I am a month out from the Blue Lake Sprint Triathlon I signed up for on my 40th birthday. My friends and family have dropped out like flies, but I am still persevering with my training. Even with 3 sprint triathlons under my belt, I was still dreading my least favorite part of the whole sprint triathlon training process – The open water swim.
Open Water Swim Tips for Triathletes
My Top 10 Tips to Conquer Triathlon Swimming in the Open Water
1. Train in Open Water
2. Positive Attitude
Those who are actually in my triathlon training group or have actually swam with me might laugh at this statement because I might be a little reluctant when it comes to jumping in the open water. Before getting in the water the first time this year I was really apprehensive and possibly negative. I may have posted this Facebook status prior to leaving my house:
3. Wear a Wetsuit
This is a no brainer for the beginning triathlete. The USAT, the ruling body of USA triathlons allow wetsuits when the water is below 78 degrees. Where I live the water never gets warmer than that so I will always wear a wetsuit. For beginners, it gives you extra buoyancy and reduces drag which can increase confidence in the water. For me, knowing that I can float on my back and not sink is particularly helpful in the mental battle I sometimes have in the deep water. A wetsuit gives me the added secuirty I need in the water to concentrate on my stroke.
4. Wear a Triathlon Wetsuit that Fits
I realize triathlons can be expensive since you have to equip yourself with gear for three sports. You still need to invest in the proper swim equipment. Borrowing your best friend’s boyfriend’s cousin’s wetsuit he uses for water skiing is not advised. Not only do you want to be fitted properly, you want to make sure you have practiced for the event in the equipment you will be using race day. Wetsuits made specifically for triathlons are going to be made of the material you need and give you proper range of motion for a successful swim on race day. There are many places available to rent wetsuits and you can even rent them online. I ended up buying mine because I wanted to practice in mine prior to race day. Since this will be my fourth race, it has proven to be the most economical route.
5. Pee Before You Put on Your Wetsuit
6. Don’t Panic
It ain’t the public pool and your mind can start wandering. Keep calm and remind yourself that Friday the 13th is just a movie and Jason is not waiting to pull you under. I hope. Think about Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and puppies (living puppies). Seriously though, your mind can play tricks on you when you are far from shore.
Yes, there are fish in the water. Unless you live next to a nuclear reactor, you are way bigger and they won’t likely bother you. Yes, there is likely debris and pollution in the water too, but that leads me to the next tip.
7. Plug Your Orifices and Don’t Swallow
In other words, you need a decent pair of goggles and ear plugs. Do yourself a favor and invest in a good pair of goggles that don’t seep. Don’t swallow is my go-to advice for a lot of things. Take it or leave it.
8. Safety First
Never practice open water swimming alone. You always want to go with at least one other person. I suggest wearing a bright swim cap so others from shore might spot you if you get into trouble out there. Remember you can always float on your back and rest.
Also, if you are in a pond or lake that is heavily populated by fisherman, be courteous and watch out for their lines. It can be equally dangerous to piss off a fisherman.
9. Practice Sighting
It’s great to be super focused during your race, but you do want to pop your head up out of the water every once in a while to look at the buoy your aiming toward. Unless you have a super straight stroke, it is really easy to go off course. Practicing sighting when you don’t have all the bodies in the water next to you is highly recommended. I pop my head out of the water every 10-12 strokes. I don’t want to swim any further than I have to.
10. Have Fun, You Are a Triathlete
Now that you have conquered the open water swim you are well on your way to becoming a triathlete. The relief I feel when I hit the beach after the swim is a bigger high than when I actually finish the race. When you climb out of the water and head to the transition area, celebrate your accomplishment and know I’m giving you a virtual ass slap to congratulate your job well done. I have faith YOU will not drown.