EV: This question came from my swim group: How do you last so long out there in the water and weather?
TF: Physically, I find it much easier than, say, an Ironman or ultra-marathon. But ‘heavy shoulders’ are certainly part of the challenge. Mentally, it is more challenging as you are on your own for a long time, with only a short distraction when you have a quick feed every 30-40 minutes. The elements are certainly an additional challenge, in particular, in saltwater. You get burning sensations in your nose and tongue that can become quite unpleasant. Other swimmers suffer from chafing and sunburns. Then you might have choppy water that doesn't allow you to settle in any kind of rhythm, tides/currents working against you, or jellyfish.
An issue you don't read much about is peeing in cold waters. On my 25km swim in Spain, a swimmer had to be pulled after four hours, because he simply couldn't let go. The problem is that it can affect your kidneys. Some swimmers use a warm-water bladder to overcome this problem.
EV: How do you stay in peak performance for the duration of the event?
TF: The training isn't much different to other long-distance events. You do long (weekend) swims of 3-4-plus hours to get used to it, complemented by shorter, faster sessions during the week. The nutrition is quite important. Many swimmers, including myself, take a carbohydrate-drink every 30 minutes, and a PowerGel (or the like) every full hour.
EV: How is the mindset of a long-distance OWS different from other sports?
TF: Besides being able to cope with physical discomfort or shoulder pain over long hours, you need to be mentally able to cope with long hours where you have little distraction. This is different to land-based sports like triathlon, running or cycling, where you have spectators cheering you on, and you have a changing environment. None of that in the open-waters! Although, there are some swims that are indeed scenic (like river swims or swimming along the coast). But, it is difficult to fully enjoy that as you can only take a peak every few seconds when your head comes up for a breath.
Then, you need to be prepared to deal with things that can go wrong. In the sea you might run into jellyfish, driftwood or other rubbish. Changing current/tides are a challenge where you aren't making any, or only little progress. This can be rather frustrating, which you need to be able to cope with.
With Daniel Projansky from Chicago, better know as Mr Butterfly - he'll swim butterfly. All the way. Unbelievable. I wouldn't last 50m. — with Daniel Projansky in Grand Forks, ND.
EV: How often do you train?
TF: When preparing for an OWS, I do two long swims on the weekends and 2-4 during the week. I complement these with 2-4 rowing sessions and some running, when I feel like it. But I'm keeping it easy, as my competitive days are long gone. I'm in for the fun of it.
EV: Which other sports/activities do you supplement your swimming with?
TF: I love rowing on my C2 Concept indoor-rower: it is the greatest thing on Earth since the invention of the wheel. Other than that, running and an occasional ride.
EV: Which are the next events on your ‘to accomplish’ list?
TF: As of now, I have only two more swims planned for for 2012 and a few confirmed for 2013 already: a 15km CleanHalf swim in HK (in October) and now, a 20km Geobay swim in Perth, WA.
2013: 10km swim in Perth (January); BEST FEST: 6 swims of 5, 4, 7, 2.5, 7.5 and 25km in 7 days on Mallorca (June); 40km Menorca-Mallorca channel (in July, and this is my A-race for 2013); 27km Rose Pitonof swim, Manhattan, USA (in August).
EV: As the Boston Marathon and Kona Ironman World Championships are the holy grail events to marathoners and triathletes respectively, which is the One for OWS?
TF: Hands-down, the English Channel wins. No swim can compare to this, in terms of history. But the bigger lifetime challenge is the Ocean 7 (which Darren is currently attempting) - pendant to the well-known 7 Summits mountaineering challenge. This is a different league of OWS that only few people can achieve.
EV: How do you truly feel after a long swim event?
TF: As in any other race: happy and somewhat relieved that it is over. Physically quite good, except for heavy shoulders.
EV: Which are your personal methods for easing sore arms and shoulders?
TF: During the swim, switching into backstroke is a common technique to loosen your muscles. I also do, occasionally, a few strokes of breaststroke after a feed. After the swim, nothing beats a good massage.
EV: Which are your major concerns when swimming in the sea, river or lake?
TF: I'm quite naïve about this and don't really think about it. I'm not afraid of anything in particular, but I need to qualify that I've not yet encountered any real problems, other than strong currents or debris or tree trunks I have swam into. Poisonous jellyfishes are every swimmer's nightmare, and something I would certainly worry about.
EV: Which are the common comments you get when people around you hear that you do OWS, and at such unimaginable distances and duration in the water?
TF: Not unsurprisingly most people cannot really relate to the distance or effort. It is such a niche sports that has yet to get any wider public attention. Only friends that have done a triathlon or are swimmer can put that somehow into perspective.
EV: Care to relate any incidences that affected your swim?
TF: Cold waters.
EV: Martin Strel, risked life and body, and swam across the Amazon River to make his two statements about deforestation and river pollution. What is your personal message when you swim across vast bodies of water?
TF: It would be a stretch to say that I've a message to relate. For now, I'm just in for the fun and challenge.
Name: Tobias Frenz
Profession: CEO, Reinsurance
Age group: Exact age, or age-group range, 43
Years in OWS: One
Favourite swim-stroke: Front Crawl
Favourite piece of equipment for swimming/training: Medium-sized paddles
Supplementary exercises/activity for training your swim: Indoor-rowing.
Key races completed: 4 this year
Number of OWS (of at least 10km) races completed: 7