Monday, June 5, 2023

Race Report: Fort De Soto Triathlon....Sprint Aquabike


I signed up for this race as most likely the last tri I'll do in FL while I'm down here.  I can't find anything close in the next 3 weeks, not even a 5K, but I'll keep looking.  I've had a great time here doing two triathlons, one on each coast in the last 3 weeks.  

 I've done this Fort De Soto tri in the past.  About 6 years ago, I did the Olympic Tri and came in first..and last.  LOL.  It's a small race, but they give out AG awards, so most people get a place in the older age groups.  

The swim is a beach entry and a swim parallel to the beach and out with a very long run to transition. I loved the swim.  Swimming in salt water is so much easier, and there were few waves.  I passed many people on my way to the finish, both in my own wave and the wave ahead of us.  400 yds isn't a lot of time to pass folks.  We had a time trial entry, so the first 100 yds were relatively crowd-free, but I rapidly caught up to the beginners doing breaststroke and struggling and on to others swimming well but slowly.  The transition run is through sand and across a pebbly tarmac that my feet won't hold up to these days.  My foot neuropathy makes my feet very sensitive, so I had to leave flip-flops at the swim exit and pick them up on my way across the sand.  I took a bit long on the transition. The bike is a long flat loop inside the park which is closed to traffic during the race, so it's very safe.  There are some headwinds to deal with that slowed me to 14.5-15 MPH a couple of times, but I was spinning well at 16-19 mph through much of the race.  I passed a lot of people on the bike as well, only a few passed me.  That's unusual.  I was happy with how I rode; wished I could keep the power going on the headwinds but I'm still coming back from the last two years I think.  I still get a bit dizzy when I lift weights if I don't keep it slow and rest well between sets.  I rode 12 miles on Thursday, and I felt good afterward, but still was pretty tired that night.  Recovery takes longer than it used to.  Total race time 51 minutes.  Swim 8:50 by my Garmin but they had 9:25 for me. 5:36 transition  36:18 bike.  Total 

I was happy I had signed up for the Aquabike and not the Triathlon, though.  I did not have to run after I racked my bike.  I changed into flip-flops, put on my hat and walked to the finish line.  I got some water and race food, some free sunglasses, and a coozy and finally meandered over to the race results, where I was listed as 1st place!  I was very pleased about this.  

I had met a woman pre-race who apparently sought me out. She was the only other person in my race in my age group.  I didn't know this at the time.    She chatted with me a bit, said she was from Sarasota and that she hadn't been training much.  She told me she had tried to check my race results on Athlinks to see how competitive I was.  HMMM.  She was frustrated because I had made my results private....I do the same thing in real competitive races where I want to qualify for something, but I hadn't even thought about it for this race.  This race is not a qualifier; in fact, it had very few race officials, if any.  A lot of drafting and blocking on the ride was happening.  Anyway, she told me she was "VERY COMPETITIVE" and tried to get me to predict my times for her.  I told her I had no idea I was a cancer survivor and that I was here to enjoy the race.  She started her swim after me, and I never saw her again until after the race.  

We were all standing around chatting and waiting for the awards ceremony, and she sidled up to me.  She told me that there was a "glitch" in the timing, and she had gone to the official's desk and had them use her Garmin time for her race results.  When they announced the awards, she was in first place, and I had been moved to second.  

I briefly thought about objecting to this outcome, but then I thought, I don't really care.  If she needs to be first and she had to manipulate her way to that, then fine.  Alternatively, those results could be accurate...I have no idea.  Why create drama on a lovely day? There is no damage to me, I still did my race and enjoyed the day, met some friends, made some new ones, and enjoyed being outside that morning.  Aside from a flurry of mosquito bites while I waited to check in...I had a blast.  I loved the swim, I loved the ride, and got two medals...what could be better?  I went down to the beach and did another quick swim for recovery. Plus, I'm 1:30 hours from the beach on either coast, so anytime I get to be in salt water, I take the opportunity!  

I had driven over from Winter Haven that morning, started at 4 AM, and arrived at 5:30AM, and I had to get back because I'd left Scooter behind.  I got home at about 11:30 AM,  I stopped for a breakfast sandwich because I was starving.  I had thought I would get home for a meal, but I got too hungry and figured I needed the nutrition for recovery.  

