Many of us know that in swimrun racing, a sound strategy for the whole race is paramount. When you stand on the starting line and the adrenaline kicks in, it’s good to have a concrete plan for the pace to maintain, in the beginning, as well as during the whole race. For longer swimrun races, like ÖtillÖ (10km swim, 65km run), many competitors tend to let the adrenaline take overhand and burn much of the needed energy for the latter-race, already in the beginning. Especially during the first long swim.


So how do you do it, what pace do you maintain to ensure an overall good race performance?

Running-wise it’s quite simple. When training, use your HR-strap and watch and find the pace which suits you the best. There are many good running-specialised advices out there. In swimming it’s a different story. Here you don’t really have this possibility, so it’s difficult to pace oneself, especially in rough open water type swimming.

Luckily, we came across an interesting study looking into this phenomenon specifically, as it concludes:

‘Due to the importance of swim pacing during the sprint distance triathlon, it is plausible that successful manipulations in swim pacing could produce beneficial outcomes for overall race performance. But which one should you go for, the positive (relatively fast-start), the negative (relatively slow start) or the even pacing strategy to ensure being able to max out on the overall race performance?’

As the study findings suggest, the optimal in sprint distance is to go positive, i.e. to have a faster start and then to drop back down in pace. Basically following your adrenaline instincts. This goes against the traditional ‘negative split’ aimed for in running long distance.

Now this study is focusing on the sprint distance not really optimal for longer-type swimrun races but it’s worth having in mind for all the sprint swimrun races out there.


We will continue to review and post articles and scientific studies we believe to be of interest to the swimrun community. You will find all of them here. If you have any scientific related questions or wonder about an article or study you’ve come across, just drop us a message. Our team consist of several health scientists and we would love to have a look at it. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and never miss a post again.

Happy reading

/The WoS Team

Positive Swim Pacing Improves Sprint Triathlon Performance in Trained Athletes.

Wu SS, Peiffer JJ, Peeling P, Brisswalter J, Lau WY, Nosaka K, Abbiss CR.
Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2016

The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of three swim pacing profiles on subsequent performance during a sprint distance triathlon (SDT). 

Nine competitive/trained male triathletes completed five experimental sessions, including a graded running exhaustion test, a 750 m swim time-trial (STT), and three SDTs. The swim time of the three SDTs were matched, but pacing was manipulated to induce positive (i.e. speed gradually decreasing from 92 to 73% STT), negative (i.e. speed gradually increasing from 73 to 92% STT) or even pacing (constant 82.5% STT). The remaining disciplines were completed at a self-selected maximal pace. Speed over the entire triathlon, power output during the cycle discipline, rating of perceived exertion (RPE) for each discipline and heart rate during the cycle and run were determined.

Faster cycle and overall triathlon times were achieved with positive swim pacing (30.5 ± 1.8 and 65.9 ± 4.0 min respectively), as compared with the even (31.4 ± 1.0, P=0.018 and 67.7 ± 3.9 min, P=0.034, ES=0.46 respectively) and negative (31.8 ± 1.6, P=0.011 and 67.3 ± 3.7 min, P=0.041, ES=0.36 respectively) pacing. Positive swim pacing elicited a lower RPE (9 ± 2) than negative swim pacing (11 ± 2, P=0.014). No differences were observed in the other measured variables.

Results of this study indicate that a positive swim pacing may improve overall SDT performance, and should be considered by both elite and age-group athletes during racing.

You can read the full study here