Perhaps the most beautiful thing for all swimmers with inferior speed in the pool is the ability to draft during your open water swims. The cool thing about triathlon is that it does not even matter if you get out ahead or behind the person you are drafting from, so get in there and enjoy the ride.
Here are some key elements about drafting:
—Get as close to the feet of the swimmer in front of you as you can. Yes, you can touch them from time to time.
—Take advantage of the fact that there is someone ahead of you. They need to look to see what direction to swim, and you can just follow. A good rule of thumb is to cut the times you take your breath to the front in half when drafting. If you are in a good group, you can do it even less frequently and save a lot of energy.
—If you feel like the person in front of you is too slow or that you are getting too comfortable, then make an attempt to pass the swimmer. If that process is very difficult, then you are better off just drafting and conserving energy, even if that may seem too comfortable for you. It makes a lot more sense to get out of the water relaxed and 20 seconds slower than battling for position for a tiny improvement in overall time.
In addition to drafting, you can get similar results to better swimmers than you just by staying calm and dealing with what presents itself. Some people mentally break when they have to swim through waves of people in big groups. If you stay calm and do your thing you will be surprised about who you might leave behind you in your next race.
Stay calm, trust in your decisions and do not waste energy in unnecessary situations.
Enjoy the ride the other athletes give you and embrace open water swimming as your opportunity to close the gap to otherwise better swimmers than you.
Jan Wolfgarten is the swim coach for IRONMAN and 70.3 World Champion Sebastian Kienle, and founder of Swimazing, a web-based swim coaching platform. Check out his detailed program offerings at swimazing.com.