I am predominantly a pool swimmer. However last summer I started swimming with the local triathlon club at some of their open water meets. I stopped as the water got colder (below 60F) as I do not have a wet suit. Just last week as the temps started hit the 65F mark I rejoined the group.
I found that I was always towards the back of the pack of about a dozen swimmers. I took comfort in the fact that they were strong swimmers who did these sessions multiple times a week all year round and that I was a novice in the ocean. Their mile times were not far off mine (about 28 minutes) however mine were achieved in the pool. My theory for being so much slower in the ocean was that with none of the pool comforts, survival instinct was kicking in and I was swimming at a much more pedestrian rate to keep lots in reserve just in case.
This morning I joined one of my buddies who is training to do the Robben Island swim
off the coast of Cape Town and has been training year round with no wet suit to get used to the cold Atlantic conditions. I told him that I was a right side only breather and that I would index on him while he did the sighting.
What a difference!! Instead of being isolated and swimming on my own with not another swimmer in sight and having to do my own sighting I could now just concentrate on technique. I started out with a fairly fast tempo, concentrating on Stewart's 5 and 7 advice during the stroke phase. It felt ok but I was not sure how long I could keep up that tempo (survival instinct again). I then traded tempo for a better catch, concentrated more on my head position and I was very surprised at the results. I started surging past my buddy with very little effort.
It seems that the salt water buoyancy along with the surging of the waves favored the more patient longer stroke technique.
Make sense or am I talking out of my you know where?
Looking forward to those seasoned open swimmer's input.
Oh and if you have not already. Please click on the Robben Island link above if nothing else to just support Hilly in his efforts.