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dadis
August 8th, 2011, 03:47 PM
I just swam my first open water event this past weekend, and have learned a few lessons the hard way.
I was wondering if anyone else has some tips or things that swimmers need to remember for an open water race.
The following is what I have so far.

1. Know exactly where the finish line is and what markings it will have.
I ended a short warm up race (500m) by swimming to the wrong boat ramp, about 20 feet away from the actual finish line. The finish line had the electronic sensors.

2. Know the course layout.
The course I swam was a rectangle with 3 large buoys on each of the long sides. For some reason during the swim I was sure there were only 2 on the back side. After the 2nd buoy, I started to cut over toward the finish line until I suspected that something was amiss. An extended look showed me my error. I hated myself for this error.

3. Don’t get kicked in the head.
If the race is sufficiently long, and you are an average racer, I think a clean start is more important than a fast start. I started to the far left of the pack, which was smart. Unfortunately, I cut in prematurely within the first 100 yards and was kicked in the goggles. I believe I really should have stayed wide and stayed safe for the first ~800 yard straight-away, angling slightly toward the last buoy.


Things I did right.

4. Make sure the ankle bracelet and timing chip are securely attached.
I had trouble removing it after the swim. A good problem.

5. Brought and wore dark goggles.
I usually swim indoors with clear goggles. The dark tint or mirror is a nice addition outside, even on an overcast day.

6. Lots of swimmers are nervous.
It helps me to know that I was not the only swim with butterflies.


What am I missing?
My next event is Labor Day weekend.
Thanks.

pwb
August 8th, 2011, 04:11 PM
I just swam my first open water event this past weekendCongrats!


...and have learned a few lessons the hard way...
If the race is sufficiently long, and you are an average racer, I think a clean start is more important than a fast start. I started to the far left of the pack, which was smart...You made a smart choice to start wide. I'd argue that you can get a clean and a fast start almost always by starting at one extreme (right or left) of the field. I consider myself a pretty fast starter and, whenever I can, I try to be the last person on one side of the starting field. Doing this guarantees me that I've only got one side to watch out for, both in terms of not getting kicked and in terms of getting ahead to clean water.


What am I missing?

These might be personal preferences, but I also like:


Warmup pre-race on the race course if at all possible. For some reason, I go to OW races and see loads of people just jumping in and racing cold. With (generally) a fast start, this is a recipe for pain. Know ahead of time if you'll be able to warmup at the event. If you can, great. If you can't, try to do a pool warmup as close as possible before you head over to the race. If it's too cold, do lots of dynamic stretching, etc. to get yourself warmed up.
Wear your goggles under your cap: less chance of another competitor accidentally knocking them off.
Try to get a pair of goggles that are sleek with a good field of vision. I see lots of people aiming for clunky goggles (e.g., http://www.aquasphereswim.com/us/index.php/products/eye-protection/adults/67) that, while having great field of vision, also offer greater surface area upon which a competitor can accidentally kick or whack you. I prefer to race open water in the same pool racing goggles I use -- http://www.swimoutlet.com/product_p/2929.htm -- because they seem to hold their antifog forever, offer great sun protection and fit snugly so that even an errant hand or foot to the eyepiece won't knock them loose.

thewookiee
August 8th, 2011, 04:50 PM
Dadis,

Congrats on the first swim. I did my first open water race a few weeks ago.
I agree with Patrick, try to swim the course as a warm-up if possible. Another point that I found out the hard way, don't try to over do the start of the race. When my race started, I was so anxious to get out to the front, that I went out too hard. The rest of the race hurt. Try to start strong but with control.

pendaluft
August 8th, 2011, 07:10 PM
I'd be happy to hear suggestions for warm ups when the swim starts as a jump off of a water taxi -- can't get in the water first. The swims I am doing this year are all like that. Last year I did a lot of stretching and stuff while lining up but it certainly wasn't like a swim warm up. Anything you can do while treading water and waiting for the horn?

Lump
August 8th, 2011, 10:25 PM
1. Get there EARLY. Gives you a chance to see the course, figure out the layout (not just from a map), ask questions, see conditions, warmup, prepare mentally, etc. If feedings are needed, get that worked out too.

2. Take several pairs of goggles. Have them on the ready. One dark/mirrored, one light tint, one clear. You should have worn all...not NEW goggles.

3. Scope the competition. Try to find folks, if you can, that you know you are close in speed to. Try to know where the fast folks are, where the slow pokes are.....avoid the pokes!

4. Use body glide or similar substances.....it helps!

Those are just some of mine from my experience.

