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When You Cut It Too Close to the Swim Cut Off

When You Cut It Too Close to the Swim Cut Off

For an Ironman, swimmers must complete the swim in 2 hours and 20 minutes. For the 70.3 distance race, that cut off is 1 hour and 10 minutes. If swimming is not your forte, or if your time is way too close for comfort to either of those cut offs, then read on for some suggestions!

First of all, in order to get faster in the water, a swimmer must

1. reduce drag as much as possible ,and

2. have the greatest forward propulsion as possible.

First let’s talk reducing drag. Drag can come from your clothing, your hair falling out of your cap, or something tagging along on your wetsuit. Drag can also come from an inefficient swim stroke. For example, a swimmer who crosses the midline of the body when pulling the water is wasting forward propulsion and therefore slowing themselves down with each stroke. A swimmer whose hips are sinking in the water is most likely losing forward propulsion because his/her head is up too high therefore slowing down forward movement through the water.

Drag can also come for forces beyond your control like choppy water, forceful winds, rain, and wake from boats. Several swimmers clustered together in the water or at a buoy can slow other swimmers down. I had one swimmer tell me that the kayaks in the water were actually in her way several times during her 2100 yard swim this past weekend in Waco.

Let’s talk about forward propulsion. Obviously a strong and efficient swim stroke will result in smooth forward movement through the water. Good swim economy means that you are taking the shortest route from point A to point B which is a straight line. That means no extra yardage, no wasted time. But even though you are taking the fastest route from A to B doesn’t necessarily mean you are a fast swimmer.

So how does a swimmer achieve faster forward propulsion?

By practicing swimming FAST. This means speed work. Timed intervals on the clock with not much rest in between. This means taking a few lessons from an experienced swim coach who is actually pacing up and down the pool deck watching every move you make. The fastest I ever was in the water is when I had a coach yelling at me, keeping me accountable. I HIGHLY recommend you start swimming with a coached Master’s Swim group regularly. In order to get faster in the water, you need someone looking at your efficiency in the water and keeping you accountable for speed. Did you ever notice that when you go to the pool by yourself you just don’t work as hard as you would with a group doing timed intervals with a coach?

I will mention one more thing that can slow you down in the water and that is your mind set. Sometimes people get all up in their head about the open water swim. When you go from swimming comfortable laps at an 83 degree pool that is only 5 feet deep to a choppy, windy, rainy swim in a large harbor, that can mess with your head. My best advice is to get in the open water often prior to race day. Check out my Affirmations for Race day blog post HERE so help you calm your mind. Also, download my FREE Complete Guide to Iron Distance Swim HERE and read it a few times. This will help boost your confidence in the open water.

I hope you will put into practice some of these tips so that if you cut it way too close to the swim cut-off at your last iron distance race, you now have some helpful tools to shave some time off your swim and avoid a DNF. My goal is to keep the race officials far away from you!

Need a coach for your next iron distance race? Click the box below to shoot me an email for a free 15 min chat about your race goals.

Want to improve your run form and run faster and more efficiently with less wasted energy? Click HERE to read about how I can help you with a Run Gait Analysis!

Mary Timoney

Ironman University Certified Coach

USA Cycling Coach

ACSM Trainer


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