I learned a lot of ways to improve my open water swimming during my first triathlon, the 2017 Las Olas International Distance Triathlon in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Like most beginner triathletes, I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. I hoped for the best going into the race and managed to get across the finish line, but I struggled immensely throughout the ocean swim. The following blog describes a few quick fixes that will extremely improve the open water swim experience for beginner and intermediate triathletes.
Practice In Open Water Before Your Race
First of all, I would suggest open water swimming as much as possible before your first triathlon. The Las Olas Triathlon was my first experience swimming in open water. My futile attempts at freestyle stroke and bi-lateral breathing pattern were rejected by ocean waves. I found myself doggy paddling for over half a mile. Needless to say, invest the time to practice swimming in open water and in varying weather conditions. Swimming in a pool does not compare to swimming in the ocean during a rainstorm. No matter how many kids are tossing balls and noodles around in the pool, it will not prepare you for race day. Find a local triathlon group or convince a friend to swim with you in open water for a confident race day (safe open water swim tips will be another post).
Buy A Wetsuit, Become a Penguin!
Second of all, buy yourself a triathlon specific wetsuit. They’re made to improve your buoyancy without limiting range of motion. I raced in my first triathlon in a two piece tri suit. I felt like I was drowning as the waves tossed me around and the current pulled me down. I went home after my first triathlon and ordered a TYR Cat 2 wetsuit from SwimOutlet. They give new customers 10% off their first order and have an excellent return policy. Wetsuits are a hassle to get on, require a lot of special care and take time to get comfortable wearing BUT THEY ARE WORTH EVERY PENNY! Go on, get yourself a penguin suit and have a better swim!
Aquasphere Goggles: A Must Have
Thirdly, get open water swim goggles. Yes, there is a difference in swim goggles! I bought my swim goggles for $15 at Target. Nothing against Target, but they aren’t an endurance retailer. I didn’t have any issues with my cheap goggles in the lap pool, however, on race day they fogged and gave me tunnel vision.
I purchasing several pairs of AquaSphere Kayenne women’s swim goggles. They are made for smaller faces but they still have an outrageous peripheral and don’t fog easily. AquaSphere goggles come in many other styles with various lens options. Be sure to read reviews on the different styles to make sure that they’ll fit your face type. Also, but a few pairs so that you have the proper lens for any race-day condition. I have a clear lens, a blue lens and a polarized lens. Invest in some nice, quality open water swim goggles and you’ll be prepared for whatever race day brings!
Save Time and Energy by “Sighting”
Last of all, practice sighting! Sighting buoys and obstacles in open water will help you drastically. There are many different ways to “sight” but find the one that works for you. The best advice is to not fully lift your head out of the water when you’re learning how to sight. This will cause your lower body to sink and mess up your propulsion through the water. Sighting should occur every 6-10 strokes to make sure that you’re swimming the shortest route. Most swimmers will drift in races because they don’t sight in enough time to correct their direction. Don’t waste your energy! Watch some YouTube videos to learn different ways to sight in the open water and have a more successful triathlon experience.
Most importantly, don’t give up! I felt like I was drowning during my first triathlon. Each buoy seemed so distant and the crashing waves dampened my spirits. I wanted to give up as other swimmers effortlessly passed by me. I choked down salt water. I coughed up salt water. I got kicked in the face. I kicked others in the face. But I kept doggy-paddling and repeating the mantra “just keep swimming” until I crawled onto the shore. Find a mantra that works for you and keep it in your thoughts on race day!
If this post helped boost your confidence as a beginner triathlete, I’d love to hear from you! Need any other triathlon advice? Please comment below!