Q. When Alistair Brownlee's goggles were knocked off at the ITU event in Hyde Park last year he finished the swim without them. Is it worth training without goggles to prepare for this eventuality?
A. The simple answer is 'be prepared', whatever your level. If you want to find out how reliant you are on your goggles swim a length of the pool without them and note your sense of direction and technique.
Record the time it takes you to swim a set distance with goggles on and then goggles off. If your goggles do come off in a race there are two obvious steps you can take: put them back on or continue without them.
If the first is an option you should stop, tread water and fit your goggles back on, ensuring a secure and comfortable fit. This shouldn't take more than 10 seconds, which, for most, is of little consequence in a race. Practising putting them back on in deep water will ensure you can minimise any delay.
However, you may not be able to retrieve your goggles, which means you have to carry on; or you may simply feel you can finish without them. Sighting in open water presents specific challenges. Visibility is poorer in open water so you have to sight by observing obvious markers outside the water rather than lines under the water, as in a pool.
You need to lift your head forward and clear water from your eyes above the surface to sight ahead. Practising sighting without goggles in the pool will help reduce the time required to adjust to this situation and will mean you are less likely to panic.
With goggles you may have used far-away markers such as buoys, hills and buildings but without them you will probably have to limit your sighting to closer markers, such as fellow swimmers, or obvious markers such as the sun - just don't stare directly at it.
Prevention is better than cure; to keep your goggles on try to avoid being in the thick of the action, with the associated flailing arms and legs. Also, a low, tucked-in head position, rather than a higher head, will keep your goggles away from potential kicks and swinging arms.
Simon Murie is the founder of SwimTrek (swimtrek.com), which offers open-water swimming and coaching camps, and holidays, in the UK and overseas. He is a qualified swim coach and an experienced swimmer, with a solo crossing of the English Channel to his name. He is passionate about introducing open-water swimming to the uninitiated as well as finding new locations for experienced swimmers and triathletes.