Lynne Cox: “Open Water Swimming Manual” | Talks At Google

LYNNE COX: Hi. Good afternoon. I’m Lynne Cox and I’m
really happy to be here with you at Google. As a background for the book
that I’ve written and you’re reading or finding out about,
I’m an open water swimmer. I started my career when I was
14 years old by swimming across the Catalina Channel. When I was 15 years old, I
swam across the English Channel and broke all records
for men and women. My time was broken by a man
named David Hart from Massachusetts. So the following year, I went
back and broke his time and swam three miles further
than the first time. So the second time I did
it, I swam 33 miles. There are many people who swim
across the English Channel and they go back again and again. And sometimes, there are
swimmers that swim 25, or 30, or 50 times even. And I decided that I didn’t
want to continue to do the same thing over and
over again. So I set the goal of swimming
across Cook Straits in a straight line between
the North and South Island of New Zealand. The distance is 10 miles. And I figured that I would swim
this crossing in five hours and try to be the first
woman to do that swim. Well instead of reaching this
point after five hours, I realized from my crew that we’d
been going backwards for five hours and that was
kind of discouraging. But the cool thing is that there
was a radio announcer on board the boat who was giving
up-to-date weather information and also he was telling
the people throughout Christchurch, New Zealand and
Wellington about the swim. And so people throughout the
country started calling in to the boat and wishing me well. And then Air New Zealand got
involved and started relaying weather information to us. And I kept swimming seven hours
into the swim, eight hours into the swim. And there was a cross-channel
ferry that came out and raised the American flag. And all the people on board
the boat came out and cheered me on. And I realized that
guilt was a really big motivating factor. And I kept swimming for more
hours and had the support of the people from all over New
Zealand by the end the swim. And when the swim was completed
after 12 hours and 2 and 1/2 minutes, we went back
by boat to the North Island and the boat almost sank a
couple times because the water was so rough. Finally, the next day, as
celebration for the swim, church bells were rung
throughout the country. And I realized then that a swim
that I did could be more than just an athletic event. That it could be something
that might bring people together. So in 1976, I started trying
to get permission to swim across the Bering Strait. And it took 11 years. I wrote to Brezhnev, Chernenko,
Andropov. And finally Gorbachev gave
approval for this swim basically a day before or a
couple days before this swim. But they had moved ships from
the South China Sea into the Bering Strait. And they spent pretty much a
million dollars on the event and opened the border for the
first time in 48 years. And when Reagan and Gorbachev
were signing the peace treaty, the INF missile treaty,
Gorbachev stood up and toasted the swim and said it showed how
close to each other the two countries are. In a straight line, it’s only
2.7 miles from Little Diomede in the United States to Big
Diomede in the Soviet Union. And it took me two hours
and six minutes. And I swam in 42 degree water,
that dropped to 38 degree, in a swimsuit, cap, and goggles. And so when Gorbachev made the
toast, President Reagan toasted him back. And then they signed the INF
missile treaty and basically helped to open the border and
diminish tensions between the two countries. After that, I went on to do
other really challenging swims and in progressively colder
and colder waters. There was a group of scientists
at UC Santa Barbara who were studying me when I was
there at college, trying to figure out how I acclimated
to the cold water. And then there was a professor
and a medical doctor named Dr. Liam Keating, who was the
world’s expert on hypothermia, who started researching me and
asking me if I’d come to London to be part of their
research study. So from these scientists, I was
able to really learn how to push further, and acclimate
to the cold, and go into colder and colder waters. In 2002, I swam 1.22 miles in 32
degrees from “Orlova,” the ship, to the shores
of Antarctica. And at the end of the swim,
there were flocks of penguins that jumped into the water and
swam out to meet us and then went into shore with us. And you could see them just
dolphining through the water. And then you can see them in
the water because the water was so clear, it was like
looking through the sky. But it was so cold, that it felt
like it was like swimming through slush. I swam for 25 minutes in
32 degree water and succeeded on that swim. And then I’ve written now– this actually is
my fifth book. My first book was called
“Swimming to Antarctica.” And it was about a lot of those
swims and a lot more, about the adventures, about the
people, about what you learn on these different journeys. And then I went on to write a
book called “Grayson.” And that was about a baby gray whale
that got lost off the coast of Seal Beach while I
was training to swim the Catalina Channel the
second time. And that book was a best seller,
as was “Swimming to Antarctica.” And “Grayson”
is now translated into 20 languages. My third book was “South with
the Sun.” And it’s about polar exploration and Amundsen, who
was the first man to reach the South Pole. And I wrote about him because
I was so inspired by him. But I think that as athletes
and as people who read and people who have traveled, we’re
adventures and we’re exploring our limits and
we’re exploring the possibilities of life. And so I really felt it was
so important to be able to incorporate Amundsen’s journey
with who mentored him, and who he mentored, and then to follow
the course of his journey and do certain
swims along the way. So I swam off of Greenland. The water temperature there was
28.8 and dropped to 26.6, in a swimsuit, cap,
and goggles. I just swam a quarter
of mile for five minutes and 10 seconds. But that was as far as
I’d ever gone before. And the idea was that I’d go
back home to train for another month and then went back to
swim in Baffin Island. And it was really wild to go
there because when you land there by plane– I had a crew member with me. We landed in July and we had to
wait seven days for the ice to break for me to be
able to do the swim. So we swam between the broken
ice, and the water was primarily 28.8 degrees, and I
swam a mile in swimsuit, cap, and goggles. Part of this was still for the
research and to look at how you could acclimate to the cold,
but also survival and better ways of rewarming
after cold exposure. I did a number of other
swims after that. And then decided that I really
needed to write a book for open water swimming people,
people that were triathletes, or runners, or cyclists, or
