Triathlons too trying? Aquathlons and Aquabikes might be more swimmer friendly

By Richard Smith (past GRIN chairman)

As swimmers, most of us feel a little disadvantaged in triathlons for the following reasons:

#1.  The wetsuits take away some of our presumed swimming advantages.
#2.  For a standard Olympic (which favors swimmers slightly), less time is spent in the water than biking or running.
#3.  Some of us just don’t enjoy either biking or running so why subject ourselves!

While I do a few triathlons each year, you may be happy — nay, even excited — to learn that there are other options:  Aquathlon and Aquabikes.  They are exactly what they sound like — Aquathlon is a combination swimming and running event.  Aquabike is a combination swimming and biking event.   USA Triathlon sanctions some of the events and there are national rankings if you participate in two or more sanctioned events (more on that later).

There are two variants of Aquathlons — Swim first, then run or do a run, swim, followed by another run. In both versions, transition times (ie time spent putting on and off shoes and other gear counts in your final finish time).  

In the Swim/Run version, wetsuits may be legal under the usual USAT rules (i.e. okay under 77 or cooler, optional 78-83 and forbidden 84 and above).  So the question becomes transition times since taking off the wetsuit may slow you down in the T1 transition zone.  At Nationals in Longmont, Colorado in May, the swim was supposed to be 1500 meters followed by a 5K run (3.1 miles).  As it turned out, due to spring run-off, there was an e-coli “problem” at the original location so we did the 5K run, there all of us motored 30 miles and did the 1500 open water swim.  (Susan Meyers and Babs Larsen may recall a similar problem at the Lake Erie 1-mile open water in 2006 but they didn’t tell us until after the awards ceremony!)  At any rate, I had the fastest AG time for both the run and swim.  (There is a sanctioned winter series — Jan, Feb and March — in Ohio at the Kettering Rec Center — 1,000 pool swim followed by a 5K that is frequently snow and ice.)

Syd Latina, Raena Latina Lawson, Jack Hoover and I did a Run/Swim/Run version in Howell, Michigan over the 4th of July weekend.   It was a 1.2 K run, 750 meter open water swim, 1.2 K run.  We didn’t plan jointly but there we were!  Obviously, two transitions make wetsuits more problematic and almost everyone in Michigan did without. 

More on wetsuits:  As noted, wetsuits are “fully legal” only if the water temperature is less than 78.  Since most triathletes are not strong swimmers, they prefer wetsuits.  Not that anyone “tinkers”, but many triathlon and other event organizers magically announce 77 degree water temperature!  I’m sure that it is 77 degrees somewhere in those lakes but it is frequently warmer.  Howell announced 72 degrees but it was warmer than the Nat (to this swimmer, at least).  Colorado was a real 57 degrees, trust me.

More on the swim courses:  With GPS, the length of the swims is more believable than 20 years ago but still is subject to estimation on actual buoy placement.  But, particularly in tris, the afore-mentioned tendency against strong swimmers seems to result in shorter than advertised swims (with the notable exception of the upcoming Indy Canal Tri).

More on national rankings:  USAT has a complicated formula that compares average elapsed time in this year’s event for all participants who participated in any aquathlon event last year and who were ranked last year.  In effect, USAT then computes a ranking for all participants in this year’s event compared to the average of the 20th-80th percentile of ranked participants.  So in Colorado, I rated a 73.2 and in Michigan a 71.2 (currently ranked #1 for the age group with a 72.2 average).  This is the simple version!  Most of us just trust (and curse) the USAT rankings committee.  For tris, USAT only counts your best three performances; for the others, the two best ratings.

And … of course for non-swimmers, USAT has duathlons — combinations of running and biking (lost on this audience, I’d guess).

Bottom line:  If you’ve been intimidated or discouraged from triathlons because you don’t like to bike and/or run, then you should know that there are alternatives, including the straight open-water swims.

Barber swims from Spain to Africa and back in record time

Check out this story in The Indianapolis Star on marathon swimmer Jim Barber:

http://www.indystar.com/article/20110721/SPORTS/107210381/Barber-swims-from-Europe-Africa-back?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|Sports

GRIN Masters Swimming Coaches Scholarship

Want to become a certified masters coach for an Indiana team, but need help with the costs to get it? Then fill out this application and turn it in by July 29th to attend the September 14th training at the USMS National Convention in Jacksonville, Florida. Financial assistance will be made available to three coaches, providing airfare transportation, hotel accommodations, ground transportation and a daily food stipend during the time of travel in Jacksonville. The USMS certification program includes a full day of in class and pool training to become a Level I and Level II certified masters swimming coach.

Register now for July 30 and Aug. 28 open water swims at Morse

Registration is now open for the Planet Adventure Swim Series events July 30 and Aug. 28 on Morse Reservoir.

On July 30, open water swims include 1K and 2K distances. On Aug. 28, there will be 2K and 4K distances.

Dick Sidner, a past GRIN president and longtime NASTI swimmer, is the meet director.

Check here for more information: http://www.planetadventurerace.com/swimming/index.shtml