The TriDot Triathlon Podcast

Conquering the Open-Water Swim

Episode Summary

Start your race day strong. Learn to conquer the open-water swim. Coaches John Mayfield and Jeff Raines share their first experiences with open-water triathlon events and provide recommendations for sighting, breathing patterns, stroke rate, and wetsuits. Next they discuss how to adapt to open-water conditions such as water temperature, current, or lack of visibility. Gather tips for your particular swim start type, strategies for staying calm in the close proximity of other swimmers, and drills to implement in the pool to help you transition to the open water.

Episode Transcription

TriDot Podcast .028

Conquering The Open Water Swim

This is the TriDot Podcast. TriDot uses your training data and genetic profile combined with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to optimize your training, giving you better results in less time with fewer injuries. Our podcast is here to educate, inspire, and entertain. We'll talk all things triathlon with expert coaches and special guests. Join the conversation and let's improve together.

Andrew: Hey, welcome to the TriDot Podcast. I'm very excited to get rolling today. We are going to be talking about conquering the open water swim leg of a triathlon. A lot of people struggle with that, a lot of people hesitate to get into the sport because of that, and my coaches today are going to tell me all of their tips, tricks, advice on getting in the open water and getting confident in that skill set. So, super excited to get rolling. With me in studio today first is coach John Mayfield. John has coached athletes from the beginner all the way to the Kona Ironman Elite and has helped hundreds of folks reach the finish line of an Ironman race all over the country. John, I'm excited to have you join me today. 

John: Good morning Andrew. Just hopped out of the pool, so ready to get going on this. 

Andrew: Just hopped outta the pool, nice, fresh wet toweled off hair, good. That's a good look for you, John, it really is. Next up is coach Jeff Raines. Now Jeff has a Masters of Science in Exercise Physiology and has raced over 120 triathlons. Jeff was the director of triathlon at a top aquatics facility, working alongside gold medal Olympian swimmers and helping hundreds of athletes hone in their swim technique. Jeff, so excited to have you touch on this topic. Welcome to the show. 

Jeff: Thank you. I have not yet swam today, but I am ready to dive into our podcast today. 

Andrew: We're going to get warmed up today by putting Jeff and John on the spot with a dating base triathlon question, and then we'll get to our main set discussion, which today is all about gaining confidence swimming in open water. Then we'll cool down with a swim edition of gear we use where Jeff, John and I will all share some of our favorite swim training gear. It's going to be a good one. Let's get to it. 

Time to warm up. Let's get moving. 

Andrew: Jeff, John, for our question today I want to talk about something super, super interesting that I saw on Facebook recently. On Facebook, there is a group called Ironman Singles. Shout out to them, super creative. It came across my feed and it has around 2,700 members, and they say, this is on their site, they say the purpose and I quote, “Ironman singles is meant for single triathletes who love the sport of triathlon, love the journey to toeing the starting line of a race, and best of all, the potential of finding love.” Now all three of us are happily married with wonderful spouses, but for all the triathletes singles out there, do you all feel like this is a viable way to find tri love? 

John: So, I had kind of an interesting interaction with this group a couple years back as you mentioned-- [crosstalk]

Andrew: Did you really? 

John: As you mentioned, I am happily married, so I'm not a member of this group. But years ago, I wrote an article for, and it was titled Sex and Triathlon. And you'll have to look it up, it's still online. So, that actually was Active’s most popular article of the year. 

Andrew: I wonder why.

John: And it actually-- I actually heard from several people that it was circulating very heavily in that group. So-- [crosstalk]

Andrew: You don’t say.

John: I'm not a member of the group but-- 

Andrew: Are you a hero of the group?

John: Perhaps so. I'm not quite sure because I'm not a member but all the best to them. So, yeah, that was kind of my experience with the Ironman Singles. And yeah, sure, why not? I think it'd be great to find somebody you have stuff in common with. 

