This article is meant to provide you solace, and motivation. My story with a stroke flaw starts with my meager upbringing as a swimmer. I’m self-taught, and a natural born analyst, so I’ve studied mine, and everyone else’s stroke endlessly in an effort to become the very best swimmer I can be. This has come to a point where I am a very successful, and efficient ultra-marathon swimmer, and am blessed to be able to assist others as a coach. I recently had a string of illnesses that left me susceptible to my reoccurring version of mono. I’m a swim addict, so I admit I’ve been swimming lately at half ability, but that brings me to my point. I have a natural stroke flaw, a slight crossover in my left hand. I’ve broke it effectively over the last couple of training seasons to have an acceptable placement just to the left of center key. This took a lot of effort, fighting my natural tendency every stroke.
In my weakened state I felt this flaw come back, and in place of fighting it, I made peace and swam out a little distance. As I did, I noticed my right side stayed a little higher in the water (yes I can feel millimeters, analyst to the core). You see, I have a fused right hip, it’s locked in place at a slight 15% forward (downward when swimming) angle, so keeping my right side high in the water is not easy. I had never thought that this stroke flaw of mine had a purpose, but it was staring me down in this moment. I swam a second time, this time purposely crossing my left over center line, and again my right side rose in the water: eureka!
Not only was my right side up, but the crossover created a natural under sweep, and with my right side being on point, I had better hip rotation than normal increasing my efficiency, and cutting drag. Additionally I centered over my core, so naturally riding higher in the water. Oh yeah, and this cause me to be a bit faster. So why the hell did I forget about all of this in an effort to clean up my stroke? It makes perfect sense that my body would react this way. It’s just physics! The answer: I wanted to get stronger, and create more balance in my stroke. Don’t get me wrong, this was the most noble of pursuits. Now, my point to all of this, is that your stroke flaw has purpose. Being a stronger swimmer will effect change, but knowing your body, and potential limitations is more important.
I would like to highlight the most common stroke flaw that I see, because chances are it’s applied to the most dominant swimmer at some point in time. I call is the “Pretty”, because it reminds me of a pose (on land) that my little girls once did when I asked them to pose pretty. On land, you would stand on your dominant leg, reach your dominant hand out slightly in the air at about 30% to the side of your head. With your opposite leg you’d flare it out to the side at the knee, again at about 30%, and look “Pretty” Heyah looking good!
In the water, this is how most people balance a breath when weak in the core. It spreads the body out, much like a skydiver, and in the same way creates resistance points. On the flip side, it allows the swimmer to balance, and take more time to breath. So if this is you; don’t get discouraged when watching the Olympics, and trying to compare yourself. Strengthen, have someone look at your stroke from time to time, so that you are not operating in a way that causes injury, and enjoy the natural benefits of stretching, balance, and strength. This will over time inevitably strengthen you, and cause change, but be patient with yourself, and find your own personal balance. Reading about swimming is not always the answer, to quote a student of mine; “The body usually knows”.
If you would like me to take a look, or operate in a virtual coaching medium, I am willing to format in that way, just let me know. This service is available and detailed on the website. Concerning the motivation for this article, your stroke flaws have a purpose: if you are a swimmer with a disability, and are trying to look like everyone else, this may not be in the cards. I’ve worked with people who have had shoulder surgery, to foot surgery, to people who have suffered a stroke, and nearly everyone, and every injury in between. Your stroke flaws have purpose; beyond weakness, but that all the more reason to battle. Find a coach that understands the physics of a limitation, and if that’s not available in your area, I’m willing to help.
To all, fight your imbalances, disabilities, and imbalance that cause pain, strength can take that pain away. Swim on, the water is a safe, and accommodating place to wage the battle and win! Much love!
A new and exciting portion of the SwamThat Race was a lasagna dinner and salad feed on Saturday night: which included course description, and some fun facts about the lake. This was catered by Hy-Vee the evening prior the race. Thank you, Hy-Vee, for your continued support. The biggest hiccup of the entire weekend was the misplacement of silverware. We did eventually get silverware to the event, however in the meantime a couple of dedicated gentlemen proved that you can eat lasagna with a red solo cup. I’m sure solo never intended this, but these individuals known for their dedication, and genius cut a new mold. This brings me to a special thank you to Jack and Boyd for their continued support and humor. We performed packet pickup, and numbered arms the night prior, this provided ease to the entire event.
The next morning: My day started as I was screaming across the lake in out 18 foot Sea Ray full of deflated buoys, rain pelting me in the head, and lightning in the distance. Obviously dedicated to the task, I’m off to pick up my best friend Ryan, (Lead kayaker, my personal ultra-distance handler, could not do this without him) so that we can drop buoys in the dark. This is never an easy task, but this year I’ve purchased LED lit dog collars and affixed them to the tops of each buoy, all in hopes to be able to see each well enough that when the sun rises, the course does not resemble a Picasso. Wind, currents, and boat position are constantly changing variables even while anchored, so drawing a straight line with moving objects in the dark, at about 250 meters between each, is an impossible task. I’ll let you know if I ever get it figured out, and in the meantime appreciate your continued patience.
Once we escaped the lightning, and found ourselves laughing about the ongoing of dropping buoys. Ryan and I knew it would be another great day. At one point Ryan performed a countdown that resembled tossing an anchor, but with no line attached I panicked, this began the hilarity of the day. Humor eased the requirements of the morning, and everything fell into place. Participants felt ready to take on the course, and our volunteers ready to assist. Our volunteer numbers were up this year, and greatly appreciated as the day would progress without incident. This is in part through another sponsor relationship. Camp Foster YMCA allowed us to borrow kayaks, this allowed us to have more volunteers on the water, and provided better support. Thank you to all of our great volunteers, and the YMCA for being a valued supporter.
Race day got underway without incident, and fun was had by all. Water visibility was greater than 20 feet this year, I remember little Hank in the children’s race, stopping in the middle of his 150M swim to yell at his mom, “I saw a fish!”, a true highlight for me. New course records were sent in both the Children’s 150, and 300. Evelyn Lorenz in the 150M at 4:11, and Julian Kopelman at 6:57 in the 300M. We’ve been honored with multiple Catalina Channel Swimmers. Tom Casavant was our first swimming the SwamThat Race in 2016, and in 2017 we were honored by Liz Urbe. We’ve also had End Wet swimmers in the field in the past: Molly Nance, and Sharessa Gutierrez. It’s a true honor to host a race that is swum by some of the best distance swimmers in the world. I also had a couple of my personal swim students in the races this year. Both of them (Tracy Conner, and Eric Moser) came in with strong swims, winning their age divisions, and in the case of Eric Moser our 10K overall. Unfortunately we had one individual pull out due to cramping, but the Dive and Rescue boat provided by the Okoboji Fire department was swift in their response, and the team managed the situation with ease. With the participant safe and in good spirits the day was a success. Following is a list of full results.
