Archive for category Swim

Long Course Pool

After I got home from work today, I walked to our neighborhood pool for my swim, but it was closed for a private event.  Fortunately, our pool passes work for all the pools in our town (and tennis courts too), so I ran home, hopped in the car and drove to the next closest one.  I probably could have walked, but I had already wasted enough time walking to and from the first.  As it turns out, I’m really glad for the turn of events because the other pool is an Olympic sized pool!  That means 50 meter lengths!  I haven’t swum in 50 meter pool since college, so it was really a very nice treat only having to turn every 50.  I didn’t really have a plan for a workout other than to be in the water for 50 minutes, so I just started swimming hundreds.  I ended up doing the following:

Warm-up: 2 x 100m Freestyle, 2 x 100m Breaststroke

Core: 200m Free, 300m Free, 400m Free, 100m Breast, 300m Free, 200m Free

Cool-down: 100m Free, 100m Breast

Swimming in the longer pool helped me mentally prepare myself for the even longer distance for the tri.  I’ve never had trouble with open water swims, but my frame of mind is definitely a bit different than in a 25 meter or shorter pool.  I think I will be taking advantage of this pool more often!

After my swim I had a really horrendously bad run with the dog.  I had to cut it short because I was meeting Curtis and some of his coworkers for dinner, so I ended up being really lazy about it.  I still ran about 3 miles, but I should have done closer to 5 or 6.  I’m starting to worry about my running.  I haven’t done a good long run in awhile now.  I’m really hoping to get in some good miles next week.  I’ll be at the beach with Curtis’s family, but I’m planning to still do all my planned workouts.  We’re driving, so I’m bringing my bike with me.  I’ll probably bring my wetsuit too.  That way I can get some open water practice done.

Tomorrow is supposed to be a 2 hour bike ride.  My bike shorts and my tri shorts are in the laundry, so I need to remember to put them in the wash in the morning so they’ll be clean for my ride.

Have a good night!

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Weekend training

I never made it for a swim after my last post and ended up having a very lazy Thursday.  Friday it was back to the training game with a 4 mile run.  It was under 90 degrees at 86F, so I decided to take Tara with me.  It was amazing how much easier it is to run at that temperature than the 95+ degree days we’ve been having!  It was quite refreshing.  We were pretty slow and had to make several stops for road crossings and water stops.  All in all, I was pretty pleased with the run.  I’m hoping for more cooler days, but I think that’s just wishful thinking!

Saturday was my long ride, and I did a 3 hour ride on the W&OD bike trail.  I think I did about 45 miles total.  It’s hard to say how far it is exactly because the area near my turnaround point is all detours off the trail and it’s difficult to map precisely.  I felt really good for the first half, but the second half was a little rough.  I think I need to work on going out slower so I don’t use up my legs before the end of the ride.  My speed doesn’t seem to be improving much beyond 15mph, but I really need to replace my computer so I have more accurate data.

Yesterday was a swim at the outdoor local pool.  It was just a “recovery” swim, so I didn’t have a workout planned.  When I got there I decided to do a full 1900 meter swim to find out if I could do the distance for the half-Ironman (1.2 miles = 1931m).  After a 100m warm-up, I started by long swim.  I don’t know how accurate my count of lengths was, but I’m pretty sure I was fairly close.  I felt great after the first 500 meters or so.  For some reason it always takes me a little while to get into a good rhythm.

Tonight is a running night.  It stormed earlier, so I’m hoping it has cooled off outside!

Have a great week!

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Keep On Keeping On

This has been quite a week.  I’m trying to really make an effort to do all my training workouts and so far so good.  Granted, we’re only three days into the week (one of those being a rest day), but I feel good about my new-found resolve.  Yesterday I went to the gym after work and did NROLW Stage 6 workout A.  Essentially, I’m starting Stage 6 all over again since I took a hiatus.  I’m glad I restarted because I am SORE today.  I did negative chin-ups, underhand grip lat pulldowns (@90 lbs), split squats (@95 lbs), and push-ups.  It was a short workout, but quite challenging.  After I finished lifting I came home and set up my bike on the trainer for a 75 minute ride.  I really need to replace my bike computer.  If you’ve been following for awhile, you’ll know that it was stolen at my last tri last season (Nation’s Tri).  I haven’t replaced it yet, but I really need to so I can monitor my cadence and distance, especially for indoor rides.  I must admit, I do love the convenience of being able to ride right in my own house, even if it does get a bit boring riding on the trainer.

