You never forget your first OWS


Adventures in trying on Wetsuits and Attempting an Open water swim (OWS)

Temperatures have been a little cooler the past week, which is great for running but not so much for swimming! I was hoping that I wouldn’t have a choice about wetsuits and that it would ultimately be decided for me. Not the case!

Since I’ve been indecisive, I called and visited Triple Sports in Scottsdale for a wetsuit. Tracy was super helpful and found a couple of suits that fit me (that were for rent), but after I got one on I decided not to rent. Since the temps are borderline, she put me in a sleeveless suit. Even then, I felt constricted, so I didn’t want to add that to my stress.

Note: I did find a super cute sports bra on clearance, and Tracy offered some triathlon tips, so the trip was still productive.

Tracy’s tips:
– make transition area as small as possible to prevent chaos and reduce stress.
– have a squeeze water bottle to rinse feet off after the swim and then pat feet dry
– no socks on the bike
– socks on the run if you like
– low ponytail/bun for race day
– put everything on in transition and them adjust on the run

Now for the Splash and Dash + Swim only Event! My very first open water swim (OWS).
Bad news first: I didn’t swim the entire 750m, I made it a little less than halfway.
Good news: I swam about the distance of the super sprint swim and I had a chance to practice starting in deep water, sighting/navigating the buoys, going to back float when I needed rest, and getting help/rescued from a kayak when needed. Stephanie, a volunteer, was awesomely supportive. So was (Coach?) Chris from 4 Peaks Racing. They both offered tips and suggestions to help me calm down so that I could swim.

It was a cold and scary start! When the race started, I tried to get myself going quickly and I panicked. I rolled over to my back and I thought I was done. I was going to get out of the water and call it. I was scared and about to head towards the exit, but then a switch flipped flip switched. What am I going to do on Sunday? I had to at least try to swim in the lake, since I was already in the water.

I was motivated to swim and pushed myself a little further before rolling into my back again. About the third time on my back I also realized that I could do a backstroke to at least keep moving in the right direction (although this caused me to veer off course). I swam again for a little bit and found there was also a ledge along the wall that I held onto to catch my breath. Coach Chris told me to calm down and catch my breath. He also told me that most people panic in the five minutes of their first open water swim.

Once I caught my breath, I told Stephanie that I wanted to at least try sighting the buoys and I was able to do that. She kayaked next to me to keep me in line.

Once the 1500m swimmers (on their second laps) started lapping me, I made contact and I panicked again and after a few meters I called it quits. Stephanie pulled me back to the start ramp.

View my swim here: Splash and Dash + swim only 5/1/14

Reminders and Things I need to work on (or just own and realize it’s not going to be ready by Sunday):
– Don’t panic. Easier said than done. Swimming in a lake race is just as other triathletes describe it: it’s like being in a washing machine. Swirling around and getting disoriented.
– I know I’m not a strong swimmer, but tonight I realized I don’t know how to tread water calmly, at least not without raising my heart rate significantly. I may just start the swim on my back. Can I do that?
– Tempe Town Lake is murky and green. You can’t see your hand in front of you. The algae makes the ramps furry and slippery, so be extra careful entering and exiting the water. Another girl slipped on her way in.
– When I started my swimming adventures last fall, I was told to make sure to exhale entirely under water, so that I’m NOT exhaling and gasping when I come up for air. Both Stephanie and coach Chris suggested that tonight – it’s definitely something I need to work on.
– I don’t have to swim fast. I can take my time and find my rhythm. I forgot to kick from my hips tonight and that made my heart race which made me panic. Downward spiral!
– Don’t panic when someone makes contact. Tensing up makes it worse. Just relax and keep swimming (again, easier said than done).
– I’m glad I wore my regular swim cap under the provided cap. The latex cap would be painful on the hair!

– There were pockets of cold streams as we swam along the course. While I think a wetsuit would have helped with buoyancy, I’m afraid I’ll be too claustrophobic in a suit. Once we got moving, it wasn’t too cold until the next little stream. They didn’t last that long. Next Tri season, I’ll do more open water practices in a wetsuit. That is, IF I decide to continue after Sunday.

Tonight I accomplished my goal: experience my first OWS at about the distance I’m expecting to complete on Sunday.


I’m nervous for Sunday, but now I have a frame of reference, and it’s not going to be so scary. Hopefully it’s not too cold either!20140501-232025.jpg

2 thoughts on “You never forget your first OWS

  1. Reblogged this on Balancing Mommy and commented:

    Tonight, I’m doing the first Splash and Dash of the season. The nervous butterflies have started, but I know that I’m more prepared than I was at this time last year. I’ve already practiced in a wetsuit. I’ve built my swimming skills and endurance with Masters Swim.



    This timely article was published this week: 5 Ways To Make The Open Water Swim Less Initimatidating

    After I read the article by Meredith Attwood (Swim Bike Mom), I remembered my first OWS. I remember leaving Tempe Town Lake, defeated but challenged. I was determined to conquer the swim at my next attempt and I did!

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