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Thread: Acceptable Open-Water Strokes?

  1. #1
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    Acceptable Open-Water Strokes?

    So, I've signed up for a couple of open-water swims this summer (the total will be 3, once signups open for the 3rd one), and I'm very excited and very nervous, as I haven't done a "race" with other humans in ... like 20-odd years.

    I've been diligently working at my endurance and speed for several years after that long hiatus, but the kicker is that my freestyle/front crawl is still quite pear-shaped (I can do 100yds at a steady, not fast pace, and 200yds in a pull-set), and breaststroke is my pick for any kind of distance. Last year I spent a lot of time in the local lake tooling around the periphery of the "adult only" area (About 6 rounds equals 1 mile) making reasonable time, and my warm-up in the pool is a nice 500yd BS. I'm not breaking the lifeguard test requirement of 500yd in <10mins, but I'm not taking 20 minutes like I did when I first got back to swimming either.

    Long story short, while I've signed up for 1/2 miles in all of these races (and might even be middle-of-the-pack, judging by other folks' times in past years), I just don't think my freestyle will be up to it. Is it ok to swim breaststroke, as long as I keep knees and feet out of other people's way? I have seen nothing on the race websites forbidding it or requiring a specific stroke, but I wasn't sure if there was a sort of gentlemen's/women's agreement that you just don't do that.

    (also, any other advice for my first time in 20ish years "competing" with a bunch of folks would be appreciated. One is a lake swim in early June, two are ocean swims in relatively calm coves later in the summer. They're all in Massachusetts.)

  2. #2
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    Re: Acceptable Open-Water Strokes?

    All strokes are legal in open water swims sanctioned by USMS, USA-Swimming, and USA-Triathlon. If your swims are not sanctioned by these organizations, you should check with the meet host/director for clarification.

    My chief concern is that you can make the cut-off time for the swim--many swims have them for swimmer safety and to shorten the time that volunteers have to spend in small boats. But I doubt that you will have trouble with 1/2-mile swims, as they're probably short enough not to require cut-off times for these reasons.

    My other concern while swimming breaststroke is to protect other swimmers from your wide & powerful kick, so...
    --consider using freestyle when in close quarters at the start until you have safe spacing for breaststroke; and
    --swing a bit wide when in close quarters around the turns until you have safe spacing.

    Best of luck!

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    Re: Acceptable Open-Water Strokes?

    I'm not sure who they're sanctioned by - the websites, even the registration sites, are pretty bare bones. But it doesn't look like there's anything expressly forbidding any stroke, just no fins, paddles, adjuncts, etc. I think a couple of the swims have cutoffs for the longer races (the 5K in Salem does, I believe), but not for any of the short/"fun" swims. (theoretically, I suppose that means the 5K cutoff is the cutoff for the 1/2 mile, but I'm definitely not going to take that long! It looks like the longest 500m time in the last swim last year was 22 minutes, and in the lake last year I could do it in about 10-12, breaststroke, so I should be nicely middle of the pack.)

    Hahaha, "wide and powerful" But yes, I can certainly switch to freestyle where it'd be safer to do so. It's just not 1/2 mile, or even 500m, worthy yet. (it's a slow, arduous process but perhaps it'll be worthy by the end of the summer). Thank you for the advice! I'm looking forward to enjoying the swims and hopefully not finishing last.

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    Very Active Member srcoyote's Avatar
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    Re: Acceptable Open-Water Strokes?

    At least half of the open water swims I do, I've seen at least one person swimming breaststroke almost exclusively. While it's important to be mindful of kicks around the turns, it's never bothered me. I say swim it how you want to.

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    Re: Acceptable Open-Water Strokes?

    Great to know! Thank you. I suspect at the ocean swims I will have some more maneuverability (I'm actually not sure how large the lake is, but I believe it's longer and narrow), but I guess I'll see how it is. (and how many people are there!) Any other advice for a first-time open-water swimmer? (once, many years ago, I did the mile swim with the local swim league, but that was more a fun-time thing)

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    Very Active Member srcoyote's Avatar
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    Re: Acceptable Open-Water Strokes?

    For first time, especially if you're going breaststroke, let the field take off. Give yourself a few seconds and follow so you can avoid the melee that can happen at a start. If you are middle of the pack, you'll catch up and pass those you were going to beat anyway.

    Unless of course, you like a little melee, then go for it!

    After that enjoy yourself!

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    Re: Acceptable Open-Water Strokes?

    Ok wait I'm back with another dumb question. How do people get out/leave the water? Do you swim until you're exfoliating on the bottom? Pop up and run? Is there some kind of buoy that means "ok stop swimming like a madman now"?

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    Very Active Member mjtyson's Avatar
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    Re: Acceptable Open-Water Strokes?

    Quote Originally Posted by swim_badger View Post
    Ok wait I'm back with another dumb question. How do people get out/leave the water? Do you swim until you're exfoliating on the bottom? Pop up and run? Is there some kind of buoy that means "ok stop swimming like a madman now"?
    You can do dolphin dives, if you've still got the energy. For me, I keep swimming until the ground is getting in the way of my stroking, then I stand and "run" through the finish. Run in quotes because I don't always have the energy to do much more than walk fast. Also watch out here at the end: if you've been horizontal for a very long time, you can easily get light-headed standing up suddenly. As with everything, practice practice practice!
    --Mike Tyson (yes, my real name)

    https://blogs.marathonswimmers.org/ironmike/

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    Re: Acceptable Open-Water Strokes?

