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Tip if you swallow water: If you swallow water and have to cough it up, don’t lift your head out of the water, if you lift your head out of the water you will do the whole full body spasm coughing fit thing, if you keep your head completely under water your body will gently cough it up and your body won’t let you swallow any more water. If you can you can even keep swimming with out breaking your stroke because coughing with your head under the water is much more gentle than lifting your head up.
Can’t breath: I was also totally freaked out by this when I started, the only way to get over it is to swim in your wetsuit more, it took me about a year of racing to get used to the feeling of a tri-top and wetsuit around my chest. If you feel constricted just remember – breast stroke is totally fine, it’s less efficient but also less scary. A lot of folks wind up breast stroking about half of their first races.
Sighting/breathing in choppy water: This was probably more of an issue Saturday than Sunday. If the water is choppy (waves), and the waves are coming from your left, breath on your right side and vice versa, that’s why we keep hammering in bilateral breathing. Also if the waves are coming at you head on, feel the rise in the water and try to do your sighting/breathing at the top of each wave. That way you won’t get a face full of water.
On gloves I really discourage you from racing with gloves or biking with extra layers unless its really cold, I saw a number of you struggling halfway up the hill to get gloves on instead of focussing on where you were going and your pedaling, plus they are an aerodynamic disadvantage. As far as extra layers for the bike, your tri-kit is designed to dry off really quickly, so the extra shirts are generally just holding cold damp cloth close to your skin making you colder, also they are a huge aerodynamic disadvantage. It’s still up to you to guage the conditions though. If you really will be freezing and shivering then do what you need to do. I raced my Ironman with weather in the low 40’s and 25mph winds, I put on a dry tight fitting bike jersey, arm warmers, and regular bike gloves and I was fine after the first 15 minutes for the duration of the 6 hour bike ride. It’s up to you and your body though. Remember there’s no nudity in triathlons so it’s only full Ironmans where you have the option of full wardrobe changes.