MiFitLife’s SWIM TIPS for the MiWay Durban Ultra

Complied by MiFitLife Brand ambassador, Glen Gore – these tips will be sure to help you on your way this coming Sunday down in Durban..


The Professional Triathlete does the sport for a living. The Age Grouper does it for the love. What can you as an age grouper learn from the Pro? Don’t forget, they too started off in the amateur ranks and worked their way up to the elite level. They too needed guidance and had to learn from their predecessors. You can pick up some valuable ammo from the Pro’s when you go open water triathlon racing especially with the 1.9km DBN ULTRA swim just days away. By keeping it simple and incorporating the following DBN ULTRA surf swim tricks into your swim race routine, you too can potentially save valuable time and have your best swim ever on Sunday


  1. Don’t put the wetsuit on too early


I have seen the guys and girls put their wetsuits on before they leave the hotel rooms on race morning. This in some cases is at least 2hrs in advance of when they start swimming. There is nothing wrong with that if you are just having fun at the event and it’s also a great way to keep warm on race morning. However, if you want to get the best performance out of your swim, this is definitely not the way to go. Put your suit on with only 30-35 minutes to go at most. Wetsuits are pretty un-comfortable and tight. A tight fitting wetsuit will definitely hamper your muscles ability to stay supple and loose and there is a good chance you might not feel that great once you get on the bike after having had your leg muscles compressed for over 2-3 hrs in advance.


  1. Position, Position, Position.


You can easily save a good couple of seconds in your overall swim finish time simply by standing in the right place before the start. How is that possible you may ask?. Check the currents on the day and observe all the swimmers who go in before you. At the snake park beach, it’s generally accepted you should start on the right hand side of the start line. At least this way, you can take a wide berth when turning around the 1st marker buoy.  You then don’t get swamped at the left turning point where most tri athletes try to cut as close to the buoy as possible. Swim wider, an extra 2m of swimming with clear water ahead will ensure a great start to your surf swim



  1. Warm-up before the plunge


You might notice that the pro’s often go through a rigorous swim warm-up routine before the start of any race they participate in. They need to be geared and ready to go when that gun goes off. Their heart rate will go from 70 bpm to 160bpm in less than 50m. Without a good warm-up routine, these pro’s will lack the fire power needed to swim hard from the start and by the time they find their rhythm, the race leaders will be long gone. You never feel fantastically good when you first climb into a pool to start your swim training sets do you? You need a couple of laps before you get into the groove and swim faster right? The same rule applies at the races. You cannot expect to swim fast if you dive into the water “cold”. What you need to do is try get in the water prior to the race start and swim for a few minutes. A couple of 20m sprints with some easy swimming in between should do the trick. We are talking maximum 5 minutes in the water before you get out and wait for the gun. You can certainly save seconds by warming up adequately. A few jumps up and down just before race start will also assist to get the heart rate pumping. Anything will do but don’t stand still and then try and rush into the water for a fast start. The 1st 200m is the hardest part of the whole swim in Durban, make sure you are ready to go once you enter the water.


  1. Swim Straight


This sounds pretty self explanatory but you would be amazed at how bad, a triathletes navigational skills are when they plunge into the open water. If you lack the skill to swim straight to the marker buoys and instead opt for a twisty swim approach, you could end up swimming as much as 200m further over a 1900m swim. That 200m “extra” swim distance can turn into at least a 4 minute plus added onto your finish time over the DBN ULTRA swim distance. You need to be sure of the exact course yourself and not be content to rely on the athletes in front of you, hoping they will swim straight and you can just follow. Before the swim start, look for land markers (there is a massive water tower in Durban that sits on the hill in the far distance plus 3 blocks of flats just across from the Umgeni River. If you position yourself between the tower and the blocks of flats, your swim line will almost be spot on) You also need to be able to swim water-polo style by lifting the head up, making sure you are swimming straight and then putting it back down again. You will do this continually through the 1900m whilst keeping the forward momentum of swimming going. Don’t swim for 20m then stop dead to look up, see where you are going and then start swimming again. This start-stop-start approach will definitely hamper your swimming rhythm and overall swim time.