    Well! That went off better than I anticipated. The water wasn't especially cold (a little chilly as you got toward the deeper spots), around 65F. It was a fairly small turnout (they said 115 participants), in an "aquathlon" (swim/run), the 1/2 mile swim, and the 1.2 and 2.4 mile swims. The 1/2 mile had a field of 21, mainly first-time open water swimmers (the announcer asked and nearly everyone raised their hands). I was lucky enough to have a friend on-shore to cheer me on and guard my stuff and my emergency medical info. As far as the swim - the buoy looked ... sort of far away at first, but I just got my head down and figured if I kept going I'd get there and around it eventually. I didn't feel like I was absolutely hauling ass (I was trying not to, in fear of losing momentum), but shockingly, I did much better than I thought I would! When I did 800m in the pool, it was 19:41, and my result in this race was 17:29.6! I turned in 14th of 21, which wasn't bad, in particular since there were just two of us not wearing wetsuits. It was a very nice, supportive environment, the announcer had words of encouragement for everyone coming onto the beach, down to the very last of the 2.4 milers. One lady swam at least part of the 1/2 mile backstroke! Bold move, got to applaud that.

    There was some cool swag and while I felt wasted coming up on shore, I was elated to have finished, and EVEN MORE elated to find out my time! And yes, I did the whole thing breaststroke. And then of course later in the day my brain was like hey, dude, that was only 880 yards, like, we should go swim some more today.

    But now I'm just plainly excited for my next race, in August. I might be addicted, send help.

  10. #10
    Very Active Member miklcct's Avatar
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    Re: Acceptable Open-Water Strokes?

    Quote Originally Posted by swim_badger View Post
    Well! That went off better than I anticipated. The water wasn't especially cold (a little chilly as you got toward the deeper spots), around 65F. It was a fairly small turnout (they said 115 participants), in an "aquathlon" (swim/run), the 1/2 mile swim, and the 1.2 and 2.4 mile swims. The 1/2 mile had a field of 21, mainly first-time open water swimmers (the announcer asked and nearly everyone raised their hands). I was lucky enough to have a friend on-shore to cheer me on and guard my stuff and my emergency medical info. As far as the swim - the buoy looked ... sort of far away at first, but I just got my head down and figured if I kept going I'd get there and around it eventually. I didn't feel like I was absolutely hauling ass (I was trying not to, in fear of losing momentum), but shockingly, I did much better than I thought I would! When I did 800m in the pool, it was 19:41, and my result in this race was 17:29.6! I turned in 14th of 21, which wasn't bad, in particular since there were just two of us not wearing wetsuits. It was a very nice, supportive environment, the announcer had words of encouragement for everyone coming onto the beach, down to the very last of the 2.4 milers. One lady swam at least part of the 1/2 mile backstroke! Bold move, got to applaud that.

    There was some cool swag and while I felt wasted coming up on shore, I was elated to have finished, and EVEN MORE elated to find out my time! And yes, I did the whole thing breaststroke. And then of course later in the day my brain was like hey, dude, that was only 880 yards, like, we should go swim some more today.

    But now I'm just plainly excited for my next race, in August. I might be addicted, send help.
    I bet you will be doing at least 2 miles in the coming summer, then 6 miles in next year, then 10 miles afterwards
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    Re: Acceptable Open-Water Strokes?

    Quote Originally Posted by miklcct View Post
    I bet you will be doing at least 2 miles in the coming summer, then 6 miles in next year, then 10 miles afterwards
    I'm not sure if that's sarcasm or you're just vastly overestimating my abilities, but thank you.

    There is a 1.2 mile swim at the very end of the summer (September) that I'm still waffling about signing up for, but maybe...

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    Re: Acceptable Open-Water Strokes?

    Great job Badger! Congratulations. That's a fast breast stroke. I 'd still be out there. LOL!

    Dude, totally sign up for the 1.2 miler. It's only a touch more than you just did, and you admitted that you could've done more (or at least had a longer workout.) You probably practice more already.
    Kari Kennedy

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    Re: Acceptable Open-Water Strokes?

    Thank you! Breaststroke is my thing, and a majority of what I do while I work on not getting exhausted doing freestyle. (it's a process). The funny thing is, I seem to be faster (in general) swimming open water than in the pool! (I was timing myself in the lake last year, doing 1/3 of a mile). Those turns must kill me.

    Tomorrow (tomorrow!) the city opens the lake (and the pool!), and they have very conveniently mapped out all the distances within the swimming areas (they have an actual, physical guide that tells you how long each length/lap is, and how many equal a mile), so it becomes easier to practice and I can hopefully acclimate to swimming a full mile (6 circles of the adults-only area). Last year I would do two circles, rest, two circles, rest, etc. The September swim is a little scary because it's an ocean swim, across Provincetown Harbor, and so very, very Atlantic. I suppose I could sign up and hope for the best... once I get to swimming in the lake I think it will be easier to adjust and practice.

    Next two races happen to be over the same weekend (Saturday/Sunday) in August and both are ocean swims, very much looking forward to those.

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