paddlers, or people who were going into the open water. Because I felt like through all
these years, now 40 years of doing these different swims,
that there was a wealth of information that had been
given to me by people who were elite athletes, from runners,
to swimmers, to astronauts. And so I decided that I really
needed to write this open water swimming manual to be able
to give people access to that information. But in writing the book, I
also realized that it was really important to continue
to go out and ask experts stuff I didn’t know, that
would make the book more interesting. And what I also wanted to do
is incorporate anecdotes so that the story would be really
readable and that you would get lots of information, but you
enjoy it as you read it. Recently, I think a couple weeks
ago, Michael Bamberger, who’s a senior editor for
“Sports Illustrated” did a review on the book and basically
said it was a great summer read, in addition to
being a great book that is like Jim Fixx’s book, who wrote
about “The Complete Book of Running.” So he sort of sees this
whole era now as the next running era. The slimming has taken over in
terms of people wanting to go into the open water and swim. People who are older athletes,
who are sort of beaten up by their sport and now want to try
something new or people who have done their sport for
a long time and just really want the challenge of swimming
in the open water. One of the things that I was
really, really, really lucky about doing was the US Navy
SEALs offered to let me come to Coronado Island in San Diego
area to learn from them and to find out how they were
able to risk manage and make the swim safer for the SEAL
trainees and for the more elite SEAL officers, who train
there to go off on missions into far off places. And so they allowed me to spend
off and on two years learning from them and
asking questions. And I was able to capture a lot
of their anecdotes and put them in the book as
a way to say– for instance, there was one
officer who told me about his experience of going into
hypothermia, where his temperature dropped severely and
he was extremely cold and he was in a bad state. And being able to tell that
story, I was able to also explain what hypothermia is,
what you look like, or somebody looks like when they go
into hypothermia, and what to do if somebody is in
a hypothermic state. And I was able to draw on
the expertise of Gordon Giesbrecht, who is the expert
up in Manitoba, Canada, who can tell you all about the
physiology behind hypothermia. In addition, I was able to then
talk about what to do to prevent hypothermia and how to
condition for colder waters so that you prepare in advance so
you don’t experience this. The other thing that I was
trying to do is explain that when you’re in the open water,
it’s this great adventure where you get to see things you
would never see on land. A good friend of mine, her
name is Cindy Hunter, and she’s a marine biologist at
the University of Hawaii. And so she, for instance, gave
me her take on what it is like for her to look at coral reefs
and their significance. And what happens if, for
instance, you knock off an inch piece of that coral. And if you do, and if you get
stung by the coral, then there’s a whole chapter in there
of what to do if you get stung by jellyfish or sting
rays or coral, and how to enjoy the water a lot more, and
how to swim more safely. And really the reason for the
book was to help people have fun in the water and to connect
with other people who are really out there
and enjoying it. So instead of just talking on
and on, I just thought maybe I would open this up to see if you
might have some questions about the book, or about open
water swimming, or about anything that may pertain
to the subject? We’ll see. AUDIENCE: How do you prepare
to go into such cold water? LYNNE COX: How do I prepare to
go into such cold water? Actually, I started preparing
for cold water when I was 14 years old. That was the first time I swam
across Catalina Channel. The water temperature there
was about 70 degrees. And my dad suggested that what
we do to prepare for it– there were three other
14-year-olds and one other 12-year-old that were planning
to do the swim. And so what we did is we only
swam in the ocean so that our bodies would start to acclimate
to the colder water temperature. The pool temperature
was 76 degrees. And we found that if we swam
in the pool, we’d overheat. We’d start sweating and
turn bright red. So by swimming only in the
ocean, that started our acclimatization process. But we also did things
like during– it was summer and fall. So I only trained with this
group of swimmers for about six weeks. They had been training
for a year. But I had been training with
Don Gambril, who was the US Olympic coach. So I was sort of trying to
acclimate very quickly. And my dad suggested that I
sleep with the windows open at night, and that I only sleep
with a sheet, and don’t wear heavy pajamas, and wear sandals,
and try to get my body used to a colder
temperature. So that’s what I did for the
Catalina Channel swim. The English Channel swim was
significantly colder. It was 56 degrees. And so all winter long, I’d
leave the windows open. I’d wear very light
clothes in winter. In Southern California, the air
temperature gets down to 48 degrees. So that helped a lot. But I basically, through
the years, did colder and longer swims. So the Bering Strait swim was
in 38 degree water for two hours and six minutes. The swim in the Antarctic
was just 25 minutes and 32 degrees. I really had a hard time
training for that because the coldest water I could get into
was in Ushuaia, Argentina, at the very tip of Argentina, and
the water temperature there was 42 degrees. So what I did is I tried to work
out in a way that I swam slower to cool my body down
a little bit more. But I also trained putting
in my face in the water. So that would cool my body
down a little faster too. You lose 80% of heat
through your head. So I thought, OK, during
training I’ll get a little bit colder than I normally would. And then when I went down to
Antarctica, when I actually did the swim from the ship to
the shores of Antarctica, I swam head up like a
water polo player. Because you lose 80% of heat
through your head, you lose the heat really,
really quickly. So I thought if I swam head up
for the majority of the swim, I’d be able to contain
more heat in my body. I also did a few weird
things, but whatever. Because you’re doing things that
have never been done and you don’t know how it’s
going to work. So you’re going to just try
a variety of things. I always look at nature to
see what’s possible. And when you look at penguins,
there like this big, like the Gentoo penguins. And they’re like kind of rotund
or cylinder shaped. And their body is really amply
coated with body fat and it’s really well distributed. And then outside the layer
of body fat are feathers. So there’s this air insulation
