Triathlon Swim – How Does a Pool Swim Differ from Open Water?
Pool swimIn the pool swim, there are generally two types of swim often dictated by the size (number of lanes) of the pool:
(1) down and back within your assigned lane the number of times required to cover the swim distance and
(2) following a Z-pattern; or swimming down on one lane, going under the lane divider into the adjacent lane, swimming back in the second lane, again going under the lane divider, swimming down the third lane, and repeating the cycle until the number of lanes is completed.The latter approach is typically used with larger pools. Swimmers are started at a periodic interval such as every five seconds. When you line up for the swim, you will typically be asked to line up with swimmers whose pace (time per length) is similar to yours. For these races, you will typically be asked to provide an estimated time to complete the swim. You can measure this during training rather than guessing on race day. There is little more frustrating for you or other competitors to have someone clearly swimming at a different pace than others. You are either blocked by other swimmers or you block them.
Open waterOpen water swims are considerably different than pool swims. The main reasons for this difference are:
- With open water swims, there are no lane markers or lane lines to guide you in a straight line. Buoys along a section of the course (sometimes) and at turn locations are the main references for the course. Therefore, an important skill for open water swimming is ‘sighting’. Sighting is the process of periodically checking your position relative to the target points (e.g. the next buoy) and correcting your trajectory.
- You will be swimming close to a greater number of swimmers. Open water swims typically involve tens of swimmers starting at the same moment. Once started, not all of them will swim in a straight line or in the same straight line as you.
- Open water can be much deeper than a pool. The fact that you cannot simply stand-up or grab a wall or lane divider if you become tired or panicked can be a source of anxiety for swimmers who already lack confidence.
- Open water often contains ‘stuff’ that makes some swimmers uncomfortable – vegetation, sticks, rocky or slippery bottoms, and algae, for example.
(1) develop enough endurance to complete the distance of the longest race in which you will compete and
(2) develop confidence to handle the unknowns and ‘chaos’ that can occur in a triathlon.Having confidence is as or more important than being fast. How do you achieve these goals? Read here for comments from a senior triathlete and Masters Swim Coach.