At some point, usually by the end of April, you can start getting into open water to swim. This year the temperature has taken a little longer than normal to get to a survivable level! When I say that, it is based on my tolerances which may not be the highest, not for cold anyway. Only carrying around 10% body fat I really feel the cold, and when I do get in I want it to be a meaningful session. Fuelled first thing when I woke up by MyEndurance hot carb loader I braved the low temperatures for the first time this year in the UK, it was 13 degrees.
Believe me this is fresh! Obviously wearing a wet suit and my preference for a bit of additional thermal protection, I wear a dedicated swim cap and socks, both with neoprene thermal qualities. It’s the first 200m that hurts, mainly the shock to the face, after that, once everything has gone numb then all is fine!
I really like the freedom that open water swimming brings. No tumble turning every 25m and struggling to get passed the slower swimmers in the lane, just and expanse of water to enjoy. I use 8 Acre at North Cave as do most of my teammates from Humber triathletes so it also gives the opportunity to practice some mass starts, always worth doing as these can be brutal and end our race before you get started. Mostly though it’s just a great chance to practice sighting so you’re not wasting time and energy swimming any further than you need to and getting a good feel for the open water environment, with some good visibility at this site and some big fish and divers to view.
I would certainly recommend any budding triathletes to get down to the lake and gain some vital experience, race day should never be the first time you venture into open water. This also helps with the checking of a good fit of the wet suit as people do change shape, especially over the winter! Another good thing to experience and get used to is the drunken feeling you can get when exiting the swim, this is a strange feeling if you haven’t experienced it, (out of drink haha). One helpful way of minimising this is to kick the legs quickly just before exiting the swim, this helps to re-distribute the blood around the body after being horizontal for quite a while. Like most things though, the more you do it the more the body gets used to it.
My usual set in the lake is a steady first lap to acclimatise and them a couple of race pace laps before a final steady lap concentrating on technique. This will usually see me just over 2k and ready for a MyEndurance post recovery drink and a hot cuppa tea! As it gets a little warmer I will start introducing floating starts, so treading water then visualising the start gun and going hard for 100m, doing this around 5 times. Other times I will also practice a beach start as some of my events start like this also. So running in from the land and diving into the water and again putting in a hard=
100m with the aim being speed and keeping the goggles in place!
You can also practice T1 which involves quickly exiting the lake and stripping the wetsuit off as fast as possible, all good practice and fun and an area which is often overlooked in triathlon, I refer to it as the 4th discipline and you can gain or lose significant time here.
I am now looking forward to my first International races of the season, representing GB is always a privilege and honour and I hope I can deliver on the biggest stage, this will be in the European Triathlon Championships at the end of May in Lisbon quickly followed the following weekend by the World Duathlon Championships in Spain.
So come on guys and girls, if I can make the plunge so can you, I guarantee you will enjoy it.