We are back into the routine now Friday morning ocean swims. With my first glimpse of the water this morning I knew we were in for it... plenty of surf out there and the water just looked bumpy. I don't mind those conditions but I'm definitely better in them when I'm exposed to them often and recently we haven't been in the ocean much so I had a feeling it might be sort of an ugly swim. I do remember last spring in the build up to Honu we swam this water every Friday morning for ~5 weeks in a row and seemed like every week it got bumpier and bumpier but I could feel how I was adapting and getting stronger because of it. Given that experience I felt mentally/emotionally up for the challenge today.
As I was battling the rough conditions I was really trying to pinpoint how I was adjusting/adapting my stroke to be most effective. There's just no way that a nice pretty "pool stroke" would be effective in super chop. I came to the conclusion that these are the thing(s) that matter...
~Stroke needs to be highly effective underwater but really only the first ~3/4 of the stroke. Having a strong finish to your stroke doesn't help much in super chop. It's a matter of holding a high amount of tension from wrists through your armpits. A couple times I felt myself get lazy (or fatigued) and just sort of let my arms noodle their way through the water and that is just not at all effective- ever- but especially not in chop.
~Turnover needs to be quick. It doesn't matter how you get your arms through the recovery phase (bent or straight elbow- either way- fine) but there needs to be a quicker rhythm about it. No dead spots. No gliding forward as your hand enters. No long finish at the back of the stroke. No long intended breaths. Just whip your arm back up to the front and get to the effective part of your stroke.
~You need to be okay with not being able to site very effectively. Most of the time when you look up to breathe, you're just going to see water/waves in front of you. It's really best to be able to site something on land that is far away and trust that you're generally going in the right direction.
~You need to be okay with salt water in your mouth and up your nose and in your throat. That's just part of ocean swimming, especially when its rough. Accept this because it's just part of it.
~You need to develop confidence that you're going to be just fine. I do think the best way to develop this confidence is really to expose yourself to rough conditions at every opportunity. I used to HATE rough ocean conditions. HATED THEM. But then I kept trying and eventually figured out to not fight it and accept it for what it is and then everything got better from there. Now I genuinely like rough conditions, but I think a lot of that is because I know I have a GIANT advantage over most competitors when its rough... because most people don't practice enough in the rough to learn how to positively embrace it.
~Some people complain about nausea or feeling 'sea sick'. Maybe not in every case, but in many cases, this is all in your head. As soon as you let your brain go negative (which is easy to do when you're being slapped in the face and are choking on salt water every time you attempt to breathe) you can start thinking all sorts of bad stuff and one of those things is about being nauseous. I've done this before too and if I start thinking about being nauseous, I totally get nauseous! The key there is to not even let those thoughts enter your head space. That goes along with the confidence I mentioned above. Being confident helps keep your head in the positive space.
All this might sound like swimming in small craft advisory conditions is a complete nightmare, but honestly, once you mentally accept it for what it is, it's super fun! Mark and I stayed in and body surfed a bit at the end, got pummeled a few times in white water crashing right over us, and got out feeling exhilarated! Mark's comment as we were walking to the showers was spot on... Well that was a hell of a lot more fun than a pool swim!!