January 17, 2023

Mary Timoney

Avoid This Critical Mistake at Your Next Open Water Swim

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ATHLETES! Avoid this critical mistake at your next open water event!


One of my favorite athletes brought this to my attention this past fall after she started her swim in the river last. I later realized I should have paid closer attention to this because the outcome can be a lot different than an athlete would think.


The number 1 mistake triathletes make on their swim:


You DO NOT want to get in the water dead last. Like EVER. Here’s why:


1. Often times the most timid swimmers start last, and even if that is you, chances are you are faster than most! You don’t want to get caught behind a cluster of several slower swimmers, especially if you are faster than them! Passing in the open water is a ginormous effort and likely to raise your heart rate, giving up precious energy.


2. The kayaks tend to hang around and follow the folks who they feel may need assistance. They can cause a traffic jam in the water, and you may find yourself caught behind them with little opportunity to pass. In my athlete’s case, the folks in the kayak kept trying to talk to her, asking if she was ok, and she was perfectly fine. She was expending a tremendous amount of energy trying to get around people and boats, and this was slowing her down. She is a good swimmer. This would not have happened if she started sooner.


3. Starting last puts you in the mindset that you NEED to start last because of your ability level, confidence, or skill. Definitely not a good mindset to go into a race with. Why not use some affirmations like “I have trained hard and put in many yards for this swim and I will have no problem completing it with confidence.”


4. Although you may avoid the bulk of the crowd by starting last, your chances of meeting up with and getting caught behind a group of swimmers much slower than you is likely. It also keeps you from having a chance to draft off of faster swimmers which could be to your advantage.


5. Starting last is going to extend your day anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes. Standing around waiting to get in the water for over an hour depletes you mentally, not to mention that you may not be able to drink anything on the dock while waiting around. Starting later also pushes your bike and run even further into the heat of the day. This increases your chances for dehydration and fatigue.


Be smart. Don’t be the last to start. Instead start somewhere at the beginning, or even the middle. My advice is to always hug the first buoy slightly to its left or right, depending on the path of the course. This helps you to avoid swimming too many yards over and above the distance of the swim.


I hope you find this tip about your open-water swim helpful. Don’t forget to download my FREE Complete Guide to Iron Distance Swim by clicking HERE!


Been thinking about hiring a coach for your next iron distance event? Request FREE 15-minute phone call so we can chat about your goals from my Zipper profile (link below)!


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