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Old 05-27-2018
Tom Pamperin Tom Pamperin is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 712
Tom Pamperin
Default Open Water Practice

For the past two months, I've been lucky enough to live on a tiny coral atoll in the western Pacific. I've been swimming a mile or two every day along the reef. Because the northeast tradewinds pretty much blow nonstop at 15-25 mph, there's always at least some chop or wave action, although it's far more sheltered inside the reef where I swim than it is oceanside. My typical swim route starts out north, into the wind and waves, and returns southward, surfing the waves--great fun! You really get a surge of forward motion on each swell, and the waves are not at all in the way for good low breathing.

The swimming is wonderful--lots of manta rays, spotted eagle rays, sea turtles, colorful fish, and even sharks, amazing coral formations, warm clear water with 100' visibility--it really can't be beat.

Of course, usual markers like SPL are entirely missing now. So I have been much more focused on swimming intuitively, by feel. I've noticed a lot in a solid two months:

1. I've got my sighting down pretty well, and can grab a sight without disrupting my stroke or lifting my head too much. Simple repetition has made this much more comfortable than it ever has been for me before.

2. It's far easier to keep the head low to breathe when you're swimming in big waves. I'd say I'm at a level of conscious competence here--I can do it, but it is not automatic. When I do it, it works great. Occasionally when I turn to breathe I find a wave waiting for me instead of air, but now instead of lifting my head, I just put it back down and grab a breath on the next stroke instead.

3. Whatever my SL is, it seems remarkably consistent. I know this because there is a buoy about 400m off the beach, and it takes me 6 x 15 stroke cycles (3 strokes to one breath), plus another 18 strokes, to get there. For days now I've monitored this and am within 3 strokes of the same total every time.

4. I am (very roughly) estimating distances this way: I think that I am swimming at around 15 SPL (i.e. 15 strokes to cover 20m). So, 15 stroke cycles (3 strokes per breath) = 45 strokes = 60m. More simply, distance = 4 x the # of breaths (when breathing every 3 strokes), so 15 breaths = 60m.

I find it much easier to count breaths this way instead of counting strokes. My typical tune-up is about 400m in 60m increments (15 breaths). From there I continue along the reef in 200m increments (50 breaths). Between intervals I pause for a quick look around.

On the way back, with the wind and waves, I don't usually feel any need to stop--just keep surging along. So, that may be a mile or more nonstop swimming, great fun.

5. When it's really windy, I have adopted a 2-4 breathing pattern to allow one-sided breathing without breathing every 2 strokes, which seems too asymmetrical, and too choppy:

stroke-stroke+breath, stroke-stroke-stroke-stroke+ breath

This seems to work pretty well. It also encourages a higher SR, which I am accomplishing by using less overlap on my front quadrant timing. To do that, I have been directing all my attention toward launching into the recovery with absolutely no pause or slowing down. This also helps me keep my attention on the high-side arm.

Long post already--I'll add more later. Loving it! And wondering if this isn't the perfect opportunity (living here) to train for a really big event like the Tampa Bay Marathon (24 miles)--I could never train for that in Wisconsin, since it happens in April, leaving me no chance for open water training. But now...

Last edited by Tom Pamperin : 05-27-2018 at 12:53 AM.
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