Today I had every intention of going to the gym or running before work, but of course that didn’t happen.  I ended up not going until later this evening because  spent most of the day at my parents’ house.  My mom had surgery on Monday and is recovering well, but I went over to help out during the day in case she needed anything.  I went to the gym after I left and ran on the treadmill for 40 minutes.  I slacked on the treadmill and jogged pretty slowly.  I’m pretty sore from lifting yesterday and none of my limbs wanted to work right.  My arms are especially stiff.  After my slow run, I went to the locker room to shower and prepare for a swim.  I did a swimplan workout, which I actually shortened to 2000 yards, which I finished in 45 minutes.  I did 4x 100 freestyle with 15 seconds rest, followed by 6 sets of 50 yards long dog drill and 50 yards single arm drill with 10 seconds rest after each 50.  The core part of the workout was supposed to be 16x 100 freestyle, which I actually cut into 8x 100 freestyle with 15 seconds rest and used fins for the first 400 yards.  I finished up with a cooldown of 2x 50 freestyle and 2x 50 backstroke.  Those drills took a long time to complete.

Tomorrow is another lifting and biking day.  I’d like to ride outside, but the forecast is calling for storms and ridiculously hot temps (90+), so I may end up on the trainer.

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Lake Swim, Bike, Run

I haven’t gotten around to look at any information on training with heart rate zones yet.  But that hasn’t stopped me from training!  I had  a fantastic weekend, for training and just for fun too.  On Friday after work, I swam 3500 yards right after work.  I made up the workout, which included a ton of pulling with a pull buoy and a fair amount of kicking too.  I also worked in all the other strokes as well, so that was pretty fun.  I forgot my heart rate monitor at home, so I don’t have any workout stats, but I felt like I was working fairly hard nonetheless.

Later in the evening, in the pouring rain, we drove down to Curtis’s dad’s lake cottage.  What a gorgeous place!  We got up fairly early on Saturday morning and went for a very humid run.  I did a total of 70 minutes, but that was broken up with a bathroom break in the middle.  I actually felt really good during the second half of the run.  It’s amazing to me how far I’ve come with running just since the beginning of this year!  I never would have thought I’d consider myself a runner, but I kind of do. 🙂 Stats for the run (paused during the break):

Duration: 1:13:02

Average heart rate: 165

Max heart rate: 185

Calories: 763

Early in the afternoon, storm clouds started rolling in and we started hearing thunder in the distance.   There were torrential downpours until 4 or 5, so we spent the time inside hanging out and visiting.  After the rain finally stopped, we headed down to the beach area of the lake to go for a swim.  I made up an imaginary course of about 700 meters, I’m guessing.  I sighted on a white boat with a blue awning and then a flagpole with an American flag and the third sighting was on the dock.  Curtis swam with me, and did about half the distance and waited for me back at the dock with his cousins and sister.

Duration: 12:06

Average heart rate: 153

Max heart rate: 165

Calories: 110

I felt pretty good in the water, and I’m glad I got a little open water practice in, even if it was only a short swim.  I did learn that I only need to be sighting about once every 9-12 strokes to stay in a straight line.  Hopefully I’ll get in a little more open water practice before the tri.  Nation’s should have pretty good sight-lines, the finish is sighted on the Washington Monument!

The rest of the evening was pretty relaxing, we had a cookout for dinner and then afterwards went to meet the family’s new horse.  We didn’t stay at the barn long though, it was already dark so just long enough to get him settled in.

Sunday morning, Curtis and I got up and got our bikes ready for our 2.5 hour ride.  Since it had rained on our bikes all the way down and they had gotten rained on Saturday, they needed a little TLC.  Curtis also had to change his tube on his rear tire again.  Last week, I picked up some chain lube at the LBS, it’s called Rock N Roll, and it’s actually a combination cleaner and lubricant in one.  Wow, it did wonders for my bike.  All I did was dry the chain off, and remove as much of the excess water from the rain as possible.  Then, turned my bike upside down to rest it on its handlebars and saddle and applied a steady stream of the liquid to the chain while back pedaling.  After the whole chain was lubricated, I continued to backpedal the tires for several seconds.  Then I removed the excess liquid from the chain, and voila! as good as new!  I followed this procedure for the first time last week, and could not believe how much smoother my ride felt.  I will definitely be using this product again in the future and regularly to keep my chain in good condition.  I would highly recommend it.

