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  1. #1
    Nut Job jedi_rider's Avatar
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    First Open Water Swim

    Who remembers their first open water swim? Need some pointers to get over the anxiety as it's much different than lap swimming in a pool...
    Any time I'm going up a hill, I know I'm headed in the right direction.

  2. #2
    Fat Guy in Bike Shorts! manual_overide's Avatar
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    i don't do tris, but i have swam in the ocean a lot and the middle of some lakes a few times. If it's the depth that bothers you, just remember that you float quite well if you have air in your lungs. A current can be dangerous, but knowing how to swim them can help. I'm not going to go into the many ways to escape the different kinds of currents, but just remember to not swim in the exact opposite direction of one, otherwise you will get tired and be swept along it.

    What kind of anxiety are you feeling? Sharks? don't worry about those fellas I'd be more concerned w/ a mass of jelly fish getting in your way.

  3. #3
    Nut Job jedi_rider's Avatar
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    i'm more bothered by the depth and the fact that there's nothing to hang on to (like the edge of a pool) if i need to rest...long endurance swimming isn't one of my best skills.

    it's strange, i know, but i'm a surfer and feel more comfortable hanging on my board. if i lose the board, at least i know i'm a strong enough swimmer to make it to shore even after being tumbled a bit.
    Any time I'm going up a hill, I know I'm headed in the right direction.

  4. #4
    Fat Guy in Bike Shorts! manual_overide's Avatar
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    practice bike floating in the middle of a deep pool. that's not the right name for it, but whatever it's called when you can just calmly do almost a bicycle pedal and move your arms a bit and just float there using very little energy

  5. #5
    Packfodding 3 caloso's Avatar
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    Treading water?

    Ah, my first open water swim.... I got caught in the Maytag washer effect at the start of the swim and got my goggles partially knocked off. Since I wear contacts I was panicked that I'd lose one and be half blind for the ride. Or that I'd lose them both and I wouldn't be able to ride at all. I did a one-handed breaststroke thing for a while and tried to fix my goggles. I actually swam into a tree that was partially submerged in the river.

    Oh my but that was fun.
    Cyclists of the world, unite! You have nothing to lube but your chains!

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    Packfodding 3 caloso's Avatar
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    You know, I guess that wasn't very reassuring, was it?

    Here's what I learned from that experience: start at the back. It's a lot calmer back there. And you're bound to pass at least one person so you'll get a little psychological boost.

    Learn to dolphin-look. Find the buoy or some landmark and every ten strokes pull your head straight up to make sure you're still on course.

    Don't be afraid to stop and tread water or do a gentle breaststroke.

    If you wear contacts, make sure to bring an emergency pair. You'll lose time in T1, but at least you'll be able to continue. A DFL is always better than a DNF.

    And have fun! It's just water.
    Cyclists of the world, unite! You have nothing to lube but your chains!

  7. #7
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    Hmm... I don't race but I swim in the ocean constantly.

    You might consider sidestroke over breaststroke as your default 'gotta take a breather' setup, as it's easier breathing, more efficient kicking, and once you get good t both sides it allows you to put your back to any unpleasant waves.

    You might also consider switching to taht stroke BEFORE you get super tired. You'll be faster if you keep swimming than if you have to tread water some times and sprint other times.

  8. #8
    One day at a time H2OChick's Avatar
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    As far as memories of my first organized ocean swim... it was in college - October, 1990 to be exact. I swam at UCSD so we did beach workouts in the fall when it was still warm enough. I don't remember much about the swim, but I do remember that Robin Perez puked afterward, right on the beach. I think he'd been to Tijuana the night before. From then on out he was known as Pukin' Perez. But that's totally irrelevant...

    If you get really tired and/or panicky, you can always back-float, too, or even do some elementary backstroke. And if you're really efficient at treading water, that would be fine, too. Also, for what it's worth, at every organized ocean swim I've done (and the tri, too) there were lifeguards on their boards all the way along the course.

