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Open water swimming disaster
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rocky79




Joined: 19 Apr 2017
Posts: 6

PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2017 1:12 pm    Post subject: Open water swimming disaster Reply with quote

So since worrying about how cold a lake would be to train Iíve since completed 4 training sessions in the lake and had my first open water triathlon at the weekend and itís fair to say the swim was a bit of a disaster.

I completed the 750m in 19min expecting to be much nearer 15mins. Iím not the strongest swimmer in the world but once I get into it I donít have too much of a problem especially in a wetsuit. The start situation freaked me out a bit seeing 200 people in the water in front of me all fly off, with spray washing machine affect was quite intimidating. The course also changed as I had set in my Ďstrategyí to get to each bouy.

I tried to get into my stroke once it had calmed down but then visibility was 0 in the water which I wasnít expecting and couldnít get into any clear space as I kept catching the group in front, as well as getting the odd lung full from swimmers around me and waves. Iím a one speed swimmer so canít regulate my speed particularly well as it then throws my breathing out. Once things opened up a bit I was then in pretty much panic/damage limitation and struggling to catch my breath so did a combination of breast stroke/front crawl with my head out of the water and few strokes with my head in before I freaked out again due to one of the above happening.

I had done some training ahead of this which was in a group with simulated starts as well as drafting Ė none of which im particularly good at. I do really enjoy the open water environment but definitely wasnít prepared for 200 people.

Any advice to help, Iím currently thinking triathlons are not for me and I will just stick to the swimming for fun.

On the plus side I really enjoyed the bike and run and made up 40 places and achieved my target time for the full race.
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awildt




Joined: 08 Apr 2011
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PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2017 1:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Welcome to open water swimming. That's basically it I'm afraid. Having done it since I was 10 - I still have the occasional panic moment.

Unless it's a problem for you, starting at the back or off to one side is not a major issue at races. Obviously to one side can make the swim a bit longer and at the back you will pass people but you will also have a bit of space for wide overtaking.

There's no magic bullet for this I'm afraid. Maybe for the first year look for races with small starting waves or batches or rolling starts until you get used to it. The rest is up to you to mentally prepare for the worst and have coping mechanisms.

I have a very good friend who is not a strong swimmer but a great bike & run. She will come out the water last in order to avoid the worst but she'll finish in the top 10 if not podium. Just the way she deals with it. Think how good she could be if she had strength in her swimming.
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Jorgan




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PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2017 1:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Basically what he said. Plus, make sure you can breathe on both sides, so if there's some fool who keeps colliding with you, you can breathe away from them. If it's wave starts, you could deliberately put a slow time down, so you're in a slower wave. That said, you'll often find it's the MAMILs who can't swim for sh!t that are the biggest problem as far as navigation and bumping into people, rather than the faster swimmers.
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SGreg




Joined: 30 Jun 2010
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Location: High Peak

PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2017 2:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I used to suffer the Exact same problem, My first few races were completely ruined due to panic attacks.

I got over it by just continuing to put myself in the situation. Eventually it passed, to the point I actually dislike the decision of Ironman to use rolling starts.

Also quite the opposite to awildt I would definitely not advise starting at the back!* As you said you kept catching people and this was throwing you off. I would advise CORRECT self seeding.

All my best races have come from starting in the correct place, and all my worst from not. Ironman Lanza completely freaked me out so I started right near the back and it was my worst IM swim, same reason, that I kept catching people and couldn't get past. Other races I've manned up and gone off at the front and had fantastic races. (near the front is the CORRECT seeding for ME in the swim)

While you are new its certainly sensible to be near the edges so you can slink off to the side and recover/relax out of the washing machine, but it should still be at the side of the CORRECT position.

But the main take home is it does get better, the first few races can be an utter horror show, but it just gets easier as you get used to it. Don't let one bad experience put you off, its fairly normal.

And 19mins isn't a complete disaster, at least you got round, plenty of people panic so much they need to be rescued! So you are one up on them. And My first OW experience I never got back to getting my head under water and did the whole race with my head up!

Finally its worth mentioning you were only doing 750m, which will be a faster pace, which means you are more likely to suffer panic, also you will find panic attacks normally subside after around 750m so if you had been doing oly distance the second half would have been fine. Its those opening sections where the panic normally sets in! once you settle and the field stretches out the swim becomes much more enjoyable.




* unless the back is the Correct position! (but if so you wouldn't have been catching people)


Last edited by SGreg on Tue May 16, 2017 8:20 am; edited 1 time in total
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iwaters




Joined: 06 Sep 2016
Posts: 253

PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2017 2:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jorgan wrote:
That said, you'll often find it's the MAMILs who can't swim for sh!t that are the biggest problem as far as navigation and bumping into people, rather than the faster swimmers.


Yep always them.

