General Discussion Triathlon Talk » Am I ready for open water? Rss Feed  
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2018-04-11 10:06 PM

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Subject: Am I ready for open water?
I don't consider myself a swimmer, mostly because I couldn't swim a lap a year ago, I did my first sprint tri last September and I had to finish the 400m swim (pool) with side stroke.
Currently I am swimming 1500m x 3/week, I recently swam 1000 meters without stopping and can do 10x100 at 1:45.
There is a tri on three weeks with a 500m swim in a man-made lake that I would like to race, am I ready? I have never swam in open water, neither ever wore a wetsuit (I would probably rent one), am I crazy?


2018-04-11 11:00 PM
in reply to: 0

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Subject: RE: Am I ready for open water?

If you can do 10 X 100 at 1:45 you are faster than 50-60% of people who do triathlon, maybe more......but your other statements of your swim work don't back that time up. (almost nobody can come from being a non-swimmer to a 10 x 100 at 1:45, on 4500 a week, in a year)  So.....not sure what to make of your swim ability....but if you can do 1000 without stopping you should be able to complete the 500 swim.  Have you EVER swam open water?



Edited by Left Brain 2018-04-11 11:02 PM
2018-04-12 3:22 AM
in reply to: Left Brain

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Subject: RE: Am I ready for open water?
The only way to determine if you are ready for open water is to swim in open water. I would recommend doing that before the race.
2018-04-12 9:26 AM
in reply to: DaniD

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Subject: RE: Am I ready for open water?
Distance is fine.

Problem is some people don't handle open water well. Different than the pool.

I echo the suggestion to try and get an open water swim in just to test it out. Avoid the race being the first time and having a moment with other triathletes in the water.

Also consider starting at the back of the pack if wave start to avoid being kicked, pushed or shoved.
2018-04-12 9:44 AM
in reply to: Left Brain


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Subject: RE: Am I ready for open water?
Originally posted by Left Brain

If you can do 10 X 100 at 1:45 you are faster than 50-60% of people who do triathlon, maybe more......



I'm gonna go with definitely more.
I think your perspective is potentially skewed. I can't be entirely sure, but it wouldn't surprise me if a number of your family members had gills.

I'm not an athlete. I've only ever set out to become a 'faster' swimmer for one season doing all the drills and stuff. I've generally just worked to be a 'stronger' swimmer. Which, yes, I recognize makes me faster. But generally up through last season, all I ever did was 'train' with a goal of coming out of the water ever "fresher" than before. Certainly not the same as specifically trying to swim faster.

I've probably been a bit over 1:50 mark for most of my time and that's usually good enough to be faster than about 65% of folks in the "average" race. Last summer I expended quite a bit more effort on speed and got a few beats under the 1:50 mark. But I only did a few more 'competitive' races, yet still outperformed large swathes.
2018-04-12 9:51 AM
in reply to: DaniD


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Subject: RE: Am I ready for open water?
Oh....as for open water swimming.
Depending on the race, you are probably way more ready than others. Go look at your race results for the swim.
They will tell you that you weren't the only one side stroking.

What gets me is cold water. I hate cold water. Hate it. If all swims were in the water they use in those "float" thingies, I'd be more than happy. I know cold water is good and all. I just hate it. Takes me way longer to get into the groove. Throw race excitement in the mix and it's even worse.

My takeaway....is if I can get in the water before the race...not so much for the warmup....but the COOLDOWN...I'm much better prepared when it's time to go. Less of the shock and reflex to suck wind. And sucking wind doesn't work when the wind is water.

The other thing for me and open water. It's WAY MORE FUN. I've said it a million times. If someone calls you and asks if you want to skip out on work and go swim laps, you're probably gonna say no. But if someone says they've got an open water swim at nearby Lake X, you'd at least consider it. Best part of summer camp was swimming in the lake. Best part of vacation was swimming off the dock, or in the river. Or the ocean at the beach.

We pay a lot of money to go on vacations quite often just so you can swim in open water. Way more fun than staring at a black line in a pool.


2018-04-12 10:23 AM
in reply to: #5241467

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Subject: RE: Am I ready for open water?
I have been in the ocean before but not really swam before, like I said until last year I couldn't even do rotary breathing. I live in New Mexico, so open water swimming is not easy to find, closet lake is almost three hours away and I don't have anyone to go with me so most likely I wouldn't swim before the race.

As proof of my horrible swimming ability last year, on September it took me 13 min. To swim 400m for my first tri, I regulary swim 400m in under 8 min. In training now, no coach, no swimming partners, just YouTube, lol.
2018-04-12 10:31 AM
in reply to: DaniD


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Subject: RE: Am I ready for open water?
Originally posted by DaniD

no coach, no swimming partners, just YouTube, lol.