that exists between the body and the feathers. And that’s what really keeps
them warm is the air between the two, and their body fat. So I figured what I’ll do before
I swim in Antarctica is I’ll grow my hair really long. And I’ll wind it up and pile it
on top of my head and put it under my bathing cap. And I won’t squish
out the air. And when I swim, I’ll swim
head up and maybe I can contain my body heat better. There were other things that I
did to try to help me that again nobody had ever
done this before. And I don’t think anyone ever
really wanted to do it anyway. So it was a really big
stretch for me. So I do know that one of the
side effects of hypothermia is that you become dehydrated and
that also helps to contribute to becoming hypodermic. So before my swim in Antarctica,
I decided, OK, you need to make your body
like a thermos. Because you’ve got basically
your body, your body fat, and then your skin. And your skin will close down
the blood flow really well. That’s what it’s been
trained to do. And it’ll close it down and
it’ll move it from the extremities into the core of
your body to protect your brain and vital organs. But I thought maybe if I can
warm up my core temperature before I start swimming, maybe
that will help me on the swim. So what I did is I drank four
8 ounces of really hot water to put into the thermos before
I started the swim. And then because of the research
I’ve been doing, we wound up getting a pre-core
temperature before I swam. My body temperature was up to
102 before I started the swim. And then after the swim was
over, we couldn’t get an immediate core temperature,
but it was down to 97. And within an hour, it
was back up to 102. So my body has learned how to
get back up to my normal temperature very quickly. But the other thing that it
learned to do too is that through time, through all these
years of training and acclimating to the colder water,
the researchers found that my body temperature learned
how to lower itself. So that my normal temperature
wasn’t 98.7, it was more like 97.6. So the way they explained that
acclimatization was that I was able to lower my thermostat so
my body didn’t have to work as hard to stay warm. And then to continue with your
question actually, I think that the training that I’ve
done has been really progressive through many,
many, many years. And I’ve had basically lowered
the temperature that I’ve been swimming in very gradually
and then tried to go further in it. The swim that I did off
Greenland in 28.8, that dropped to 26.6, I really
couldn’t train for that. That’s not a great thing. But I had done the swim
in Antarctica. And I really didn’t think
there’d be a huge difference between 32 degree
water and 28. I didn’t realize it
would drop to 26. And I was really wrong. There was a huge difference
between 32 degrees and 26 degrees. And it made me think of a whole
bunch of things like when you get below a certain
degree temperature water, is the effect of the cold
exponential? Does your body lose heat more
rapidly than if the water was 56 degrees and it
dropped to 50? I don’t know. I know though that when you’re
training for different swims, if you swim in fresh water
that’s 70 degrees and if you swim in 70 degree salt water,
the fresh water will always feel cooler than
the salt water. And I don’t know what that is. And I’ve asked physicists
and I’ve asked all sorts of people. But there’s just a
real difference. And then I thought well maybe
here more buoyant in the salt water so you have less of your
body exposed, so maybe you don’t feel the water temperature
as much or maybe the salt in the water blocks
your perception of it. And when you swim for so long,
you think about a lot of different things. And I think a lot of it too is
you’re always looking for how can I do this better, how can
I reach further, what can I learn from what I’ve just done,
what can I learn from people around me that have had
similar experiences, and how can I integrate that and try
to do something more? So that’s sort of how I
acclimate to the cold. Any more questions? Yeah? AUDIENCE: Hi. LYNNE COX: Hi. AUDIENCE: Yeah. I was just wondering like in
terms of the whole building awareness and social media
didn’t exist back then. And like I can’t just go to my
neighborhood post office and write Gorbachev. Like how do you make these
connections, and how do you raise the awareness, and get
yourself out there so that people actually know this is
what I’m doing, come support me, and get the support from I
guess the whole countries from the leadership standpoint? LYNNE COX: What a
great question. I mean it was incredible. I didn’t have Google back
then in 1987 to be able to get the support. Or I didn’t know anything about
it to do these swims. And so I wound up just starting
off with what I knew. And what I knew was first to
start off by contacting the local congressman, who actually
thought that the swim across the Bering Strait for
instance might be possible. So he wound up writing a letter
to the Soviet Embassy. And then I realized that it was
time to contact the State Department. But I didn’t know
who to contact. So I started writing letters
to George Shultz. And I’m talking about the Bering
Strait swim because that was 11 years of trying to
figure out how to open the border between the US and
the Soviet Union. And the other part of that swim
that was so difficult was that nobody believes that the
Soviets would open the border. That was number one. Number two, nobody believed that
anyone could swim in a bathing suit, cap, and goggles
in 38 degree water. So when you’re trying to get
support for something like that and convince people that
this is possible and it can happen, it’s really difficult
to convince them. So I wrote letters to people
every single day. And I just kept trying. As I was swimming and working
out, I was thinking about who else can I contact? Who else do I know who
might know somebody? And I had friends who were
mountain climbers, who knew Armand Hammer. So I went to Armand Hammer,
who was the huge Occidental Oil guy. And his assistant wound up
writing to the Soviet consul general to the US, based
in San Francisco. So I went up to see him
and met with him. And he really took this project
on and believed it might be possible. But what initially happened was
I wrote to Brezhnev and never heard back. He died. And I wrote to Andropov
and he died. And I wrote to Chernenko
and he died. And I wrote to Brezhnev
and I think that he decided to answer me. The other part was I had written
to Bob Walsh, who was hired by Ted Turner to put
on the Goodwill Games. And so through that channel,
I was able to reach Gorbachev’s assistant. And through that communication
channel, that’s how we got Gorbachev’s– his attention. In the meantime, the press
started picking up on that I was going to go do the swim
and I didn’t know if the commission would come through. So my goal was to go halfway,
