Ah Spring! Time to get out of the pool and into the open water to practice your swim skills. Triathletes of all level of skill and fitness really need to get in the open water prior to their first race of the new season. For the veteran triathletes, do it to remind yourself of sighting, pacing and navigating skills and once again familiarize yourself with your wetsuit. Newbies, folks doing their first ever race, would be very, very wise to get in the water to practice. Why You ask? You’ve been swimming in a pool for a few months or you swam as a kid (yikes! Things have changed since then) so why would you need to practice in open water? I mean you know how to swim, water is water and swimming is swimming, right?
Ah, no. Pool and open water are not alike. They really are two different animals. In an open water event you could be swimming with 5-150 other people, or even 1800 people if your first race is an ironman (not advised). There are no lane lines, nor pool walls in the open water. What you will likely find is wind, waves, chop, and deep water. You will also be required to sight where you are going, preferably while swimming so it doesn’t take you forever cuz you keep stopping to get your bearings, as well as navigate in and around things such as buoys, other people and kayaks, unless your Macca and just run into the kayak. So, pool and open water are not the same except the getting wet and swimming motion Part (which is also advisable that you have a solid handle on before the start gun goes). And besides all these details, why would you do a race without having practiced in similar conditions that you will be exposed to in the event? Seems like having that information and exposure could come in really handy come race day. And the wetsuit! Get one now and practice in it. Wear it on the swim and practice getting yourself out of it.
Do a search for some triathletes in your area, a Tri coach or search on line for an open water swim clinic near you. If non exist, practice on your own running or walking quickly into the water, diving in, swimming and settling in to your pace. Be smart here as it’s never a good idea to swim alone, so have a buddy in a kayak or SUP going with you. The point here is to simulate similar conditions that you will likely face on race day as best you can. And do it more than once! Plan it into your training, it’s part of your training, so not to neglect it.
Show up to the swim start ready and confident. Have lots of tools in your tool box, so you are versed in the many different conditions Mother Nature could possibly throw at you. You will have a better, safer overall experience if you do. And a better athlete at the finish line.