The Open Water Under-performer
You can break your own records in the pool, but you flounder once you’re without your precious lane lines and wall breaks.
Why you have this problem: Coach Murray says the swimmers who fail to match their pool performance level in open water have one of three problems: (1) They always swim short sets with frequent breaks, (2) they lack sighting skills or (3) they are anxious about the looming dangers in the big blue. Developing the physical and mental tools required to deal with the challenges of swimming in a natural body of water can help you shift your race focus from survival to confidently executing your race plan.
Your 100 and 200 repeats are great for overall swim fitness, but you must execute close to your race distance to physically acclimate. To improve your navigation skills, try sighting every few strokes during a shorter set. Bernhardt also recommends this: Count your strokes as you swim a 25 at a normal pace. Close your eyes and swim back. Not only will this get you accustomed to not seeing the bottom, it may also make a stroke issue, such as pulling more to one side, more obvious.
» Do 3×600 descending your time for each repeat, which is a great way to learn to pace the swim leg. Start out slower than you think.
» Replace one of your weekly pool sessions with a continuous long swim. Build this workout to be 10 percent longer than your race distance. To keep focus, try varying the pace. For example, swim every fourth 25 at race pace.
» Do hard, short efforts followed by a slightly longer easy set to teach your body how to recover while you swim, such as 3x(100–150 all-out, 5 sec rest, 300 recovery).
» Practice sighting in the pool to develop smooth technique and specific strength. Keep your eyes sealed underwater, open them above the surface. To avoid dropping your feet, lift your head barely out of the water at the start of a pull, then take a breath in the usual location before putting your face back in.