Open Water Swim Tips

[caption id="attachment_3061" align="alignright" width="179" caption="Emerging From The Water At Toyota Us Open Championships 2010"]open-water-swimming-tips-tricks[/caption] There are a handful of races coming up and we will soon be entering into the fall race season and that means it is time to discuss open water swimming.  We all have a fear of the open water when we first get into the sport.  It could be the fact that there is no line to follow and no line to follow means we don't know where the bottom is.  There is the fact that the start of an open water swim could be like fighting Mike Tyson in his prime, or from Hangover, with fists and feet flying everywhere.  It might be that we breathe to one side and that we won't be able to spot the buoy because that is not the side we breathe to. Does this describe some of your fears of the open water as you enter into your race or maybe why you have not started to race triathlon?  I am not sure it matters how many races in the open water you do that fear will always be there, but that fear doesn't have to paralyze you.  You can use that fear and turn it into something that helps carry you through the water instead of sinking you in the water. Quick tale of my first open water swim race.  I lined up on the beach to the left away from everybody and also behind everybody.  I figured we were swimming clockwise so I was in great position.  The gun goes off and instead of holding back like I planned I gunned it into the water.  I ran hard and dove in and swam so hard you would have thought I had a motor.  Then I was gassed and I was not at the first buoy and from my right came about 400 other swimmers.  Oh no, this is not good.  I swam and swam as best I could.  I finally had  to flip over onto my back.  I backstroked and was being passed by everybody and then even by people in the next wave and the wave after that.  I wanted to grab that kayak but he looked to far away.  At this point I said to myself.....'Jason just finish the swim and then hit the bike and run'  I did just that....all on my back until I felt close enough to swim in.  My time for 500m in my first open water swim?  14+ minutes.  I was the 2nd to last person in my age group out of the water but I ran to the bike and pedaled and then transitioned to the run and ran my tail off.  I wound up finishing in the top 1/2 of my age group because I did not give up.  To this day I remember that experience and I will not let it deter me but instead I allow it to motivate me. Next weekend I am heading back to that race and I am somewhat nervous.  This time I am doing the Olympic distance and not the sprint but I am concerned about the beach start and running in and getting going.  Where do I line up?  Should I hold back and then go?  The answers to those questions is starting to come into clarity.  I am lining up on the right and right in the front and I am going to haul in the water.  I am going to try to get in the 2:30s for this Olympic race and that means that I need to swim in the 26-28 minute range for 1500 meters.  I just swam 31 minutes at CapTexTri so I know I can do this time and I am going to do it.  I am not allowing my fear to slow me down but instead to motivate and speed me through the water. We all have our stories, but here are some tips from an article that I found that discusses their Top 10 Open Water Swimming Tip for Triathlon.  The article was featured in NewToTri.com and this article was written by Article by: Alan Kipping-Ruane - TriGuy Multisport Coaching, LLC - and can be found [HERE] ===================== Open Water Race Day Secrets That The Pros Won’t Tell You Sitting down to think about some great race day tips for new triathletes seems easy, but thinking about pre-race rituals and strategies I use made me realize the many things on race day that have become automatic. Below I have outlined some race day secrets, in the hope that it makes your transition to the open water much easier! [caption id="attachment_3055" align="alignright" width="100" caption="Exiting the open water after 1.2 miles at 70.3 Ironman California"]Ironman-California-Open-Water-Swim-Exit[/caption] 1. Get Rid Of Your Fear And Just Do It If you aren’t sure what your fear is in swimming, then why have fear at all? I’m terrified sometimes by swimming in the ocean by myself so I try to avoid that when possible, but when it comes time to racing my mind goes blank and I focus on racing and nothing else. When you race, there are kayaks, lifeguards, and boats that will help you, but if the unknown strikes fear in you, focus on something positive and/or something funny to make light of your situation. Changing your thought patterns externally and internally could create the performance you were looking for. 2. Start Away From The Group Being color blind makes it very difficult for me to sight in the water, but I drift right. When racing, I will start all the way on the left and in the front because drifting right will let me head straight towards a buoy while passing everyone. Figure out how you drift and start on the opposite side. If you’re a weak swimmer, start in the back. It will be easier for you to draft and have a better idea which way the current is pushing you. 3. Have 2 Pairs Of Goggles – 1 Black & 1 Clear Early morning races mean that you might have the sun in your face when starting or finishing your swim. Having a dark colored type of goggle will give you a chance to protect your eyes and allow you to see. However, with a clear goggle, you can wear them on a cloudy day and still see.  Along with having two pairs of goggles, they are the one thing you don’t want to find out race day morning they were stepped on or have the strap broken.  