POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Aug 31, 2010
Software engineer Quinn Carver hits the beach at 5:30 a.m. every Wednesday for a swim, except during the monthly jellyfish invasion. When he's not in the ocean, he's doing laps at the University of Hawaii pool.
Carver began swimming at the age of 6 while living with his family in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Inside the walled compound for foreigners, the pool was the only way to escape the desert heat, he explained.
"The international communities would arrange pretty much two kinds of sporting events: soccer and swimming. I have never been extremely coordinated, so by the age of 7 it was pretty clear that I belonged in the latter group," he said.
Carver's love for swimming continued in college at Penn State, where he competed as a butterflier. When shoulder problems forced him to take a break, "I felt free as a bird," he said.
But that freedom came with a price.
"It took me about five years and 50 pounds to realize that I was dependent on swimming, for my health, outlook and mental stamina," he said. "I don't know if swimming made me who I am or if I was just lucky to have found swimming at an early age. Regardless, once I understood the dependency, I was back in the water regularly."
Carver, 39, is now a devoted ocean swimmer who has conquered the 9.5-mile Maui Channel Swim relay race between Lanai and Maui and 9-mile Pailolo Channel between Maui and Molokai. He's also covered the 17.5 miles between Lanai and Kahoolawe and he crossed the 15-mile Kaulakahi Channel spanning Kauai and Niihau Sunday.
The Kealaikahiki Channel between Lanai and Kahoolawe was his most challenging swim so far, he said.
"That was my longest swim and the currents were crazy. They tend to go around the islands ... in a figure 8 pattern. It was a maximum head game just keeping calm, staying focused and gathering clues to stay on course," he said.
During the recent 2010 Surf 'n Sea North Shore Swim Series, Carver participated in three of the four races, placing first, second and third in his age group.
He also competed in his first triathlon in August. "I was first out of the water," he said.
WITH ALL THAT experience, Monday's 2.4-mile Waikiki Roughwater Swim should seem like a dip in the kiddie pool for Carver.
To stay in shape, he swims three days a week, covering at least 2.5 miles in each workout. Other days he surfs, commutes to work on his bike or goes on a 4-mile run during his lunch hour.
Carver advises other distance swimmers to learn about sports nutrition. Anyone who spends an hour or more in the water needs to refuel, he explained. He consumes about 20 grams of carbohydrates and 12 ounces of water for every hour of swimming.
"Refuel while you are in the water if you can," he said. Carver suggests tucking a PowerBar and small bottle of water in your swimsuit.
Laps in a pool at least once a week are another of Carver's recommendations, if for no other reason than to work on technique without the distractions of nature.
Ocean swimming hones a person's sense of feel, balance, direction and equilibrium, according to Carver. "You have to consider the chop, current, tide and the wind ... take the fastest course, pay attention to your environment and know where the currents are," he added.
Although Carver admits he may have lost some speed with age, he feels his stamina has improved.
"As I get older, I will keep pressing for longer distances and taking my time getting there."