It’s that time of year! Open water race season is starting. And with that comes open water swimming practice.
If you haven’t already figured it out, open water swimming is very different from pool swimming. Most notably, you don’t have a handy line at the bottom that you can follow to ensure you’re swimming in a straight line. In fact, you probably won’t even be able to see the bottom of the body of water. I know that most of my races aren’t that clean, and even if the water is pretty clear, once you get a bunch of triathletes churning it up, it gets pretty murky pretty fast.
So no matter how much you swim in the pool, I really recommend getting some open water practice before your first race. I make a point to get in the water before my season starts every year. I want to get practice in while wearing my wetsuit, and I want to remind myself how much the first minutes in cold water really really suck. Then it gets much better.
Locally, there are a couple of practice swims that I’m planning to attend. If you’re in the DC/MD/VA area, check out the practice swims at Fort Ritchie and Luray. Wave One also has a couple of clinics available. I’m sure there are others I’m missing.
If you aren’t in the area or can’t make any of these swims, definitely look for a body of water where you can swim before your season starts, even if you can’t swim very far. Even just swimming around a dock can help you get used to the weirdness of open water.
Barring all of that, if you’re doing a race in a wetsuit, get in that wetsuit and get into the pool! Unless it’s an outdoor pool that’s still pretty darn cold, you shouldn’t do your whole workout in the wetsuit because you’ll overheat, and no good comes from that. Even just a few laps are better than nothing.