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Balancing your energy levels throughout the triathlon swim can be a challenge. No matter how much you train, there are always several factors out of your control; wind and wave conditions, bumping into fellow competitors or a mishap with a buoy can all affect the outcome of your swim.
Written by: Kevin Koskella
If you can focus on factors within your control during the race, you will increase the likelihood of finishing the swim in strong form.
Learning how to read and pace your personal energy is important to learning how to control your race. As you train, focus on how you feel during workouts. Pay close attention to the times when you lose energy or feel the most energetic. To effectively train, include several full race simulations both in the pool and in open water. You need to know how your body will react under normal race circumstances, as those feelings will be amplified on race day. While the extra adrenalin can be an advantage, it must be used correctly. Oftentimes, you can run out of steam too early, causing you to finish your swim with nothing left in the tank.
Use your long swim to practice shifting gears. Count your strokes and keep track of your average stroke count. Every 200 yards pick up your pace but maintain your average stroke count.
Breaking your race up into four quarters can help to balance your energy throughout the swim. Focus on breaking your race into the following four quarters:
First Quarter: During the initial portion of the swim it is important to gain a strong position. Work to stay out of the way during the initial fight for pole position, while also being assertive to gain a strong position. Most people will be fighting to stay to the inside of the pack. Go against the grain: Start towards the outside of the pack and as you get closer to the first buoy move your way towards the middle. You will gain more by having open space than you will lose by adding a little bit of extra distance.
Second Quarter: Once you get past the chaos of the opening part of the swim, conserve and pace your energy for later in the race. Get into a rhythm that works for you and maintain a steady pace.
Third Quarter: This is the time of the race to kick it into gear. Many swimmers wait until the final quarter to push the pace. Gain an advantage by picking it up earlier and gain a stronger position. This does not mean it’s time to lay it all on the line. A fast swim is a small part of your overall race, but blowing yourself out will definitely hurt the final two legs of the race.
Fourth Quarter: Finish the last part of the swim by simply maintaining your rhythm and technique, much like the second quarter. Use this time to grab plenty of air. You want to be in position to get moving on your bike as quickly and smoothly as possible.
By employing the above techniques, you should be on your way to a strong and stress-free swim.