Mainely Running
Join me as I train in Maine and race all over the world in pursuit of my goal to run a marathon on all 7 continents

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Open water swim coaching

My first open water swim race last year did not go well. I started off trying to swim with my face in the water and pretty much immediately panicked and gulped in a lot of water. I spent the rest of the swim alternating between doggy-paddling and swimming on my back. 1/3 of a mile seemed like FOREVER. In an effort not to repeat that experience in this summer's Tri for the Cure, especially since it is an ocean swim (gulp), I decided to hire a swim coach for a few sessions to help me get more comfortable in the water.

I can't say I was looking forward to my first session. Over my long birthday weekend I did 2 long kayak excursions, so my upper-body was pretty tired. Then, to make sure my lower body was equally as fried I decided to run 13 miles yesterday morning. I always think it's a good idea to be fully exhausted before you head out for an open water swim.

Also it was only about 65 degrees out, overcast and windy. The water wasn't looking particularly inviting either.


I met my coach, Rob, down at Williard beach. We stood talking in ankle deep water and my feet immediately started aching with cold. I knew the water really was cold because there weren't even any little kids in it.

 At that point I really wanted to say, nevermind, and go home. I did not want to put my face in that water. Rob didn't give me a chance to back out. "Okay, let me see you stroke. Swim about half-way out to that buoy." So I took and deep breath and started swimming. Any comfort with swimming that I've gained in the pool was gone. The water was shockingly cold on my face and the slight swell and chop made it hard to breathe without gulping in water. I made it maybe 10 strokes before I had to stop because I was gasping for air. 

Rob was very patient. He explained how to count in my head to help regulate my stroke, and that I didn't have to sight every time I came up to breathe. He also helped me adjust my body position to keep my chin lower to the water when I did sight, so that it wasn't so awkward. We swam side by side out about 1/4 of a mile. By the time we turned around I was feeling more comfortable and managed to swim all the way in without stopping. We then worked on technique for the start and the finish. I was always tempted to run as far as I could possibly touch to minimize the swim distance, but he explained how much energy that wastes. At the end of the swim, I should swim until my fingers brush the ground. 

We worked for about 40 minutes total and by the end I was totally numb with cold. I still feel like I have a long way to go, but this was a huge first step.

Have any of you done an open water swim in the ocean? Any tips?

1 comment:

  1. Good for you for getting a coach and going when it was so cold and difficult! I have not done an open water swim but I have heard about that counting... you are supposed to try for 3 strokes per breath... maybe? Can't wait to hear how you improve! :)