Tue, Feb 07, 2023Rick's Tricks! Race Day Swim Tips

Race Day Swim Tips from Rick Hellard.

After a great first edition of "Ricks Tricks", we're glad be back with our 2nd one. The first one was really well recieved, so we hope that you enjoy this one too. 

Rick is the owner of ROC Swimming and Zone3sports. He's a former Professional Triathlete, all distances; and has 25 years of coaching experience, from beginner to podium at all levels

If you're looking for a great triathlon coach in Ottawa. Email Rick at zone3sports@gmail.com. Onto the info from Rick

Race Day Swim Tips

As a long-time triathlon and swim coach, I am often asked for advice on the swim start and how to make the best of it.

First and foremost, the strongest piece of advice I can give you is to train for the swim.  It may be the shortest event of the three, but it sets the tone for the rest of the race.  A bad swim just puts you in a bad mood, and that transfers to the bike and run.  Besides, a good swim gets you on your bike and onto the run sooner.

Secondly, always always bring a spare pair of goggles to every race.  You do not want to lose or break your only pair just before the start and need to borrow or buy an untested pair.

Know the swim course, at least the direction, shape, and proper turnaround buoy.  With many events offering different race distances, this may be more important than you think. 

Seed yourself properly, both front to back of the group, but also side, middle, or other side of the group. 

  • The middle front of the group is best for the fastest swimmers, whereas the slower or more nervous swimmers are best placed on the outsides.  Strong and/or confident swimmers who don’t mind the washing machine are okay in the middle of the group.
  • The first 30-40 seconds should be firm, but not crazy hard.  Wind it up after that.  Going into oxygen debt at any point in a race is a bad idea, but in the first minute, it is really not smart and can cause panic from which you may not recover until you hit land again.
  • If the race allows it, make sure to warm up for 5-10min.  Particularly in cold water, get in and get used to the temperature, especially your face.  Swim around, and do some easy drills.  If you plan to hammer the swim, do some short sprints to get your heart rate up.  If you plan to just swim, then the short sprints are not necessary. 
  • If the water is choppy, a straight arm recovery works better than a bent elbow.
  • If it’s wavy, breathe and sight at the top of the wave, not between the waves.
  • If you can, breathe on the side away from the wave most of the time.
  • If you can, breathe on the side of the swim buoy you are sighting, or about to turn around i.e. look at what you are aiming for, or turning at.
  • Weeds are a part of open water swimming.  There is not much you can do about them.
  • Goggles fog up.  Maybe not right away, but eventually, they will.  If you expect this to happen in your race, simply put 2-3mm of water in the goggles, and leave it there.  As you swim, shake your head around to swish the water inside the goggles.  Repeat as necessary.
  • Sometimes, we get hit and goggles get out of sorts–simply flip over onto your back, fix them, then flip back over and keep going.  This also works if you get water in them by accident–flip onto your back, empty, flip back onto your front.  It should take 5sec at most.  Practice this a few times in your open-water swim training.
  • Do some open-water swim training…

I hope this helps.

-Rick Hellard.

Zone3sports & ROC Swimming

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