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I  Love Open Water Swimming, I Really Do

51 DEGREES, that’ll do nicely!
John Shrum, MD

So started one of
our early spring lake workouts before Dr. Shrum and I went to England to swim
the Channel in 1998. You intentionally find the coldest water around. We stayed
about an hour that day and would have gone longer but were rousted out by the
park ranger.

When the swim portion of a triathlon starts with wind and
waves, or cold water, or some type of challenge, I’m ready. So many in our sport
would be nervous or afraid, I know this, and can’t wait for the starters gun.
Why? For the same reason you look forward to the run. Because you’ve practiced
and trained for all types of weather and conditions as you’ve been doing it for
many years. Like the NY Postal Service saying,“Neither snow nor rain not
heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their
appointed rounds,”
you’ve been there before. So why not make it the same
with open water swimming?

If you’re going to use a wetsuit, why not
practice in it at the local swimming hole at least every other week. If the
water temp is warm, be aware of over heating and keep the swim to a reasonable
length. Many consider wetsuit swimming mandatory. They think they’ll fail with
out it.

I propose that it’s simply a state of mind and unless you’re
vying for a podium spot, try the race without it. Our local tri swim water temp was
74 degrees, and after 100 yards in no wetsuit, it was delightful. Many folks
make the should I/shouldn’t I decision on wetsuit use weeks before their event
when the water is still 60! Why not postpone that one?

In a previous
blog, I recommended that if your race begins with an open water/ocean swim you
try to get there the day before and go play in the water. In your wetsuit if you
plan on using one. Practice your swim starts. And if they still make you
nervous, when your wave starts on race day, wait 10-15 seconds for the mayhem to
clear and then go. Practice, practice, practice. Then you’ll be the confident
one on race day looking forward to conditions that might slow others and give
you an advantage. As for hypothermia, the athlete who thinks, who plans out

each step of his/her triathlon, needn’t give it a second thi\ought.