When we finally left for our ride, it was about 8:00AM.  We rode out on the main road for about 10 miles then another highway for about 7 more miles before turning back.  The course was mostly rolling throughout with a few bigger hills.  We also had a couple encounters with some dogs, two sets actually.  They chased us, which believe me, is a fabulous incentive to pedal harder.  We managed to out-pedal them and continued on our way.  It was an absolutely gorgeous morning for a ride, but we were both a little sore from the run the day before and were having a bit of trouble pushing through.  We made it though!

Duration: 2:24:27

Distance: 35.23 miles

Average speed: 14.6 mph

Max speed: 31.1 mph

Average heart rate: 146

Max heart rate: 176

Calories: 1228

Wowza, that’s a lot of calories burned first thing in the morning.  I had a half bagel and cashew butter before we left then another when we got back.  It lasted awhile, but I wish I had brought some sort of snack for the ride.  Unfortunately, I hadn’t brought anything from home and there wasn’t anything easy to bring from the lake house.  I think that for the rest of my long rides I really need to bring some type of snack.

After our bike ride we went on another ride- a horse-back ride!  Curtis’s step-mom has several horses at a barn nearby the lake house, and we took out a few of the horses for a ride around the grounds.  I road River, a beautiful bay boy.  I am by no means a good rider, but I do love to take advantage of opportunities to ride, when I can.  I really enjoy it.

After our ride, and very busy weekend, we headed back home for my grandmother’s birthday party at my parents’ house.  And after that we had a meeting with a volunteer with the dog rescue organization so she could check out our house and determine whether we’d be approved to adopt through them.  We found out today that we’re approved!  Now, to find our dog!  Hopefully we’ll get to meet some soon.

Today, I went to Mom’s for some weight lifting after work, as usual.  We did Stage 1, workout A, week 4:

A. Squats – 2 sets of 12 @ 80lbs

B1. Push-ups – 2 sets of 12 real push-ups @ BW

B2. Seated row – 2 sets of 12 @ 70lbs (I lowered the weight on this because I felt like I was sacrificing form to increased weight)

C1. Step-ups – 2 sets of 12 @ 22.5lbs dumbbells

C2. Prone jackknife – 2 sets of 10 @ BW

I’m feeling quite tired from my very busy weekend, and I’m afraid I might be starting to overdo it a little bit.  So, I’m going to take tomorrow off completely.  I had a swim planned, but I’m just going to let that go this week.  I think I need the rest.

Have a great week!

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Entire Water and Heavier Weights

In my last post, I completely forgot to mention that my new heart rate monitor came on Monday!!!  It’s the Polar F6, and much improved from my old cheap one.  I managed to find one on ebay for half retail, so I got a good deal on it too!  I forgot to start it for my bonus workout on Monday night, so no idea what the stats were.  Tuesday ended up being an unplanned rest day, so I didn’t get to play with it then either!  I had planned to use it during my swim that afternoon, but of course, when I got to the pool it was closed.  They had heard thunder and it wouldn’t open for another hour.  That was too long for me to wait since I had dinner plans in DC with a friend.

Wednesday morning I got up early to do my swim then, and lucky me the pool was open and completely empty!  The lifeguard told me the entire water was just for me. 🙂  I only had time for 2000 meters of a swimplan.com workout.  It wasn’t a great workout, I was having a lot of trouble staying buoyant, which is quite unusual.  As a result, I could feel my legs dragging through the water and slowing me down.  I think it may have been the extra core work making my abs sore and not wanting to pull their fair share of the weight during the swim.  Here’s the stats from the HRM:

Duration: 48:35

Max heart rate: 174

Average heart rate: 153

Calories: 446

On Friday I’m planning to do a LTHR test to find out what my training zones are.  We’ll see how it goes!

