From the official site of the 2013 FINA World Championships. The 25 km in open water in one of the toughest events that exists. The swimmers spend an average of 5 hours in the open sea, a maximum effort which can mean the loss of up to 3 kilos in some cases. How do they alleviate the extreme conditions that they subject themselves to?
The temperature of the water, the conditions of the sea, the currents and the wind are all factors that influence the races that take place in open water. However, in the 25 km, the longest of all of them, there is a key element that depends, in many cases, on the success or failure of the competition of each swimmer: the alimentation consumed during the race.
The swimmers lose up to 3,000 calories after more than five hours in the sea, a supreme exertion that needs to be monitored by the physical trainer of every athlete. “The effort carried out is brutal, they can lose up to 3 kilos during the race”, affirmed Mario Lloret, doctor of the Spanish team for open waters.
The correct ingestion of food before jumping into the water is so important as it also has an effect on the digestion during the race. “You have to consider the loss of glucose and maintain and even increase the rates during the race”, explains Lloret. The swimmers also understand this very well. “It´s fundamental to hydrate yourself very well the day before the race and go a little over hydrated the hours before the start of the competition”, comments Kiko Hervás, 4th in Shanghai 2011. But what happens during the race? There are various provision points in all 10 and 25 km circuits so that the water athletes can keep hydrated and nourished.
In Barcelona, there are nearly 20 spots where the swimmers have the chance to recuperate energy. The Moll de la Fusta circuit there are two pontoons situated half way across each stretch. Here the personal trainers can give the athletes the correct quantity of food and drink that they previously calculated using straws and cups. “It depends a lot on the individual. They normally ask for mineral salts and, in the last laps, some like caffeine to boost them for the final sprint”, explains Diego Nogueira, open water swimmer in the Spanish team for the last six years. Regarding solids, energy bars or slices of banana mixed with yogurt are the most common. “They need to be things that can be easily digested while we swim”, commented Hervás.
In the race that will take place in Barcelona there will be 36 swimmers in the men’s event and 22 in the women´s. This means a battle in the water and strategies to get in to the best position for the moment of getting provisions. “It´s a really critical point because you can´t see where your coach is. What we normally do is arrange to meet at a certain point on the pontoon. At this point there are always a lot of crashes which could be critical later”, explains Nogueira. However, there is a solution for the athletes not to have to go to the pontoon and lose the position they have. Some swimmers carry packs of energy gel with them to recharge energy during the event. “We keep the sachets in our swimming trunks to give us a boost during the race”, affirms Diego.
It will be the 27th July when these super athletes face each other in one of the toughest races of the Championships. They will do it in a calm sea and with a temperature of 22/24 degrees, perfect conditions to take on this great aquatic marathon.