I love the Philly Tri, now known as Tri Rock Philly. It’s my home course. It’s a beautiful swim. It’s challenging without being punishing. It’s well run. I really just love it.
This year I had even more reason to love it. My team, WAVES, was competing with me as well as 4 of my swimmers, two of whom have been with me since I started coaching adult swimming through Mt Airy Learning Tree. I felt so proud to be around such great athletes and great people.
The race, now part of the Tri Rock series by Competitor Group, was almost unchanged. What was dramatically different, though, was the race start. Previously, the swim start was an in-water mass start. What that means is you are surrounded by everyone in your age group and when the gun goes off, you all put your heads down and start swimming, sometimes right on top of the person in front of you. There are strategies for this kind of swim start for every ability of swimmer, but it is intimidating to many and must be hard to manage from a safety perspective.
This year, with safety in mind, the swim start was like a time trial start — we lined up in our wave as usualy but only 7 at a time and jumped into the river off of a dock when the whistle blew. This staggered how many people were starting at the same time and allowed for an easier start and less battling with other swimmers. This was a great way to start with only one down side for me. Since I am a stronger swimmer, I gravitated to the front of the line for my age group. Conversely, the less strong swimmers from the wave in front of me congregated toward the back of their group. Typically, the group in front of you has about a 5 min. head start on you so you don’t catch the slower swimmers for a few minutes. In this new format, I was on top of the slower swimmers within seconds, and I feared it would be one long swim, dodging swimmers the entire way.
In the end, I didn’t have to manuever all that much more in the swim than I usually do and the safety that this new method allowed for was well worth the cost of dodging other swimmers.
As a whole, the race was great. My athletes were amazing. I was way more impressed with them than my own result. One of my swimmers even cut 12 minutes off of his last year’s race time (including 5 minutes off the swim :)) and I was so proud of my WAVES (though we were missing one).
I can’t wait for Tri Rock Philly next year.