Q. Will the swim be a mass start?
A. No, based on our surveys athletes prefer to start in a Time Trial fashion one person at a time. We used to start in waves of 30-150 racers, though most of our races are now in the time trial format. You will still be grouped by age group and gender, in groups of 20-50 athletes with the same color swim cap, and each group will have a time to line up and start so there isn’t 1000 people in line at the same time. Please refer to posted start schedule for each individual race.
Q. What about water quality?
A. The water quality is tested prior to each race to ensure that the bacteria count is at safe levels as determined by the governmental agency in charge of that body of water.
Q. Do I need to bring a swim cap?
A. No. Swim caps will be provided in your race packet.
Q. Do you have to wear the swim cap?
A. Yes, you must wear the swim cap provided by the race as it is used to help organize the participants into the appropriate waves or groups. If you are allergic to latex, please notify a race official that you are unable to wear the cap so that you won’t be penalized.
Q. Will wetsuits be allowed on the swim?
A. It depends on the water temperature at the venue. Established rules will be followed. If the water temperature is 78 F or below, wetsuits will be allowed. Between 78 F and 84 F, wetsuit use is permitted; however, athletes wearing them will start in a separate wave and will not be eligible for awards or rankings. Above 84 F, wetsuit use is prohibited. Generally from June to October in Florida there are no wetsuits. April, May, and November races are on the border and could go either way. December through March races are typically wetsuit legal. Google the surf temperature in the area of your race to see the current surf temperature. The USAT official measures it race morning and it is usually a degree or 2 below the average that early. If you have a wetsuit then bring it and put it in your trunk. If it is wetsuit legal then you’ll have it.
Q. How do I sight the swim buoys?
A. Ideally you sight as part of your swim stroke by rolling your eyes forward every few strokes. How often you sight depends largely on how straight you swim. You can also simply follow someone that you have determined is sighting well.
Q. What is it like to swim in open water?
A. The biggest difference between swimming in open water and training in a pool is that there are no lane lines! And there is no side to hang on to if you get tired. Some open water courses are out-and-back, and others look more like a loop. Either way, the course is marked with buoys. It is important to sight (look up and see where you are) every so often so you swim fairly straight. Most triathlons will have safety canoes and kayaks out on the water, along with lifeguards. If you ever feel like you’re having trouble during the swim, just wave your hands and a rescue boat will be at your side soon. Open water swimming can sometimes be wavy or choppy, depending on weather conditions.
Q. Can I use a snorkel?
A. Actually, yes. Since it does not propel you forward, the use of a snorkel is allowed under rules.
Q. Can I use swim fins on my feet?
A. No, that would be an unfair advantage.
Q. Can I use any stroke in the swim portion?
A. You may use any stroke that allows you to see the buoys and stay on course.
Q. If I hang onto the lane lines or buoys, will I be disqualified for doing so?
A. You may stop and rest during the swim, but you must not interfere with the progress of other swimmers. You may hang onto the guard boats or buoys.
Q. What additional equipment will be permitted in the swim?
A. Aqua socks, socks, snorkels and swim mask or goggles will be allowed in the swim leg of the event. Use of fins, gloves and flotation devices is prohibited.
Q. What is a ‘wave’?
A. The swim is organized by “waves” that is one or more division’s start at specific times with 3-5 minutes in-between. Wave start times are posted at packet pickup. You must start in your wave according to rules or result in a time penalty. Waves are organized by swim cap color, so it is important for you to wear the swim cap given to you at packet pickup.
Q. What is the swim start like?
A. If there is a wave start and you go with the pack, be prepared for being kicked and poked during the initial minutes, plus you will be doing it to others. If you want to avoid that experience and aren’t particular about your swim time, simply let the pack start ahead of you or start out on the outer edges of the pack.
Q. What time does my wave start?
A. Wave start times will be posted at packet pickup.
Q. If I need help in the swim what do I do?
A. There will be plenty of lifeguards on duty. Take your brightly colored swim cap off and wave it in the air to summon help.
Q. What if I can not finish the swim? Can I finish the race?
A. Yes, you may finish the race but you will be disqualified for not finishing the entire course. Please report yourself to the timing trailer immediately after finishing the race.
Q. How do I know where to swim?
A. The swim will be marked with buoys in the water. If it is an ocean swim you usually swim with the current.
Q. If someone hands me my glasses at the end of the swim, does that violate the “No Help” rule?
A. No, but they will not be allowed in the swim exit chute and will have to stand behind the fence lining the start or the run to transition.
