As part of its continuous, ongoing efforts to improve its athlete’s race experience, IRONMAN has conducted a full review of the swim portion of all full-distance IRONMAN® events in North America. The results of that review have led to a two-phase SwimSmart initiative focused on improving athlete satisfaction and reducing anxiety during the swim portion of the race.
“IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 events have always been operated at a level above the industry standard, and we are continuously looking for ways to improve and adjust,” said Jeff Edwards, IRONMAN Vice President of Operations, North America. “Minor changes can make a big difference as it relates to reducing athlete anxiety in the water.”
The first phase of the initiative, effective immediately, will focus on operational enhancements at all full distance IRONMAN events. Changes/enhancements will include:
Modified Swim Starts at Select Races
- IRONMAN will pilot several alternative race starts at select events to further enhance the athlete experience and reduce swim anxiety. Three events in 2013 will feature new swim start formats – IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene, IRONMAN Lake Placid and IRONMAN Mont-Tremblant – while two other 2013 events, IRONMAN Lake Tahoe and IRONMAN Florida, will feature modifications in how athletes start their races.
Pre-Race Swim Warm-Up
- North American IRONMAN®events will include a pre-race, in-water warm-up whenever possible.
- Water temperature below 52 degrees Fahrenheit or above 88 degrees Fahrenheit will result in cancellation or shortening of the swim portion of the race.
Swim Course Additions
- Numbered course buoys to assist in positioning of water assets/personnel and provide more accurate communication for locating and rescuing distressed swimmers.
- Anchored resting rafts to be strategically placed along the swim course (please note that athletes will NOT be disqualified by resting on these floats).
- Increased professional swim course personnel to enhance the overall athlete experience.
- Additional rescue boat and personal watercrafts (PWC, kayaks, paddleboards, etc.).
“We are constantly striving to improve our athlete experience by listening to the feedback of our athletes,” said Andrew Messick, Chief Executive Officer of IRONMAN®. “As part of our industry leading commitment to our athletes, we are piloting operational changes to the swim portion of our races in North America and launching an education plan to help ensure our athletes are prepared for the swim.”
The second phase of the initiative will feature a comprehensive effort to educate athletes about reducing anxiety associated with the swim portion of IRONMAN® events, focusing on pre-race screening for potential health issues, pre-race training and race week preparation. Such efforts will use all IRONMAN media platforms and will include a checklist and on-line videos. Swim-specific educational communications will begin at the end of May.
“It’s rare to see a race series confront the challenges of open water swimming in a systematic, robust way,” said Dan Empfield, Founder and Publisher of Slowtwitch.com. “This initiative touches key pressure points faced by athletes during the swim leg and should be the new normal for our sport.”
SWIM START PILOTS
IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene and IRONMAN Lake Placid:
Both IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene and IRONMAN Lake Placid will feature rolling starts in 2013. Athletes will enter the water in a continuous stream through a controlled access point, similar to how running road races are started. An athlete’s times will start when they cross timing mats under the swim arch.
Athletes will be directed to self-seed on race morning based on their projected swim time. Volunteers and staff will be in the staging area with signs and will assist with this process. Self-seeding will not be mandatory but will be encouraged. At both events, all athletes will have access to a dedicated warm-up area in the water located adjacent to the swim start.
Age-group athletes will begin entering the water at 6:35 a.m. for IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene and 6:30 a.m. for IRONMAN Lake Placid, and will have the two hours and twenty minutes from the time the last athlete enters the water to complete the swim. An athlete’s time does not begin until he or she crosses the timing mat located below the swim arch. All athletes are expected to start by 7:00 a.m. at both venues, thus keeping all other timelines and cutoffs the same. This will ensure that all participants have at least the full 17 hours (subject to intermediate cutoffs) to complete the event.
For 2013, the swim course at IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene will remain the same, while IRONMAN Lake Placid will reverse the swim direction with athletes swimming clockwise.
IRONMAN Mont-Tremblant will feature a wave start based on age group. There will be eight waves with each wave entering the water five minutes apart, starting at 6:25 a.m. All athletes will have at least 17 hours to complete the entire event (subject to intermediate cutoffs). The two hour and twenty minute cutoff for the swim will begin when the final wave has started the swim portion of the event.
IRONMAN Lake Tahoe and IRONMAN Florida:
IRONMAN Lake Tahoe and IRONMAN Florida will feature a mass start based on self-seeding. Athletes will self-seed into swim start corrals based upon their estimated swim finish time. All athletes will have the traditional 17 hours to complete the entire event (subject to intermediate cutoffs).
The other IRONMAN® events in North America (IRONMAN Texas, IRONMAN Louisville, IRONMAN Wisconsin, IRONMAN Arizona) are scheduled to have the same swim start format as in 2012 which can be found on ironman.com; IRONMAN Canada (with a new venue in 2013) will feature a two-loop swim with an in-water mass start.
As always, IRONMAN reserves the right to change or modify any course as the season progresses based on athlete safety, weather conditions or other mitigating factors.
Athletes are urged to refer to the Athlete Guide and event website for the most up-to-date event and course information. Attending the -mandatory athlete meeting prior to each race can assist in answering any questions you may have. For more information, visit www.ironman.com.