View Full Version : Resting in an open water swim

June 28th, 2005, 03:52 PM
I have my first ever open water swim coming up next month, the Alcatraz Sharkfest. It's not too long, about a mile and a half, but the water is pretty cold (60) and the currents are strong. I got a wetsuit for the swim, but am not going to be able to test it in salt water until the day before the swim.

As a 56 year old novice swimmer, I can't swim that far using continuous freestyle, so I thought I would alternate freestyle and breaststroke, doing maybe 70 - 80 strokes of free (equal to 200 meters in the pool), then 20 - 40 strokes of breast to rest.

I've read a few posts from people saying that they were unable to swim breast in a wetsuit because it made them too bouyant. But I've also read a couple of other posts referring to people alternating strokes just like I'm planning to do.

I would appreciate hearing from anyone who has some experience with this. If the breaststroke is not going to be workable, what other techniques do you use for resting in the open water?


Edward The Head
June 28th, 2005, 04:00 PM
You can do breast, but just not as well. You might want to try out your wetsuit in a pool just to see what it's like. I used mine 2-3 times in the pool to get used to it. I also think you could do more then 200 yards of free, you might want to try for a lot more, I don't think you will get that tired, but I don't know your endurance.

Rob Copeland
June 28th, 2005, 06:29 PM
Swimming in saltwater in a wetsuit will increase buoyancy and tend to elevate your butt. Depending on how you kick breaststroke today, this may cause your heels to rise out of the water when you bring them up (I would assume this is why you stated people saying that they were unable to swim breast in a wetsuit). You may need to lift your head a bit more during breathing to drop the hips to keep the kick underwater.

Id suggest that you take your wetsuit to the pool and practice with it on; especially if it is a new wetsuit. You will want to see if it rubs you raw (any hot spots) and youll want to find these hot spots before you swim in a race.

And one further suggestion, since I see you are in Georgia, Id recommend you swim the State Games Open Water on July 16th in Lake Lanier. We have a 1K, 3K and 5K race. Check out their web site http://gagames.kennesaw.edu/swimy.htm

June 28th, 2005, 08:14 PM
I just realized I made a big math error in my original post. My strokes for 200 meters are 140 - 150, or 17 - 18 per length swimming in a 25 M pool. I wish my technique was good enough to do it in 70 - 80. Maybe someday.

Regarding fitness, I find swimming fitness to be a very strange animal. I have swum as much as 3K in the pool without stopping, alternating breast and free. But whenever I swithch to all free, my technique starts to deteriorate after about 300 M and I am worn out in about 500 M, even swimming at the same pace as the alternating breast/free laps (about 2:05 for 100 M). If I try to drop my speed low enough to stay aerobic, it gets so hard to maintain any momentum that I just get more tired.

Lately I've been focusing on doing 100 and 200 M freestyle sets and trying to reduce the rest between each set a few seconds each week. My sets are getting a little faster, but it's been extremely hard to reduce the rest at all. Maybe it just needs more time.

Anyway, I will try out the wet suit at the pool in the next few days. Thanks for the advice.

Kevin in MD
June 29th, 2005, 10:05 AM
I did exactly what you are thinking of doing in my first chesapeake bay swim. 300 strokes free, 30 breast; for the whole way.

I had a reasonable time too.

Definitely take the wetsuit to the pool and practice with it.

Sometimes if you aren't breathing enough then you will run out of gas at the 200 or 300 yard mark. Make sure your are breathing every 2 armstrokes.

If that is not it, it is probably mental. You just haven't relaxed yet. I went through the same thing, it comes along and even comes when you don't realize it. Extend your sets to 225's rather than the 200s.

Either that or one day you will be warming up and get distracted, then you'll realize sometime later you had just swam about 600 yards straight and aren't dying. That's how it happened for me.

June 29th, 2005, 05:54 PM
Hi Tom,
I'm a relatively new open-water swimmer (just started last summer), and used a wetsuit for the first time last year, along with several teammates (we wear them for early and late season workouts in Lake Washington, in Seattle, where the water temp is about 60 degrees in late May).

Something several of us noticed is that when we first started swimming in the wetsuits-- they felt very tight across the chest and we felt like it was hard to breathe, especially when we first jumped into the cold water. After a time or two, though, we all got used to the feeling, and don't really notice it anymore. Don't know if this is a common thing with others, but 3 out of 6 of my group felt it, so just be aware that between the wetsuit and cold water, your breathing may feel harder. We're all still alive and kicking (or at least floating on top of the water), but not at Alcatraz this year. Good luck!

June 30th, 2005, 01:15 PM
I found that breaststroke in a full wetsuit tended to cause water to flood into certain areas, as if a vacuum was being created by limbs all akimbo (in my sorry case) and water got sucked in. Took a while for it to dissipate.

Good luck, hope the food & drink afterwards is good.


July 3rd, 2005, 03:10 AM
I can't say much regarding the wetsuit stuff, as I've never worn one; but I have done the Alcatraz swim a couple of times, and going for my third at the end of the month.

When I did my first swim (August 2004), I would swim freestyle for the most part, alternating with short stretches of breaststroke. The second time (last weekend), I was able to swim exclusive freestyle. I found that the key is simply to relax. Don't think about where you are swimming, except to marvel at the fact that you are looking at the Golden Gate Bridge when you breathe.

July 5th, 2005, 07:10 PM
I found it easier to change pace from 66 strokes a minute down to 54 strokes that is what I called resting.

July 14th, 2005, 11:17 AM
Do what works for you but keep an eye on currents. You want to avoid losing any ground when you are easing up. On some occaisions when I have done Alcatraz, I have ended up to the "left" of the entrance to Aquatic Park(left while swimming towards it). I have noticed a current along the Aquatic Park breakwater that I have to swim against when that happens.

You want to schedule any breaks in your rhythm or change to breast for times when you aren't in that situation. After you round the entrance at Aquatic Park is a perfect time to switch up if you feel a need. Good luck. Its a fun swim.

July 14th, 2005, 12:02 PM
When you stop for nourishment during a swim during the night in rough water now that is an experiance.

Even though the stop may be for a few seconds the waves have turned you around and when you start swimming again you have to sight to see which way you have to swim. I was lucky I saw the bridge at the Hamilton Beach I new were Toronto was and headed for TO.

In the cross Lake Ontario race in 1964 half way through the night the water was rough and the temperature dropped to 48f degrees and after drinking I lost view of my boat for about ten minutes. I headed for TO and they found me.