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Swimming during triathlons, attitudes while doing it
CREATED: 08/17/11 by vatriathlete REPLIES: 10
vatriathlete    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 682
Swimming during triathlons, attitudes while doing it
POSTED: 8/17/11 3:57 PM

Ok here is my question, what is your folks opinion on ettiquette during the swim portion of the race meaning the normal incidental contact that is bound to happen during the swim? What do you do in return?

From numerous race reports in the past couple of years from both experienced and new triathlets, many people have been either blatantly or very subtly saying that you should be agressive during the swim, meaning that if you get inadvertently kicked or swam into during the swim that you should "fight back" or "swim offensively" which means "punch elbow" or "give it back to people" basically hit the other person intentionally (meaning there is no accident in the matter at all) whether it be a punch, kick, elbow.

From the experienced and newbie triathletes do you think this approach is necessary and needed with the sport now?

If you think it is necessary why?

Do you think that this type of behavior will make the sport safer in the long run?

morunner66's ravatar morunner66    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 702
RE: Swimming during triathlons, attitudes while doing it
POSTED: 8/17/11 4:27 PM

As in Basketball - elbows up and remain in a defensive position and just keep swimming.

abbyjs's ravatar abbyjs    JOINED: 4/7/09    POSTS: 699
RE: Swimming during triathlons, attitudes while doing it
POSTED: 8/17/11 4:46 PM

The swim portion is both my nemesis and my excitement. I am *NOT* a fast swimmer, and on a good day, I'm in the bottom half to come out of the water. On a bad day (which hasn't happened since last season), I hyperventilate and panic. Boo. And still: I love that I can and will just jump in a river and start swimmin'.

Frankly, people disregarding my safety in the water pisses me off. I'm often so focused (or trying to be!) while swimming, that someone else's decision to ignore me, swim over me, clobber me--and then just keep on going--has caused me to react quite poorly. I almost always retaliate, and I almost always regret it.

At those moments, when I'm in the water, trying so hard to stay focused and calm and NOT hyperventilate, to keep a rhythm, to remember that I *am a good swimmer* I wish SO MUCH that the DUDES in the WAVE BEHIND ME would have a smidgen of consideration for anyone other than themselves.

But, instead of condoning my own bad behavior (calf-grabbing I think is my worst confession, swearing more common), I would like to plead with the fast, competitive swimmers to reconsider clobbering others in the first place.

This is also where I make an open plea to race directors: do not put the Elite Wave of triathletes doing a Sprint Race *directly behind* the "old lady wave" of the Oly. thankssomuch.

ncrcoach's ravatar ncrcoach    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 1045
RE: Swimming during triathlons, attitudes while doing it
POSTED: 8/18/11 10:28 AM

Anytime someone brings up a swimming topic, I have to chime in. Not bragging here, but I find myself being an expert when swimming in the open water (expert - yes, but not super fast). My sighting is pretty good and I easily stay on course when I swim. A lot this has to do with practice and exposure in the open water. After having been a beach lifeguard for two summers and heading to Sandy Point even in April, I prefer the open water to the pool anytime.

In no such manner, would I condone intentional contact with another swimmer. To me, it's like spitting on someone during the run or drafting off someone on the bike. Yeah, of course, you're gonna get smacked in the head, swam over by someone or even kicked in the face where your goggles are. And that is not fun when you wear Swedish goggles that don't have padding. It's gonna happen.

People just need to remember that we are all out there trying to do that same thing and sportsmanship is a huge part of it. That's what I teach my students and athletes.

bcfrank's ravatar bcfrank    JOINED: 3/23/09    POSTS: 946
RE: Swimming during triathlons, attitudes while doing it
POSTED: 8/18/11 11:05 AM

Granted in all of this, I can only speak for myself and how I view the swim, but as one of the faster swimmers in a race, I try not to be aggressive toward other swimmers, only aggressive in how I try to swim my race. It is a race after all, and us stronger swimmers have to build up any amount of lead we can to hold up during our weaker legs of cycling and running. :::^)::

But having said that, Justin's point of "inadvertent" kicks or hits is often overlooked. Just because a faster swim runs over someone doesn't always make it an aggressive offense to the slower swimmer. I have been in a couple races where a slower swimmer just up and stopped right in front of me. Would it be my fault for running into them? I have also tried to swim between two slower swimmers only to have one or both veer into me. I'm still trying to figure out how a swimmer at Lake Placid hit me on the left side of my face even though he was swimming on my right side.

