...and Tri-wannabe's or Open-Water enthusiasts. The publication of Triathlon Swimming Made Easy is an occasion for us to put special emphasis and provide specialized advice to those interested in triathlon or open-water swimming. To help your goals _ and to allow for further discussion of topics covered in Triathlon Swimming Made Easy, we are launching a new thread on the Total Immersion Discussion Board: Triathlon Swimming. Terry Laughlin and Mark Wilson (USA Triathlon Certified Coach and Total Immersion Certified Coach) will answer your questions on triathlon swimming. Don Walsh, our marathon swimming guru will probably visit from time to time as well. If you have questions or comments on running or cycling, post them on If you have questions on swimming, we promise this will be the best place for practical advice that works. And as with our other discussion topics, we invite all visitors to share their discoveries, insights and knowledge with others in a virtual learning community. To participate, just log in at:

And here is the very first question and answer posted at the new thread. Topic: Swimming in a straight line - Open Water (1 of 1), Read 8 times Conf: Triathlon Swimming From: John Mok ( Date: Wednesday, May 15, 2002 04:46 PM

Triathlon is new to me & I only swim in local pools in the past. In a pool, there is a black line to guide me. When I swim in open water, should I lift my head up to check the distance? If yes, how often? Any suggested drills that I can practice in a pool? I understand lifting the head up is against the TI teaching principle. Are there other options? John

Topic: Swimming in a straight line - Open Water (2 of 2), Read 2 times Conf: Triathlon Swimming From: Terry Laughlin ( Date: Wednesday, May 15, 2002 11:03 PM

John: Congratulations on posting the first query on our new thread. I'll do my best to give you some ideas. Actually, lifting your head isn't against TI teaching. We do want you to look down when you're NOT getting your bearings, but looking up _ cleverly _ is a smart strategy in open water swimming. I'll reprint an excerpt from the new book, Triathlon Swimming Made Easy, to give you some ideas and suggestions. You can order the book here on the website.

Each summer, I divide my swim training between an outdoor 50-meter pool in New Paltz, and several lakes in the nearby Shawangunk Mountains. At the pool, I swim at slack times, but with no lane lines so I sometimes have to weave through bathers who wander into my lane, giving me "open-water practice" of a sort. I can get even better open-water simulation in the pool by doing all of the following:

Swimming "blind." Swimming in a 50-meter pool (particularly one without lane lines) gives me a great opportunity to test how straight I swim when not following a line. Because it takes me about 40 strokes to swim a length, I can easily swim 20 to 30 strokes with my eyes closed (only when the pool is not crowded) and see how far I've wandered from the line where I started. This will help me pick a frequency for sighting when I race. (Read more below.) Sighting. Once or twice each length, I can breathe and sight to the front, specifically practicing my ability to maintain my balance and rhythm as I do so. I can combine this with blind swimming -- opening my eyes only when I lift my head -- for an even more accurate simulation of the open water experience. (Find more guidance below.) Drafting. I sometimes "draft" a few friends to come swimming with me and we practice close-order drafting, swimming in tight single file down the pool, with the leader dropping to the end of the line at each wall. (More detail to follow.) Porpoise. At the shallower end of the pool, I (or we) can begin the length with 3 or 4 porpoises before we begin stroking. We work on efficient, low-angle porpoising -- channeling energy forward as we dive toward the bottom and back toward the surface, and on grabbing the bottom and pushing off quickly.

At Williams Lake (where I did my first outdoor swim this afternoon), I swim with a group of triathletes (they were all wearing wetsuits today, while I swam "nekkid"), which offers the opportunity to rehearse situations I might encounter in a race. Each lake crossing is about 400 meters; we cross 4 to 8 times each session. I choose a specific focus for each crossing, which gives my lake practice far more value than if I just swam for time or distance. Here are the important ones:

Look This Way Without a line to follow, any swimmer will eventually travel in a circle; the best swimmers in a 10-mile circle while others might splash within the turning radius of a VW. In open water, you stay the course by occasionally sighting on landmarks, buoys, or swim caps. Practice can help you do that without losing your balance and flow. Here's what I practice: Look less often. When your technique improves, so should your ability to swim straighter. I test mine by swimming considerable distances without looking. It usually takes me about 320 strokes to cross the lake (yes, I count even there), so I'll often begin a crossing by taking 100 "blind" strokes (without checking my bearings) to see how straight I swim. If I've gone considerably off, I'll take fewer strokes before looking again. This gives me a pretty fair sense of how often to look in a race. Sight smart. As we swim westward, our target is a dead tree angled into the water. Coming east, we swim toward a dock. Complicating the westward trip is sun glare that obscures the dead tree until we move into shadow, about 50 meters from the shore. How do I sight for the first 350 meters? On the bluff above the shore the treeline dips slightly just right of the spot we're aiming for. So I sight on the dip in the treeline until we reach the shadows. Heading east, the dock isn't clearly visible until the last 100 meters, so I use two buildings behind it, one a bit to its right and one to its left, to "triangulate." While warming up for a race, check for landmarks and other features that can help guide you when visibility is compromised. Sight seamlessly. Sometimes the lake is almost as calm as pool water. When it is, I practice "surfing" my goggles barely over the surface, using my extending arm for support as I lift my head up and forward. Staying that low is far less tiring than holding my head aloft for several strokes in a row, but I may not get a completely clear picture. This sighting style is so easy to fit into my normal stroke rhythm that if I didn't get a complete picture, I assemble one by taking a series of "snapshots." And when windchop kicks up on the lake, I adjust by lifting just a bit higher or by taking more snapshots. These techniques help me maintain seamless balance and flow.

Excerpted from Triathlon Swimming Made Easy, Chapter 21"Open Water Practice"