  1. Draft


Yes it is legal to draft in the swim section of any triathlon. It does not produce the exact same benefits as drafting does say on a bicycle but it can certainly help you swim faster and save you energy during the race. The idea is to find an athlete or pack of swimmers that are swimming slightly faster than you and hook in and try to swim off their pace. The ideal position to draft off in the swim is when you swim either to the left or right of the swimmer in front of you with your head positioned around their knee/hip area. It does take some practice swimming so close to someone without actually hampering their stroke or yours. Second best spot to draft off would be to swim on someone’s feet. The only problem being the lack of vision as their kicking motion produces air bubbles which can make the swim extremely annoying and uncomfortable. Just off the feet and to the side of the swimmer in front of you is the better position to draft off with. You will be amazed at how much easier it is to swim and faster to when the swimmer in front of you “tows” you around the swim course. You often hear the war stories after the race of how someone” just missed” the swim pack in front of them and had they managed to get on the feet, how much faster their swim time would/could have been.  They are not just talking big as drafting in the swim can potentially save them and you both time and energy reserves in 2 weeks time


  1. You will start fast and hard! What?


The Snake Park Beach can deliver up some interesting swim conditions on its day. Most often than not, the start of this particular swim is hardish, especially the 1st 200m out to the calm water beyond the breakers. Just expect it to be hard and give it full gas if you have to. You can always rest and recover once you are in the safe zone which is at the 1st turn-buoy, This is not your regular swim where you have get the chance to start slow and slowly build up your speed. In Durban, the start is hard and fast and it saps your energy. Just be prepared for this. As said, you can rest on the long straight towards the finish point but that first 200m is critical to get in a good hard fast start so you don’t get caught in the breaking wave zone.


  1. Be Patient when you get to the sand bank break zone on the way out


You will navigate a channel within the 1st 20-30m of the swim start. Here the water is generally calm with a few currents at play. Once you are past this point, you will hit the sandbank area which is where all the action takes place. Here is where the waves come crashing down on you for those not fortunate enough to make it out before the next set of waves comes rolling in. The sea however works in sequence and there is opportunity to get past the bigger waves once the wave set has come and gone past and we then experience the “lull” For those that are a little apprehensive at swimming under the bigger waves, be patient and observe the sea conditions on that sand bank. The ocean will give you a break/opportunity to get out past the waves, when you see that “break” and opportunity to swim out to the turn buoys before the next set of waves come in, you need to commit 100% and really go for it. Almost like a 50m hard sprint. You can rest at the turn buoys but you need to go hard and fast at this point



  1. Look behind you in the break zone on the way back in


Most swimmers had no problems getting out to the first turn-buoy last year. The problems came at the last turn buoy when they headed back to the beach. At the finish point, Durban can produce some gnarly waves that are pretty big and pack a nice punch. Don’t be the hero and try surf them in. Most of you will get dumped on your head. As you swim in, look behind and make sure no wave is about to come crashing down on your head. If you see a big wave coming, don’t panic. Turn around, face the wave, take a deep breath and go under. Just relax and allow the wave to push you forward. As long as you have air in your lungs and don’t panic, the sea will pop you up to the surface in 2-3 seconds and you will be about 20m closer to the beach and swim finish


  1. Swim hard over the last 20-30m.


There is a rip current that flows out to sea in the channel zone at the finish area. Often you find that you are swimming towards the beach but don’t seem to be going anywhere – almost like a treadmill, you are swimming as fast as the current is pushing so essentially you are staying in the same spot. The last 20-30m needs to be swum hard and with effort. You are only done with the swim when you can stand on the sand. Until such time, don’t take your foot off the gas, swim hard over that stretch to make sure you don’t battle against the current and take forever to do the last little stretch of the swim.

  1. Take a drink onto the beach with you before the start


Durban is humid and even hot in June. The salt water and air in general will ensure you have a dry mouth before you start swimming. Take a bottle of water onto the beach and sip this continually. 500ml, 20 minutes before you start swimming is also a good idea. Make sure you discard the empty bottles in the littler zone areas after.




  1. Wear 2 swim caps – 1 to secure the goggles and then the race cap over that


If there are big waves at play on race day, there is a good chance your goggles might get washed off the 1st time you try go under the waves. Use 2 caps on race day, one to secure your goggles and then the race cap over that. The last thing you need is for your swimming goggles to be washed off your head at the start of the swim. A 2 cap system ensures your goggles stay on your head and eyes, where you need them most.



  1. Make sure you have no lubrication on the hands


Most of you will apply sun lotion and lubricant of some sorts on race day. Just make sure your hands are free of this oily substance. Your hand is the 1st point of entry into the water and this is where you “catch” or get to “feel” the water with the arm-pull. Make sure your hand is free of grease so you can “feel” the water when you pull with your arms.


  1. Buy a new set of clear lens goggles that are not scratched, are leak proof and have an anti fog coating that actually works


You spend thousands of Rands on bikes, wheels and wetsuits but for some reason, swimmers like to keep their swim goggles for years. A pair of goggles is really only good for about 3-6 months if you use them regularly. They will start to leak (the rubber seal starts to perish with the chlorine abuse). They will start to fog-up because the anti-fog coating is wearing off and they will in all likely-hood be scratched from over-use in training. Invest in 2 pairs when you buy goggles.  One set to train with and one set just for racing. You need clear vision on race day and a pair of goggles that does not give you hassles with leaking and fogging up.


We could go on for hours but the 12 tips above will go swim way to easing your swim fears on the Sunday. Good Luck peeps!!



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