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Do the first few yards of the swim start in a triathlon matter that much?

Yes! After months of swimming in the luxurious width of a pool lane, the arrival of race season means facing the frenzy of a mass-start open water swim. Swimming in close quarters is intimidating to a lot of triathletes, and several of my athletes have said they just try to get through the first few minutes so they can settle down and just swim. With a little preparation, however, you can make those first few minutes work to your advantage. The road to a PR in the swim leg of your next triathlon, which is a great step toward a PR for the whole event, can hinge on your performance in the very beginning of the swim. Your goal is to be with faster swimmers as the groups start to separate, but that means you have to swim powerfully right from the gun and then settle into a rhythm once you’ve captured your optimal position in the pack.
Absolutely!  Most recreational triathletes start off the swim way too fast, at too high of a heart rate.  You’re nervous before the races start; if you haven’t done any (or many) triathlons, you may not be use to swimming in a crowd - including getting bumped into, hit with arms, and kicked.

If you go out too fast, at too intense of a level, you can tire yourself out by the middle of the swim - and you have a bike and run left to go.  This swim is about 18% of the entire triathlon; if you leave it all there, you’re going to have a long day!

So for the first few yards of the swim, you need to try to relax, don’t be intimidated by the crowd or getting jostled,  and force yourself to slow down and get into your practiced race pace as soon as possible.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.