How do you prepare for an English Channel swim in Little Rock? Landlocked on three sides, the city borders the Arkansas River, which is considered unsafe for swimming. If you're Chris M., you train in your home Endless Pools® swimming machine.
As a paratriathlete, Chris faces an additional challenge: "I lost my right leg below the knee when I was 10," he can say matter-of-factly now. He won't let it stop him from tackling the grueling Enduroman Arch2Arc, where he'll run, swim and bike about 289 miles from London to Paris.
The length of a Channel swim varies. It's 21 miles straight across, but with strong tides, Chris expects it'll be "24 to 26 actual swim miles." "I will be the first physically challenged person to complete this race solo," he notes.
Training to Win
"I've enjoyed my Endless Pool. It works great," Chris says of his Original Endless Pool. He kept the standard 7'x14' water area and, working with our staff architects and engineers, customized it to be deeper in the middle.
The Original Endless Pool has a top speed equivalent to a 1:08/100-yard pace. With the pool's current set to it's maximum, "I can sprint and keep up with it for about 30 seconds!"
"I do intervals to build up strength. I swam each arm 5,000 strokes in three hours this Saturday!" The swim is part of his training routine, where it follows his three-hour run and two-hour bike ride. "I'm going to build from that and try to swim the event" in his Endless Pool!
7 Reasons to Train with Endless Pools
- Before buying, Chris "researched and researched" with a priority on easy indoor installation. "I did pretty much all the assembly myself, except the electrical work. That's why we chose Endless Pools." The pool is now housed in his backyard's "shop building, and I build a little deck around it."
- As a paratriathlete, he prefers to swim with no flip turns, as a traditional swimming pool requires. "The Endless Pool has none of that," he says appreciatively. "I feel like I get a much better, constant workout."
- He finds that the long, uninterrupted swims he can get in the Endless Pool have served as cross-training too. "The controlled swimming really helps with my running breathing, [and the] same thing with cycling. Getting your air in and getting a full exhale, it really helps with controlled breathing."
- He also appreciates the temperature control. Most people set the water to about 80° F, but as Chris notes, "The Channel is in the 50s. I'm going to set the temperature lower" and swim in a wetsuit. "The ability to do that at home is significant. … I can just get up in the morning, stumble out there," and start swimming.
- Chris swims with the Endless Pools underwater mirror for instant technique feedback. "I like the mirror," he notes. Like most swimmers, his technique breaks down as he gets fatigued, and the mirror lets him, in real time, identify every "weakness I need to build and make stronger."
- The same modular construction that let Chris assemble the pool indoors also gives it mobility. "If I ever move, I can disassemble my pool and it's going with me."
- "I love swimming. Growing up, we had an in-ground pool. I spent most of the summer out there." That experience informs Chris' recollection of "the nightmare of caring for [a full-size pool] and getting it ready for the season." The compact Endless Pool is easier to maintain all year round. "This is smaller, [so] my pool is always ready."
Getting Started, Giving Back
"I did my first sprint triathlon in 2013" using his standard prosthetic leg, which was designed for walking. Chris recalls quickly deciding, "I need one of those fancy legs." After years of development, "we're on version five or six" of his running blade.
Using the running blade, Chris analogizes, "is like showing up to a NASCAR race with a NASCAR [car]; my walking leg is like showing up to a NASCAR race with a blown head gasket and three flat tires."
After feeling a sense of accomplishment in shorter races, he's "recently gotten into crazy long-distance races." He also started racing to give back.
This spring, he participated in the Boston Marathon as "a guide runner for the first 20K" to a fellow amputee who didn't finish the 2013 Marathon due to the bombing. The opportunity to assist "allows a mobility-impaired runner trying to help friends with mobility impairments to participate."
No doubt, Chris intends to take some of that "Boston Strong" spirit overseas for the late-summer Arch2Arc. We wish him all the best!