Triathlon Training: Cool Down, Recovery, and Flexibility

Cool Down, Recovery, and FlexibilityTriathlon Training: Cool Down, Recovery, and Flexibility

I’m sure that for many people when they cross the finish line all they want to do is collapse.  I can certainly understand that desire.  Sometimes it’s exhausting just watching you race!  Try to resist the temptation to stop immediately.  A good cool down and recovery can make all the difference for how your body avoids injury and continues to improve performance.

When completing an endurance event (or any exercise lasting longer than 15 minutes) it’s important to have a proper cool down routine.  A cool down involves continued activity at an easy pace for about 5-10 minutes.  Some people like a light jog, while others prefer to walk.  Where available a low resistance, slow-paced stationary bike is a great option.  You can also hop in a pool and do some lazy laps.  This allows for proper transition of your heart and muscles from a highly active state to a resting state.  The bottom line is to keep moving until heart rate and breathing have mostly normalized.

The other big aspect of recovery is to get fuel into the body.  This should include fluids (with electrolytes) and calories.  For more about electrolyte replacement see my tip about hydration.  Calories may seem like a no brainer, but there is actually an ideal way to do it.  The first part is timing.  You should eat within a few minutes of completing exercise.  During the first thirty minutes post exercise you have a significantly increased muscle protein synthesis, meaning your muscles are trying to recover and giving them the fuel to recover will improve that recovery.  After thirty minutes you still experience an elevated muscle protein synthesis, but it is not as great and is gone within about sixty minutes of exercise completion.

The second part of calorie replacement is what kind of calories.  Some people think that if you are rebuilding muscle then protein should be important.  Almost the opposite is true.  Excessive protein intake can decrease recovery effectiveness.  What your body has really lost is carbohydrate calories.  It needs to replace glucose and glycogen stores in order to rebuild muscle.  Try to consume about 100g of carbohydrates (roughly equivalent to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich) within those first thirty minutes post exercise.  You don’t want to make yourself sick by eating too much too fast, but those 100g are a good goal.  After that you should eat a good healthy diet the rest of the day and don’t starve your body.

The final step in cool down and recovery is flexibility.  Much of the research relating to flexibility training is about pre-exercise stretching and shows little to no effect, with the exception of dynamic flexibility (a topic for another time).  However, a recent study shows potential for decreased injury with static stretching (see the abstract here).  Flexibility is something I consider to be part of overall health.  Poor flexibility may contribute to back pain, shoulder pain, risk of muscle strains, and generally decreased body function.  Stretching won’t stop delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), but it may improve your overall well-being and help you avoid chronic injuries.

The best time to stretch is after you have been using your muscles.  Any muscle used should be stretched.  Since completing a triathlon involves heavy use of both upper and lower extremities you should be doing a full body stretch.  Include hamstrings, quadriceps, calves (both gastrocnemius and soleus muscles), iliotibial (IT) band, gluteals, piriformis, psoas, pectorals, and rotator cuff muscles.  Sounds like a lot?  You can do all this in less than ten minutes even if you hold each stretch for 30 seconds.

If you include these aspects into your recovery routine you’ll stay healthier through a long season and hopefully enjoy it even more.

Dr. EagarDr. Eagar is a dual credentialed provider with degrees in sports medicine, chiropractic medicine, and exercise science.  Dr. Eagar owns Active Advantage, a private sports medicine practice with an emphasis on rehabilitation and chronic injury management.  He enjoys answering questions and can be reached at  For more general information you can visit his website

Mandy Seeley – RaceTri’s Athlete of the Week

Mandy Seeley - Triathlete of the Week

Our featured athlete of the Week
Mandy Seeley.  Mandy has graciously shared her amazing story and we are very proud of her.  GO MANDY!

“We’re calling for an ambulance to take you to the ER.” If my heart hadn’t already been pounding out 220 beats per minute (bpm) – fast enough to beat out of my chest and run back home to my freaked out kids in seconds, I’m sure hearing that announcement would have pushed it up into the 200+ range.ambulance

Everyone has their reason for doing triathlons. I have two. The first is that I have a heart condition called SVT, which means I have a circuit gone loco in my heart that causes it to beat too fast. The second reason is that for most of my life, I’ve listened to a couple of key people, and to the negative voices in my head, who tried to convince me I was stupid, ugly, and weak. My desire to overcome these challenges is why I do triathlons, and why I want to share my story with you.

Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT)

 About a year and a half ago, I started having heart episodes lasting 30 seconds to my longest one of 11 hours. They happen at all times of the day or night. Sometimes I’m just sitting at work minding my own business. Sometimes it’s when I’m running or out for a long ride. If they last longer than 15 minutes, the pain kicks in and I pray with everything I’ve got that one of my techniques will make it stop. Caffeine, dehydration, bending over too fast, lack of sleep, and stress all make it worse.

The one I had last January was really bad, and landed me in the ER. The worst part was that because the EMT’s couldn’t find a vein to push some meds in the field (which is what usually happens), the ER doctors rounded up all their students to watch me when I came in so they could see what the meds do. If I hadn’t been so distressed by the pain, my first ambulance ride, and just wondering if my heart would ever slow down, having 20 pairs of eyes staring at me would have sent me diving under the covers. Once they had the paddles ready… just in case my heart didn’t restart on its own… the doctor worked his magic. It was the most uncomfortable 30 seconds of my life – but it did the trick. My heart stopped, and within seconds started back up at a normal rhythm. Within minutes, I was back to normal. Once the students realized they wouldn’t get to take turns yelling “Clear!” the room emptied faster than you can say S-V-T.

I’ve been on blood pressure medicine since then, but it hasn’t helped. My heart still acts up at random times. The longer episodes have been getting increasingly painful over the past few months. When I’m training, my heart has gotten up to at least 253 (but that’s as high as my Garmin has recorded). That and the medicine makes me really tired, and running faster than a 10-minute mile for an extended time is almost out of the question these days. It’s frustrating, and I hate feeling like I’m a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. I never know if this episode will be the last before my heart just poops out.

So I’ve decided to have an ablation surgery on April 4th. It’s not super complicated, but this is my heart we’re talking about. I’m nervous and scared, but also excited at the prospect of not having to worry about getting stranded on a run or passing out at the wheel or leaving my two kids motherless. I’m also excited to test the difference. I’m doing the Ice Breaker Triathlon five days pre-surgery and the Timp Triathlon nine days post-surgery.

Why am I doing this?

 Some may wonder why put my health at risk to do triathlons. There’s gotta be something easier right? Maybe. But for me, doing a triathlon is the first thing I’ve found that is helping me overcome the negative self-talk rumbling around in my grey matter at all hours of the day. From living with someone who constantly belittled me and made me feel like dirt for 8.5 years to just having the personality of constantly wanting to do better, be better, and never feeling good enough, it’s been hard for me to find a way to overcome this.

After three months of training, I overcame my fear of swimming – a huge accomplishment for me. I’ve done one sprint triathlon and have many tri’s scheduled this year. I have yet to find something that makes me feel better about myself than doing something I never thought I could do. I didn’t think I was strong enough to swim 750 meters, bike 12 miles, and run a 5k. But I did it! And that was enough to shut those stupid voices up. It taught me they’ve been lying. Because I can do anything I put my mind to. I’m not stupid, weak, or ugly. I am a triathlete.

So that’s why I’m not giving up. That’s why I’m having surgery to fix my heart. That’s why I’m training for my first Ironman in Cozumel in December. And that’s why I wanted to share my story with you. No matter what health condition you have, no matter what people – or your head – try to tell you, you can do it! You may not be as fast, or as skinny, or have the best gear as others. None of that matters. What does matter is knowing you’ve done something you never thought you could. And with that knowledge comes power – the power to make positive changes in your life. I am doing it. And so can you. Don’t give up. Just tri.

Mandy Seeley

Mandy Seeley - Triathlete of the Week

Getting ready for the swim at my first Tri – HITS Palm Springs sprint in Dec.


Finishing the bike


Crossing the finish line!

Moving From a Sprint Triathlon Distance to an Olympic Distance

Sprint distance triathlon to olympic distace

Sprint distance triathlon to olympic distaceBefore I start this article I want to be clear that doing a sprint triathlon is not easy and it can be more challenging that a olympic and even a half. Because participating in any triathlon is an individual effort, you make it what you want it to be. I know a few folks that all they race is sprint distances. They enjoying the feeling of going all out and their training regimen is focused on the that distance alone. That being said, this article is on moving from a sprint to an olympic distance.

