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IRONMAN Introduces SwimSmart Initiative in North America

IRONMAN Introduces SwimSmart Initiative in North America

Swim Start Initiative

In May 2013 Ironman announced that it was introducing a two-phase SwimStart initiative with the goal of “improving athlete satisfaction and reducing anxiety during the swim portion of the race.”  The actions came after a full review of the swim portion of the full-distance Ironman events in North America.

“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 in a press release about the initiative. “Minor changes can make a big difference as it relates to reducing athlete anxiety in the water.”

The first phase of the initiative, which started immediately after the announcement, included the following changes:

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. To see the details of how these changes will affect the races listed, read the complete press release at Ironman.com. The other Ironman events in North America (Texas, Louisville, Wisconsin, 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.

Pre-Race Swim Warm-Up
– North American Ironman events will include a pre-race, in-water warm-up whenever possible.

Swim Temperature
– 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 in the press release. “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 is intended to focus on educating athletes about reducing anxiety associated with the swim portion events, focusing on pre-race screening for potential health issues, pre-race training and race week preparation.  I must say as a competitive swimmer, Ironman finisher myself, and water safety advocate, I applaud the efforts of the World Triathlon Corporation in wanting to pursue more ways to improving the safety of the swimmers.  We will continue to monitor the progress of this program and report more on it.    

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