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Whether you’ve spent years preparing for a major swimming challenge or have just rocked up for a quick sprint at your local open water venue, there’s always the possibility that things won’t run smoothly. The weather might turn nasty, your equipment could break or other swimmers may interfere with your progress. This is an inevitable part of open water swimming, but by being forewarned and forearmed many of the risks – and the severity of the consequences – can be reduced so that you can still have an enjoyable or successful swim.

Here, we look at some of the things that can go wrong, and we suggest ways to put things right again. Remember that some things are out of your control, such as the weather and the fi tness of other competitors, so you only need to worry about things where you can make a diff erence. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but by covering your bases as best you can you will be assured of a much more eff ective swim come your big event.

A BAD SWIMMER BLAMES HIS KIT There is an old saying, 'Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.' This is no more true than when it comes to readying your kit in the lead-up to a big event. You've probably spent countless hours in the pool and open water training for your big occasion. The last thing you need now is a simple oversight that might cost you the ability to fi nish or, worse still, to even start in the fi rst place. The best place to begin is to prepare a list for all the things you might need. Write this out in the week before the event and, where possible, set aside these items in an ordered fashion, checking them off as you go. See the box-out 'Open water swimmer’s kit list' to get you started.

GET ME TO THE START ON TIME As well as failing to pack all your kit there are a number of other things that can go wrong before the event even starts. The biggest thing likely to hold you back pre-race is arriving late at the venue. Even if your event starts early when traffi c is expected to be light, it's still worth allowing yourself plenty of time to get there. You’ll also have a shorter queue for registration and the toilets if you arrive early. Carrying spares with you will hopefully avoid any pre-race equipment malfunction that can result in a massive panic. However, even if you’ve forgot en an essential item, or perhaps you irreparably tear your wetsuit, there's no need to panic. Instead, ask the organiser to make an announcement – it's amazing what can be achieved by just asking for help. If all else fails, though, don't give up on the swim; off er to volunteer your time for marshalling purposes. You're there now aſt er all, and you might learn something from watching for a change.

During large open water events, get ing kicked and boxed in is an inevitability

KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON You’ve made it to the start line, remembered all your kit, the signal sounds and you begin to swim. Hopefully you can now stick to your pre-race plan (you of course have a plan for how you want to swim the event) but still things can go wrong. Rather than hoping these things won’t happen to you it’s bet er to be aware of what may go wrong and having an idea how to deal with it. Some of these things you can practise in training.


Try liſt ing your head while sculling with one hand and using the other to empty the off ending eye-piece. Alternatively (and some people fi nd this easier) roll onto your back and use one hand to deal

with the leakage while continuing to swim with the other. If it’s just one eye, can you ignore it?

GOGGLE BREAKAGE In longer swims where you have a support crew, get a spare set passed to you. In shorter swims you may have to abandon them and swim without. This is quite a skill, so worth practising in training.

SWIMMING CAP COMES LOOSE OR FALLS OFF This is very common but how you respond depends on the situation. Some events require you to fi nish with your cap (for example, if the cap has a timing chip fi t ed) so you should pull it back into place if it starts to slip or fetch it if it comes off . In cold water and on long swims it’s probably worth the eff ort to keep the cap but in a short sprint in warmer water you could abandon it. Among the tricks to help keep it in place include not conditioning

your hair for 2-3 days before you swim, making sure the cap is fi rmly on your head with no hair sticking out, or even using gaff er tape to fi x the cap to your forehead.

WETSUIT IS TOO TIGHT AND CONSTRICTIVE This can happen if you’ve rushed to put on your wetsuit and not pulled it up over your limbs and abdomen. See p.44 of issue 2 (April/May 2011, available on iPad and online) for how to put a suit on properly. If you only notice during the swim, try let ing a lit le water down the front (just pull the suit forward at the neck as you’re swimming), which will provide some natural lubricant between your skin and the suit. Also, try a straighter arm-recovery, so that you're not fi ghting against the restrictive nature of the neoprene.

WATER-FILLED WETSUIT IS WEIGHING YOU DOWN This is best avoided pre-purchase by ensuring a good fi t, but if you're sure it fi ts and you still have this sensation, could it be that the zipper has pulled down a bit and is allowing water in? If so, zip it back up and tighten the Velcro around the collar. Otherwise, in most cases the best bet is simply to keep swimming and learn for next time. You can sometimes reduce the problem by pouring some water into the suit pre-swim and then pressing the neoprene against your skin while the water leaks out the arms and legs. Wearing a tri-suit or similar beneath the wetsuit can also help. 



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