Tips for Success
Before you jump into the water in your triathlon, you will have spent a lot of time in the pool, on the bicycle, and on the road as a runner. That is good preparation, to be sure, but you can do better.
If you are a triathlon newbie, your swims have probably been restricted to the pool where you have had your swim sessions. It will be a completely different experience when you hit that lake or dive into the ocean for the first time. Why not get a preview?
If the triathlon you plan to take part in is nearby, take a friend out to the lake. With your friend in a boat, experience an open-water swim so that you get a feel for what's coming. If your triathlon is too far away, try to find some other open water for your “test drive.”
A good way to see how well you stay on course as a swimmer is to close your eyes while swimming in the pool. Most lap pools are separated into lanes that are roped off, so if you veer off course you will find out quickly enough when you hit the rope. That will give you a good idea of whether you need more practice swimming straight.
You will see how much different it is from the pool. For one thing, you probably won't be able to touch bottom once you move away from shore. For another, you probably won't be able to see the bottom of the lake, and there will be no black line present, as you see in each lane of the swimming pool, to keep you going straight.
It is imperative that you have a friend along with a boat or canoe to help you if you find yourself in trouble. Never do this alone. Try to sight something in the distance and swim for it. That will be practice for race day.
If the water temperature on race day is lower than 78°F, you will be allowed to wear a wetsuit, a rubber outer shell that improves buoyancy and protects from the cold water temperature. Some wetsuits are designed specifically for triathlons.
If you plan to wear a wetsuit, it would be a mistake not to give it a whirl beforehand. Some trial and error may be involved, particularly in selecting the correct size. A wetsuit that feels just fine in the store might be overly restrictive when you start swimming in it.
Do yourself a favor. Practice swimming in your wetsuit before race day.
Don't Pick Sides
Earlier in this chapter you were advised to learn to breathe on both sides because it promotes the efficiency of your stroke. There's another good reason for doing so: the orientation of the buoys on the swim course of your race. Sometimes the buoys used to mark the course on the swim are on the right. Sometimes they are on the left. If you have trained yourself to alternate breathing sides, the orientation of the buoys won't matter to you. If you have to keep looking to your nonbreathing side, your swim efficiency will suffer.
Here's one final tip involving equipment. Your triathlon will start in the morning, and you may find yourself swimming into the rising sun. There are goggles with darker lenses to help you cope with this problem. Check your race for details, and look at the course if you can. Anything you can do to deal with problems before they arise will help you succeed.