Can I use a snorkel?
A question new triathletes sometimes have is; can they use a snorkel during the swim portion of a triathlon race? Here is the answer according to USAT rules:
A. Actually, yes. Since it does not propel you forward, the use of a snorkel is allowed under USAT rules.
Well, I think I would be too embarrassed to show up to a race with a snorkel, but it is interesting to know they are allowed. However, if you are a fairly new swimmer, you might want to consider using a snorkel to help you get more comfortable in the water.
Finis makes a snorkel that is marketed to triathletes, which retails for around $35. My husband has seen a triathlete swimming laps at our local YMCA that occasionally brings his snorkel with him when he wants to swim a FAST couple of laps. My triathlon coach doesn't recommend using the snorkel for pool training, but he did recommend I get a snorkel to use while practicing swimming in the ocean.
Why would a coach recommend a snorkel? I have extreme anxiety whenever I try doing an open water swim in the ocean, well, at least on days when there are huge waves. Getting in and out of the surf causes a major panic attack, and I basically just bob along in the water, and don't do anything resembling swimming.
My coach recommends getting a snorkel and doing a lot of ocean swims. He says I need to learn how to relax and have fun in the ocean. A snorkel should help prevent anxiety and not feel like I can't breath. I need to get my head in the water and actually swim, not bob around, when I'm in the ocean if I want any chance of being able to do a triathlon where the swim portion takes place in the ocean. My husband is a fish in the water, and loves body surfing. He says I need to stop fighting the waves and let them push me to shore. Easy for him to say.
Above: Members of spring 2011 south county Palm Beach Team in Training triathlon team. Bike Diva is the terrified looking one in the white swim cap, and this photo was taken BEFORE we went into the water.
Bike Diva in the Ocean
Here are some comments I made to my Facebook page after a recent attempt at an ocean swim. The Team in Training triathlon team had just completed a bike-to-run brick workout at the Boynton Beach Inlet.
Bike Diva: Coach Louis Blanco, thanks for dragging my a#s through the ocean 2x today. Holly crap those waves scared the bejesus out of me! Coach's prediction: "I see a lot of ocean swim practices in your immediate future." Guess I have homework before FAU and ST. Anthony's triathlons.
Bike Diva: But the good news for the rest of the TNT Tri team, if the girl who has major water phobia could actually go out 2x in today's waves, then y'all should have no problem. And props to Louise, Miss Fish, the only one without a wetsuit to go in the ocean, awesome!
Coaches reply: Lynn, you can do this. I know that it is cliche, but you have to believe in yourself. I would go to the beach as often as possible and just have fun snorkeling, bodysurfing, etc.
Bike Diva: Have fun? In the water? R-I-G-H-T. Maybe I can take a sedative before my tri's - zzzzzzzz. HA! My competitive side won't let me quit. Luckily I only compete against me, myself and I. Unfortunately those beyatches are really competitive. :)
Bike Diva: This mornings swim technique = deer in the headlights. Yeah, major panic, didn't like those waves, everything I learned about swimming sucked right of my brain today. Didn't like getting goggles sucked off head first time going out, luckily... I caught them before they washed out to sea. Didn't like getting power slammed into the ocean bottom first time coming back to shore. But not going to let all my phobias slow me down. LOTS of room for improvement during open water swims, always look on the positive side of things. Some people find this tri swim stuff fun!?!
Bike Diva's Final Conclusion
I probably won't go out and buy the Finis snorkel, but my husband used to be a diver so I think we have a regular snorkel or two laying around the house somewhere. Now we just have to find the time to get over to the ocean and do some practice swims. That's not the kind of thing I can do by myself, need to have a least one person with me in case I run into trouble. And I have to remember, on race day, there will be lots of volunteers in the water to help the swimmers should they have any problems. At the first triathlon we did last month, there were 3 kayak's, 2 jet skiers and 2 rescue boats filled with lifeguard and Coast Guard volunteers.
So if I do decide to practice any open water swims while wearing a snorkel, I will be sure to get a picture or two taken. :)
Lynn Smythe AKA the Bike Diva