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2016-05-14 11:44 AM


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Subject: Open water fail - advice
Hey all,
I've been pretty strong in the pool for training but recently had my first open water race. It was supposed to be 1500m but cut short due to weather. It was an air temp of 48, water at 63, and windy up to 20-30mph. We ended up having a 2 loop 400m route to swim. This should have been a breeze, but halfway through I gassed out and started to freak, wondering if I was going to have to call for help. I bowed out after the first loop of the swim.

Needless to say this was a harsh dose of reality since I'm just weeks away from the half ironman in Raleigh. Is there anything I can do, or should I chalk this attempt at the HIM up as a loss?


2016-05-14 12:00 PM
in reply to: linkslefty


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Subject: RE: Open water fail - advice
Did you have a wetsuit? I'm curious too because I dislike anything lower than 70 degrees and at 65 I'm hurting performance wise. Ideally I try to train in similar conditions but am curious because I seem to be very vulnerable to variable weather and temperature. I'm not sure if it's mental and learning to adapt or poor training in dissimilar or variable conditions. I like consistency to get true numbers but have to accept that's not possible outdoors.
2016-05-14 12:22 PM
in reply to: linkslefty

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Subject: RE: Open water fail - advice
Since it was cut short cause of weather and winds 20-30mph, was it rough out? That's my first guess to your problem. Also how much sighting do you practice in the pool? If you don't practice it then when you get to open water it will tire you.
2016-05-14 1:00 PM
in reply to: Goggles Pizzano

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Subject: RE: Open water fail - advice
was this your first OWS? I would suggest getting back out there, hopefully in better conditions, and focus on sighting, dealing with waves and generally just getting comfortable.
2016-05-14 1:15 PM
in reply to: 0

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Subject: RE: Open water fail - advice
Originally posted by linkslefty

  • ...air temp of 48, water at 63, and windy up to 20-30mph.


  • Those are pretty extreme conditions. What's the likelihood of it being that cold and that windy again at the Raleigh HIM in 3 weeks? Pretty low. There's almost zero chance it will be that cold, really. According to http://epec.saw.usace.army.mil/bejrept.txt, the water temp's already well over 70*.

    Honestly, if you could make 400m in that, you can probably make the HIM swim in more "normal" conditions with no problems.

    Edited by gary p 2016-05-14 1:22 PM
    2016-05-14 2:32 PM
    in reply to: #5181742


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    Subject: RE: Open water fail - advice
    Thanks for the quick responses as I'm obviously frantic for feedback, feeling very discouraged. Yes, I had a wetsuit. First time open water racing, and really ows for any distance. It was choppy with some white caps. There were a handful of people who had to be pulled out by boat in front of us.

    I have practiced some sighting. I may have gone out too fast. But my arms tired quick and when I got short of breath that's when I started to panic.

    Raleigh is supposed to be hot. Not sure how choppy, but prob not wetsuit legal, which adds to my impending panic.


    2016-05-14 7:50 PM
    in reply to: linkslefty

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    Subject: RE: Open water fail - advice
    You might do better without the wetsuit if you really are doing well in the pool. Do you ever worry about sinking when you swim from one end of the pool to the other? It is unlikely that you will sink in open water. It's the same stuff. You are just a little further from the edge. :-)

    Your comment about your arms being so tired makes me wonder if your wetsuit was on all of the way or if it fits you correctly. I always tell people that the wetsuit should be pulled up tight enough in the crotch that you feel a little violated..... You really want to work the arms and shoulders up as high as possible so they don't restrict you arm extension overhead. There are some very good YouTube videos that demonstrate this.

    And yes, the conditions sound like they were a little extreme.
    2016-05-14 9:59 PM
    in reply to: #5181769


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    Subject: RE: Open water fail - advice
    Thanks Jason. I tried the wetsuit on last week in the pool and loved it. I thought maybe I just went out too fast and overestimated my ability, coupled with the rough water and nerves (and shivering in the cold for almost two hours before the race) probably all totaled up to failure.