Now for my favorite award:
Kathleen Christensen is our 2017 Honu’s Hero recipient for many reasons. Most importantly she crossed off her dream of becoming an open water Marathon swimmer. We are honored that she chose the SwamThat Race. She put in an amazing effort, and I’m personally very proud of her.
Honu’s Hero is a
Past winners include:
2014 - Kathleen Guyer
2015 - James Rechs
2016 - Paul Witmer, Fay Kilburg, and Stanley Lemaster
Investments in the 2017 race include another 10 radios, MORE SWAG, and a deepening of the local relationships to build a mutually supportive, and ongoing relationship. After all, SwamThat is a family affair, with family values.
I would like to thank the Okoboji Fire Department, and of course the Iowa Great lakes DNR, we literally could not do this without your support, so cheers for allowing us to make an impact on the Midwest open water swim community. Another shout out to the Okoboji Chamber of commerce for their support, they are all around gold in the SwamThat book.
Looking forward to this year, it’s our fifth annual, so sign up today, and enjoy the swim. P.S. prices stayed the same at 2017.
This story starts with a comment on a previous article. Upon my completion of End Wet, and subsequent article, Daniela said something to the effect of: “Thanks, I always wanted to know what others are thinking when swimming.” I found that interesting because my reckoning of the 36 miles is barely coherent, so I turned that question back on her, to find out what she was thinking. The following is the maturation of her swimming, what she is thinking, and a story of someone who should be considered a role model to us all.
I believe it necessary to appropriately introduce Jake, in Daniela’s acknowledgements at the end of my question set she focuses in on Jake. “My kayaker/fiancé, Jake, was my biggest fan and supporter. He put up with a lot of long, cold training swims, waiting up for me after swim practices, and the smell of lakes/rivers. I would not have been able to pull any of this off without him.”
I’ve met Jake, he’s comedic, supportive, and kind, and that’s just my first impression. He also appears via description to be a cook, and cheerleader. Point being, Jake has a big part in Daniela’s success, as marathon swimming is a team sport.
Daniela started swimming due to a broken leg at the age of nine: “To start, I HATED swimming. I remember my coach coaxing me to do a 25 fly after warm up, and I was such a brat that I just closed my eyes (with goggles on), did something resembling a seizure, and managed to hit other swimmers, the wall, and the lane line many times, and my coach went so far as to question my commitment to swimming. I remember going home and telling my parents I wanted to quit, but they kept pushing me. Eventually, I made friends (several of whom I’m still close friends with) and began to love the competitive aspect of swimming and training.”
“I was burnt out after swimming Age Group and high school teams my senior year of high school, and I just wanted to have free time and be a “normal kid”. For 4 years, I barely exercised, and got into the pool only a handful of times. I ended up gaining 70 lbs. (well over the anticipated freshman 15) and even caught myself feeling guilty for not swimming. I convinced myself that my full workload, internships, and commitment to my studies were more important than swimming… but to this day, I wish I had swam in college.”
“My senior year of college, I finally got fed up with my weight and my extreme level of being out of shape. My last semester, I enrolled in ROTC and tried to keep up with military physical training, hoping for some yelling commanders to get my butt back into shape. Instead, I managed to get myself shin splints and further injure my knee, leaving me unwilling to do much exercising. Eventually, a friend and I got back into running towards the second half of the last semester, and I started teaching swim lessons at the apartment complex pool. When I moved back in with my parents, my mother started dragging me to various workout classes, helped me eat right, and introduced me to the Tri Tornadoes, the local YMCA triathlon training team. I swam with the Tri team, getting me back into better swimming shape, and even did cycling and running workouts with them. I eventually completed an Olympic distance triathlon and other running events, surprising my family and myself.”
With this success under her belt, the sky became Daniela’s only logical limit, and the gym her refuge. Work life balance became a struggle as Daniela worked in a roll where she was balancing the interests of two separate parties who found little reason to work together, leaving her feeling dejected, and burnt out. She turned to the gym to relieve the stresses of work, and this was good. The weight of this decision began to impact her friendships, and with the support of her parents she began to find balance.
I asked her how she prepared for END WET: If you are not familiar, END WET is a 36 mile down river swim that Daniela, and I swam together in 2017. It’s the longest open water swim in the United States. Might I add she came in much faster than I, her training was also more intense. Like I tell my little girls; do the work, reap the reward. As they age, I’ll point them towards Daniela, and women like her as role models.
”To prepare for End Wet, I swam through the winter. My average practice was about 10k yards, and, at one point, I did a “hell week” where I swam 7 days in a row, all at least 10k for yardage. I was lucky – the pool remained open and I got my own lane almost every day, sometimes even being invited to swim with the local swim team as motivation. I also swam SCAR earlier in the year. Somehow, I would lift in the mornings, go to work, then leave work and go directly to the pool, where I would swim for 3-4 hours. Then, I’d bike home, eat as much as I could, fall asleep, and get up at 5 am to do it all again.”
“I could be home by 9-9:30 PM most days. All through this, I rode my bike, only getting rides on days when it was pouring down rain. There were some weekends when my reward was getting to drive to the pool on Sundays, since parking was free those days.”
As you can see, Daniela put a lot of pressure on herself to succeed. When asked about how she dealt with this pressure, she again references friends, family, and Jake. “I think I got lucky. I ate a lot of food, and my coworkers, family, and friends were encouraging. My team even got me a card and all signed it before I left for the airport to go to SCAR. My fiancé, Jake, would make dinner (and sometimes leftovers for lunch) so I could eat immediately upon getting home from swim practice. If all these things hadn’t come together each day, somehow, I probably would have burst into tears and quit.” For those of you who are not marathon swimmers, it truly is a team effort. Familial support is paramount, and often there are little hours left to provide a proper thank you.
