Okay, “balmy” might be a bit of a stretch, but at least I was right when I said “it won’t be any colder than last week!” At 47F/8C that’s a pretty safe bet. Even for Lake O.
Didn’t matter anyway. It was such a beautiful day, everyone was game. Everyone. And this was not polar bear dip, everyone was in for quite a while. As in about a half an hour! That’s impressive, wetsuit or not. Doesn’t hurt when the water is flat as glass, crystal clear and clean and on a sunny summer day. What’s not to like.
There were probably about 15 or 20 newbies yesterday. And I singled out one newbie, “Josh”, to use as an example. In my little pre-swim talk I told everyone that I got an email from Josh. And the funny thing is that I get almost the same email once a week from the newbies. It goes something like this:
“Hi, I’m a new LOSTie. I’m getting to triathlon. I’ve done a few short ones and have a few more lined up for this summer. I’m a pretty good runner and a decent cyclist, but swimming is my weakness. I’m okay in the pool but I get kinda anxious and even a little panicky in open water.”
Sometimes this is after a rough experience in one their first triathlons. They got their goggles knocked off, or the water colder than what they were used to, or rougher than they had ever swum in, or found their wetsuit too constrictive, especially around the neck, or gulped a bit of water that freaked them out.
It happens. The issue is how you deal with in the race. And the way you deal with it is to be properly prepared. And the way to be properly prepared for it is to have experienced it and figured it out… preferably in a safe and controlled, but tough simulation.
Like, I don’t know, a LOST swim.
The idea is to train in tougher conditions than you would have to race in. You do that on the bike and run. Hills suck on the bike, but you do hill repeats up the escarpment. And there aren’t many races that have hills like that in the race. But even if there are, you’d be ready for it.
Same thing with swimming. There were 2 or 3 LOSTies doing the famous “Escape from Alcatraz” this weekend (congrats! can’t wait to hear the deets next Saturday!). And as I said to one of them “the water is always cold there, but after 47F at LOST, you will be the only person there thinking “this is warmer than I swam in last weekend!”. And it’s true.
The main thing you need to do in a situation where any of the conditions are tough is: breath. I know, it sounds dumb, but it’s true. Of course you need to breath in running and cycling too, but it doesn’t effect your mental and physical condition in the same way as it does in swimming.
Now when I say “breathing”, I really mean “exhaling”. Underwater, of course, not above. People think “I couldn’t get enough air!” And by that they mean “air in”. But really the reason they couldn’t get enough “air in”, is because their lungs hadn’t gotten rid of the old air. And you can’t bring in new air if the old air is still in there.
And if you don’t get full breath then this is what happens. You run out of energy quicker. That’s why you see those guys at the YMCA doing laps that go so hard, with their arms spinning as hard as they can and do 3 lengths and are TOTALLY winded and have to stop. And the opposite is seeing the great distance swimmer that has that smooth awesome stroke and looks effortless. Looks like he could go forever. And he could, because he never gets into oxygen deprivation. Even when he chokes on water, gets his goggles knocked off, gets smoked by a big wave, whatever. These things happen to good swimmers too. But it’s like I said, it’s how you deal with it.
So come out and practice swimming in tough conditions… with a 100 people… but in a stress free simulation that ISN’T a race. That’s how you get better at it.
The real bonus is… I’d be willing to bet that you might end up loving open water swimming! That’s how we ended up where we are, 12 years later.
RELAX and EXHALE.