XTERRA Swim Splits

Hey all,

After a couple months of this swimming thing, I’m still not ready to call myself a swimmer, but I do seem to be moving at a slightly faster rate of speed while I narrowly stave off drowning :upside_down_face:

I started at barely being able to swim 25m and needing a long break at the other side. I think it took me 15min to swim 500m my first day. While I’m still getting completely smoked by everybody in the pool, my 100 pace is down to 1min40sec at that same 500m effort. I’m not focusing on swimming fast, but rather just focusing on technique.

As of now I simply have no point of reference on what “fast” is. I think I want my first triathlon to be an XTERRA, and it seems like in most cases the swim is 1,500m, but often is punctuated by an Aussie Exit. Because of this, I’m not sure if the times I’m looking at from past event results represent the actual swim pace or the swim + Aussie exit pace.

For the intent of gaining context, what is a typical swim pace for a 35-39 male age grouper in XTERRA, and what is a World Champs qualifying pace for the same?

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Fast age group swimmers in open water is very dependent on the swim conditions (also if wetsuit legal or not), calm lake swims will usually be a 1:00-1:12 average pace while fast back of the pack will be 1:12-1:25 average pace. Open water rough swim can be anything, but you typically see a 1:20-1:30 pace for the fast age groupers and 1:30-1:45 for back of front pack.

Keep in mind, you cant win the race here - you can only loose it.

Don’t put all your eggs in the basket but keep good pace. It is seldom that the FOP swimmer wins these things, they are just awesome Ex-D1 swimmers or something.


Thanks for the context! That helps me feel more oriented.

Not sure I’ll ever have to worry about putting too many eggs in the swim basket as I won’t be close enough to the front to be competitive. :slight_smile:

I’m a mid pack age grouper. I think my last two swims at the Lake Tahoe and Tahoe City XTERRA’s have been right at 33 minutes (that was 3 years ago). I’d suspect at my current form I would be just under 30 minutes. I’m a 1:40/100 pool swimmer (via CSS test). I hope that helps, and hope to see you at XTERRA Lake Tahoe this summer! It’s a blast.

P.S. You will most definitely be in a wetsuit!!!

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Good information for all triathletes, not just XTERRA! Thanks!

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This. And when you take into account Jonathan’s bike fitness and his technical skills, he is gonna make up a crapton of time once he gets on the bike.

I was always, at best, a crappy MOP swimmer. But in an Oly Tri 9also 1500m), I was usually able to hold my own and be able to make up enough time on the bike to get on the podium in local races.

Jonathan, just focus on not drowning and you’re gonna be just fine…my guess is that anything under 1/2 hour swim will set you up for a good result.

And practice your transitions…gobs of time to be found here.


This is entirely my focus, lol. Have yet to drown yet! Win!


When I was doing triathlons I would intentionally hold back on the swim because of my biking background. My last half I swam a 1:45 average in rough conditions as I knew I was going to be able to ride a 2:20-2:25 bike split and made up a ton of time (ended up with a 2:23)… Knowing I could swim faster but holding back was always a saving grace for me when it came to any type of multisport event.

If only I could run hahaha.


The (not xterra specifically) races I’ve done with aussie exits just have one timing mat between the laps so they aren’t able to parse running across the beach. I’d imagine that’s fairly common; having a second timing mat would be complicated for the race organizer. The time includes that, plus the actual exit and running however far to the mat.

As far as time, for on road I used to swim 19:xx for olympics and was fast enough to not lose the race (until I had to run, anyhow). Depends a lot on the scenario; wetsuits are faster and being in the later waves in a large race helps. The former helps slower swimmers a bit more than faster swimmers and the latter does the opposite (or, at least, helps more confident swimmers more)

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Typically there’s a timing mat close to the swim exit and the next one at the exit of T1.

Perhaps not universal, but for an Xterra branded event I’d expect the Swim time to basically only include a few steps of the run to T1.