I walked with Scooter for a few miles that afternoon and rested for the remainder of the day.  

Me, Linda and Susan post race

Monday, May 22, 2023

Game On! Ponte Vedra Triathlon Sunday May 21, 2023

 Ponte Vedra Triathlon 

I called my cousins in Jacksonville, FL, and asked if they were open to my visiting them and doing this triathlon Sunday morning.  I suggested I arrive either Friday or Saturday, and they said Saturday would be more convenient with their schedule.  So I packed up Scooter, and we headed to Jacksonville with an arrival planned for 3:30 PM.  They live about 15 minutes north of Ponte Vedra, so driving to the race would be very quick and easy.  

I went through Micklers Landing, thinking that packet pick-up was there because the race website had a link that said directions on the packet pick-up page.  However, this set of directions did not send me to packet pickup but to the race site itself.  It turned out the packet pick up was 9 miles north at a Trek shop.  That wasn't a big deal because it was on the way to my cousins' house so I stopped and got my bib, stickers, and t-shirt.  I had to use my own swim cap because they did not have non-latex caps.  I was supposed to have a red cap but had left that one back in Winter Haven.  As it turned out, I had also left a critical piece of tri gear there as well, but more on that later.  

I arrived at 3:10 at my cousins' house and had a great visit with them and pizza for dinner with a salad.  They have a wonderful home with a boat dock on the water, so it's always a pleasant place to visit.  

The next morning I got up at 5 AM, got my coffee and some oatmeal, and after chatting with my cousins, who decided to get up with me and feeding Scooter, I headed out.  I told them I should be back between 10 and 11 AM.  

I arrived at the race site.  There were 200-300 competitors in this race.  The transition area was small, and I did a tour noting bike in and out and run in and out and walking the swim in and out.  Susan Haag had posted about this race, and I might have missed it had she not made that post.  I had checked out tri-find  but this race hadn't come up, probably because of the filter I put on it for my search.  Anyway, I was able to sign up on Friday afternoon.  

I parked and started collecting my gear.  Normally I leave my helmet and bike shoes in the car.  But after Clermont, my bike shoes had gotten muddy and I had removed them to clean them and not replaced them in the car, and I did not realize this until I started collecting my gear from the car to head to transition.  Oh Well.  I knew I could ride with my tennis shoes but likely I'd be somewhat slower on the ride because of this.  I shrugged, filled up my tires with air, collected everything else and headed to transition.  I got my body marked and asked where the chips were.  This group puts your chip on your bike spot so you collect your chip with the number on it at your marked bike slot.  That was pretty nice.  I set up my transition and started doing reconnaissance of the area.  I hung out and saw Susan as she arrived. We took a couple of photos and she introduced me to several of her friends that she'd raced with over the years.  Several of them were men over 70.  

I was in the Over 60 wave with these guys, so we stood about and chatted for nearly an hour as we waited for the Olympic race (only 88 competitors) to begin.  Our waves began at 7:40, and I think we didn't actually get in until 7:50 because it was a two by two entry.  

The swim entry was, ahem, interesting.  The waves were crashing pretty hard for about 50 feet so you had to forge through that to get to smooth water for the swim.  One particular wave during my entry was about 10 feet tall and pounded me so long that I wondered if I'd get through it.  DAMN! I said after that one.  Then I was through and able to start my swim.  I started easy, and it felt pretty good.  I love swimming in salt water.  It was too warm for wetsuit legal, so no one had a wetsuit.  Fine by me!  
I really enjoyed the swim.  I passed quite a few folks.  Got kicked in the face by a breaststroker...sort of pulled up short on that one, then managed to get around her and continue.  I was pretty happy with my time when I got out, something like 13 minutes which I felt was reasonable with the long walk dodging waves on the entry.  I had left my flip-flops at the edge of the sand again because the asphalt was rough, and this neuropathy makes my feet very tender.  I was glad I had them.  I got my tennis shoes on, my helmet and headed out.  