    Try not to worry and just listen to your body instead of your mind!

  9. #9
    Newbie Nortbot's Avatar
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    Hmm, my first was just this Saturday in Fort Lauderdale so I can tell you one thing... practice! I did zero open water practice, but I only did a sprint so the swim was only 1/4 mile. Get some partners and practice it. I got to the beach Saturday morning, looked at the surf, and remarked to myself, "This is Fort Lauderdale?". The surf was rougher than I have seen it outside of a Hurricane approaching. My biggest memory is getting kicked 40 times, seeing someone getting towed in on a kayak by a lifeguard, finally reaching the first buoy and realizing I'm gonna make it! Once you get out to the first bouy you seem to calm down a bit, especially into rough surf, as that was by far the hardest part. And like someone else said, you don't have to front crawl the entire way, I did sidestroke and breast a few times when I felt a bit fatigued. It was my first tri so winning was the furthest thing from my mind.

    Practice in open water!!! I learned my lesson the hard way.

  10. #10
    Nut Job jedi_rider's Avatar
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    Nice stories everyone. Looking forward with sharing my own experiences soon.
    Any time I'm going up a hill, I know I'm headed in the right direction.

  11. #11
    NEVER WALK A HILL cycleprincess's Avatar
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    I wouldn't suggest treading water. You use just as much energy treading as you would swimming. Switch up your strokes. Breast stroke is a great open water stroke because you can see what's going on ahead of you rather then poking your head up every so often as with the crawl. If you get freaked out about not being able to touch and panic, get on your back and keep moving. Don't panic. People don't drown because they can't swim, they drown because they panic. Well, if you can't swim there is a good chance you will drown but in that case we wouldn't figure you'd be hanging out here. Anywhoo...Most open water swims have people in canoes you can grab on to if you need to rest. The can't advance you, but you can hang for a bit. Practice in the lake/ocean the event will be held in, in different conditions if you can. Just relax and you'll do great.
    Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.

    T. S. Elliot

  12. #12
    Out the door roadie gal's Avatar
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    I just did my first tri, a sprint, with a 1/4 mile lake swim. I had done the swim about a week prior to the race during my training. The race was something completely different! I found it very difficult to get into my stroke with all of the other people kicking and bumping into me. Next time, I'll start WAY to the outside so I'm out of the melee.

  13. #13
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    Your anxiety about the open water is pretty normal. I know plenty of folks who are very strong swimmers who freak in open water. I think it's mostly a mind over matter thing. There are kayakers (sp?) all around, buoys to grab onto if you need to rest and in sprint triathlons, usually the race directors know there are people doing the open water who are first timers. They usually have lots of people in boats & lifeguards, etc...watching everyone for any signs of trouble.

    One of the biggest suggestions I have is to start near the back of the pack and pace yourself. Many people will be running on nerves and will tear it up on the first half & fade on the second half. If you're near the back of the pack, you can avoid the anxiety of the clawing & knocking around that happens at the front & middle. Take your time, go easy & when you're spotting for the exit, turn it up & start thinking about the bike & make up any time there.

  14. #14
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    Not my first swim, but a tough one. Lifeguard tryouts at Huntington Beach March 2003. 1000-yard ocean swim in about the worst imaginable conditions....10 foot waves, 3 foot wind chop, 30-40 mph gusts of wind, and pouring rain. fun.
    If you don't plan on being in the head of the pack, what I ussually do is judge where everyone else is headed, and stay iin between them. This way I only have to look up half as frequently. Also, for shorter swim i don't like to wear goggles(if the salt water water doesnt bother you and you don't use contacts), i just like having a better peripheral vision. The best thing to do is just practice as much as you can in the ocean. If you don't like going far out, just swim past the break and swim parallel to shore(i still hate swimming farther than this w/out at least one other person w/ me). Also, learn how to judge the current so you don't blow it and have to swim upshore. Lastly, learn how to bodysurf, its a fun easy way to pass lots of people on the way in. Later, eric

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