After work was my weight workout with my mom.  We started with about 15 minutes light walking/jogging to warm-up a bit, then jumped right into week 3 of workout B in stage 1:

A. Deadlift – 2 sets of 12 @ 75lbs

B1. Dumbbell Shoulder Press – 1 set of 10 and 1 set of 8 @ 20 lbs Dumbbells

B2. Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown – 2 sets of 12 @ 70 lbs

C1. Lunge – 1 set of 15 (oops, I can’t count!) and 1 set of 12 @ 20 lbs Dumbbells

C2. Swiss-Ball Crunch – 2 sets of 10 @ 45 lbs plate

So, remember how I was having trouble with the 15 lbs dumbbells for the shoulder press here and here?  Well, today we decided to weigh them and make sure they actually were 15 lbs.  Guess what? They’re actually 20 pounds.  And at that light of a weight, that’s actually a pretty significant difference- 33% more than my heaviest lift previously!  So, now I don’t feel quite so terrible about being stuck at that weight.  At this point, I think I’ll just stay here or drop back to 17.5 but not all the way to 15lbs.  I’m going to see how my first set goes on my next B workout and decide then.  On my other dumbbell exercises the weight has been ok, so I’ll probably just stick with the 20lbs.

Weight training + warm-up stats:

Duration: 49:34

Max heart rate: 198

Average heart rate: 129

Calories: 331

Stay tuned, there will probably be a bonus post later tonight. Have a great day!

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Long, Hot Run

I’m a little behind in my blogging!  Here’s a quick recap- Thursday I took the day off completely.  I had some friends over for dinner, so I decided that it should be my rest day and that I would do a workout on Friday instead.  So, after work on Friday, I took a short bike ride then went to the pool for my short swim of the week.  I must say, my bike ride was not very effective.  The first leg out was decent, but the second leg back home was pretty worthless.  I think I was so preoccupied with getting back to go swimming that I just couldn’t focus on the ride or enjoy it.  Swimming was a bit better, Curtis came with me, but unfortunately we couldn’t get in the same lane.  I scoped out the lane situation and there were spaces in three lanes, one with a woman swimming who was very much a “flailer” and kept stopping to walk across the lane, and two with moderately decent men swimming.  Swimming with the flailer was out of the question for me.  I get really frustrated in the pool when I have to swim with someone who’s all over the place.  I should have more patience, because I know that you have to start somewhere, but it’s hard for me to focus on my workout when I’m always worrying about being run into.  I ended up in a lane with a guy who was a pretty decent swimmer, but let me tell you what- he did not want me swimming in his lane.  I tried to be courteous and waited on the side for a couple laps to make sure he saw me so he would move over and share the lane.  (Circle swimming isn’t really encouraged or desirable for most people at this pool).  Finally, I gave up trying to be nice and just got in and started swimming.  Thankfully, he moved over to one side at that point.  Circle swimming wouldn’t have been too bad though, we were about the same speed.  I did about 1700-1900 yards.  I don’t now what the exact amount was, but it was a subset of a swimplan.com workout.  My swim was marginally better than my mediocre bike ride.  Oh well, tomorrow’s my chance to make it up.  I’m thinking tomorrow’s going to be a brick with an hour and a half ride followed by a short 2-3 mile run.

I’m not sure how my legs are going to hold up tomorrow, though.  I ran 7.2 miles today and it was extremely hot and sunny.  I didn’t get out of bed this morning till 8:30, which is quite late for me, and didn’t get out for my run till 10.  Curtis and I ran the same course, although he finished significantly faster than I did.  I managed to run the whole thing without any stops or walks other than at stop lights.  Neither my legs nor my lungs ever seemed to get tired, but I do have some very sore feet now.  I readjusted the laces not too long ago, and think I tightened them a bit too much.  I need to loosen them up a bit before my brick tomorrow.  By the time I got back, all I wanted was a big glass of ice water and a smoothie.  Lucky for me Curtis had a big glass of ice water and was starting a smoothie when I got back! 🙂  He’s so good to me!  He told me when he got back he took his temperature out of curiosity because he had been so hot, and it was 100 F!  He immediately jumped in a cold shower in an attempt to cool off.  I wasn’t nearly as hot when I got back, but I definitely was dehydrated.  I should have brought some water with me.  Not smart on my part.  I’m considering getting a camelbak or water belt or something of the sort for my long runs.  I’m not sure what I’d like though- I’m afraid I would like having the camelbak on my back all the time, but I’m not sure.

What type of system do you use for hydration during long runs?