The bike course is an out-and-back, 12.5 miles ride.  It's on an open course with some crossovers, but it's on the A1A, so the traffic is mostly beach traffic, and early on, this is fairly light.  I had one time when a pedestrian was crossing in front of me, and I hollered, and he let me pass.  I was doing 22 MPH at that point, so didn't want to lose my speed.  My ride was 45 minutes, not my best, but still not terrible for me.  I was doing 15-16 Mph through most of the ride.  There were several long slow hills on the ride, but they were nice to ride back down.  There was some shade.  I passed a few folks and had a few pass me.  But remember, the Olympic folks went out first, so it wasn't clear who was doing what race, and passing someone wasn't terribly meaningful.  

The old folks wave was last, so I figured I'd end up on the course completely alone, but it didn't work out that way.  With all the Olympic competitors, the bike and run course had a lot of folks on them, so I was middle of the pack a lot.  

Since I rode in my tennis shoes, my bike-to-run transition was very short.  I racked my bike, grabbed my hat, race belt, and water bottle, and headed out.  That was nice.  I had to walk nearly the whole first mile.  I was a bit frustrated by this, but with my HR at 156-188 just walking, I was unable to do anything else.  Finally after mile one and some Gatorade diluted with water, my HR started to slow to the 144 range.  I managed to run a bit on mile 2.  Not a lot but more.  By mile 3, I was running even more and did a negative split.  Mile 1 was like 16 minutes.  Mile 2 was 15, and mile 3 was 14.  I managed a nice run up the finisher chute and got my medal.  I was pretty pleased with my finish.  

Waiting for the awards (I had figured out I might podium) I chatted with Crown and his wife Corey from Kenya.  He was a duathlon-er who had just tried doing this race on a whim.  He's interested in training for a triathlon and I offered my coaching services to him.  He has my number if he wants to follow up.  

The whole race was nearly 2 hours, 1:59 but even so I felt like I had accomplished a lot.  
Medals earned April 15-May 22, 2023

It turned out that I was one of 2 competitors in my age group so I also picked up a 2nd place podium slot.  I commented to the 1st place finisher that "we outlived them all!" and we had a good laugh.  

Next race is probably the Fort De Soto triathlon in June.  I think that may be all the racing I do down here this summer. 

GIRLZ on Fire Race Report Saturday, May 13, 2023

 Girlz on Fire

A few years ago, I signed up for this race while I was here in FL at my house, but I signed up on Saturday afternoon, and the race had actually already been done at that time!  I sent a note to the director asking if there was anything we could do, like a refund or something, and she suggested they give me credit for a future race.  Then the pandemic happened.  Then cancer happened.  

So 4 years later, I sent a note to the race director asking if they still had a record of this offer, and she responded with an offer of a 50% discount for this year's race.  I decided that was very generous given the time that had passed, and I signed up for the sprint.  

This is a women-only triathlon and has 200-300 competitors.  It's a nice race with a swim in Lake Minneola, a ride around the lake, and a run through the Clermont trail area.  The transition is small and easily navigable, and the water is usually pretty warm.  (I've done races in Clermont at this location in the past so I was very familiar with the course and the location.)  

On race day, I got up at 5 AM and drove the hour 10 minutes to the course, checked in, got my chip, shirt, bib, and stickers, got body marked, and put my things into transition.  There was a large contingent of women over 65 there from The Villages.  They have a triathlon group and do this race every year.  We chatted while we waited for the race to begin.  The start was uneventful, but I left a pair of flip-flops at the beach's edge because we had to run across very rough asphalt.  The 400 yd swim was a very nice U shape from right to left with a long beach and asphalt run to transition after.  I think I finished in about 10 minutes or less, and one of the ladies I had chatted with came out with me.  I was, as usual, one of the first ones out of the water.  

I took my time getting ready for the bike and several minutes later was on the course.  This bike ride is only 8 miles, so it is shorter than the standard sprint distance.  It is partially shaded on the ride, and since it's fairly early, there is little traffic on the course, but it is open for most of the ride.  There are short steep hills at the end of the ride, so it's good to be prepared for this last push.  The final ride into transition is downhill, so that's a nice way to prepare for the run.  

This time of year, it's getting hot and humid quite early.  Temps are about 80+, and 80% humidity is normal.  That day was no different.  I am still dealing with HR spikes on runs, so I had to do quite a bit of walking.  I aimed for 14 min pace for the walk when I could.  That keeps my HR up about 155 or more; running short distances at that temp spikes my HR up to 188.  (Normal Max HR for someone my age is about 150).  I was happy to finish and enjoyed the race very much.  