Andrew: Jeff, I trust you have not read an article about Sex and Triathlon for that got circulated on Ironman Singles, but what are your thoughts? If somebody came to you and was like, “Hey, I met someone on Ironman Singles” what would kind of be your reaction? 

Jeff: Well, first of all, I did read that article, John and I did not know that you wrote it, so interesting. 

John: I hope you learned something.

Jeff: Yeah, absolutely. Yes, I think you can find tri love in our sport. I actually met my wife through the wonderful world of triathlon swimming in a pool back in the day, UT Arlington. 

Andrew: So, in that scenario, who first saw who? 

Jeff: I saw her, she would never stop swimming laps and I would find dumb excuses to linger on the wall hoping that she would finally stop at the wall so I could say something to her. And finally, when she did stop, the dumbest thing came to mind. I rehearsed a number of things in my mind, but when she actually stopped, turns out she thought I insulted her. And I said, “My goodness, you are such an endurance swimmer.” And in my mind, I was like, “Oh, my gosh.” 

Andrew: An endurant swimmer? 

Jeff: An endurance swimmer. Because I-- 

Andrew: That was your go-to line to find love in triathlon? 

Jeff: Yes, it was the dumbest thing in the moment. And she thought I insulted her so she just kept swimming. I thought that I gave her a compliment like you will not stop. You have such great endurance. You're such a fit swimmer. But she took it as “Oh, he thinks I'm slow because I'm an endurance swimmer.” So, she just got in the water and kept swimming and never said a word to me. And then months later we ran into each other again and we remembered that conversation-- [crosstalk]

Andrew: And you kinda talked-- You talked it out? 

Jeff: Yes. But one thing led to another and we were both triathlon training at the time and now we're married, so absolutely, tri love exists. 

On to the main set. Going in 3, 2, 1. 

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The open water swim is considered by many to be the hardest part of a triathlon to get used to. Many sprint tri’s actually avoid open water swim entirely by holding the swim in indoor pools. And many triathletes regardless of their experience, find themselves dreading the swim leg of a major race because they just don't feel confident in the open water. So, guys, let's talk this one out. You know, we all at one point, were new to open water swimming. Tell me what you remember from your first open water race. 

Jeff: You know for me, I started out like many do. My first sprint tri was a pool swim and then I graduated up to a slightly longer distance with an open water component included. My very first open water race was the Texas State triathlon down in San Marcos, Texas, the Aquarena Springs Triathlon. And Aquarena Springs is a beautiful kind of natural nature preserve section of river down there and you can only get in the water there one time a year and it's for this race. 

Andrew: It’s on race day, yeah.

Jeff: Beautiful crystal clear water. And so I chose that because I wouldn't get as heebie-jeebies in the murky open water, so I chose a clear race water. It was wetsuit legal. So, it was my first time in open water and first time in a wetsuit. I just remember jumping in and you know, hyperventilating, being very nervous, uncomfortable treading water, breast stroking that first hundred and just being very, very, very frustrated. But something happened, the coolest thing, I just happened to kind of just look down and about 10 feet below me was this turtle. 

Andrew: Just while you're swimming or when-- 

Jeff: During the race, the first 100 I'm mad, I'm frustrated. I'm thinking about DNFing. What do I do, you know, forget this, get me out of here. I want to go home. And I just remember, I just put my head down, tried to take a few strokes and try this again. And I just looked down and there was this, I call him the happy turtle. But he was about 10 feet below me and literally swimming parallel to me just gliding just so calm, cool and collected in this little nature preserve river section. And I just remember thinking, “Man, you know I'm doing this sport for a bigger reason. I'm doing it for health and fitness and I don't need to get so caught up and two seconds per hundred on my first open water swim.” And I just remember having this peace and this calm about me and kind of watching that turtle for a few more strokes and I got back into it. Had no more issues and have never had open water heebie-jeebies since that day. I always think of the happy turtle. 

Andrew: Yeah, I think what I'm learning here is that your autobiography at the end of your triathlon coaching career could be the happy turtle, the Jeff Raines story, and it could be a nice title. John, how about you? What was your first open water swim race? 

