For access to all of our training, gear, and race coverage, plus exclusive training plans, FinisherPix photos, event discounts, and GPS apps, sign up for Outside+.
Response to new swim rules for Ironman triathlons have been mixed.
Ironman announced today that it is introducing a two-phase SwimSmart initiative with the goal of “improving athlete satisfaction and reducing anxiety during the swim portion of the race.” The initiative includes pre-race, in-water swim warmups, modified starts at select Ironman races, added buoys to the course, and anchored resting rafts.
Shortly after Ironman introduced the elements of its new program, age-group and professional triathletes took to Facebook and Twitter to voice their opinions. Reactions have varied from staunch support to outright rejection:
Jordan Rapp: 2 big announcements from @IronmanTri this week. Rotating 70.3WC is exciting. But SwimSmart program, however boring, is really most important.
TJ Tollakson: Great start…now align the pro wetsuit rules with the rest of triathlon.
Christine Jeffrey: Where is the part about athletes actually being competent OW (open water) swimmers first, before entering events!!!
Devon Adams: Interested to see how it goes. If it can save just one athlete’s life in the water, I’ll take it!
@felog: Can I just skip ahead to the future and say it now… “I remember when Ironman had a mass swim start…”
Stefanie Dilts Bernosky: Sad…it is really part of what made the events worthwhile in my mind…everyone starting off on equal footing. If you have anxiety around the swim portion, there are plenty other races that have smaller fields.
@bexrm: it’d be a lot better if it affected my race! 😛 Still expecting the same old beat down in #IMWI
Blas Luna: it makes sense to me. It should be staged just like large runs by projected pace so everyone starts in their appropriate wave.
@libbybergman: Like it but should consider an elite age group wave for those competing for podium/overall amateur spots.
Andrew Powell: The 2:20 cutoff begins when the last athletes start the swim??? So that means that slow swimmers will self seed into the first wave so that they can have 3 hours to get through the swim! What a disaster!!! This is a terrible idea. People train so hard to get under certain swim times. Now they will have to swim around slow swimmers trying to cheat their way around the cutoff. This doesn’t seem like a smart plan to me…
@emdubya67: Love it! Swim leg is stressful to say the least – extra afloat assets will ease many concerns! Great changes!!
Alperen Ozalp: Make completing a 70.3 a requirement to start an ironman event. That should help the anxious people to get used to long distance open water swim without ruining the experience of mass start for everyone else who trained properly.
@theoryofadam: Maybe institute a penalty similar to drafting for hanging on the “support” rafts for too long?
Ben Syden: I am not a fan of it at all. The mass start is part of tradition and part of strategy. If you are uncomfortable it is well known how to adjust in places like IMLP- simply hang back a few minutes and its clear sailing.
Philip Hauserman: Hey folks, it’s still 140.6 miles. That hasn’t changed.