I think intentional aggressive actions by people in triathlon do not occur that often. There are some Type-A a-holes out there who do swim aggressively, but I believe most of the contact between swimmers is unintentional. In almost all races (except the Ironman), you're going off in waves with your competition (your age group), so any people the faster swimmers pass from waves ahead are not even "real" competition. As well, even if a faster swimmer catches someone from a wave ahead and goes on to finish the race at the exact same time, they will realize that they have an overall lead given the wave start difference. Faster swimmers know this and it's not really to their advantage to act aggressively toward other swimmers from other waves.

If I were to really to slam into someone, then I would actually take a moment to apologize. But some minor contact is expected in triathlon, so I don't bother to stop if the contact seemed incidental to me. It's a race and you're in open water. Contact is going to happen.

So then the question is, what's worse: the inadvertent contact by a faster swimmer or the intentional retaliation by a slower swimmer?

vatriathlete    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 682
RE: Swimming during triathlons, attitudes
POSTED: 8/18/11 11:33 AM

glad that someone brought up the posting above.

i truly believe that most of the contact in triathlon swims are unitentional.

afterall sighting and swimming in a straight line even for great swimmers is much harder than running/cycling in a straight line even for beginners. so contact will happen even by the best people if for no other reason there are no lane lines and the swims with 1500-2500 people in the water are bound to get crowded as everyone is trying to sight on the same line, afterall we see how crowded the runs and bike course are the swims are no different and tougher to see in top it off.

what i think is that maybe people both experienced swimmers and beginners have to realize that the triathlon swim is a contact sport, not in the sense of it should be approached like boxing or football, but more like motorcycle racing, in that you are not really allowed to contact others but it happens in the course of racing and as long as its inadvertent and doesn't cause an real injury its sorta ok and really agressive actions are not only penalized but dangerious to both parties.

i think a lot of the triathlon contact is not intentional and there are techniques to avoid or mitigate getting hit in th first place that are not only legal but safe for all around that need to be learned by all.

besides i think the faster swimmres will agree they really don't like swimming over or contacting slower swimmers because it actually slows them down in the process and throws off their swim stroke, and they may get hit by mistake in teh process too. so it really doesn't help them too much.

Also, for the record i have been swam over by many faster women at races and its not any more pleasant than when i'm swam over by a faster male swimmer. The saying of "speed is speed" applies.

I personally view any sort of intentional acts that may be truly harmful, such as punches/elbows/kicks to the face and body as very unsportsmanlike and extremely dangerous in the swim.

I agee we all have to be a little more courteous during the swim, faster and slower swimmers alike, as i am in the latter group.

RAFTRI's ravatar RAFTRI    JOINED: 12/22/10    POSTS: 27
RE: Swimming during triathlons, attitudes while doing it
POSTED: 8/18/11 11:38 AM

Having competed in triathlons at all levels up to Age Group Worlds I have had a lot of experience in Open Water Swims and I have found myself both at the front, the back and in amongst the main group during a swim. In my early races as an inexperienced swimmer I once got caught in the "washing machine" area which really spooked me....I ended up on my back gasping for air and trying to get back into some sort of rythm to even complete the swim. That taught me to be very careful when positioning myself on the start line, safety and comfort often overruling race position and speed.
As I became more confident I took more risks and entered the mix with the Big Boys, this resulted in kicks in the face, wetsuit zips getting pulled and generally lots of physical contact. This is what I came to expect, but at the same time I never retaliated, I just accepted it as part of the race. I have swum over weaker swimmers at the start of a race....thats what happened to me and I learnt from it....get in a safe position for your ability of swimming. It is just the same as the person who stands at the front of a road race start line dressed in a Transformers outfit....he will get pushed out of the way and will ultimately be back with the runners who run at his pace!
Strong swimming technique and some physical contact do not justify pulling legs and deliberately punching others around you. The two girls from the wave behind me, at the recent Rocketts Landing triathlon were fast swimmers and the fact that they sandwiched me 100m from the finish didn't really bother me, I just carried on in a straight line and within a few strokes they had gone, no unnecassary physical contact and only fractions of a second lost by all three of us! If you catch up with a slower wave you should be able to swim around peole as they are usually spread out by then, this was very ably demonstarted with the time trial start at the DC Tri, everyone was spread out and there was very little physical contact.
Experience is a great thing and the more experience you have the better you will fare in Open Water Swimming with lots of people around you.