I chatted with a woman who was a Base member and a vendor at the expo afterward.  She sells skirts and headbands with a sort of Hawaiian theme.  I liked them but decided against spending money at that point.  I got some race food.  

As races go, the buffet for this race is tremendous.  They had sandwich roll-ups (3 varieties), chips (6 varieties), fruit (grapes, strawberries, bananas), pastries, yogurt and sodas, and mimosas with champagne.  We all received medals and a tiara at the finish line.  

I didn't podium, there were some pretty fast ladies there (runners), and my bike shoes needed to be clipped in completely, so I wasn't getting a full spin cycle on the bike.  I wasn't too worried.  Just doing the race was fun and good for my psyche.  

I recommend this race to anyone in the Clermont area. 

 If you want to rent my house, you need to be 55+ and do a background check, but it's available most summers and within an hour or so drive of several triathlon sites.  Clermont, Fort DeSoto, and Vero Beach triathlons are all within driving distance without a hotel if you get up between 4-5 AM.  

Monday, April 24, 2023


 Race Report

The Aquabike (1500m swim and 40 K bike) was the third and last race of the festival for me.  They had individual medley relay and relay races on Sunday, but I completed my last race on Saturday.  I could have gone back to spectate, but the weather was pretty chilly and raining all day so I skipped it.  

Saturday afternoon at about 2PM, my wave jumped in at the Lake Carolyn Pier and held on for a wave start.  We had a very big wave so the start was pretty choppy, with lots of flapping arms and splashing at the outset.  I tried to slow my start a bit because the last two races, I had started out too fast and pushed my HR too high and risked a panic attack.  So I decided to swim long and strong strokes for the whole course.  I also decided to use my wetsuit that day.  While the water temp was 71F and I knew I'd be fine, I decided from looking at my first two races (with and without) that I was about 20-25 sec faster per 100 with the wetsuit, and that made it worth it.  I could end up 6-10 minutes faster with it; so removal time would leave me with a net gain of a few minutes.  I felt good on the swim, but I did have some feelings of, "Can I actually do this?" at about 600 m.  This was the longest OWS I had done in 3 years, pre-cancer.  I had done mile long continuous pool swim before this race, but that was it.  I had been working mostly on sprints and intervals to try to regain my 100 yd pace.  I'm still hovering between 1:50 and 1:40 per 100 yd pace most days.  That means I'll be slower in OWS for me.  Some may be faster, but I know I have to spot more to stay straight, and sometimes I have to slow for cramping and goggle fogging.  

At about 800 m, I was swimming comfortably but the calf cramps started so I had to flex my foot, which also slows my pace a bit.  I stopped kicking a few times as well to try to let the cramps let up.  My toes cramped a bit as well. I rounded the first turn buoy and headed for the second after bumping into the same person over and over.  Likely we were both not swimming straight, but I was frustrated by my inability to keep away from her.  This continued the whole swim.  About that time, the wave behind us caught up so the first turn was very congested, and I got hit and slapped on the head a few times.  No biggie.  I got to the second turn buoy and felt pretty good, but soon after I had to clear my goggles because I wasn't sure if I was looking at buoys or kayakers.  I didn't wear my contacts, so I'm a bit nearsighted on the swims normally.  Sighting can be a small issue, causing me to have to raise my head up more than just a quick lift.  Anyway, bumping along with this same swimmer, we two made it to the finish.  I did try to draft her, but her speed was so variable that I would pass her then she's do a bunch o kicking and catching up.  I was slightly annoyed but not greatly.  It happens.  I was happy to be racing again.  I knew I had a challenge on the bike coming up.  

My only hope was to finish the race that day. I knew I was not in the best condition and that this race was more demanding than anything I had trained for since 2019, so it was a question in my mind how I might do it.  My longest bike ride outside was last October for 18 miles. 

Knowing I didn't have to run meant I could leave it all on the bike course, so that was something.  

