Triathlete Europe http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com Europe's leading source for triathlon news and information. Fri, 17 Apr 2015 12:30:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 Buyer’s guide: Wetsuits http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/2015/04/17/buyers-guide-wetsuits http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/2015/04/17/buyers-guide-wetsuits#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 12:30:00 +0000 http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/?p=50312

It’s tough to feel if a wetsuit’s catch panels are doing anything, but the Cat 5 is different. Plastic cutouts feel stiff when catching water, making it obvious when arm position is optimized. Good swimmers will appreciate the suit’s neutral position. Others might want something more buoyant—and less pricey. You’ll need to pack some extra lube to get this suit on, but it’ll come off like a breeze.

It’s that time of year when the water is starting to warm up and the wetsuits get dusted down. But if you’re in the market for ]]>

It’s tough to feel if a wetsuit’s catch panels are doing anything, but the Cat 5 is different. Plastic cutouts feel stiff when catching water, making it obvious when arm position is optimized. Good swimmers will appreciate the suit’s neutral position. Others might want something more buoyant—and less pricey. You’ll need to pack some extra lube to get this suit on, but it’ll come off like a breeze.

It’s that time of year when the water is starting to warm up and the wetsuits get dusted down. But if you’re in the market for a new wettie then check out our definitive Buyer’s Guide.

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Debunking popular pre-race myths http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/2015/04/17/debunking-popular-pre-race-myths http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/2015/04/17/debunking-popular-pre-race-myths#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 11:15:11 +0000 http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/?p=50328

Photo: Delly Carr

Athletes put a lot of thought and planning into their training schedule, and with good reason. The right combination of hard workouts, ]]>

Photo: Delly Carr

Athletes put a lot of thought and planning into their training schedule, and with good reason. The right combination of hard workouts, recovery efforts, weekly mileage and long runs are the main ingredients necessary to run a new personal best. An often overlooked, yet critical component to racing fast, however, is executing in the final days and hours leading up to the race. Even small mistakes in this tiny timeframe before a race can spell disaster regardless of how fit you are.

To help maximise your chances of success on race day, let’s look at three of the most common pre-race myths and learn why (and how) to avoid making these same mistakes before your next race.

Myth 1: Warming up will make you tired for the race.
Many beginners don’t recognise the importance of warming up before a race. Not only will a warmup prime your muscles for hard running, it will dramatically increase performance and help prevent injuries. When I’ve asked runners why they don’t warm up, the number one reason is that they’re worried it will make them tired before the race.

Don’t feel ashamed if you’ve made this mistake. We all have. I remember thinking my high school coach was crazy when he told me to jog for 15 minutes before the start of my race.

“Uh coach, running makes me tired and I’ve got this big race to run, you know.”

Of course, I was wrong. If you’ve put in the necessary training to prepare for your goal race, jogging 10 to 15 minutes followed by some short, fast accelerations before a race will not fatigue you in any way. You won’t burn significant glycogen (energy) and you won’t get tired. Warming up will increase your core body temperature, however, which speeds oxygen transport throughout the body, primes the muscles for hard running, and triggers the neural pathways between your brain and your muscles to improve muscle contraction and power. By warming up before your races, you’ll toe the line ready for optimal performance, as opposed to needing the first few miles if the race to get into a rhythm.

Myth 2: A rest day before the race will keep your legs fresh.
The day before a race is an important day and one that’s full of decisions that can affect your performance. You’ve got to fuel properly and prepare your body and mind for optimal performance the next day. It’s not surprising then that one of the most common mistakes runners make is resting the day before the race. Like the myth of not wanting to warm up for fear of getting tired, many runners think that running the day before a race will make their legs tired for the next day. This is false! Not only will running the day before not make you tired, but it can dramatically improve your performance.

Regardless if you’re racing a mile or a marathon, a 15 to 20-minute run the day before a race won’t hurt you. If your recovery runs during the hardest portion of your training cycle have enabled you to adequately recover between hard workouts, what would change the day before your race? The answer is nothing. A short run serves to prepare your body and mind to perform well the following day.

