You might not win the race in the swim, but you certainly can lose it.

In a few of my most recent posts I have written about pacing strategy and the danger of outracing your training.

I would like to expand on these themes by briefly discussing the impact the swim leg of a triathlon can have on the bike, run and overall race day performance.

The saying goes, "you might not win the race in the swim, but you certainly can lose it". I agree with this statement 100%.

(Triathlon of Paris - USA Today)

The effort put out in the swim should be a controlled one, and be used to lay the foundation for the remainder of the race. Too much output to early, can have dire consequences later in the race, on your bike and your run performance.

An interesting study performed at the University of Western Australia found that in the Sprint distance event, "a swimming intensity below that of a time trial effort significantly improves subsequent cycling and overall triathlon performance".

This study found that racing at 20% below time trial swim velocity, gave the fastest overall time in the group tested.

I know there is a massive difference between the race strategies, and swim strategy, of the different racing distances e.g. sprint VS Ironman, but I believe we can learn a lot from this study.

By keeping our swimming intensity under control, and slightly below what we know we can swim for that distance on its own, we can be confident that we are setting ourselves up for a better bike leg and overall race performance.

James Greenwood is a competitive tri and multisport athlete currently training for Ironman Canada 2009. A level 1 Triathlon Coach, he holds a post graduate degree in Exercise Science, and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA. James is also currently the resident health and fitness programs expert at, and has starred in a number of multisport specific fitness videos.
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