John: Mine was the exact opposite of everything Raines said. 

Andrew: No happy turtles? 

John: No. Mine was not wetsuit legal but it was cold water. It was in a neighborhood retention pond. 

Andrew: Gorgeous, beautiful [sarcastically]

John: Yes. So, it was a lovely shade of brown. There probably was life form swimming below me but I could not see it, and it was a 300 meter point to point that was about six minutes of sheer agony in hell that I never thought would end. But at some point I finally reached the other side and fortunately, someone pulled me out of the water and threw me towards T1 and that was-- I don't know, there were no happy turtles-- 

Andrew: The swim exit volunteers are angels, are they not? 

John: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Great people to see and always, always good to get out of the water. But yeah, no turtles or really anything other than just glad it was over. 

Andrew: I know for-- You guys have both coached hundreds of athletes through their first open water swim and through their first Ironman swim. What are some of the reasons you most often hear as to why folks feel like they struggle in open water? 

Jeff: I think a lot of it is the comfort factor. In a pool, you can see the walls, you can see the bottom, it's a controlled environment, it's safe, there's a wall-- 

Andrew: There's a lifeguard right there. 

Jeff: There's a lifeguard, there's a wall, there's a ladder, there's a lane line. You know, open water, just there's so many different elements. So, every time you swim in a pool, any pool, they're almost all identical. About the same width, about the same water temperature, there's a line down there to follow. But any and every time you get an open water, the scenario is different. Is there current? Is it a river? Is it lake? Is it upstream? 

Andrew: Can you see? Is it brown water? Is it clear water? 

Jeff: Absolutely, the temperature. 

Andrew: Yeah. All those things can be very disorienting if you're not ready for them. 

Jeff: Absolutely. And then you've got wind and sunshine and just a lot of different things. 

Andrew: So, for folks that maybe have the issue if they feel like they struggle to feel comfortable in the water or even maybe may feel a sense of panic when they try to put their head down and swim in it. Jeff, not unlike your first open water race, where you were contemplating, do I just pull out and not do this? How can they overcome that sense of uncomfortableness, that sense of panic when they get in open water? 

Jeff: There's a number of things. A lot of people when they jump into cold water, or just even open water where they can't see their hand in front of their face, so you don't know what's down there, people tend to gasp or they will, it will trigger a gasp reflex and they have a large inhale which triggers their fight or flight. And so it's kind of the idea of sniper school. They're trained to pull the trigger on a long, slow, calm, exhale. So, if they gasp they will shoot high or jerk that gun. Well, it's that same idea. If you can time your entrance into the water on an exhale, what it'll do is it won't tend to trigger that adrenaline rush and it can help calm your nerves and your heart rate those first couple hundred yards.

Andrew: And so if you’re jumping into the water for your start, you're saying to exhale as you're hitting the water? 

Jeff: Exactly. And that's the hardest thing to do. But practicing that even at a pool at home, are you going to-- Well, most triathlons you have to enter either running in or jumping off of a dock or a pier feet first, but just making sure that you can kind of time that gasping. But I'll even, just even in practice have a lot of my athletes tread water and maybe it's only a foot or two deep, and I'll have them dive down to the bottom before they start their workout and just pick up a rock off the bottom, or at least just touch the bottom, get a feel for how the temperature changes at different depths. In the shade, water is a little cooler, in the sun, it's a little warmer, and as the temperature changes during a swim workout in open water, you feel different water temperatures, it can kind of trigger some of those heebie-jeebies. So, just simply going down a few feet-- 

Andrew: Realizing that you're safe in there, everything's fine in there, you can feel comfortable in there, perhaps. 

Jeff: Absolutely, just calming those nerves, getting a little more oriented with your environment can help calm the nerves. But also learning how to sight frequently, getting your head out of the water seeing that you're okay, you're still on course, practicing some of the open water skills in a pool before you graduate to the open water. And then when you do, just make sure you orient yourself with a few of those tricks we just talked about. But start with safer shallow bodies of water, shallower water, maybe public swimming areas. 