I got out, climbing up the steep carpeted ladder, a bit dizzy but stabilized and managed a quick walk.  I knew running would not be a good idea, elevating my HR higher was going to reduce my ability to stabilize on the bike.  I noted that my swim was 36 min on my Garmin.  The official time is a bit faster I think.  I had decided I'd take my time in transition and not pressure myself to be extra fast.  I was not going to win or podium today, so there is no reason to try to shave seconds.  I sat down, put on my socks and shoes...hoping to avoid blisters, clipped on my helmet, stuck my Garmin on the bike holder, and set out.  The wetsuit came off pretty quickly, and I'd removed my goggles and cap on the walk-in. 

I quickly walked the distance to the mount line, and fortunately, I remembered to lower the gears on the bike for a faster, easier start so I got rolling easily.  The wind was mild at the start, but soon it became very challenging.  I remembered also to advance my Garmin to biking and saw about a 6-minute transition time.  Okay.  In the past, my transitions were 3 minutes and 2 minutes for T1 and T2, but recall I told myself to relax and I did.  

The bike route was a 3 loop path with a nice climb at about 3-4 miles and then a few turns and a fast descent the last 2-3 miles for the turn again, into the wind.  That wind was tough.  20-25 knots with gusts up to 30 knots, I estimate.  I was doing 5-8 mph on that section, and as I tired, I had more and more trouble regaining my speed on the flats and the turns.  I also started out with a huge cramp on my left thigh that went down the inside of the leg. This presaged continuing cramps all over my body the whole ride.  Next went the calves, first left then right.  I had to try to stand on the pedals to stretch them out, which meant, no pedaling.  Then my hands cramped.  Then my left side cramped.  I had plenty of electrolytes and water on board, but nothing seemed to help.  Meanwhile the wind was sucking the water off my body fast.  I ran out of water on mile 20 so for the last 4 I had no hydration.  

Chris Navin did the race too and was in a wave behind me.  He passed me on about mile 3 I think.  I saw him on the loops a couple more times and shouted encouragement at him.  Amanda Moswin passed me on about mile 16 I think and shouted her encouragement to me.  I was wondering if I'd finish at that point.  I decided it didn't matter where I finished; just that I did finish so I accepted my condition and slow speed and did as much as I could do and let go of the internal chatter that had been chastising me for much of the ride.  I would finish.  

And I did.  I wore my Base Ireland Onesy so it was very distinctive and many folks commented on it and yelled out to me during the race.  The announcer happily shouted my name as I crossed the finish and I was all smiles.  

I got my towel and my medal and stopped to chat with Chris and Amanda and Shelley and realized I was a bit dizzy and nauseous. They encouraged me to go to the med tent and told me they'd watch my bike.  I went in and told them my situation, (cancer, and now a new issue that is yet to be clarified) and laid down with my Gatorade for about 10 minutes.  I felt better and managed to wander out and pick up my bike and my stuff.  

I had a moment, though, when we were all standing at the VIP tent fence, and I thanked Chris, Shelley, and Amanda, and Amanda said: "We love you!"  Chris and Shelley agreed.  I said I loved them too, but I really was so touched I got tears in my eyes.  Yes I love my friends but Have so rarely felt lovable even though I try to be that when someone tells me this it really sort of guts me. 

So the best part of the racing is the community for me. I'd so love to be a podium finisher.  I'm a competitor at heart.  And this is just the beginning of the road back for me.  I have a few post-cancer PRs to beat now.  Just hope this new diagnosis is a minor glitch for me, and I can plan for more races and PRs this year! 

Friday, April 21, 2023

Race(s) Report USAT Multisport Festival

 Race #1  750 K swim

Wednesday morning at 8 am the 60+ ladies wave plunged into Lake Carolyn.  Winds were strong at ~15Knots so there was a slight current and some waves of 2-4 inches.  Not really turbulent but enough to cause one to take on water instead of air occasionally.  It was a mass start from the pier.  We all jumped in and held onto the pier until the start whistle.  I set out fairly confidently.  I had decided to use my wetsuit, HUUB long sleeve.  The water was 68F so somewhat chilly. I felt fine but must have started out too fast and my HR went up and I began to feel a bit breathless with a panic edge, so I had to slow down a bit.  I did a bit of breast stroking to regain my breathing.  I was able to resume free style pretty quickly and rounded turn buoy, did a couple of breast strokes to spot the second turn buoy and headed out again.  I was passing people pretty well and felt good that I was swimming pretty quickly after these minor delays.  Unfortunately my left goggle began to fill with water and while I could ignore it for awhile it began to make me feel somewhat panicky again; like I was drowning and somewhat panicky again so I had to stop and empty and reposition them.  I was off again pretty quickly and finished in 19:50.  A bit longer than I would have hoped. That is about 2:25 min per 100 yds by my calculation.  Not my best open water time but for my first open water swim in a wetsuit, I'm okay with how I did.  

