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Without doubt, the swim leg is about the most terrifying part of a triathlon for newcomers to the sport. Unless you were a collegiate swimmer or a mermaid like Daryl Hannah in the movie "Splash," you're probably not all that excited about piling into an open body of water with a few dozen or even hundreds of your closest friends in rubber suits. Rest assured, with our guidance and tips, you'll decrease that anxiety level to 11 on a 10-point scale.

One of the first things to understand is this: You will not die. Some have wished for death after quite lengthy swims, but it wasn't something thrust upon them. In any event, the aforementioned declaration holds true for both open water swims and those held in pools. The aforementioned statement also comes with the disclaimer that it may be false. OK, now that our lawyer has left, we can get down to business.


Now, where to start ... how about the beginning? The best way to feel confident in the water is to practice being in the water. This sounds silly, but it always is surprising to hear from folks who have yet to get in some swim training just a couple of weeks before their event. Many people just want to "get through" or "survive" the swim, offering qualifications such as "Well, I'm not going to win." Fine. But all of us, we suspect, want to do the best we can and getting through the swim can be a lot easier with a few laps under your belt. So, like they used to say in college, "EVERYONE INTO THE POOL!" Well, you must not have gone to Arizona State, then.

We know what you're thinking: "I can't swim." Right? Be honest. Fine. Whatever. Just know that many communities offer swim lessons. There are 2,663 YMCAs around the country, many of which have pools and swim lessons. And then there are all of the

fitness clubs and community centers out there offering the same thing. If that doesn't work, get a book or a DVD. When some of us here started swimming, nose and ear plugs were the only way to get through the ordeal. And look at us now. You have to start somewhere.

The great thing about swimming is that it doesn't take that much equipment. That said, what is it that you do need? A swimsuit, goggles, a towel and, perhaps, a swim cap. Let's start with the suit.

Swimsuit: We know you love your cutoffs, but a genuine swimsuit is really going to do wonders for your form. And the lifeguard won't heckle you for clogging up the pool filter. Try to get a suit that is 100 percent polyester. It will last much, much longer than any Lycra-nylon blended suit. Sure the upfront cost is a bit more, but you'll save money in the long run.

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