By Melanie McQuaid
May 12, 2007 — XTERRA has a reputation as the triathlon for non-swimmers – a designation often offered to Ironman as well. Strong bikers/runners figure that with good training they can earn back the time if strong swimmers falter in later stages in the race. It is true that XTERRA was invented with the cyclist in mind (a mountain biker in particular), but recent improvements in the quality of field have left the mountain bikers scratching their heads, wondering why they are not making much of a dent in the field after weak swims.
Well, obviously XTERRA athletes in general have improved in ability but also the numbers in the race are much larger, which has created a more interesting dynamic in the race. It’s no longer an option to simply ride your way to the front because traffic is an element of the race that needs to be considered. We ride on trails, not a wide open road, and even though drafting is legal, waiting for an opportunity to pass is mandatory.
You cannot win an XTERRA, or an Ironman for that matter, in the swim, but you certainly can lose the race there. Below are some thoughts on how to improve on, if not maximize, your swimming ability to get the most out of yourself on your next XTERRA race day.