If you are a female triathlete or open water swimmer you are going to find that although the number of females getting into these sports is increasing there will still generally be more males on the start line. Unless you are racing in an elite field, males will be starting with you for both open water swims and triathlons.
Even if you are a decent swimmer, this can be nerve-wracking! Plus, although females can be rough in open water swims, the thought of a large male swimming over you can be scary!
Here are three tips about how to deal with swimming in an open water start being a girl!
Find a group of guys (and girls) to train with who you know will push you, this will be a great help to get you ready to take on an open water start if you are a girl! During your open water training, you should practice doing open water starts and exits. If you are racing on a beach, a beach start will be the most common race entry style used (rather than a deep water start or a pontoon start). All you need to do is line up and practice running in hard, doing a few dolphin dives and around 100 hard strokes before resting. Do the same coming in back to the beach and then practice running up to a marker on the beach. Use the boys speed to make you go faster and try to be as close to them as possible (…or try and beat them!)
If you are racing in a big triathlon or open water swim event, chances are you will want to do a few test races as part of your build up to your main event! This is a great way to get your body ready to race, as well as a good opportunity to practice the components of a race such as in’s and out’s and being in a field that may have lots of males. Standing shoulder to shoulder on a start line with a row of guys who seem to tower over you can be scary! If you feel confident in your ability to run into the water fast get on the front line of the race. When the gun goes, start fast to get out of the crowded mess of people. If you are really nervous about the run in, you could stand in the second row on the start line so all the really competitive participants can race in and you can make your way in at a pace you are comfortable with.
Get friends that are males to practice swimming close and (almost) on top of you so you can get used to the feeling without being in an actual race. This will help you panic less when you are in a race situation because you are more used to it! Girls can hold their own in male-dominated fields! The key is to be confident in your ability and to race aggressively so that you can hold your line. There will likely be times that you feel like you are getting swum over by giant whales, this isn’t usually that nice and can cause you to panic. The key is to stay calm, reset and try to get back into your rhythm as quickly as you can. For the faster females, quite often in a race, there are going to be males who are fast at the start but lack fitness to hold their pace. After this first part of the race, you will find a lot of them will drop off, giving you clear water! So the key with this is to ‘hang in there’ knowing that some of them are going to lose some steam quickly and your fitness will help you stay out in front.
It is also a great idea to talk to other girls and find out how they combat these kinds of start lines!
Natasha is an elite triathlete and has been racing competitively for 12 years. Natasha is passionate about open water swimming and sharing her ideas and knowledge for athletes interested in getting involved and improving their skills.