That's all I've ever used. And stuff I've read here.
But, I'm a bucketlister weekend warrior.
Also, I'm getting old.
I have zero aspirations other than doing the best I can at a comfortable level of investment of time and money... and continuing to stay unfat after losing a bunch of weight.
2018-04-12 9:31 PM
in reply to: #5241526


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Subject: RE: Am I ready for open water?
When you say 10 x 100 at 1:45, are you doing 10 x 100 and holding 1:45 with some amount of rest, or are you leaving on the 1:45? If you are leaving on the 1:45 you are definitely ready for 500 meters unless you'll panic in open water and panic in traffic. But if you are leaving on the 1:45, you'll be so far out front, there will be no traffic. I do that set leaving on the 1:45 and I am top 20-50 amature at 1/2 ironman distance and beat some pros. I'm easily top 2-3 overall at local races.

Even if you are holding 1:45 with 30 seconds rest (i.e., leaving on the 2:15), you'll be more than fine. My wife swims 1/2 ironman distance at over a 2:00/100 pace and is fine.

In either case, I'd recommend swimming in a wet suit at least once, even if it's a pool swim, just to get the feel. You probably don't want to swim open water in a wetsuit for the first time ever.
2018-04-12 10:15 PM
in reply to: #5241568

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Subject: RE: Am I ready for open water?
10x100 at 1:45 with 30 seconds rest in between, sorry
2018-04-13 8:37 AM
in reply to: Left Brain

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Subject: RE: Am I ready for open water?
Originally posted by Left Brain

If you can do 10 X 100 at 1:45 you are faster than 50-60% of people who do triathlon, maybe more......but your other statements of your swim work don't back that time up. (almost nobody can come from being a non-swimmer to a 10 x 100 at 1:45, on 4500 a week, in a year)  So.....not sure what to make of your swim ability....but if you can do 1000 without stopping you should be able to complete the 500 swim.  Have you EVER swam open water?




I'm with LB on this one, some of these numbers don't quite stack up. Are you sure you're swimming in a 25 meter pool, and not a 25 yard pool? Although, even holding 1:45/100yd within one year of swimming 4500 a week and being solely self taught is pretty unbelievable. Most community pools and the "teaching" pools at gyms are less than 20yds, which would make that more realistic. If you are indeed in a 25 m pool and holding those times after a year of being on your own with pretty low swim volume, then you may have missed your true calling!!

To the open water swim; that's a whole different bag. Regardless of the pool size you're swimming in, you're very likely more than physically capable, but there is more to open water swimming. Swimming around a lot of other people can make the most seasoned swimmers have panic attacks. There's also the fumes and exhaust from the support boats that you'll be breathing in, and there is sighting, since there are no lane lines in open water. Any of these things can send people over the edge. I'm a pretty decent swimmer and have done quite a few races and still ended up having a mini panic attack on my last IM. Point is, do what you can to try it out before the race. See if there are any groups in your area that do swims somewhere that you could tag along. Or, if it's totally not an option, stick to the back of the pack and keep close to the support kayaks/boats just in case.


2018-04-13 9:20 AM
in reply to: DaniD


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Subject: RE: Am I ready for open water?
Aaaaaaa......
I am so unready for swimming this year. I haven't done OWS for almost a year now.
2018-04-13 9:38 AM
in reply to: 3mar

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Subject: RE: Am I ready for open water?
I checked, I swam my first sprint in a 25 meter pool but my training is in a 25 YARD pool at the local college, after listening to everyone here I think I may be "good enough" for OWS, I think it's all going to come down to remain calm and trust myself which is quite difficult because in the back of my mind I am still the bad swimmer I used to be.

Thanks everyone for the advice.

P.S.: I am going to wear my watch tonight at the pool, now I am thinking maybe the clock at the pool is running slow, .
2018-04-13 1:35 PM
in reply to: DaniD

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Subject: RE: Am I ready for open water?
If you're swimming at a college, then the pool and the clock are right. Getting down to a 1:45/100 pace in a year on little swimming and no coaching is pretty impressive. You should look around for a local masters group to swim with. Assuming they have a good coach, you could really see some big improvements.

You'll be fine, and probably faster than a decent chunk of the other racers.
2018-04-14 11:32 AM
in reply to: DaniD


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Subject: RE: Am I ready for open water?

My suggestion since you don't have open water near you is to go the day before for a practice swim in the open water with a wetsuit on. I did that before my first sprint and it made a massive difference for me. I totally panicked during my practice swim and had to restart myself several times and learn some coping tips along the way. Better to get that out of the way before the actual race!

Your swimming times indicate that you will be totally fine. Good luck!
2018-04-14 12:03 PM
in reply to: DaniD

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Subject: RE: Am I ready for open water?

Swim fitness wise, yea, you can do the tri.  

I am a former swim instructor & lifeguard.  My advice is to never get into the water if you're not confident you can get yourself out of the water.  To count on a lifeguard means you're counting on him/her being available, seeing you, and close enough to get to you before you disappear.  Too many if's for me to bet my life on.  

Open water, and particularly an open water competitive swim (like a tri) is a lot different.  Water temp, waves, clarity, other people thrashing in the water around you can completely disrupt your "normal" swim thoughts.  A wetsuit and the race environment add to the anxiety for most people.   For sure, practice a bit before the race starts if you can't get in before race day.  