So what are the benefits? Like the warmup, a run the day before a race helps improve blood flow to the muscles, which allows them to loosen up and delivers the nutrients and oxygen they will need for the intense running the next day. When racing a the half marathon or marathon, running the day before will even help your muscles store extra glycogen.

A short pre-race run will also stimulate the central nervous system, which responds quickly to new stimuli because the growth and recovery cycle is very short. In fact, you can make small improvements to your neuromuscular coordination in less than a day. Conversely, degradation of the neuromuscular system can occur in a day or two, which means if you don’t run the day before the race, your neuromuscular system isn’t performing at an optimal level. This is why runners often feel lethargic and stiff when they don’t run for a day or two.

Myth 3: I’ve got the perfect race plan.
A race will almost always never go exactly as planned. It doesn’t matter how well-trained you are or how much time you’ve spent plotting the perfect strategy, something is likely to happen that you didn’t expect. Veteran runners have enough race experience that they’ve seen just about everything and are generally more prepared for any circumstance. Unfortunately, most beginners can be thrown off their target much easier and thus need more practice.

The best way to mentally prepare for something going wrong in a race is to use visualisation techniques in the weeks and days before you step on the starting line. Visualise as many different scenarios you can think of and formulate a plan of attack in your mind. By conjuring up these emotions, sights and sounds, you can prepare yourself to remain calm and collected so you can execute in a chaotic environment. If any of your scenarios happen during the race, you’ll know exactly what to do and it won’t throw you off your game.

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60 minute session: Bike interval mixer http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/2015/04/17/60-minute-session-bike-interval-mixer http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/2015/04/17/60-minute-session-bike-interval-mixer#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 10:15:18 +0000 http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/?p=50309

Photo: Nick Salazar

Every Friday we’ll feature a different coach’s workout you can complete in 60 minutes (or less!). This week’s workout comes from ]]>

Photo: Nick Salazar

Every Friday we’ll feature a different coach’s workout you can complete in 60 minutes (or less!). This week’s workout comes from Heather Gill, a coach at Energy Lab, a power cycling studio. “I love VO2 max intervals—mentally I just know that I can do anything for one minute, so I think I just go into it with an attitude that makes it easy,” Gill says. “Other folks like keeping the power in an easier range and maintaining it for longer. I think the combination of the two makes for a workout that will please everyone while training different energy systems.”

Warm-up
10 min, including four 60-second spin-ups from 80–110 RPM cadence

Main Set
8×1 min at 100–110% FTP followed by 1 min rest
4-min recovery period

Repeat twice with 3 min recovery in between:
2 min 85% power, 90 RPM
3 min 90% power, 80 RPM
2 min 95% power, 70–80 RPM
2 min 80% power, 100 RPM

Cool-down
Easy as necessary or until you complete the hour

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Video: Conrad Stoltz talks racing off-road http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/2015/04/17/video-conrad-stoltz-talks-racing-off-road http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/2015/04/17/video-conrad-stoltz-talks-racing-off-road#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 09:00:10 +0000 http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/?p=50341

Conrad ‘Caveman’ Stoltz knows a thing or two about off-road triathlon. The four-time XTERRA World Champion sat down ahead of ]]>

Conrad ‘Caveman’ Stoltz knows a thing or two about off-road triathlon. The four-time XTERRA World Champion sat down ahead of the Asia-Pacific champs to preview the race, and discuss the joys of racing off-road.

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Tri Training Harder’s Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire Bike Course Review http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/2015/04/17/tri-training-harders-ironman-70-3-staffordshire-bike-course-review http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/2015/04/17/tri-training-harders-ironman-70-3-staffordshire-bike-course-review#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 08:03:36 +0000 http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/?p=50330

Click to enlarge

The team at Tri Training Harder have been working hard analysing the course at the upcoming Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire. They shared their ]]>

Click to enlarge

Tri Training Harder’s Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire Bike Course Review

Click to enlarge

Tri Training Harder’s Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire Bike Course Review

Click to enlarge

The team at Tri Training Harder have been working hard analysing the course at the upcoming Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire. They shared their analysis of the Bike course with us. To read the full review click here.

