No, that isn't me looking at the Stampede eye candy.
It turns out Michelle has a buddy that lives on a lake! She asked nice, and Dan invited us to swim. Thank you so much Dan! It's been several years since I've been in my wet suit, and just as much of a struggle as ever to get it on. I last remember it being sort of snug in the shoulders, but today I got it up further, I think, and was noticing it snug on my biceps and forearms. A bit tight in the chest.
What throws off a lot of people about open water swimming is how murky the water often is, and no lines on the bottom. (Duh!) That means you have to look where you are going, which is totally opposite all the swim training to keep your head down.
The trick is called crocodile eyes. Just after you breathe, rather than roll back into the water looking down, you swivel your head so that your eyes point forward, just above the water line. Fix on some big object and make sure you're still heading towards it, then nod your head down into the water again. If you do it right you don't even break your swim stroke. There is a little bit of a tug in your back as you do this because you want to keep your feet near the surface.
I'm really short sighted, so I have to pick a BIG object. A white lakeside house with a white roof is good. Bright yellow boats at a dock are good. The (usually) orange buoys they put in the water to mark the turns are usually pretty good as well.
I used to have to look every other stroke, and I'd already be off course. Today I was really pleased that I could go a dozen strokes and still be headed in the right direction. If you're really good at keeping track, you can breath to the side that is closest to the shore. The more often you look, the smaller your corrections are, and the shorter distance you swim. It's trivially easy to add 100 m or more on a half iron course, and there's probably 2 high effort minutes more than you needed to do.
The wetsuit will help your buoyancy enormously, and will streamline your body. Do a light easy kick to save your legs for the bike and run. This helps get you flat in the water, which makes you go faster.
In the pool drafting is a no-no unless you arrange it first. If you're that close polite people assume you want to pass, and if you can only swim that fast because you're drafting, your buddy will be pissed they have to pass you next lap. But in an open water race, drafting is the name of the game. Find a pair of feet that are going straight and just a hair faster than you would normally swim. Then all you need do is keep track of the feet, with the occasional look to make sure your buddy isn't heading into the weeds.
In the pool we often look for a long relaxed stroke. In a race you are surrounded by other people and you have to defend your turf. You swim with your pod, and a bit of bumping and banging is good. You take a shorter, choppier stroke, with your elbows up and out to defend your head.
Tonight I practiced the crocodile eyes, and I'm pleased about how that went. I did some surges to see how various effort levels felt. I was feeling a bit off at first getting used to the suit and swimming after a meal, but got into the groove on the way back. We swam about a K down the lake, stopping to chat a couple times. I did most of the way back all in one go, pushing hard, then relaxing, and popping up to keep an eye out for Michelle.
All in all I'm really pleased how it went. Some days I regret not shelling out the money to buy a house on one of the lakes as they were being built, but they always seemed stupid expensive at the time. After a smoking hot day here, a dip in the lake was a wonderful way to cool off.