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Breaststroke in triathlon, discuss...


A couple of weeks ago I competed in the London triathlon, it was my first Olympic event and in general I had a very enjoyable experience. However I do have one bug bear, the amount of people doing breaststroke was amazing. Now this could be that I was in the biggest wave of the weekend, Sunday 13:10. But I just got boxed in, everyone around me where doing breaststroke, as a freestyle swimmer this was incredibly irritating, I spent all my time trying to either get past rows of people breaststroking and getting kicked in the face.

This could be, in part, the organisers fault for letting so many people start in one wave?

I really don't want to deny anyone taking part in triathlon, however in an event as large as London a simple question on the entry form would resolve this. "What is your preferred stroke?"

So, I'm not here to out anyone, or have a go but I have been swimming a 28 minute 1500m in open water up until the event, I came out of the water in 36, I would accept starting position may add time, but I didn't get any clear water until after the 750m point, then I court another row of breaststrokers!!.

So of course I am a bit disappointed with my time, but should breaststroke be limited to certain waves? Discuss...


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    toadtoad Posts: 104
    Hi grantsmith

    out of interest how many were in your wave and where abouts did you start towards the front or towards the back ?

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    transittransit Posts: 163
    My thoughts are that they try and seed the waves according to speed so irrelevant of what stroke you are swimming you should be travelling at the same speed. In reality, alot of people (and possibly alot of the breaststrokers who may be 1st timers?!) may put in wrong or poorly estimated times. The biggest issue I believe is more the size of the 'wave' than the stroke people are doing.

    The mass starts are also all part of the sport and whilst I have to admit I don't particularly enjoy them, you just have to deal with them.

    Next time you'll have to do butterfly just to show 'em how it's done![;)]
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    I agree. Breast stroke is not what you're meant to do in triathlon. Sorry but it's supposed to be front crawl. Anyway, I'm just off to blow up my arm bands and take the stabilisers of my bike. Fannies.
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    TommiTriTommiTri Posts: 879
    No I think your wrong, I think it is perfectly acceptable to do breaststroke in tri, thats like saying "Sorry, no crappy bikes allowed, only super fast racers". Triathlon accepts all forms. However I do clearly see the problem. But you do have to look at it from the point of view of the event as a whole, as i think it is right to break an event like london up into age groups rather than swim speed.

    Having said this I think it would be perfectly acceptable to have all the breaststrokers starting from the back of each wave, sounds harsh, but they are going to end up there anyway if they swim breaststroke, and it would save them getting in the quicker freestyle swimmers way, which I'm sure they don't intend to do.
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    Sorry I don't accept that requiring people to do front crawl is in some way elitist or something reserved for people who are really good, as you appear to suggest. I do front crawl and I'm far from fast, or technically good - I can assure you! My point is quite simple - the swim leg of triathlon is, and has always been, about doing front crawl. That's what it's all about. Anyway, no probs if you disagree, maybe I'm just a bit OCD ;-)
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    transittransit Posts: 163
    Is the swim leg about doing 'freestyle', not front crawl? Free style being whatever 'style' you wanna pull out the bag? Anyway, I agree, with everyone, don't wanna start any arguments (sits firmly on fence) [:(]
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    grant1974grant1974 Posts: 262
    Toad, there were 400 in that wave!

    Transit, I don't recall having to give a estimated swim time, in fact I'm pretty sure I didn't.

    Trijunkers, I kind of agree, for one I was always told you have to do freestyle as it's less of a risk to your fellow competitor's, breaststroke kick to the face hurts, believe you me!

    I don't expect anything to change, I just thought it was a interesting discussion...
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    TommiTriTommiTri Posts: 879
    I am not saying that requiring people to do front crawl, in my morning sessions in my local pool which seems to be full of lots of slow old people I can see that front crawl is not necessarily the fastest stroke!

    My point is that I had always believed the swim section to be ones own choice, with limits of course. I personally think people should be able to do the stroke they feel most comfortable swimming. Its just the efficiency of crawl makes it by far the best choice. I think by saying breaststroke should not be allowed at all you are excluding so many people from the sport, as for some people front crawl is just not a possibility.
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    ah, grant.smith, i suffered exactly as you did at London. Darn those pesky breast strokers!!!

    I totally agree that tri should be an inclusive sport, but i love the idea of them (breast strokers) starting at the back of the wave.
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    toadtoad Posts: 104
    400 is a massive wave, I did london sprint distance last year and I am sure there was only half that in my wave. I understand your fustration especially when it looks like the traffic has cost you over 8 mins on your final time. At our open water practise sessions we practise mass starts which seems to help alot re trying to find clear water and adapting to people swimming over you.... however just about everyone is doing front crawl so this may not be so useful adapting to dealing with alot of swimmers choosing to do breaststroke.

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    As a former breaststroker I have to say I think that there should not be a ban on doing any strke you want to do, if it was only freestyle (crawl) I would never have even tried a triathlon. I also have never come out last in the swim doing breastroke there is a small sense of satisfaction catching as many freestylers as possible.

    I think it is a good idea if the breaststrokers start at the back/side of the pack as it does get very messy at the start, although as for speed I still think I am a quicker breaststroker than freestyler the only reason I have changed is that it saves the legs for the bike and I have done 2 IM, one breaststroke (due to rotator cuff injury) and one freestyle and I had a much better cycle when I did freestyle.