Bike

The bike course is a single 90km loop takes in some spectacular scenery as it winds its way through the county from Chasewater to Shugborough. There is an elevation gain of 897m throughout the course, so although it is fairly fast don’t be fooled into thinking it is completely flat! There are come technical aspects to the course too, especially at the start where it winds through some small lanes and villages. Aid stations will be found at 19km (Kings Bromley), 37km (Needwood), 59.5km (Marsh Farm) and 77km (Cannock Chase).

The road quality in general is not bad (given this is England). Along the smaller roads there are a few holes and bumps to be aware of, but for the vast majority of the course the tarmac is smooth and hazard-free. There are also re-surfacing works planned for some of the route too before the big day.

Download the GPX file of the bike course here. (Only available in Google Chrome)

The bike course starts at Chasewater and heads out onto the main road (watch out for potholes on the road next to the dam as you leave!). It will feel like a bit of a drag for the first few kilometers, and there is a short sharp climb of only 1km at the 6km mark before the start of an easier downhill section. During the beginning of this, the course joins a more main road- but be careful as the turn is a sharp-left hander on a descent.  This section is nice and fast, with the first aid station at Kings Bromley after 19km.

The course continues on the main road until the 28km mark, where it loops around (see diagram) to take in Needwood aid station. The pinch point of this would be a good place for spectators to watch from because they will see the athletes twice. After this, there is undulating section through small lanes taking in the third aid station at 59.5km which again, should be fairly fast, but athletes will have to be aware of junctions and turns.

Once this section is completed, you will be in Rugeley and ready to tackle the hardest part of the course- the climb into Cannock Chase! It is not a huge climb, but you will feel it if you haven’t paced the previous parts of the course well. It is 10km long, with over 200m of climbing to cover. At the top of the climb the last aid station is available for athletes at 77km. Once you have headed back out on a road parallel to the one you came into Cannock Chase on, you will be back in Rugely and will only have an easy 6km along a fast, flat stretch of road to Shugborough. You are done! With only that pesky half marathon to go…

Cut off time: 5 hours 30 minutes after your wave start, with a further 10 minutes allowed to reach the run exit

To read the full IRONMAN 70.3 Staffordshire Course Review, click here.

Written by the coaches at Tri Training Harder, official coach to all IRONMAN UK events in 2015.

Tri Training Harder are a UK-based triathlon coaching company based in the UK, running luxury training holidays in the Algarve, Portugal from January – June.

To find out more about Tri Training Harder, their coaching, training holidays and training plans, click here.

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Overcoming common training challenges http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/2015/04/16/overcoming-common-training-challenges http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/2015/04/16/overcoming-common-training-challenges#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 13:30:33 +0000 http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/?p=50303

Photo: Shutterstock

Following a training plans is fantastic as long as ‘life’ doesn’t get in the way (which it has a nasty habit of doing from time to ]]>

Photo: Shutterstock

Following a training plans is fantastic as long as ‘life’ doesn’t get in the way (which it has a nasty habit of doing from time to time). So what do you do when things away from the swim, bike and run start interfering? We work out how to tackle three common training issues.

1. You had a long run and bike ride scheduled for the weekend but are stuck at a work conference.
During work trips, time can be very constrained, so anything long is typically out. Replace long distance and duration with high-intensity speedwork. I use the formula: workload = volume x intensity to get the same equivalent physiological workout. That way the amount of work on the body is equal to the duration of the workout (volume) multiplied by the intensity.

