When you mention doing a triathlon to almost anyone (outside of other triathletes and life-long swimmers) most likely I, “I would love to – if it weren’t for the swim!” And I get it – even after 3 Ironman swims I don’t LOVE the thought of a mass swim start either. Here’s the issue – most of us do our swim training in the pool. While there is nothing wrong with that – the first open water swim you do (with thousands of other people) may be a rude awaking.
Seriously …. In my SECOND Ironman race – despite hours and hours and hours in the pool – I found myself on my back, gasping for air and afraid that my 15 hour day was going to be over in the first 5 minutes of the race.
However – it’s really not THAT bad. AND – if you follow a few simple strategies you will learn to rock the swim …. And then get on to the other parts of the triathlon – and crossing the finish line with a smile on your face!
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- Face the truth. There are creatures in the water. Uggggg – but if I can deal with it – you can too. Remember – that you are not going to be the first person out in the water and seriously – all of the craziness of a mass swim start will scare the fish off. Now – the weeds may be a different story. Someone told me once to grab onto the weeds to propel myself forward. I haven’t used that advice and I usually just have to “buck up little camper” and just swim on through.
- Get the right gear. But – you already know what that is, right? Plus – you will have already used your googles in the pool, so you know that they won’t fog up.
- Have a strategy. I would suggest starting to the back of the pack – and to the outside. You may end of swimming a bit more – but I don’t like to be crowded – especially around the buoys. I like my space …. But – just know your own strategy and comfort level and stick with it in the water. Let others swim around you. Also, know what side the buoys should be as you swim.
- Inhale and exhale. Yep. Basically breath. Everyone can do that, right? But, when the water is super cold or when I am nervous about the race my body forgets how to breathe! I have to remind myself to exhale when my face is in the water. Focus on the inhale and exhale. This will also help to keep you calm. Find your rhythm and stick with it. Remember – you have this!
- Practice sighting (even when you are in the pool). Lift your head to see where you are going every 8th or 10th stroke. Unless you are swimming in Lake Placid (you could seriously see the bottom of this prestine lake) you will not be able to follow the black line on the bottom. You need to look where you are going. Most of us pull to one side or the other – and you don’t want to end up way off course!
- Swim to the end. I know that sounds weird – but you will expend MUCH less energy if you swim almost all the way onto the shore. Try and swim until your finger-tips touch the bottom. Also – start kicking harder toward the end. You want to get the blood flowing into your legs so you can use them when you stand up!
And – there you have it. Don’t forget to smile and yell out Woo Hoo! You rocked your first triathlon swim!
Move your body, put good things in and ENJOY every day!