When I began in the sport my plan was to do a sprint, then an olympic and eventually a half. I’m still mulling over moving to a full ironman, but the training time and cost are holding me back. I’ll make that decision around Jan 1.

I began training for a sprint by running and getting in the pool. I felt comfortable on the bike, so I need to spend more time focusing on my weak spots. As I trained, I knew I was going to do a full, so that’s what I was really training for so it wasn’t a big deal to move past the sprint distances. After two months of training I felt confident that I could do a sprint and survive. Instead of signing up for one and paying a bunch of money, I set aside some time every Friday to be my sprint days. I created my own sprint, swim, bike and run in one go the sprint distance. This was excellent, I was able to work on my transitions, and gained more confidence each time. If you can get a friend to join you it makes it even better as long as you set the ground rules – I’m not a competitive person, I like to run my race my way. If I’m feeling good I’ll put on the speed but I don’t feel like it, I don’t. So as along as my partner knows this and is cool with doing the same it works out great.

When making the transition, for most people its the longer swim in open water that holds them back. It’s true that there is a difference, but you can do it. Read our posts on open water swimming, attend a swim clinic, watch youtube videos, there are plenty of resources on open water swimming to help. As far as the distance goes, just spend more time in the pool. You don’t need to be fast, you just need to be comfortable and able. I’ve found that swimming in a 50 meter pool is a huge plus when changing distances. 16 laps feels so much better than 32 shorties. Breaking up your laps in to longer laps is also helpful, instead of taking a break every lap, take a break after two then four laps, this breaks up the swim into manageable segments that helps you feel a sense of accomplishment and eases the counting or remembering of laps. I have a hard time counting laps after 6, my brain gets all mushy unless I say the number out loud after each lap.
I was told once that -in swimming- after a mile its all downhill. I’ve found that to be very true. 16 laps or 32 laps, it’s just about time, not physical effort – this is a personal statement, when I’m going for distance, not speed.

The bike and the run, increasing your distance at the standard 10% rule is a good way to do it, I tend to go 20% on both, but to each their own. Doubling the bike distance isn’t that challenging, but take the time to work your way into it. If you feel absolutely wasted after a ride, you have over done it. Mentally keep in mind that you’ve got to run after that ride, so keep your reserves in check.

Running, on race day that 6 miles can feel a whole lot longer than your training days. Keep that in mind as you train. Run longer distances than your race as you train. Speed drills will help you know how much you’ve got and what your body can do if you need it to. Triathlons are all about the experience of knowing your body and being surprised that you can do more than you thought. Your running will speed increase slowly with time, you’ll get faster as you keep running.

You can do it, finishing your first olympic is amazing, beating your time from that first is even better.

2012 Escape from Black Ridge Triathlon Sprint – Report

2012 Escape from Black Ridge Triathlon Sprint – Report by Dave Black

I’ll start off by saying that Race Tri put on an amazing event, well organized and great volunteers.  I can’t imagine the stress the race director had, dealing with the fires, the water, and the possibility of the whole thing being canceled if the fire went nuts.  Friday night’s rain was a godsend; clearing the air and helping the firefighters get things under control.

As far as the race for me, I was really sick on Friday, so Saturday when I woke up I was not feeling powerful, strong, and ready to say the least.  I got to the reservoir and got my stuff ready at T1, then drove to T2.  I’m not a huge fan of having two transition areas; I’m always afraid that I’ll leave something out and be a world of hurt.  I dropped by stuff at T2 and got on the shuttle.  I made some new friends- one fellow knew my brother and it was his first Tri and that was a lot of fun to chitchat.  Back at the lake I wanted to warm up because the swim has always been an issue for me.  I know my body can do it but my head tends to get in the way.  I swam around getting used the wetsuit and the lake temp, which was fine.  I was surprised at how small the lake was.  The wind was making a few waves but nothing serious.  I went back up and listed to Arron give his pre race prep rally, which was just awesome.  Everyone was smiling and laughing at his exuberance.  I loved that he just got louder and louder – until he threw his clipboard down and gave us the go. Well done Arron, well done!

