You are in for a few challenges. The good thing is, that to be forewarned, is to be forearmed. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the things you are going to experience.
- Lots of people are going to be around you.
- No open water swim organiser has ever bothered to lay tiles at the bottom of the dam or ocean so that you are able to look down and swim in a straight line.
- You look into the water and realise that you can’t see your hand.
- A fish might just brush past you.
- You might begin to panic and lose your ability to breathe smoothly.
- The water might be a bit colder than expected.
Realise that everyone’s first swim is a scary event. In fact some just never get used to the experience.
Let’s work through some of the challenges.
- There will be lots of people around you.
– Unfortunately that is part of the deal. You will feel like you have been thrown into a washing machine at the beginning of the swim. Take heart, the field will thin out, and you will find a relatively peaceful spot in the water. At our swim squad, we try and desensitise swimmers by getting three swimmers to swim alongside each other down a single lane. Their brief is to swim into each other and make life as difficult as possible for the person next to them. It is also a chance for my swimmers to exact revenge on me, their coach. I find that that helps desensitise swimmers a bit.
– Stick in it. The field will stretch out and you will be able to find a space to swim in.
– Don’t get angry with the person who just dunked your head into the water. It’s just wasted energy.
2. Learning how to sight is critical.
– No one lays tiles at the bottom surface of what you are swimming over. There is a good chance that you will end up zigzagging a bit during your first open water swim.
– Learn how to sight during your practice swims. This means that from time to time you raise your head and see where you are swimming to. This will create a habit that you then carry on with during your actual open water swim.
– Remember to look up regularly during your race. You will typically look up every 5 strokes or so.
– You can draught behind a swimmer during open water events. If you get someone who is sighting and swimming a straight line you can simply lock onto that swimmer and allow them to do all the directional work. Make sure from time to time that they are still on course. You don’t want to follow someone who is slowly making their way to Madagascar.
– Start on the opposite side of where you typically breathe.
If you breathe to your right, start left of the field. That will allow you to see the direction of the main body of swimmers.
3. You look into the water and realise that you can’t see your hand.
– Realise that none of the swimmers can see their hands either.
– It is critical that you climb into the water before the race. Get used to the level of visibility.
– This will also allow you to get used to the temperature of the water.
4. A fish might just brush past you.
– You might just bump into different things that float around in the water. These include fish, branches, sea weed e.t.c.
– Understand that the fish were there before you, and that they have every right to the water you now enter.
– Don’t go into a state of shock if you do bump into something. If you do it is critical that you get your head up out of the water. This will allow you to let out a quiet yelp and also to get a few deep breaths of air.
– People with over active imaginations should not watch Jaws or any Zombie Apocalypse movies before an open water event.
5. You might begin to panic and lose your ability to breathe smoothly.
– It’s time to get help if you feel you are going into panic attack mode. Raise your hand, wave and get help.
There is no doubt that the open water part of a triathlon is the most dangerous. Get help if you are in any form of trouble. The events that I have participated in over the years have had really jacked up life guards in the water. They are there to help.
The swim is the quickest part of your triathlon. Just stick to the basics and before you know it you will be out the water and standing on Terra Firma.