The last 3 Sundays at 8 a.m. we have braved the cold Pacific Ocean for an open water swim. We swim about 2,000 meters in total but spend a lot of time in the water since we first make our way out past the waves, wait for everyone to group up, then swim half the distance, wait for everyone to group up again, and head back. In total, we are in the water anywhere from 35-60 minutes, depending the size of the surf. I always come out of the water with numb feet and a numb face. I literally am slurring my words because I can’t move my mouth correctly! Sometimes it takes up to 30 minutes for my feet to stop being numb after I get out of the water. To say the least, I need all the help I can get to keep warm on race day!
If you are also going to be swimming in arctic waters this year (i.e. CdA lake with a temperature of 56 degrees last year), here are some tips for keeping warm (thanks to Triathlete Magazine and Active.com):
- Use two swim caps (one latex if possible) or a neoprene swim cap
- Use swim booties. Personally, I purchased Blue Seventy’s Swim Socks: http://blueseventy.com/products/detail/swim_socks/
- Put Vaseline on your face to insulate it
- Wear ear plugs. When the temperature is below 60 it is a good idea to avoid getting water in your ear where it can cool your core body temperature down.
- Do a 10-15 minute warm-up on land to warm your body. This way you won’t waste energy on chattering teeth as you wait for your wave to start.
- Once you get in the water on race day, immediately put your face in the water and blow bubbles out of your mouth. Put some water down the front of your suit to get your body acclimated to the cold. You don’t want your face to hit the water for the first time after the gun goes off because the water temperature may shock you and also cause your lungs to contract, causing breathing problems.
Each week I’ve added a layer to my swim attire. The first week I wore just a swim suit with a wet suit and one latex swim cap. The 2nd week I added swim booties that I purchased. The next week I added a second latex swim cap. I was warmer with each week yet at the end of each swim my face and feet were still numb, no matter what I tried. After researching it a bit, I think I may try the ear plugs and possibly purchase a neoprene cap. I am most likely not going to try the Vaseline since I don’t really want it to sticking around on my face for several hours into the race.
I actually read in a race report from 2009 CdA that there was hot tubs in T1 for people to warm-up in. I seriously think I will be hitting those up if they are there again in 2012!!! I don’t care about 1-2 minutes off my total time if it means I am not spending the first 30 miles of the bike with my teeth chattering and shivering.
Have you ever competed in a race with very cold water? What did you do to keep warm?