View Full Version : Pacing yourself open water

June 22nd, 2013, 11:31 PM
You seasoned open water veterans have any tips for a pool guy who is clueless without walls and a pace clock?

I did 2 miles in a lake with some friends this morning. It was the third time I've done an open water workout. I've also done 3 races (1994, 2008, 2009).

It was unpleasant to have no idea how much farther I had to go. We were turning around at the other side. At one point, I thought the shore looked around 50 yards away but based on stroke count it was 200+.

I knew it was around 700 yards from the last buoy on the way back. I just tried to go as fast as I could maintain, and hope the other side eventually showed up.

June 23rd, 2013, 12:52 AM
I was kind of wondering the same thing if anyone has any answers? I figured with would click on eventually, but I still seem to be a big clueless when it comes to finding the distance I have left to go. I think if I could find a way to determine I'd feel a whole lot more confident in the water.

June 23rd, 2013, 06:58 PM
I'm sure that other more experienced open water swimmers will weigh in here- but as a newer OW swimmer- I struggled with this very thing until I got my new Garmin 910xt. Having that thing buzz at me every 500 meters (or however you set it) and being able to look at it to see my total distance and determine my turn around point based on how far I want to go for the day has made all of the difference in the world for me.

Rob Copeland
June 23rd, 2013, 08:40 PM
Unless you are in some kind of distress don't worry about "how much farther". You will get there when you get there. You may get better at estimating distances, but your distance and the time of the swim may differ drastically. For example, I have done open water ocean swims where I would swim for an hour one way along the beach then turn around and swim for 10 minutes to get back to my starting point.

If you want to vary your workout you can vary speed/effort by a number of strokes or by time or buoy to buoy.

June 24th, 2013, 05:22 PM
Don't get used to swimming with the Garmin, or, rather, don't expect to be able to swim with it during an OW race. Normally those things (swimp3s, garmins under the cap) aren't allowed. Better to judge distance by things that don't change, like trees.

When you're in the lake and ready to start, look behind you. If you're doing an out and back, then look at the tress before you start, get an idea of what you can see (individual leaves? branches?). Swim your "out." Once you're at your turn-around point, turn around and look at the trees. As you get closer, they'll get bigger and look more like they did when you started.

I used to know how to judge distance based on: vast green-ness w/o seeing individual tress equals X miles away; individual trees but no branches or leaves equals X miles away; can see groups of leaves on branches, etc...you get the idea.

June 24th, 2013, 11:45 PM
Like anything, you just have to experience it. The more you can actually get in and practice the better understanding you will have on how far you have to go based on the overall distance and conditions (currents, if any). I pretty much know about how long it should take me to do say a 5K within 5-10 min. Its not a bad idea to wear a lightweight watch with a stopwatch function so you can glance at time if need be.

As far as doing the swim, I always like to get away from the pack the first 500 yards and then I will calm down into a easier pace.....its even okay if some folks pass me. Then gradually build back up to the pace I plan to hold for the next 90% of the swim. When finish or shore is within site (or 500 yards) time to see what's left.

I've also found that if you know someone you can follow, say that's done the course/race before, its not a bad thing to follow them. I followed (and somewhat dragged) and former Olympian in a 5k only to pass them with 760-1000 yards left and won by over a minute. That was the OW swim of my Master's career. But I credited him quite a bit for the route and knowledge of the course.