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Surviving the Tri Start

by Kevin Koskella, www.triswimcoach.com

The start of a triathlon can be nerve-wracking, tiring, intimidating, frustrating, and even discouraging (why do we do this sport??). But don't let all this get to you! The start 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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Run until the water level is at your knees. This will maximize your time on land without being slowed by running through water.
  • Use shorter strokes to get through the chop. 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 long strokes to maximize efficiency and conserve energy.

These 5 tips should help you to at least tolerate, if not enjoy, the beginning of a triathlon!

About the Author

Kevin coaches masters and triathlete swimmers in San Diego, CA. He operates the website www.TriSwimCoach.com, a resource for beginning through intermediate level triathletes looking for help with swimming. The site features a free email newsletter offering tips and articles on triathlon swimming. Kevin has also written an electronic book titled "The Complete Guide to Triathlon Swimming" which is sold on his website in downloadable form.