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Streak 06-15-2018 01:32 AM

New open water observations
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.

Tom Pamperin 06-15-2018 07:43 PM


salt water is amazing stuff for balance.

For me, it usually takes a few open water sessions to relax and maintain focus on good technique.

As for whether the additional buoyancy favors a longer stroke and slower rate, I'm not sure about that. It'll be interesting to hear what others think. 06-18-2018 11:33 PM

I am an open water noob who has found that being patient really emphasizing the body roll makes a huge difference. So I focus on savoring the glide with my body fully extended and doing a short, sharp flick to do the rotation. I think that spending more time in the maximum streamline positions gives you an extra bonus by helping to cut through chop and currents, while time spent in neutral position generates an extra penalty for the same reasons.

sclim 06-19-2018 06:36 AM


Originally Posted by (Post 65808)
I am an open water noob who has found that being patient really emphasizing the body roll makes a huge difference. So I focus on savoring the glide with my body fully extended and doing a short, sharp flick to do the rotation. I think that spending more time in the maximum streamline positions gives you an extra bonus by helping to cut through chop and currents, while time spent in neutral position generates an extra penalty for the same reasons.

Are you saying that the "patient keeping on skate edge" style pays even more dividends in open water than in the pool because being on edge mitigates the resistance and drag of chop and currents?

Streak 06-20-2018 07:04 PM

Sclim, that's exactly what I am finding in open water. I proved it again on my Sunday swim. With no real fixed reference point it's hard to quantify but it was certainly the feeling that I got. Of course this could change depending on water conditions.

Danny 06-21-2018 03:42 PM

My experience in open water is that waves and chop throw off my balance and I may start to raise my head to breath. When this happens, everything falls apart, so the key thing for me in open water is to maintain my balance and body position, especially when I rotate to breath. This is much easier to do if I slow down my stroke a glide a little more. I might add that I see the same effect in the pool, when I am practicing with the boys high school team. No lane lines and swimmers doing everything from sprint to butterfly, so there's a lot of chop then in the water, even in the pool.

tomoy 06-24-2018 09:06 AM

Hey Joel - happy to hear you're getting on in the open! I don't know how many swims in the ocean you have under your belt, but I do remember reading + experiencing myself, that comfort in the water takes at least 4-5 swims. Before that, you're not as efficient. Maybe you're finding it in these various ways. Remembering to release your head etc.

There's ongoing debate as to what "works" in open water vs the pool. A lot of tri-athletes and open water experts say you need to crank up your tempo. Terry worked against that opinion by emphasizing stroke length. I think Shinji himself had to up his tempo but I think that was not because of open water's roughness, but due to body temperature - he was getting too cold. You may not have the same issues. Some tenets pretty much hold as fact though. Balance and streamlining pay off.

I generally find that my pool times are empirically faster than my open water times (freshwater sans wetsuit). Maybe the distance in open water isn't so accurate. I often question that, as my mile times vary quite a bit. I generally think that this is because of wall push-off's where I get a little break from stroking + I'm a pretty good wall turner. A lot of the tri-athletes I swim with aren't so fast off the wall, and they report faster times in open water, because they're not constantly breaking their pace and going hypoxic off the wall. So mixed conclusions there.

You may need to work on sighting. I think Coach Mandy has a youtube on it. Until you are expert at it, don't sight and breathe on the same stroke. Lift your eyes as little as possible. Drop it back into the water as soon as possible. Take single snapshot peaks like a photographer. When your head is back in the water, process the memory of what your eyes just saw. Don't take movie-length films of what you saw. If you peek every 6/8/20 strokes, you can put the film together of where you are with as minimal an impact as possible on your balance. If you get good at it, then it affects your stroke like a breath - and you know how much better your stoke is when you don't breathe. Being able to sight to your buddy while breathing makes sense how it would help your balance. Much less forward looking / balance upsetting.

I'm no ocean expert, but lots of lakes where you don't benefit from the extra salt water buoyancy. Not sure how well this translates, but them's my thoughts! I'm hoping a bunch of us can get down to the Natadores swim on Lake Mission Viejo in September. See if you can work that into your schedule!


Streak 06-25-2018 05:16 PM

Hi Tom,
Nice to hear from you and your always to the point posts!

My sighting is no good, partly technique and partly what to look at.
I start off each swim being able to sight on fellow swimmers but then almost like magic they suddenly disappear and I am out there on my own.

I have done about a dozen open water swims and slowly getting the hang of it.
Breathing every second stroke as I do I am sure does not help but that's not going to change any time soon specially in open water conditions.

I will keep at it and hopefully improve as I go. In the pool my times continue to improve a bit at a time which is very encouraging.



CoachStuartMcDougal 06-26-2018 02:45 AM

Hi Joel,

Great to hear of your ow experiences holding a long edge, sliding below the chop - thatís where itís quiet and lowest drag/streamline. Tomís points spot on.

Iím gonna come down and swim La Jolla Cove at least once with you this summer! Great to see you come out to visit us at coach training last April

Keep up the good work!


Streak 06-29-2018 07:06 PM

Thanks Stu. Just did another open session this morning. Wow, I felt like a cork bobbing on the ocean. Rough conditions but spurred on by the others I persevered.
Again, when I concentrated on stroke length, slower tempo, more grip I soared ahead and ended up passing folks who I usually cant keep up with even in these rough conditions, breathing every second stroke to only one side!!

The Tri clubs folks I swim with could really do with some of your input. I' am making some headway with some of them, sharing lots of TI videos. I wonder if you should join us for one of those swims instead or in addition to doing the cove and to get them interested in TI. They swim most mornings but I join them 7am Fridays and 8am Sundays.

I am not going to be available most of July. I can always hook you up with them in my absence if that's when you want to head out here otherwise we can look at August.



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