Two weekends ago I raced the Lifetime Tempe Tri Marquee. You can read my full race report on my personal website here, but I wanted to focus on the swim for this post so that you do not make the same big mistake that I did.
My swim was far from good. Having made so many gains over the winter especially in the swim, it was depressing not to see those gains shine. What went wrong? A multitude of things, but, looking back on the race, the primary mistake that triggered the rest was my mental focus.
After the gun went off, I sprinted to the front of the pack and in my excitement was so caught up with my place and position in the race I forgot about my place and position in the water. While I was swimming I was not mentally present. My mind was drifting to other things primarily how I was doing relative to everyone else. This started a chain reaction of speed-sucking events.
First, my muscle tightened, which in turn consumed more energy and oxygen, so I wanted and needed to breathe more, throwing off my form. Instead of breathing at the three-quarter mark of my stroke, I would take a breath at the half mark when my pulling arm was still in the water. This error in timing made my lead arm pull to the side and cross over while my legs splayed and pushed me at a diagonal and not forward. Moreover, I would rotate to breathe while I was still exhaling. All of this wasted energy and added time.
What should I have done (and, for future races, will do) differently? Firstly, I should focus on my stroke and not on the race. This will slow down my stroke and make my breathing more rhythmic and efficient. I will then focus on putting more energy and torque into each pull. A slower, better timed, three-quarters breath and stroke will lower my heart rate and loosen my muscles all the while propelling me forward quickly.
Do not let your fears and nerves get to you while swimming. As paradoxical as it sounds, slowing down your stroke to focus on timing and form will in the long swim, speed you up.
Coach Kev and Chris