2. Your spouse is growing tired of the six-hour Ironman Saturdays.
Master the art of negotiation. I’ve personally experienced this one while training for my first Ironman with an infant at home. For each one since then, I’ve made a deal with my wife: During weeknights, I’d be home by 6 p.m. and on the weekends I’d be home no later than noon. Her stipulation was that I had to be ready for any of the day’s activities after I was home (so no two-hour recovery naps). If I needed to do a six-hour ride on Sunday, I had to be wheels-down by 6 a.m., which meant getting up by 5 a.m. to get everything prepped with tires pumped, chain lubed, bottles topped off and nutrition added on the bike. Tough? Yes, but it was worth it. Oh, and one more thing: The family that you’re neglecting for those six hours is the same family that is going to be bringing you in during the last quarter mile of the run—a little flexibility can go a long way.

3. You want to do a long-course race but have two little ones at home.
For athletes with young kids, there are more than enough things to get done around the house without adding triathlon to the mix. But with some careful time management and the right mix of intensity, long-course training can be safely accomplished in as little as 10 hours per week. As I noted at left, workload = volume x intensity. Therefore you can replace a two-hour, low-intensity (Zone 2) run with a 60-minute track workout (including Zone 4 and Zone 5 efforts), or you can replace a 4000-meter swim, which typically can take between 1.5 and 2 hours, with a set like 40×50 max effort with 20 seconds rest (2000 yards). It will take half as much time and still achieve the same physiological adaptations. This does not mean that all “long duration” work is eliminated. For athletes who are severely time-constrained, we set up a two-week build cycle (with the third week as the adaptation/recovery week) where everything is high intensity but short duration for the first week, and for the second week we include some bigger volume. An example build cycle looks like this (remember this just defines the total time spent swimming, biking and/or running).

Week 1
Monday: 1 hour (high intensity)
Tuesday: 1 hour (high intensity)
Wednesday: 1 hour (high intensity)
Thursday: 1 hour (high intensity)
Friday: Day off
Saturday: 3 hours (moderate)
Sunday: 3 hours (moderate)

Week 2
Monday: Day off
Tuesday: 1 hour (high intensity)
Wednesday: 1 hour (low intensity)
Thursday: 1 hour (high intensity)
Friday: Day off
Saturday: 5 hours (low to moderate intensity)
Sunday: 2 hours (moderate)

USA Triathlon Level II-certified coach Justin Chester is based in Parker, Colo., where he is the coaching director at Altitude Multisport Club and the head coach for TriCoach Colorado.

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Four Ironman 70.3-specific swim sets http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/2015/04/16/four-ironman-70-3-specific-swim-sets http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/2015/04/16/four-ironman-70-3-specific-swim-sets#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 11:05:31 +0000 http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/?p=50300

Photo: John David Becker

These 2,000–2,500-metre sets are designed to improve the swim at your next half-Ironman. Each set replicates the speed changes, distance ]]>

Photo: John David Becker

These 2,000–2,500-metre sets are designed to improve the swim at your next half-Ironman. Each set replicates the speed changes, distance and other factors that you may face in the 1.2-mile swim. Add one set to your quality swim session each week. Record your times and paces to track your progress.

Warm up and cool down sufficiently on your own.

Set 1
– 5×100 fast with 10 sec rest
– 3×500 as 250 smooth/250 strong with 30 sec rest
– 4×50 pull with ankle band only (no paddles) with 15 sec rest

Set 2
– 400 sprinting every fourth 25, no walls with 20 sec rest
– 4×400 pull descend time from 1–4 with 20 sec rest

Set 3
Do 8x each, in order:
– 50 kick fast with 10 sec rest
– 100 swim strong, no walls with 10 sec rest
– 150 swim smooth, mid-race effort with 30 sec rest

Set 4
– 6×50 swim as 25 fast/25 easy with 10 sec rest
– 6×100 pull as 50 fast/50 easy with 15 sec rest
– 6×200 swim as 25 Tarzan Drill*/75 swim x2 with 30 sec rest

*Swim with your head above the water the whole 25.

