A guide for the intrepid swimmer
CHAMPION swimmer Lynne Cox has spent more than four decades pushing past the known limits of human capacity.
Driven by an explorer's voracious desire to do what has never been done, and frankly obsessive over mental and physical preparation, she has completed scores of pioneering swims, most famously the frigid Bering Strait in just a suit, cap and goggles.
Now she has channelled her vast expertise on the dangers, joys and logistics of open-water swimming into a new book aimed at the exploding ranks of triathletes and other swimmers who are escaping the safe confines of pools.
The book, Open Water Swimming Manual: An Expert's Survival Guide For Triathletes And Open Water Swimmers (US$12.98 - S$16.60 - on amazon.com), brings together research and advice from a range of experts, including marine biologists, meteorologists, hypothermia scientists, emergency medical teams and even the famously secretive Navy Seals.
The publication could hardly be better timed. A steep rise in the popularity of triathlons has been swelling the ranks of open-water events.
But Cox, 56, knows something many of them may not grasp: Venturing into wild water is a high-risk endeavour.
The exertion can be intense. The environment - a confluence of wind, waves, sun, creatures and self - is unpredictable.
Swimmers can inhale too much water, lose too much body heat, overheat, underhydrate, become disoriented. Exiting an ocean swim through surf can subject the swimmer to a maddening swirl of currents and bone-breaking beatings from crashing waves.
These situations can be life-threatening, she said.
Recently, a 34-year-old British woman, Susan Taylor, died after collapsing near the end of a 34km crossing from Britain to France.
In 2010, a 26-year-old Pennsylvania man, Fran Crippen, died near the finish of a 10km swim in the warm waters off the United Arab Emirates.
So Cox, the product of an artist mother and a father who was a Marine, tempers vision and enthusiasm with methodical, unstinting effort.
"I...think that I could do it, and that's a great way to help prepare," she said at a recent lunchtime talk at Google's New York headquarters.
"But if I don't physically train to do it, then, mentally, I'm not prepared to do it, and physically and mentally, I can't do it."
So she includes training advice for beginner, intermediate and advanced swimmers, starting with "shorter" swims of 1.6km to 4.8km and beefing up the kilometres and intensity for those aiming at the Catalina channel or the Strait of Magellan.
And she offers a benediction, elegant in its simplicity, to readers who take up the challenge to leave water within walls and head out into the unknown.
"For many of you, the open water will become a haven, a favourite place to visit, and many of you will discover that, no matter where you are in the world, it will always be a place where you feel at home."
Lynne Cox has also written Swimming To Antarctica: Tales Of A Long-Distance Swimmer. Visit www.lynnecox.org