by Carl O’Donnell: Former New Zealand Swimming Champion and 2012 London Olympian
Many swimmers finish an open water swim and feel they could’ve swum it differently. If you reserve yourself too much you might finish with energy left in the tank, but going all out from the start risks burning out too soon. Pacing your swim will come naturally with training and experience. See my tips below for the best way to pace your event in the Banana Boat Ocean Swim Series.
If you’re new to open water or distance swimming, the key is to learn to build. Start slow, relax and begin to find your rhythm. Once you’re settled you can build your pace into the swim and be working really hard by the end. This tactic avoids getting caught up in the energy sapping frenzy of the start, and allows you to finish strongly. A great way to practice building in the pool is to swim sets where you increase your pace for each repetition. For example, swim 8x50m with each 50 getting faster.
For competitive swimmers, race pacing is about finding balance. You need to start hard to keep up with a fast pack, but also keep something in the reserves to speed up for the finish. It is common in open water races for the early leader to start too fast, only to fade away by the finish. This usually happens due to lack of pace control or nerves taking over. Not many swimmers can maintain their maximum pace for very long, so you need to be patient and controlled. What feels like an easy pace when you’re fresh can quickly become a tough pace to maintain when you’re fatigued after a couple of kilometres.
Getting your pacing right will improve your results and make you feel more satisfied with your swim. See you all at the Banana Boat Ocean Swim Series with your race pace faces on!
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Carl was a competitive swimmer for 20 years. He was number one in New Zealand in the 100m freestyle for 3 consecutive years and represented New Zealand at the London Olympic Games in 2012. After a break from swimming, Carl was challenged to an ocean swimming race by a friend. He has been hooked ever since and now competes in the Banana Boat New Zealand Ocean Swim Series each year. Carl’s passion for swimming has lead him to start his own swim coaching business, SWIM360. SWIM360 offers swim coaching and squads to swimmers of any level looking to improve their swimming.