Rolling start - where to position

I’m a FOP swimmer, (although my swimmer mates would laugh at that)… the last 70.3 I think I was 23rd overall out the water. I started near the front and had what I thought was a crap swim. I must have had those 22 people all pass me in the first few minutes, which really put me off. Also when I got on the bike it was very quiet, I was by myself for large periods.

My favourites races have been when you were split in to age groups and my age group was one of the last to go. You’re just overtaking people all day and you get the benefit of legal drafting. I’ve got a 70.3 coming up and musing with the idea of changing where I start, perhaps nearer the back. Although that would mean I’d have 1000 people in front of me. I’m guessing that’s a bad idea hey?


As a back of the mid pack (at best, a I’m a 1.20 - 1.25 swimmer for IM), I think it’s just as bloody annoying when overly fast folks seed themselves too far back just for the ego boost of swimming over us, as it is for the hopelessly optimistic slow people to over seed and get in the way of the faster folks.

Just line up to your actual time.


a TO speaks - there is no such thing in a non-draft race. if you’re drafting you’re illegal - read the rules.


If you’re a good swimmer I would not be starting further back. You’ll never get a rhythm going as there will be head up breastrokers, dreamers, twats swimming into, punching you, over you. You will end up swimming further than you need to getting round the morons.

I would say Im FOP, or maybe front of the middle of the pack and one small ish race I started last as I was late getting there and it was horrific, I nearly gave up. Get at the front and try and be one of the first out


legal drafting as in, you have 800+ people in front of you and you have 25s to overtake them. When there’s a strong headwind that can be quite beneficial having 800 people in front vs 10.


ergo - if you stick to the 25s rule and 12m distance then you are not “legally drafting”. anything else could be interpreted by a Moto TO as illegal and lead to a penalty

I’m c32-34mins half, 1:05-1:08 IM. I always line up around the 30:00/1:00 marker so a bit faster than my target, as I’d rather have people make the effort to get round/over me then vice versa.

However I also always start on the wide outside as you head to the first turn, that way I’m on the edge and can settle into the swim. If the pace inside feels a bit hot I can stay wide in clear water - as I settle into the swim and the swimmers inside look just a bit faster I can then ease my way in and try to pick up a decent draft.


12m does give a draft effect though, quite useful if in a pace line of a few athletes.

As an aside can you “slingshot” in an AG race also? I thought it was illegal now for pros but left in for AG’ers?

I go to the front because I hate having to meander through slower people. If there are swimmers of similar speed you can help each other. I can find the bike course lonely as well (until people overtake me!). I like the quiet road in front instead of working my way through people (ON YER RIGHT etc) and trying to avoid suprise potholes.

I usually swim 32-34 for a half, and position myself accordingly in the self-seeding. At Swansea 70.3 this year I did that, but unfortunately most people didn’t, so by the time I got in the water probably about 80% of the field had started, and were really mixed in terms of ability. That made the swim way more stressful than it should’ve been, with lots of contact, poor sighting etc, so would recommend avoiding that.

The flip side of that was that I spent the first half of the bike constantly overtaking, which was fun and a good ego boost, and almost certainly gave me some aerodynamic advantages (no drafting for me fatbuddha ;)). Unfortunately I then hit a pothole because I was overtaking and not able to choose my own line on a desecent, cue puncture and ruined race. Though I did get overtake them all again once I got moving!

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no, as soon as you make a pass, the passed rider has to drop back out of the draft zone. if they want to then do a repass they have 25secs (in 70.3 and longer).

Oh sorry I know that, i mean if Im catching someone am I allowed to stay behind them and slingshot out at last second or do I have to be wide for the whole 12metres? I thought it was different for Pro/AGers as well

no - as long as you stay 12m (or longer) behind the rider in front you can stay there as long as you like before attempting a pass. but if then someone comes past you, then you have to make rearward progress to drop back out of their draft zone.

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Im not making myself very clear :wink: I mean if I have started the overtake so am within the 12m can I sit directly behind the wheel until the last second and swing out or do I have to be wide during the whole overtake?

ah I see now (I think!). As long as you complete the pass within the required time period then it matters not where you are within the draft zone - as long as you are seen to be making the pass. but don’t give TOs an excuse for thinking you’re just sat there in the draft zone - keep moving forward. 25secs isn’t really that long when both you and the bike in front are moving quickly. If you’re seen to be regularly trying a pass but not completing it, then you’re gonna get called for drafting.


arr yes that makes sense, as I thought for AG’ers but I’m sure i heard “slingshotting” was now banned in pro Ironman races, you have to move to the left / right before entering the zone. I half remember it being discussed somewhere before, but may have dreamt it :wink:

Yeah that’s what I was alluding to when I said “legal drafting”. You have a few hundred people in front of you and you use up the whole 25s slowly overtaking them, sitting behind them until the last second. Pretty sure that’s legal. You don’t have to be wide of them.

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I’d keep trying to seed appropriately. If you think you’re just off the very front then similarly try and place yourself on the ~2-5th rows.

Yes it’s not foolproof with others out of position. Yes it’s potentially a lonelier day (something I’m now also starting to experience) but I do still think better for you, and everyone else, to have cleaner races. FatPom alludes to how others must feel and it’s bad enough on multi-lap courses lapping people in swim without adding to that unnecessarily.
Whilst I want mass-start swims, there is a lot of anecdote that others prefer the calm of seeded rolling starts so I don’t want to disrupt them.

Agree with @GRamsay assessment of lack of rhythm overtaking hundreds of people at same time = lose rhythm, difficult sighting, extra stress and fatigue.

Some of our local sprint races are 4x5km bike courses, meaning lots of traffic and lapping. No risk of actual drafting as only taking couple of seconds to compete a pass. Definitely balance getting a overtaking ‘draft’ (sorry fatbuddha for terminology!) with how much I dare get close to trust their bike handling especially if they’re reaching for bottles etc.
But I wouldn’t go out my way to try get that benefit by deliberately starting behind.

Deva 70.3 2019 i passed most of the ladies Olympic and 70.3 field all strung out in a huge long line, i 100% got some draft benefit on that day, but pretty sure i stayed within the rules…?! the moto followed me for some time, i later found out someone was drafting me… i never knew as i never look behind during a race.
2;33 isn"t fast, and the course is a good one and it was a still day, that said my average HR for the ride was 144, that"s very low for me and i could have easily done that bike again, that"s a 5 hour ish full distance split, i am just not that fast a cyclist.
Swim wise i"m always a very easy 1;10 full distance swim and place myself there,if i get with faster swimmers i try and draft but don"t bust a gut, there"s a long day ahead!

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Being a gun swimmer doesn’t seem a great advantage to me in long races. It seems that once out of the swim you become a ‘target’ for some of the bike/run axes. As you say a lonely place.
I wonder if LCB would swap a bit of swim dominance for an improved run?
That being said I never have and never will be a sub 60 IM swimmer so WTF do I know!