I went to Sandy Pt today as my first test for a OWS--honestly after swimming in it I am feeling pretty daunted about the swim part of the tri. Does anyone know how the Potomac compares to Sandy Pt with current and choppiness?
Appreciate any insights--thanks.
Depends on the state of the surf at Sandy Point. On the whole the Potomac is likely tougher than Sandy Point. Current is greater, chops are decent depending on the weather. Current is in your face going out, but you get it in your back coming back. Then you have to turn into the current again as you finish. Bouys every 100m this year. I mean they can't make sighting any easier. But be realistic about it.
i dunno, i think that sandy point is more rough, you have to deal with the waves and the water has some actual chop to it. ive only swam in the potomac twice (nations last year and the practice swim the day before nations), but it was pretty smooth.
I think that I have to agree with Simon on this one. If you search this forum on the ITU race, which was the same swim course and occurred in June of last year, you will find that a lot of people complained afterward about the choppiness of the water as well as the current. I watched that race from shore as well as replays of the race on Universal Sports and it looked pretty rough from my vantage point. They had some pros who talked about the roughness of the water that day. You don't have the wave swells that you might have at Sandy Point but you do see a lot more choppiness ... at least at the ITU race last year.
As far a Sandy Point, I swim there a lot. I've seen it as rough as the ocean and as smooth as glass. Like Simon said, it's all weather dependent. The same can be said about the Potomac. Some days you look out there and it looks like a pond while others it looks pretty choppy.
I think for you the bigger issue is your inexperience in the open water. All of us, at least for those of us who are poor to average swimmers, at some point have felt what you've felt this past weekend when we hit the open water for the first time. The water can be as smooth as glass and you would probably have felt the same uneasiness as you did this past weekend. It's kind of natural to feel that way but at the same time it doesn't go away by wishful thinking about having smoother waters. Race day with the crowd and people hitting you also bring other challenges. The only way to overcome that is to get as much open water swim in as you can from now until race day. The more that you are out in the open water, the more at ease you will feel.
Heck, I've swam an Ironman in the ocean and the open waters still scares the living daylight out of me. It's a good thing I'm pretty :)
Monica, assuming you were out there on Sunday, I think you got to experience a bit of a current. I was there Sunday morning, and there was definitely a push toward the shore, and when you made the turn away from the shore you had to deal with some waves. But it was definitely not "bad" conditions, and it could possibly be worse in the Potomac on race day. Each experience with open water swimming can be unique, so there is no way to say if race day will be similar. Go to Sandy Point again for another swim before the race and see if things go better. The first time can be tough.
Yeah, do the OWS training we're advertising on the Buzz on the front page with the Washington DC Tri folks and you should be fine. If you hear swimmers and old-schoolers grumbling about how easy the swims are nowadays, you should take heart. So here it is: they've made this so easy, with the pier start and the bouys every millimeter that unless you absolutely cannot swim, you can make it. Kudo's to the great staff there. Take a look at the swim diagram. It looks like a kiddie pool. Seriously, you should be able to make this swim - unless you didn't do your training.
I also swam in the Potomac twice last year (both the Dextro and Nation's) and I'm actually looking forward to swimming in it again!
I am a weak swimmer in open water. Though I can pound out the meters in a pool with ease, I've had a range of panic attacks and hyperventilation episodes in open water, even the shallow, glassy kind. I had to backstroke the first 300 meters of Columbia this year to get my respiration rate to come down. It just happens to me, even after 10 triathlons. I focus on exhaling, blowing bubbles, starting slowly, and eventually my stroke returns.
For reasons I can't explain--perhaps the level of volunteer support, the vast number of participants, the fact that you can see the whole course from the pier, or the fact that it is a very familiar river--the Potomac hasn't caused me panic, and here's hoping that continues!
Yes, there is a fairly strong current for the upstream portion, and you'll have to tread water in a forward direction at the start just to stay in place, but man, let me tell you how FAST you'll feel when you turn around!
You can see about to your elbow in the Potomac--not bad compared with how murky and weedy some lakes can be. The "nice" thing about the chop (if there is any) is that you're taking it head on and not on the side, which becomes an issue if waves are crashing on my right because I'm incapable of breathing on the left. Duh.
Anyway, I hope this helps. If anything, just know that it is natural to be anxious in open water, and you can overcome it. I have no shame about rolling onto my back if I need to. This *is* open water we are talking about! Safety first! There is no pride!
Abby actually brings up a really good point. There is a lot of pressure in sports like this to "power through", but I think in open water swims that can really hurt you. Its easy to get really frazzled and skyrocket your heartrate, which will ultimately slow your swim and really come back to haunt you on the run. At Nations last year, I got really worked up in the first few minutes of the swim, stuck in a pack with fast and big people. I swam to the side, floated on my back for 15-20 seconds and got my breath down, then gradually build speed and felt great the whole swim. Remember that "wasting" 30 seconds sometimes can save you minutes on the back end.