OP - you get used it, I freaked out massively in my first few races but the more you do it the more you get used to it.

It doesn't matter how big the race or the lake contact is inevitable. Last year I did Coniston end to end. Its 4.7 sqKm of lake, there were 700 odd swimmers setting off in groups an hour apart. About 1 hour in someone swims in to me and whacks me in the head. ~#*$ knows where he was going but it was the wrong way!
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TRO Saracen




Joined: 18 Aug 2010
Posts: 953

PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2017 2:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Agree with most of the above. Sorry to hear of your swim Sad Suspect many of us have been there though.....

My triathlon journey almost ended after my second tri, a sea swim Olympic. Multiple panic attacks, I was followed by two kayaks who were waiting for the signal to move in and rescue me. I kept refusing, even through the sanctuary of those kayaks was so tempting.

I kept trying to 'swim' but just kept windmilling away for a few frenzied strokes, beating the water to a foam then stopping out of breath and treading water before repeating the windmilling. There was no biff, everyone else had swum off.....I emerged exhausted and broken after about 55 minutes, and sat by my bike, almost alone in Transition feeling as if that was it, this sport was beyond me. There may have been a Tony Blair esque wobbly bottom lip at this point as well.

If you really want to do this sport you have to put yourself in there, time and time again. It's horrific, then it becomes unpleasant, then tolerable and eventually it's OK and sometimes fun. If you live near enough, regular swimming in the sea is great, as any lake/river is pleasant in comparison.

Been through the mill a few times and every time I've come through a bit more prepared for next time. Particular 'highlights' were my first ever Ironman (Frankfurt 2010) and getting a non wetsuit swim. At the time I have never swum open water without the comfort of neoprene. IM wales 2014, the roughest, nastiest sea I have even swum in. A Vitruvian where the Fog was so dense I could see no land, no turn buoys. 11 deg tidal swim at 5:45 am in the Swashbuckler. Feel bombproof now.

For me the best technique in the early days was to go wide, put yourself on the very edge of the pack. If it gets lairy you can simply move further out, to clear water then ease your way back in a bit later if you feel ready. Also it's easy to take a wide berth around turn buoys.

Correct seeding is also sound advice; I remember a mate getting a pounding at IM Lanza near the back. Mid pack the swimmers are competent enough to swim fairly straight and if well seeded there is no need for anyone to weave/overtake or be overtaken forces others to weave. You all want a drama free swim with no biff. I had a pleasant swim. Think it gets a bit rougher again at FOP where positioning becomes important, seconds matter and people are aware that those around them are rivals for AG podiums/Kona spots.

A lonmg winded way of saying it will get better!
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awildt




Joined: 08 Apr 2011
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Location: sunny (!) NW

PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2017 3:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

iwaters wrote:
Jorgan wrote:
That said, you'll often find it's the MAMILs who can't swim for sh!t that are the biggest problem as far as navigation and bumping into people, rather than the faster swimmers.


Yep always them.

OP - you get used it, I freaked out massively in my first few races but the more you do it the more you get used to it.

It doesn't matter how big the race or the lake contact is inevitable. Last year I did Coniston end to end. Its 4.7 sqKm of lake, there were 700 odd swimmers setting off in groups an hour apart. About 1 hour in someone swims in to me and whacks me in the head. ~#*$ knows where he was going but it was the wrong way!


Yup, even after 25 years of open water - it was 2 years ago I lost part of a tooth thanks to an elbow in the chin navigating round a buoy.

Also watch for breaststroke swimmers, nothing more debilitating than a rogue kick somewhere where it hurts (for us women it's higher up on the chest and a little more exposed - it hurts).

Thinking for yourself is the main thing. Forget about being competitive until you hit the bike. As mentioned before the longer swims can be easier because it stretches people out.
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TRO Saracen




Joined: 18 Aug 2010
Posts: 953

PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2017 3:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh and I forgot Wales 2012 from my horror stories. To avoid the 'running down the beach' cheat of the inaugural race in 2011 they put a 90 deg turn in about 100m into the sea. A wide, beach run start of 2000+ athletes all heading for that turn...

I could have saved time, and a horrific, sustained beating by waiting a couple of minutes then walking out to the turn buoy on the back of 100m of gridlocked, threshing neoprene. Think I quit triathlon during that swim as well....
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TRO Saracen




Joined: 18 Aug 2010
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PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2017 3:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:

It doesn't matter how big the race or the lake contact is inevitable. Last year I did Coniston end to end. Its 4.7 sqKm of lake, there were 700 odd swimmers setting off in groups an hour apart. About 1 hour in someone swims in to me and whacks me in the head. ~#*$ knows where he was going but it was the wrong way!



