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2621 Views 16 Replies Latest reply: Aug 29, 2007 12:42 AM by 3chilipeppers 1 2 Previous Next
jldowne Amateur 32 posts since
Sep 27, 2007
Currently Being Moderated

Aug 22, 2007 9:33 AM

Nervous for first Tri swim. Any insight??

I am doing my first sprint triathlon this Sunday and I am
really nervous about the swimming portion. I have
worked with a training partner/coach on stroke, technique,
and distance- I know I can make my 500 yards without
drowning, but how can I calm myself down and make it
easier to stay relaxed??

I am so tense about people kicking into me, feeling really
exhausted, and having a SLOW time. I know time isn't
very important this first time around, but I would
like to at least be respectable. It has been taking me
about 11 minutes to swim 500 meters in the pool, but
my open water swims haven't been measured as precisely.
I have done several, and I think it's been taking me about
12-13 minutes to do 550-600 meters, but I really have
no idea.  

Do you find that you get much slower during the race
in open water due to congestion, or should the adrenaline
and excitement keep me in line??

Thanks in advance!


Mother of Two, Marathoner, fitness instructor

  • DONSKIMAN Rookie 234 posts since
    Nov 25, 2007
    Currently Being Moderated
    1. Aug 22, 2007 10:20 AM (in response to jldowne)
    Re: Nervous for first Tri swim. Any insight??

    Position yourself so you start on the outside of the group. Let the real fishies get going first so you don't get run over. Don't try to go fast - just try to be smooth and steady.

    It's no different than starting a marathon. If you went out at the start with the Kenyans, you'd be exhausted very quickly. But if you go at your own pace and settle into a steady pace you will remain in control.

    If you stick with smooth and steady you may find yourself passing people who went out too hard, who then had to back off considerably in order to breathe.

    Remember - it's your first race - you're there to have fun - RELAX.


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  • bcc594 Rookie 147 posts since
    Dec 14, 2007
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    2. Aug 22, 2007 10:22 AM (in response to jldowne)
    Re: Nervous for first Tri swim. Any insight??

    I felt the same thing before my first open-water tri swim.  My time in the river (which, of course, also had a current) was several minutes slower than my pool-time.  My wife, watching on the bridge, said that I must have swam an extra couple hundred meters because I was weaving so much.  In the pool, practice your sighting - put a water bottle at the end of the pool, and practice looking at it every so often.  Staying straight will be the biggest challenge of the day.
    As for your worry about getting kicked - if you wait either off to the side or at the back, you shouldn't have too much trouble. It's getting in among the wackos at the front that you'll have problems. Like you said, it's your first tri, so relax and enjoy it. Plus, if your swim is a real limiter, as mine is, then you get huge satisfaction blowing by a ton of people on the bike and the run. Have fun!


  • ksurp Rookie 66 posts since
    Mar 10, 2006
    Currently Being Moderated
    3. Aug 22, 2007 10:31 AM (in response to jldowne)
    Re: Nervous for first Tri swim. Any insight??

    What has helped me calm down during ow swims is counting my strokes. For example I count each right arm stroke from one to six or one to eight and then lift my head and sight in and then start the count over again. This helps me get a rhythym (sp?) going which keeps me calmer and headed in the right direction. I also start toward the back of my swim wave and stay off to the side to get more open water. Good luck!

  • chrisuletz Rookie 467 posts since
    Dec 14, 2007
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    4. Aug 22, 2007 10:52 AM (in response to jldowne)
    Re: Nervous for first Tri swim. Any insight??

    Jen... the adrenaline and excitement might get you faster but be VERY careful about that. As it happened to me and to a few other newbies on their first open water swim, this excitement usually translates in hyperventilating and losing your breath, which might be OK in a run, but not in a swim.

    Just stay back at the start of your wave, and then move to the outside to allow faster swimmers to go by. Whenever you don't feel alright, just switch to breaststroke or backstroke, for a few strokes, until you regain your calm, and then continue freestyling.

  • LeftRightRepeat Pro 1,452 posts since
    Aug 16, 2007
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    5. Aug 22, 2007 11:33 AM (in response to jldowne)
    Re: Nervous for first Tri swim. Any insight??