2018-04-17 5:15 PM
in reply to: DaniD

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Subject: RE: Am I ready for open water?
Being able to swim the distance is a plus, but being ready to swim in open water has zero to do with swim fitness. It all depends on how comfortable you are in the water. Can you handle being hit, kicked, swam over without panicking? Honest answer is that you wont know until you try it. I grew up in a pool and am comfortable in the water. Ive trained with people who could outswim me with ease (distance and speed) but quit after one tri because they couldn't take the lawlessness of open water swims.

I say do the tri but be prepared to back out if things get too nasty for you. Last thing anyone needs is you freaking out, grabbing on to someone as a floatation device and putting you both in trouble.
2018-04-17 8:30 PM
in reply to: #5241569

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Subject: RE: Am I ready for open water?
One thing I did last year was get comfortable swimming in close proximity to other people. Last year I swam a practice race against with a few friends at out summer pool it was 5 people in a 3 lame width area. A little bumping and definitely a good amount of sighting was needed during our 5×200 (two of my friends collided mid swim it was only funny since no one was hurt). It was fun. I'm not a swimmer either but I did a little swim team during elementary school so I had a stroke to start (just not very good). Make sure when you are doing turns you don't take a big breath. I do open turns but I deliberately don't breath. I should learn to flip efficiently but I just don't want to take the time.
2018-04-17 8:42 PM
in reply to: #5241893

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Subject: RE: Am I ready for open water?
Also I agree with 3mar about working with a coach. You dont have to find a masters team though. I worked with bscmultisport. I dropped from around 1:30/100 to sub 1:20s with video stroke instruction and actually swimming with a plan. Last year i would literally get in the water and swim for 30-60 min straight. Message K9car363 he's regularly on this site and a swim genius.
2018-04-18 3:18 PM
in reply to: jnuger

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Subject: RE: Am I ready for open water?
Originally posted by jnuger

Also I agree with 3mar about working with a coach. You dont have to find a masters team though. I worked with bscmultisport. I dropped from around 1:30/100 to sub 1:20s with video stroke instruction and actually swimming with a plan. Last year i would literally get in the water and swim for 30-60 min straight. Message K9car363 he's regularly on this site and a swim genius.


X100, I've worked with him as well, and it totally changed my stroke.
2018-04-19 12:30 PM
in reply to: nhunter344

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Subject: RE: Am I ready for open water?

Originally posted by nhunter344 Being able to swim the distance is a plus, but being ready to swim in open water has zero to do with swim fitness. It all depends on how comfortable you are in the water. Can you handle being hit, kicked, swam over without panicking? Honest answer is that you wont know until you try it. I grew up in a pool and am comfortable in the water. Ive trained with people who could outswim me with ease (distance and speed) but quit after one tri because they couldn't take the lawlessness of open water swims. I say do the tri but be prepared to back out if things get too nasty for you. Last thing anyone needs is you freaking out, grabbing on to someone as a floatation device and putting you both in trouble.

Heed this! There is so much going on in open water, let alone a crowded tri swim start, that has little to nothing to do with your actual ability to turn any yardage under a certain time limit. Cold water is a big thing for some, and learning how to relax and get past your gasp reflex BEFORE the swim start is a huge plus. Sighting/navigating, dealing with sun, waves, and other people... Even just the mental hurdle of having your face in the water where you can't see the bottom. Dark water can freak people out in a big way. Heck, watching too many horror movies, and then letting your thoughts get the better of you during the swim can do a good job of that as well.

A tip for the tri -- look at the swim course, and line up for the start such that you'll be well to the outside as you get to the first turn buoy.



2018-06-03 4:31 PM
in reply to: #5241894

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Subject: RE: Am I ready for open water?
Well, pretty much everyone was right, lol. I "managed" to complete my first open water swim sprint tri this weekend (.5 K), I was relax and i just follow on the back of the pack at the beginning
but my sighting was horrible and I ended getting the one before last in my AG, probably because I zigzaged so much I swam a couple 100 yards more than anyone else.
Good news is that I didn't spent myself on the swin and finished 3rd in my AG. Thanks everyone for your suggestions, now time for sone sighting drills in the pool.
2018-06-05 2:23 AM
in reply to: Left Brain

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Subject: RE: Am I ready for open water?
Originally posted by Left Brain

If you can do 10 X 100 at 1:45 you are faster than 50-60% of people who do triathlon, maybe more......but your other statements of your swim work don't back that time up. (almost nobody can come from being a non-swimmer to a 10 x 100 at 1:45, on 4500 a week, in a year)  So.....not sure what to make of your swim ability....but if you can do 1000 without stopping you should be able to complete the 500 swim.  Have you EVER swam open water?




I think he meant 1 hour and 45 minutes?

In any case, the wetsuit will help you, go for it!
Remember, if you run out of steam you can always do a couple of breast strokes to catch your breath or even flip on your back and float.
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