7 Ways to Master Your Next Triathlon Swim Start

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7 Ways to Master Your Next Triathlon Start

You’ve worked on your drills. You’ve perfected your stroke. You’ve built up your endurance in the water. Your triathlon swimming seems to be as good as it’s going to get.

But the race begins, and everything you’ve been working on seems to go to hell. You’re kicked and grabbed, you swallow water, and you can’t get a stroke rhythm to save your life!

The start of a triathlon for everyone is a crazy cluster of splashing, starts and stops, physical contact, and swimmers trying to separate from each other. Here are some tips to deal with what some consider being the toughest part of any triathlon:

  1. Prepare. Learn the course before the gun goes off. There is nothing worse than having to wonder which way to turn around the upcoming buoy. 

  2. Expect the worst. Go into the event expecting that the start will not be easy. Know that you will bump into people, others will bump into you, but 99% of the time it is all by accident. Also know that the chaos at the beginning will not last for the entire swim, it will break up quickly as different speed swimmers separate.
  3. Stay to the outside. Many will try to stay to the inside, as close to in line with the first buoy as they can get. Don’t follow the pack. Start outside and work your way in as you approach buoy #1. You many not get perfectly clean water, but you will save yourself from much of the madness.
  4. Don’t panic. Keep your breathing from getting short. Stay as relaxed as you can while everyone else tries to get pole position. Don’t let others being frantic affect your state of mind, and realize that 99% of the other swimmers are just trying to find some open water and are not out to hurt you!
  5. Run until the water level is at your knees. This will maximize your time on land without being slowed by running through water.
  6. Use shorter strokes to get through the chop. Triathlon swimming isn’t “one size fits all.” If you are swimming in the ocean and it is a choppy day, this technique helps tremendously. Once you get to some smoother water, go back to longer strokes to maximize efficiency and conserve energy.
  7. Practice. This is actually part of #1. But we’re talking about practicing triathlon swimming in the environment you will be racing in. Swim in the open water often when you are preparing for a race that has an open water start. The more experience you can develop getting used to the conditions and variables in open water vs. pool swimming, the better off you will be mentally on race day.
  8. By following these 7 tips, you should be able to at least tolerate, if not enjoy, the start of a triathlon!