to reach as far as I could. And with the press getting
behind it, and then ABC covered it, and then the “LA
Times” covered it, and the media made this big deal of
it, we were able to take a video and send it through our
contacts to the Kremlin. But that was the other thing. It’s like what’s the address
for the Kremlin? How do I get a video
to Gorbachev? I mean I don’t know
any of this stuff. And I contacted a former Russian
history professor from college, who told me who
to talk to at the State Department. And then I found that there
was something called the Russian desk. So I contacted the Russian desk
person, who was really engaged in this whole thing. His name was Ed Salazar. He was like this is
the best idea. After 10 years of working
at it, somebody going this is fantastic. So he jumped on board. And then because of him,
then the Assistant Secretary of State. And then US Ambassador to
Russia, the Russian Ambassador to the US– oh, Soviet
Ambassador to the US. And I eventually started
building this team. And then got Senator Frank
McCloskey from Alaska. I mean it just continued. It snowballed. And basically the day before
the swim happened, we got a call from Senator McCloskey’s
office saying that the clearance had come through for
the swim and we could do it. And it was so exciting to have
worked for 11 years and have this huge dream, and this huge
hope that the border could be opened between the two
countries, and to have the phone call saying yes,
it’s possible. But in my head, I had been
thinking all this time that I’m only going to be
able to go halfway. And suddenly I’m thinking,
oh my gosh, I got to go all the way now. And so it sort of like
shifted everything. And the other part that was
really exciting was that we had supporters from Little
Diomede Island who were Inuit, who had had family on
Big Diomede Island. But they had all been
moved by the Soviets to mainland Siberia. So they had lost contact with
their family for 48 years. So we were allowed two
cruise boats to go across the Bering Strait. And they didn’t have
to have visas. It was agreed in advance by
telex, there weren’t faxes then, by telex that we’d have
these two umiak boats, which were two walrus skin boats
that were 30 feet long. And they would accompany me
along the swim, along with AP, and “Los Angeles Times,” and
ABC, and a bunch of media that would be there to document the
swim and to document the border opening. And the hard thing that happened
was that suddenly all of the people in the community
wanted to go across with us. So they’re pulling out
all these umiaks. And many of them that hadn’t
been used for a couple years and their skins were
stretched out. And the gut that they used to
sew the skins to the frame weren’t really tight. So I’m thinking, oh my gosh,
we don’t have enough life jackets in the boat for them. And what happens if something
goes wrong? And there’s a point where I
just go, you know, I can’t take care of all this. I just have to do the
swim and hope that everything will work out. And I thought well, if something
goes wrong maybe the Soviets will come in and
rescue our crew. So it was a really wild and
crazy, but that was the swim. And it really took forever,
but it opened the border. And that was in August of ’87. In December, President Gorbachev
and President Reagan were meeting at the White
House to sign the IMF missile treaty. And it was their first summit. And President Gorbachev and
President Reagan stood up. And President Gorbachev raised
his glass and said, it took a daring American girl by the
name of Lynne Cox just two hours to swim between
our two countries. And it said it showed how close
to each other the two countries are and how the
relations between the two countries were improving. And it made me feel like wow,
you can have a huge dream. And you can go to a lot of
people who will help you and you can make it happen. And after that, the border
between the two countries was opened. And the people that have lived
on Little Diomede Island that hadn’t seen their families for
48 years, were able to go back and forth freely. And they created an
international park up further in the Bering Strait that was
co-administered between the US and the Soviet Union. And then commercial stuff
opened up, where Alaska Airlines started to fly from
Alaska directly to the Siberian and the Far East. And fishing stuff changed. And there were big changes that
resulted in that tiny, little effort. But it was really fantastic. It was really so cool Any– you had, yes? AUDIENCE: It’s on. OK. You said the longest swim,
how long was it? It was seven hours? LYNNE COX: The longest swim
I swam was when I was 14 years old. And I swam 12 hours
and 36 minutes across Catalina Channel. When I swam the English
Channel the first time, I swam 30 miles. The second time I
swam 33 miles. AUDIENCE: So my question is what
do you do for nutrition and hydration to keep fueled
throughout that whole time? LYNNE COX: Actually,
I’m still learning how to do that better. Initially when I swam the
English Channel, water bottles hadn’t been invented yet. So my mom came up with the
idea of using old shampoo bottles and using that
for our feeding. And we would try all sorts of
things like hot tea with honey or hot orange juice, which
is absolutely disgusting. We tried hot cocoa. But that was not good with the
salt that you would get in your mouth for hours. You’d have like salt in. So you had to figure out a fluid
that could warm you up, that would taste good, and that
would give you energy. And I finally came up
with warm apple cider, warm apple juice. Because it was something that
would coat my throat. It with something that was a
simple sugar that moms give their kids, babies, as
their first drink. You know the first fruit
drink that they get usually is apple juice. It’s easy to digest. So I figured I would use
that for my swam. So I periodically, on
the English Channel I’d feed every hour. And I’d have a small,
half glass, or– yeah, have a cup of apple
juice or maybe a cup. And then the other thing I would
have would be oatmeal cookies, oatmeal
raisin cookies. Because when you swim for long
periods of time, you get really hungry. And I’ve always wanted
solid food. I haven’t enjoyed drinking
whatever it is that you’re supposed to drink. So it’s really interesting
though because my roommate in college was Sandy Nielsen. And she was the gold medalist
in the ’72 games in the 100-meter freestyle. And we were talking about
our training. And we were talking about
what we ate one day. And I said, Sandy, what did you
eat before you got your gold medal in the
100 freestyle? She said I had big bowl of
oatmeal with raisins. I’m like amazing, that you find
the same things coming from different sports. The other thing that I’ve done
through the years is I’ve really gone to other athletes
to learn from them. And a good friend does
ultra-marathon runs. She’s Kathy Kusner. She was a gold medalist in the
