Triathlons with a Pool Swim

While the majority of triathlons will have an open water swim, some do include a pool swim. A triathlon with a pool swim will generally take place in locations where there is not an open water area or where the water temperatures are too cold, even with a wetsuit. Pool swims will also typically be for shorter distance triathlons such as sprint and super sprint.

What can you expect when entering a triathlon with pool swim?

Pool swim triathlons are typically seeded. This means when you fill out the entry form you are going to indicate your estimated time to swim the distance of your race. The best way to do this is to actually go to the pool and time yourself. For the overall flow of the race it is very critical to be accurate in your time, do not pad your time to look faster.

The biggest criticism athletes have with a pool swim is that people are not always honest with the correct time. This presents the problem of having more athletes to pass and the resulting effect on the flow of the race. Inevitably in a pool swim you will come across those that were not accurate in their estimated times. Set a positive example in your race, hopefully others will take notice and do the same in any future races.

Logistics of a Triathlon Pool Swim

According to your estimated time on the entry form you will be seeded accordingly. From there most pool swims take two directions.

Snake Swim: The snake swim will begin with the fastest seeded swimmer. The next fastest swimmer and so on will enter the water at 10-15 second intervals. The swimmers upon entering the water will swim the length of a lap then turn on the wall and the swim back down the lap lane. When they complete the lap they then swim under the lane and enter lane two and proceed the same way. They will continue snaking up and down the lanes until the distance is completed.

Heat Swim: In a heat swim, swimmers will again be seated by their estimated speed on their entry form. The race will then consist of heats, the fastest heat going first. There might be anywhere from 2-6 athletes in each lane. You will enter the water in 10-15 second intervals and then swim the entire distance in the same lane in a circle swim. A circle swim requires you to swim up the lane on one side and back down the lane on the opposite side.

Triathlon Pool Swim Etiquette

• In a pool swim there will always be someone in close proximity to you, be aware of your surroundings.
• At registration you may receive a start time if many swimmers are participating. Be on time for your start.
• Don’t use the rope for turning or maneuvering yourself.
• Expect to experience some contact with other athletes, do your best to be a respectful athlete.


Passing is sometimes necessary in a pool swim. There may be enough room in the lane for an athlete to comfortably go around another athlete, just watch for those coming back down the lane. Otherwise, a foot tap allows the swimmer in front of you to know that you would like to pass. Often that swimmer will respond by holding up briefly at the next wall to let you pass by.


As in all triathlon swims, preparation helps race day go smoothly. Especially practice swimming or flipping under the lane lines if you have never done so before.

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