END Wet begins with a party bus: “We got to drive to the start line at 5 PM in a party bus. I think I was the only one dancing… Thankfully, I got to swim the last 2 miles of the race the day before, so I knew the water temp was perfect, the water was opaque, and the water was moving pretty swiftly. The prep swim the previous day really helped. I would have been a nervous wreck without it.” Upon standing on the shore: “The water is still gross. No change from the opaque water from the previous day’s warm up swim. I have lots of amazing swimmers all around me. 73-74 degree water, .5-1.0 mph current flowing with me.”
First impression has you dove in? “The water was opaque… a better way to describe it would be to say the water was a mixture of chocolate milk and coffee grounds mixed together. When I put my arm in the water, everything, including my shoulder, disappeared. It was extremely disorienting.”
I asked Daniela if she was comfortable at any point? She stated, the first twenty-six miles: “The water was the perfect temp, and I’d never swam with a current before. It was pretty exhilarating the first few miles. I skipped the first feed, waving off my kayaker. I fed every 40 minutes for the first 25-ish miles. Then, we switched to every 30 minutes for the remainder.
Then the watch debacle happened: my watch, at the 25-mile marker, said 26 miles. I was so excited to see my watch hit 26 miles, since I knew that I could swim 10 miles, no problem, and that was all that was left. Instead, Jake, my kayaker, pointed out I had 11 miles after I swam to the nearest mile marker to feed, and I screamed with frustration so loudly that I though rescue boats would come our way. After that, I felt a little psychologically broken. A few miles after that, my back’s throbbing got to me, and I had to take Advil for the first time ever during a swim.”
Something I didn’t realize, Daniela is a bit of a comedian, as proven by the following list:
• First, I had a serious problem getting my PB&J sandwich treats down. I’d try to chew, but the bread wouldn’t go down well… until I just went ahead and dipped the whole damn sandwich in the river. My kayaker thought that was the gross part of the swim. Not my bleeding skin where my suit, combined with the sediment and twigs that had gotten stuck in my swim suit liner, had started to chafe. Not the fact that the water was the most opaque thing I’ve ever encountered. Nope, he thought that me dipping my sammich in the water I was already swimming in was the gross part.
• Second, I swam by, and almost into, a bloated, dead beaver. Twice.
• Third, I grabbed a catfish and used it as a paddle.
• Fourth, I punched a catfish.
• Fifth, when it started raining, my kayaker made his spare t-shirt into a “doo-rag”, making an epic photo.
• Sixth, my mom telling me to get done, as if she was telling me to walk to the mailbox or finish chopping spinach.
Upon reading her responses to the questions, specifically the next comment I reached back out to Daniela to encourage her to begin writing. When I asked her about her Why: She said “Actually, I don’t really do anything else in my life well. I can swim long distances better than I can do office work, run, cycle, garden, etc. I just wanted to succeed at something.” In swimming, you leave no doubt, but I’m going to publicly encourage writing, because in this, you have talent. She went on to say: “The entire swim was remembering my why. But I especially remembered it at the halfway point when I grabbed a catfish and decided I wasn’t DNF-ing halfway through.”
She brought the story back around to love of family, and Jake. The last ten miles of this swim are grueling. “My kayaker was pretty much the only reason I finished. At one point, we chased the team in front of us. At another, we tried to stay ahead of the team behind us. My kayaker convinced me to swim by promising me peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. When I felt like I was done swimming 10 miles from the finish, Jake used his cell phone to call my parents, per my request. My mom asked me if I was finished swimming, and when I said that I was 10 miles out, she told me to get my ass in gear and finish. That was what I needed.”
Now that the mental side of things is in check, you have the physical: “I found a lot of comfort in Advil for the last 10 miles. I’d been dealing with shoulder and back pain, so a lot of my motivation was mental. A lot of it was seeing my kayaker stoically sitting next to me, checking in, and sometimes smiling. Some of it was the promise of PB&J. A lot of it was remembering the DNF at Apache (at SCAR in April) and never wanting to feel like that again.”
Great news: she made it!
“I was so, so, so tired. It was the longest I had ever swam, and the sun was setting. I had swam for 13 hours, and had expected to finish sooner. I had also sprinted, with all of my might, the last mile, knowing the finish was close and I’d get to address the chafing situation on my back. Everyone was so kind – Sandra and David, as well as the race organizers, were at the finish and helped with the kayak and our things. Everyone was really wonderful.”
Yeah, Sandra and David are the shit! The race organizers are wonderful! It’s a well-run event.
“I remember thinking that everyone would assume I was going to fall over because I kept rocking while I was on land. I continued to feel like I was in the water, swishing about, and my ears, which have always been sensitive to the point of almost guaranteed sea sickness in almost all bodies of water, kept thinking I was still swimming. My jaw was also very tired, so talking was very difficult. I remember noticing my neck was incredibly stiff.”
I asked what was the first thing that she said upon completion: “I think I said something about my chafing, how tired I was, or wanting a shower. Probably the shower bit.” I think she downplayed it a bit, but her learning was “Vaseline… and reapply diligently and lucratively.”
True story: my Mom and Dad ran into her at the hotel the next morning, they relayed the information about the chaffing. I immediately connected with Daniela, although she was not there with me. There is a camaraderie in the pain.
What I see in this story is grit, and determination to be successful. I see this as a heroic act, combined with a choice to survive that can carry a person through their life. Daniela, in this moment as proven that a person can tackle anything that their heart desires. If everything were approached with this same level of tenacity, a person will provide themselves the gift of probable success.
Daniela, you are an inspiration, and have talents beyond your knowledge. Stay strong and go forward, the lives you touch will be many, and the depth of which will be life changing. Well done friend! Well done!
Forever is a mighty long time, and I'm here to tell you:
I’ve heard it many times as I was coming up; “You have to find your forever stroke”. So, in response, I searched, and searched, and searched some more. I swam great distances in open water, and the pool in search, and did not find a forever stroke. There was never a singular lightbulb moment, where I thought, I’ve got it. I found a couple of things instead, and I believe that these may be the keys to a forever stroke.
1) Buoyancy is very important, I know this seems obvious, but for me, it’s extremely true. I’m rather muscular and dense, so my buoyancy comes from large lung capacity and efficient oxygen use. To assist in the longer swims, and to offset temperature, I have been known to pack on ten extra pounds prior to a long swim. This brings me to my second point concerning buoyancy, having a higher body fat percentage will assist providing buoyancy. A longer stroke pattern can also offset more water, allowing you to glide on top of the water. These are all factors in finding the forever stroke.