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Tri’d & tested: Magellan Cyclo 505 Computer review http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/2015/04/16/trid-tested-magellan-cyclo-505-computer-review http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/2015/04/16/trid-tested-magellan-cyclo-505-computer-review#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 09:30:28 +0000 http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/?p=50297

Photo: John David Becker

When the call of the open road beckons, the Magellan Cyclo 505hc is a rewarding companion. With a host of navigational and performance ]]>

Photo: John David Becker

When the call of the open road beckons, the Magellan Cyclo 505hc is a rewarding companion. With a host of navigational and performance tracking features, this powerful computer has Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and ANT+ connectivity, and for $500, the hc version comes with a heart rate monitor, cadence sensor and an out-front mount. In an industry dominated by Garmin, it’s worth noting the Cyclo 505hc is $200 cheaper than the Edge 1000.

When you first turn on the Cyclo 505, it’s immediately apparent that this device was designed to be intuitive and easy to operate. All the expected features—speed, distance, heart rate and elevation gain—can be customized to display however you’d like, but the most exciting part about this computer is its navigational features. You can plug in a physical address or simply click a spot on the map to receive turn-by-turn directions. When your sense of adventure takes you a bit off course, you can find nearby bike shops, restaurants, pubs or hospitals. While most people ride with their smart phone, having access to that information on your handlebars, just a few clicks away, is incredibly convenient.

If you find yourself bored of your weekly routine, the “surprise me” feature will create a route after you’ve input your desired ride distance and difficulty level. You can specify what types of routes you prefer (dirt vs. road) and share your ride plan with other Magellan Cyclo owners wirelessly with the share feature.

The Cyclo 505 is the first cycling GPS computer to provide Bluetooth connectivity with your phone. After syncing the device, the computer will display incoming calls and texts. You can even control your music playlists directly from the device. Need to switch to something a little more upbeat for your next interval? You can leave your phone in your pocket and still find the perfect jam.

If you’re near a wireless hotspot, you can upload your rides to Magellan’s ride tracking site or Strava. Shimano Di2 users can sync their computers to record shifting information to analyse time spent in certain gears.

Drawbacks: The Cyclo 505 doesn’t allow others to track you in real time like the Garmin Edge series. It also lacks the battery life of the Edge 1000, which claims to have up to 15 hours of run time compared to the claimed 12 hours of the 505hc. (Tests revealed that number to be closer to 10 hours.)

Best for: Explorers. The mapping technology combined with the performance tracking features make it ideal for athletes who want a computer that will direct them to the nearest coffee shop, then cleanly display their power output from the last climb.

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Kienle & Van Lierde headline Ironman Frankfurt http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/2015/04/16/kienle-van-lierde-headline-ironman-frankfurt http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/2015/04/16/kienle-van-lierde-headline-ironman-frankfurt#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 08:01:59 +0000 http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/?p=50306

Jan Frodeno will look to defend his title (Photo by Simon Hofmann/Getty Images for Ironman)

The star-studded field at the IRONMAN European Championship in Frankfurt on July 5, 2015 features reigning IRONMAN World Champion Sebastian ]]>

Jan Frodeno will look to defend his title (Photo by Simon Hofmann/Getty Images for Ironman)

The star-studded field at the IRONMAN European Championship in Frankfurt on July 5, 2015 features reigning IRONMAN World Champion Sebastian Kienle, 2013 IRONMAN World Champion Frederik Van Lierde and 2008 Olympic champion Jan Frodeno. Headlining the women’s field are IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion Daniela Ryf, along with 2012 IRONMAN European Champion Caroline Steffen and German IRONMAN sensation Julia Gajer.

The stage itself is epic: 300,000 spectators, 10 hours of live coverage and a city with over 1,200 years of dramatic history. Since 2002 it’s been the actors – the world’s best triathletes – that have turned the stage, Frankfurt am Main and the IRONMAN® European Championship, into a triathlon hotspot.

Just ask Sebastian Kienle, who turned 30 on race day last year and decided to kick off the celebrations by crowning himself IRONMAN European Champion for the first time with a course-record time of 7:55:14. Three months later, Kienle ensured his legacy in IRONMAN history by winning the 2014 IRONMAN World Championship presented by GoPro in Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i.

