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Caitlin O'Reilly Ocean 7

I was privileged to be able to ask our very own Caitlin O'Reilly some questions regarding her open water swimming antics. Caitlin trains with our Polar Bear squad and also swims extra sessions in preparation for her distance swimming events. Some weeks Caitlin swims over 80km! She trains with hopes to conquer the Oceans 7: "The Oceans Seven is a marathon swimming challenge consisting of seven open water channel swims. It was devised in 2008 as the swimming equivalent of the Seven Summits mountaineering challenge. It includes the North Channel, the Cook Strait, the Molokai Channel, the English Channel, the Catalina Channel, the Tsugaru Strait and the Strait of Gibraltar." For more information on the Ocean 7, and to keep up with Caitlin's journey, please check out her website: Good luck Caitlin, keep up the great work!

1) What is your favorite part about open water swimming?

My favorite part of open water swimming is the challenge of It, I enjoy setting a goal for myself and then doing the best I can to achieve that goal. Some of my goals are crazy! All open water swimming presents its own challenges on the day. Wind, sea state and water temperature play a big part and no two swims are the same. I guess my other favourite part is the feeling at the end, when I am coming out of the water knowing I’ve completed my marathon swim – there is certainly a fair amount of relief that it is over and massive sense of accomplishment.

2) How do you motivate yourself to train?

My goal is what motivates me to train, without a goal it is harder to get out of bed at 4:30 in the morning. I also like to see the results of the hard training. I can feel myself getting faster in the pool and I know this will help me on my long swims. The faster I swim, the less time it takes and therefore I’m more likely to succeed.

3) What are the main differences between pool training and open water training?

The main difference is the pace, in the pool I am trying to go on an interval or meet a certain time whereas in the open water I am usually trying to acclimatize to the temperature or conditions which can be challenging. For the last month I have been training in Wellington because the water temp is under 13 degrees. On a calm and sunny day this is not too bad but when there is a cold wind and its rough it can be unpleasant.

4) What is your biggest goal for open water swimming?

My current goal is to become the youngest to complete the Ocean 7 which is 7 of the toughest swims around the world, Cook Strait being one of them. The swim distances are from 20km to 42km in temperatures ranging from 12 degrees to 28 degrees. They all have their individual challenges eg Scotland to Ireland is very cold and has loads of jellyfish, the Molokai Channel in Hawaii is warm but it is the longest of the Oceans 7 at 42 kms and can be rough and sharky!

5) Are you afraid of sharks?

That’s a complicated question, I’ve only come across a shark once while swimming and that was in the Hauraki Gulf. I expected to see some when swimming Foveaux Strait but they were not interested in me, thank goodness! Even though deep down I know sharks are unlikely to attack, they are always on my mind and I’m not sure I would fully enjoy seeing a Great White during a swim. My main strategy is to keep my mind positive.

6) What does your training schedule look like? How does it change in the buildup to an event?

Normally in my “off season” I would just train with the Polar squad 7-9 times a week which is 25km to 35km a week and this gives me a really good base fitness to build on. In the lead up to a big swim I will pick my distance up to as high as 80km week. This will be a combination of pool and ocean swimming together with cold water acclimatization.

Before my double Lake Taupo swim last year I did 100km in a week and then went straight to North Shore summer camp. It was a really grueling few weeks but really prepared me well for the 80km/28 hour swim.

7) What is your pre-event preparation? Meals, warm-up etc.

Pre-event I usually try to eat really well for the few days before a swim. The night before I will have a big meal but my main focus is to try and stay as relaxed as possible. Staying in the right mindset can make or break a long swim. If the swim starts at midnight then I might do a small swim the morning of or if it’s a 8am start I’ll do a light swim the day before.

8) Do you prefer 400m free or 10km?

I prefer the 10km, I need the first 400m x 3 to warm up. If it’s a 10km race then is all about the race strategy and the energy levels that will get me though.

9) Where is the coolest place open water swimming has taken you?

Depends if you mean coolest as in cold! A few years ago I swam in Lake Lyndon in the South Island as part of an Ice Mile Swimming Challenge. It was below 5 degrees and it took me 26 mins to swim the Ice Mile. In that temperature your arms and legs feel like concrete! Last year I went to Japan to swim Tsugaru Strait as part of my Ocean Sevens. It was fantastic being able to experience the culture. We were in a very remote part of Japan and had luck on our side after days of intense fog we managed to get a good swim day and complete the swim.

10) Do you have any advice for swimmers interested in open water swimming?

My advice would be to have fun with it, go out with a group and see what it’s like or maybe compete in an event. Start with the smaller distances and then build your way up to as far as you’d like. There are so many fantastic open water swimming community groups of all ages, so come parents, give it a go!


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