Monday, June 19, 2006

Pool vs. Lake

After the mile swim completed at the pool on Saturday, I decided to switch my training around on Sunday. Scheduled was a mid-range bike and run (20 and 7 miles). Given my lack of open water swimming, changing that to participate in a lake swim with the tri club seemed like a good idea.

We are the host club for the High Cliff Triathlon being held on June 25th. There is a sprint distance (1/4 mi, 22 mi, 5K) and a half-Ironman distance. For our swim, yesterday, we had the bouys out for both distances, allowing us to get a feel for race day on the actual course. I won't be racing (I'll be preaching in church, another hobby of mine), but wanted to see how things felt in the open water after the confidence building mile swim.

Apparently, the answer is, "Not much."

As we only had one canoe in the water for rescues, I opted for the short course. Score one good idea for me. The fact that swimming in the lake differs vastly from swimming in the pool was strongly reinforced. Three big issues come to mind. Visibility, waves, and sighting mess me up pretty badly.

The change in visibility from the pool to the lake makes everything, well, cloudy. It is difficult to judge if I'm even moving. And while not truly claustrophobic, the sense that I am totally "enclosed" is disturbing. There certainly has to be a way over this hurdle, as so many have cleared it. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

Waves and swells are another story. I know exactly what they do, as I'm sure everyone else does. I find it very challenging to get into a rhythm while getting buffeted by the swells. Luckily, they weren't serious waves, just normal surface motion. It was still enough to screw up my stroke, occassionally wash over my face during breaths, and generally make me uncomfortable.

Finally is the sighting. Just how am I supposed to do that? I look to the right when I breathe. I look down when I swim. Looking up is "against the rules." So, what is the method for sighting? Do I break freestyle and breast stroke? Do I risk completely messing my freestyle up by raising my head? While a relatively minor issue (compared to actually swimming), it is something I have to figure out.

While uncomfortable during the swim, there are two really good notes. First, there is another opportunity, tonight. Though today is a rest day, I'm going to try this, again. The Olympic tri in August is going to be rough if I don't find some sort of peace in the open water. Like everything else, I'm hard headed and will somehow get a grip on it. Second, the more experienced swimmers spent some time with the newer triathletes. They set up a "gauntlet" through which we swam. They splashed water, grabbed legs, hooked arms, and otherwise tried to simulate those things experienced in races. It was a short gauntlet, but it helped a bit. Knowing there were people there to help raised the comfort level.

So, I have a long way to go. I've proven the distance can be completed. I've shown myself I can get on a bike after a long swim. Now, it's time to get out of the class (pool) and into the real world (lake). I can't stay in school forever.


Veeg said...

I am TOTALLY not a swimmer, but from what I have gleaned from others, switching to breast stroke or butterfly every X strokes is the preferred method of sighting.

I'm doing my first open-water training this weekend, though, so my thoughts on this subject should be taken with a grain of. . . at least rock salt-esque proportions. :)

Kewl Nitrox said...

Open Water Swims - you just gotta keep on doing them until you learn to luv them. :D

tri-mama said...

My key to open water swimming is to relax, breath every stroke, and site every 25 strokes. It's tough to get used to, but once you do, it's magic-even worshipful. Again-relax- I have High Cliff on my future radar screen- I've heard it's a nice venue.

Iron Pol said...

I may have to consider the "breath every stroke" until I get comfortable. I have been breathing every fourth (second cycle) stroke because I'm used to the long inhale-exhale rhythm of running.

Kewl, you've probably hit the nail on the head. Get out of the pool and into the lake. It took months of three a week swims to get used to swimming. I have to give the same attention to open water swimming.

Deb said...

I want to stay in the pool.. and I haven't even MADE my way to the pool yet. I'm scared!!!