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2017-06-04 12:22 PM


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Subject: Open Water Swim Advice
Did my first sprint triathlon yesterday. Swim was ... not good. (Bike was good, run was great.) The start wasn't too hectic and the expanse of open water didn't freak me out. It was the dark water. I kind of freaked out every time I put my head under. I didn't totally panic and finished the swim, but I swam like 85% of it with my head above water. Which is obviously not ideal!

My swim fitness is good—I've been swimming about 4,500-5,000 yards/week training for 70.3 Steelhead—and open water itself doesn't freak me out. (I grew up on Lake Michigan, so spent lots of time in the middle of a very large and deep lake.) It was just the ... darkness of this lake the sprint tri was in yesterday that really spooked me out. We weren't able to warm up before the race, which I think may have calmed me a bit had we been able to acclimate to the lake. Doing an Olympic in three weeks in Vermont so I can get back in the saddle again.

Anyway. Any open water swim tips for beginners? How do you stay calm in murky water? I swim about 2:00-2:10/100 yards.


2017-06-05 9:04 AM
in reply to: w3bradley


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Subject: RE: Open Water Swim Advice
Originally posted by w3bradley

Did my first sprint triathlon yesterday. Swim was ... not good. (Bike was good, run was great.) The start wasn't too hectic and the expanse of open water didn't freak me out. It was the dark water. I kind of freaked out every time I put my head under. I didn't totally panic and finished the swim, but I swam like 85% of it with my head above water. Which is obviously not ideal!

My swim fitness is good—I've been swimming about 4,500-5,000 yards/week training for 70.3 Steelhead—and open water itself doesn't freak me out. (I grew up on Lake Michigan, so spent lots of time in the middle of a very large and deep lake.) It was just the ... darkness of this lake the sprint tri was in yesterday that really spooked me out. We weren't able to warm up before the race, which I think may have calmed me a bit had we been able to acclimate to the lake. Doing an Olympic in three weeks in Vermont so I can get back in the saddle again.

Anyway. Any open water swim tips for beginners? How do you stay calm in murky water? I swim about 2:00-2:10/100 yards.


This is the thing I say every time about open water swimming. Yah, I suppose the water can get gungy and murky...especially around where I live here in STL. We've got dark water in MO, they call it. Because we have so much clay the particulates don't settle into the hardpan like they do sandier soil.

Being from STL also makes me aware of recreation in your state....we don't call Michigan "St. Louis' Air Conditioner" for nothing.
To me it's all state of mind. Nobody likes gungy water. I'm guessing that even though you had access to "the big lake", you spent a lot of time as a kid in those interior lakes. They're not at all like the big lake.

Be in that state of mind you were as a kind when that was "a treat". You can swim in a pool anytime. But you had to have a friend with a cabin or had the luck to go to a summer camp where you got to swim in the gungy lake. And it was way cooler than being in a pool.

I said in a similar thread the other day, that the bike part is always my favorite and that's what I look forward to most "on the day".
But, leading up to a race, it's always the chance to swim in something other than a pool that I find myself most excited about.

I think it helps. The more I've embraced it, the quicker I get into my groove once I'm in the water. I get into a pool and I'm in my groove within a half a lap. It always takes me a couple hundred meters to get my brain sorted. It used to be several hundred.

2017-06-05 9:59 AM
in reply to: w3bradley


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Subject: RE: Open Water Swim Advice
Where I live we have dark and murky lakes that normally have tons of weedy sections. I've sort of learned to embrace it and try to find other things to get my mind off the creatures that live in the water :-). Honestly, when I'm racing, and training for that matter, the last thing on my mind is what is living in the water or how dark it is. I'm more focused on maintaining form and swimming a consistent pace.

What works for me is that if I'm racing I will get there super early and do a long warm up (I never understand why races won't let you at least get in the water ahead of time, just to get comfortable). My warm up usually includes getting a feel for the water. In other words, I'll go in there, put my head underwater and kind of look around and look for things. Doing this gives me a pretty good idea of what the water is like. Most of the time I won't be able to see much which can make me a little nervous, but at least it won't be a shock when the race starts. I do think the more you get into the dark and murky water the more comfortable you'll feel.

For Steelhead, you'll have plenty of time to warm up and get comfortable in the water. I'm doing that race as well and it's one of my favorites, although Lake Michigan can be a bit unpredictable, as you probably know. Last year a warm front came in and the swim was wetsuit illegal. The year before that it was cooler but there was a decent chop in the water.
2017-06-06 3:18 PM
in reply to: w3bradley

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Subject: RE: Open Water Swim Advice
Originally posted by w3bradley
We weren't able to warm up before the race...

Why? I have never even thought about not being able to warm up in the water. If it were against the rules, I would never do that race again.
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