Andrew: Yeah, no and let's talk about that. John, maybe for someone who is a beginner and maybe they haven't practiced at all in open water, where should they go to give it a shot? 

John: Really for everyone, beginner or not, good efficient, open water swimming starts in the pool. Becoming as strong as a swimmer as possible, becoming as comfortable as possible in the water, those are the things that are going to translate to comfort and ability in swimming in the open water. So, that's a great place to start is having that mentality of even when going the pool, this is going to be an opportunity to dial in some of those open water skills and being comfortable in the water. So, one thing that most swimmers do is swim on top of the water the entire time. So, especially for those that tend to not be as comfortable in the open water, it's good to spend some time underwater just being-- I think part of it is realizing you're okay. And so doing things, so we call sink downs where basically you're just exhaling, you're blowing out the air, you're feeling that carbon dioxide buildup in the lungs, and being okay with it. Just stay under a little bit, being uncomfortable for a little bit, just learning that you're okay, and just letting the body kind of learn that sensation and know that the air is right there above the surface of the water and you'll get there. 

So, I've been swimming for years, I grew up on the coast, so open water was just kind of natural for me. But sometimes even in the pool, I'll just kind of hang out especially after my session is done just spend some time kind of playing like a little kid going underwater, going down to the bottom and just kind of having that mentality of I'm in the water, I'm underwater. I can't breathe right now but I'm okay. So, just kind of getting comfortable in water and the best place to start is in the pool. Then it's obviously important to dial in a comfort level in open water. So, recommendation there, top priority is always safety. So, make sure that it's an open water location where swimming is allowed, where swimming is encouraged. So, some kind of public beach or a waterway that is open to swimmers. I never recommend swimming alone. Always, always have a buddy system kind of a thing. And I would say even swimming alone in the regard of having someone very nearby. So, wear a bright swim cap so that you're visible. They have great inflatables that help with flotation as well as visibility in the open water. That's where things can go bad is in the open water, so always prioritize safety. And from there, connect with local tri clubs, swim clubs, lakes, those sorts of things oftentimes those are great opportunities. 

Sometimes the open water venues host events where you can come and be part of a group. So, you kind of kill two birds with one stone is you have that opportunity to go swim and there's kind of a built-in safety in numbers kind of thing and a great community connection as well. So, always prioritize safety, get comfortable in the pool and utilize that as an opportunity to increase confidence in the water. And then when you're ready, you can translate over to the open water. And then kind of same thing, just start easy as Jeff mentioned, it starts with your entry into the water. That is when the vast majority of issues occur is either upon entry or within the first minute or two. Generally, if you can push past that, not always, I mean, some people will have issues later on in the swim, but I would venture to say probably 80% or more happened within those first couple minutes. So, replicate that and just, it's kind of one of those things, you're okay. Even if you have a panic attack or whatever, you're okay. And all you need to do is just calm down, collect yourself. And I really encourage people when they have that, to do what they can to kind of get back in the water and not succumb to the fear. Obviously, don't do anything that's not safe but even if it's just getting in waist deep, sometimes that can be a baby step that will set them up for success next time they come. And maybe it's waist deep one time and neck deep the second and by the third or fourth, they're completely comfortable and able to rock their open water swims. 

Andrew: Now, the conditions swimming in open water are obviously way different than swimming in a pool. Jeff, do we need to change anything about our form to succeed in open water? 

