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2013-08-08 7:18 AM

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Subject: I learned an important lesson swimming last night
There is a small triathlon club in my area that gets together for OWS practice at a lake on Wednesday nights. People don't really coach each other, it is more for safety and comraderie that they swim together. I have been doing these swims every week for the last couple months. When I did my first triathlon a couple weeks ago, my swim was horrible and I was one of the last ones out of the water.

Last night, I was just focusing on form and keeping a rhythm. I was just trying to keep my head and chest down and my feet up and make my body long. I was doing really well. We have had a lot of rain lately so there were a lot sticks and other debris in the water. When I hit them, it bothered me a little, but I would get right back into my groove. I even knocked about 5 minutes off my typical time to the last bouy at approximately 0.4 miles!

Then the rain started. No big deal, I was already wet. Then the lightning started. I am not swimming in lightning. I was about a quarter mile from the shore where I went into the water, but 100 yards from the nearest shore. I decided to sprint to the nearest shore and find shelter. My form fell apart. I got winded. I tried flipping onto my back and still couldn't slow my breathing. The woman I was swimming with was suddenly pulling away and getting farther with every stroke. Then I realized that I needed to calm my butt down and focus on form. I rolled back onto my stomach, put my head down, settled back in, my breathing calmed down and before I knew it I was on shore.

That is when I learned that it wasn't the bumping and choppy water that got to me during the tri, it was the adrenaline and trying to hurry. There was an irony to the fact that when I tried to speed up, it made me much slower. I have one more OWS practice (hopefully without lightning) before my next tri. I am curious how long it will take to to get across that section of the lake and back now that I know this.


2013-08-08 8:18 AM
in reply to: happyscientist

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Subject: RE: I learned an important lesson swimming last night
Wow. Huge take-away from that experience. Thank you for posting that experience! I have had limited success in OWS so far, and although getting better every practice, this is definitely going to stay with me. With appreciation!
2013-08-08 9:53 AM
in reply to: happyscientist

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Subject: RE: I learned an important lesson swimming last night
That is awesome.

It's great when you realize why you panic or struggle - and then learn to overcome it. Congrats! Here's to many awesome open water swims!!
2013-08-08 9:59 AM
in reply to: happyscientist

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Subject: RE: I learned an important lesson swimming last night
Kinda of had the same experience in one of my open water tri swims. It was a time trial start and I was rushed into the water. Felt like i need to get out of the way of the person coming right behind me. I had a horrible swim, even had to roll on my back to try and calm down.. I had done several OWS tri's prior to that also with no issues. Now I calmly get into the water and take my time getting into a good rhythm.
2013-08-08 10:29 AM
in reply to: happyscientist

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Subject: RE: I learned an important lesson swimming last night
I always swim much better in races when I am calm and relaxed. The last 2 tris I have done, the water was pretty cold and totally prevented me from being calm and relaxed- result, crappy swim.

Calm and relaxed = better swim experience + better form + less gassed getting out of the water - it's a win win win situation!
2013-08-08 12:15 PM
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Subject: RE: I learned an important lesson swimming last night
Originally posted by pilot_e

Wow. Huge take-away from that experience. Thank you for posting that experience! I have had limited success in OWS so far, and although getting better every practice, this is definitely going to stay with me. With appreciation!


It was a real revalation for me. Hopefully I can apply it in my next tri, or it will be a long 1000m.

Edited by happyscientist 2013-08-08 12:33 PM


2013-08-08 12:31 PM
in reply to: happyscientist

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Subject: RE: I learned an important lesson swimming last night
Good post! This is why spending so many hours in the water that you are completely comfortable and at ease in every situation is incredibly valuable.
2013-08-08 2:38 PM
in reply to: happyscientist

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Subject: RE: I learned an important lesson swimming last night
Thanks for sharing as this really is a MOST IMPORTANT lesson here for any type of swimming, but especially OWS. It is a complete revelation isn't it When I was younger I informally taught quite a few kids how to swim, and becoming comfortable in the water and not panicking was the first thing I taught them. Once they laughed, relaxed and had fun, their swimming form and technique also improved leaps and bounds, as did their swimming times.

Sometimes you just have to slow down and relax to be faster! Shouldn't make any sense, but in swimming it makes PERFECT sense.

Good luck with your 1 km OWS, and just remember, relaxing is key, and form and rhythm is EVERYTHING. I think you're going to rock it
2013-08-08 3:29 PM
in reply to: slowbuthappy

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Subject: RE: I learned an important lesson swimming last night
Originally posted by slowbuthappy

Calm and relaxed = better swim experience + better form + less gassed getting out of the water - it's a win win win situation!


x2. I've also learned that the harder I push beyond my normal pace, the more crooked my route becomes (apparently I just pull harder with my right arm, and "slice" to the right)
2013-08-08 4:00 PM
in reply to: Swimbikeron

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Subject: RE: I learned an important lesson swimming last night
This is an invaluable lesson, and one which is hard to appreciate unless you've had a couple of "freak out" moments during an OWS.

During my first ever tri, an Olympic in a small inland lake (2 loops - lake temp was a chilly 58 degrees, which didn't help) I got caught up in the excitement of the start, completely underestimated the turbulence of being in the middle of the pack, and quickly over-exerted myself. All of a sudden, I'm out of my depth, gasping for air, unable to control my breathing or heart rate, and basically panicking.

I barely made it 1 loop, mostly with my head out of the water, and I was completely gassed and had to abandon the race.
The crushing blow of this DNF, following months of excitement about my first triathlon, forced me to focus my efforts on my OWS.

Fortunately, Chicago has an amazing OWS course, half a mile long, which is shallow enough that you can touch the bottom for 75% of it. Once I was over the discomfort of not being able to see the bottom, or necessarily knowing what was immediately around me, I gradually became more and more comfortable with OWS. It's all about confidence. The more confident you are, the more relaxed you will be, and the faster/smoother your swim will be.

Plus, Lake Michigan can throw some pretty hairy swim conditions at you, which also builds confidence.

The Racine HIM, on July 21, was by far the worst racing conditions I've ever experienced (but definitely not the worst conditions I ever trained in), and I saw dozens of people who probably learned this very lesson during that swim.
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