SWIM24 – Q&A With Naro Zimmerman
Guernseyman Naro Zimmerman is training to swim non-stop for a daunting 24 hours, to raise much-needed funds for local charities This Is EPIC and the Eleanor Foundation. There is just over two weeks to go until Naro takes on this incredible challenge of mental and physical endurance.
We sat down with Naro recently and held a Q&A session with him.
What on Earth made you decide to swim in a pool for 24 hours?
I did an Ironman last year and since then I’ve been wondering what to do next, and I was reading Ross Edgley’s blog – he’s the guy who swam around Britain – and saw that he did a long pool swim in the build-up to that. I thought it would be quite cool to do something of a similar ilk, and initially I was thinking 12 hours but when I spoke to Philip [Smith] we decided that 24 hours would have more impact, so that’s how it came about.
Is swimming your favourite sport?
A lot of people who do triathlons find swimming is their weakest discipline, but I swam a lot as a junior and it’s the discipline I enjoy most and find the easiest. I swim in the sea from about the end of May – I’m a fair weather sea swimmer, although I would like to do the Channel swim at some point.
So why a pool swim rather than crossing the Channel?
With the Channel swim you’re at the mercy of the elements, you can train for six months or a year for it and then arrive in Dover and the weather turns. One of the good things about the pool swim is that I know on September 7th I’ll be getting in the water and, bar injuries, it’s going to happen no matter what. Plus I got married in May and went on honeymoon straight after so that’s taken up all my holiday for the year!
Why are you raising money for This Is EPIC and the Eleanor Foundation?
This Is EPIC immediately sprang to mind because the challenge seemed to fit with the ethos of what Philip and Warren have done before. I spoke to Philip and that kicked it off – whereas some people can’t comprehend what I want to do, he immediately got it. As for the Eleanor Foundation, Ellie Carey was a friend of mine, so that’s why I’m supporting them. The charities work well together with what they’re trying to achieve in Africa as well.
Guernsey’s a very affluent place, yes there is poverty here but not as extreme as in Africa. With the 24-hour swim, I’m hoping I can raise a decent amount of money to go towards something that would mean a lot to me personally – to change lives. Yes it’s going to hurt when I’m swimming and it’s going to be tough, but it’s out of choice and I’ll be waking up in my bed the next day and will have running water coming out of the tap, so there’s no comparison really but I think there is quite a good parallel in terms of what the guys and girls in Africa go through in a 24-hour cycle, just to live.
Congratulations on your recent marriage! You told us you were planning to train on your honeymoon; how did that work out?
My wife Sara has always been really supportive – she’s used to me doing events and disappearing for training so she’s accepted that’s how I am. She gave me the green light to train whilst we were on honeymoon, but halfway through I jumped off the side of a waterfall like a big kid, and hurt my eardrum. So I couldn’t train after that, but it’s absolutely fine now, and the honeymoon was amazing.
How is the training going now you’re back?
It’s going well, and I’ve been doing a lot more open-water swimming to give myself a break from the pool. I’ve started rejecting social invitations so I can train, but I’m feeling more and more confident as the weeks go by.
How will you keep nourished in the water?
Obviously I’ll have to stop for food. I’ve been talking to the PT at my gym about what foods to eat; I’m not going to have enough down time to process anything too complex, so it’s pretty much going to be simple sugars and carbohydrates to get me through. Obviously not too much fibre or anything like that.
Sorry to ask, but what about going to the toilet?
With continuous exercise, a lot of the food and drinks you have will be processed straight away so you’re not going to have a lot of waste. I think I’ll do very well not to get dehydrated, actually. The plan is not to get out of the water – if I absolutely have to, to avoid the pool being closed, we’ll just stop the clock and add on however long I’m out of the water. I’m interested to see how it all works!
What kind of issues do you anticipate being in chlorinated water for 24 hours might cause?
I’ve heard that motion sickness can be a problem. Also, chlorine is a lot worse for your skin than saltwater. Generally speaking when you’re in the sea for a long time you’ve got a wetsuit on so your body’s mostly covered, so my skin’s not going to be great afterwards. I’ve read that your hair falls out but that’s not going to be a problem for me, unless my eyebrows go! Ross Edgley said that after he finished his pool swim, when he brushed past anything his skin would just come away, it was so saturated, and your hands and feet obviously take in the most water. Weirdly I am interested to see what happens.
What do you think will be the hardest thing about doing the challenge?
Although physically it’s going to be hard, it’s the mental side of it that’s going to be the hardest part. So alongside my physical training I’m doing some reading and listening to podcasts about mental preparation, trying to make sure I can get myself to a point where I can stop processing a lot of thoughts. I find when I’m doing longer sessions my mind’s quite busy when I get in the pool, and that’s when I find it hardest. I need to switch off and just swim up and down.
Does the EPIC mantra ‘Never Give Up’ resonate with you?
I think everyone has a limit and I find it very interesting where people find their limits. The classic example is the marathon: everyone hits the wall and you think you can’t carry on, but generally you get through that point and for a lot of people the last mile of the marathon is their quickest, so it just goes to show that your body’s capable of a lot but your mind limits you. At some point your body will say ‘no more’, as Warren and Philip found out, but often people will stop before they get to that point because mentally they give up.
Will you appreciate having support when you’re in the pool?
Swimming up and down by yourself is lonely, so seeing friendly faces and knowing people have given up their time to support me will give me a real boost. I think that between 1am and 5am is going to be the most difficult part, because obviously your mind’s going to wonder why you aren’t sleeping, but you just have to push through it. So yes, it will be brilliant to have teams swimming alongside me and I’ll really appreciate the support.
There are two ways you can support Naro.
By donating to his personal fundraising page – Click Here
By entering a team to swim with Naro for a 1 hour slot during the 24 hour challenge – Click Here