    I find that 94.65% of all triathletes (OK, I made up that number but it's high) dread the swim. They look at it as something they have to get through so that they can get on the bike - which they find the easiest event.

    Stay calm, breathe deep, know that those around you are just as anxious as you are and, finally, remind yourself that the difference between going all out and coasting a bit in a 500 yard swim is not a hack of a lot when compared to the duration of the entire race. So what if you give up 20 seconds to stay out of the churn?

    Just relax and have fun.


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  • teacherjen Rookie 386 posts since
    Dec 14, 2007
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    6. Aug 22, 2007 12:01 PM (in response to jldowne)
    Re: Nervous for first Tri swim. Any insight??

    Also know that if you DO get kicked, or swum over, or whatever, it will be ok.  I can hurt, but it's not usually that hard.  In my first tri last season I felt a hand on my shoulder, and then someone went up and over me.  Right over me.  It was weird, but I was fine. 

    Like everyone else said, start to the back or outside for your first race to try to stay in the calmer water.  But just know that if you do get whacked, you'll still be ok!

  • juliemboyle Rookie 810 posts since
    Nov 17, 2007
    Currently Being Moderated
    7. Aug 22, 2007 12:45 PM (in response to jldowne)
    Re: Nervous for first Tri swim. Any insight??

    Also, know that it is expected that you will have anxiety and your HR will go wild at the beginning...if you expect it, it will be easier to deal with when it happens.  I agree with Don, start in the back and off to the side...start slow, get your breathing under control, then gradually pick up your pace.

    Good luck and post a Race Report!

  • mbannon Rookie 1,542 posts since
    Dec 14, 2007
    Currently Being Moderated
    9. Dec 25, 2007 4:38 PM (in response to jldowne)
    Re: Nervous for first Tri swim. Any insight??


    But, I agree in that
    cycling is typically the easiest event for triathletes.


    Only if you're doggin' it. If you're racing to your potential, I think generally the swim is going to be the "easiest" portion, as it is shortest. Of course, mentally the swim is tough, so that needs to be considered.

    In chip-timed triathlons, the clock generally starts when the horn sounds. Timing mats are placed at each end of the transition area, so your swim time will run from the horn to the time you reach transition. So hanging back a few seconds, while a good idea if you're worried about collisions, will cost you a little time.


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    [http://This message has been edited by mbannon (edited Aug-22-2007).|http://This message has been edited by mbannon (edited Aug-22-2007).]

  • lioness1 Pro 346 posts since
    Apr 1, 2001
    Currently Being Moderated
    11. Aug 23, 2007 7:55 AM (in response to jldowne)
    Re: Nervous for first Tri swim. Any insight??

    I don't do tri's so can't speak to that, but you may not necessarily go more slowly in open water. I did an o.w. swim recently in which I surprised myself b/c my o.w. time/pace was faster than I'd done the same distance in the pool! A following current/wind helped me a lot here. Much depends on water conditions. I've seen times for the same race vary A LOT from one year to the next. On a good day, you may surprise yourself! But if conditions are tough, don't worry... one thing to remember: everyone's facing the same conditions.

    I agree with the others. Don't worry too much about time, and start off to the side. You won't lose that much time, and what you lose, you likely will get back by being better able to focus on the swim, not worrying about collisions with other swimmers.

    Good luck and enjoy!

  • BrettBH Rookie 40 posts since
    Dec 14, 2007
    Currently Being Moderated
    13. Aug 28, 2007 11:39 PM (in response to jldowne)
    Re: Nervous for first Tri swim. Any insight??

    Way to get after that swim!! Congrats on a great first Tri!

  • IrishSailsman Rookie 197 posts since
    Nov 18, 2007
    Currently Being Moderated
    14. Aug 29, 2007 12:35 AM (in response to jldowne)
    Re: Nervous for first Tri swim. Any insight??

    Close to home for me. I have faced much fear and trepidation in the swimming portion of Tris. I can promise you that the anxiety of THINKING about it is much worse than the actual event. Trust your training.
    Stay back and let the fishes fight, and just find a groove. It WILL come back to you, all the hours in the pool.
    Imagine if you analyzed a long run or bike with the same scrutiny that you are doing with the swim! You never get started.
    You will be fine.

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