Looking for a new challenge in 2022? Swim races offer the ultimate combination of communal adrenaline and unforgettable settings…
If you're ready to sign up to a SwimTrek Swim Race, you might want to settle those early nerves and learn a little more about exactly what's ahead of you. Luckily, we know a thing or two about race day jitters and everything you need to eventually set the unease aside and simply enjoy the experience. The Hellespont swim race, in particular, holds a special place in SwimTrek’s history as the swim which prompted our fearless founder, Simon Murie, to set up a pioneering open water swimming company, back in 2003. Since that fateful day we have been enabling swimmers from around the world to participate in these iconic events - namely our two popular Hellespont and Dardanelles trips, in northern Turkey.
In 2016, SwimTrek briefly expanded our swim race offerings with new additions to our calendar, like the Coppa Byron Swim, as well as cross-channel races in Haiti and St Kitts. Yet our focus has always been on bringing groups of SwimTrekkers into waves of passionate Turkish swimmers, allowing them to experience the cultural and historical significance of lunging across the Strait of the Dardanelles for the Hellespont race - bringing the world's busiest shipping channel to a halt for a single day - or, plunging into the Bosphorus Cross Continental Swim right at the flowing heart of Istanbul.
In this blog, we're going to look in more detail at these two iconic Turkish races and establish a base of preparation that will help you stay focused in the exciting endorphin rush of race day.
SwimTrekkers mid-race in the Bosphorus Cross Continental Swim...
What should I learn about the race beforehand?
Knowledge of your chosen swim is crucial. It's important to know your specific race outline before you hit the water. What's the water temperature? How long a distance is your swim? What's the group size? Will you be wearing a wetsuit? Of course, you don't want to overload yourself with minor details, but the fewer surprises you have out there the easier it will be to stay calm and be more immersed in your event.
How often should I train?
It depends how much free time you have - some of us might just be able to piece together a few hours a week. A sturdy regime is essential to stay on top of your training and ensure you make the best use of your available hours. Micro goals are a very effective way to assess your progress. Start timing your swims and pushing when you can to go a little faster, or to push further and for longer. Keep these goals realistic. Don't expect to wade in and swim like Aquaman on your first attempt. Stay realistic. Set your metre distance per session and increase it as your swim sets progress. Take a look at the SwimTrek Training Plan to learn more...
What to eat before a swim race
A nutrition plan can be very helpful throughout your training program and especially as you get closer to race day. You might not have time to top up on electrolytes as you swim, but energy storage in muscles is gained from nutritious meals and snacks used to charge you up before you hit the water. First up, you definitely shouldn't skip breakfast. That early metabolism boost can stock you up with between 400-1000 vital calories. Keep it light though! The last thing you want is to dive in feeling like you've over-eaten. Oatmeal with low-fat milk, or good healthy wholemeal/seeded bread with low fat butter. Yoghurt and fruit are great as well! Avoid the brief energy rush from processed sugars and stick to low fibre food your system is used to - instead of suspect energy drinks that are excessively high in sugar.
The most important thing (after your own personal safety) is you're supposed to have fun! As one Irish swimmer said, when he hopped out into the shallows of the Hellespont, back in 2018 - 'You're only here once!'
For more race day information, check out these Top Tips for a Successful Swim Race from our seasoned SwimTrek guide, Ben.
One of the best ways to prepare for an iconic swim race is to train with swimmers who have similar goals. Following below is our selection of unique training camps, supported by experienced open water swimmers and guides, which cater specifically for longer distance swimmers, or anyone simply looking to take on a new challenge in open water.
Train with SwimTrek in Mallorca!
The SwimTrek Open Water Development trip in Mallorca is filling up fast for 2022! This is your chance to develop your existing open water skills and stretch out into liberating sea swims, combined with in-depth coaching sessions. You'll have time to review and hone your stroke through video analysis sessions in the purpose-built 50-metre Olympic pool. Our qualified swim coaches all have a wealth of experience and many an endurance story to share from their time in open water. Use new skills and feedback gained from your pool sessions to expand your abilities along the Spanish coast - always under the safe guidance of our SwimTrek escort boat.
Our Channel and Long Distance Training in Mallorca is everything you need to train up for the biggest challenges in open water swimming. Specifically set out for English Channel solo crossings - as well as feats of similar endurance - this package is tailored to give you the support and encouragement you need, backed by world-class guides with extensive backgrounds in tough conditions. You'll benefit from in depth video analysis from pool sessions and group seminars with like-minded swimmers. If you want to really stand out on race day, this could be the perfect trip for you!
