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Going the Distance: An Interview with Marathon Swimmer Jen Schumacher

Jen Schumacher poses in the ocean.

“Trust in your skills and preparation, focus on what you have control over, and remember why you love this sport.”

Jen Schumacher knows the open water. Most recently, Jen swam 29-miles across the LA Bay – a venture never before completed. Jen was kind enough to answer a few questions about her daily life as a marathon swimmer as well as offer advice to both novice and seasoned endurance athletes.


1. What is a typical day like for you?

A typical day involves waking up around 5am to swim. I like to start the day with a swim before heading to Cal State Fullerton, where I teach. On Mondays and Wednesdays I get a second noon swim in at CSUF with a few friends. After teaching, I either grade papers, respond to emails, consult with athletes on mental skills, or all of the above. Then I head home to pick up my fiancé and we rock climb then enjoy dinner together. Weekends are a bit more flexible, and if I’m lucky I get a day to sleep in.


2. Who do you look to for swimming advice?

I get most of my swimming advice from Mike Collins, the NOVA Masters head coach I train with frequently, Gerry Rodriguez, the Tower 26 Masters coach (I attend their Wednesday morning beach sessions in Santa Monica). I also frequently ask my swim friends for stroke technique and training advice.


3. What has been your biggest setback or roadblock to success? How did you overcome it?

My biggest obstacle changes from year to year. This year it was overcoming my fear of failing another big swim. Last summer I was unsuccessful in my English Channel attempt and feared I would face a similar result in my long swim this year, the LA Bay. I talked a lot to Lenny Wiersma and Ken Ravizza, both sport psychology faculty at CSUF and mentors of mine. They have been tremendously helpful in my mental training, which I think is a huge part of marathon swimming.


4. What is your best piece of advice for nervous swimmers on race day?

On race day I think it’s best to think about all of the hard work you put in training and preparing. It’s not about stepping it up a level for race day, it’s about doing what you do every day and what you’re trained to do. Trust in your skills and preparation, focus on what you have control over, and remember why you love this sport.


5. What is your favorite or “go-to” practice set?

Any middle or long distance free set that involves a healthy amount of pulling! I rarely do the same set twice, unless there is a set I or my group collectively underperform on, then we will save it for one or two months and come back to crush it, sort of like a test set. Also, 100x100s around the holidays is a must.


6. What is your favorite event to participate in?

There are so many. I enjoy the La Jolla Rough Water Gatorman. It’s the one race I make sure to do ever year, and have a 15-year streak going and at age 7 it was one of my first open water swims. I really love the atmospheres at the Swim For Life 1-mile and La Jolla 10-mile Relay because they are both non-competitive and just fun social events that fundraise for great causes. Naples Island is another great one, but sadly it was cancelled this year. I love our open water scene in SoCal, all of the events are fun to attend and see friends.

Follow Jen on Twitter @channelswimjen.

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