At the swim start, I headed out focused on my breathing and trying not to beat up other people to bad, in the wetsuit I swim faster than without and found that I was constantly on top of one person or another.  As I rounded the first turn, I had a freak out moment; the wetsuit felt like it was choking me, I couldn’t get in rhythm because I kept running into people so I had to flip over and look at the sky and relax.  I told my brain to shut up and get back in the game and I flipped over and kept going.  I never did get a good rhythm and felt like I was just flailing in the water.  I got out and ran up the ramp trying to pull my zipper and it wouldn’t budge.  I had to stop on the ramp and have a volunteer help, she said the tri-top was caught in the zipper, she tried to get it loose but it was no good.  I said thanks and ran into the transition, I fought that zipper forever! Another great volunteer came over and helped.  She was able to get it unzipped, but boy there went my transition time in T1.  I packed all my junk into the black bag and wasn’t sure I was suppose to leave it there, though I figured I should have – while I was carrying out of the transition area.  I got on the bike was off.

The bike is where I would try to make up some of the time.  I was glad to be on the bike and having a nice downhill at the start allowed me to catch my breath and change energy to the legs.  I knew the route from some of the rides I’d done, so I was mentally prepared for the hill and the downhill.  It felt good passing folks – I saw one guy get a flat right at the start and felt bad for him, hoping I wouldn’t meet the same fate. The hill wasn’t that bad, I wish I had pushed it more, always debating how much to put in verses saving some for the run.  The downhill was good, I stayed on the arrow bars the whole time while pedaling – keeping my speed around 30mph.  Just before the end I got passed by a two guys, one was 59 years old, I hope I can rock it when I’m 59.  Getting into T2 wasn’t that great, an RV pulled out right before the entry and I had to slow way down and make sure I didn’t get creamed.  The long entry to T2 with people crossing in front of me was annoying and a little slow.

I got into T2, swapped shoes, put on the visor and was off, just after exit I realized I was still wearing my eye glasses – I need them for the bike, but not the run, so I gave them to a volunteer and told them which row I was on and color of shoes (bike color would have been better, but they were there at the end).  The run is an area I’m improving, so over all I’m pleased with my pace, 9:05. The route was great until the end, when I finally was ready to push it, we had to run up a gravel section, which wasn’t my favorite, I would much rather run on grass than gravel.  Running to the finish line was really great, nice and flat with a long entry.  It felt great to finish and was happy that my cold didn’t slow me down to much.  The post race stuff was great.  I do think for the giveaways they should just take the id tag of the bib and use that instead of calling out random numbers. I dig the heavy metal finisher’s award and it’s hung proudly at work.

Post race regrets: I need faster transitions and have a lot of improvement to make with the swim.  I’ll be hitting it hard this week, as I get ready for the Half Iron Man in two weeks– Gulp!

Thanks again to everyone at RaceTri and the volunteers for making Escape from Black Ridge a great experience!

Improve Bike-to-Run Efficiency with a Brick Workout

Here’s a repost from USA Triathlon’s website

Improve Bike-to-Run Efficiency with a Brick Workout

By David Burgess 

One of USA Triathlon’s Facebook fans posted this question on the USAT page:

“I am a runner/swimmer type. How can I help my legs from feeling like jelly after getting off the bike? They always feel like that for half a mile to a full mile into the run and it is slowing me down! Any help would be appreciated!”

Great question, as this is a common issue amongst triathletes and nobody is really immune. Coming off the bike in T2 and having your legs feel “rubbery” or like “jelly” is standard fare. Depending on the individual, I’ve heard of some people going well over a mile into their run before their legs begin to feel normal.


What can you do to make this muscular transition from bike to run as short and quick as possible?

The best way to ensure that your legs come around quickly off the bike is to structure your brick workouts in such a way that you train your running muscle groups to adapt more efficiently.

The most common method of doing a brick workout is to wrap up your training ride and then do a run off the bike. The mileage for these efforts will vary, but it’s usually a 1:1 ratio (one ride, one run). This is still a good training session that you should incorporate early in your season. It allows you to get a higher intensity workout in, as well as keeping the muscle memory of transitioning from bike to run somewhat fresh.

However, as you progress deeper into your season and your training plan begins to incorporate more race specifics and higher intensity workouts, you should change the way you approach your brick sessions. Ideally, you would turn that 1:1 ratio of bike to run into a 3:3 ratio — for example, ride 15 minutes, run 7-8 minutes off the bike and repeat three times.

