Making the most of the swimmers around you is where the gains and ease of competitive open water swimming come from…and there are a few things that make achieving this less strenuous.
First up – warm up properly!
How many times have you sat on the beach and thought – it’s too cold…or I want to chat to mates a little longer and forgone the warm up…don’t! You need to prep your mind and body for the race ahead so a warm up (even a quick one) makes all the difference.
- Ideally get out twenty minutes or so before the race (typically before the race briefing)
- Take your time to ensure your suit is on properly (don’t forget to use those gloves) and that everything is pulled up well.
- After a couple of duck dives and when you are truly wet, stop and ensure your suit is fitting how you like (it’s easy to adjust once you’re are in the water)
- Get the arms and legs moving…and the breathing regular and controlled.
- Do some speed work – those short sprints now won’t wear you out, but they will help your body recognise that its time to shift from first to fifth gear and race.
Use the warm up to work out where the course is for the event
- Where are the buoys you need to round – what landmarks will help guide you (often large trees or buildings can provide easier to spot markers than buoys when your goggles are at water level)
- If you’re a regular – has the course changed, do you know how many buoys to count and what you need to consider on the return leg.
- Where is the sun sitting in the sky – is sunstrike going to affect your sighting – if so what alternative sighting markers can you use?
- What is the wind and the tide doing – will it be easier on the way out or way back, so you can adjust your efforts appropriately. (and your mindset)
- Which direction are the waves coming from – will this affect which side you breathe on, or can you focus on using their power to get you to your destination more quickly (body surfing where you can)
Finally – when the starters gun has fired (and you’ve pressed start on your Garmin), get moving!
- Duck dive as far as practical and then put some speed in towards the first buoy – most swimmers can sprint 50m in the pool – use some of that speed to get in with the pack out and then use their combined speed to help you along the way.
(Nervous and less confident swimmers often hang back at the start to get some water space – which can help confidence, but you do lose the benefit of the group draft)
Most of all – enjoy the swim!