David Roberts Posts: 1
Looking to get in to triathlon,I have completed half marathons and am in the process of training for the Snowden marathon in October,also keen cyclist with many miles under my belt.My ambition is to take part in an Ironman 70.3 but the swimming is holding me back,therefore I am taking lessons starting this week.My question is what is a realistic timeline to become a competant swimmer and allow me to take part in open water swimming?.Thanks in advance.
Hey David, lots of variables there and the definition of competent is pretty subjective. On the plus side you sound pretty fit AND are taking lessons. If you take lessons and swim at least once (preferably twice) a week between now and October you'll be just fine.
If the race in October is in open water make sure you also get some open water training. This is massively different to swimming in a pool - waves, wind, current, swell. temperature etc...
I was a fairly strong (pool) swimmer before I decided to take the plunge into tri a few years back and I have to admit the transition to open water I found really difficult.
Firstly, wearing a wet suit to swim really feels different. A new wetsuit especially will constrict your chest as well as your shoulders a little which can take some getting used to. I'd consider buying a second hand wetsuit for a first suit as it's cheaper and will be stretched a little. Lots of places that hire wetsuits get rid of last year's models at very reasonable prices.
Secondly - a dark lake is a bit intimidating - you can't see the bottom so there are no lanes to follow and you can easily find yourself off course. You can also get caught up in reeds / weeds and be surprised by the occasional fish / duck / swan which can all be a little intimidating at first.
The combination of the wet suit and the slightly scary conditions can result in a racing heart and difficulty breathing for some. I certainly experienced it - my first season of open water swimming I struggled to manage to swim non-stop more than a few hundred metres at a time. I just persevered and gradually built my time up until I was able to swim as long as I could in the pool. Even the second year going back to it took me a few weeks but now it's second nature.
It's well worth persevering with - not just to meet your tri goals - for me I now much prefer the freedom of open water swimming and only pool swim in winter when it's no longer practical. In the height of summer you can of course go without a wetsuit - most lakes will feel a little chilly at first but you soon get used to it. I only wear my wetsuit the first and last few weeks of the season and in the run up to any events where I will likely be wearing a wetsuit.