The Swimmer's Biopedia
Posted by Scott Zornig, 5 July 2016
What every marathon swimmer should give to every person on their support team
By Scott Zornig
I was a member of a support crew for Forrest Nelson (CCSF President) many years ago. As I boarded the boat for his attempted swim, he handed me a laminated paper. He explained to me that it was his “Swim Bible.” It was an “everything you need to know” document about Forrest, his swimming and his health. It included his desires and wishes and was full of useful information for his attempted swim. He said he was given the idea from Penny Palfrey and has used it on every marathon swim since.
I thought this was a wonderful document to share with a support crew so I adopted it myself. I call my paper a “Biopedia and give it to every person who boards the vessel. I believe providing this information to my observer and support crew is the courteous and smart thing to do. I would encourage every marathon swimmer to do the same. It is one thing to verbally communicate your vitals and desires to your crew, but it is so much better for them to have a document to refer to throughout the swim.
I believe the document should constantly evolve and contain useful information such as:
- Is the feeding administered from the side of the boat or a kayaker?
- How should the feeding be delivered?
- How often are the feedings?
- What type of food will be served?
- Should the food be served hot or cold?
- Should the feedings include any pain medicine?
- Do you have any “pick me up” treats and how often should they be offered?
- Under what circumstances do you want your support crew to deviate?
- How long should your feedings take?
- Do you have any mixing instructions?
- Do you want support swimmers?
- What side should they swim on?
- How far behind you should they be positioned?
- In the event you are slowing down, do you want the support swimmer swimming breast stroke or one arm freestyle for example?
- Do you have a time schedule for support swimmers in order of speed (i.e., fast to slow)?
- If a support swimmer is clearly irritating you, do you want them removed from the water?
- Do you want a Kayaker?
- Where should the Kayaker be positioned?
- How do you want the transition between Kayakers to take place?
- How long is the swim?
- What is your estimate for time of completion?
- What are the predicted currents, water temperature, wind and weather the day of your swim?
- What side of the boat do you wish to be positioned on?
- What is your stroke rate during hours 0 to 5? 6 to 7? 8 to 10?
- Do you want signals which reveal useful information to you?
- What type of information should be shared and withheld from you?
- Are you swimming across a shipping lane?
- Will your swim be taking place in a dangerous area?
- Is there a heavy seal population at the start or finish?
- Do you have a backup plan in the event the swim you are doing is not going to work on the day you selected (I know several swimmers, myself included, who have improvised the day of their swim and found a different swim to do)?
- Are there any conditions forecasted that everyone should be made aware of (i.e., big surf, tides currents etc.)?
- Is the swim a dry, touch or water start?
- If a predator is seen, what is your protocol?
- Where will the swim start and where will it finish?
- What is the distance?
- Do you want distance communicated to you in nautical or statute miles?
- Do you wish to be told distances completed, distances to go or nothing at all?
Odds and Ends
- Do you have specific rules for your support team (i.e., are you ok if they point to the water for example)?
- What is your typical demeanor during a swim (i.e., are you a happy or angry swimmer)?
- Do you want to know specific information during your swim (i.e., what is the water temperature or how far you have left to go)?
- Do you want to know good news? Bad news? Both? None?
- Do you have any health issues? If so, what are they?
Emergency contact info
- Who should be contacted in the event of an emergency?
- What are their phone numbers and emails?
This is a small sample of useful detail for everyone on board the vessel. Remember, your safety is the number 1 priority and sharing this information can help not only have a safe swim, but also a successful swim. Feel free to build your own “Biopedia.”