2) Strength, another obvious piece, but what specifically am I speaking of? A) Physical strength, just put in the hard laps, the miles in the wind and rain, and you’ll gain the physical side, good rule of thumb, if you can do it in a week, you can do it in a day. B) Mental strength, I call it the F-off button (This name came to me after 28 miles on a particular rough day, no intent to offend), it’s this magical button in my mind where I can tell my body to stop hurting (in a not to eloquent way). I’ve been asked if this can work in reverse, and I absolutely believe that it can. When it comes down to it, mental strength is what makes the distance. Once you have the mental side of things handled; the strength to operate under duress for long periods of time, and the mentality to clear great distances without stopping, then you have found your forever stoke.
So, is it a real thing?
In my experience there is no forever stroke, because if it exists, it will be made up of all kinds of stroke patterns. In search, I found a whole bunch of stroke flaws, and a realization that the swim stroke is something that cannot be perfected due to the continual morphing of conditions, physical and environmental. So "Forever Stroke" creates a contradiction, but maybe only in terms. Your muscles will fatigue, and your frame will begin to fail. I generally start with a deeper draw that fades in closer to my chest over time. My overhead cast, and entry point will change depending on how my upper back is feeling. I’ll vary my kick schedule, change stroke rates, depth, placement, you name it. In the end new distance hurts, and causes your body to run through varying cycles of failure.
So I’ll say this, if there is a forever stroke, it exists in your mind. If you find a way, if you persevere something that prior to completion you would have considered impossible, that’s a forever stroke. It will be unique only to you. In the end, it may not look much like a stroke at all, so just keep swimming, and do it with a smile.
I’m please to write an article on someone who embodies the warrior spirit. I’ve recently met a warrior in heart, and mind, his name is Eddy. He is a dreamer, made the choice to overcome all of the odds, and adversity to make his dream of becoming an Ironman true. This would be an amazing feat for anyone, but I believe Eddy is special. Upon the opportunity to ask Eddy questions about his dream, and the process, he provided very insightful answers.
Eddy comes from a family, where swimming is the norm. His Grandmother swam in the Helsinki Olympics, and as a youth he swam at a country competitive level. This went on until school became the priority. An intelligent young man, he walked away from swimming to pursue education. “I couldn’t fit everything in, something had to give.” Eddy would continue to play water polo, which any swimmer will tell you is a grueling aquatic workout.
After years of being a formidable athlete Eddy found himself diagnosed with Leukemia, undergoing chemotherapy, and dreaming of swimming. “All I could think about was going back to my natural habitat in the water.” Being unable to act on this dream, and being in a weakened state must have been torture for an active young mind. As a testament to his character Eddy’s mind focused on overcoming his own adversity, while giving back, and benefiting others. He decided to make his Ironman dream come true in the most difficult way possible, retiring the hospital bed in the process. Eddy chose take on the most brutal mental and physical challenge known to mainstream sport, to support the Teenage Cancer Trust.
“Preparing my Ironman race was probably a lot different to the average person’s training plan. After all I had to go from being bed bound to completing 140.6 miles of exercise. I took it very easy to start with. I set myself little goals IE walking up and down the stairs a couple of times. This then led to taking the dogs for a walk. I slowly increased the distance and made sure I listened to my body.”
Imagine being bed ridden, having a severely compromised immune system, and setting this goal. An Ironman consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 122 mile bike ride and finishes with a 26.2 mile run. Starting with the note of walking upstairs brings a tear to my eye, such adversity, to dig yourself out of a hole like this will take the heart of a lion, a graced spirit, and an unbreakable mind.
“After a few months I managed to go for my first run. When I say run, it was slow and with a few breaks in-between but I managed to complete it and it felt amazing. My body remembered how amazing exercise is. The endorphins released and I couldn't stop smiling.”
The swim dream would also come true, described as incredible the first time he dove in. Eddy began training for events that would challenge him, and allow him to gain his once elite confidence as an athlete. “For the Ironman challenge I needed to put some hard lengths in. My fitness soon increased and my times were getting faster and faster. I knew much I had improved when I came 11th out of over 2000 competitors in The Great North Swim.” As he continued to increase the distances of each of the three disciplines Eddy competed in the Paris Marathon. The marathon was more difficult than expected, causing illness, and knee problems that would keep Eddy from training as much as desired in the run discipline, leading up to his Ironman attempt.
Mental fortitude, and doubt in your body’s ability is always present, but when a training event provides unforeseen adversity, it can knock you backwards. Eddy, would continue to surge forward, putting that nervous energy to a positive goal, but said in relation to the Paris Marathon: “Physiologically this was really hard because I didn’t know how I would be able to cope during the run. One of the hardest parts of ironman training is staying injury free. I have spoken to people who couldn’t attend on the day due to injury. The last thing I wanted was to not compete, especially as I had raised so much money for charity already, I would have felt like a fraud if I couldn’t have participated.”
Eddy would continue to feel this pressure until on the course: “I had told so many people about my challenge which did put some pressure on me. Can you imagine I couldn’t finish. I had raised over £6,000 by this point. All that money had come from people donating for me taking part on the Ironman. I had to finish.” “All I had to do was finish. I mean how hard can that be?
Eddy, I’ll answer that for you: according to “The internet”, by all probable estimations since the first event in 1978, less than 700,000 people have completed an ironman. You’ll have to figure yourself into the .01% of the global population, although the internet admits it’s probably half that. I think it’s a fitting answer for how hard could that be? Really freaking hard, and that would be for people who start as established athletes. For someone who starts from a hospital bed, battling a life threatening condition? Until Eddy, I’d have said impossible, especially considering the timeframes. It boggles my mind!
Eddy: “When I was lining up to jump into the lake pure excitement took over. I was so ready. I had been waiting for this day for so long. I knew I could do it, I just have to stick to my race plan.” Just prior to diving into the water Eddy uttered the words “Good luck” to a lady that had recognized him from his prior blog posts. “It’s amazing the power of social media. That moment made me think of how far I had come and where I am now.” It’s always good to reflect, and this moment tells you a lot about Eddy’s spirit, taking time to connect with another competitor when about to embark on a test of such magnitude.