Made me chuckle, but yes you are right, there's always one in every swim that comes out of absolutely nowhere, going in f&*k knows what direction completely out of the blue, almost as if they are not part of the race. Very funny. Half of them are probably still out there swimming as I have no idea how they were ever going to find the swim exit....Smile
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rocky79




Joined: 19 Apr 2017
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PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2017 3:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

These all made me laugh. And make my swim sound very tame. Good to know I'm not the only one. Will keep plugging away at it useful advice about seeding and positioning. I'm sure it would have helped if I wasn't just at the back.

Should keep this thread going with 'what's your worst open water swim experience'.

A work colleague was telling me he put his foot through the crotch of his wetsuit just before the start of his first ironman. Tried to glue it and tape it but can apart 5 mins in so had to swim with a flappy crotch. Wink
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SGreg




Joined: 30 Jun 2010
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Location: High Peak

PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2017 3:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I had it in a local lake swim.

Only a field of about 50/60 swimmers in a BIG lake, think I saw about 10 people all race and most of them in the first 500m

Then on the second lap, of a 5k 3 lap Rectangle loop, A swimmer came at me head on going the wrong way! we narrowly missed, amazing how fast the closing speed of two swimmers is! and off they went.

I never worked out where he/she was going! they had the right swim cap on so unlikely it was a chance encounter with a rouge swimmer! utterly bizarre.
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TRO Saracen




Joined: 18 Aug 2010
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PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2017 3:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Smile

Sighting used to give me nightmares in the early days. I remember an early swim and for once it was going well, nice rhythm, no biff so on I went. I remember feeling a creeping sense of 'alone-ness' so popped up to check where I was...couldn't see anyone...no buoys.....no other swimmers.

I had gone off in completely the wrong direction, swivelled completely around and saw the rest of the race continuing about 150m away behind me!!


Another amusing (ish) incident was doing Wimbleball 2012. Trained like demon, best shape of my life, race plan nailed to the minute - all to nab a 70.3 World Championship slot. Lined up fired up for the big day, off we went and 30 seconds later bosh, a huge foot came out of nowhere and booted me on the wrist. I then saw my Garmin slowly, almost daintily disappear into the depths, made a few grabs at it as it disappeared but no chance, it was gone - meanwhile the rest of the field was swimming over me....

So, biggest race of the year, 7 months training and 30 seconds in my race plan is b*ggered as I had no way to monitor my efforts and a £300 watch to replace...at least I had the money saved on missing out on the world champs slot to pay for it....Smile

Wink Crying or Very sad
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Buzz_




Joined: 19 May 2007
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PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2017 4:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Seeding and swimming wide is sound advice. But also consider some feedback for the organisers. There was a thread on here a year or so back about making swim biff unacceptable. You can't avoid the errant lone swimmer, but general mass agro shouldn't be acceptable. It's not 'part of the fun' and it puts people off the sport.

I get the impression attitudes are changing with IM introducing wave starts etc.

One of the first events I did was swimming downstream in a narrow river, the organisers had 2 waves, 'fast' and 'slow' and it was carnage. Had I been able to get to the side without being kicked and punched I probably would have abandoned. The next year the same event had about 15 waves, organised by agegroup so each wave had a spread of abilities. You also swam upstream for the first few hundred metres, by the turn downstream everyone had their own space, it was a pleasant experience. A bit of thought and the problem was avoided.

--
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Tin Pot




Joined: 08 Jul 2013
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PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2017 4:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

rocky79 wrote:
These all made me laugh. And make my swim sound very tame. Good to know I'm not the only one. Will keep plugging away at it useful advice about seeding and positioning. I'm sure it would have helped if I wasn't just at the back.

Should keep this thread going with 'what's your worst open water swim experience'.

A work colleague was telling me he put his foot through the crotch of his wetsuit just before the start of his first ironman. Tried to glue it and tape it but can apart 5 mins in so had to swim with a flappy crotch. Wink


Ironman events are a piece of piss to swim - rolling starts, seeded entry, it's almost like a solo time trial by comparison.

...By comparison to my first and local events. 120 middle class middle aged fatties who have had to take #@?# from behind a desk and swallow it for thirty years...all of a sudden the rules are gone, they've heard of "biff", they're all anonymous and unrecognisable...so no surprise they kick and punch seven shades out of each other. I swear if the water had been only waist deep it would've just been a stand up fist fight, sod the triathlon.

So do an expensive branded event and sail through the swim Leg. Smile
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kevb




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PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2017 5:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lots of good advice there, I think everyone has their preferred tactics depending on ability and confidence; I would describe my self as competent: not confident! Plus I am only comfortable breathing to my right, because of this I usually put myself on the left so I can watch people and stay close enough to pick up a draft as move onto people feet as the crowd thins to smaller groups.

I also find most people at my speed would rather avoid contact, and just want to get it over with as little drama as possible, so everyone is quite careful
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