Queen
August 8th, 2011, 10:28 PM
My moms favorite tips for me were:
1 - Have fun!!
2 - Don't drown

:D

pwb
August 8th, 2011, 10:50 PM
Anything you can do while treading water and waiting for the horn?Streamline dolphin kicks. I also like pushing myself straight down with a vertical upsweep of straight arms, then doing an underwater breast pull & kick to bring me back to the surface. Anything to keep me moving, but going vertical in those situations.

philoswimmer
August 8th, 2011, 11:56 PM
Lots of good advice here. I would add:



Before the race starts, ask if others have done the race before, and if they have any tips. In my experience, people are very willing to be helpful. Usually the most important piece of advice to get is what to "sight" on -- this may *not* be the finish line for most of the race, as the finish line may not be visible from the start. It could be a building or a mountain or some other landmark.
I use Vaseline on exposed areas to prevent suit rubbing and to pretend that it's keeping me warmer. (not sure that it does).
Wear a silicone cap or other cap underneath the cap they give you to keep your head warmer. But don't do what I did on Saturday and use a cap that slowly creeps off your head. :shakeshead:
Know that you're going to swallow water and miss a breath or two. No biggie.
Be prepared to change your stroke. For longer races, I find it helpful to switch periodically between longer, slower strokes and shorter, faster ones, because I think you use slightly different muscles. Waves or chop may require higher arms and shorter strokes.
Learn how to sight without interrupting your breathing.
Draft off of someone a little faster than you who seems to be swimming a good line. But be careful, because if you pick the wrong person, you may swim off course if they do or swim slower than you could be. And if you do draft, don't be a jerk and touch their feet. At all.
Be sure to have nice warm clothes waiting for you at the finish. Celebrate your job well done. Exchange your war stories with other swimmers.

LauraAswim
August 9th, 2011, 09:07 AM
I'll add:

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate....before race day. Drinking on the morning of the race isn't going to cut it.

aquageek
August 9th, 2011, 10:29 AM
You made a smart choice to start wide. I'd argue that you can get a clean and a fast start almost always by starting at one extreme (right or left) of the field. I consider myself a pretty fast starter and, whenever I can, I try to be the last person on one side of the starting field. Doing this guarantees me that I've only got one side to watch out for, both in terms of not getting kicked and in terms of getting ahead to clean water.

Finally, pwb and I don't agree on something, to a certain extent.

As a general rule I do not like the notion of starting far outside. I prefer to start dead in the middle but up front. I see way too many [newbie] swimmers start at the outside due to paralyzing fear of the pack. I've never seen any evidence this works. However, if you are an experienced OW swimmer, as pwb is, this strategy could certainly work. The basic math says you will swim farther but that could be balanced against other factors, like getting kicked. I really just think pwb is scared of combat swimming.

In OW races, swimmers tend to be more courteous and self-policing. In triathlons it's a big free for all with jacked up tri-dorks thinking they know how to swim. Triathlons get interesting on the starts.

Thrashing Slug
August 9th, 2011, 11:47 AM
I'm still trying to figure out the best place to start in an open water or tri swim. The problem is, each event is different because different people show up. I've had great luck with starting right up front in the middle and off to one side, but I've also had bad experiences with both.

I did a one mile OW swim in June and I lined up behind some swimmer-looking people without wetsuits in the front. The problem was, they went out slow and the people behind me decided to climb over me, them, and everyone else. Then to make matters worse the climbers didn't know how to sight and started zig-zagging everywhere once I began drafting them.

For the Fat Salmon 5K I took the opposite approach, hung in the back messing around with my GPS, and just took my time. That resulted in a relaxing, conflict-free, but slow swim. I moved from pack to pack, drafting for a little while each time.

Looking back on past swims that I have done, my best results have been when I started out in the very front, hammered the first 100, and then fell in with whatever pack happened to be near me at the time. It's a painful way to race, but I think it is the most effective.

Thrashing Slug
August 9th, 2011, 11:54 AM
In OW races, swimmers tend to be more courteous and self-policing. In triathlons it's a big free for all with jacked up tri-dorks thinking they know how to swim. Triathlons get interesting on the starts.

This is definitely true, although I think the shorter OW races can be just as bad as triathlon starts. Sometimes it seems like people are not doing it on purpose - they just can't help themselves from spazzing out and swimming all over the place. Other times it is clearly intentional, like the guy who wrapped his hand around my ankle and pulled. (triathlon start, 10-beat kick, problem solved)

aquageek
August 9th, 2011, 12:00 PM
Looking back on past swims that I have done, my best results have been when I started out in the very front, hammered the first 100, and then fell in with whatever pack happened to be near me at the time. It's a painful way to race, but I think it is the most effective.