Three, two, one…Go! Eddy is now inside of his longest open water swim. “I dove in and a sense of relief engorged my body as soon as the water hit my fingertips. My big day had started and I was feeling great. I knew I was going to be one of the fastest swimmers so I just tried to stay calm and not let the emotion take over. Half of me wanted to sprint, and put in an amazing time but the other half (sensible eddy) took over and told me to do long and efficient strokes.” With the swim behind, Eddy he transitioned to the bike, it had been raining; a slight drizzle through the morning and swim, and this kept up through the first quarter of his bike. Then: “After about a quarter of the ride the heavens did open, I had just reached the top of sheep house lane when it really started to rain. I did start to worry that I might fall of bike, but I just took it steady. After all I just wanted to finish, I wasn’t bothered about the time.” “I do remember cycling up one of the steepest hills in the race and talking to the guy next to me, just saying how much we love it. Most people would hate every second, but I just loved the grueling challenge.” With his race plan in check Eddy cool, collected, social, and having the time of his life.
With the sun full in the sky, and Eddy completing the hardest portion of his day; the last thirty miles of the bike, where upon transitioning into the run Eddy began to overheat. This could be perilous with an entire marathon still looming overhead. “For the first lap of the run I was wondering whether or not I could keep running. I was starting to struggle but it was as if someone was looking over me because as soon as I started to struggle the sun started to go down and it started to cool down. After the second lap I knew I was going to finish and just enjoyed every last minute of the race.”
“The end of the race was the most incredible experience, everything I had dreamed about. I lived up to all the expectations. I remember seeing my amazing family, girlfriend and friends cheering me on in the home straight. I put my hand out and high fived every last one of them. I had finally completed my dream. How on earth had I managed that? Everything I had been working for during that past year, I had become an IRONMAN. As soon as I crossed the line I started to cry like a baby. Emotion filled my body. I was so pleased with myself and I had done it. Even thinking about it now brings a tear to my eye.”
Eddy, a jewel of a person has made writing it a lot of fun. I’ve not ever written for someone so quotable. This is how I know the passion that breaths through this guy. Amazing! I digress, one thing I’ve learned in my time writing is never walk away from an interview with someone without capturing the unconventional wisdom. Eddy, wise beyond his years had this to say: “I believe to be comfortable in your body you have to be comfortable in your mind. If your mind is in the right place your body will soon follow. Your body is capable of amazing things as long as you believe in it. I mean look at me. Less than two years ago I was bed bound unable to get out of bed to go to the toilet, now I’m doing what some say the ultimate endurance race.” “I have learnt that if you devote yourself to something, it will happen. If you truly apply yourself to your dream, it will come true.”
Lastly his thanks and acknowledgements: “I would like to thank everyone who made it possible, you know who you are. I couldn’t have done it without you. I love you all.”
Please take the time to support Eddy by reading his entire story via the blog he wrote. I asked Eddy about future plans, and although he doesn't have anything to share at the moment, I'm sure that his drive and ability will find love to give in the future.
I made a swimming joke the other day based upon an old Saturday Night Live skit, about wanting to dip my balls in it. Oddly enough, I have a coaching drill where I use tennis balls. While in use, I call them Stoke Flaw Indicators. I would like to run your through the drill, so that you can utilize it to diagnose your stoke flaws. I also would like you to dip those balls in it. That should lighten up the fact that the drill sucks. I’ll stop the monologue at this time.
1) Swim 100; Start with the balls in your fists, much like fist drill, swim with your normal stroke pattern while attempting to engage your entire paddle (finger tips to elbows). While swimming if you have a stroke flaw, it will be exacerbated (swings, and S-curves) and a small swing in your stroke will become a large swing in your stroke. This is because the tennis balls lighten your arms, and decrease your ability to create pull, causing your flaw to become very apparent. Stroke flaws are signs of weakness, but don’t be discouraged, you’ll at least know where and how to improve. If in doubt, strengthen your core.
2) Swim 100; Hold the balls with your thumb and pinky finger. Use an additional finger if you need to hold the balls effectively. Extend your other fingers, two or three, and use those to create additional pull while trying to rectify your stroke flow, now effectively diagnosed.
3) Swim 100, Put the balls on the pool deck, swim this leg with fists. If you’ve not done this in the past, create a ball with your fist again attempting to create pull with your whole paddle.
4) Swim 100; Wrap thumb over your pinky finger, you’ll feel your ability to pull come back. This will feel like a relief, but don’t forget about fighting that stroke flaw, keep a level pull, no swings, no S curve.
5) Swim 100: congratulations, you get your hands back. You’ll feel strong, and capable. I want you to remember this feeling. If this feeling leaves you, remember the drill. If it’s been a while, complete it again. Your flaws may change, but your ability to diagnose, and strengthen will not.
Take some time to dip your balls in it, and have a great day!
TSG – The Swim Genius
The Swim Genius has been surrounded with the topic of cramps these days. Specifically those swimmer cramps that start in the ridge of your foot, crawl up the back of your les and settle painfully into your calves. They suck, and we all know that feeling: the choice to stop on the wall and stretch it, or keep going? Then you in open water, and there’s no wall, shore is two miles off, and no hope of touching bottom. In this case stopping is the worst thing you can do because if it locks, you’re in real trouble.
So, The Swim Genius decided to compile all of the tips and tricks that he’s heard into one article so that you no longer have to swim in pain, and/or search endless boards for good advice. The first, and The Swim Genius believes most applicable is; “Train as you intend to compete”. What does that mean? The fins, and pull buoy that you love so much are a crutch, and are probably doing more harm than good. If you want to build your legs, push off the wall harder, kick in a six beat, kick board in ways other than those you were taught, swim sprints, squats, lunges, and if you want to build your shoulders, get a set of paddles. The fins, and pull buoy change the stress points and position of your ankle. They don’t strengthen your kick, as much as they harm your natural ability to kick. When you are swimming without them, the stress points that you are not accustomed to can trigger cramps. Train with pointed toes, and kick from the hip. If you have stiff ankles, not only will you be prone to cramping, but you’ll be a very slow kicker, and may even move backwards. This is because your feet knife at the water, and in place of propulsion, you get resistance. Stretch the ankles with exercises, the most famous, it spell your upper case ABC’s with your ankles twice a day.