Race #2 Super Sprint  250 m swim, 5k bike, 1.2 k run

Thursday morning we were entering the water in threes in a time trial start.  I began toward the middle of the pack and again started out too fast I think.  I decided to not use the wetsuit that morning.  Water temp was 70F and I felt the race was so short it wasn't worth fooling around with stripping it after the swim.  I noted my swim time at 7 minutes.  That included some running but gives a time of 3:10/100 yds.  Not the greatest but I felt strong and confident and was able to get out of the water and to my bike with the middle of the pack.  I passed a few folks on the swim.  I got to my bike but had to sit to get my shoes on, grabbed my helmet and put my garmin on the bike.  Unfortunately my garmin was not advancing like it is supposed to for is a very old 910XT and sometimes doesn't work properly, so I had no speed on the bike or timing.  I knew my total time because I also had my Fenix on my left wrist for info on HR and time so I had an idea of what my total time was through the whole race.  The bike was extremely fast, although there was a headwind on the way back that slowed me a bit. I felt very fast and happy while I rode my bike down and back to transition 2.  I wasted several second hunting in the wrong aisle for my shoes and stuff for the run until I figured out I was in F not G.  (both labelled F 66-69) so I can forgive myself for this mistake.  (There were a lot of us old ladies racing!)  Finally grabbed my stuff and got a holler from Chris and Shelley at the exit of T2, laughing at me for running around hunting for my shoes!  I yelled back "I'm terrible at this these days!" and just laughed.  I'm happy to be alive and still able to race honestly.  I got myself to run a bit but my HR would spike up to 188 very quickly forcing me to slow down.  I saved enough juice to run across the finish with a big smile though.  I did it, I'm happy I'm here and able to race at all.  

Monday, April 10, 2023

What is TAPER?

 Tapering well

A taper week is a week of very low but intense hours of training to get you ready for your upcoming race.  The amount of taper is determined by the distance of the race you will be doing.  Taper always will include a day of limited, low intensity or no activity just prior to the race.  Multiple studies (see review articles here and here) have found that the expected performance improvement resulting from tapering is 2-3%, but there is a larger range of results from 0.5% all the way up to 8% (in cycling only).


Tapering is designed to be like a recovery week for your body to build muscle, blood volume and rest.  However, Taper should also be a week of thoughtful preparation for your race.  Visualization, good food, some reconnection with friends and family that you have been unable to do with all the training, enjoyment of sunshine and outdoors...basically resetting your attitude to a positive, happy one and preparing for the demands of the race.  

Unfortunately, traithletes often use taper for eating all the things they missed, watching more TV and less exercise and sometimes spinning their minds up with fear and anticipation for a race.  Pumping up your fear does not help you do better in your race.  

Adrenalin can mimic fearful feelings, higher HR, some stomach issues, some repetitive thoughts...try to recognize that this is happening and turn that adrenalin into positive activity.  Use repetitive thinking to visualize your successful race over and over instead of fearing all the things that can go wrong...or just fearing failure.  Set your goals to succeed, but acknowledge that sometimes things go wrong.  What can go wrong...make a list and plan your response to each of these.  Making problems into action plans reduces their impact on you and reduces the fear.  

Eating the right foods will help you arrive on race day with plenty of energy, glycogen stores and feeling well.  I'm no angel and I love chocolate, but focusing on good vegetables, plenty of protein and rest will help you to have a much better race.  A rule of thumb from a friend about drinking goes like this: "Three beers, three days before a race, two for two days before and 1 for one day before"  If you really need to drink, try this formula!  Beeer does have plenty of carbs and vitamins but alcohol has a dehydrating effect and taxes your liver...I'd avoid alcohol on taper week but that's me.  