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GREAT Swim

This morning was a bit of a bust as far as getting up to go swimming.  I ended up staying up much later than I intended and couldn’t drag myself out of bed this morning in time to get to the pool and still be at work by 7:30.  I’m not sure if I’ve ever commented on my work hours before, but part of the reason I usually workout in the afternoons/evenings is that I like to get to work between 7 and 7:30 so that I can leave at 4PM.  I would have to get up quite early in order to workout before that.  Anyways, I did get to the pool after work and had a great swim.  I felt really strong and could hardly tell that I hadn’t swum a complete workout in over 2 months.  Today’s swim was my favorite swimplan.com workout:

Warm-up

8 x 50 yds Freestyle Swim, RI 0:15

4 x 50 yds Any Stroke, RI 0:15 (butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle)

Build up (repeat 6 times)

1 x 50 yds Single Arm (arm by side) 6 x left, 6 x right, 6 x full stroke, RI 0:10

1 x 50 yds Streamline Kicking, RI 0:10

Core

1 x 1500 yds, target time 28:30, RI 0:60

6 x 50 yds Any Stroke, RI 0:10 (butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle, butterfly, backstroke)

Cool Down

4 x 50 yds Easy Any Stroke, RI 0:15 (breaststroke, 3 x freestyle)

I timed the 1500 yds set and finished in 26:29:57, which I was quite happy with.  I felt good pretty much throughout the set, minus a length when I inhaled some water and spent the entire time coughing.  But I just swam through it and got over it pretty quickly.  I think I could pick up the pace even a bit more than that, especially after practicing regularly.

Tomorrow is more weight training with Mom, then hopefully a short run afterward.  I’ve decided I need to change around my schedule a little bit because right now I’m scheduled to swim on Mondays and Wednesdays, but it’s tough to fit it in with the weight training.  I’m thinking of something like this:

Sundays – long bike ride or brick

Monday – weight training and optional run

Tuesday – swim and optional bike ride

Wednesday – weight training and short run

Thursday – short bike ride

Friday – long swim

Saturday – long run

My current schedule is quite unbalanced from moving things around, so it would be better to follow a plan with evenly spaced main workouts.  I’m going to try it out and see how things go the rest of this week and next week.

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Finally, a Swim!

This morning I got up early to get to the pool so I could get a swim in before work.  Finally!  The pool was open, and the lanes were nearly empty, so I managed to actually swim.  I only did 1400 meters, but after the foiled attempts in the past couple of weeks, I consider that progress!  I do need to find my good goggles though.  We took them to Fiji with us, and after that they never made it back into my gym bag, so now I have no idea where they are.  The others that I have fog up quite badly.  My work out was:

600 meters Freestyle warm-up

100 meters Freestyle with fins, 6 strokes with head up and 6 strokes with head down

100 meters streamline kick with fins

10×50 meters choice (Freestyle with 6-head up/6-head down, Butterfly drill, Backstroke, Breaststroke, Freestyle, Butterfly kick with fins, Breaststroke drill with fins, Backstroke kick with fins, Freestyle full stroke with fins)

50 meters Push & Glide

50 meters Freestyle easy

After work I headed over to Mom’s for some weight lifting.  We did workout B of stage 1 of NROL4W:

A. Deadlift – 2 sets of 15 @ 60 lbs

B1. Dumbbell Shoulder Press – 1st set of 8 reps @ 15lbs dumbbells and 7 reps @ 10lbs, 2nd set of 10 reps @15lbs

B2. Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown – 1 set of 15 @ 70 lbs and 1 set of 15 @ 60 lbs

C1. Lunge – 2 sets of 15 @ 15lbs dumbbells

C2. Swiss-Ball Crunch – 2 sets of 15 @ 25lbs and 35lbs

As you can see, I had a bit of trouble with choosing weights today.  I did better on Monday with selecting the correct weights.  The weird thing was that the DB shoulder press was really hard at 15lbs, but that’s what I usually lift!  I’m not sure what the deal is.  I’m still getting used to my mom’s weight set-up, but I was surprised at how hard the 15lbs were.  But when I backed down to 10lbs they were much much too light.  I think I need to be at 12.5, but that’s a difficult weight to make with these dumbbells.  They’ll be uneven.  So, I’m going to press through with the 15s till I can lift them comfortably.  Hopefully I’ll figure something out when I graduate to 17.5s!  The lat pulldown was more difficult without the bar to hold my legs down!  I had to decrease the weight on the second set to complete it.