(If the results page has a T1 and T2 time then I think it’s safe to assume the swim time is not including the run to T1)

With regards speed, though I never used bouyancy shorts, when I got to 1:30/100m pace for long steady swimming it meant I was going to be about 1:20 in the open water with no turns and a wetsuit. I assume you don’t yet tumble turn? If not, there’s a heap of time left at each end of the pool.

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Hey Jonathan,

Ive done a few xterra races over the years. I was a good high school swimmer but burnt out by college and became a rower.

I do tris now. I can comfortably cruise at 1:20 second pace in the pool. In the open water with a wetsuit im probably 1:15 or so per hundred. Im typically at the front of triathlons swims. Top 2-5% depending on competition. Its all because of technique.

Im a good biker with an ftp of 320 or so but 6’2 and 190lbs. Running im mop. I typically will come out leading or the top few of my age group after the swim - hold my own biking especially if a flatter course. Then the run i do my best but get passed by some.

1:40 is pretty reasonable. The reality is most triathletes are not good swimmers and swim is relatively the shortest segment. Even being a strong swimmer my strategy is to be efficient on the swim but not overdo it. Im not going to win by pishing the swim and gaining another minute but i have overdone it and started the bike feeling terrible.

If i were you just focus on efficiency on the swim and survive. Youll probably come out middle of the pack ish.
Whats the bike course like ie how much singletrack? Ive done an xtrrra years ago where my buddy was slower i. The swim and the trail was mostly singletrack and it was frustrating for him getting stuck behind people.

FYI - if youre looking for a road tri in the future check out the virginia blue ridge 70.3. Im doing it in June. I think it would suit you as the ride goes in the blue ridge mountains and has over 4k of climbing which is a lot for a tri. You would blow by everyone. The bike course will be gorgeous as well on the blue ridge parkway which is shut down for the race.



Its nearly impossible to accurately compare swim times/pace from one triathlon to another. Aside from the “Aussie exit” issue over where exactly the end is, tri swims are notoriously inaccurate in terms of length (close but no one is sweating a couple dozen meters while in a boat struggling with buoys at 5:30 in the morning). And finally, very few people actually swim straight.


Very true. The only race I’m confident I swam straight the whole time had an underwater cable (Lake Placid) visible between all of the buoys which made it pretty simple. To navigate, anyhow, the actual swimming was more of a scrum than typical. I felt really bad for the guy that got lapped.

Learning to sight is underrated.


FWIW you can cut (or add) minutes just by swimming straight and navigating well.

I did some tris back in the day and was a FOP swimmer, which meant I got quite a lot of experience swimming with (through, over, around . . . ). the BOP swimmers from earlier waves. I never begrudged anyone who was on the slow end of the swimming world but it was pretty pathetic how bad some people were at navigating. That’s something anyone should be able to learn.

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Yup…I hate you. Blocked and reported.



No flip turns yet – that’s soon arriving on the list of learnings!

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What’s it like to be fast??? :wink:

Great tips. I may do XTERRA Lake Tahoe this year, but not sure yet. It’s about 30min from the house so it’s nice and close, but that’s 2 weeks after our baby’s due date. My wife encouraged me to sign up for it, so I did, but not fully committed yet.

The course has ample opportunity for passing, but it’s easy to go out too hard on that course and doom your run, so I’ll just stick to a good pacing plan.

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Am I the only one swimming in a 25yd pool wondering if all of these numbers are in pace / 100m or / 100 yd? :slight_smile:

I can only agree roughly with those already commented - if the goal is to compare current swim pace to age group place in triathlon open water I’d only offer that most higher tiered AG (triathlete) people in our pool are probably swimming ~1:20-1:25 / 100 (SCY). Their workouts are probably based on a 1:25-1:35 / 100 send off pace for most sets.

I think comparing race time to pool time has too many difficulties (many already noted) - swim conditions, course accuracy, whether they swam straight, wet suit or not, timing mat placement, etc…

Good work on your improvements so far, swimming is hard for those of us who really like oxygen and have picked it up in adulthood.

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So you’re probably already a 1:36/100m torpedo :grin:

Random question, what do the top level swimmers use in the USA? Obviously most people will just swim in whatever is convenient/suits their training purposes, but I assume every top level meet would be in metres?