Jeff: Yes, there are a lot of aspects. I mean, it's kind of like running on the track versus cross country, right. Sprinters will adopt different run philosophies for the hundred yard dash versus a trail runner or a road marathoner. And so it is essentially an entirely different sport. open water swimming, there's current in the water. If you're swimming upstream versus downstream, your stroke rate tempo might change a little bit, the amount of body roll, the kick pattern or even the kick frequency might even change. Having a wetsuit help with buoyancy versus using the kick a little bit more for a propulsion aspect rather than body positioning and body balancing. Ocean swimming, there's a saltwater factor there. I mean, you float a little bit easier in salt water, but a lot of people you know, having that taste of salt in their mouth is just a little bit different. Waves, current, whitecap, sun shining in your eyes, there's a number of things that you will change your kind of philosophy of swimming. You'll wear a different goggle potentially in open water, tinted versus a clear lens. You might even have a wider lens for sighting and seeing to the side. Whereas in a pool, you're pretty much just looking safely ahead. So, your choice of gear will change, your stroke rates will change, your body positioning will change slightly. Now we don't have a line on the bottom of that river, that lake, that ocean to guide us. So, I will even adopt anytime in a pool that my face is in the water I'll close my eyes and then when I take a breath is the only time I can look so I-- [crosstalk] 

Andrew: Get that dark practice, that not being able to see when your head’s under the water effect? 

Jeff: Yeah, I mean incorporating sighting exercises in a pool, how do you look around but not lose your body positioning, that efficiency of the body positioning? 

Andrew: So, I know that one thing you said that's super different from the pool to open water is the stroke rate because you're dealing with currents, you're often dealing with waves, with tides. So, from the pool to open water, should we be trying to increase our stroke rate, or does it help to slow down the stroke rate? What's kind of the main difference there? 

Jeff: Good question. It's good to know the course you're training for. Is it a downstream swim? Is it an upstream? Is there a tide aspect? And so typically, beginner swimmers will adopt a slightly lower stroke rate as they're honing in on body positioning, just being comfortable and efficient in the water. But there's a point at which if you know you're going to be swimming against current, and there's people all around you, that you're going to have to adopt a little bit more of an aggressive kind of a higher stroke rate. Wearing a wetsuit versus non-wetsuit, a lot of triathletes will adopt a slightly different kick philosophy. With a wetsuit on, you don't have to use the kicking pattern as much for a propulsion aspect. A lot of people just will actually slightly slow down their kick frequency due to the buoyancy of the wetsuit helping you stay on top of the water. It's good to keep a consistent kick throughout the entire race, but in open water with wetsuits, people tend to slightly relax the legs more. But without that wetsuit, there might be a little bit more kicking which-- [crosstalk]

Andrew: To keep your position. 

Jeff: Yeah, which can elevate the heart rate if people aren't used to that. So, just kind of knowing your course, knowing the temperature, is it upstream/downstream, is there potential for whitecaps? You're going to want to focus on how you breathe. Are you breathing every third stroke bilaterally or are you breathing every second stroke to the same side? Can you breathe-- [crosstalk] 

Andrew: Does that need to be different from how people are used to doing it in the pool? 

Jeff: Of course. Short course swimming versus long course swimming, a lot of athletes will adopt different breathing patterns. 

Andrew: Really? 

Jeff: For longer races, we tend to need more oxygen, right, and so bilateral breathing will elicit a breath every third stroke. Whereas second stroke breathing, you will get a breath one stroke sooner, which will elicit 33.3% more oxygen throughout that entire-- [crosstalk]

Andrew: Yeah, it goes to the mantra, oxygen is king. Yeah, I've heard that reference in talking about swimming. 

Jeff: Yeah, I mean, and if you're more comfortable breathing to one side than the other, which most people tend to have a dominant side. If you're breathing to that favorite side in open water, there could be a scenario where we would want to switch that breathing pattern to the other side. What if your favorite side there's a wave hitting you in the face every time you take that breath?

Andrew: You can’t breathe with a wave in your face. 

Jeff: And you're swallowing water, which will and can lead to GI issues on the bike. And so knowing where that current is coming from, knowing which side you're going to breathe on if you're going to breathe every second stroke versus every third. So, so it all kind of just comes down to really knowing the course that you're going to swim with. If you're new to open water, pick calmer water, shorter swims. 

Andrew: Yeah. Because that'll help you feel a little more confident, little more comfortable in that first time, perhaps. 