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    My point is quite simple - the swim leg of triathlon is, and has always been, about doing front crawl. That's what it's all about.

    ummmm.... not sure I agree with that sentiment really. You can do any stroke you like apart from backstroke.

    Anyway, shouldn't you just follow the advice from that BBC guy and just do whatever it takes to get past them?[:@]

    No seriously though, I think you can get held up just as much by any pack in the water who are close together and swimming slower than you. I think the key is to get your start position right and get ahead early if you're good enough. Or, be prepared to do that swimming over your opponent thing - I've certainly had enough people do that to me.

    All that said, I must add that being held up rarely if ever effects me - I'm so blinking slow I'm always at the back anyway![;)]
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    Easy solution - Marshall directs all breaststrokers to the back before start. They won't hold anyone up and the front crawlers won't get a nice side on foot in the chops from a breaststroker - just one directly in their face from a fellow front crawler.
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    BopomofoBopomofo Posts: 980
    Yeah, I got caught up by slower swimmers in London last year, although I must say that most of them were doing crawl. Surely there's only so many people that a breast-stroker can kick before they start feeling a bit guilty.

    I fixed the problem this year by getting into the correct start position. On the front line. [:D]

    It was all going so well up to about 400m... I went out fast to get some clear water, stayed about 5 metres out from the inside line and must have been in the top 10 or so until my shoulder injury made itself felt. After that I had to back off and got swallowed by the main pack. Nice.

    The point is that we all eventually learn to get in (roughly) the right place in these mass starts. Not pleasant, but at least everybody is suffering the same handicap. Same goes for the bike - maybe you have to back off because of drafting rules, maybe you can't get past because some idiot is taking the damned racing line through all the twisties near to Excel on their shopping bike.... (yes, this happened).

    I don't think I'd support a ban on alternative strokes, its a freestyle race, after all. I would love to see time-marker boards like in a 10k race - say 20, 25, 30, 35 minutes - but this would be damned difficult in the water.

    And to pick up an earlier comment, anybody that takes up the challenge of starting a tri doing the 1500m butterfly should automatically be entered into the 220 Forum Hall of Fame. Remember, we need pictures or it didn't happen.
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    TomTom Posts: 3
    Hi there

    I here what you say but if Triatlon is going to progress (and it is still tiny) then it needs to be fully inclusive. Swim, Run, Bike. Swim is not prefixed with Swim (Frontcrawl only) Bike Run. The London Marathon is where is is, because the under lying principal of driving to 'reach a personal goal' is not a conditional on having a certain time, sytle, or history in running. London to Brighton Bike ride is the same, you can do it on a Mountain bike and take your breaks when you need. It's still an edurance event but really popular because you enter without percieved conditions and expectations.

    When I did my first Tri I was nearly put off buy the a distinctly ridgid attitude to what was condisered acceptable. From the bikes, to the cloths, to the obsession with training to much & times. People accept being boxed in, goggles knocked off , swimming over the top, in any frontcrawl mass start, but not from some new beginners trying to get to grips with the sport. Why!!

    Mass starts can also slow you down, so your beef was about the fact you didn't like breaststrokers trying out the sport with you in the water. Well without new people trying the sport and being given a break, it will always be a minority game. It will die, because there won't be enough commercial activity and intrest flowing from the sport to intrest either the big sport sponsers or the public. We need volumes of people, lottery funding, sponsors and winners to grow. So those breaststrokers are perhaps a little more important than they might first appear.

    If your really hung up about being boxed in, you need to go to the front line, but then the pain of what might happen could be worse than working your way through a feild once they have spread out a bit.
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    BARNYBARNY Posts: 157
    Never had that problem, tactics are important, place yourself correctly and you will have no problem. Everyone is free to swim how they like. If slow poeple are in front, swim past/over them. A touch of friendly agression is required.

    Its what make it so exciting.. my last swimstart was 2500 poeple and it was fine.
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    ashthetashashthetash Posts: 164

    I've spent most of this year's pool time improving my crawl. I went to the Bananaman in July fully intending to use crawl for the swim. After about 25M I had one or two problems and ended up doing breaststroke to the first bouy and then reverting to crawl. Not sure if I kicked anyone whilst I was doing breaststroke but at the time I had enough problems of my own and certainly wouldn't have felt guilty if someone got too close to me. That said I know my ability (or lack of it) in the pool. Istarted towards the back because I didn't want people swimming over me.

    I think Bopomofo hit the nail on the head. Get into the right position at the start. It's your race. You take responsibility for it.

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    en51nmen51nm Posts: 41
    Small rant:

    I got held up by breaststrokers at the pool yesterday! There's a reason for the "fast" "medium" and "slow" lanes!!

    Rant over...

    Although I have yet to experience them in a mass start I will definately be making my way towards the front of the start line at the south coast tri, I'm not the largest of guys and will have enough trouble with waves knocking me around let alone breaststrokers kicking me!
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    Live and let live!

    Most of us are old enough to know about the various strains and injuries suffered by our bodies over the years. My physio recommended that I shouldn't try swimming crawl until my shoulder was back to almost 100%, so does that mean I shouldn't compete if the only option left to me is breast stroke?

    It sounds somewhat bigotted and prejudiced to me! What next? Gays at the back? Come on girls and boys, play the game. A kick in the face must be very off-putting but if it does put you off, there always another sport you could try. Tiddlywinks maybe - but remember the eye protection...
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