For many athletes the swim portion of an Ironman is a significant challenge. Limited visibility, creatures lurking beneath you, people all around kicking and thrashing their arms, and the cold, choppy water are all different from the typical training environment in the pool. For some, simply swimming 2.4 miles in an Ironman is enough of a challenge!
The reality is that preparing for open-water swimming, though challenging, can be fun. As you become more aware of your surroundings and develop your skills, you will approach open-water swimming with renewed confidence. For many athletes, training in open-water conditions regularly is not possible, but some of the same skills and techniques can be developed in the pool. Use these six techniques in the pool to prepare for your Ironman swim.
1. Find someone to get close to.
The most nerve-wracking part about open-water swimming for many is the commotion created by hundreds of people swimming around you. To simulate swimming in close quarters, try group swims with three to five of your training partners in the same lane. Work together through a set of 10×25 or 10×50. Start slow and easy, and intentionally bump into each other lightly. Gradually pick up the pace through the set. Touch feet and calves, and swim closer than normal with a relaxed arm recovery phase of your stroke. Swim three, four or five abreast in a single lane. Too often, people scramble in the open water and swim tight, incurring more lactic acid, and eventually losing their momentum, falling off pace. The extra intensity can trigger anxiety too. Use this set to practice maintaining your composure while swimming, and holding your form while in close proximity to others no matter what comes your way.