I am thinking about joining a running club that’s local to my new house.  They do runs on the weekends, 5 miles on Saturday and 10 miles on Sunday.  It might be good to find some new people who run. I’ll keep you posted on what I decide.  I might do a “trial” run this weekend on Saturday, so stay tuned for an update.

Also on the books for Saturday is looking for a dog to adopt.  Wish me luck!

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Third Time is Not the Charm.

Yesterday afternoon, I planned to go for a swim, finally.  The last two times I’ve tried to go swimming, something has happened to prevent it.  The first time, I went to the pool close to home, but it was closed for maintenance through 7/26.  The second time I went to the pool close to work, which is an outdoor pool, and it closed after 450m because of rain.  The pool near work had also been closed over the weekend due to a filtration problem, so I decided to go to the one near home.  As soon as I got there, I saw the sign saying the pool was closed until further notice for a “serious maintenance problem”.  This is getting a little ridiculous!  Three times in a row and my attempts at a decent swim have been foiled.  I thought the third time was the charm!

I had another disappointment this morning.  Since I’m traveling to Ottawa for work this afternoon, I decided to try and get in an early weight training session with my trainer.  I knew she did a 6:00AM session and was pretty sure they ran every 45 minutes till 9:00AM.  I planned to go to the 6:00, but when I didn’t wake up till 5:40, I knew there was no chance for me to make it.  I decided I would go for the 6:45 instead.  Well, there isn’t a 6:45.  Go figure.  We did have weight and body fat checks today, which she did anyways since I was there.  Not as bad as I thought…both were a little higher than last time, but not significantly, so that was one good thing.

I ran on the treadmill for a bit, but didn’t last long. I ended up just doing 20 minutes and then getting ready for work.  I’m planning to do some running tonight when I get to the hotel.  They are supposed to have a gym, hopefully the equipment is decent.

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Thoughtful Thursdays: The Open Water Swim

In this edition of Thoughtful Thursdays, I thought it might be helpful to talk about the open water swim a bit.  It seems to be the most daunting event for many triathletes.  And in fact, I’d guess that many prefer the relative safety of a pool swim.  There is a lot more to think about with an open water swim; rather than just worrying that you seeded yourself correctly and making sure to touch the wall at both ends, there are weather conditions, water conditions, sighting, and wearing a wetsuit to consider- just to name a few!

In my opinion, the single-most important thing to a successful open water swim is simple- RELAX.  I must admit I have been very lucky in this arena, since I grew up swimming on a swim team and taking many trips to lakes and beaches.  These experiences instilled a great level of comfort in water, which usually keeps me from going into panic mode if and when something goes wrong.  I know that thrashing and flailing about will not solve my problems, but almost always, relaxing my muscles and floating for a moment is going to re-orient me and eliminate some of the initial stressful thoughts.  The biggest hurdle of the open water swim is the mental aspect.  After you have trained in a pool for a certain distance, whether Sprint or longer, you know you can swim that distance.  But for many reasons, it just seems different in open water- it is no longer nice and neatly broken into clear swimming pools with sets broken into specific distances.  In open water, it is a some-what defined route you have to follow through often murky and sometimes tumultuous water.  In a race, you add in the other swimmers you have to worry about, and it can seem to be an overwhelming task.  But let me stop before I psych you out, that is not the goal of this post.  I want to share the things I’ve learned to be helpful in making the open water swim a success.

First things first, determine whether you are going to wear a wetsuit.  USAT rules say that you can wear a wetsuit when water temperature is 78°F or lower.  Between 78.1° and 83.9° wetsuits are allowed, however competitors will not be elligible for any awards.  At 84° or above, wetsuits are not allowed.  The reason wetsuits make competitors ineligible at higher temperatures is buoyancy, which is exactly the same reason I would highly recommend anyone to wear a wetsuit when it’s allowed (74° or under).  The wetsuit is going to keep your body more level in the water, particularly if you have trouble balancing or keeping your body horizontal.  Also, if you get in a pickle and get tired or cramped or have some other issue preventing you from continuing, the wetsuit is going to keep you afloat.  Very strong swimmers may not see the same performance enhancements as weaker swimmers, but they still do offer warmth in cold water.  The real drawback to wetsuits is the cost, at $200+ they’re not cheap, and for beginner triathletes buying a new wetsuit may not be a viable option.  There are options to rent, and you could always try and borrow one first or buy one used.  Just make sure it fits well and you have good range of motion in your shoulder area.  And like anything else, don’t try it out for the first time on race day.  Of course, I’ve broken this rule in just about all of my races, so I’m not one to talk.  For a wetsuit, though, you don’t want to be learning how to get it on and off on race day.  Try it out ahead of time, in open water if possible, but a pool is fine too (remember to rinse thoroughly with cold water if you take it in a chlorinated pool).  Ok, now that you’ve determined whether your race is wetsuit legal and decided whether or not to wear one, you’re heading to the race to set up.  Always bring two pairs of goggles, you do not want to swim in open water without them.  Usually the colorful caps indicating what wave you’re in are handed out at the beginning of the race, so you don’t need to worry about that as much.  I’d still bring one to be on the safe side.