How does this help?

This type of brick session will help your legs switch over to running-specific muscle groups more quickly and effectively. It does this by forcing your muscle groups to continually switch back and forth from cycling to running. By forcing the change to occur more often, you will be training your muscles to be more efficient and able to adapt to the change out of T2 as well as doing so in a shorter period of time.

Again, early in the season doing brick workouts that involve a single session on the bike followed by a single session on the run is still a great idea. But by adding in higher intensity, multiple repetition (higher ratio) brick workouts, you’ll very likely see an improvement in the time required for your legs to feel solid on the run.

Dave Burgess is a USA Triathlon Level I Certified Coach, a USA Cycling certified coach, and competitive age group triathlete. He is the founder and head coach of Podium Training Systems, based in Westchester, N.Y. For more information visit or email Dave at

What to Eat Before a Triathlon

pre-triathlon dinner mealWhat types of foods are best? Pasta is a traditional favorite among athletes, but other carbohydrate-rich options include bread, cereal, bagels, potatoes, oatmeal, quinoa, rice, pizza (go easy on the cheese) and sweet potatoes. It’s also important to get some protein the day before your race, so include a 3-4 oz. serving of fish, meat or tofu in your dinner. Avoid high-fiber or gas-forming foods like beans and any type of food that may upset your stomach or can interfere with sleep.

If you’re traveling to a new location for your triathlon, make sure you plan your meals in advance and be sure your favorite foods are available in the race city. Some athletes prefer not to take any chances and pack their favorite foods to bring with them.

The day before your race, spread your calories out throughout the day, so that you’re eating something every two to three hours. Eat three normal-sized meals and two to four snacks. About 65-70% of your calories come from carbohydrates, so try to add an extra serving of carbs to your meals and make sure your snacks are mostly carbs. Stick to healthy options and try to avoid sugary junk foods.

Try to eat your pre-triathlon dinner somewhere between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., so you’ll have plenty of time to digest before you go to bed. If you eat on the early side, you can also have a small snack a couple of hours later.

Pre-Triathlon breakfast mealBe sure to finish your breakfast at least 90 minutes before the triathlon start. Don’t have a huge breakfast and stick with mostly carbs and some protein. Some examples of good pre-triathlon breakfast foods (again, don’t experiment with any new foods) include: a bagel or toast with peanut butter; a banana and an energy bar; or a bowl of oatmeal. Drink plenty of water and make sure you use the facilities before the race.

30 minutes before the race have a GU or Hammer Gell and you are ready to rock your triathlon.

View other food/diet and nutrition articles by our sponsor Hammer Nutrition

Your Comments:

  • Do you like a big carb meal before your event or do you take it a little lighter?
  • What is the best breakfast you’ve had before a race?
  • Any great or terrible pre-race meal stories – we want to know yours!
  • How much breakfast do you eat?

USAT and Your Age – A Controversy

Triathlon MarkingThe following is post from by Marion Webb, I thought it was interesting article on age stamping.

When it comes to body marking, getting my actual age temporarily tattooed on my calf along with my race number on my upper arms the day off the event seems as normal to me now as setting up my transition area, battling nerves and the recurring urge to use the restroom.

Yet, a recent discussion among friends about the use of actual age on race day and general use of body marking raised some controversy that demanded real answers.
To get to the skinny, I called the authority on USAT-sanctioned race rules: Meet Mr. Charlie Crawford, commissioner of officials for USA Triathlon, the national governing body, which sets the rules designed “to maintain consistency and order from race to race across the country.”

