The Finish Isn't Getting Any Closer

The Finish Isn’t Getting Any Closer

You swim and you swim and you swim … and the finish never seems to get any closer. The frustration, especially if you keep on looking up and looking forward, can be frustrating. Extremely so, at times. You swim 5 minutes, you swim 15 minutes, you swim 1 hour … and it seems like you never move forward by the looks of the land.

Why? How can that be so?

It all has to do with your perspective as an open water swimmer, where your eyes view distant objects just above the surface of a dynamic open body of water by a few inches or several centimeters.

Such low angles of vision are significantly different from our normal life spent well above ground level – and therefore can play tricks with our eyes and mind. Imagine you were running a marathon run and you were looking forward with your eyes only a few inches or several centimeters above the level ground. Instead of viewing things as a human runner, you would view things like a frog or a small puppy. Viewed from such a low perspective, our view of the aquatic world is much different than that of a kayaker or escort pilot.

Additionally, because the surface of the water often undulates up and down, swishing you left and right, your vision is impaired and the quick snapshots of views that you take when you sight simply do not give yourself enough information to properly process distances. With cameras, low-angle shots work best with a wider lens. But viewing the finish through, sometimes, foggy goggles, this breath of visual information is not available to open water swimmers.

When land or the finish is viewed from low perspectives, your eye catches objects near and far. The foreground objects like nearby kayakers or turn buoys appear bigger relative to the distant finish.

Your depth perception becomes less in tune with reality when your eye catches both nearby and distant objects. This is especially true when the foreground is dark (due to the darker-colored water) and the sky is not well defined. With a lot of sky within your field of vision, the distant objects are stuck in place – never moving.

Even one mile closer, there is still a lot of sky and the size of the distant objects have not significantly changed relative to its background (the sky and horizon).

So keep your head down, swim straight and try not getting too frustrated.

Last photo © Danee

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source
Steven Munatones