It’s a nice Segway to discuss a foam roller. This is an absolute must if you are prone to cramping. It’s especially helpful for calves in the middle of the night when restless legs are haunting your sleep. It’s much like a foam torture chamber at first because it puts a lot of pressure on a balled muscle (Ouch!). As that muscle becomes more relaxed, it becomes more compliant, and less likely to cramp. Get a three foot by six inch version so that you can also use it for your back, front, side, other side etc…
Let’s stay with the physical / therapeutic items and talk for a moment about magnets. Neo Magnets are those really strong suckers that come with warning labels. This is for good cause as you can injure yourself with them if they splinter. With that said, that same strength is amazing when it comes to therapy. Why? Your red blood cells, and the iron in them. How does it work? Simply tape a magnet to the site of the pain, it will soon tingle, and as it gorges the site with healing blood cells, the muscle will begin to let go. This happens because a wet muscle simply cannot stay balled up. The Swim Genius used these for a long time over night, but has since found a better solution for restless legs. Tip, use overnight for best results, and make sure that they have two inches between magnets, they will contract if any closer (Ouch!). I’ve also tucked magnets into compression sleeves with good results. Compression sleeves work by removing stationary blood, and creating room for new blood-flow. As a side effect they limit the inflow of blood, sometimes this is a good thing (recovery, and decreasing lactic acid stores), sometimes it’s not a good thing (a locking cramp). Compression sleeves can help to prevent cramps by limiting lactic acid buildup, but if a cramp insists on formation, they may do little to help relieve the symptoms.
What works better than magnets for restless legs? Tonic water. Why? Quinine. Fact; drug companies attempted to market Quinine as a drug for restless leg syndrome and the pill form was too strong. With that said, drinking 8-12 ounces of tonic water before bed increases circulation and knocks out the cramps. The Swim Genius even mixed nutrition over tonic water for ultra-marathon swims to keep the cramps at bay. It doesn’t taste great, but The Swim Genius willing to suck it up if there's no cramping.
As it directly relates, let’s talk about professional services around body work. It may be expensive, but there is a place for massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic services. As an athlete, you are putting your body through a daily test, and imbalances are inevitable. Sometimes you just got to get straightened out, and balanced by a professional. As with anything there are cheaper, yet still effective alternatives. They don’t always provide the same efficacy, but never the less here they are available options. In place of acupuncture check out an acupressure mat, it’s like laying down on the bottom of a really big golf shoe, but it increases blood flow. Magnets and cupping also help along the lines of acupuncture / acupressure. The general idea that prevails through them all is to make your body think it’s injured and pool blood to the site of treatment. This idea also is an effective way to prevent or release cramps.
Now for detox: diet is the most important factor here, but if you insist on eating like a "Standard American Diet" (SAD), then cramps will be more likely. A food tip to keep the capillaries open, greens, and foods that are bitter, stay away from the sweets and you’ll be less likely to cramp. If you insist on a hamburger and fries every day for lunch, look into an ionic foot bath to try and get rid of some of those toxins that will inevitably benefit cramps. It’s also good for flushing the lactic acid buildup that comes along with the cramp itself. Along with diet comes the old standby remedies, bananas, coconut water, every sport supplement that utilizes salt, and salt tabs. In short, Magnesium, Potassium, and Sodium. Too much sodium can be bad too, but its good in athletic moments for cramp prevention.
Last, and in my opinion least, take drugs, please consider this is a short term remedy, long term, they lose efficacy, and you damage the very body you are trying to maintain. Swim strong! Have Fun!
What’s up with that cheese man, is a story within a story. Some of this is written in my prior END WET post, and some of this is in the KETO post from a couple of weeks ago. I feel the need to write this because my propensity to eat party cheese in the process of swimming distance, has reached the furthest rings of my inner circle, I’m getting crap for it, and I’m more than willing to own this. It all starts with END WET training. 36 miles in a dirty North Dakota river scares the living shit out of me, and I’ve been a glucose swimmer since I began swimming five years prior. Every time I sugar load my stomach turns into knots, and I get a terrible brain fog, so in my way I’d been praying for a solution.
In December 2016, I’m at a book fair selling copies of Saved with Honu, and up walks a gal who was selling a keto supplement interested in my story as a marathon swimmer. I run through it, we trade information, an hour later she drops me a free sample, buys a book and we go our separate ways. This starts a mass education project, and ultimately dietary, and supplication changes to allow for keto based training.
So, there I am flipping turns on a 4K day, working in keto, goggles are fogged over, and I’m lost in the music. I’m a little delirious because I’ve been picking up mass distance on my new diet, roughly doubled my monthly average. There’s someone in the lane next to me, and they have what I assume is a bottle on the deck. The first time I glance at it, it looks like a can of squeeze cheese, and I think; “What you’re thinking, disgusting!”. I’m not stopping, but I look again, still looks like the cheese, “Gross!”. Then I start to think; “keto, calories, fat, salt, protein, I wonder how many calories are in a can?”. I’m curious, yes gross, but it may be worth a shot. The other thing I think about is breathing, getting calories, time to feed, and breathing are major obstacles. “The cheese is pressurized, and I shouldn’t have to chew, ok, disgusting, yes, but I have to try it”. (BTW if someone at Nabisco is reading this and wants to sponsor me, shoot me an email.)
I pick up the cheese, and take it to the pool deck for a 10K trial. A can comes in at about 700 calories, is pasteurized so it won’t go bad, pressurized so you don’t have to squeeze anything, it floats, and has all of the keto mainstays, protein, fat, and salt. I’m super pleased with the trial, not only do I not have to chew, but It cotes my stomach, and does not cause gas. Taste, I could get used to it. Everyone has the same reaction, “that’s disgusting” then they gag a little, and maybe throw up a little in their mouth, but I see this as unnecessarily dramatic. Then they say, “maybe with some crackers?”, then I say, “remember, I’m in the water, and the point is to not have to chew!”, anyhow, crackers and water don’t do well together for long. I’m all about the utility at this point, and could care less about the taste. If you are tied to the taste of things, i.e. salty crunch, you’re not going keto anytime soon, I’m already there so I’m over it. Training continues to pick up with the cheese on my side, I’m also using dates, and a keto/sugar solution I lovingly call my “Sweet Salty Nut Balls”
Recipe: The Swim Genius’s Sweet Salty Nut Balls
½ cup Peanut butter
½ cup Nutella
½ cup Marshmallow cream
1 scoop whey protein
1 or 2 packages of gelatin
1 or 2 TB MCT Oil
Mix up the balls, roll them around in your hand, then dust them in Almond flour, chia seed, and a little salt. I found that putting a Gas-x in every other ball cuts down on any ongoing gas problems. They are really quite good, pop right into your mouth, and again, minimal chewing.
