> I've been involved in a masters swim program this summer, in training
> for my first triathlon in a few weeks. Although I feel really
> comfortable swimming in a pool, I have virtually no experience in open
> water swims, let alone a couple dozen people around me. Can the experts
> here give some advice to a novice?
> For the past few weeks I've been swimming in a large pond (Walden
> Pond, for those familiar with the area). I have two questions from
> this experience:
> 1) I have problems maintaining a direction. I think this may
> not be a problem in the actual race, since the course will
> be marked and I can see where others are going. Am I correct?
Not really, this is true if there are lots of bouys on the course that are
big and most races do not have enough time or money to do that way. Also
your goggles (at least for me) tend to either leak water or fog up so I
cannot see anything detailed for 10 yards.
What I have done that seems to work is to pick a distant landmark that I can
distinguish through my fogged goggles which is in line with the swim path
I want to follow. Ideally, if you can pick two, with one in the forground
and the other behind it you can tell if you are going off course. This is
a seamanship trick when bring a ship down a channel. For example, as long
as the two line up, you are on-course. If the bottom landmark is to the
right of the other, you are left of your course. Vise versa, if the bottom
is to the left, you have drifted to the right of your course. Obviously, the
trick here is to be able to pick the proper landmarks that can be seen as
you swim through the waves, look into the sun, AND line up with the swim
> 2) Although Walden Pond has very little current to speak of,
> how does one deal with currents and wind, for that matter,
> in a plan of attack and pacing?
You hope that the race director(s) set out the swim course properly so that
these are not a problem. Current only comes into effect on ocean swims (I
have not heard of a swim course going upstream of a river) and has caused
major problems in some past races. Because you are at the water surface,
I hope that the wind is not strong enough for it to affect you directly. What
it will do is to increase the wave size and frequency which will give you
problems breathing (sucking down water as you try to breath when a wave hits
your face is not fun). There are techniques to overcome this, mainly (I
believe) by timing your breathing and checking your course so it coincides at
the creast of the waves.
My biggest problem has been other swimmers who will not yield or move around
you as they pass you. I have actually had to crawl over some guy's back
because he kept drifting to the right and was about to dunk me due to his
actions. For the first time, I stayed to the outside to minimize my contact
with other swimmers. This lenghtened my distance but I survived without
loosing my goggles or from being hit by faster swimmers.
> These questions concern me now. Since I have not actually competed
> in a race, there may be other issues I should be considering. Again,
> any help is appreciated.
> Tom Kuchar
> Department of Astronomy Phillips Laboratory/GPOB
> Boston Univerity Hanscom AFB
There should be some sort of triathlon club nearby (I hope) with people who
generally are quite willing to lend advise. Check through the local sporting
goods stores that seem to cater to triathletes for information.
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