Equipment? Check.

When you go to line up with your wave, consider the course and your expected strength compared with the other swimmers.  If you are a strong swimmer, you may want to line up toward the front.  Weaker swimmers will want to line up toward the back.  The swim start is going to be chaotic, and you are going to get kicked, pulled, shoved and swum over (or you might be the one kicking, pulling, shoving and swimming over people!), so you want to carefully consider where you want this to take place.  In my (not so vast) experience, I think in the future I will try to line up near the front toward the outside (farther from the buoy markers).  I may initially add a little bit of distance to my swim, but in the end I believe it will be worth it to avoid as much as the inside thrashing as possible and get into a rhythm quickly.  Once to the first turn buoy, I would want to be right on it.  I think that if I were expecting to be one of the weaker swimmers in the group, I would still line up on the outside, but toward the back of the group.  Since in that case I wouldn’t be as concerned about keeping up with the group as setting my own time, I’d definitely want to get into my rhythm without worrying too much about other people around me.

Chaotic start? Check.

The swim is by far the loneliest part of a triathlon for me.  Not that that’s a bad thing!  But it can be unnerving when you are swimming along and have no idea who’s close to you or where the pack is.  Particularly when the visibility is poor in and out of the water, you can find yourself wondering where the heck you are and whether you’ll ever get to the next buoy!  Relax. Practice sighting ahead of time in the pool so you are prepared to look for the buoy yourself.  Don’t rely on following other people.  I’ve heard horror stories of whole packs veering off-course and adding a lot of distance to their swims.  Even if you are drafting on someone, make sure you continue to sight for yourself.  (Side note- I have never been successful at finding someone to draft, and usually end up swimming up between their legs.  If you are good at this and have tips for finding a “draft buddy” please comment and share!).  In my last race, I planned to sight every 6 strokes, but I think that was a bit too often.  My plan for my next race is to practice sighting once per length of the pool, so in the OWS, I’ll sight every 10 strokes.  This is a personal thing, you just need to figure out what works for you.  If for some reason you lose sight of the buoys or can’t find it on a sighting, don’t panic.  Again, just relax, take a couple more strokes and try again.  It’s all downhill from the first turn buoy!

Swim? Check.

You did it!  Now that we’ve reached the shore, it’s time to get out of that pesky wetsuit.  Don’t get too ambitious and try and take it off all at once- you’ll end up waddling with it stuck around your ankles!  I don’t know how other people change this up, but what I do works pretty well for me.  As soon as I exit the water and start running toward transition, I move my goggles to my forehead.  As I’m running, I unzip the wetsuit and pull the top half off.  Then I take off my cap and goggles and continue running to my transition station.  Once there I discard the cap and goggles and immediately take off the bottom part of the wetsuit.  It’s easiest if you let it go inside out and just pull over the ankles that way (same goes for getting your arms out earlier).  There will be plenty of time after the race to straighten it out.  Now you’re out of the wetsuit and ready for the rest of your transition into the bike!

Transition? Half-check (since we didn’t talk about getting into bike gear- that’s a post for another time).

The absolute best thing you can do to prepare for an OWS is to actually get into open water and swim.  Even if it’s just to get comfortable, every chance you have to convince yourself that you are calm and comfortable in the water is going to help you on race day.  So, when the winds kick up some waves in an ocean swim, or the lake you’re in has zero visibility with the added plus of a rather dark and cloudy day, you will be relaxed and ready!  Just keep swimming!

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