What I’ve learned from Mr. Crawford was both enlightening and surprising.
The biggest surprise (to me): Having your age on your calf is not a rule and never has been a rule.
That’s right—After seven years of racing with my age prominently displayed on my calf and telling myself that getting older isn’t so bad, always admiring older athletes (now my age) whose toned and lean physiques seemed to defy gravity, belie their true age, and often, God’s given speed.
I certainly understand having mixed emotions about the full public disclosure of one’s age, but considered it a fair exchange for knowing those competing in my age group as well.
Turns out some people, especially women, really resent making their age public knowledge.
“We used to recommend to not use the age of the athlete (to race directors),” said Mr. Crawford. “We asked them to stop doing that, because of sensitivity to older athletes who didn’t like their ages tattooed on their bodies.”
In November 2005, USA Triathlon adopted a new rule that all age group athletes must participate and compete in the age group division corresponding to the athlete’s age on Dec. 31 of the year of the event. This means that your age race will be the same for all sanctioned events for the entire calendar year.
Behind the rule change, said Crawford, was a large number of complaints from USAT members who qualified for an event in one age division, but then raced another event later in the year in another age division.
The new rule makes USAT consistent with ITU (International Triathlon Union), the world governing of triathlon, which had already used the birth year as the determining factor for age division.
The USAT age rule change took effect in 2006; in 2007, USAT started printing the birth year age on its membership cards.
However, on the race course, confusion about age prevails.
That’s because at many races, volunteers with markers at hand still ask racers about their current age on race day, not their birth year age.
Hence, if a man is 29 years old on race day, but turns 30 by Dec. 31, and the volunteer marks 29 on his calf, racers in the 25-29 age division would presume that he races in their age group when in reality he’s racing in the 30-34 age division. In other words, when someone is on the cusp of changing age groups, whether it’s 29 or 34, other racers are left guessing.
One solution to that problem would be to bodymark racers with letters instead of their age, said Mr. Crawford. He exemplified that the first age group division 15-19 would be marked as “A”; the following 20-24 age-group division as “B”; people aged 25-29 as “C” and so on.
“If someone is racing another J, you know that this person is in your age group,” Mr. Crawford noted.
That would give racers some privacy, but other issues remain.
An even bigger issue with marking one’s age on the calf is that it can lead to serious problems when a volunteer confuses the race number (which, by the way, is mandatory for body marking according to USAT rules) with your age.
The race number allows officials on the race course to identify racers who aren’t playing by the rules, and in cases where someone needs medical attention or is seriously injured can be critical.
“When you see someone cut the buoys, a swim marshal will look at the number to give you a penalty (in wetsuit swims, they’ll look at the number on your cap) and when someone is unconscious, it tells us who you are” Mr. Crawford said.
Sadly, he said, it’s not uncommon for volunteers to get your age or race number wrong. I guess I’ll pay more attention to that now.
Mr. Crawford recommends marking the back off both hands and the swim cap with your race number. Regarding marking your age on your body, that’s up to the race organizers, though Mr. Crawford doesn’t endorse the practice.
He agreed that body marking your actual age can create ambiguity on the race course. And that’s discounting some racers who wipe off their age on their calves for whatever reason, and the rising trend of wearing compression stockings, which is perfectly legal, but doesn’t require age marking (though, I’m sure the makers wouldn’t mind selling us pairs according to size and odd and even numbers).
When I told Mr. Crawford that when I am passed by someone in my age group, I will think twice about going harder (when I feel like I have enough in the tank), he had a quick rebuttal.
“Triathlon is a game of individual endurance—The idea is to go as fast as you can and get the best possible time.”
I can see his point, but isn’t it human nature to dig deeper as the competition heats up?
So does it matter, if some triathletes race with their age “under cover” and others “fully unveiled”? Would it be better for the sport and all of us, if we did away with the age display altogether? Surely, race directors have an opinion on this matter. I’ll talk to a few and keep you posted soon. Meanwhile, feel free to comment on which practice you would prefer and why. May be we’ll get some race directors to check in with you and me….
By Marion Webb

Tell us your thoughts:

  • What are  your thoughts on having your age stamped on your leg?
  • Should the practice be stopped?
  • Does it add to your sense of competitiveness when you see someone older or younger is ahead of you?

Open Water Swimming Tips

open-water-swimming-tipsAs the lakes warm up and you are feeling the mental pressures of your next triathlon, the open water swim can be one of the biggest mental challenges that you have to face.  The best thing to do is be prepared.  Very few people consider swimming to be their strongest event in a triathlon, I’ve heard it said many times that “the best part about the swim is getting out of the water.” If swimming is not your strong point the thing to do is swim more, watch videos on technique, and swim more.

Most triathletes find running to be their strong suit, so focus less on your running and put more hours in at the pool.  The more comfortable you are in the water the better you’ll be prepared for open water.  Open water swimming takes a good deal of mental preparation.  The difference between the pool and open water are obvious –  you can’t stand up and take a rest in most cases and unless your living in the tropics, the water temperature is going to be cooler – or just plain cold. These things bring up two important ingredients to open water swimming.  Wear a wetsuit and never swim alone.

