Disasterous Open Water Swim!

Out of bravado... Stupidity.. Pig headedness...  I signed up and did the Olympic Distance Birmingham Triathlon! - and had a right mare!

I made all the classic mistakes...  I lacked training generally - cycling especially my posterior has still to recover!  But the worst of all was the OW swim...

I moved from doing 400m pool based swims to 1500m OW.  I hadn't experienced an open water swim in a lake before... Never swum in a wetsuit!  And quite frankly was totally unprepared.

I started at the back of the field and confidently remained there exiting the water as the female wave entered the water...

Now I suffered massively on actually being able to swim...  I felt my arms wouldn't rotate properly to do front crawl, my breathing went mental and my suit felt it was crushing my chest...  (Maybe I am too fat!  but I did get the largest suit there is!)  I couldn't totally manage to put my face in the water for any length of time - no line to follow and only just being able to see my arm was off putting.


Was all this just lack of practise?  Do I just need to find somewhere to get in my suit and swim OR did I not put the suit on properly.

Please reassure me it will get better.






  • RicFRicF ✭✭✭

    Hopefully this isn't how you conduct the rest of your life. 

  • when the wetsuit fits right then it will fit a little tight on the chest.this with the cold water can often cause panic attacks in those not used to it.....

    you need to take a long time putting it on...slowly stretching it up so that its snugg at the groin..and then siilar with the top half.stretch and pull it up fully so that your arms have full rotation......this all takes time and a delicate touch not to rip holes in it.....

    then when swimming just relax and go for it enjoying the sites around you.......practise will make it easier.like more things.the more you do it the easier it becomes....

    the good news is that it seems that you managed the full distance of the swim and didn't miss any cutoffs.......so did well to complete.and now there is only one way forward.practise and improve

  • It will, really it will. Your biggest problems were 1. never having been in open water 2. never having practiced in a wetsuit. 3. Trying to swim nearly 4 times the distance you're used to. and mostly, having bitten off more than you could chew.

    See if you can find someone to swim with you in OW so you get used to it. I used to be really scared of OW races and still don't really like swimming in my wetsuit. But I love OW swimming now, my favourite race starts by jumping off a ferry into the fast-flowing Rhine river.You just need to practice. A lot.

  • It will get better!  Open water is a bit freaky the first time you swim in it and more so if it was in a race.  I am generally near the back of the swim still just because I am slow.  I have been in your situation re having a scary swim and getting out last so don't worry I can tell you it improves.  I quite like OW swims now.

    Can you hook up with a local tri club? They'll have sessions that help and probably have somewhere they go OW swimming.

    Maybe the wetsuit wasn't on quite right.  It's a bit of a faff wriggling in to them and sometimes they need a good (if not very graceful) hoik up at the top of the legs. Might be good to see if you can get someone to check if they think it is the right size.

    I'm sure more experienced people than me will be along to give guidance, but I would recommend a tri club.  Lots of clubs have beginners sessions and things, especially in the wake of the Olympics last year.

  • As the others have said about it getting better, I can also assure you that it is unlikely that you will have to swim in such unpleasant water again! image

  • Surely the fact you hadn't swum in open water or in a wet suit before gives you the answer to your own question.

    Fail to prepare, prepare to fail, 

  • BWT sounds familiar - it gets better you just need more time in OW and make sure the wetsuit is the right one for you.  Is it the right buoyancy for you? 

    I was the last one out of the water in my sprint tri in June I had to do a mixture of breast stroke and fc around the 750m course took me 30ish minutes - felt a bit stink but I didnt give up and I didnt cross the finish line last so it was a win for me.  Fast forward five weeks I swam 1500ms at the big swim notts in 58mins, again last out of the water but it was the longest OW swim I'd ever done so again a win for me. Then last night I swam 1.9k in 57.43 image at Bossie.

    If you can get to the National Watersports Center in Notts British Tri runs OW swim courses the next is on August 10th.  I did the one in June with MC and I enjoyed it quite a lot.  Was quite useful.