Jeff: Yeah, and working with a coach and doing a camp or a clinic in that area. A lot of kind of bigger, more established races will have plenty of orientation swims and clinics that are honed in on that course specificity. So, you can pretty much know the breathing pattern you want to adopt isn't going to be wetsuit legal and you can go practice that in a pool as much as you can. 

Andrew: Yeah. So, when an athlete has a race coming up that has an open water swim, talk to me about how important it is to get out and train in open water prior to the race? 

John: So, the important aspect in training in the open water is to develop those open water skills. So, as mentioned before, initially that starts with developing that comfort level, making sure or doing what you can to mitigate the risk of those early panic attacks. But from there, it's really important to dial in the remainder of the skill, so having the ability to swim in open water well to swim in the open water straight is perhaps paramount. So, these are the kinds of things that really need to be the focus of the open water swim training is things like swimming straight. And, as Jeff mentioned, adjusting to the conditions, whether it'd be chop or sun or something like that, something that would, you wouldn't normally encounter in the pool, especially an indoor pool where the sun is not an issue and you don't experience currents and chop and wind and that sort of thing. That's really what you want to focus on when swimming in open water. Otherwise, your best bet is to spend time in the pool. You're going to get a better, more efficient session in the pool where you can really dial in your pacing and your work. 

Again, it's important to mimic some of those open water conditions that you're going to experience. But as far as gaining speed and strength, working on your form, being efficient in the water, those are going to be developed in the pool. But there is a certain amount that each athlete needs to do in order to maximize the work they do in the pool when they reach open water, and that's going to be different for everybody. So, it's likely more important for the less experienced athletes to spend more time in open water to develop that comfort level and to develop the skills. Whereas the more experienced or seasoned athletes can spend more time in the pool working on getting fast and getting strong and working on form and that sort of thing and don't necessarily need as much time swimming in the open water. I personally only do a couple open water practice swims a year now, and it's usually maybe one or two times in open water prior to a big race. And really, that's just again, just kind of to hone in those skills. I've been doing it for a number of years. Like I said, I grew up in the water, so for me, it was never really anything I had to work on too much. So, I was always fairly well-- did fairly well in open water so for me, it's just a couple of refresher sessions but I'm going to focus most of my attention in the pool. Now early on, that was not the case. So, spend more time doing the open water dialing in those things, getting confident in the water. 

Andrew: I know something that I really found helpful the first couple times that I started kind of going to local tri clubs, open water swim practices it really gave me the opportunity to swim alongside people like you're gonna have on race day, right, to get that sense of what it's like having bodies right next to you swimming, having bodies right in front of you that you're trying to draft off of, having bodies right behind you and you're feeling those hands hitting your feet. That can all be a little unnerving your first time, but as you get use to it and you start to realize like my first instinct was oh man, let me get away from these people and just have space in water to myself. But you realize very quickly there's a lot of benefit to swimming nearby other people. Can you tell me a little bit about maybe how to practice that, how to get used to that, why that's helpful? 

Jeff: Yeah. So, the water is exponentially more dense than the air, so it's that much more difficult for us to move through. So, yes, there is absolutely an advantageous benefit of swimming with other people. It's very similar to drafting on the bike or the run, you're allowing those swimmers ahead of you to break that water and to create an easier method for you to move through that same water. So, that's a great skill to develop. I would even kind of go back to what I said a minute ago in that those same skills can be developed in the pool. So, that's something that oftentimes athletes will neglect in the pool is swimming with other people. Generally, when we can, we get our own lane. I definitely like to have my own lane. Now, sometimes not everybody has that luxury which it's actually a good thing that you can get in there and be in those close quarters and get used to some contact. That's something that you need to get used to especially if that's something that bothers you in these different starts, especially the wave starts where you have a lot of people starting at the same time, you are absolutely going to have contact out there. And I tend to have a little bit of faith in our athletes that it's not intentional. 

Andrew: Nobody's out there trying to sabotage your race, nobody’s out there trying to drag you under. 

