Open water swimming has become the go to for my training lately. In large part I am doing open water swimming as a way to recover from the Lake Martin 100, but at the same time I need to improve in this facet of triathlon otherwise Ironman Chattanooga is going to take longer than it should. In the past training cycles for Ironman races I have swum every Friday with members of the FWTri Club. This training was extremely helpful when it comes to not just getting into the open water but also in dealing with panic attacks, which I seem to suffer from at the start of these triathlon.
Last week I was a part of two open water swimming meet-ups and had another one this morning. While having my face buried into the cold water that is both Lake Grapevine and Lake Benbrook I found myself truly focusing on form. I took stock of where my head was along with where I was pulling from. I would also ensure that I was swimming with a high elbow. All of this was being done so that I was getting the full benefit of open water swimming so early in the season.
These last two weeks were the first times I was in the lakes of North Texas since September of last year. This is exactly why I would make the obvious statement that open water swimming is not like riding a bike. The cliché that it is like riding a bike is because one a skill is learned it is not forgotten. I can attest to the fact that open water swimming is NOTHING LIKE RIDING A BIKE. There are so many differences between swimming in a pool and swimming in the open water that not jumping into the lake can certainly lead one to forgetting that skill.
During the different open water swimming sessions I noticed the following 3 items which I will have to work on during the lead up to IMTN:
- Counting Strokes: In the pool you can play ‘golf’ and try to lengthen your stroke and be more efficient. Unfortunately, for me, in the open water there is no wall and so counting strokes becomes even more imperative to setting a rhythm. Ensuring that I am swimming on a rhythm will help me know when to look up to sight.
- Bi-Lateral Breathing: In the pool while swimming I can breathe to both sides but the moment I get into the lake that skill goes out the window and I do not even attempt to breathe to both sides. Not having this skill in the open water leads to a more difficult time sighting for me as well as making the loop we do always seem longer on the way out and shorter on the way in. Balancing my breathing will allow me to balance out the feeling of ‘WHERE AM I?’ while in the water.
- Pool Endurance and Open Water Swimming Endurance: Not the same……Swimming in the pool you have the wall to break up the monotony but also to give you a break. If you swim a 100 yard or meter set fast you typically take a break and then go again. The endurance that you are working on is not exactly the same and so getting used to pacing in the lake is something that I am working on. I always feel great the moment I hit start on my watch and then 400 to 500 meters in I am looking for the lifeguard. Starting out a tad slower and allowing myself to build up the endurance needs to be a focus.
Yes, open water swimming is not like riding a bike at all. It is also not like swimming in a pool and it in itself a skill that has to be developed then sharpened with repeated trips to the lake. In order for me to get more efficient at swimming I have to make a concerted effort to get to the lake when the OWS Swim Club decides it is time to go. As of right now we are planning every Friday morning at 6:30am and maybe if we get a wild hair going on other days as well, but time will tell there.
At the ver least the spots were my open water swimming training takes place are at least gorgeous.