Q. How is the water in the lake? Will I be able to see? Is it clear?
A. The amount of visibility depends on the venue. Visit the venue prior to the race to get a good feel for the visibility in that particular race’s body of water. Most venues don’t have a lot of visibility and/or they are too deep to see much.
Q. What is the water temperature?
A. Click here to see the average water temperatures by month in South Florida.
Q. What about amoebas?
A. Amoebas have not been an issue in South Florida, but if you have any concerns you can simply wear a nose clip to eliminate any possibility of them entering your nose. They are only a problem in very, very warm, stagnant, and generally shallow water and must get very deep up your nose to latch on. That is generally only achieved if you go upside down under water and suck in through the nose.
FOR RACES WITH WAVE STARTS
Q. How is my wave assigned?
A. Waves are assigned according to division, gender, and age group.
Q. Can I switch my wave?
A. Wave assignments cannot be changed except under special circumstances and a time penalty is given for starting in the wrong wave.
Q. How many people will be in my wave?
A. Wave numbers are approximate and are assigned to facilitate timing and ensure accuracy and safety. The maximum is 150, but waves can be as small as 50.
Q. How many minutes are between waves?
A. There are 3-5 minutes between waves.
Q. Do I need a wetsuit?
A. No. Throughout most of the year the waters of South Florida are too warm for wetsuits to even be allowed. Some early and late season races, like Miami Man, are wetsuit legal, so if that is your primary race, it could be a good investment as it will improve your swim split time. If you intend on traveling to races in colder climates, you may need one as well.
Q. I don’t have a wetsuit; I can’t really afford to have one. Will I be at a disadvantage?
A. A wetsuit can certainly improve your swim time, but will hurt your transition time as you have to get the wetsuit off. Most of our races are sprints with only a ¼ mile swim, so the time gained in the water is minimal, with the gains usually completely offset by the time lost in transition. A wetsuit is certainly an overall gain in Olympic and Half Iron distance events.
Q. Will a lot of people wear wet suits?
A. The water will be too warm for wetsuits to be allowed most of the triathlon season in South Florida, so most local triathletes don’t own one or use them, even in races where they are allowed.
Q. Should I purchase a full or sleeveless wetsuit?
A. Many people will purchase a sleeveless suit if they are new to triathlon as a sleeveless will be lower in price. The benefits of a full suit include an increase in buoyancy as more of your body is covered in neoprene, less drag due to a tighter seal around your wrist than shoulder/ arm, and the ability to swim comfortably in colder temperatures. Some people are worried about overheating in a full suit. This should not be a concern. If the water temperature is above 78° wetsuits will not be allowed. Very experienced swimmers or those with larger back or shoulder muscles may prefer a sleeveless suit, but the majority of triathletes will be faster in a full suit.
Q. What should I look for in the fit of a wetsuit?
A. Wetsuits are sized on a height to weight ratio. However, not all of our body types fit into the convenient sizing chart. You want the suit to fit as snug as possible without being constrictive. Suits will conform to your body after swimming in them a time or two. They usually feel too tight when trying them on but buying a suit that is too large is the biggest mistake. Any extra room in the suit will allow water in and create drag. If possible try on suits for comparison. Women will want to be sure to purchase a women’s specific suit. For those with less typical body proportions try the Desoto two-piece suits.
Q. Are there any other considerations?
A. Almost all wetsuit manufacturers have a couple different grades of neoprene, which doesn’t affect durability but does drastically affect the fit and function. A more expensive suit will be made of a more flexible neoprene, which will help the suit go on and off more smoothly. The expensive suit will also have more pieces, contributing to a more tailored fit and range of motion. The best thing to do is try on several suits from several different manufacturers to find the best possible fit. That way you will know why you selected a less expensive suit or opted for a more expensive one.
Q. How deep is the lake?
A. That depends on the venue. Call the park that is listed on the race information page to get specifics about their particular lake.
Q. How many lifeguards will there be?
A. Regulations call for 1 lifeguard per 35 athletes for ocean swims and 1 lifeguard per 50 athletes for lake swims. The number of athletes is based on the number in the water at the same time, not the total number that are registered. All of our events exceed these requirements as we also take into account the length of the swim. We always want a lifeguard to be close enough to every part of the swim to react quickly, though extra coverage is provided near the beginning, where almost all problems occur.