’76 games in horse jumping. And she went on to become
a marathon runner and an ultra-marathon runner. And she’s 73 now. But she was doing 100-mile
runs until she was 70. And now, she just
does marathons. That’s all she does now,
a real slacker. But she also eats very simply. And she eats oatmeal. And she doesn’t do the
high-tech, high-power, high-fuel stuff. Because a lot of that stuff
causes gastric dumping. It causes gas and makes you
really comfortable. And so she goes more with
water and fruit juice. And her friend though, and I
haven’t tried this out yet, who does ultra-marathon runs,
she’s probably in her 50s. She is now trying to eat
avocados during the runs because you want a high fat or
she wants a high-fat, energy substance to eat. And she says avocados are
really easy to eat. And I’m thinking, wow, with all
the salt in your throat, that would be like guacamole. But I mean the other thing that
I learned from her and her friends are that on their
long-distance marathon runs, they cut up peanut butter and
jelly sandwiches and eat pieces of them during
their runs. And I thought wow,
that’s so wild. Because before my swim across
the Beagle Channel at the very tip of South America, I decided
that I needed to try something new. And I wound up eating bagels
with peanut butter and jelly. And that gave me energy
and sustained me. It sort of just sat there
for the whole swim. So I think though there’s no
answer for anyone to say this is what you need to drink and
this is how you need to feed. I think it’s really about trying
out what will work for you and what you’re
happy with. Just like you might like a
certain food or you might be allergic to a certain food, what
works for you might not work for somebody else. I think now that open water
swimmers who are doing five and 10 miles swims are feeding
more frequently. They’re feeding every
20 minutes or so. And they’re short feedings. Because every time you stop to
feed, you start to get cold. And I learned that when you do
that, you sort of never get back to where you were
before you stopped. You always feel that cold moving
a little bit deeper into your body. So I don’t really like
to stop and feed. And when I do those really cool
swims, I don’t stop for anything because your
body temperature gets lowered so quickly. And that’s the other
thing that happens. On these swims, and you might
experience it if you’re doing some of these open water swims
or during triathlons during the swimming phase, your
temperature can drop because you’ve been swimming in cooler
water and your skin’s exposed to the colder water. And then you get out
and you vasodilate. You start to open the blood flow
from the peripheral area and it goes into your core. And then you notice
that you’re cold. That’s called “afterdrop.” What I’ve learned from the swim
in Greenland was that in the past I had sort of stopped,
and put warm clothes on, and drank warm fluids. Not hot foods because your lips
are cooled down to the water temperature. So the last thing you want to
start drinking is hot fluids because you’ll just scorch
your lips and mouth. So you wanted to start
off with warm fluids. But what I learned after the
swim in Greenland, or what I thought about, was instead of
just stopping in shivering, and then warming my body up that
way, and then drinking warm fluids, what I’ll do
instead is I’ll walk through the town of Illulissat, which
is very, very, very hilly. I’ll make sure I have
my sweatsuit on. And I’ll go back to the
hotel that way. So after half an hour walk, my
core temperature had warmed up significantly. And I’d get into a shower
that was just cool. And then within 20 minutes,
I warmed it up to warmer, then hot. And it was back to normal. Whereas in Antarctica, I
shivered for an hour straight and felt really uncomfortable
and exhausted by shivering for an hour straight. And then after that took
a warm shower. One of the things that I wrote
about in this book that’s so important, that I learned from
the Gordon Giesbrecht, the world’s expert on hypothermia,
is that if somebody is ever hypothermic, never put
them in a hot shower. Because if you put them in a hot
shower, it causes them to vasodilate, dilate open the
blood flow along the surface of the body, and it will throw
the cold blood into the core. And it can cause their whole
system to collapse and they can die. So there are people that do
these cold swims that say we go right into the sauna
afterwards. And I also hear about those
who go into the sauna afterwards often pass out. And it’s because of that shift
in blood moving in and out. So just one of those things
that’s really important, that I sort of noted in a big
way in the book. Yeah? AUDIENCE: So for people who are
just getting started with open water swimming, what are
the key dangers, watch-outs, and key skills that you need in
order to be safe doing it? LYNNE COX: Well, that’s the
big part of the book. Maybe I’ll just give it
from my experience. Before I do any swim
anywhere, I spend– it depends on the swim– but if I was to go swimming off
Brighton Beach right now, I would be asking– first, I’d try to find out if
there’s someplace around here where they measure water quality
and find out is the water clean? Because I’m swimming because
I want to be healthy. I don’t want to go swimming
and get sick. That’s the last thing
I want to do. So I’d find out about the water
quality in the area. Then I would contact the captain
of the lifeguards and find are there problems with
sting rays, jellyfish, sharks? Are there certain times of the
year where it’s better to swim and where there aren’t
better times to swim? What’s the prevailing current? Is there a big temperature
change from cold to hot? And then I would continue
through friends who are swimmers to gather
information. And then I compare
that information. Because one person might tell
you one thing and somebody might tell you something else. And one might be right and
the other might not be. So I usually sort of
triangulated every answer that I got to see if I could get that
same answer repetitively. And then I would use that
as OK, that’s what I’m going to do now. Actually, I think that it’s
a really methodical and progressive way of doing
the research. Now, I have Google. And you won’t believe
how much I use it to be able to ask questions. And Google Scholar,
it’s like oh, my gosh, this is so fantastic. And then to access people and to
be able to track them down and ask individuals who
know stuff about the environment or the water. And I do all that first. And then I will go to the beach
and I’ll talk to the lifeguard or a number of
lifeguards on the beach. And ask them about the current,
how fast it flows, which way it goes, are
their rip tides? Are there things that I
need to be concerned about in the water? I remember training for Cook
Strait in an area called Island Bay, New Zealand. And it was this beautiful
bay that was really well protected. It was just like lapis
