Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What's The Easiest Way To Take Ten Minutes Out Of Your Swim Split?

Here's some fascinating GPS data from one of our Perth squad members, Daniel Tarborsky. Dan's raced with his Garmin GPS under his swim cap for three of his major races this season just gone, recording the exact path he took. Let's see how he got on!

Busselton Half Ironman, May 2010:


  • Distance travelled from Garmin (inc run in & out): 2.33km
  • Straight line distance (inc run in & out): 1.98km
  • Distance extra swam: 0.35km
  • Percentage extra swam: 18%
  • Calculated time lost from swimming extra distance: 10 minutes exactly!

Port MacQuarie Ironman Australia, April 2010:

  • Distance travelled from Garmin (inc run in & out): 4.13km
  • Straight line distance (inc run in & out): 3.84km
  • Distance extra swam: 0.29km
  • Percentage extra swam: 8%

Hillary's Sprint Triathlon, April 2010:


  • Distance travelled from Garmin (inc run in & out): 1.02km
  • Straight line distance (inc run in & out): 0.82km
  • Distance extra swam: 0.20km
  • Percentage extra swam: 24%

It's easy to see the huge scope for losing time from poor navigation in triathlon and open water swim races. Whilst some of the extra distances measured by the GPS may be due to swell motion and currents, it's clear that most of it is from straying off course. We know that because the pro athlete splits for these races were exactly the pace you'd expect them to swim.

Food for thought? If we wrote a Blog post about how we could improve your stroke technique and take ten minutes out of your swim split you'd hang off our every word! And yet, most triathletes never develop or practise their navigation and sighting skills. Until now we've never been able to accurately track how a swimmer travels in open water - and this probably explains the lack of focus on open water skills. A swimmer can measure their 100m time or count their strokes per length and so spends a lot of focus on these metrics - "what gets measured gets done!".

We're now rapidly approaching the northern hemisphere race season. If you are looking to get the best out of yourself in the water we strongly recommend you devote one of your weekly swims towards open water skills. The ideal way to do this is to train in open water in a group, however you can work on your sighting and drafting skills in the pool too.

A special thanks to Dan for being a great sport and sharing his data with us.

Swim Smooth!

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