Inexpensive Swim Speed

Coach Mike Ricci getting his wetsuit on
January 25, 2017

Dave Sheanin


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Want to buy some speed?  How much can you get for about $14?  The answer: more than you might think.Consider new goggles.  Your swim split is determined by two major factors, speed and trajectory.  If you're a fast swimmer who doesn't navigate well in open water, you may come into T1 behind slower swimmers who are good navigators.  Speed is the result of countless hours of practice perfecting technique and building endurance in the water.  Trajectory is also the result of practice, but you can give yourself the best chance of navigating the shortest route around the course if you can see clearly.

If your goggles are more than a couple of months old, the anti-fog coating is probably gone, the lenses are probably scratched, and the gaskets and straps are probably compromised from the chlorine.  It's not to say they're unusable, it's just that they aren't in prime condition.  On race morning, you'll want to be sure you have the right equipment.

In open water, having a perfect view through your goggles is much more important than in the pool.  When you navigate, you only get a short window of time to peek forward.  If everything looks blurry because your goggles are fogged or scratched, you'll be slower.

The goggles you wear in the pool may not appropriate for open water racing.  Indoor goggles are usually clear or lightly tinted.  If you train outdoors, you might have a pair of metalized goggles that help you see in sunny environments.  There are different levels of tinting and there are even polarized goggles to help knock down glare.

Consider buying multiple goggles that you keep in your bag at least have a pair of clear/tinted and metalized versions.  Some types of goggles come in extra dark versions.  These extra dark tints are tough to wear when it's cloudy outside, but when you have one of those swim courses where some of the buoys are directly in front of the sun as it rises on a clear morning, it's almost an unfair advantage to have goggles that let you see the buoy when no one else can!  When you get to the beach on race morning, scope out the course then make the decision about what to wear depending on conditions sun or clouds and direction of the course (how much swimming into the sun).

Take care of your goggles by rinsing them with clear water after every swim.  The anti-fog coating in most goggles typically doesn't last very long but you can extend its life by not touching the inside of the lenses.  There are spray products that you can use to reapply a coating but I find they're often of pretty limited value.  Once the coating is worn off, I've had good luck with gently rubbing baby shampoo on the inside of the lenses then not quite thoroughly rinsing them out.  Saliva is also a decent anti-fog coating.  It has to be reapplied often, but luckily your tongue travels with you.  Lick the inside of your goggles just before you swim to clear fogging, at least temporarily.  Finally, goggles tend to fog if they're a lot colder than your skin or surrounding temperatures.  Keep them in your pocket on cold race mornings so they're ready to go when you hit the water for warmup.

There are many different styles of goggles so take the time to find a pair that fits and is comfortable.  While online stores are convenient and sometimes less expensive than shopping locally, there's no substitute for being able to try on goggles.  Head down to your local swim or tri shop and spend time checking out the selection.  Ask for help and advice.  (Be sure to buy from the shop don't go home and order online from somewhere else.  Bad karma!)

Since it's a bad idea to try anything new on race day, now is the time to buy goggles if you need them.  Try them out in the pool and at open water practice if possible.  You definitely want to know they fit and won't leak before the horn goes off for your wave.  Then on race day, enjoy your advantage.  (And one bonus tip: put your goggles on before your cap straps under the cap.)  Yup you just bought yourself a little speed.

Coach Dave is always prepared with four different types of goggles in his bag on race morning.

Coach Dave Sheanin is an advocate for aligning triathletes with their race goals. He believes that becoming “triathlon literate” is key to meeting your goals. Triathlon is indeed a lifestyle and like the other important areas of your life, knowledge is power. He encourages you to explore the nuances of the sport, be open to new ideas and ask questions – of yourself, of fellow swimmers, cyclists and runners, and of your coach.  

Coach Dave is a USA Triathlon and Training Peaks Certified Coach.  Coach Dave was honored by USA Triathlon with the Community Impact Award.

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