    Having said that, it's hard to have much confidence going into Raleigh in 3 weeks.
    2016-05-15 2:33 AM
    in reply to: #5181804


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    Subject: RE: Open water fail - advice
    Don't forget you can slow down do a bit of breast stroke, lay on your back if your panicking or need a bit of respite as long as you are moving forward. Better to do this than DNA for the sake of a couple of minutes. I'm sure you can do It, my first ow swim was similar, the next time I went it was far better, and the water temp makes a huge difference to my performance.
    Believe you can do it and you will????
    2016-05-15 6:15 AM
    in reply to: linkslefty

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    Subject: RE: Open water fail - advice
    Brings back memories of some of my swims back in 2006-07 when I started out. I always stressed out in the water, was fine in the pool but always struggled in ocean swims. Lakes were fine for me though just struggled in the ocean. It helped me to just hang back and let the madness happen then just settle in. I always went out way too hard, tough to try and hold back and slow down with race day nerves.

    I'll be at Raleigh also. Good luck you'll be fine.
    2016-05-15 7:29 AM
    in reply to: #5181806


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    Subject: RE: Open water fail - advice
    I just didn't realize how different the open water would be. Grant it, it was crazy conditions, but my pool workouts are 2400-2800m. I've done a 1000m time trial in close to 18mins. This is purely a mental thing, right? Is it just a matter of getting out of my head?


    2016-05-15 10:04 AM
    in reply to: linkslefty

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    Subject: RE: Open water fail - advice
    Yep, swimming in a nice clear pool with no chop, no waves and not having a couple hundred people right next to you is a bit different. Takes a few times to get the hang of it, just try to stay calm, slow down, hell roll over and back stroke if you need to. Keep at it, hang back and try to find some open water away from the madness. Try to go get in some open water a couple of times before the race.
    2016-05-15 5:30 PM
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    Subject: RE: Open water fail - advice
    Something else occurred to me regarding your recent experience. You dropped out at 400, but the race was a double loop so it there was an "easy exit" at that point. If it was a single 800m loop, I suspect you more than likely would have figured out a way to get to the end....Just like you will in Raleigh.

    Edited by gary p 2016-05-15 5:32 PM
    2016-05-15 5:48 PM
    in reply to: linkslefty

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    Subject: RE: Open water fail - advice
    It sounds like you need more open water swim practise. The more you feel comfortable in the setting, the less likely you'll panic.
    2016-05-15 6:56 PM
    in reply to: #5181742


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    Subject: RE: Open water fail - advice
    Thanks again guys. My wife and I went to a local lake today and she followed me in a kayak as I went out and back for prob close to 1200m-1400m or so. Much better today, just kept it slow and relaxed, and of course much better conditions. I signed up for an Oly next weekend to give it another go, which will leave me two weeks to Raleigh.

    Do you all have thoughts on wearing a wetsuit in a race when it's technically legal but over 76 degrees? Is that still considered legitimate?
    2016-05-15 7:08 PM
    in reply to: linkslefty


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    Subject: RE: Open water fail - advice
    Originally posted by linkslefty

    Hey all,
    I've been pretty strong in the pool for training but recently had my first open water race. It was supposed to be 1500m but cut short due to weather. It was an air temp of 48, water at 63, and windy up to 20-30mph. We ended up having a 2 loop 400m route to swim. This should have been a breeze, but halfway through I gassed out and started to freak, wondering if I was going to have to call for help. I bowed out after the first loop of the swim.

    Needless to say this was a harsh dose of reality since I'm just weeks away from the half ironman in Raleigh. Is there anything I can do, or should I chalk this attempt at the HIM up as a loss?


    Sounds like the same story many folks have after their first open water race. It happens and you learn from it. Only suggestion I have is to start out slower next time and stay slow until you're in the groove and then pick it up. I just don't think it's a great idea to really race your first couple open water swims. It's a hard thing to swim 'on the rivet' until you've got a couple open water swims under your belt.

    Don't worry about your next race, it'll go way better. I've been where you are at.



    2016-05-15 10:08 PM
    in reply to: linkslefty

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    Subject: RE: Open water fail - advice
    Originally posted by linkslefty

    Thanks Jason. I tried the wetsuit on last week in the pool and loved it. I thought maybe I just went out too fast and overestimated my ability, coupled with the rough water and nerves (and shivering in the cold for almost two hours before the race) probably all totaled up to failure.

    Having said that, it's hard to have much confidence going into Raleigh in 3 weeks.
    If your swim in the pool with the wetsuit was ok, then it probably fits fine. But it may be that because of your race nerves you didn't get it pulled up as good as you should have around your shoulders.