Last up, we're off to Mallorca again for our 10km Marathon Swim Camp - ideal swim preparation for anyone stretching out to a 10-kilometre swim race, or a more challenging marathon swim. This will definitely help you to build strength, confidence and find your pacing for shorter races too! Benefit from the support of our world-class coaches and very qualified marathon swimmers. While you focus on bringing your abilities to open water and turning in depth video pool analysis into long, adventurous swims in a beautiful training environment.
A swim where worlds collide - at the heart of Istanbul!
The annual Bosphorus Cross Continental swim takes you between Asia and Europe and down Istanbul's main artery. At 10am, on the third Sunday of July, you'll plunge deep into one of the world's busiest shipping lanes - it closes briefly for the event and all boat traffic is brought to a standstill! Then you'll swim in ruffled throngs of roughly 2,400 other competitors, following the 6.4 kilometre current-assisted course across a maximum two hours to cover the distance. The race has been organised and run in Istanbul by the Turkish Olympic Committee, since 1989. Unfortunately, the ballot for our allotted places has now closed and we no longer have any spaces due to the imposed country limit.
'Jumping off a ferry into the Bosphorus... there's no start line like it! (Joanne, UK - 2020)'
Please remember the Bosphorus Cross-Continental Swim is a significant open water distance and conditions on race day can be challenging. A good experience of swimming in varying sea/river conditions is essential. The race does also begin with a mass start, but due to the large number of participants you can step back, take your time and wait for a quieter break before you enter the water.
The World's Oldest Swim
The Hellespont and Dardanelles Swim trip runs each year between August 28th-31st, with Race Day on the 30th. This is an unforgettable and epic swim that traces back to Greek mythology - a historic cross-continental dash from Europe to Asia in Turkey. From the adrenaline-fuelled challenge of the swim, to the region’s rich history (close to the ancient battlegrounds of Troy and the more recently scarred Gallipoli peninsula), this event is an absolute must-do for all open water swimmers around the world.
No other challenge in the world can match the Hellespont for history, prestige and romance as this legendary Turkish crossing. The busy Dardanelles strait is brought to a halt for the annual ‘Victory Day’ race, which spans 4½ kilometres, from Europe to Asia. Conditions on race day can vary - swimmers should have a good understanding of open water swimming and be comfortable swimming in groups and deep water. You should be capable of a 4½ kilometre distance swim in open water and not be too disturbed by choppier waters and currents, prior to the start of the trip.
'Epic, classical and heroic in the wake of Leander and Lord Byron. A great swim for many abilities.' (Peter W, UK - 2019)
The Hellespont is celebrated in the ancient Greek myth of Hero and Leander, later revived in poems by both Christopher Marlowe and Lord Byron. It was across this strait that Leander swam to reach his lover Hero in a tower on the opposite coast. Hero - a famous beauty! - would set a lantern out to guide Leander's swim each night. The crossing was officially swum for the first time by the poet, Lord Byron, in 1810. Since that day, it has been preserved as one of the most storied and beloved feats in open water swimming.
SwimTrek is the sole provider of all Hellespont race places for non-Turkish residents. Be quick to secure your place and don't miss out on this world-famous swimming event!
Simon's Training Tip
Finally, we asked our founder, Simon Murie, for a long distance training tip to keep in mind for your swim race preparation:
"Something I have learnt over the 20 years that I have been in the open water swimming scene, is the number of opinions that I have been given, when it comes to training and preparing for that BIG SWIM! For example, if I had listened to some accomplished swimmers, I would have prepared for my long swims with a high fat diet to try and produce a higher insulating fat layer on my body. While this may have helped to keep out the cold, it would undoubtedly have slowed me down in the water as I would have been dragging this excess weight with me during the swim. I realised early on that I wasn’t affected as much as some others by colder temperatures."
'...it’s always good and recommended to seek advice by more experienced swimmers, you should trust your own gut instinct as to what is the best way to train for you personally.'
"I use the above as an example only as something that didn’t work for me, but may well work for you. Trust me, there are scores of examples I could have given there. What I’m trying to say is that while it’s always good and recommended to seek advice by more experienced swimmers, you should trust your own gut instinct as to what is the best way to train for you personally. After all, no one knows your body like you do!"
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