Lessons from a turbulent open water swim

Ok, admittedly this isn’t front page news: Today I had an Awful Swim Session. But, every cloud has a silver lining, and I managed to draw a few important lessons from it.

So Wednesday is open water swim morning: we all meet at the beach early to avoid the jet-skis, and generally tend to swim out to a boat or landmark for about half an hour, and then back for half an hour.

It started off fine. In fact it started off great. I felt good, I “found my stroke” pretty quickly (sorry triathlete chat – basically felt comfortable in the water and at ease) and was staying on the feet in front of me whilst managing to surf a few waves.

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Naive pre-swim enthusiasm (Selfie Credits: Jay Patalung)

It was great until turn around, and then it went downhill.  Or should I say underwater. The waves that had been pushing us along, were suddenly coming at us from a slight angle, but nearly front on. Every stroke I was greeted with a wave in the face.

I began to feel very sea sick. To make matters worse, my googles had fogged up and I couldn’t see properly. I think I may have been swimming in zig zags, attempting to “feel” the bubbles in front of me. Every time I went to breathe, I took a pounding of salt water in the face, swallowing quite a substantial amount at the same time.

I was quite literally sea sick. The yoghurt I had at breakfast came up. I got dropped.

The swim back was long. The waves did not cease to drum at my head. It was quite unenjoyable.

But alas, lets look at the positives! Thinking about it, I learned a few things that I thought you may find helpful:

1. You need to de-fog your goggles properly. It may just help. It will certainly help sighting and seeing what’s in front of you.

2. You should learn to adapt your stroke to the conditions. Just like in running, you change your speed and even cadence when going uphill versus downhill, things need to change when it gets choppy.

How you breathe in the pool may not necessarily transfer well to ocean swimming. It doesn’t for me, which is why open water practise is very useful to make you aware of the differences required. I breathe with my mouth still semi-submerged in the pool. The chlorine isn’t so bad, but salt water is.

You may also want to look at stroke rate which should vary depending on the conditions. If you’re swimming into a current “gliding” is going to be hugely detrimental as you lose some momentum on every stroke. Professional triathlete Jodie Swallow has one of the best open water strokes for this very reason – a punchy stroke with a fast arm turnover, as shown on this video.

3. You should pay close attention to what you eat before workouts, no matter the session. Yes, you’ve got to fuel yourself, particularly when your morning session is a certain length or intensity.

But be smart about it. I definitely wasn’t this morning. Rather than looking outside and thinking “oh, it’s rather windy today, I fancy yoghurt with my cereal”, I should’ve gone further and thought – “boy it’s also going to be pretty damn choppy out there, best eat something easy on the stomach. Yoghurt’s a bad idea.”

4. Don’t let a bad session ruin your day. S*** happens. Punctures happen. Cramps happen. Just do your best to control the controllable, so that the avoidable doesn’t happen on race day.

 

I managed to recover in time for an afternoon plod, and it made me feel much better about my physical state.

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Back to normal after an afternoon run (Selfie Credits: Maeo Nakhon)

I will be using some anti-fog spray on my goggles. And not eating pre-session yoghurts.

On that positivenote, I leave you with the wise words of Hannah Montana –

“Everybody makes mistakes,

Everybody has those days,

Everybody knows what, what I’m talkin ’bout, 

Everybody gets that way.” 

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Because I’m becoming such a poser…a shot from Valentine’s Day cycle with the boys (Selfie Credits: Mr M)

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