So this weekend sees the State 5km Open Water Championships on Saturday and also the Rottnest "Rehearsal" qualifying event of 10km on Sunday, both at Sorrento beach. Some of you who will be attempting your first-ever Rottnest Channel Swim this year will be using the event on Sunday to qualify for the actual event in just 4 weeks time now on the 20th February and may be feeling a little apprehensive about what lies ahead. Here are my top-10 tips for surviving (& qualifying) for the event and looking forward to an excellent day in 4 weeks time - you've done the majority of the hard work and now need to enjoy the fruits of your labour!
- Know the qualifying time...to qualify for the Channel Swim, you must complete the 10km distance in under 4 hours and 15 minutes. This equates to 10 x 1km swims averaging faster than 25'30" per km or an average pace of 2'33" per 100m as a guide.
- Know the course: http://www.wa.swimming.org.au/documents/Public/Open%20Water%20Swimming/OWS%205%202010%20Sorrento.pdf
- Listen up to the briefing! Shelley Taylor-Smith, event referee, will be taking you all through a structured briefing on race morning. It is very important that you and your paddler listen in closely to this for details of where your paddler is allowed to assist you.
- Don't start off too fast! 10km is a long way! Start off comfortably and work your way into it. Pacing is absolutely essential and should not be guffawed at!
- Don't get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the start. With a field of over 150 swimmers it will be a little crowded at the start. Don't panic, keep focused and keep blowing those bubbles to keep you relaxed!
- Keep feeding / drinking regularly. Aim for fluid stops every 20-25 minutes or so and aim to drink ~200ml at these points. You should have your nutritional strategy honed now, so don't make any new changes today! I would recommend taking on some food / gel every second stop (~45 minutes), but don't forget to wash this down with some plain water (not sports drink!).
- Ask your paddler to gee you up a bit when needed. This is likely to be after ~6.5km. Their support will be crucial and this will be your first real test together before the big day!
- Swim straight through better sighting skills - see this clip of Ceinwen in action (Point # 4): http://www.swimsmooth.com/triathlon.html
- Know what to do when the going gets rough. Last year this course was quite lumpy. Don't fear this! If it is a little rough out there, adopt a slightly straighter arm recovery and increased your stroke rate a touch to combat the chop. This will give you more momentum and rhythm. Don't feel like you have to swim any faster / work harder to do this...think of it like riding a bicycle and hitting an uphill section, using your gears to reduce some of the load required and increase your cadence. Rhythm is essential in these conditions.
- Don't build it up into something that it's not! Those of you doing the solo are all more than fit enough now to complete the event in the required time. Don't panic about it. Break it down into km sections and when you get tired (and you will) just focus on the "here and now" of each individual stroke ticking along rather than how much further you have to swim. Having been away for 6 weeks and seeing the transformation in how much fitter and stronger (and browner!) you all look, I'm very confident that you will all excel on Sunday! Just keep it relaxed, enjoy yourself and see this as a stepping-stone to the Big Day. And, if it makes you feel any better, I personally found the Big Day (at twice the distance) easier than the 10km "Rehearsal" event last year - simply because I was another 4 weeks more prepared and more importantly was tapered nicely into the event. You are all carrying around a good bit of residual fatigue at the moment, so bear this in mind. And, if you exit Sunday's event thinking "Oh my god! There's no way I could do that all again!" - think again, because you can and I know you can! Here's to the last block of work then!
Hope this helps and good luck!