During END WET I would take in nut balls and dates on the top of the hour and cheese on the bottom of the hour. There are a couple more points to make about the cheese. If you are motivated by the thought of keto, and nice easy feeds, it’s not so bad. All you have to do is put the nozzle between your teeth, and tilt the can, no chewing, no choking. As the protein load is natural my recovery is shorter, the fat will keep me going even after the event. Fact, I put on 10 pounds for END WET, thinking I’d lose it within days of the event. I ate three cans of cheese that day, held all of the weight (13 hours, 48 minutes of swimming), and had to diet it off over the next three weeks. I suppose that means there is a buoyancy argument to all of this too. So that’s what’s up with the cheese, man!
The Swim Genius Blog is thrilled to present a personal success story. This blog does not belong to one person, swimmer biographies, success stories are going to be an integral part of this website. Please contact us at SwimGenius@outlook.com if you are interested or know of a great story, and please enjoy the read. Gayla is a true fighter, and a swimspiration (Swim + Inspiration) much love, The Swim Genius. Now to the story!
When I asked Gayla her why it became immediately apparent the importance of swimming in her life. Her response: “Staying clean and sober.” Gayla was a competitive youth swimmer; “I swam in High School and got 8th in the state for 100 butterfly. I was born and raised in Hawaii so a lot of swimming there! I swam on a club team for a couple years in college but drinking and drugging got in my way so I dropped out.”
Life continued to evolve, and Gayla had children, swimming remained in the background until she had raised four children. Swimming came back into focus after joining a Master team, this in conjunction with encouragement and a race goal hooked Gayla. “My girlfriend signed us up for the 10 miles “swim the suck” by staying up all night to register. After a few 5k’s and a 10k, I was hooked”. “I think about swimming all the time! I was lucky that when I joined my masters team that I stuck to it!! There were many times I started an exercise regimen and didn’t. What kept me coming back was the natural high I get from swimming, the people, encouragement and ultimately setting goals for competition. It became much more than a way to stay in shape but an integral part of my life and recovery-I am 8 years sober and I think swimming has helped me come this far!”
With her love of swimming, and well established goals, sobriety and swimming continued to align. The next goal came after unforeseen adversity; “I had a bad bicycle accident a year ago and while I was convalescing I signed up for the 25k Border Buster (A legal exception, and international swim that is located in Vermont, taking off from a US beach, swimming into Canada, and returning to US soil). A month after the accident I swam a 500, then a 1000 then got back on my masters swim team. By the end of the year I was swimming up to 20 miles a week.”
This is a massive goal, any marathon swimmer respects someone who is taking on a mile, because we know what it takes that make a mile. Fifteen miles, for the metric crowd Twenty five kilometers is a haul, it requires training, and demands respect. Along with this distance comes a training regiment, and mental preparation that takes a toll. You have to be all in, you have to believe that you can make it, it takes a mental dicipline that few have. I know that Gayla has it, her sobriety is a living testament to her will, and ability. She soon worked her way up to five to seven hour swims. “At first they were very tiring but later I could do a 5 then get back to masters practice the next day. Training through exhaustion, knowing I was improving, even though I didn’t feel like I was.”
Planning continued, her journey was about to begin: “I love training for a big event. Plotting out a training plan, reading up on advice on marathon swimming, obsessively reading and posting for advice on Facebook’s #SwimStory and putting on the yardage.” I witnessed this effort, it was readily apparent that her will, and ability were in match. She was ready! Her distances, and feedings were ready. Her body prepared, and her mind just right; scared, but appropriately confident. This is why prior to her race, I asked he if I could write this article.
“My thoughts were laser focused on my 15 (25k) race for a year. I methodically trained for this race, made all travel plans, packed all my feeds, and got on a plane with my son headed towards Vermont. I was happy to see “my” lake when we finally arrived at Newport. I was so glad to see and meet my friends who had also trained so hard. I was nervous. We ate a big pasta dinner, I went to bed early. I was ready no matter what this 9-hour swim would do to me.”
Then tragedy happened; “At 2 in the morning I heard moaning from the bathroom. My son came out and said he was sick. He went back to the bathroom several times and at 3 I decided something had to be done. I checked on him and he was in fetal position lying on the shower floor. We had to go to the hospital-race be damned.”
“I had thoughts I didn’t try hard enough at 5am when we left the hospital to stop at the venue. I should have harassed and harangued people to find me a kayaker. I couldn’t do it. I went home dejected and slept it off. Later I realized I needed not to isolate but to go back to the venue. There was a one miler at 2 pm. I registered for that (thank you!), warmed up and did a sweet one mile race where I placed FIRST woman over all!!!”
This race was important, her efforts were rewarded. An additional piece of good news, her son was ok, nothing serious was wrong. What I love about this story is it’s centered around redemption. From swimming to maintain sobriety, to achieving audacious goals in the name of health and personal improvement. Gayla was not going to be shorted her swim, she would make Canada, and return the very next day. “I jump into the water right outside our Airbnb home. I was excited to swim and all my stuff was ready from the day before! I started off fast-my taper was in full force. I did the first mile in about 25 minutes. The water was smooth and easy. I wasn’t sure my son could last very long so I decided to push myself. We were to do 10-12 miles a 12 would be my longest personal swim. The lake started getting choppy around the big island by the border. We went completely full circle around it and headed back to the house. Ultimately swimming is a solo sport so with or without a race it is a challenge.” Twelve miles, and a new longest personal swim was in the books. This is an achievement!
I asked if there was anyone that Galya would like to thank, and I’m pleased that she brought it full circle. We all have our heroes, many times, it’s found in the kindness and challenges provided by people that we interact with every day. “I would like to thank my friend Melinda who signed me up for my first 10-mile swim thus starting me on this challenge of marathon swimming. I would like to thank my family for their unwavering support, I would like to thank my masters swim team who was there for me week in and week out. I would like to thank #SwimStory and all the people there who post all their successes, challenges, feedback, workouts, and support. I am a part of a community group who provides me mental and spiritual support to keep my life on track. I am blessed!!!”
Blessed indeed, and I’d personally like to add, an inspiration. We applaud you!
My own personal take away, because every hero has a story, and every story has a moral. It may not always turn out as planned, but your preparedness is not to be wasted, live well, press on, and achieve greatly! Thank you Gayla!