Training in taper week is often far fewer hours but high intensity.  Know that running takes the longest to recover from so only run early in that week, then only short distances with easy paces closer to the race.  Biking is easier to recover from so you can bike later in the week.  Just don't go doing 100 milers three days before your race.  This depletes your glycogen stores and tires your muscles.  You need rested muscles and plenty of glycogen on race day.  Swimming is the easiest to recover from and helps recover from biking and running with cold water and different motion with less gravity effects. You can swim the day before a race with few issues, just take it easy that day.  Try to do the  practice swim for your race that often is offered the day before the race.  This helps you calm your nerves, gets you acquainted with the swim course and exercises your muscles and reduces the adrenalin and fearful feelings.  

Rest in taper week is very important.  Try to get to bed early and arise early.  Race day usually begins very early so you'll want to be able to get up at 4:30 AM to get to transition time to set up and be race ready.  To get a full 8 hours of sleep with a 4:30AM wake time means you go to bed at 8:30PM!  Many triathletes have a terrible time sleeping on the day before a race.  If you can nap the day before, it might help.  But normallizing going to bed early will help you fall asleep more readily for this early to bed time. Otherwise, make sure you are getting lots of rest, relaxing and enjoying your week in preparation for a very successful race. 

Planning Race Strategy is an activity you should be doing a little bit of throughout your training.  You should by now know what nutrition works for you, your hydration plans, and your transition set up as well as the courses you will follow in this race.  However, this week is a good time to review all that, make sure you have everything you need, pack your transition pack, and review the race course and the rules for the race.   This can have a very calming effect on the mind because you are doing this EARLY in the week instead of at the last minute.  You might also clean your bike and chain, fix any issues with the bike, check the tires for tiny glass shards that can flatten your tires and make sure you know how to work your garmin for multisport setting.    You can even do a short practice tri on your own to see if any issues pop up.  Bike tune ups cost around $80 so you might even request that so your bike is in peak condition as well.  Make sure you know how to change a flat and have the tools you'll need to do that.  (click the link to see a video on this). 

Be grateful you can do this.  That you have the money, the time and the physical ability to do this.  Not everyone can, and you are lucky to be here.  Try gratitude instead of fear, it can bring a great deal more joy to your racing and training than the idea that this is drudgery.  Type A individuals tend to turn everything into a very important goal...making fun into a job.  Most triathletes tend to be Type A.  Thus you'll find those athletes who are not terribly competitive, but behave as though they are destined for the Olympics.  Try to understand they have lost perspective.  Let them pass, give them room for their grouchiness and intensity and know you don't have to be them, or be affected by them.  Everyone, deserves to be on the race course, no matter your level of fitness, appearance or value of your equipment.  This sport is something anyone can do with a bit of training.  You belong here as much as anyone else.  

"Someday I will no longer be able to do this, Today is NOT THAT DAY."  

Recommended Taper times by distance 

Sprint 1 day

Olympic 1-2 days

Half Ironman 1 week

Full Ironman  2 weeks 

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Pool Swimming versus OWS (Open Water Swimming)

 Pool Swimming versus OWS (Open Water Swimming)

A newbie describes her OWS experience. 

You may find that you swim faster in OW or in the pool.  It varies by individual.  However, no one will argue that these two swimming locations are the same.  

Here are a couple of blogs that discuss why speed may vary between these two locations. 

Faster in the Pool than OWS

Faster in OWS than in Pool 

Clearly there are lots of reasons why your speed in one may be faster.  Let's just compare the differences between these types of swimming to begin.  

I made a table to compare the two types of swimming.  



Open Water


Pools have clearly marked lanes and lane lines.  This keeps you swimming in a straight line.

You have the whole lake or river to swim in, there are no helpful lines to follow


You can flip turn or push off the walls at the end of each 25 or 50 yd(mtr) length, this gives you a brief rest and some extra speed.

You will be swimming continuously without any push off or rest unless you stop and hang on a buoy or kayak.

Clear Water

You can see to the bottom of the pool and in almost any direction with goggles. 

Even with goggles, it is likely you will be nearly blind when you look underwater.  This will tend to disorient you and swimming straight becomes more difficult

Clean Water

Pools have disinfection processes and if you drink in some you will likely be okay

Natural waterways are often slightly to very unsanitary.  Accidentally drinking some can result in stomach problems.  Also things grow in this water, so you may get tangled in vegetation or encounter animals.


In a pool, you will know how may laps to swim. You will know how far you have gone and how far you still have to go.

