Triathlete and ultra-marathoner, Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches practices open water swimming as part of his sports routine. This year, he will swim the 5 km of the Traversée du Lac Tremblant. Discover his athlete’s tips to prepare for your summer challenge.

TLT: Hello Antoine! What type of swimmer are you?

AJD:I’d say that I‘m first and foremost a triathlete, but I like to challenge myself in sports such as doing ultra-marathons or open water competitions.

TLT: When and how did you get into open water swimming?

AJD:I’ve been doing triathlon for over 15 years, so I’ve been training in open water for a long time. I did my first open water competition, a 10 km in Magog about ten years ago, then I took part in two 5 km in recent years, but my biggest open water competition was the 12 km Traversée du Lac Tremblant last year. I really enjoyed my experience, and it made me want to participate in other open water events.

TLT: What would you say to swimmers who would like to get started?  Why do you think one should swim in open water?

AJD:Open water swimming is a very beautiful sport. There are distances for all levels or for all preferences.  Swimming in open water is really different than swimming in a pool. You feel free, you don’t need to count your lengths, so it’s much more relaxing. I would say that open water swimming versus pool swimming is a bit like trail running versus road running. It’s a much more enjoyable experience.

TLT: What do you particularly like about open water swimming?

ADJ: I like the fact that it’s as much a physical challenge as it is a mental one. In my opinion, the mental aspect is even more important than in a triathlon, cycling or running competition, since there are far fewer distractions. Your head’s in the water, and you have to keep at it, even when it’s difficult, when you’re tired and your muscles are sore. Also, I love training in open water. I find it very relaxing. There’s a feeling of freedom that you don’t find when swimming in a pool.

Credit photo: Alexandra Côté-Durrer

TLT: Okay! At the Traversée du Lac Tremblant we like to think that swimming in open water is like swimming the wilderness. Besides, going from the pool to the lake requires special preparation. How are you preparing for an open water swimming event?

ADJ: Most of the year I swim with the Université de Sherbrooke swim team, but when the open water swimming season starts, I add a few open water sessions to my training. I do long sessions continuously or more specific workouts in open water, for example, sessions with long intervals between 750 m and 1500 m. If I am preparing for a 5 km, after a warm-up I could do a 4 x 1000 m session at swimming speed with a little rest between each interval.

TLT: How far will you swim at the Traversée du Lac Tremblant? Can you give us some advice on preparing for such a distance?

ADJ: I’m going to swim the 5 km. It is important to swim continuously for a long time without taking breaks. Swimming 1 hour continuously in open water is not the same as swimming 1 hour in the pool since you cannot take breaks to rest.

If you’re thinking of swimming with a wetsuit, it’s important to train with the wetsuit, since the feeling in the water is not the same. Your shoulders will probably feel more tired. Also, remember to use “Body Glide” so that your wetsuit doesn’t irritate your neck when you’re swimming for a long time.

Also, if you’re doing a long open water event, it’s important to follow your race nutrition strategy as well as your pre-race nutrition strategy. Never eat foods that you’re not used to eating on your race day.

Finally, don’t forget the mental aspect. Personally I prepare mantras, words or phrases that I repeat to myself during the competition. Also, I visualize the race days before the competition.

TLT: Thank you for the great advice! Do you have an anecdote to tell us from one of your open water exploits?

AJD: Yes! My first open water competition was a 10 km that I decided to do at the last minute. Right from the start, water started to get into my glasses and since I wear contact lenses, I had a lot of trouble seeing the buoys. Also, I hadn’t brought enough food. After only 1/3 of the race, I had no more food. Moreover, it started raining very hard and there were big waves. I was hungry, cold and had no energy, but I finished anyway. It was a very difficult competition, but I learned a lot from my mistakes. Afterwards, I told myself I would never do an open water competition again, but a few hours later I already wanted to get back into open water!

TLT: Haha! For sure, after you’ve been swimming in open water, it is difficult not to go back again… Thank you Antoine, we can’t wait to see you this summer at the Traversée du Lac Tremblant!

Credit photo : Alexandra Côté-Durrer

Follow Antoine and be part of the adventure at the Traversée du Lac Tremblant! Choose your challenge: 1 km Desjardins, 2 km, 3 km, 5 km, 10 km, 15 km ULTRASWIM or 15 km Team.