Predictable unpredictability is a commonly understood mantra of open water swimming.

Similar to Expect The Unexpected, it is a fundamental understanding, deep appreciation and common experience among open water swimmers and triathletes that the elements (e.g., wind, waves, currents, tides, marine life, water temperature, rain, lightening or fog), the course (e.g., turn buoy placement, course layout, feeding station, start, finish structure, boating traffic, shoreline distance, official boat or kayak placement, escort boat fumes, mechanical boat failure), the competition (pacing and positioning relative to other male, female and/or wetsuited swimmers or division separation), and one’s own physical conditions (due to seasickness, lack of hydration or ill feeling to due food or drink mixtures, stamina or strength)

can present open water swimmers with unplanned surprises and unexpected circumstances during an open water swimming competition, solo swim or relay.

This inherent unpredictability can lead to good or bad results.

But whatever the case, the predictable unpredictability requires swimmers, coaches, pilots, support crew, safety personnel and officials to adapt and accommodate to the situation as necessary. This is part of the allure of the sport and the challenge of aquatic adventures.

While occasionally viewed pessimistically or negatively, predictable unpredictability can often surprise an open water swimmer or triathlete. Currents and ocean swells can change for the easier, conditions can improve, positioning and pacing can be better than expected, and times can be faster when everything clicks or you are simply flat-out lucky.

Two examples of predictable unpredictability are the victors of the men’s 2008 Beijing Olympic Games marathon swim by the Netherland’s Maarten van der Weijden and the women’s 2012 London Olympic Games marathon swim by Hungary’s Eva Risztov.

Related article on the Black Swan Theory.

Upper photo by Dr. Jim Miller above shows Margy Keefe after learning she unexpectedly won a silver medal at the 2005 World Swimming Championship 5 km race in Montreal, Canada. Lower photo shows Darren Miller caught in an unexpected eddy near Hokkaido in the Tsugaru Channel.

 

 

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source


 

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