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Fear of open water swimming

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Old 08-07-2007, 07:43 PM   #1
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Unhappy Fear of open water swimming

So I've been running and biking for awhile and decided to do a triathlon. I added swimming to workouts and I'm doing really well in the pool. However three times now I've tried to swim in open water and it has not worked out. The first time wasn't horrible, it was in a sheltered bay (no waves) but as soon as I got past where I could touch I started to hyperventilate the first couple of tries. I finally managed to do about 150-200m out then back ok. The second time I went out was in the waves and I didn't make it past the breakers and thus never actually swam. The third time we went to a different bay where the San Diego Tri Club does some of their tri's. They're having one on the 18th which I wanted to do but I don't think I can. That time the mushy bottom and sea grass freaked me out so bad I came right back in. I actually stood there crying in my wetsuit because I can't believe how a grown woman can have such an irrational fear. Anyone else deal with this?
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Old 08-07-2007, 07:59 PM   #2
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I had a similiar fear after I had a car accident. I was afraid I would not be able to keep myself safe in open water because the left side of my body wasn't working well. I went to a dive shop and bought an inflatable snorkel vest. I used it a lot until I felt more confident.
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Old 08-07-2007, 08:43 PM   #3
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Hey KIDDO

You have come so far this year! I am so proud of you. The only thing that you "MUST" do is to keep going out there. Of course as long as someone is with you that is comfortable with ocean swimming. Just keep swimming in that pool and doing your runs and biking practices. You ARE going to get through this...maybe not in time for the next tri...but soon! How do I know this...cause you are in my prayers!!

And seriously do you think Chad gave up when he fell a few times?
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Old 08-07-2007, 10:06 PM   #4
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Do you think it is the open water itself or something about it (like the seaweed) Because I get freaked out in lakes by myself, but during a triathlon there are so many people swimming with me that it doesnt bother me.
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Old 08-07-2007, 10:22 PM   #5
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I don't think it's an irrational fear. Swimming in the open water is more dangerous than the pool. You can't see the bottom, there's no lines to follow, the surface is not flat. Just keep doing little bits. You will get there.
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Old 08-07-2007, 11:00 PM   #6
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Swimming in open water can feel very different than a pool. I grew up swimming in lakes and the ocean, so it is generally very comfortable for me, but every once in a while if I'm doing the crawl and the water is choppy I get nervous if I go to take a breath and get a mouthful of water.

I would follow your own instincts on this. Rather than jumping right into choppier water, maybe try going back to the calm bay. And then if going over your head makes you nervous, try swimming around where you can touch, and every once in while turn over onto your back and float. Floating is key to my feeling comfortable in the water - if I'm swimming and the waves start smacking into me or if I get disoriented and I'm not sure where I am, I'll just flip over until I've gotten my bearings. I also alternate the crawl with the backstroke, because I can keep track of what's going on around me a little better when I'm doing the backstroke. My final suggestion is to start out by swimming parallel to the shore - it helps to have visual cues that tell you where you are and where you're going.

Once you're very comfortable swimming where you can touch, then move a little tiny way further out, and repeat, with the reassurance that you can always float for a bit or skedaddle back to where you can touch if you need do. I think by moving further out gradually, you'll gradually feel more comfortable. And then when the bay is good, move on to waves!

I don't know if there is a Danskin women's triathlon near you, but there were special open water training sessions available for the one near me. So you could check to see if there were any similar sessions in your area.

I'm envious, because I was training to do a triathlon this summer, but had to stop due to a back injury. I did one as a relay many years ago, where I did the running and biking and my sister did the swim, and I've been a spectator twice. They're really fun, so if you're inspired to do one, don't let the open water part get in the way!
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Old 08-08-2007, 01:04 AM   #7
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Thanks for the replies everyone. I'm lucky enough to have my husband with me who is VERY comfortable in the water. He grew up here in California (while I'm a Pittsburgh transplant) and has spent much of his time in the water between surfing, swimming, and jetskiing. Because of this safety and getting back in isn't a problem. It's my whole overactive imagination as to what's in the water. I'm the type of person who watches shark week big eyed with a combination of fear and fascination. I just wonder if the fear ever gets better? I've actually debated just doing all my training in a pool and showing up on race day and letting the adrenaline get me through it as I'm definitely a competitive in it to win it kind of person. Of course that may backfire...

And thanks for the pic Gary
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Old 08-18-2007, 02:10 AM   #8
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Please let us know if you do this triathlon. I have a feeling you will just go ahead and do it. You should be fine if you don't think of your fear and just keep going. I learned from my first triathlon that a lot of it is mental. I just completed my first sprint tri last week and my family was really worried about the open water swim for me also. They couldn't believe I was going to do the open water swim...they knew I could easily make the bike distance and the 3.1 mile run. But I am not a great swimmer and I signed up late for the race so I didn't have much time to practice. I was the last one in my section to finish in the swim but not the last overall. They had people in kayaks to guide the competitors. I am so proud of myself because my family really didn't think I would make it. This is what I mean by the mental part. You have to believe in yourself and that you will and can do it. I did. I practiced in the pool also because they wouldn't allow us to practice in the lake and I wasn't that great at doing laps either. But I finished the triathlon and reached my goals...to finish and not to come in last! Good luck to you and if you don't do this one, they'll be more you can enter. Let us know how you do!
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