blue water, so clear. And I get in there and
started swimming. And I was doing a really
good work out. And I decided I need
to pick up my pace. And I hadn’t even thought, I
mean this was when I was 17 years old, so I hadn’t even
thought of asking is there anything I should know
about this waterway before I get in it? And I had worked with the
local lifeguards. But I still didn’t ask
that question. So I was swimming along and I
ran head first into a piling. And I came out afterwards and
said did you guys know there was a piling over there? It’s like, oh yeah, that used
to be part of the old pier. I’m like, ah. So honestly, you don’t want
to get injured while you’re doing your swim. So that was the other thing is
are there other questions that I haven’t asked you, but that
I should know about? Because I really am not from
this area and I’m just trying to learn before I get in. And so that sort of endears you
to the local people too. And they can’t help
you enough. And that’s what’s so cool
about this open water, triathlon, athlete community. People will really
help you out. But that’s really what makes it
fun too, to be able to swim with somebody and share that
experience afterwards. I think though I spent a lot
of time, maybe an hour. And then the other thing that
I do, because of doing the research for this book, I met a
man named Shawn Collins, who started And it’s the premier place for
surfers to go online to find out what’s going on with the
surf around the world. And he was so cool because he
could look at weather systems around the world and figure out
where a storm was being generated off Fiji, and the
speed of the storm, and the height of the waves that would
occur from that storm. And he could do that looking at
all the charts and find– I mean the weather information
and weather maps. And he could also do that
with the Pacific Northwest or whatever. And I was at his home one day
in Seal Beach, California. And we were sitting there,
looking out at the water. And he was watching the
waves coming in and breaking on shore. And he says oh, that’s from
the storm off Hawaii. That’s from the storm off
Washington state. That’s from the storm
off Fiji. And he could tell by looking
at the waves. He said each one has
a fingerprint. And I’m like wow. I spent my life in the ocean
and I didn’t know that. And he gave me this new,
beautiful way and awareness of looking at the waves. But I would also check to find out about what the wave situations
are before I go. Yeah? AUDIENCE: I’m wondering if you
ever had any close encounters with marine life– LYNNE COX: Oh, I’ve had– AUDIENCE: –or interesting
stories? LYNNE COX: I’ve had
lots of close encounters with marine life. Sometimes its been really
wonderful and exciting. And sometimes it’s been
really not so great. The wonderful one was my second
book, where I had a baby gray whale, who was
swimming underneath me in the early morning. I was training. I would never train
this way now. But when I was 17 years old, I
was training just outside the wave break before the
Sun has risen. And I felt something very big
swimming underneath me. And I kept swimming the
half mile to the jetty and turned around. And I started swimming
back faster. And I kept thinking,
is it’s a seal? It’s like no, it’s
big for a seal. Is it a dolphin? No, it’s not a dolphin. And I couldn’t see what
was below me. So I just swam faster. And then got to the pier and
decided to get out of the water and saw an old
fishermen, named Steve, who I knew. And he was waving to
me to come out to the end of the pair. So I did. And he explained that I had a
baby great whale, who had lost his mom, who had been
following me. And that I needed to stay
in the water and help him find his mom. So if was like how
do you do that? But I just thought
OK, I’ll do that. And so for the next five
hours, we swam all over that area. And eventually mom showed up. So that was like one of
the most wonderful experiences in swimming. There was a swim that I did,
that I wrote in the book “Swimming to Antarctica. And I was trying to become the
first person to swim around the Cape of Good Hope from
the Indian Ocean– I mean, sorry– from the
Atlantic Ocean around into the Indian Ocean. And where those two oceans meet,
there is huge current and lots of upwelling. And it’s very difficult
to swim there. But because of the upwelling
and the current, there’s a lot to fish. And because there’s
lots of fish, there’s lots of sea lions. And because there’s
lots of sea lions, there’s mega sharks. And so in preparation for that
swim, there were four guys who were from the Special Forces
team, South African Special Forces team, who agreed to be in
the water spotting for me. So they were taking turns. Every 20 minutes, one guy would
jump in and hold onto a rope and have a spear gun in
his hand, with a mask and snorkel on, and watch
for sharks. And then after 20 minutes, the
other guy would jump in. Well, I was about 400 meters
from finishing the swim and Doug, the diver who was next to
me, suddenly disappeared. And I had a Zodiac boat
off to my right for additional support. So I was yelling at the crew. They were saying,
where’s Doug? And they were looking and they
couldn’t see anything because the water was so rough. So I yelled to the people in the
other boat where Doug was supposed to be attached
to, the 40-foot boat. And they couldn’t
see him either. So the crew started yelling
at me just to swim faster. And two South Africa swimmers,
who were on board the boat, jumped in the water to swim with
me, to make me go faster. And I’m thinking, I don’t need
anyone to make me go faster. I know that there’s something
going on here. And wow, you’re swimming
with me. So we sprinted to shore. And then when we landed on
shore, Doug came ashore in the Zodiac boat. And he was stretching out the
spear from a spear gun, which is about that long and it was
about half a inch in diameter. And he said that he shot a
bronze Whaler shark, which is a migratory shark that
only comes there in December and January. He shot the shark in
the dorsal fin. And the shark just turned and
bit the spear, and bent it in half, and pulled it out of
its fin, and swam away. So he said that he was concerned
that the blood in the water would attract
more sharks. And I said I was too. And that there was no problem
because we sprinted to shore. But we had prepared for it. The other option for that swim
would have been to swim in a shark cage. The problem with swimming
in a shark cage is that you get 30% drag. So you’re not making it
under your own power. But the other thing about the
Cape of Good Hope is because it’s at the tip of Africa, it
encounters lots of storms by just sitting there
the way it is. And so there are waves that come
up from Antarctica, that in the winter, are between 80
and 90 feet, that break on shore there. In summer time, they’re
a lot smaller. They’re between 20
and 30 feet. There are rogue waves