Kienle will hardly have an easy time defending his title, though, as he will face 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist Jan Frodeno (Germany) and 2013 IRONMAN World Champion Frederik Van Lierde (Belgium). “It’s going to be one tough, but exciting, day. Winning here in Frankfurt in front of my home crowd meant the world to me. If they want the title they’ll have to give me a good battle for it,” said Kienle.

Frodeno’s transition to long-distance triathlon has been impressive. In his full-distance debut in Frankfurt last year, the 33-year-old overcame a ripped wetsuit, bike tire punctures and cramping legs to finish third in 8:20:32. Frodeno repeated that feat (despite technical problems again) at the 2014 IRONMAN World Championship presented by GoPro, placing third behind Kienle and American Ben Hoffmann.

Van Lierde struggled in 2014 in attempting to defend his World Championship title in Kona but proved he is out to reclaim it this season, winning last month’s Standard Bank IRONMAN African Championship in Port Elizabeth, South Africa with a resounding 14-minute lead over a strong field.

Battle for Swiss Supremacy

Switzerland’s Daniela Ryf burst onto the IRONMAN race scene in 2014. Last June she achieved a remarkable double, winning the 5150™ Zurich triathlon (standard distance) and her IRONMAN debut on the same weekend in Zurich, Switzerland. Over the next few months she captured the IRONMAN 70.3® European Championship title, her second IRONMAN title in Copenhagen and the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship title in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, Canada. She finished the year as runner-up at the IRONMAN World Championship.

Ryf is the latest in a series of dominant Swiss IRONMAN stars. In July, she will take on her countrywoman Caroline Steffen, the 2012 IRONMAN European Champion. Steffen is a two-time runner-up in Kona, and also a two-time champion at the IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship in Melbourne, Australia. In taking the Melbourne title in 2012, Steffen missed the world-best full-distance time by just 50 seconds.

One of the fastest German IRONMAN athletes ever, Julia Gajer has one IRONMAN title to her name (IRONMAN Arizona, 2013) and finished sixth – just one place behind Steffen – at last year’s IRONMAN World Championship.

“For German athletes, the IRONMAN European Championship is one of the most prestigious titles in the sport,” says Gajer.

When it started in 2002 the IRONMAN European Championship was the first IRONMAN event to take place in a major urban center and remains one of the most prestigious events on the world triathlon scene.

“At the end of the day it’s our job to provide the athletes with a stage on which to perform. Frankfurt has proven to be a terrific venue for the IRONMAN European Championship and we look forward to the most competitive race outside of the IRONMAN World Championship,” adds Thomas Dieckhoff, CEO of IRONMAN Europe, Middle East & Africa. “IRONMAN has invested heavily in our championship event coverage in 2015, with live video, a hosted show, GPS tracking of the pros and enhanced age-group tracking to the entire world.”

In addition to the competitive professional field, more than 3,000 age-group athletes are expected to compete at this year’s IRONMAN European Championship.

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How to make open water swimming less initimdating http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/2015/04/15/how-to-make-open-water-swimming-less-initimdating http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/2015/04/15/how-to-make-open-water-swimming-less-initimdating#comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 12:30:15 +0000 http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/?p=50259

For the first time in Kona history the race featured four separate starts (pro men, pro women, age-group men and age-group women). Photo: John David Becker

My first open-water training swim may have been one of the worst in the history of open-water swimming. The horrifying tale went something ]]>

For the first time in Kona history the race featured four separate starts (pro men, pro women, age-group men and age-group women). Photo: John David Becker

My first open-water training swim may have been one of the worst in the history of open-water swimming. The horrifying tale went something like this: 43 degrees outside, 62 degrees in the lake and my first time in a wetsuit. I knew the open water would be tough, but I was a good swimmer. I would be fine.

As I inched into the cold water, I noticed that my chest felt tight from the wetsuit, but I was hanging tough—until I put my face in the water. The shock of the cold floored me, and I immediately panicked and sucked in water. “I’m OK,” I said to myself. I put my face back into the water. More water in my lungs. I tried not to inhale the water, but the reaction was automatic. My coach at the time was gesturing: “We’re going to swim out to that first buoy and then take a left and swim past the four buoys and circle back.” I could not breathe. Swim? You want me to swim?

