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5 Tips for Open Water Triathlon Swim Training

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
VTR Expert
User is currently offline
on Thursday, June 14, 2012
in Training

Rescue Tube / Swim BuoyI wrote a blog post last month about overcoming swim anxiety in triathlons and my experience earlier this year at the Bassman Half Ironman where I had an anxiety attack in the water during the race. I mentioned in the post that the only way to get comfortable in open water is to get out of the pool and start training in a lake/river. There are many, many benefits to training in open water.  Reducing swim anxiety is just one of them. Of course, you want to be sure you take all the necessary safety precautions if you hope to truly stay safe and relaxed in the water.

  1. Never swim alone - There are plenty of triathlon clubs and swim groups that have organized or semi-organized swims in open water. Also, if you get involved in your local club there will always be people that are looking for training partners. We are all in the same boat (no pun intended)....No one wants to train alone in open water, and everyone knows the value of doing it on a regular basis.
     
  2. Be aware of your surroundings - Swimmers often share the open water with boats, jet skis, canoes, etc. Wear a bright colored swim cap and continuously sight for potential hazards or obstacles in the water. I often practice in a river and occasionally there are large tree branches or debris that has floated down stream into the area I swim. I try to sight in the water every 4th or 5th stroke to make sure I am not going to bump into something and to ensure I am staying on line with my target. This is excellent practice as in a race you also always need to be aware of other swimmers and ensure you are taking the shortest line to the finish in the water.
     
  3. Be aware of weather conditions - Weather can be a factor when training in open water. I train in open water 2-3 times a week and it is amazing how weather affects the conditions in the water. Again this is excellent practice. You definitely have to swim differently if there is a lot of chop to the water versus a completely calm day.Training in all kinds of weather eliminates stress on race day. You will know how to swim in all conditions!
     
  4. Practice with the equipment you use in a race - If you plan on using a wetsuit in your race then wear one in training. If you know you definitely can't use a wetsuit in your upcoming event then train without one in practice. A few years ago I hardly ever wore my wetsuit and was extremely uncomfortable wearing one. I finally started training with a wetsuit and now I am very comfortable. Practice..Practice..Practice...You will never be comfortable and confident with equipment if you only use it in a race.

  5. Use a swim buoy - I mentioned using a swim buoy in an earlier post and I have received a lot of questions and inquiries about how to use a swim buoy during training. I created a video to explain the use of a swim buoy during training in open water. Check out the video below. 

 

Swimming in open water can be a very rewarding experience and is a lot more enjoyable than swimming in a pool. If you enjoy running you wouldn't do all of your running on a track, right? Not to mention, you are training to compete in triathlons and most of them are in open water. Doing all of your training in a pool is not going to eliminate any of your open water anxiety. Get into the open water and start swimming for REAL. You will be glad you did.

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Bombed at Bassman Half Triathlon!

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
VTR Expert
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, May 08, 2012
in Triathlons

Last weekend I drove down to Atlantic City, New Jersey and competed in the Bassman Half Distance Triathlon. It was a well organized event in a great venue.  However, I wasn't thrilled with my performance. It was one of those days when I kept thinking, "Why am I so uncomfortable"? Racing is often "uncomfortable", but usually in a long event you hope to settle into a steady pace as the hours tick by.  That was not the case on Sunday for me. Unfortunately my "veteran status" did not make me immune from having a bad day.

Bassman Bike Transition

The Bassman Half distance triathlon is a 1.2 mile swim, 58 mile bike, and a 13.2 mile run. The race is located in the Bass River State Forest in Tuckerton New Jersey. Tuckerton is about 30 minutes north of Atlantic City. The course is just slightly longer than the typical half distances. As I setup the transition area prior to the event I felt calm and prepared. I really had no prior warning that this was not going to be my day.

The swim was an "in water" start and I felt fine in the calm clear 65 degree waters of Lake Absegami. As the swim started I felt great for about 5 minutes. Then the problems began. My goggles started leaking and completely filled with water. Now being a veteran triathlete I calmly sat up in the water and re-adjusted them. This continued for several minutes. I just could not get my goggles set. Then maybe due to the stress of the situation I started to get some "in water" anxiety and completely lost my stroke. My eyes were stinging, I was blind in the water, and I started to slightly panic. I finally relaxed and tried to salvage some kind of stroke. I then noticed that the person swimming next to me was standing. I put my feet down and then realized I was swimming in about 3 feet of water! I immediately stood up and spent about a minute trying to fix my goggles. I was finally able to get them fixed and then continued on with the swim. As I progressed there were about 3 short sections of the swim where it became very shallow and many people stood up and ran 5-10 steps before the water got deeper. The second half of my swim was much better but I was still about 5 minutes off my usual time for this distance. The whole second half of the swim I just couldn't believe what had happened.

Crossing the finish lineThe bike course was flat and fast. I was flat and not fast. Basically I had a very uninspiring performance on the bike. To make matters worst I had two mechanical issues that set me back about 6 minutes. I just could not get comfortable during this entire event. The bike course was two 29 mile loops. I started out feeling decent but that feeling quickly faded. I just had a flat performance. I finally got off the bike hoping that I could turn my day around with a great run. The run is my best event and I was hoping that due to my great conditioning I could at least end my race on a positive note. I started off great, keeping the first 6 miles under 8 minute pace. Somewhere around mile 8 I suddenly started to lose my form and started feeling bad. By mile 10 the wheels had come off and my pace had dropped by 2 minutes a mile. I did not allow myself to walk, but for the last 5k I would not describe what I was doing as "running". I finally finished and left the race wondering "What just happened" ?

The bottom line is that I am competing in an Ironman on July 28th and I just bombed a Half Ironman on May 6th. Not the best scenario. Over the next few days I will be analyzing what happened and make adjustments as needed. I am not going to let one poor performance take away all of the good training I have done over the past few months. This poor result does bring up one question. Should I compete in the Mooseman Half Ironman on June 3rd to attempt to get a better performance or should I just continue training and focus on the Ironman? Would it mean anything if I did well in a race that is only half the distance?  Now that you've heard my experience which option below do you think I should choose? (comment below to help me decide!)

(***Note*** I ended up training as scheduled and forgot about this performance***)

1) Continue training as scheduled and don't worry about bombing the Bassman!

2) Sign up for Mooseman Half Triathlon today and kick butt on June 3rd!

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