My recent blog post about swim goggles splashed up several good questions from friends planning their first open water Triathlons, so I thought one more post about swim preparations would be refreshing. If you have absolutely no interest in open water adventures, you might want to skip this one.
Sooooooo, inquiring minds want to know, what’s in my swim bag? Here’s a little secret, I use the same swim bag for pool swims as I do for open water swims. My wetsuit came with its own bag, so it’s on its own. Once I get used to the contents in my swim bag, I change absolutely nothing during the season. I always workout and race with the same stuff. If something breaks, gets lost or I eat it, I replace it with the same stuff. For me, change equals the dreaded ‘p’ word. I like to avoid that.
What’s not in my swim bag? A swim buddy. Never ever, ever, ever Never (that could be a new jingle?) swim in open water without a swim buddy! You’ll need someone who is willing to swim beside you and not let you drift away (it happens!). Someone who will tell you with a straight face that the slimy matter twisted up in your toes is really weeds. Someone to remind you to breathe in and out slowly. That’s important. I enjoy swimming in pods (group swims) with my Tri club because we have experienced open water swimmers willing to offer tips and sometimes kayak support. Kayak support is the greatest! Someone to watch over the pod, the weather, and for motor boats/jet skis. There is also the matter of food. Eating with the pod after swimming is the best part especially if it turns in to a beach party!
I actually learned how to swim in open water at a golf course – before it opened and golfers started yelling, Fore! Crazy as that sounds, the small watering hole was comforting and it was easy to get from one side to the other while chatting with friends. Confidence builder! I believe I also attempted my first wetsuit swim here. Being close to the shoreline as my wetsuit (which was way too big) rapidly inflated with water and took on fishy was ideal. There was lots of water in that wetsuit. I could have swam inside of it.
The best advice I received before attempting open water was to achieve my skills and distance in the pool first. I find open water swimming to be completely different than pool swims, but confidence, good form and strength is transferable. Once that was established, I took the plunge. With my swim buddies, of course!
I was still a bit nervous, so I brought along my trusty yellow ‘duck feet’ aka short fins that I use for the pool. Sometimes too much. Beware, you can’t race with them and ideally you shouldn’t be able to hide them in your wetsuit. Not that I’ve tried. My experienced swimming friends say ‘do whatever makes you comfortable’. Comfortable also includes staying alert of ever changing conditions (environmental/physical) and sighting. I’ve never had an issue with sighting because I prefer to swim with my head up like a sea turtle. I am hoping that habit will dissolve this year. I’ve built up considerable core strength and have worked on my relaxation techniques. We shall sea. Ha!
The more time I spend in open water the more I acclimate, but I’ve improved my actual swimming by joining the pod, swimming in various watering holes, signing up for clinics and 1 mile open water races. I’ve also started swimming at the pool on Thursdays at 5:00 am with my super talented swim buddies. Why 5:00 am at dark o’clock? I think it’s a good idea to mimic race day situations. I don’t have Triathlons starting at noon. And if you have friends with lots of swimming experience who make swimming both fun and challenging, you’ll show up at 5:00 am.
So what’s in my swim bag? I’ll spill out the contents and the sand…
My loot includes swim caps collected from various races, my favorite tie dye cap (it’s good to be super visible when the top of your head is the only thing visible), a turtle towel, no drip sunscreen, fins, goggles – tinted and clear, anti-fog lens spray, dry ear drops, gels, hair ties, extra contact lenses, water resistant swim drills book (I also write out my workouts on sticky notes) in a Ziploc bag. Absent are my post workout clothes, bottled water and saltine crackers.