I freak out in the swim.
During the swim leg of your races, you habitually struggle to ward off panic attacks, hyperventilation and the like.
Solution: “Fear in open water is generally lack of familiarity with the race environment,” says Tower26’s Gerry Rodrigues, a swim coach with 30 years of open-water experience. “Those fears get reduced or managed with practice and frequency of practice.” In most areas of the country, winter is not an easy time to practice in open water, but you can use the pool to familiarize yourself with open-water techniques. Rodrigues has his athletes practice triathlon-specific skills in the pool throughout the year. He suggests taking lane lines out, setting up buoys and doing mini open-water workouts. Try a mass start: Have 3–4 people push off together for a series of 25’s, or put 15–16 people in one lane so it’s very crowded. “You have to learn to become familiar with the discomfort,” Rodrigues says. You can also practice drafting by doing a pace-line train for 600–1000, switching every 100, at a vigorous and intense pace. Once it’s warm enough, swim regularly with a group in the open water. Specifically, do race simulation and circuit training sessions. “This helps with adaptation from the continued exposure to race starts, familiarity with pack starts and elevated heart rates at the beginning, while building sighting, navigation and drafting skills,” Rodrigues says.