Along with goggles I want to add my next point   4. No Need For Full Face Goggles You see alot of triathletes use the Navy Seal type full face goggle which almost looks like a scuba mask. The argument for them is that you can see more around you, but why would you want to? If you’re only concentrating on the people around you, your stroke starts to suffer and your hips will drop. My second reason; since the mask is connected throughout, if it starts to leak the whole goggle leaks and can affect both eyes where as having a pair that separates the eyes will only affect one eye it’s alot easier to clear the water out and go. If you can’t stop then you still have 1 eye to see out of. 5.  Wear a full sleeve wetsuit when possible There is always a huge debate that wearing a sleeveless wetsuit can be better for swimming since it doesn’t restrict your arms. Newer wetsuit “Technology” has begun to emerge allowing a bigger range of use for your arms. The only thing that might stop this from happening is you not putting your wetsuit on correctly. Get a full wetsuit, which will make you a bit more buoyant and faster in the water, learn how to correctly put it on and take it off. My recommended wetsuit brands are 2XU and Xterra. [caption id="attachment_3059" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Pier 121 Marina - Greg and I practice our open water swimming"]Open-Water-Swimming-Practice[/caption] 6. Pacing yourself, well almost… Just like the run or bike, you don’t want to burn yourself out that you can’t get to transition. You have either gone to fast or you used up too much energy in the swim.  Solution? Pace yourself, well almost…. Swimming doesn’t really affect your legs as much, but it does affect your aerobic system. You can take bigger risks in the swim by going a tad faster and surging compared to running or biking. Remember, don’t go too hard where you dig yourself in a hole. Stay with someone who is slightly faster and you will guarantee a PR in your next race. 7. Warm-up and Get Ready Warming up is great, but not all races allow it, or if they do you can’t go in the water because the lifeguards aren’t on duty yet. For an early season race with cold water you want to get your body acclimated to the temperature. As with all triathlons, warming up your arms and lungs will get you ready, have less fear of being in the water, and help you go full gas from the start of the race. 8. Get a coach You can always hire me, but getting a local coach is a must to excel in swimming. Having someone help you with your stroke can be an invaluable asset to your arsenal of triathlon tools for race day. The better your technique is, the faster you are and the more efficient you become. Easier said then done right?… 9.  Practice, Practice, Practice Practicing skills, technique, and speed is still at the core of everything. If don’t put the time in at the pool, how can you expect a great result at a race? Practice not only in the water, but with a wetsuit, and sprinting out of the water to simulate T1. The more time in the water now, will help establish fitness that you can’t erase in the future. 10. Race My last tip for you is to race. Getting faster in the water, getting comfortable and everything I said above is great advice, but the more you race the better you become.  There is no way an Olympic triathlete only races a few times in their career to get where they are. They consistently practiced, prepared, and raced. They had failures and just as much success. Building on things you learn when you race can get you to that next level you might be seeking. Beginners should look for indoor pool swims to start out, then migrate to a lake or river, and then to the ocean. Find a race you like, train with your friends and race to have fun. Don’t let your training partners or anyone else make you second guess your training. If you follow these rules, you’ll see benefits not only for this year, but will build fitness and strength for the future. Just remember, having a coach will help you through all of these steps and more. ==================== I could not agree more with these 10 points but the ones that stick out the most to me are numbers 9 and 10.  When I started in triathlon I was swimming 1 to 2 times per week.  I managed do swim a 37 minutes 1500m Olympic in October 2010. I was thrilled with this time but back in May I swam a 31 minutes 1500m Olympic.  I am now looking to go sub-30. This is a result of swimming up to 4 times per week now.  I am not only swimming four times but each set has a purpose.  It may be speed, it may be aerobic but either way there is a purpose.  On Friday I had a great session that included both fast swimming and aerobic long swimming.  I loved every minute of it and can't wait to do it again. Not only am I racing more, but my races are open water races and I love them.  I can get the feel of the competition and the white wash and how to control my breathing and my emotions.  So racing more is just like practicing more and it is all beneficial.

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Jason Bahamundi

About the Author:

I grew up in New York and lived there for 34 years until I got divorced and moved 1600 miles to my new home in Texas.  I love New York and miss it but that does not mean that Texas hasn’t been great to me because it has.  It was here that I discovered endurance sports and specifically the sport of triathlon.  Triathlon has given me new life through all the challenges it presents.  I no longer look at life the same way and I can say that is in part due to my endeavor into this sport.

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