Arrive to the race start with plenty of time. You want to avoid rushing when putting on your wetsuit. To prevent tears, use BodyGlide, go slowly and pinch the neoprene instead of digging into it. You must wear your race cap but you may want your regular cap underneath for extra warmth. Prepare your goggles by using an anti-fog treatment. I find that Foggle wipes work best.
Entering the Water
With a beach start, run straight into the water until about hip deep, then dolphin dive. This involves using a butterfly-like stroke while diving down. You can grab the sand with your hands to help propel you forward. Put your feet down and push off the bottom. Repeat as necessary until you are past the waves and the water gets deeper. Practice this start either in a shallow pool or at the beach to master the skill.
Does that technique sound completely impossible? Less experienced competitors should just try to enter the water as smoothly as possible. Concentrate on staying relaxed and calm.
Deep-water starts involve treading water while waiting for the horn. A wetsuit really helps here both in terms of providing buoyancy and warmth. If you can find a dock to grasp while waiting, utilize that to save your energy. Be mindful of your positioning in the water. Give the elite swimmers room and place yourself according to your pace.
Starting the Race
The hardest and the most stressful part of open water swimming is the start. Starts can be crazy. Expect to get knocked around: arms may collide, someone’s elbow may land on your goggles, or a fellow competitor may swim over you. Preparation offers the best way to handle this. Mimic this crowded situation as much as possible during practice. The more you have been bumped, the less it will impact your race focus. You should also expect to sprint the first few hundred yards. Serious competitors will want to power through the start to get ahead of the pack. Beginners, on the other hand, may choose to hang back a bit and allow the crowd to move forward first. If you feel very uncertain, stick to the sides and back of the race. Be mindful of starting out too fast and getting overwhelmed. The excitement of the start may push you to swim harder than you should, leaving you struggling to finish.