December 15, 2017

Racing And Training in The Wind – The Swim

In June I did the Ironman 70.3 Hawaii on the Big Island. The swim takes place at one of the most beautiful beaches in the entire world, Hapuna Beach.

Prior to the race I had a chance to swim at Hapuna Beach and the water was clear and calm. Not so much on race day.

Coming from a swimming background, I really prefer the non-wetsuit, challenging swims as I tend to fare better than my age-group competitors that are weaker swimmers. I came in third out of 47 guys in my division and only six seconds behind the #2 guy. It was a good day.

On race day there wasn’t any surf to speak of but there was a lot of wind and the water was very choppy. As a result, you need to change your swimming strategy.

First, you should to realize when it’s windy and there’s a lot of chop that you’re not going to swim your fastest. If you try to match your PR in tough conditions you’ll spend too much energy during the shortest part of the race.

Second, all of your competitors are in the same boat (so to speak). They have to contend with the same conditions you are so try not to let the mental demons creep in and think that you’re being singled out in any way.
Swim in choppy water
Third, you’ll do much better if you swim in challenging conditions in practice. The more you practice the better you’ll handle the adversity. I was swimming down at Corona del Mar in California by my home a couple years ago and the conditions were very challenging. There was only one swimmer crazy enough other than me to even attempt a swim that day – Swim Jim (Jim Fitzpatrick).

Normally the conditions are very calm there but today the wind and surf were coming in from the south with eight foot surf!

The swim was very challenging and at one point on the way back in I looked at Jim, who was to my right about 20 feet and noticed that he was actually about 15 feet below me as well. I was on top of a huge wave and he was down in the trough! The scene was surreal but helped me build confidence in the big waves.

Fourth, you’re going to have to adjust your stroke in windy/choppy conditions. Here are some things you may have to do:

1. Lift your arms more to get them above the waves. While we all practice perfect form in the pool you’ll have to throw all that out to swim effectively in the chop.
2. Lift your head more to breathe. If you can breathe bilaterally this will help quite a bit but if you don’t you’re likely to be drinking a lot of water.
3. Kick harder. In order to lift your arms and head more you may need to kick harder.

Naturally, all of this takes more effort so you may also need to back off your ideal pace so you don’t expend too much energy.

If you don’t have access to similar conditions you may experience in your next race modify your stroke in practice in the pool with the exaggerated stroke as I described above.

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  1. Mark Rodenbaugh says:

    Swim Jim,
    Give ma shout.
    Wanna do Channel 2012

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