This week, on Tri Talk Tuesday, Courtney, Miranda, and Cynthia have selected the theme: Open Water Swimming! Usually, when people give tips for open water swimming, they address the tips toward swimming practice. Today, I’d like to talk about tips for succeeding in the open water swim leg of a race! Given I just raced this past weekend, I have some recent experience to draw on. Here are my top 8 racing success tips:
1) If you are swimming in a race that is not your typical “practice” location, try and drive to the race course the day before to get a “pre-race” swim in. Most triathlons will set up their swim course the day prior, so you can see the layout of the course, and even swim part of it. This will help you mentally prepare for the following day, and calm your nerves a little.
2) If you have chosen to wear a wet suit for your race, make sure you’ve practiced with it prior to race day.
3) On race day, try and get in the water before the start to do a little “warm-up”. This will help you adjust to the water temp and get you mentally focused to race.
4) When your wave lines up for the start, try and position yourself according to your projected ability. If you expect to be in the top 10, try and start at the front of the pack. If you expect to be slower, or if you are nervous about a mass swim, start in the back of your wave so you don’t have to worry about being swam over by everyone in your wave!
5) Once the gun goes off, you will immediately be kicked, hit, and maybe even swam over top of. It is important to just keep swimming and not get freaked out by this. If you stop swimming and try and regain your composure, you will likely get hit by several MORE people, and swallow a lot of water in the process. This will only succeed in freaking you out more. Trust me-in my first race last year, I experienced exactly this. BUT, if you keep swimming and try and “fight back”, eventually the pack will thin out and you can get into a regular rhythm.
5a) If you start to get freaked out by all the people swimming over top of and around you, try repeating a mantra or phrase, or just counting over and over. I usually count my strokes. It helps get my focus where it needs to be, and it distracts my mind from getting nervous.
6) When you are sighting in a race, keep in mind someone is probably in front of you and is kicking. This creates waves. Don’t open your mouth. Look up, find your buoy, and then rotate to the side to do a normal breath.
7) In the last hundred meters of the swim, try and kick with your feet more. This will loosen up your legs and prepare them to run out of the water, and start pedaling on the bike.
8) At the end of the swim, don’t stand up once you think you can touch. Keep swimming until your hands scrape the bottom. Then stand up and run out. Trust me, it’s easier to run in shallow water, and it’s quicker to swim than to try and wade through waist-deep water. While running, you can remove your cap, goggles, and the top of your wet suit.