First open water swim - and it's a race

I'm a strong swimmer and attend two masters classes a week but I've never swum in the open water before. I've gone and entered the Edinburgh open water swimming festival with the aim of doing the 2km swim from Musselburgh to portobello. I've booked the wet suit so I have all the gear. Reality is sinking in though... Should I aim for one of the shorter races that day 800m or 400m or just go for it. I'm terrified I land up having to be rescued, coming last or making a fool of myself. I am a strong swimmer so 2000m is not a problem in the pool but open water might be a different matter. Any advice?


  • last year the waves were quite tricky... and the swim was long (2.5km approx) so Id advise getting out in the sea and practice swimming in the waves.. sighting and the like and breathing on both sides if you dont already. It was quite cold as well so if you can get a neoprene hat, do.

    You're never far from the coast really which is reassuring and there are loads of support boats/kayaks.

    Am sure you'll be fine. Im entering too.... looking forward to it!! Just hope the weather holds and water isnt too choppy.

  • My first ever OW swim was a half IM distance race.  I found it a massive shock due to the cold conditions (just around 11 degrees C for water and 2 degrees ambient) earlier in the year, but easily coped with the distance.  I found that I hyperventilated and couldn't get my face into the cold water.  That really embarrased me and made me feel useless (which actually isn't too far off the mark image).

    I also felt dizzy on exiting the OW.  With practice and the increased exposure I have since gotton over both issues.

    I wouldn't fret, but I'd attempt to get my face wet in OW before the actual event.  If I'd had an opportunity to get one or two OW swims in calmer, more controlled conditions than those on race day, my confidence would have been greater in that race.

    How long have you got and have you any opportunity to get in with a OW swim group before the race?

  • Find a buddy, and get in the OW, I am too a decent swimmer, but panic in OW... others don't, so without trying it's hard to say. One thing is for sure, the fear of the fear is already there and in essence I don't feel you're giving yourself a fair chance. I would very definitely try and get a swim in to "test the water" so to speak. Being a good swimmer and with the additional buoyancy that a wetsuit provides, combined with salt water, you won't fail physically only mentally in my opinion, but don't underestimate the impact that a mental block can have on physcial performance - i can swim for an hour or so straight in the pool covering 2500m - 3000m reasonably comfortably but still haven't managed 1500m (two laps of my local lake) without stopping for a breather and a bit of mental recomp before setting off for lap 2

    I could say try a shorter distance, but being a good swimmer that will feel like a "cop out" i would imagine...


    1. try and get to the sea for a practice and see how you get on, you'll have a better idea of how doable that might be (don't forget the sea has currents etc which will have an impact on how the distance feels)
    2. if you can't do 1, i would drop the distance to the 800m but not the 400m, i would suggest that the 400m wouldn't really provide much of a challenge, even if you had a bit of panic (you could breastroke it, I would imagine!)

    Please note i'm not a seasoned triathlete, but being an antipodean I grew up around open water and despite this now suffer with panic, I WOULD NOT give the same advice to an OW newbie normally, it's more to the fact that you have stated you are a strong swimmer and attend masters classes that i'm not treating you with kid gloves.

    Above all mate, be safe and don't endanger yourself or others, swimming in OW is very very different to a pool.. there's no sides, no black lines, you can't see the bottom, you share the water with "things" other than fellow swimmers, you can't touch the bottom, it's dark and it's cold, there's currents etc etc etc...

    Get a practive swim in ASAP but don't do it alone

    Good luck and let us know how you get on

  • If Edinburgh were closer, I'd swim with yer. But as it ain't, wot Gastank says. You can swim the distance. The difference is in your mind.

    If you make 500M, you will finish. And want more. So you only have to hang on for 500M.10 mins? Do acclimatise, do revel in it, don't be beaten by an Antipodean! image

    Watch for cold water shock & immerse several times to allow your breathing to settle first. Piss in your wettie coz it's norty.

    Report back!

  • Get in , get your head under a few times , and give it a minute or two and things will just start to feel a lot easier. Take it slow at the back , oh and get a good neoprene skull cap! I find that it is bet not to cover your ears (although they will get cold) as the sensory deprivation of being slightly deaf does not help!

    Good luck!

  • Thanks... am feeling a lot better about this. Sometimes you do things on the spur of the moment and wonder what the hell you've done

  • definitely do it........its brilliant swimming OW....just get in teh water with enough time to get yourself used to teh water and get your head under........also you will warm up when you get in if you pee in your wetsuit


    good luck


  • The OW issues will be there whether you do 400m or 2k.  With the longer distance you can take it easier at the start, whereas if you do the shorter race you're more likely to hammer it from the gun, and that's when hyperventilation & panic attacks are most likely to happen.

  • Did my first OW in a novice sprint tri. Since then I've only ever done two OW swims that weren't in a race. Best advice I had was to get into a rhythm with stroke and breathing and everything else will fall into place.
    If you can't do some OW beforehand just make sure that you have enough time to get used to the water and also make sure that you've tried out the wetsuit beforehand if possible.

  • tricialitttricialitt ✭✭✭

    Warning- If you've not swum in a wetsuit before- put some baby oil or something around your neck, or it will chafe you and leave a weeping sore on your neck......(speaking from personal experience0

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