Triathletes face fears of swimming in open water

MALIBU, Calif. (KABC) -- Dr. Calvin Lowe is participating in his first triathlon this weekend at the Nautica Malibu Triathlon. Like many, he is afraid of the swimming leg of the race.

"When I'm out there, I'm already hyperventilating. My heartbeat's up, so I just have to pace myself," Lowe said.

Lowe isn't alone in his fears. He will be among the 5,000 people who are expected to turn out for the triathlon on Sunday morning. Participants will run 4 miles, bike 18 miles and swim half a mile off Zuma Beach.

South Pasadena resident Marlene Roberts, who recovered after a broken neck and back, focuses on mental preparation to get her through the swim.

Roberts does five triathlons each year and repeats this mantra as she goes in: "It's a Sunday afternoon and I'm going for a swim with a lot of people, and all I have to do is finish."

Pasadena resident Sarah Ingersoll refuses to swim solo.

"I can't do these things without my buddies so I have joined all three local tri-clubs," Ingersoll said.

Equinox's triathlon trainer Simon Gowen likes their efforts, but educates for physicality as well. He feels technical skills build confidence.

"The main things we're working on is making sure that every single person can do the whole distances and is comfortable doing those distances," Gowen said.

He also suggests playing in the waves and learning to duck dive past them to the break.

"When you're going through a wave, it requires a lot of energy and effort, plus a healthy dose of fear. Your heart rates going through the roof and you've got a lot of adrenaline in the system," Gowen said.

So what to do with all of that? Calm down. Slow down. Maybe float and relax.

Newbies should lag behind and stay to the side furthest away from the course turn, so as to not get overtaken by competitive athletes.

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