that just suddenly appear out of nowhere. So we figured out though that
if I was swimming in a cage, the wave could take the cage
down with me in it and the boat too. So we figured that in setting up
that swim, the idea to have the Special Forces guys with
me was much better than to swim in a cage. And I didn’t want to swim in the
cage because I felt like that was cheating. AUDIENCE: You shared a lot about
the external elements, like physical endurance. I’m very curious about
the inner element. And has this transformed you
as a person, and have you looked at other aspects
outside of swimming differently because of your
journey, and if you could share a few anecdotes on that? LYNNE COX: I hope I can remember
all your questions. There is a real inner journey
when you’re doing these swims because you’re in your
own little world. It’s your think tank. And so you do spend a lot of
time talking to yourself and convincing yourself. Like the Cook Strait swim, when
you’ve gone backwards for five hours and you expected to
have finished after five hours, it’s a big letdown,
a huge letdown. So I learned through that swim
that you just keep going until you get there. And I think that I learned that
to apply that to life. With my first book, “Swimming
to Antarctica,” it took 21 years to get it published. But it became a best seller
on the “New York Times” bestseller list. And then “Grayson” took a year
to write and then I think a year to get published. And that was another
best seller. So I realize that there’s this
transference that you can make from what you do in your time
that you just are spending and enjoying life to what you
take in to the bigger part of your life. I think that for me– actually I was invited
to speak in India. And I brought to Mumbai to speak
to 700 eminent people. And one family had brought
two of their sons. And there was one boy
there who was maybe 9 or 10 years old. And he said to me, what you
do must be 90% mental. That so much of it must be just
in your mind, of your ability or nonability
to do it. And I thought about
that for a minute. And I said actually you
know I could think that I could do it. And that’s a great way
to help prepare. 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 it involves all of that. And I think the other part too
is there is a spiritual part of it where that whole sense
of extending yourself, of seeing what you can do, of
trying to create more challenges and then realize
them and be able to grow through that challenge, that’s
part of what drives me to do these things. I think that life would be
really boring and not as fulfilling as– I mean just right now, going
across the country and doing the book tour, the people that
I meet, the questions that they have, the exchanges
we have, are really rich and enriching. And I feel so fortunate to have
written books and to be able to communicate ideas. And then to have people come
back with better ideas than what I’ve had or embellish
them and come up with something more. And I think that’s one
of the most rewarding parts of this journey. Did I get all the questions? AUDIENCE: Thank you. LYNNE COX: OK. Thank you. Any more? Yeah? AUDIENCE: So I’ve been lucky
enough to jump into the Hudson River two years in a
row as part of the New York City triathlon. The first year, I didn’t know
what to expect so I sort of had that moment of panic and
said OK, pull it together. This year I’m like well, you
know what’s ahead of you. But do you have any tips or
advice for like that moment of jumping in and keeping
yourself together and completing what your goal is? LYNNE COX: I totally
understand that. I was just talking to a friend
of mine who played on the national team and who was an
amazing water polo player. And he said he did his first
triathlon with 1,200 people, maybe five years ago. And he said he had that moment
where 1,200 people were being released all at once. And he said, I was so anxious. And he played water
polo and that’s a really physical sport. So we discussed that. And I think that for me the
way to not be as anxious– because like when I was going
to jump into 32 degree water off Antarctica there was a
moment I’m walking down the steps and they feel like
ice cube trays. And then I’m sitting on
it, waiting to sort of slide into the water. And I’m thinking, wow, this is
going to be really difficult, and it’s going to be cold,
and am I going to be OK? So I go back to I
train for it. I’m prepared for it. I’ve done what I needed to do
and now this is the moment I get to do it. And that’s really a great way
to start off, like finally I get to do it. Instead of like, oh, my gosh,
what’s going to go wrong? It’s like what’s going
to go right? And all the stuff I’ve learned
through all this time, how can I now apply it for
this moment? Because no matter how hard you
train, there will be stuff that comes up and it will
be something new. It was so cool, the last of
couple years I got a chance to work with the SEALs,
Navy SEALs. And what I learned from them
was that they prepare, and prepare, and train, and train,
and train, and train. And they do things so that it
becomes part of muscle memory. And so that when something weird
happens, they’ve already covered all those other bases
and then they can deal with whatever is new. And I thought that was so
helpful to be able to have that mindset of you’ve done
everything you can. But now, you’re the athlete and
you can find the balance you need to do what you need to
do and shift the thinking from oh, my god, now what,
to oh, I get to go now. I hope that helps. AUDIENCE: Did you
ever flatline? LYNNE COX: Did I ever flatline, what a great question? Yeah, actually I– ugh. OK. I once was invited to swim
in a race in Nile River. And we were supposed
to swim around two islands in the Nile. And one of my mentors was a man
named Fami Attala, who had attempted the English Channel
five times and never made it. But he had done an 80-mile swim
in the Mediterranean. He grew up in Egypt. And he told me that you’ll
have like the best swim. It’ll be the best thing. It’ll be the best experience. Because in Egypt, open water
swimming there is such a big thing that they name streets
after their heroes. Abouheif was one of their
swimmers that swam the English Channel. So he has a street named
after him in Cairo. And it’s part of their
mythology. It’s bigger than being
an NFL quarterback is in the United States. So Fami got me all excited and
set up to do the swim. And I got dysentery the week
before I swam, but decided I was the only American there representing the United States. So I had to do my best. So I jumped into the water and
swam 15 of the 20 miles and pretty much passed
out in the water. And wound up in the ER room
in Egypt, in Cairo, Egypt. Which was really kind of
fortunate because the doctor who was attending to me had
studied in Britain and spoke English fluently. And I was so upset because
I had failed. I mean I had really failed. And he couldn’t understand
