XTERRA Wetsuits triathlete Yvonne Van Vlerken provides some open-water swim tips that you can take into your next open-water race.
- Get yourself into your rhythm as soon as possible for an Ironman distance event. Focus on deep breathing and a long, powerful stroke. As for shorter distance events, I just go as hard as I can from the start!
- Try to get into a good pace group from the start. If your group is too slow, accelerate carefully and look out for another pair of feet to follow. If the group is too fast, back off so you don’t exert all of your energy too soon.
- During the last part of my swim, I always relax my legs as much as possible and concentrate on my arms. Your arms can have a rest when you’re on your bike, so use them! During the last 100 yards or so, visualize a smooth transition. Quickly review all of the movements that you will make, and the order that you will make them in. Remove your cap and goggles, open your suit and pull it down to your waist as soon as you get out of the water. Rinsing your mouth with fresh water really helps, as does rinsing your head and upper body after an ocean swim if showers are available in your race.
- I always try to take care of nutrition intake within the first 30 minutes after exiting the water; especially in an Ironman distance event. The sooner the better. During training, a great drill is using an elastic band around your ankles while using a pull-buoy. You will focus exclusively on achieving a strong stroke, which is especially important in the later part of an open water swim.
- Do a lot of intense swim sessions with short, fast speed sets. Triathletes often overlook speed work, which is incredibly important. I love 20x100m fast as a main set.
- Drills with short fins are beneficial. They strengthen your kick, and you can concentrate on a one-handed stroke, body roll and head position.
- Make at least one swim per week in open water, and make this your long swim if possible. Although pools offer great workouts, it’s always important to imitate your race environment.