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perth squads

gps tracking in open water

a lesson for open water swimmers and triathletes everywhere!


Here's some fascinating GPS data from one of our Perth Squad members, Daniel Tarborsky. Dan raced with his Garmin GPS under his swim cap for three of his major races this season just gone, recording the exact path he took. Let's see how he got on:

dan tarborsky gps data

Busselton Half Ironman, May 2010:

busselton half ironman

Close-up:

busselton zoom

Statistics:

  • Distance travelled from Garmin (inc run in & out): 2.33km

  • Straight line distance (inc run in & out): 1.98km

  • Distance extra swam: 0.35km

  • Percentage extra swam: 18%

  • Calculated time lost from swimming extra distance: 10 minutes exactly!

Port MacQuarie Ironman Australia, April 2010:

Port MacQuarie Ironman Australia

Statistics:

  • Distance travelled from Garmin (inc run in & out): 4.13km

  • Straight line distance (inc run in & out): 3.84km

  • Distance extra swam: 0.29km

  • Percentage extra swam: 8%

Hillary's Sprint Triathlon, April 2010:

Hillary's Sprint Triathlon

Close-up:

Hillary's Sprint Triathlon zoom

Statistics:

  • Distance travelled from Garmin (inc run in & out): 1.02km

  • Straight line distance (inc run in & out): 0.82km

  • Distance extra swam: 0.20km

  • Percentage extra swam: 24%

Wow - thanks to Dan's data you can clearly see the huge scope for losing time from poor navigation in open water. Whilst some of the extra distance measured by the GPS may be due to swell motion, it's clear that most of it is from straying off course - we've seen other GPS data at the same races showing much better navigation.

Food for thought isn't it? If we told you about a swimming technique article containing an easy way to take ten minutes out of your swim split you'd hang off our every word! And yet, most triathletes and open water swimmers never develop or practice their navigation and sighting skills.

A swimmer can measure their 100m time or count their strokes per length in the pool and so spends a lot of training focus improving these metrics - "what gets measured gets done". Until now we've not been able to accurately track how a swimmer travels in open water - and this probably explains the lack of enthusiasm about developing open water skills.

We're now rapidly approaching the northern hemisphere race season. If you are looking to get the best out of yourself in the water we strongly recommend you devote one of your weekly swims towards open water skills. The ideal way to do this is to train in open water in a group, however you can do a pretty good job working on your sighting and drafting techniques in the pool too.

A big thank you from us to Dan for being a great sport and allowing us to share his navigation skills with the world!

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