I went up to Lake Placid to train with friends over Memorial Day weekend and have some quality family time. It was the first time I had been back since last summer when I competed at Ironman last July. There were many moments while I was training that I thought about my race and what I was experiencing during certain segments of the race. Every time I look back, one of my favorite memories is the swim start. With new rules and concerns, Ironman is changing the start to this great race - one of the aspects of racing this great event I truly LOVE. There is something about treading water with about 3000 other athletes all ready to do battle and put their body through hell as we push it to the limit that is incomparable to anything else I've experienced. I am trying to understand Ironman's position but I am struggling to find their true reasoning and if this truly is a better way to go about it. About a month ago, Ironman decided to implement a pilot program at Ironman Lake Placid 2013 where the swim start will be a wave start of self-seeded athletes and also switching the direction athletes are swimming (counter-clockwise as opposed to clockwwise). The waves will start at 6:30 and go to 7:00.
What a GREAT feeling, can't explain it!!
My concerns or disappointments:
1) Athletes will not have the opportunity to experience the mass start. I find this troubling for the athletes heading to Kona, that want to experience it and practice it before they head to the Ironman World Championships. I qualified last year for Kona in my first Ironman race at Lake Placid 2012 and was glad I experienced the mass start prior to going. I learned valuable information on how to start and how to tackle this aspect of the race and racing.
2) The self-seeded wave start - I believe that is what Lake Placid 2012 was. You self-seeded yourself in the water and I am not sure that that worked. You had athletes that thought their abilities were greater than they actually were and didn't want to be penalized by starting further back on the bike (especially the strong cyclists). In all these races as long as it is self seed you will have athletes that can't seed themselves.
3) If you think you might have a problem with the swim, then move back from the start line or wait a few seconds after the gun goes off before you start your race. It seems pretty simple.
4) You truly will not be racing the other athletes anymore, you are racing the clock. Before: every position you gained or lost - you gained or lost. Now: you have no idea where you stand when you pass someone or someone passes you, since you have no idea when they started. This is very discouraging, if you ask me. I personally like to know where I am on the course when I am racing.
5) Now my major issue. A lot of strong swimmers finish under 1 hr. So that makes their first loop split, roughly around 30 minutes which coincidentally coincides with the last waves being started (7:00). So as a strong swimmer or possibble Kona bound athlete, you will have possibly two starts to swim through (your own at 6:30 and the one that leaves at 7:00). These strong swimmers will do anything to keep going, even if it means kicking and clawing. I think this is huge cause for concern for the weakest and usually the most anxious swimmers on the course. This could present a lot of problems and and raises a lot of red flags in my mind.
I think if Ironman is truly concerned with this issue they would limit the race field size but lets be realistic it always comes back to money so that is not going to happen. They could always reduce the number of entrants and hold more events. Always an option. I think to keep the racing feel between all athletes (if this is the route they are going to go) the same you should send whole divisions out in waves like all the other distances do. I really don't like what Ironman has done with the swim start and hope it changes back to the old for 2014. It will be interesting.
What does everyone else think about Ironman's decision?
Kenrick Smith - Be a part of the K17Sport Lifestyle.
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