Sunday, March 22, 2009

Being Better Prepared for Race-Day, Open-Water Swimming

******I will be holding my last open-water swim clinic for a few months, on Saturday, March 28th, at the same spot. Cost is $50, ($40 for TCSD members, email me for discount code). THIS CLINIC WILL PREPARE YOU INCREDIBLY WELL! Ask around and see what people have to say about it. Register and find all the details here: ************

It’s moments from the starting gun, and athletes are nervous on the sands of the start line. The water lies out before them, and they begin to realize just how different this race is going to be from their pool workouts, from their social, open-water group swims, and their usual intensities. There are hundreds of athletes on the line next to them, and there will be contact. There are buoys in the water, and they are not easy to see.

So many athletes this season will stand on a start line and realize for all the training they’ve done and worked hard for, they are not prepared for the crowds, turn buoys, sighting, drafting, and entries and exits of the water. It’s almost funny how the thought or notion of actually practicing these specific things might have never come to their minds at all. Now despite all their intense and committed preparation, they find themselves feeling quite uneasy about the situation. They realize they have not swum with crowds of people who will be fighting for position. They have not swam hard and intensely in the open water, handling salt water when nearly hyperventilating, and trying to draft while sighting those pesky buoys. For some, when they get to the buoy, turning at it requires a sudden change to doggy-paddle swim motion!

The problem in most athletes’ open-water swim training is the training events are social, easy-paced, and unstructured. Most athletes never practice the skills they will actually use on race-day. They don’t know how to handle packs, bumping, drafting and sighting when going hard, because they’ve never actually tested and practiced this skill, outside of a race itself.
Many athletes will spot their competition quite a number of body-lengths at the start of the race, because they don’t have a high skill level of entering the water. The shame of this is that it doesn’t take much effort to gain these skills; it just needs to be practiced! Athletes would never try a new product or nutrition strategy on race-day without testing it, but when it comes to open-water skills, the only practice they get is on race-day! This situation is both contradictory and maddening.

TraningBible Coaching has recognized this issue among the San Diego triathlon community, and is doing something about it. TrainingBible Coach Jim Vance, and some assistant coaches, will be leading a twice monthly, open-water swim workout at Ventura Cove in Mission Bay, on every other Wednesday evening, throughout the season. The workout will consist of intervals which replicate race situations, and race intensities.

The venue is located next to the Bahia Hotel, on West Mission Bay Drive. Map it at the following link:

Athletes can expect intervals to range from 200 to 800 meters, with surf entries, exits, in-water starts, packs, drafting, turns at buoys, sighting, and even wetsuit exit practice at the end of the session. Local and upcoming races will be stressed and have their swims simulated as much as possible, (in-water starts, left turns or right turns, etc.)

These open-water swim workouts will begin at 6:15 and last until about 7-7:15, depending on light and upcoming events. Athletes should arrive around 6PM, in order to sign the waiver, get on their wetsuits and make the necessary preparations for the workout.

The workout is FREE to all, ALL ABILITIES WELCOME, and is designed to be both fun and challenging. Please contact Jim Vance at, if you have any further questions.

Jim Vance is a USAT Level 2 and Elite Coach for TrainingBible Coaching, and a professional triathlete. Questions or comments can be sent to You can also follow his writings and training advice at his coaching blog,

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