Lots of triathletes would agree that the start of a swim in a triathlon race can be the most daunting part for a lot of athletes, and can often be the cause of the most pre race nerves! The aim of this workout is designed to help you become more comfortable with what you are going to have to deal with in a triathlon race start, so that you are more confident heading into a race about how to handle things when the gun goes off! The best place to do this sort of workout is in the open water with a group of athletes, to best simulate what a real race start will be like. Practice getting close to each other, and get comfortable with having to get a bit ‘rough’ with the swimmers next to you – without things getting too aggressive!
Trail Racing 101
When you’re racing on trails, there’s a real feeling about battling against terrain and the environment, versus battling against each other. So there’s a mutual support in that endeavor. It’s still a race, and we’re all out there trying to do the best we can. But, on trails, I think there’s just a sense of being out there in nature—there is a happiness about it. There’s a fulfilling feeling about it that’s less neurotic than some of the races on roads, where time and pace and all of those details are a big deal. You can’t really measure yourself at a certain minute-per-mile pace, and even power meters on a bike are somewhat obsolete when it comes to off-road racing. There’s a bit of creativity involved out on the trails and with that comes a very relaxed nature and you really have to go with the flow, even though you still might be running hard.
The open water swim can be the scariest part of the triathlon, especially if you’re not Michael Phelps, and are more inexperienced. The open water can be just as mentally and physically tough for the top swimmers as it is for the beginner. Stepping up to the waters edge, seeing the dark water where there is no wall 25 yards ahead and overcoming the fear of the open water is both mental and physical.
There is a common feeling that most people feel when they see the water. Panic and fear, are two feelings that no one wants to feel right before a race. The shotgun goes off and you run with the rest of the triathletes into the water. Your heart is racing and you find it difficult to catch a breath. People claim that they feel as if the wetsuit went down two sizes, and is pushing against their chest making it impossible for them to breathe. These can be all very common feelings and something to think about if you have never done an open water swim before. The good news though is that this can also all be avoided! Here are some tips to defeat that panic attack on race day morning:
Some decades ago, standing on the deck of the UCSD pool after a
rigorous master’s swim workout, I overheard two college students.
“There are a lot of very fit athletes here.”
“Yeah, but not many healthy ones.”
conversation intrigued me. What did they mean? What was the difference
between fitness and health and where did I fit on that continuum? Some
weeks later, I surmised, the claim was in reference to the dozens of
world class triathletes who constituted the noon-time workout. And the
reference inferred that as you move into the upper echelons of elite
multisport and gain a superior level of fitness, you necessarily
sacrifice basic health.
If this was the case, I wondered if there were to be costs to my
colleagues and I as we chased titles around the globe, training
excessively without the modern benefit of technology-based bio
information. Was our desire to win through performance causing us to
lose through the sacrifice of simple health? The answer(s) to those
questions were to come much later when age, illness, time, and tide had
washed over us.
Open water swimming can be exhilarating, liberating, and a little scary.
I’ve competed in over 200 open water swim races and triathlons,
volunteered as a safety paddler at a number of triathlons, and
instructed junior lifeguards for nearly a decade. I’ve learned that
with proper preparation, anyone who can swim can swim in open water.
The three most important things to do to prepare for open water swimming
are: 1) swim in open water; 2) swim in open water; and 3) swim in open