In a lake or river, you may know where you are headed by watching buoys, but likely you will not know exactly how far you have come nor how far you still have to go unless you set your garmin to alert you to specific distances.

Entry and Exit

You can use a ladder or lift yourself from the wall easily

Muddy and shallow entrances can feel uncomfortable, exiting can be disorienting as you have been without much extrernal orientation for sometime and will suddenly be helped out or up stadium stairs, making you slightly dizzy

Turbulence, waves and current

The worst problem in pools may be in sharing a lane when you pass a particularly vigorous swimmer. The lane lines are designed to reduce waves and turbulence

Even lakes can have current, and swimming with a lot of other racers can have you bumping into people, getting hit, pushed or pulled and you can get splashed by other, waves or pulled or pushed by current. 


Pools are usually rather warm for older clients that do water aerobics.  Swimming in these warmer pools can actually cause you to be slower than you would be in cooler temps.

Natural waterways can be cold or very warm depending on the time of year.  Don’t assume a lake will be warm, deep lakes have thermoclines that can invert without warning, bringing very cold (32-50F) water to the surface. 

Wetsuits and Lava Pants

We rarely swim in wetsuits in pools but it is a good idea to practice in the pool with them a few times.

Wetsuits can rub your neck, legs and arms and cause raw spots that hurt all day.  They can also feel very restrictive on the chest, especially during a race when you adrenalin and HR are high, creating a feeling of panic.

Foggy Goggles

Pools that are closer to body temp will cause less fogging.

Very cold waters, will cause the goggles to fog almost immediately, obstructing your vision for sighting on buoys, making an OWS even more stressful. 

As you can see there are many differences between open water and pool swimming.  Fast pool swimmers may get a false sense of security that could fail them in OWS during a race.  Following the adage "NOTHING NEW ON RACE DAY" means you should always try to practice in open water when you can.  Don't skip the practice swim on the day before the race either.  This can give you valuable information about the swim that will not surprise you during the race.  For example, at HONU in Hawaii, I did the practice swim even though the water was the ocean and very choppy that day.  I figured out that while the buoys looked to be in a straight line from shore, you actually needed to turn slightly right to get to the second buoy properly.  Otherwise you could swim past it and not realize as it was nearly invisible at times due to the waves.  On race day, I hit that second buoy easily while many swam the wrong direction, missed it and have to turn around to get to it.  Skipping a buoy can be a DQ violation so you don't want to do that!  I saved valuable time on the swim because I was prepared for the idiosyncracies of that course.  

Panic Attacks

Rarely do athletes experience panic attacks in pool swimming, but they are fairly common in OWS.  Even seasoned athletes have them at times.  This is because of the combination of cold water that constricts your blood vessels, which causes HR to accelerate.  Since you are in a race, your adrenalin is already high and pushes your HR up, so that second HR increase can raise your HR to a very high level.  If your HR is up, your breathing speed increases to keep the blood that is circulating oxygenated.  That means you are trying to breathe faster as you are trying to swim fast.  Add the constriction of the wet suit or very warm water that can feel claustrophobic, and you can tip over to a full-blown panic attack.  It can feel like you are going to die like you cannot breathe and that you need help now.  

How to handle a panic attack.

First, stop swimming and float on your back if you can.  If the water is too turbulent, grab a buoy or kayak as soon as you are able.  Try swimming with breaststroke.  A panic attack originates in the lizard brain...the autonomic reaction is not one you can reason yourself out of.  It often requires either time or a short circuit of this flight or fight response.  One way is to laugh.   If you laugh, you are interfering with the fear reaction with humor.  Tell yourself a stupid joke that always makes you laugh or think of a ridiculous situation that's always been humorous to yourself.  Try not to chastise yourself for this event.  It's a normal human response.  Knowing how to fix it and go on is your best action! 

Know the signs of SIPE

One dangerous situation that can arise is SIFE.  Swimming induced Pulmonary Edema.  Symptoms of SIPE include coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain or tightness, and – in some cases – hemoptysis (coughing up blood). It can be fatal, but typically symptoms lessen after leaving the water and are completely gone within 48 hours.

Some people say they heard a crackling sound when they breathed.  If you experience these things, YOUR RACE IS OVER.  Get out of the water immediately and get help.