Ironman Texas Swim Strategy


At least with the wall I can't swim too far off course

The Ironman swim is 2.4 miles long as most of you know.  That is a long way and not having a strategy to tackle that distance could result in a longer day than expected or trained for.  When I wrote the post on the Ironman Texas Bike Strategy Katie of Run This Amazing Day asked where the swim strategy post was.  At the time I had written one because I had one simple strategy for the swim and that was to get through it.  Just get out of the water as fast and as efficient as possible.  The more I thought about that the more I thought to myself:  What does that mean?

Swim fast yet efficient?  What’s fast?  I do know that when I swim more efficiently I swim faster.  I remember reading that you want to make your body like a javelin because when you submerge a javelin in the water and push the javelin will reach the other end of the pool.  If you stretch out a rope and push it under water it will just collapse.  As I’m in the water I always think ‘javelin’ and this has helped me  tremendously.

At 70.3 Puerto Rico I had a strategy of getting in the front at the start and going hard for the first 100-200 meters and then putting it on cruise control.  Big mistake.  I had the worst Half-Ironman swim I’ve ever had.  The reason is that I pushed so hard that my heart rate soared and I had to back it down considerably to get my breath and find that rhythm.  After talking with my coach that night she made the comment that the race didn’t start until you get out of the water and that the swim is just something you have to do.

Taking this theory to the pool and the lake over the past month has been a huge help and essentially a huge boost to my confidence about the swim.  I get in the open water and press the cruise control button and just swim.  I don’t worry about how fast I’m going I just think about being a javelin and conserving energy for 2.4 miles or 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes.  It has worked.  I did a 2.2 mile swim (my math in the water is not as strong as my math while riding or running) in 1 hour 10 minutes.  This pace projects out to 1 hour 16 minutes for the 2.4 miles.  I would be thrilled to swim that time and feel as good as I did that day.

So what’s my strategy?  My thoughts are to start slow.  Let anybody and everybody pass me.  There will be thrashing and there will be punching and kicking, but if I am swimming efficiently then this won’t bother me.  If I start out too fast and I start to get hit then the heart rate will spike even more and I’ll be pouring lots of energy into getting back to a steady state.  Energy that I will need some 10 hours later while on the run.

I can say that I don’t know how to draft properly because I don’t do a lot of swimming with a partner and practicing the art of the draft.  I have read lots of articles and if I can find feet in the water and swim at about their waist then I will be conserving energy and swimming fast and efficient.

I came across this article on TriFuel and it pretty much cements my thoughts that swimming efficiently and conserving as much energy as possible is the best way to go.  Enjoy this post: Swimming Smarter May Help Your Marathon.


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  1. BDD says:

    Your coach and I think alsong the same lines, my goal is to get out of the water with the lowest possible heart rate, nothing sucks more then spending the first 2-4 miles on the bike trying to get your HR down, just to spike it back up. The lower my HR out of the water, the better my race always is.
    BDD recently posted..Glass City Half Marathon Race ReportMy Profile

  2. Tonia says:

    First of all, as a former collegiate thrower, I loved the Javelin analogy. Second, I think this is an excellent strategy. I know during my 70.3 I freaked out at the start of the swim, my heart rate skyrocketed and I couldn’t swim well. It took a lot of effort to get back to comfortable and efficient. If you can stick to this plan, it will pay off huge later in the race.
    Tonia recently posted..Three Things Thursday …My Profile

  3. I know I could have swam faster at my half IM BUT I was told not to do it. So I held back. I just swam at a comfy pace knowing I needed the energy all the way at the run.
    Mamarunsbarefoot recently posted..Shitty Back, Great PatientMy Profile

  4. Christi says:

    Your swim strategy sounds great!
    Christi recently posted..Day 4 of Clean Eating JumpstartMy Profile

  5. Jeff Irvin says:

    Solid strategy Jason! Stick to it and you’ll do great.
    Jeff Irvin recently posted..I am jumping off a boat into shark infested waters on SundayMy Profile

  6. misszippy says:

    You will be drafting whether you know how or not, thanks to the mass start, trust me! I think your approach is smart. You have a long day ahead of you and swimming is the last place to leave all your energy. Getting excited for you!!
    misszippy recently posted..How/why I found my mid-footMy Profile

  7. I used a similar strategy when I did IMFL but would adjust it slightly for my next one. Specifically, I would start more near the front than the back. Swim not harder than comfortable but the drafting effect of the pack with a mass start of >2000 swimmers is very noticable and helpful. The contact is the same in the front vs. back but the faster swimmers in the front will drag you along at a faster pace than the slower swimmers in the middle/back will drag you along at the same effort from you.

    I never had to sight as I felt the pack turn at the right time.

    Something to think about.

  8. Maria Simone says:

    This is a smart strategy – especially for your first one. Keep it steady, and be prepared for a great day.

    It’s not too hard to draft when you are with 2500 swimmers. I find it more challenging in smaller races, which makes the start a little more critical.

    Start tip: if it’s an in-water start, try to stay as horizontal as possible, which will mark out a space for you and also prepare you to to go as soon as the canon goes off. Just start kicking, and throw a few quick strokes to get under way.
    Maria Simone recently posted..Execution DayMy Profile

  9. Stay right. The first leg is nearly a mile so you can afford some funky angles. No one all the way right last year. I had more ultimate fighting when I made the turn to come back (narrower)

  10. katie says:

    I like it!
    katie recently posted..well, I left it all out there…My Profile

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