John: Yeah, it's not really an intentional full contact sport, but open water swimming is very much full contact. So, expect to get punched, expect to get kicked, and it's good to maybe not practice those things, but definitely get used to swimming around people. So, yeah, that's a great skill to develop is one, the ability and comfort level of swimming in a very close proximity to other athletes. And then once you have that, work on the drafting skills where you're comfortable swimming up there, either on an athlete's hip or an athlete's feet to take advantage of that draft. Something else to consider in that is your start location and how your race is starting. So, there are several different ways that a race can start. Some have the athletes treading water, like you mentioned, in your race, others start on a dock where you will jump in, others more of a beach start where you'll get kind of a running start and run in. So, there are several different ways to start a race and that's something else you kind of need to be aware of and experience as best you can. And even where you line up before the race starts can play into that. So, kind of depending on your ability and your comfort level, that's going to determine where you line up before the race starts. 

Jeff: And I would even say that being strategic in where you start if you breathe to your left, you may want to start to the middle or right-hand side of that group, so when you take a breath, you can see the majority of the people to your side. You can see if you're swimming in a straight line, you can pick groups to draft off of and so forth. And I would say that you can even graduate into different avenues of training in the open water prior to a race. So, what I do about four to six weeks out of a key race, I will start incorporating open water swims weekly. So, you could even start off from swimming by yourself in your swim lane doing your workouts. You could graduate to maybe one swim per week, you hop in a local masters group where 2, 3, 4, other people are in the lane with you. You may start five or 10 seconds apart but at least you're used to having people around you. There are some facilities and groups at my facility we had tri specific master swims, we call them tri swim, tri masters. And so as we got closer to key team races, we would put everybody from these five lanes into one lane, and we would practice mass starts. So, we would practice drafting stuff like that, take buddies with you out in the open water, just have them swim alongside you. So, there are avenues and ways to graduate because it can be hard just swimming and open water in general, and once you conquer all that, well then throw 50 people around you-- [crosstalk]

Andrew: And then you have something new all over again.

Jeff: There's a whole other --Yeah, and so all of your old anxieties can resurface. So, what I would also do just to kind of reiterate, what John said is knowing your specific course. You may spend the majority of your time honing in on those skills in a pool, like if your race is six months from now. Then when race day gets closer, going out to the swim venue, seeing if the sun is going to rise in a different location, all right, the current might be different-- [crosstalk] 

Andrew: So, it's not nearly as beneficial [open water practice] that far out from a race, yeah. 

Jeff: Yeah. As you get closer to the race start going out if you have access or you live close to that venue, get a feel for the water temperature. Dip your feet in there. Does it feel warm? Does it feel cold? Where's the sun coming up? Are you going to sight off of the horizon versus that first buoy? Stuff like that. Is there going to be a glare on the water? So orienting yourself with actual race day conditions as close to race day as possible.

Great set everyone. Let's cool down.

Andrew: In the spirit of open water swim talk, we will cool down today with a swim edition of gear we use. This is the part of the show where we move beyond theory and talk about what gear TriDot coaches turn to for top performance. It's one thing to preview a new product or even to review a popular piece of gear, but when it TriDot coach takes a product into their own training or to start line of a race, it probably means it's something worth checking out. So, Jeff, let's start with you. What are a few of your favorite swim gear items you are loving right now? 

Jeff: Lots of choices. Gosh, good question. I referred to training with a specific goggle and racing with a different goggle. I like to train with the ROKA R1. I train typically indoors and in a pool so I like the untinted but they have different amber lenses, darker lenses, lighter lenses, so I like the clear lens ROKA R1 for my training. And then I am in love with the Rocket Science Sputnik. It's an open water specific goggle that Rocket Science makes that fits my eyes really well. I find the tint to be just enough to block the sun but on early sunrise days, I can still navigate above the water even having a little bit of tinted lens there. Gosh, one more, buoyancy shorts. Something we actually didn't allude to yet in the podcast, buoyancy shorts-- 

