My first OW swim was part of an oly tri. I'd just read an article about panic in the water, and was trying to both remember and forget it! I was looking forward to the bouyancy of the wetsuit and figured this would make it 'easy'.... but I hadn't banked on the way I would react to cold water splashing in my face the whole time.
I went to go swimming, and found myself panicking. I paused and took deep breaths, but just couldn't get over the cold water in my face. Then water sloshed into my goggles and it was too deep to stand, so I couldn't sort those out, and when I was moving (breast stroke or back stroke) I was worried about over using my legs! I had two or three good efforts, and I noticed the difference in distance covered, but could not keep it up the whole way around. I got paranoid that I was going too slowly and would miss the cut off, I was convinced I would have to stop after the first lap (2 lap course), I hadn't ever really 'seen' the distance before and that was contributing to the whole overwhelming ridiculousness.....
I finished in 50mins though, which was within my 'acceptable' range prior to the event. And I got through everything else ok too. The swim was the worst bit though.... so I got myself into open water the following weekend.
My second swim in an OW centre was brilliant. I covered more than the race distance of the previous weekend and I felt very confident.
My third OW swim was a month later and I paniced again. I could feel my heart pounding and was nervous of the cold water again. I couldn't do more than 400m in that instance.
Then I went to an OW training session the following week where you don't do more than about 100m and have others around you in a similar situation, and it was a big confidence building. Advice about climatising to the water and gradually putting your face into the water was all invaluable. My HIM swim went without a hitch 10 days later.
It was another month before I got into the water and felt I would panic and I was slow and worried, but I take the approach now to swim with my head out of water for a bit, then grandually introduce my face to the cold and after 15-20 minutes I'm swimming as if in a pool. I still struggle a bit with bilateral breathing in OW but seem to get there occasionally.
But I agree with KK - OW exposure is the only thing to do, and get a routine that gets you used to the cold in your face. I don't have any more events planned for this year, and probably won't get the chance to go into the water again this year, but come next Spring I'm hoping to be up and down the river every week
Posted: 23/08/2011 at 12:58