Helpful Tips For Open Water Swimming

Warm up. Get in the water and spend some time warming up, it takes your body about 15 minutes of good aerobic activity before your heart and muscles are ready to go.  The loss of breath when getting in cold water happens every time for every athlete, but it doesn’t last and mentally you need to be prepared for it.  Focus on relaxing and getting lots of air – float on your back and watch the clouds.  Some lakes are easier to practice open water swimming than others.  If you can practice in water that has a sandy bottom and the water isn’t above your head – it really helps, especially if you have a freak out moment.

Swimming straight. To swim in a straight line you’ll need to practice keeping your arms straight ahead/above your shoulders – not allowing one arm to get lazy (wide) or cutting over.   Sighting is the other technique you’ll need to practice. To sight as you swim lift your head so that your goggles are just out of the water and spot a group of trees and keep that picture in your mind, after 3 strokes lift your head and find your point again.  You may need to spot every stroke at first with practice this will become a little more comfortable.  Incorporate your sighting with your breath, sight first, then breath as your head comes down.  Here’s a great video on open water swimming and sighting.

Overcoming freak-out moments. Everyone has them, for many it’s the day of the race.  There you are swimming along feeling good when suddenly you get a mouthful of water instead of air and your brain yells “its dark underneath you, you can’t see in front of you, you can’t touch the bottom, this waters cold, your shoulder hurts, this wetsuit is to tight, you can’t breath, you going to drown!”   It happens.  What do you do? I suggest two things:

1) flip over and float on your back and kick with your legs.  If you can float you are not going to drown. Take a moment, relax, tell yourself you’re OK.  Most likely you’re body isn’t warmed up enough and the muscles are calling for air. Once you’ve calmed down, roll over and get back into the grove.


2) Don’t flip over, but focus on what you are doing, reach and push the water past your body, breath, shake your hand as it comes up out of the water. Think positive, smile, and tell yourself you can do it, and keep swimming.  Besides isn’t that the point of doing a triathlon? Learning endurance and overcoming your weaker self.

Take an open water swim clinic, and watch technique videos, and swim more in open water.

Your thoughts:

  • What tip would you give a first time open water swimmer?
  • Have you ever had a “freak out” moment and how did you overcome it?
  • Where do you practice open water swimming?
  • Is there any special equipment open water swimmers should not leave without?

Salem Triathlon Report by Jen Hamilton

Salem Triathlon 2012 Award

Here’s a recent post from on by Jen Hamilton with contributing authors TeKoi Smith and Carolina Herrin on the Salem Triathlon.  If you participated and want to share your incredible exerience please do. Here’s the post:

The tenth running of the Salem Spring Triathlon held on June 2, 2012 made a king of B.J. Christenson and a queen of Jeanette Schellenberg. Christenson (01:01:00) bested Dave Warden (01:04:29) by nearly three minutes. Christenson had the fastest run split of the day (17:55).  Zachary Meinzer (01:04:50) finished in third place.

The women’s race came down to the run, where Schellenber
g (01:10:06) found an extra gear to distance herself from runner-up Sarah White (01:11:27). The two were virtually tied heading into T2. Schellenberg out ran White by nearly one minute. Skye Murphy (01:11:41) rounded out the women’s podium finishing a mere 14 seconds behind White.

Athletes raced in near perfect conditions with cool temperatures for most of the morning. A slight overcast and a mild breeze followed many of the racers through the bike. The sun broke through for much of the run, making the hills on the 5k course a little tougher to climb.  304 athletes participated the event, held in Salem, Utah.

Review by TeKoi Smith

RaceTri has been putting on this event for 10 years now and it is becoming a fine tuned, fun & competitive event for all triathletes from newbie to veteran.  I arrived somewhat early race morning as I like to be able to find a good spot in transition and not rush.  As soon as I pulled into the city of Salem, I could feel the buzz of excitement & anxiety coming from the other triathletes and I knew that it was going to be another fantastic race.

