How Age And Experience Can Overcome Youth And Skill In Open Water

by SwimSwam 0

October 08th, 2017 Lifestyle

Courtesy of Eney Jones

Last year I had the pleasure of beating (but mostly meeting,) Olympian Lani Cabrera at the Barbados Open Water Festival. I say pleasure because she is a lovely and gracious woman who handled the situation with such poise and grace. How frustrating it must be to have a person 30 + years your senior beat you at your current game on your home island. Was I faster than she was? NO. (For comparison in Rio 2016 she went 4:28 for the 400-meter freestyle. In 1980 I went 4:11 for the 400-meter freestyle so at one time maybe I was but right now – NO. Was I better trained than she was? NO. The only thing I had going for me was my age with which comes experience, finally something good coming with getting older. I have done hundreds of open water races and triathlons. Here are the top 5 things I have learned in my old age.

Stay Present – In open water the conditions are ALWAYS changing. Heighten your awareness.

On the last buoy, Lani swam too close to shore. I tried to guide and angle out and make her aware but because I was on the shoreside of her I finally had to do a halfback rollover to get where I wanted to go. When she saw where I was going it was too late for her to catch me.

Swim high in the water – Manipulate your body position so that you ride higher in the water. Then you are moving thru air, which is lighter than water, it is easier. It makes sighting much easier and you have access to alligator sighting and pirate sighter with ease. For more information look at the articles on this website

Increase your tempo – In open water it is important to have a tempo that is faster especially thru the air. I call it split tempo

A faster tempo with a committed and deeper CATCH (think 45 degrees forward and down) will help you hold your line. In the POWER PHASE think of pushing the water back with the full surface area of the arm. I call this happy family or full ore, shoulder, elbow and wrist together. And in the final PROPULSION phase. Hand speed is the fastest. The hand speed underneath goes slow to fast and then thru the air goes slow to fast. It is SPLIT with a different tempo underneath and above.

Enjoy your surroundings – Open water events are held in some of the most beautiful places in the world and attract some of the most interesting people. Look around. Talk to people. Explore. If your fitness has enabled you to enter a race and your finances have gotten you there, you are WINNING. I can’t show up at a pool race and go head to head with OLYMPIANS but in open water you can. Here are two wonderful races to check out. and  Have fun and include your family.

Unlike a triathlon where it takes most of the day an open water event is done in a few hours. Smile. You have gotten your exercise and now even if family is still asleep you can get them up and get going. Because of your lifestyle, discipline, but mostly age and experience. YOU GET TO DO THIS. With all the terrible events and tragedies in the world right now it is wonderful to focus on the good.

Age and experience can beat youth and skill –  (at least sometimes when there is no other explanation)  In old school philosophy there were no “participation” awards. If you won you were first, if not you lost. But the best way to get better in open water is to do open water events. Collect experiences. Even if you have a bad race you will learn something. I promise.

Did I beat Lani in the 2016 Barbados Open Water Festival? No, because the manner in which she got second was such a wonderful thing to see, it was winning. Now I watch the future of open water swimming and realize it is not about me but am so happy the pool swimmers are realizing it is a cool place to be. WE ALL WIN.


Eney Jones has achieved remarkably diverse success as a leading pool, open water and Ironman triathlon swimmer.

  • Masters National Champion 100-200-400-500-1500-1650 5k freestyle 2009
  • Open Water 5k Champion Perth Australia, May 2008.
  • National Masters Champion 200-400-1500 freestyle Champion, Portland Oregon, August, 2008.
  • Overall Champion Aumakua 2.4k Maui Hawaii, September 2008
  • Waikiki Rough Water Swim 3rd place 2006, second place Overall 2009, 3rd place 2012
  • European Record Holder and Masters Swimming Champion, 2005. Records included 200, 400, 800, 1500 m freestyle
  • Over twenty time finalist in U.S. Swimming Nationals, including Olympic Trials 1980
  • Gold medal NCAA 800 yd freestyle relay 1979, silver Medalist 200 yd freestyle 1979. United States National Team 1979-1980.
  • Professional Triathlete 1983-1991. First woman out of the water in every Hawaiian Ironman participated (6).

More about Eney Jones

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