    If your Oly is wetsuit legal and you don't think that you will over heat then I would definitely wear your suit again if you are planning on wearing it for your HIM. The reason for this is to give you another practice swim in it. If you arent going to wear it for your HIM then don't wear it for your Oly.

    Also if the wind was that bad then you probably used far more energy than you think staying on course. Don't beat yourself up too bad about it.
    2016-05-16 12:38 AM
    in reply to: linkslefty


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    Subject: RE: Open water fail - advice
    Originally posted by linkslefty

    Thanks again guys. My wife and I went to a local lake today and she followed me in a kayak as I went out and back for prob close to 1200m-1400m or so. Much better today, just kept it slow and relaxed, and of course much better conditions. I signed up for an Oly next weekend to give it another go, which will leave me two weeks to Raleigh.

    Do you all have thoughts on wearing a wetsuit in a race when it's technically legal but over 76 degrees? Is that still considered legitimate?


    Always wear a wetsuit if it's legal unless it's under 400m.

    Re your problem. I'm a FOP swimmer with a swimming background & I've had similar issues to you with a wetsuit whereby I've had to stop because I can't breathe and start panicking. It's an intense feeling of claustrophia and a desperate desire to swim back to the beach. Not 100% why, I have been in the ocean my whole life, windsurfing, surfing, freediving, etc etc so I have no fear of the ocean or what's in it. The solution, for me anyway, is to start off slightly slower and settle into a comfortable rhythm trying not to let my heart rate get up to high. Once I settle into a rhythm, usually around 200 - 300m, I'll start gradually picking up the pace and I find if I do it bit by bit I can build to sprinting pace without any issues. If I try sprinting from the onset, I'll have issues. It's nothing to do with the wetsuit as I've worn multiple wetsuits and ensured they fit well and are put on correctly.
    2016-05-16 7:14 AM
    in reply to: gary p

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    Subject: RE: Open water fail - advice
    Originally posted by gary p

    Originally posted by AndyEWU07

    You failed miserably... Why on earth you would attempt your first ever ows during a race, in those conditions. It's athletes like you, who cannot hack 400 yards which make the swimming portion of a race unbearable for the rest of us who have trained.


    Why are you so grumpy? Weren't there any puppies to kick along your training route today?


    He's just grumpy because he's a 34 year old that claims Boston marathon results from a 52 year old, and people here on BT called him out of it. He also by his own admission does a lot of drugs to try and beat other AG'ers. So here may have been posting this after he missed his vein.

    2016-05-16 8:14 AM
    in reply to: linkslefty

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    Subject: RE: Open water fail - advice
    I've done 3 OWS's this season (so far). The swims were 500 M, 1500 M and a 1.2 mi.'er. To be honest (I do NOT come from any type of swim background and couldn't swim 200 yds as of this past winter), the swims (for me) are what they are (not enjoyably easy.....but manageable). I never feel like I'm "cruising", but I am able to go from that panicked place you describe - to a happier place. First race, it freaked me out really bad. I almost flipped over and looked for a kayak. I was able to get my breathing under control and finish, though I wasn't far from where you were that day.

    For the 1500 M, I lined up on the inside (I breathe to the left) and just went easy at the start. ALL the difference in the world. Very little contact and about as uneventful as you could ask for. Breathing? Well, I've learned there will be times when I have to reign in my breath control. I don't think it has anything to do with fitness, but I could be wrong. For me, I think it's just anxiety management. Same thing happened on my 1.2 mi. swim (it was in Jordan Lake....where your HIM is held) I had to manage my breathing 4-5X, but I was able to finish, respectfully.

    It keeps getting a little easier to manage (for me). I hope that gives you some comfort. I also hope it gets better and better for me . I was OK, reading this thread, until someone mentioned the ocean swim being very different. I have one of those coming up! Only time I'll get to practice is the day before.

    Good luck!
    2016-05-16 8:36 AM
    in reply to: loops

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    Subject: RE: Open water fail - advice
    Originally posted by loops

    Don't forget you can slow down do a bit of breast stroke, lay on your back if your panicking or need a bit of respite as long as you are moving forward. Better to do this than DNA for the sake of a couple of minutes. I'm sure you can do It, my first ow swim was similar, the next time I went it was far better, and the water temp makes a huge difference to my performance.
    Believe you can do it and you will????


