Da Nang, Vietnam, 2018.
The waves at Da Nang tend to be pretty big. Nothing that a surfer would really be impressed by but enough to intimidate a few of the swimmers.
So before the race had started, I, and about every other athlete was getting in a nice warm-up swim. We wanted to get used to the surf and make sure we were comfortable defeating those big waves.
As I was exiting the water, my friend Alan, right next to me, started walking once he could stand. He had thought he was in the clear but all of a sudden a huge wave hit him from behind and knocked him down.
Lesson #1: Swim as far as you can – don’t stand up and walk until your hands are touching sand.
As my first swimming coach taught me, “Run in, swim out.”
The wave hit him so hard his googles got smashed. Which leads me to…
Lesson #2: Bring backup goggles.
Incidentally, Alan had also booked his room right next to the swim start (see tip #49), and he had an extra pair of goggles in his room.
He was able to grab before those the race started.
Pro triathlete Callum Millward offered that same tip recently, “Bring two pairs of googles to the race start. Once I snapped a pair before a race.”
But then I got to thinking – what if Alan hadn’t brought spare goggles or if his room was too far away for him to go get them in time?
Or what if any of us lost our goggles during the swim?
That’s lesson #3: Learn to swim with your eyes open.
Some people have a really hard time doing this, especially in saltwater. Growing up, I had always done it, so it doesn’t bother me, but I can see why it would.
Needless to say, you can’t see jack.
Sure, it burns for a second, but in a good way. Then it goes away quickly.
However, I didn’t try doing this for a whole year after it had crossed my mind.
But when I came back to Da Nang the next year, (2019), on the practice swim the day before, I actually forgot my goggles.
Coincidentally, this was the same place where Alan’s had broken. And though my goggles were just in my room nearby, I figured I’d go ahead and do the swim without any.
By swimming with no goggles, I was able to build my confidence should I lose them or break them. Also, it forced me to sight properly, something I struggle with.
Since I couldn’t look down at all or really even see the guy in front of me, I had to pop my head up and look ahead.
When I asked around about other people’s experiences with goggle losses, surprisingly a third example from Da Nang came up, this one from coach Colin O’Shea:
“Yes, it has happened to me on a few occasions – one was at IM 70.3 Vietnam where it was a 1.9km swim and as I dived under a wave at the start the goggles went loose and I decided to cut them loose. So I just swam the race with no goggles. The eyes were a bit sore after but as a kid I lifeguarded on the beach in Ireland and the US (Myrtle Beach :)) so you needed to be comfortable without goggles.’
“Also Super League Singapore I lost it at the start but that was only 300m with no goggles.”
So while this tip was originally supposed to be just, “Learn to swim with your eyes open” I see it is actually three tips in one.