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Archive for June, 2013

Getting in the Groove - Photo by Sian Proctor

Getting in the Groove – Photo by Sian Proctor

 

I have been an open water swimmer for about 5 years and have completed open water swims of varying lengths from 800 meters to over 6 miles.  I am not a professional by any means but I have had enough time and experience to become comfortable with the open water environment and offer some advice to others.  My experience has been primarily in lake waters since that is what I have access to so my advice will not include considerations unique to ocean swimming (of which there are plenty!). If you are a triathlete getting ready for your first race and it involves an OWS, or if you doing your first OWS as a stand-alone event, I recommend you consider the following things:

1. Wetsuit

  • Use one if allowed.
  • Get one that fits.
  • Rent or buy a used one to save money.
  • Practice in the open water with your wetsuit prior to your event.
  • Lube up around your neck, shoulders (if sleeveless suit), and wrists (Body glide or other).
  • Let it hang inside out to dry and store on a hanger when dry.

2. Goggles

  • Get ones that fit and don’t fog up.
  • Consider smoke color for sun protection.
  • Have several pairs the day of the race.
  • Practice adjusting them while treading in water over your head.
  • NEVER touch the lenses with your fingers.
  • Wipe them out with your tongue, then wet in water to clean.
  • To fit them at the store, stick them to your face without the strap. If they don’t fall off for about 10 seconds, they fit.

3. Sea Sickness

  • Earplugs help with motion sickness
  • Training a lot in open water helps you get over mild sea sickness

4. Breathing

  • Bilateral (both sides) will help you maintain a straight course
  • Waves and other swimmers being close may force you to breathe on one side
  • If water is wavy, time your breaths to avoid sucking in water

5. Sighting

  • Get a feel for the course (overview map) prior to the swim including any obstacles or danger areas.
  • Pick something large that is father away but in line with the buoy to site from
  • Develop a rhythm that seems to work…5 strokes, sight or 10 strokes, sight
  • Practice sighting in the pool by doing “head-up freestyle” drill for 50 – 100 m
  • Learn to sight quickly as part of your stroke and avoid stopping and going vertical
  • You can follow someone else if they are on a good line (and you can even draft)

6. Training

  • Train with longer pool sets prior to your race (1000 m or 1500 m depending on your race distance).
  • Train in open water if possible at least 3 – 4 times (or more) prior to your event. Never swim alone unless you are in an area with lifeguards present.

7. Swim Time

  • Swimming in open water always takes longer than the same distance in a pool.

8. Incidental Contact/Race Etiquette

  • Contact will occur with many people in the water. It is unavoidable.
  • It is the passing swimmers responsibility to go around the swimmer in front. If someone bumps you from behind, stay your course. They need to figure out how to go around you.
  • If you stop, don’t stop right at a buoy or you will get run over. Stop and look around you quickly to be sure you are not directly in someone’s way.

10. Swim Your Race

  • When race day comes, don’t worry about anyone else.
  • Do your warm-up and be ready when the starting horn sounds.
  • Be sure you know where to start, where to swim, and where to finish.
  • The first few minutes are a adrenaline rush so give yourself a chance to calm down and relax.
  • Find your space to swim where you can be comfortable but be aware of those around you and of the route you are swimming.
  • If you panic, just stop, relax and breathe.
  • If you need to rest, you can do so on a kayak as long as you do not make forward progress.
  • Enjoy the event and all the training and hard work you have put into swimming!

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