faced windy and choppy conditions, dodging jellyfish and had to swim across fishing lines. On the plus side though there are no tumble turns, chlorine fumes or jostling for lane positions. You also get to appreciate nature and all its beauty.

Melbourne also looks great on a clear morning when, at around 5:30am, the highrise buildings sparkle with reflections as the sun rises and the sky is dotted with a dozen hot air balloons.

OWS Competitions

Last weekend marked the first OW swims of the season in Melbourne. We chose to swim both the 2.5km and 1km events in the Mentone Open Water Swim. The Mentone swim has become a club favourite for the Orcas and draws one of our clubs biggest registrations.

In OWS competitions you have the chance to compare yourself to others in your age group and they provide a goal for future improvement. It’s also a test in mental and physical fitness, especially over the longer distances. Getting used to wayward arms and legs from competitors and learning to draft and sight in a high pressure situation is equally important. Competitions are a great way to put all these skills into practice with each race being different from your last.

We also made sure we did a 400m warmup before the race and an additional 1.6km after everyone had left, totalling 5.5km for the day.

Our Duo is now also being joined by fellow Orca Patrick Mohr, himself a veteran of the Rottnest Channel Swim. Pat and his sister Jodi O’conner most recently swam in 2014 and came second in their age group and category. Pat’s advice and insights are an invaluable addition to our training and preparation.

Orcas Rottnest Channel trio
Nunawading Orcas 2016 Rottnest Channel Trio from left to right: Friedo Ligthart, Pablo Pizzuto (Swimfari Duo) and Patrick Mohr, who will swim a solo in 2016.


We capped off our big week with an event organised by Masters Swimming Victoria (MSV) called the 100x100s. MSV first organised these events last year with both of us deciding to give it a crack again as a precursor for our upcoming State Open Water Championship where we’ll both compete in the 10km event.

On the day swimmers aim to swim as many as one hundred laps of 100 metres in a 50m pool. Lanes are allocated set time cycles ranging from two minutes 30 seconds down to one minute 45 seconds.

We both completed all 100 laps in the fast lane cycling through about one minute, thirty per 100m and leaving us with around 10-15 seconds rest in between laps. After each ten laps an additional two minute rest was taken. The whole event took us just over 3 hours.

What about you?

We’d be interested to hear how you’ve been preparing for your big swims. Leave a comment in the comments section below.

Here’s how you can help…

Would you like to support our efforts?

Our journey is somewhat selfish as we’re doing it to fulfill our own ambitions. So to make good we thought we’d try and raise money for a worthy cause. We’re raising money for Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect). Aspect provides people with autism the opportunity to realise their unique potential, as well as providing much needed support to their families, carers, friends and colleagues.

Click on the image below to donate to our fundraising campaign or share this post on social media.

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