suzkinsky's ravatar suzkinsky    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 121
RE: Swimming during triathlons, attitudes while doing it
POSTED: 8/18/11 5:15 PM

I've lost count, but x2 on what most people here have said. Strong swimmers are usually skilled at not only swimming but also sighting and maneuvering in the water and, as such, usually have a pretty good handle on the location and speed of the competitors surrounding them. Weaker and/or newer swimmers typically haven't mastered this skill as they are devoting most of their concentration to what's going on with their own stroke and their own body. (I say this benignly, as a generalization, acknowledging that there are plenty of people on both the strong and weak side for whom this doesn't apply.)

Strong swimmers (assuming they are good sportspeople) will always try to avoid swimming into and over another swimmer. Always. It helps neither the stronger swimmer nor the slower swimmer to run into someone. And it's usually not hard to do - if I pick my head up and can see a way around you, I will take it. Unfortunately, despite best efforts, collisions do occur. People swim crooked (strong and weak swimmers like); swimmers sometime appear out of nowhere; people stop to tread water; etc.

But as I'm a fast swimmer and an only average biker and runner, I'm going to swim that first leg as fast as I possibly can, which means I'm going to be gunning it through prior waves. While my pace is intentionally aggressive, my behavior toward my fellow athletes is not. It's unfortunate that it can be interpreted that way. During one race many years ago, I was neck and neck for first place in my wave the entire way, swimming right next to my competitor. Toward the end of the race we made contact with another swimmer - he was swimming quite slow and we overtook him in between sights so he seemed to appear out of nowhere. As I swam by, he stopped swimming, screamed "Bitch!" at me, and punched me - hard - in the kidneys. So let's please don't label just the strong swimmers as aggressive.

abbyjs's ravatar abbyjs    JOINED: 4/7/09    POSTS: 699
RE: Swimming during triathlons, attitudes while doing it
POSTED: 8/18/11 9:53 PM

I don't think an argument between strong swimmers and weak swimmers is a good idea. I think it will always devolve into "Why did you clobber me?" and "You weren't swimming straight and I couldn't avoid clobbering you."

It seems people are trying to place blame--without directly pointing a finger--on either the stronger or weaker swimmers for the "incidental" contact.

I don't think it can be generalized.

Without question, each episode of contact is unique.

Without question, there are times when it is absolutely one person's fault and absolutely not another's. Without question, it is sometimes the faster swimmer's fault, and sometimes the slower swimmer's fault.

There is no singular explanation or rule. There is only awareness--of ourselves and of each other. My hope is that this conversation will for each of us, increase our awareness in the water.

I know I would not feel that rush of anger, that swell of panic if--for once--someone who clobbered me seemed even REMOTELY aware of what they had done.

I know that I will do my best both for my own race and for those around me to avoid any contact with others. I hope you are committed to the same!

HappyRunner's ravatar HappyRunner    JOINED: 1/15/11    POSTS: 185
RE: Swimming during triathlons, attitudes while doing it
POSTED: 8/18/11 10:42 PM

From a newbie's perspective, this has been an amazing thread. It never dawned on me that any contact I've experienced was intentional. I just chalked it up to close quarters and lots of people. Then I read this thread and a Lake Placcid race report talking about punching guys on purpose like a jackhammer. I'm really stunned and a bit disillusioned.

slowtwitchva's ravatar slowtwitchva    JOINED: 2/18/10    POSTS: 207
RE: Swimming during triathlons, attitudes while doing it
POSTED: 8/19/11 8:42 AM

I wish race co-ordinators would organize swim waves according to previously recording swim times, grouping the faster swimmers together and sending them out earlier in a race. Maybe this would avoid any unnecessary roughness.

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