The pressure on my shoulders and chest from the wetsuit was stifling. With my face in the dark water plus the wetsuit, it felt like I was burying myself alive. I couldn’t freestyle.

I couldn’t breaststroke, sidestroke or float. I was absolutely petrified and paralysed in the water. I tried to swim. I would float, swim, panic and repeat, until I managed to swim about 400 meters in 30 minutes. Thirty minutes. I was deflated. I had my first open-water triathlon only three weeks away, and I couldn’t make it through my first open-water practice.

Here’s the good news: I survived the debacle, even though it was very terrifying, very real and very humbling.

More good news! The worst part about open water is the first handful of times you experience it. With practice, it truly becomes easier. I am now completely happy to swim in open water, even very cold water in a wetsuit with 2,500 of my closest triathlete friends—some who like to punch, kick and hit.

Here are a few beginner tips and tricks to make the open-water a little less intimidating.

Be prepared: Be very comfortable swimming in the pool before you attempt to get in the lake, ocean, bay, pond or river near you. You should be able to swim a decent distance in a pool—continuously—before attempting open water. In the open water, there are no walls or sides or resting places. Be confident that you can swim the distance without needing to stop.

Learning to bilaterally breathe (breathing on both sides) is also especially helpful in the open water. During an open water swim, you may find that the waves are crashing on the right or you are staring into the sun on the left. Having the ability to switch sides is a big help in these types of circumstances.

Stay in the shallow end: I encourage beginners to swim parallel to the shore at a depth where you can stand up and rest, if needed. Take your time, find a spot about chest-deep, and swim along the shoreline for the first few open-water sessions. If you feel nervous, just stand up. Compose yourself, catch your breath, say, “I can do this,” and get back to it. If you know that you can swim 400–500 meters continuously and you swim parallel to the shore for your first time, you will have a much better experience.

Sighting is key: Sighting is the process whereby you “peek” your head out of the water to see where you are going in the open water. Because there are no lines on the bottom of the lake to follow, you have to pick a focus point (outside of the water, in the distance) and make sure you are swimming toward that point. Usually you can use buoys as a point to sight, but it’s important to become flexible with sighting buildings, trees or tall landmarks so you will feel ready for anything on race day.

The wetsuit matters: The best thing to do is get fitted for a wetsuit. Find a local triathlon store and make an appointment. The employees will put you in a decent entry-level wetsuit, tell you how to put it on, and more. If you don’t live near a store for a fitting, follow the sizing guide very carefully on the wetsuit manufacturer’s website (and if you’re borderline between two sizes, your weight is more important than your height in fitting). The suit should be very snug, as it loosens in the water. Use great care in trying it on at home—you can’t use any lubricant product on the suit, as many retailers won’t let you return it if you do. Some brands allow one swim, so just confirm before you dive in.

On your first wetsuit swim, ease into the water. Don’t jump in and go all Michael Phelps. Instead, wade in up to your knees and acclimate. Next, go a little deeper in the water and acclimate. When the water reaches your neck, put your face in the water and out a few times. Once you have spent five or so minutes adapting, begin to take a few strokes parallel to the shore. The few minutes you spend acclimating will stave off potential panic.

Stay relentlessly positive: Finally, prepare your mind. Keep your thoughts positive—at all times. The mind is the biggest weapon in this sport. Do not so much as utter the words “panic” or “fear” or “I can’t.” Repeat the words “I can do this” in your head—every day, morning and night and at the start of every swim. Prepare mentally during your swims in the pool with continuous swim workouts. Do not allow the fear to paralyze you. If you have a bad experience, get back out there. Practice often and it will become easier. You can do this!

Meredith Atwood is a wife, mother, attorney, Ironman, coach and author of Triathlon for the Every Woman. She lives in Atlanta and blogs at Swimbikemom.com.

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