You’ve put in the hard work and preparation to get you ready for open water swimming, but what should you do before jumping in? ELT’s Head coach writes up her top tips here.
If you haven’t read the first set of tips, ‘Getting Ready for Open Water Swimming’ you can find it here.
Have a drink
Unlike swimming in the pool, in open water you cannot stop for a drink if you get a bit thirsty. As a general rule it is not advisable to drink the water you are swimming in, so it is important to make sure that you are well hydrated before you race. This will not only allow you to race to your full potential (generally it has been shown that a 2% decrease in body weight can lead to a 20% decrease in performance), but it will also help to reduce the likelihood of getting cramp.
Put your wetsuit on with care
Make sure that you spend plenty of time putting on your wetsuit to make sure that it is fitting properly and not likely to hinder your stroke.
If you have been given a timing chip, make sure you put it on underneath your wetsuit. Otherwise, you will have to take it off to get your wetsuit off, and then put it back on again. There are a number of different oils/lubricants you can use that will make getting your wetsuit off much quicker and easier a quick google and you’ll find lots of reviews.
Taking time over the wetsuit fitting process will also allow you to focus on something other than your race nerves.
Wear two swim caps
Generally you will be given one swim cap by the race organisers. If you put your own swim cap on underneath this it can help to keep your head warm in the cold water. You can also put your goggles on top of the first cap and underneath the second (race) cap. This way, if your goggles are knocked during the swim start, they are unlikely to come completely off and disappear into the depths of the water.
Get into the water before the start
If at all possible, get into the water 5 minutes before the start of your race. This will give you time to flush water through your wetsuit to seal it onto your body and also give you the opportunity to get used to the cold on your face and to practice some strokes before the start.
Position yourself according to your realistic ability
Open water swim starts can be quite frantic with hundreds of people all trying to get the best possible start to their race. This can cause people to end up being punched, kicked and swum over which can be off-putting if you are unprepared for it.
It is better to place yourself at the back and to one side of the group if you know that you are unlikely to be leading the swim. The side you choose will be dictated by the position of the first buoy. If the first buoy is to the right, then you will need to position yourself to the left of the group, and vice versa. Although this will involve you swimming a few extra metres, it will allow you to start your race on your own terms and in your own space. You will be able to overtake those who set off too fast or became overcome by panic on being swum over.
Remember you can float in your wetsuit
Your race is not necessarily over just because you have a panic attack in the water. If the cold, wetsuit restriction and jostling at the start cause you to panic, just roll over onto your back and concentrate on your breathing. Your wetsuit will keep you afloat so you do not need to waste energy on treading water. Once you have calmed down, you can just roll over and try again. By this time, the jostling should be over, and you should have clear water in which to swim.