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Olympic Distance Triathlon Swimming Tips and Tactics

A fast triathlon swim takes more than great swimming


Triathlon Coach Brendon Downey, from EnduranceCoach.com, offers some triathlon swim technique tips and tactics for triathletes that don't have to do with the actual swimming, but will help any triathlete achieve a faster swim in a triathlon. These points and questions to consider before the start of the triathlon - and the answers to these pre-race questions - will help triathletes race better, faster, and more efficiently.

Pre-Event Course Review
What type of swim start (there are three basic types):

  • Pontoon Dive (Gamagori, Ishigaki)
  • Deep Water (Ironman Frankfurt)
  • Waters Edge (La Paz, Rennes)

Check for the following points:

  • Does one side get to porpoise?
  • Does one side (or position) have smaller waves?
  • Is one side closer to the first turn?
  • How far is each leg?
  • Is there one or two laps?
  • Can you run in further on one side?
  • The under footing, is it good across the whole start area? Holes?
  • How many athletes?
  • Will it be crowded or open for the start?
  • Any dangers to watch (boats in the harbor, pylons, rocks under the water?)
  • Athlete to start beside? On your favored breathing side, so you can slot in behind them as they pull ahead.
  • If you’re not seeded, what do you do?
  • How will athletes be called to the start area?
  • Top 10 and then a free for all?

Reading the Conditions:

  • How will the wind affect the swim?
  • On each Leg?
  • Will the swimmers tend to drift in a certain direction?
  • How will the current affect the swim?
  • What is the tide doing?
  • What is the water temperature (The real temperature!)?
  • How does that affect your warm-up?
  • Wetsuit/No Wetsuit?
  • Clockwise/Counter Clockwise?
  • Think about what everyone else is likely to do.
  • Determine if there is a favored position given the conditions and what most competitors will do. Is there a swimmer that is stronger then everyone else? If so then this is where the race will develop. Knowing this what can you do to make the most of your potential swim performance?

Swim Exit and Depth:

  • How far from the shore can you stand?
  • What land marks can you sight off?
  • When you can see the bottom (too deep to stand - need to stand before you can see the bottom)?
  • Is it safe to stand early or does the bottom have sharp objects?
  • Do you need to porpoise? How many?
  • Will you need to wade?
  • Can you start wading earlier on one side of the exit?
  • What is the footing like?
  • Is it better on one side of the exit?
  • Anything to watch (i.e. hollow in the ground, shells, rocks, things to trip on) while running to T1?
  • Do you run out and get moving or do you need to get you wetsuit off quickly while exiting the water? Distance to run to the transition will determine the best option.
    • Short run then you may need to stand and start getting the wetsuit off immediately. You may need to cut a little off the bottom of your wetsuit to improve removal speed.
    • Long and you may wish to get up and running first.
    • Very long and you may be better off to remove the wetsuit half way through the run before it dries up and sticks to you in the transition.

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