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Preparing for an Open Water Event

Let's say you signed up for your first marathon swim this year, or you're signed up for a distance much longer than anything you've completed to date Here are 3 big things to prepare for or test out before your event.


Gear

You're going to want to make sure your gear works, fits, and lasts. You never want to use anything new on event day. Critical elements should be trained in for at least a month to make sure they're well adjusted and so you know where they could cause issues. Gear you want to be sure you test out for longer training swims:

  1. Goggles - your primary pair + all your backup pairs should be the right tightness, have straps that are comfortable, and are properly defogged. You want to train with whatever goggles you'll end up using at various points of your swim. If your eye sockets start to ache at a certain hour, which pair of goggles can you switch to? If it gets brighter or darker, do you need to switch pairs, or can you continue swimming comfortably in situations where you might be getting blinded by sun or swimming after dark.

  2. Attire - you don't know where your suit will rub or chafe until you've spent a lot of time in it. By training in the suit you'll wear, you'll know where to put grease on heavy before your start, or even have a chance to thicken a callous or two.

  3. Lights - how will they connect to your body? Where? Do they start to rub or chafe? How long does their power last before you need to swap out?




Nutrition

Feeds for open water swimming are so different than any other sport; not only do you need to find the proper fuel that you enjoy eating for hours on end, but you also need to validate that you can hold it down once you've eaten it so that it doesn't cause reflux or nausea. Plan to incorporate your feeds into your training swims, even if they're in the pool, so you know what those feeds do to your body. You might find that after a certain number of hours, you can't stomach your feeds anymore, or you may need to incorporate medications like antacid into your regimen. You may discover that a mix or flavor causes acid reflux, gas, or bloating. Some feeds taste differently in salt versus freshwater. Trialing your feed schedule, volumes, and backup in-case-of-emergency feeds during training is critical.





Crew

If you're participating in an event that requires one or more crew members, you may want to test the waters with them beforehand. Your crew and your relationship with your crew can make or break a swim. Your support person should know the basics, like how to motivate you, communicate with you, tell if your stroke rate is normal, and manage your feeds. Your crew person should also be competent enough to keep themselves safe, like knowing how to kayak if they're supporting via kayak and staying fed/hydrated. Doing a couple longer training swims with your support crew along for the ride will help you figure out what equipment you're missing and how you'll communicate while you're sensory deprived. Most importantly, you'll be able to test your relationship when one or both of you is hangry.



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