Open Water Swim + Race Start Tips

Beware runners: triathlon heavy post ahead…

Last night was the first open water swim of the season! That’s like triathlete heaven for me!

Imagine running on a treadmill all. winter. long. then going on your first run outside after the snow melts and the temps are perfect. THAT is how I felt at the lake last night!

The Upstate Tri Club supports the open water swims early in the season, with kayaks along the course and buoys for 1000x better spotting than “Just look toward that tree over there” That one? “No, that other one, you know with the branches and the leaves” Um, okay.

The other cool part of having the tri club there is they did a little clinic before we started with some good tips on open water swim race starts.

I thought I would share them because I definitely learned a few things:

  1. For an in-water start – get into a horizontal position about 10-15 seconds before the gun goes off instead of treading water vertically until the start. Why? Not because, you gain maybe 3-5 seconds from not having to swim breaststroke and get vertical, but because it establishes your “space” before starting. You take up much more room horizontal than vertical so when everyone goes horizontal, they are fighting for space. Starting horizontal will give you the room you need to swim from the very beginning.
  2. Also for an in-water start – don’t ever, no matter how fast you are, start in the front and in the middle. Why? People inevitably start fast and even if you are a fast swimmer, you will have to sprint hard off the start to maintain your position. By moving out (even as far as 50 yds.) to the outside, you only add ONE YARD (one stroke?) to the total swim distance. So start outside and maintain your own pace.
  3. For a beach start – run high knees into the water up to knee-ish deep, then do dolphin dives, pushing off of the bottom with your hands and feet until you are waist deep. This one takes a little practice, but they proved how much faster it was by showing two equal swimmers – one doing dolphin dives and one just swimming past knee deep – racing for a short time. The guy doing the dolphin gained a few body lengths ahead of girl just swimming.
  4. Finally, for swim finishes – you should not be sprinting out of the water/up the hill to transition – he said getting your heart rate up sky high by doing a 100 yd dash (or more) to transition is a waste of energy that could be better used toward a strong bike start. Also, have your cap and goggles off and wetsuit partially unzipped before you get into the transition area.

I really liked tip 1, 2 & 4 because I am guilty of all of these (except having my swim stuff off before transition). I just hope I can remember these when I actually get in the water for a race!

I swam 2400 m total, one out-and-back for a mile with the group, then Jenni and I added on another 1/2 way out-and-back to get a little more. The group was all going to Mellow Mushroom afterwards, which is our typical after-swim stop, but Brad cooked dinner (!!!) so I headed home to eat!

Does anyone else have any additional tips to add? Or do you disagree with any of these tips? Tell me about your workout yesterday!

About Corey

I am a 30-something swim, bike, run addict married to my best friend and in love with my two schnoodle doggies.
This entry was posted in bike, Goals, Greenville, Races, running, swimming, the lake, training, triathlon. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Open Water Swim + Race Start Tips

  1. meredith says:

    Ohhhhhhhhh mine was 3 weeks ago at a lake we have in Houston specifically for triathletes and scuba divers…..I loveeee open water swimming..I am soooo much better in the open water than I ever was in a pool…Your brother taught me a lot about open water swimming during beach patrol days..it’s really helping me out these days…yow!
    I am joining a masters team in June and I had a question for you…during your masters what are you workouts like??? What are you doing 100’s on….I did 7 100’s on a 130 yesterday…coming in on a 120…that killed me!!! I need to speed up…..it’s so hard motivating yourself when you swim alone…..

    • Corey says:

      Maybe I should have consulted my brother before I started open water swimming a few years ago! I love it though and I agree…these days I am way faster in a lake than in the pool! I am usually coming in around 1:20’s or so for 100’s when there is more than one or two of them (long gone the days of doing them in around a minute, huh?!). I LOVE master’s swimming vs. swimming alone though…it reminds me of swim team days 🙂 (Although I can’t believe we actually used to swim for 2+ hours in a workout?!)

  2. bearrunner says:

    Wow open lake swim… We wont be swimming in a lake till like June!

    • Corey says:

      And I didn’t even need a wet suit! It was a warm winter and has been in the 90’s all week, plus the water is pretty low! Where do you live?

  3. Laura says:

    These are so helpful! I’m tucking away all these tips for the day I get brave enough to try one. 🙂

    • Corey says:

      I think you should go for it! It is a good way to get a “fix” on racing in the hot Houston summers! Do you have your eye on one yet?

  4. Pingback: Workout Log: April 23 – May 6 | Schnoodles of Fun!

  5. Pingback: Another Race? | Schnoodles of Fun!

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