When the going gets rough, I'm not so tough.
I did a 5K race this weekend. (I know, sprint distance on this forum). I had trained up reasonably well and had set some pretty solid goals for the race. At the start I immediately recognized that someone had turned the wind in the wrong direction and it was pointed directly opposite of the swim direction. Needless to say, this was not exactly what I had hoped for. We all headed off and I started with my traditionally slow start. This was made even slower because the waves were just banging me around and I was swimming like crap. I couldn’t get a rhythm going and soon I realized that this wasn’t going to be my day.
The waves finally relented toward the end of the race and as things smoothed out I reeled in a whole pile of people who were in front of me. A lot of them were wetsuit clad and a lot of them were in my wave. So at least that was kind of fun. But a guy who I beat by a minute last year, beat me by a minute this year.
So a few key things that I’m pondering. Why am I so terrible once the waves kick up? The fact that I was able to reel in a bunch of people once the water smoothed out a bit has me thinking that I was a faster swimmer than they were, but they crushed me in the waves. Do they float better than me? I know I wasn’t swimming strong in the waves, I was just plowing ahead and trying to not drink half the lake. I also know that I wasn’t keeping as straight a course as I do in calmer water, which didn’t help.
What should I do regarding technique? I’ve really modified my stroke and corrected a few bad habits. I have been using high elbows, which has balanced out my stroke and oddly enough, made my kick a little more effective. I tried to maintain good form despite being bashed around. But maybe I need to do a modified technique for rougher water.
I’m pretty much a lake swimmer. When I think about you ocean swimmers, I have to tip my hat because I’m sure the waves I was in would be considered a calm day for you guys. So maybe ocean swimming technique is different than lake swimming. (I know that the few gulps of water I took on in the lake would have been a little more consequential in the ocean, that’s for sure.) I also wonder about the buoyancy question, as it seems one is a bit more buoyant in the ocean. Does this help when you are thrashing about in the waves? This is one reason I was curious about the wetsuit guys killing me in the waves, but they were easy to reel in once things calmed down a bit. I don’t think it was because I was more rested than they were. We all were swimming in the same mess.
My last thought is regarding pacing. I swam slower than normal through the waves. But I could have kept that pace up all day. It was work, but it wasn’t really a race pace. I just couldn’t get moving strongly. Once I got into calmer water, I switched gears and started racing. I definitely couldn’t keep up that race pace all day. I can’t decide if I just was a baby in the waves and mentally gave up or if I was doing the best I could, but I suck…