Much like you, this has been where I have ended up also. I tried the build swim approach once and ended up spending so much time trying to catch the next pack that I wore myself out and had a rotten time.

The one absolute truth I have determined is never be anywhere near anyone wearing goofles (Aquasphere goggles). 100% of the time they have no idea what they are doing, where to line up, or where to go.

srcoyote
August 9th, 2011, 12:09 PM
Finally, pwb and I don't agree on something, to a certain extent.

As a general rule I do not like the notion of starting far outside. I prefer to start dead in the middle but up front. I see way too many [newbie] swimmers start at the outside due to paralyzing fear of the pack. I've never seen any evidence this works. However, if you are an experienced OW swimmer, as pwb is, this strategy could certainly work. The basic math says you will swim farther but that could be balanced against other factors, like getting kicked. I really just think pwb is scared of combat swimming.

In OW races, swimmers tend to be more courteous and self-policing. In triathlons it's a big free for all with jacked up tri-dorks thinking they know how to swim. Triathlons get interesting on the starts.


See, I think your approach to this question depends on your swim speed and the race. In my first couple of open water races, I started on the outside, and it worked well. In a swim like the Big Shoulders (800 swimmers starting in 5 or 6 waves), I'm a top half to top third swimmer, and starting on the outside keeps me clear of the congestion. A couple hundred adrenaline-hyped swimmers can swim really fast and hard for 200 yards which is enough to wear you out if you're trying to get out front of them to clear water.

In a smaller swim (100 swimmers or less), I can often be a top 10% in speed. In this case, I know who the top 4 or 5 finishers are likely to be. They start in the middle. I start on their heels. They clear the path for me, and I don't have to swim the extra distance.

pwb
August 9th, 2011, 12:19 PM
Before the race starts, ask if others have done the race before, and if they have any tips. In my experience, people are very willing to be helpful. Usually the most important piece of advice to get is what to "sight" on -- this may *not* be the finish line for most of the race, as the finish line may not be visible from the start. It could be a building or a mountain or some other landmarkVery good point. In many races the buoys aren't visible until you're close enough to them.


Draft off of someone a little faster than you who seems to be swimming a good line. But be careful, because if you pick the wrong person, you may swim off course if they do or swim slower than you could be. Someone once told me that you've got to get into a Zen-like state and trust the pack. I've found this generally works well. For the Gatorman at LaJolla, this has worked beautifully for me and allowed me to hang with stronger/faster swimmers on the outbound portion of the race and to waste less energy sighting. In local races where I know the competitors, I generally know that Kurt Dickson sights way better than me so I just try to hang with him :)


I really just think pwb is scared of combat swimming.Hit the nail on the head! However, I still don't think the extra 'width' of going wide in a field matters much in terms of the overall distance swum. Most OW races I do are at least a mile and I probably add more distance due to mis-sighting during the race than I do from starting a bit widely. I just don't think the benefits of starting center outweigh the potential costs of getting whacked in the head or kicked in the gut. The other positive of starting wide is that, when I sprint, I tend to breathe to only one side: starting on one side of the field allows me to keep my eye on everyone else while maximizing my speed (such as it is).

aquageek
August 9th, 2011, 01:17 PM
Check out the noodler in this video

‪NYC Tri 2011 swim‬‏ - YouTube

swimthegoodfight
August 9th, 2011, 01:39 PM
the NYC tri video - was there a single 'skin' among all those 'shirts?'... wasn't water temperature in the mid-70s?

God bless the two families and friends that lost loved ones.

dadis
August 9th, 2011, 03:10 PM
My opinions regarding the Noodler at the NYC Tri would better be expressed on a completely different thread.

As far as starting position, the longer the swim distance to the first turn buoy, the less it matters, I would guess. My open water swim on Labor Day weekend will be as the swimmer in a Tri relay team (Hy-Vee tri in Des Moines). The distance to the first buoy is considerably shorter than my swim this past weekend.

You have all given me a great deal to ponder.
I will weigh my options carefully.

philoswimmer
August 9th, 2011, 03:27 PM
Check out the noodler in this video

‪NYC Tri 2011 swim‬‏ - YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oObelwk8WAI)

:eek:

I have never seen *anything* like that. And I'm not just talking about the noodler, though the noodler does take the :cake:.

MickYoung
August 10th, 2011, 01:29 PM
Noodler video: I was most impressed with the person doing backstroke with their head completely out of the water in the last second or two.

Reminds me that I failed to flip over onto my back and sing "Row, row, row your boat" in my last OW race.

One commenter suggested that the cap color for the noodler is that of the Para triathletes. Puts a different spin on it. I'm guessing they don't let regular triathletes use flotation devices other than wet suits. Otherwise, I might take my kayak.