    My swimming is coming on leaps and bounds and I think that is just because i got over the weeds, grubby, cold water, ducks and fish etc and just swim.  

  • You're description sounds just like my first OW swim and I didn't own a wetsuit back then!

    It's natural to panic the first time you get into open water.  You just need practice in environment where there isn't any pressure on you and you can relax and get used to the suit and water before you try swimming any distance

  • my first ow experience was in a race at a diving lake. I'm sure we broke the ice as we swam.  However perseverance and many swims later ow swimming becomes highly addictive and rewarding. Hang on in there it's worth it. 

  • BWT - Sorry, but what did you expect a podium spot?

    "Was all this just lack of practise?" I'm completely astounded that you have even asked the question.

    I'm even more astounded at myself for even taking the time to respond.
  • Wow SK that's a bit harsh - we all have to start somewhere - we aren't all God's gift to tri... 

  • Maybe not ShuB but if dive straight in with kit you've never used in an enviroment your unsure of it hardly a surprise if it dpesnt go well is it.

  • RicFRicF ✭✭✭

    Two schools of thought here.

    There's the group that appears to be under the impression that the OP failed, not for the want of trying. And is after genuine advice.

    Then there's the rest of us who have a greater grasp of reality. The OP was a chancer who gave the activity no more consideration than buying a tin of baked beans and paid the price.

     The OP wants reassurance. They need to go away and do their homework.



  • Was it the first time on a bike without stabilisers as well ? 

  • I'll tell you what though BWT, I was feeling hideously unprepared for my Olympic. Feeling pretty good about it now! image


  • FF - I think it was more the sarky put down I didn't like - as you'd already said the same in a nicer fashion it didn't add anything to the thread.

    How's the ankle Mrs D? You all geared up and good to go now?

  • Gettin there me dear... Managed a run with no major issues. Hideously unprepared for my liking. I have however swum in a wetsuit, in a lake. Before the criticism comes raining down on me! image

  • I've never swum in a wetsuit in a lake either.  In fact I think I've only ever swum in one lake and I don't intend on going back there again

  • I guess I was totally daft and unprepared but you live and learn.  

    I guessI will have to find somewhere in the Coventry area that does open water swimming for numptlies like me.

    Thanks for the reassurance that it will get better.

  • Not sure about Cov but if you can get to Market Bosworth they run sessions at Bosworth Water Saturday mornings and Thursday evenings, try 1485 tri club for info.

    Otherwise the waterski centre at Kingsbury Water Park starts this weekend, not sure of details though. I'm assuming they won't run the swim and ski sessions at the same time or the speed I swim they'll think I'm a ramp image

  • No idea where Market Bosworth is...  But I could make a Thursday night so might give it a try and I am heading to Kingsbury tomorrow so I will look that one up thanks Symes.

  • No idea where Market Bosworth is...  But I could make a Thursday night so might give it a try and I am heading to Kingsbury tomorrow so I will look that one up thanks Symes.



  • BWT there are a few of us that go to Market Bosworth on a Thursday and Sat.  JP even bikes from Coventry! It's a nice venue and the people are all very friendly.

  • Swan Pond in Birmingham

  • If your in Cov Bosworth would be your closest, I'm in Allesley and cycle there. its 20 miles each way, though it seems longer on the way back image

    I'd be happy to hook up if you wanted to bike, I usually leave around 5pm on Thursdays and 5.30am on sat.


  • Just googled Kingsbury waterpark, that's closer to cov, does anyone know who runs the sessions?

  • One of the tips I was given was make sure you really pull the suit up into your arm pits to give you a bit more movement.  That was perhaps the best advice I got.

    Plus I hope you do live the rest of your life in a similar fashion to your OP, it'll never be dull that wayimage

  • JP it's a BRAT thing I think, first proper one today after a tester event last week, not sure on times but last week was 9-12 which seems very friendly compared with Bosworth! Fits in with the new parkrun too image

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