why I was so upset. And I kept saying well, but I
didn’t complete the swim. And he saying, but
you don’t get it. You could have died. You were severely dehydrated. Your muscles were cramping. And you could have died. Like, yeah, but I didn’t
finish the swim. I mean I was 17 years old. I’m like aah. And so it took me years
to figure out oh, I pushed it too far. I was really dehydrated. I really could have died. And no swim is ever
worth that. So it put everything from
then on in perspective. But for a while, that
failure haunted me. Because with the Cook Strait
swim that came after that, I almost quit on that swim after
swimming for five hours and not getting anywhere. But then the support
crew continued to say you can do it. You can keep going. And so I just thought OK,
I can keep going. So 12 hours later, I made it. But that swim in the Nile
was really awful. Because it was also extremely
polluted. And I was swimming through areas
of dead rats that were floating around and dead dogs. And it was really bad. Yeah. I wouldn’t recommend it. Don’t swim in the Nile? A happier question? AUDIENCE: I was curious. Whenever I hit a certain
mileage, my foot always cramps. So what do you do? What do you do when
you have cramps? LYNNE COX: Actually,
I just grab my foot and stretch it out. And that helps to
ease the cramp. AUDIENCE: So are you always
just treading water? You have your support crew. Do you hold onto your– LYNNE COX: You never
hold onto the boat. But I don’t know if this is in
training or if this is during an actual race. If it’s during training, I would
just hold on to whatever and do that. But usually what happens with
cramps is that somebody has either their electrolytes are
out of balance and so maybe you’re aren’t having enough
calcium, or sodium chloride, or anything. Maybe you need to talk to your
doctor or whatever and find out if you should have
something more, more electrolyte replacement. The other thing that happens
though is your muscles fatigue at a certain point. And so maybe you’re not training
hard enough, those muscles in your feet, to prepare
you for the swim. Maybe they’re fatiguing and
that’s causing the cramping. Or the other thing is you
may be kicking too hard. A lot of swimmers don’t realize
that 80% of their propulsion comes from
their arms. And their legs are
more for balance. And so if you’re kicking really
hard, you’re using all the energy that could
be pulling you forward with your arms. So if you look at me swim, and I
did the long distance stuff, you’ll see my stoke
is really arms. And my legs are just balance. So you might try backing off
on you kick a little bit. So then you can use your oxygen
for your arms and pull more strongly with your
arms and see if that increases your speed. And then you don’t get the
cramps in your feet. You know, like a variety of
things you might try. AUDIENCE: I have a question. LYNNE COX: Oh, sure. AUDIENCE: So swimming for such
a long distance, how do you keep straight? LYNNE COX: When I’m swimming for
such a long distance, how do I keep straight? I always have boats with me that
are supporting me during the actual swim. So on board the boat will
be usually a doctor. And there will be lifeguards
and sometimes a paramedic. But on the big, really cold
swims, I’ve actually had three doctors there just in case
something goes wrong. Because again, I’m going to
places nobody’s been and I’ve never been. So I want to make sure
there’s back up. And they also go through this
rehearsal ahead of the swim to make sure they can
take care of me. When I’m training offshore,
I swim just outside the wave break. And I swim usually in an area,
either it’s roped off, so I know I can follow the
rope along the way. Or I swim outside
the wave break. And there’s a pier in Seal Beach
where put– there’s a tower and I put it on my back. And then in the distance, there
are three Oil Islands, White, Chaffee, and Grissom,
that were named after the Apollo 11 astronauts that were
killed in the Apollo mission. And they have lights on them. So if it’s late afternoon or
early evening, I can use those lights as my guide. So I’ll swim along
and I’ll look up. But the other thing that I do
that really helps you swim in the open water is to be able
to breathe on both sides. Because if you can breathe on
both sides, then you can see on both sides. And you can swim in a
more balanced way. But you also can see what’s
around you for safety. And so there might be a jet
skier coming off this side. And if you don’t breathe
on that side, you might not see him. Or a wind surfer on this side–
and if you only breath on this side, then you won’t
see the wind surfer and you might not hear him. So it’s just really important
to be able to see, and look, and use your eyes. That will help your
body balance. AUDIENCE: And a quick
question. Did you wear the thermal suit
or the normal bathing suit? LYNNE COX: Normal
bathing suit. Usually it’s a TYR
bathing suit. It’s just a Lycra swimsuit,
like the Lycra shorts that cyclists wear. So I’ll wear the Lycra swimsuit
because it doesn’t chafe as much. If you wear a nylon or a
polyester swim suit, that, if you’re swimming a long way, even
if it’s a short way, it can start chaffing. So I wrote all about that. So it’s all in there about
how to prepare. AUDIENCE: Thank you. LYNNE COX: Thank
you very much. FEMALE SPEAKER: That’s
all we have time for. Thank you for joining
us today. LYNNE COX: Thank
you very much. It was great. Thank you. Thank you.

Comments 10

  • "you loose 80% of heat through your head" – that is a myth that everybody knows and it is NOT TRUE nevertheless. With a little bit of using that same head one might come to that conclusion even without googling for medical websites that dispel that myth, because it just does not make any sense when you think about it.

  • I've read about her, but this is the first time I've seen her speak. She's a scientific marvel and a bit of a super heroine. Unbelievable drive and dedication.

  • "The Bering Strait swim was 2 hours." Blink. Really is amazing.

  • Does swimming in -3 °C make sense?

  • Is It -3 degrees Celsius?  (26 Fahrenheit) something is wrong           I swam at 14 degree today for 15 minutes and it is very difficult. (No suit or hat)

  • Can't believe how empty the seats are. I would love to meet this woman or see her speak.

  • She wears a sweater?!?

  • As a cold water swimmer and former Ironman, whose training for their first marathon swimmer – I've learned so much from Lynn. Lynn is very kind person and shares here vast knowledge with anyone (I've met her a couple of times and she's always taken the time to answer questions). i.e. Nutrition for a open water swimmer is VERY different than for an ironman or other endurance events.

  • Gostei do video para aperfeiçoar meu ingles

  • Lynne Cox is an inspiration, a wonderful writer, and a great human being.

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