The Swim Genius may have missed a calling somewhere along the way, and should have been a MD. It’s still very early in theory, but sugar has really screwed up our society. Boxed cereal, bags of chips, and sports drinks, are causing mass inflammatory diseases. An epidemic created by food marketing, and in order to stop eating as the American cultured does, 80% of the grocery store needs to be dismissed. It all comes down to how the body breaks down food into an energy source, in short how much insulin is required, i.e. Insulin Factor, "IF"… The grocery store, and the pharmaceutical companies are profiting from the current inflammatory diseases in this country, things that in the 1940’s did not exist, are common place now, and it all comes down to sugar that we cannot fully digest. To make this even more dramatic, the foods we crave, and are addicted to have little to no nutritional content, so let’s include detox into the article, because without food based detox, we have an increase rate of cancer. Off the top of The Swim Genius’s head, this makes up 80% of the grocery stores, and if you link that to inflammatory disease, about 90% of the commercial base promoted by the pharmaceutical industry. Think back, where was the last time you viewed a commercial block without an anti-inflammatory drug advertisement?
It started simple enough, The Swim Genius changed his diet a bit, and was attempting to get high micronutrient valued from what I called my “Big ass salad”, this was a literal big ass salad that took up the better portion of a serving bowl, and The Swim Genius immediately felt better and healthier, but The Swim Genius was trading hard carb calories for kale, and cauliflower, and energy levels became erratic. In the past The Swim Genius tried to cut carbs, and always ended up sick, and lethargic. The Swim Genius kept thinking that this was a way to increase carb sensitivity, that way once they were there, The Swim Genius could do more with them. Then carbs were put in, there would be great energy in short burst, but nothing that would carry through ultra-distance, "the goal". Additionally The Swim Genius stomach was terrible on the carb based supplements. Other medical oddities existed, The Swim Genius was always sick, there was an ongoing thought about an allergy to yeast because of the results of ionic footbaths dumping yeast on a continuous basis. In addition, constant inflammation, Enter the solution Keto.
In December 2016 The Swim Genius switched to a dietary regiment known as Keto – short for Ketosis is your liver processing fat into ketones, an efficient fuel source for the body. The Swim Genius's diet was so close at that point, the biggest adjustment was ditching the morning bowl of cereal, for a bowl of berries, and full fat yogurt. This change reduced the carbohydrate load dramatically, and curbed the “obvious carbs” all together. What is an obvious carb? An obvious carb is any source of bread, or sugar. The Swim Genius believes, if the wrapper crinkles when you are trying to get at the food, you should probably not eat it. Breads, candy, soda/pop, yeah 80% of the grocery store. The non-obvious carbs are generally vegetable based, and are more than enough to cover the needed carbohydrate requirements of the body. Why do you need carbs? The body will run for the most part on ketones, with one big exception. Your red blood cells cannot run on ketones, and if that system is damaged, it results in keto acidosis. After switching, The Swim Genius quickly began feeling amazing, distances took off, and in one month The Swim Genius surged ahead of a six months a training schedule upswing and completed a 36 mile swim in June 2017.
The Swim Genius also self-diagnosed a yeast sensitivity, including all things fermented, and not distilled. This was life changing, and The Swim Genius’s overall health and wellness again improved. A lifetime of illness including, ear, sinus, and upper respiratory infections were no longer a problem, thus the research, and in depth understanding of ketosis. This may be something that you look into. Start by cutting un-distilled alcohol, and all obvious carbs, aka, beer, wine, candy, and breads. Don’t worry, you’ll still be an American, that is unless you’re not.
Now, getting back to IF, and Keto. Sugar, is a drug, and causes inflammation. The Swim Genius calls it a drug because when it was introduced to Europe it was used as a recreational drug. Think Mediterranean diet, on a quick influx of sugar; going from detoxifying bitters, to sweet fast energy would jolt the system. This classification is as honest an assessment of its addictive qualities. These qualities have been assessed in a study where they gave mice the choice between Oreo cream, and Cocaine. The mice chose Oreo cream every time!
Back to the insulin factor question, sugar comes in a four calories per gram, requiring insulin to break down, and is an ineffective long term fuel source. Protein, also four calories per gram is excellent, and will maintain strength, repair the body but takes about the same amount of Insulin to convert to energy as carbs, it just takes far more calories to convert at a 3 / 28 ratio. Then we have fat, 9 calories per gram, slow burning, and does not require insulin to break down because the energy conversion is handled by the liver. This is why we can survive roughly 72 days without food, we have a metabolic system that can cutinize itself. There can be trouble here, inflammation can happen, and result in keto acidosis. In short Red blood cells will not run on ketones, they require sugar to perform their role in the body. If they are not able to efficiently perform healing, immunity, and detoxification tasks, the body will turn on itself. You need sugar, but an appropriate amount, this can be tracked using strips. The trick is, at least 30 gram, safer at 50 gram of carbohydrates in a day, preferably from green/vegetable sources. This is easily handled, even if you cut all “obvious carbs”.
Food hack for good immunity that fits keto : every day… Pomegranate, onion, garlic, mushroom, broccoli, cauliflower, leafy greens, seeds, and nuts. All berries are superfood, as many berries as you would like, they will fill in as quick sugars in a pinch, and the antioxidant / nutritional gain will outweigh the sugar intake, and detox the body. The Swim Genius uses high fat dairy, along with seeds, and nuts for energy and protein. The Swim Genius also uses MCT oil to initiate keto burn. MCT oil was originally used to treat epilepsy, personally, it calms The Swim Genius down, and it’s direct line keto energy, c8, c10 breaches the energy barrier of the liver without processing and is energy in a bottle etc… science for another day. The Swim Genius balances out at 90% vegetarian, 10% Atkins diet, and it seems to be good, less the recovery concerns that would cause The Swim Genius to become a true vegetarian. If you are already there, congratulations. Tip: Romaine leaves, are a great substitute for all things you would wrap in a bread.
One last note, as you take on this challenge you may detox rapidly. Fat stores toxins, and as you decrease your fat percentages those toxins release back into your blood stream. If you are not able to detox these quickly enough, side effects can include headaches, and lethargy. Don’t become discouraged, despite all of the hype, in The Swim Genius’s experience ionic foot baths are a legitimate way to detox, and may help. Good luck, feel free to ask questions!
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