Why Can't You Swim Straight?

Pay Your Lifeguard With Wet Dollar Bills

On Saturdays, a sizable group of triathletes and open water swimmers meet early in the season at one of the area man-made lakes for open-water training.  It iss invaluable to work on swimming in a pack, sighting, getting used to a wet suit for some, etc.  Some claimed it to be their most advantageous swims of the year.  Those seeking to improve had better swimmers and coaches literally an arm's length away.

We're pretty lucky.  We're able to use the same lake and course where some years the USMS Two Mile Cable Swim National Championships are held.  You see, in the late 60's, the area was home to Virginia resident and future world class distance swimmer James Kegley.  His dad wanted to help James with his swimming efforts.  In addition to building a home with a lap lane pool in the basement, Jack Kegley helped place two telephone poles into lake bottom exactly one quarter mile apart.  Mind you this was in the pre-GPS and computer days.  And it's over water.  Interestingly, using current methodology, the course has been remeasured since and found to be withing 9" of perfect.  Not bad for a "Little League Swim Dad!" James would go on to win the two-mile several times with a PR on this course of 38:32. Two miles exactly.  This guy can move!

 At a triathlon a couple years ago, I was in a bit of hurry having forgotten to spray on sunscreen.  I grabbed the clear bottle, shut my eyes really tight, and got a good covering of my whole face.

Unfortunately I still had my glasses on!

Swimmers exit the lake after "enduring" recent swim

Why Can't You Swim Straight?

"Swimming in open water feels different from swimming in a swimming pool.  The salt water makes you float higher and the fresh water feels good against your skin."   Lynne Cox

We had our first open water lake race of the season last weekend.  A little chilly for some at 66-68 degrees depending where you measured the lake and the wetsuited swimmers far outnumbered those simply in a suit and cap. Once in the water, although most traversed the shortest distance between every two buoys, that being a straight line, we had a fair number of Wrongway Peachfuzz navigators charting a path not unlike the zigzag setting on your Mom's Singer sewing machine.

The two main causes seem to be the refusal to learn to breathe bilaterally and the need to improve their sighting skills.  Cox points out that "swimmers in the open water who breathe only on one side are blind on one side and compensate by lifting their heads to see what's going on around them."  Two excellent sources of a step-by-step way to learn this can be found in Cox's terrific book, Open Water Swimming Manual, $12.46 on Amazon or Sara McLarty's well-written piece from Triathlete a couple years ago, Why (and How) to Bilateral Breathe, .  I think so highly of Cox's book that last week was a triathlete friend's birthday, and guess what her birthday present was?

Secondly, sighting is a skill easily mastered in a pool when you have your own lane to practice a few simple drills.  Here Coach Sara has explained this so even people like us can figure it out.

Perhaps, if you can perfect these two techniques, then you'll have a faster, more enjoyable swim, and you won't feel the sting of being punched in the ribs by the swimmer you just tried to crawl over on your "blind side" in your next open water race.

Plea for Bike Safety

Six months ago a friend of mine had just retired.  Mayo Clinic trained, 3 lovely daughters. She was just making plans on how she was going to get to all the things she'd put off during medical training, raising the girls, etc. when she was killed on her bike.  She was following the rules but the driver of the truck was not.  Please, think before you ride, leave the tunes at home, choose your route carefully and let someone know where you're headed doing 110% of your part to be safe 100% of the time. Local triathlete Emily tries to envision any obstacles along possible bike routes doing her best to avoid construction, big yard sales, events where there are likely a fair number of automobile rubber neckers who are unlikely to see you on two wheels. If she knows of an alternative road, she takes it.  We should too.

Comments (0)

No comments yet.

Leave a comment