This morning, I did a short (hour-long) swim. In preparation for my first dip in the James (probably tomorrow), I did two things: I swam with my eyes closed, and I set the water in the shower as cold as possible. The last time I got in open water was probably last July 😦 before my eardrum got smashed by a swimmer who stopped in the middle of the James at a Richmond Tri Club group swim, putting me out of the water for the rest of the OW season last September in the James. Needless to say, I’m itching to get in the open water!
I would highly recommend practicing with your eyes closed to anyone training for an OW race, unless the race is in the clear waters of the Caribbean, or elsewhere similar. In the past, I’ve not sighted enough, which has taken me off course at times. (Forgive me, I only started in 2006, and didn’t really get into it until 2007.) In open water, the only real consequence of this is having to swim more to get to the finish (which is obviously less efficient), but in the pool, you have a very narrow window before your arm hugs the lane line and you end up with red scrapes up your arm, or you hit the wall and smash a body part essential to swimming.
I closed my eyes, and only allowed myself to open them when I was breathing or sighting. I found that I sighted a lot more than when I swam in OW, and oddly, my stroke was a bit different — longer, more gliding than my typical pool swimming. I wasn’t doing this for time, so I can’t yet compare it to, say, a 100 free or 500 free at my normal pace. The exercise put me in the OW mindset, and I definitely think the longer stroke was more efficient for a distance OW race…and I felt calmer as I was swimming this way. I swam this way for just 300 yards, as I’m swimming Zones next weekend and needed to practice some other things, like the back-to-breast turn.
I should also note that I didn’t do flip turns. When I reached the wall, I thrusted my body in the other direction and began the next lap. Of course, you would not want to do this in a pool meet, but the advantage in training is that you’ll be taking a few more strokes per lap, essentially swimming more yardage, which hurts no one. You also aren’t giving your arms a “break” as you normally do during he flip turn, which more closely simulates swimming in open water.
As for the cold shower, I’m not sure exactly how cold the water was, but I hyperventilated a little. Cold showers are not fun. But if the water’s 65 or below on race day, I think cold-water acclimation is a necessary evil in the training process.