It didn’t take long for hundreds of people, triathletes, volunteers & spectators to gather and wait for the 1st wave to swim in the “Pond”.  The water temperature was low 60’s which is perfect for me, personally, as I have a full sleeve wetsuit.  The race started on time with each wave and when the gun went off I felt calm and collected in the washing machine that is called the swim.  It is always hit and miss to how long I will be beat up in an open water swim with hands, feet, heels to the face and swimming over and being swam over, and this time it seemed to be for the full 750 meters and I loved every minute of it.  Coming out of the water I was greeting by firemen spraying everyone with “clean” water and it’s always fun to run up the grassy knoll into T1.

The bike course starts off flat for you to get your feet underneath you, but quickly takes you up 2 short hills where I need to downshift to be more efficient.  It is a 2 loop course that has gentle rollers and hills for you to climb and descend at a very fast pace.  Right before you come into T2 everything is pretty flat and then takes you down a hill so you’re legs feel good for the hilly run.  The bike course takes you on some rural roads that can be bumpy so be careful!

The run course changed this year to avoid cross traffic with the cyclists which made for a very hilly run.  In the past, the run has been about 1 mile and change up and then flattens out before you descend.  This year it took you up a hill that was almost 2 miles long.  It’s not terribly hard or long, but you’re not going to PR on this 5K for sure.  The aid station was right around the 2 mile mark and then you made a quick descent that leads you into the finish line.

The end of RaceTri’s Salem Spring Sprint is amazing. The finish line is full of families & friends and the awards ceremony is fun for everyone. TriEdge was there as well to provide some raffle prizes as well.

RaceTri’s Salem Spring Sprint is an excellent way to start your season with a great open water swim and fun all around.  I’ll be there next year, will you?

Review by Carolina Herrin

“Am I really going to be doing this?”  I asked myself as I looked into the water at the Salem Pond, watching the Pro’s head out and quickly swim away.  I have never done this before- I haven’t even swam since High School swim team.  As I got in the water, I knew it was now or never!  The sound from the starting horn faded away and after a few strokes, I caught myself thinking, “I can’t turn around now.  Just keep swimming.  Biking is your favorite, running is fun and then you’re done!”
But the most interesting thing to me was that my number one thought always seemed to be; “Wow, I like this!”

The water temperature felt just right to me.  Great swim course.  A long stretch out and under the Salem Bridge, for a quick turnaround up to the beach.  It was nice to know that there were so many volunteers in the water ready to help you, if needed.  Coming out of the water, it was wonderful to see so many familiar faces.  I really enjoyed having their support, as this was my first real race.  I have been around many who are involved in triathlons, but have never trained or found the time to do one.

During the transition, I quickly slipped on my bike shoes, threw on a shirt and got biking up the gigantic hill.  The bike course was just right.  I loved the hill and the challenged it posed.  There was just enough elevation on the course, for a beginner to handle.  Throughout the bike course, I noticed how well marked it was.  There were plenty of spray painted warnings on the road, marking the rough road, cracks and especially the manhole covers.  I also saw plenty of words of encouragement marked on the course.

Coming in from the bike, the volunteers did an amazing job directing and talking you back into the transition area.  I could feel the sun beating down on me a bit more now and I had this incredible feeling of joy, as I was two thirds of the way done.  It’s funny how in my head I was moving fast through the transition, trying to slow my breathing down, getting my Altra’s on, but looking at my transition time, I sure took it slow.  Plenty of support from the crowd and the volunteers kept me going and I soon found myself out onto the run course.

My favorite had to be; you start the run going over a bridge and end it going over a bridge.  So cool!  The run course was well marked and again, with just the right amount of challenges for a beginner triathlete.  I loved the fact that you’re going up on the way out and coming down on the way in.  The aid station on the run was well manned and stocked up on cold water and power gels.  As I cornered the last bit and was able to see the finish line, I couldn’t believe that I had just done my first triathlon.

Crossing the finish and getting that very large, awesome, finishers medal; what a feeling! I again, had the same thought I had at the beginning of the race; “Wow, I like this!”  This was such an amazing experience. The volunteers were great, the spectators were wonderful cheering everyone on and the overall atmosphere at the finish line is one that can’t be beat.
The Salem Spring Triathlon is a must for beginners and pro’s alike and I can’t wait to come back next year and improve on my time.  Thanks Racetri and Triathlete’s Edge. I can’t think of a better way to have spent my Saturday morning.