Everything You Need to Know Before Your First Triathlon Swim

During the Race

Importance of Wearing your Swim Cap

Ever wonder why swim caps are obnoxiously bright and tight? Not only do caps reduce drag, but they are critical to your safety. In your race packet, you should get a swim cap that will match your swim wave or age group. It is important to wear the swim cap since it is how race officials can see all triathletes as they swim. In fact, most races will not let you into the water without the swim cap. In the off chance something goes wrong in the water, help can more easily find a brightly colored swim cap than dark hair in murky water.

Start in the Right Place and Find Your Rhythm 

For your first triathlon swim, the safest place to start is in the back and on the outside. You can avoid the masses while finding your "happy pace." The best way to find your rhythm is to count your strokes or talk your way through the technique in your head, such as "1, 2, 3, breathe" or "pull, glide, recover." If you are feeling brave, work your way into the pack and find someone you can get behind to reduce drag; this is called drafting. Drafting is legal in the water and is acceptable. Remember, if you need a break, it is okay to float on your back, breaststroke or doggy paddle. 

Swim to the Exit

It may seem like a good idea to start running as soon as your feet hit the bottom of the lake, but it isn't. A good rule is to keep swimming until your hands hit the ground four times, then stand up and run out of the water. If there are volunteers, you can take their hands as you exit, especially if it is a steep climb to land. After you are done with your swim, you might have a short run to your transition area where your bike will be located. Some triathletes decide to put flip flops near the swim exit, so they do not have to run barefoot in the grass. This is not necessary but can be useful if the path is rocky or has sticker burrs. 

Take into consideration that the swim is the first leg of a triathlon, so don't expend all of your energy and leave nothing for the bike and run. To be successful at the swim, remember to start slowly, swim straight and finish strong. Once you are done, you are land bound and well on your way to complete your first triathlon.

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