Andrew: Just shows you how much swim gear there is to consider

Jeff: Oh my gosh, we could go on forever here. But buoyancy shorts I find are becoming more and more popular in the last two to three years I would say. It's kind of sort of the idea of you have your full body wetsuit, but you just cut it above the knees and at the belly button. So, it just looks like your typical swim jammer but there is that neoprene buoyancy effect. And so instead of having a pool buoy to help lift that lower body, a lot of people are using buoyancy shorts as an aid. It can elicit bad habits over time. If a race is not wetsuit legal, you are not allowed to race in buoyancy shorts so you treat it like a wetsuit. But it is a great tool for helping some body positioning that I'm liking right now. 

Andrew: Some great items in there. John, what about you? 

John: I actually had the ROKA R1s on my list as well. I switched after, gosh, probably a decade of the previous goggle I was wearing. I was a little reluctant or a lot reluctant to try something new, but I did and really liked them. They're great goggles. Along the ROKA line, I also got a new wetsuit this year. I've actually taken a couple years off from racing and when I returned back, I had a couple wetsuit legal races on my calendar. So, I wanted a new suit and went with-- 

Andrew: And you deserved a new suit, John. 

John: Thank you. Yeah, I thought so too. ROKA Maverick is the best suit I've swam in to date. Very comfortable, very flexible, all those things we mentioned earlier checks off, and very comfortable in it and always love swimming in that. And then I'll say number three is my local pool. 

Andrew: Shout out to the local pool. 

John: Yeah, I have the pleasure of living like three minutes away from the high school natatorium in the town I live in. They charged me a whopping $2 to go and swim there and it is an extremely nice pool with just a great facility. So, I love the pool were I get to go swimming. 

Andrew: Okay, so my three items I want to give a shout out to, the first one is the De Soto T1 wetsuit. Super different y'all. It is a two-piece wetsuit. People always ask me about it at races. It looks a little different. It literally has a separate top and bottom. The bottom kind of wears like cycling bibs, it's got like the little bib straps that go around your neck and then you put the top on. And at first when I first saw it, I kind of thought it might be a gimmick. And man, it's made all the difference for my wetsuit legal races. I personally really struggled with the shoulder restriction that some people feel in full-length wetsuits. I tried a couple different brands, I tried some great wetsuits and just always felt my shoulders fatiguing prematurely within three, four, five 600 yards, my shoulders were shot. And I switched to this two-piece wetsuit and since it has a separate top and bottom, it doesn't put that restriction on my shoulders. And in my first swim, I just felt free, I had my natural stroke and for me, it's made a huge difference. So, shout out to the folks at De Soto for truly an innovative product. 

The second thing is the HUUB Brownlee Agilis Goggles. I just recently switched to those and they are more streamlined pool goggle but they still have a pretty wide range of vision. They fit my face really, really well and they come in a couple different lenses. So, I have a clear version I use at the local pool and I have a tinted version I save for race day, but I'm really enjoying those new goggles from HUUB right now. And then my third thing I'll just say my swim jammers. I used to go through a ton of swim jammers, and they would wear out kind of fast from a variety of brands. I’d always just try to catch them on sale at different places and I finally splurged on a ROKA sale and picked up two pairs of Men's Elite HD Swim Jammers, and I mean, nothing fancy about them. They're just classic swim jammers but man, they've lasted a few years and they look like the day I bought them. 

That's it for today, folks. I want to thank coaches John Mayfield and Jeff Raines for giving us the confidence to crush our next swim in the open water. A big thanks to our friends at Generation UCAN for bringing us today's show. There is a reason so many of us at TriDot use UCAN, and it's because it's the best stuff for sustained energy in training and on race day. I encourage everyone to give UCAN’s nutrition products to try. Head to and use coupon code TRIDOT for 15% off your entire order. Enjoying the podcast, have any triathlon questions or topics you want to hear us talk about? Email us at podcast at and let us know what you're thinking. Again, that's We'll do it again soon. Until then, happy training. 

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