Originally Posted by drone
I swam my first open water event two days ago, having learned and practised TI for about ten months (self-taught via TI books, videos - which have revolutionized the way I swim). I am 56, and swim for pleasure/fitness. In the pool, my goal of effortless, efficient, constantly-improving freestyle, is successful for 3-5k, though slow - around 2.2k per hour. I have practised sighting, etc in the pool, and swam across a 1k lake comfortably a couple of weeks ago, although I need more work on swimming straight.
As soon as the horn went off, I suffered some sort of disconnect. I started out efficiently, sighting every 6 strokes. After about four cycles, I saw the body of 160 swimmers leaving me behind (which I had expected - and planned for), at which point I lost my focus of quiet efficiency, and my stroke broke down - going harder than I had wanted. By 300 metres, I was struggling, and had to alternate with breastroke to finish the 3k course. Although I finished at 1:10:16, about ten minutes ahead of my expected time, that was not the point. My stroke, focus and comfort had broken down, despite months of mindful practice. What happened? How do I fix it?
Congratulations on finishing and on exceeding your goal. I think you're being too hard on yourself. 3k is a long open water swim. Even though you were prepared for the distance in the pool, it doesn't sound like you had much practice on open water. As Ewa mentioned, there are plenty of things that can take you out of your comfort zone: people, wake, currents, winds, changes in temperature, sighting (and the changes to your rhythm that entails), nerves, etc.
Next time, you'll feel more comfortable because you'll be more experienced. The lessons you learned in this event will make you a better swimmer.
In the meantime, you did great. Not many people in the world could even think of attempting to swim 3k on open water. Enjoy your accomplishment!