JOURNEY 28: A Meter Matters - Wade Running Mechanics and Swim Entry Success
The start of a triathlon can be chaos. Athletes pushing and shoving, arms flying everywhere, all to get off to a quick start.
How can we ensure we are the ones leading the swim and having the best start possible every single race?
Positioning yourself within your wave at the start is crucial. It’s important to stand in the front line of your wave, have your dominant foot forward and have the same arm in front of your competitor. When the race starts you have the advantage of pushing off your opponent if needed as your arm swings back, corresponding with your opposite leg moving forwards. This gives you a small boost as you push off and helps you gain an extra couple of seconds as you will take a step forwards before the person next to you on your most dominant/powerful leg.
The psychology of the start is just as important as nailing the physical cues. There are two sides to this.
1. Your arousal level.
2. Your thought process.
Being under aroused in the leadup means you are not ready to race. Likewise, being over aroused is just as problematic. The emotional state that best supports a fast start is what we refer to as “middle kingdom”. Middle kingdom can be described as a state of control, internal.
Arriving at the race without carefully planning what you need to do and being clear on how you will execute these skills increases the chance of making basic mistakes, which costs time. Take a few moments before the race starts to ensure you are mentally prepared to attack the first section of the race. This means being clear on every skill you must complete to follow your race plan and get away effectively.
The first 50 metres of the swim is the most important part of the whole triathlon. It sets up your position for the race. In a draft legal event you can lose the race in this section by dropping off the front pack and therefore missing the lead bike group. In non-draft legal racing a poor swim entry can cost you a lot of time in the swim as you will miss the opportunity to draft off other swimmers at the front. Sprinting out of the start, maintaining speed through your wade running and porpoising gives you the best chance to be at the front consistently.
What does it mean to be at the front?
The front pack is clearly the fastest group of swimmers. After a successful swim entry, you will find yourself within this group which allows you to swim off their hips and draft. The swimmers will carry you along at a faster pace than you could otherwise swim by yourself.
In no circumstances is it faster to swim alone when you have good swimmers around you!
Even if you can’t stay with that front pack, by placing yourself in front of other swimmers you’ve created a barrier for them to swim around. This is worth more than the small amount of effort you put in at the start. When a faster swimmer is behind you, they need to swim through your wake and around you or the group you are in. This will slow them down and take important seconds out of their swim time. When swimmers catch you, if you have enough self-awareness in the water, you can position yourself to gain some draft benefit as they come past. If by chance you have a poor swim entry it could be you spending more time and energy swimming around slower athletes!
ETPA’s top 3 tips to nail your swim entry:
1. Sprint into the water at full gas. Running in water is slower than running on land. Once you hit the water in a race ideally you maintain your speed whilst wade running until you dive in. If you miss the start and jog into the water or do not completely commit to sprinting, you will potentially lose touch with the front group when they start to wade run and porpoise as the comparative speed difference will increase significantly.
2. Wade run correctly. When running on land the most efficient way to bring your legs forward for your next step is in a straight line with your feet travelling underneath your hips. This differs to wade running. It is much harder and slower to move through water, therefore bringing your legs out and around to the side of your body so your feet come out of the water is a much easier and faster movement. Each step you take is almost as if you are jumping to reduce the drag of the water.
3. Porpoise with intent. Once you reach mid-thigh height in the water whilst wade running, start to porpoise. When executed correctly porpoising at this depth is much faster than both wade running and swimming.
- The porpoise starts with the jump. Jump forwards not up. The aim is to travel forwards as fast as possible so dive in this direction with power.
- Slightly twist your body in the air. Diving on a slight angle allows you to breathe during the jump, whilst staying lower and pushing further forwards horizontally.
- Ensure your arms are in a tight streamline position as if you are diving off the blocks in the pool. This will allow you to travel further and faster underwater.
- Just before you break the streamline position to resurface, grab the sand to pull yourself forwards as you rise in preparation for the next dive.
- As you grab the sand pull your knees up and forwards on a slight angle. This allows you to place one foot in front of the other when you stand up and puts you in a more powerful position for your next dive. Each foot should only touch the ground once in between dives so where your feet land in relation to each other is particularly important.
Good luck and start fast, a meter matters!