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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Ironman Wisconsin - Swim Course Preview

***As of 3/30/12 the Ironman Wisconsin course has changed and will now be a single loop swim***


Course: 2 Loops counter-clockwise
Turns: 7 left-handed turns
Distances: 2x800 meter out portions, 2x125 meter "turns", 100 meter return to shore
Water conditions: Low visibility, usually flat, watch out for the snakes and deadbodies!
Water Temp: Wetsuit legal all but one year, usually between 64-72 degrees
Buoys: You only need to swim around the turn buoys, all other buoys are fair game on each side, including the start.

WARNING!!! If you want to be in the water for the start, make sure to get down to the swim entrance early. Athletes are bottlenecked every year at the swim entrance and it can take, what feels like an enternity to get in the water. In 2010 I got to the swim entrance at 6:40 and got in the water during the anthem at about 6:55. One you are in the water everyone is self seeded. If you want to get a short warmup in I would recommend getting into the water no later then 6:50. Pros go off at 6:50 and that is when it gets really crowded towards the entrance.

The picture above shows the start of the 2006 swim seconds after the gun. This is a great picture to show you the places to start. Everyone seems to use two markings to guide where they will start the swim. The red start/turn buoy and the boat ramp in the middle that divides the start line down the middle. Everyone I have ever talked to has said that if you want/ plan to swim under an hour start inside the turn buoy (legal at the start) and between the boat ramp. For everyone else it is best to start on the otherside of the boat ramp or behind those between the buoy and boatramp.

Seeding Yourself

Where you seed yourself can really set your swim up for success, or really put you in a bad spot quick. Generally the weaker the swimmer you are, or the more you do not like contact the further back you should start. Contrary to belief, if you are a strong swimmer (sub 60) you do not need to start on the inside of the boat ramp on the turn buoy. Feel free to start anywhere on the first row all the way towards the shoreline. Fish always try to stay away from the shoreline because of the "added distance" well a simple measurement shows that you will swim at most 25-50 meters more, so really you trade about 20-50 seconds for a little less contact, and more open water at the start, if those seconds are truly that valuable to you, or you are trying to win the AG swim then swim inside. If you are looking for a rather less crowded swim and to avoid all contact, it would be your best bet to start wide and about 3-4 rows back. Once the cannon goes off let everyone take off and follow in their wake.

The First Turn

It's gonna get crazy here, but if you approach it the right way you can really avoid a mess, just make sure to "MOOO" as you round the first turn buoy. In 2010 I swam wide of the turn and had minor contact. I talked to racers after that said that were breaststroking around the buoy and trying to protect themselves from the onslaught of arms and legs crashing into everyone's bodies. If you don't like contact and don't care about swimming a few extra yards take the first two turns wide. If you don't mind the chaos and want a fast split then just make sure to be on the pointy end of the group.

Video of first turn buoy


Besides the buoy's there is not too much to aid in your sighting. On the way out the first time, sight for the bridge, that is, if you can see it will give you a good line to the first/fifth turn buoy. At the end of each loop there is a large silver condo that is directly above the swim exit, this is a great aid and visual help if you cannot get your head out of the water high enough to see the swim exit. The sun will be rising mostly from the northeast, which means if you breath strongly on your right, it will be hard to see on the return leg of the swim, but if you breath on your left, it will be vice-versa. While swimming on the return portion of the loop, make sure to take some breaths to your left and watch the Monona Terrace pass by, it's a good sight to watch slowly pass by each breath you take, as well as see just how many spectators come out from Ironman Wisconsin.

2011 AG Times

Below is a list of AG times of when swimmers came out of the water by place. As you can see less then 4% of the field swims sub 60, with the majority of the field coming in between 1:05 and 1:40. Based on these times you can approximate when you plan on being out of the water and what place you may be in.

51:31- 1st
1:00:00 - 92nd
1:05:00 - 226th
1:10:00 - 536th
1:15:00 - 909th
1:20:00 - 1297th
1:25:00 - 1622nd
1:30:00 - 1895th
1:40:00 - 2255th

Once you are out of the water you will veer to the left on land and be met by plenty of volunteers to strip your wetsuit off. Once that is done you get to run through this!

And up this!



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