    Yep. It is completely fair to do a breast stroke, tread water, or roll onto your back if you need a break. You might want to get off to the side a bit, though. It is kind of like needing to tie your shoe in a race--you will get run over if you just stop.

    Also, as long as you don't move forward, you can hang off the bow of a volunteer's kayak. This could be really important in choppy water if you can't keep your head out of the water. I had to do that a couple of years ago when I decided to try to race with a cold. A storm moved in at the start of the swim so there were whitecaps. I had a coughing fit, and the water was so rough that I couldn't keep my head above the waves to clear my lungs. I had to flag down a kayak. I wasn't the only one, either. Those guys got quite the workout that day going back and forth to swimmers who were in distress. Just don't let them pull you forward or you will be disqualified.

    It is good that you are practicing OWS. Something that might help is to have the person who is kayaking with you randomly tap you with the paddle or drag it over your back to simulate the contact of racing. Have her push your feet off to the side or even grab them a couple times so it doesn't bother you on race day (if you really want to go crazy, she could hit you in the nose to simulate being kicked).

    Keep in mind that this happens to a lot of people. I grew up swimming in lakes and had done several OWS before my first race, but I got out there in the river current with all the people around me, and my breathing and rhythm went into the toilet. I started to do very badly, which embarrassed me, which made me do worse. Afterward, I realized that I had gone out to fast because of adrenaline, and that screwed everything up. I have learned to go out slow and let my body settle in. You may need to take a similar approach for a race or two.


    2016-05-16 9:46 AM
    in reply to: linkslefty


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    Subject: RE: Open water fail - advice
    Originally posted by linkslefty

    Thanks again guys. My wife and I went to a local lake today and she followed me in a kayak as I went out and back for prob close to 1200m-1400m or so. Much better today, just kept it slow and relaxed, and of course much better conditions. I signed up for an Oly next weekend to give it another go, which will leave me two weeks to Raleigh.

    Do you all have thoughts on wearing a wetsuit in a race when it's technically legal but over 76 degrees? Is that still considered legitimate?


    I'm an average swimmer at best. My swimming endurance is fine though and I can cruise along for awhile. My first triathlon ever, a sprint, I went out way too fast and was bumped around in the scrum. I had to breast stroke and really was gassed halfway through. Ever since then, in the triathlons I've done, including a couple HIMs, I just try to find some open space, maybe out wide a little where I can get in a rhythm and cruise along. Not that I don't bump into people but if I can get in rhythm I can just concentrate on making stroke after stroke. I usually end up MOP on swim so I do NOT terrible.
    2016-05-16 4:38 PM
    in reply to: #5181902

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    Subject: RE: Open water fail - advice
    Best to stay to the side to maintain a good freestyle stroke...get into a rhythm and develop some confidence
    2016-05-16 10:32 PM
    in reply to: AndyEWU07


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    Subject: RE: Open water fail - advice
    Originally posted by AndyEWU07

    You failed miserably... Why on earth you would attempt your first ever ows during a race, in those conditions. It's athletes like you, who cannot hack 400 yards which make the swimming portion of a race unbearable for the rest of us who have trained.


    I am quite sure his only desire when competing was to impress the rest of the triathletes who have trained. After all, it is the only reason we all race.

    OP, Some races are easier than others with regards to swimming. A start from the beach means a lot of shuffling. An early buoy means a tight fight. On the other hand, some races starts from a boat and do a straight line. No fight for anyu buoy at all! Other races have their first buoy so far away that the swimmers are already spread out. Then there is the size of the lake and the amount of participants.

    See it as a learning experience and an occasion to do much better on the next race.

    I think you are already doing the right thing swimming in a lake with your wife. Knowing you have the capability to do it in training is a big advantage on race day. Just keep reminding yourself that.

    Also, like any other race, don't let others impose their rhythm on you. A lot of athlete will blow up trying to follow the other competitors. Just follow your own pace and forget about the other competitors.
    2016-05-17 4:44 AM
    in reply to: #5182147


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    Subject: RE: Open water fail - advice
    I am a FOP swimmer and I recently competed in a OWS in 58 degree water sans wetsuit and I had the exact same experience: panicked, could not breathe, etc. I flipped on my back and took some deep breaths until I calmed down. I thought I was drowning because I could not breathe! I was able to rally and was third out of the water, but I had a very similar experience to yours. Keep practicing and you WILL have a more enjoyable experience.
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