Every Wednesday in “Rookie in Training,” beginner triathlete Jason Devaney will share training advice he learns as he trains for his first half-Ironman.
“I enjoyed that open-water swim.”
These are the words I uttered after finishing an Olympic-distance triathlon last weekend. It was my final tuneup race before the big one, a half-Ironman on Aug. 18.
They are also the words that I thought I’d never say.
But it’s true. I’ve talked about my anxiety when it comes to swimming in open water. It’s been a challenge for me and the last time I raced, I had some real problems during the swim.
But like most things, it’s all mental.
Saturday’s race featured a 1500-meter swim. The water was 82.5 degrees, which meant no wetsuit. Not good, I thought to myself as I stood around waiting for the race to start.
The gun went off and after some initial anxiety in the first 300 meters, I told myself to knock it off and keep going. So I stuck to my plan of swimming wide and avoiding everyone else in the race, which has been the root cause of my anxiety. With clear water and only a few swimmers coming up near me (mostly around the buoys), I was able to remain calm and do what I know how to do: Swim.
It’s probably true that my tactic of going wide made my swim longer than it should have been. And I was pretty slow, which is a common theme of mine (Note: Work on swim speed this winter). But I enjoyed it. Sure I was happy to get my feet back on land and be in my comfort zone on the bike, but the swim was almost peaceful for me.
My half-Ironman is in New Hampshire and historically the water temperature has been at or below the wetsuit limit, so it looks like that 1.2-mile swim will be wetsuit legal. That’s great news for me because I’ll have nothing to be nervous about. The suit will also make me faster, which I can definitely use.
My swim time was in the bottom third overall on Saturday, while my bike time was in the top third and the run was somewhere in the middle. So I know what I need to work on for next year.
My Masters swim coach has told me to take more strokes between breaths to gain some speed, which I do in practice all the time. It’s a bit different in open water because of the need for sighting, but I did resort to breathing every five strokes a few times on Saturday.
For me, the biggest takeaway from this race was gaining the confidence that I can swim in open water without a wetsuit and without problems. If I were to swim the same course again this weekend in the same conditions, I’d be faster. The mental advantage this gave me was huge.
With this one in the books, all my focus is on final preparations for the goal race. Next week, I’ll go over some key things to remember in the days leading up to your main event.
In the meantime, I’ll be dreaming of open-water swimming …
Jason Devaney is a freelance contributor to Triathlete.com, VeloNews.com and Competitor.com. A resident of Virginia, he spends way too much of his free time training. When he’s working, he’s typically dressed in either sweatpants or a cycling kit. Follow him on Twitter @jason_devaney1.
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