Tri Team Tips: The Swim

The swim portion of the Naperville Triathlon is 400 meters which is .25 miles. This distance in a 25 yard pool is 16 laps and 50m pool is 8 laps. This would be considered a light warmup for most swimmers (and would take them roughly 5-10 minutes). Ideally you would want to swim that 2-3 times before a race to make sure you could complete the distance. Obviously if you’re having trouble finishing that length, more training would definitely be advised but the point is that the swim is very manageable even for a beginner!

One thing to keep in mind is the race venue. We aren’t swimming out and back into the abyss, there is a double-loop and even chances to walk if needed.  The swim is located at Centennial Beach in Naperville. It’s actually where I hung out as a kid 🙂 It was an old quarry they turned into a huge swimming ‘pool’ many years ago. The water temperature is great – no wetsuit required! It is shaped like an oval or rectangle with one end being very deep and the other end zero-depth. The swim starts in the zero-depth (so you an actually walk parts if necessary) then drops off into the deep, loops half-way back in the deep, back out staying in the deep and finishes back in the zero-depth (so again you can walk!). I would say two-thirds of the swim are in the deep end and the rest you will be able to touch so you are looking at about 264 meters of actual “you HAVE to swim”.


If you don’t have access to a pool, or just want to try a great place to train is at Foster Beach! My son is actual on a junior triathlon team and they swim there – it’s not ultra-freezing and a safe place to test out the water in more of an open-swimming experience.


Here are more local swimming resources:

  • Foss Swim School – super close to PSF at Ashland & Wellington, Foss Swim School offers Adult Master Classes, weekly lessons, as well as private and semi-private lessons.  Let us know if you are interested in forming a small group, and we’ll try to coordinate!
  • Chicago Blue Dolphins – nearby on Elston, Chicago Blue Dolphins offers adult training in has several adult programs, semi-private, and private training in their Endless Pool studio
  • Hamlin and Welles Park – both of these nearby parks have accessible public pools.  An annual park district pool pass is required ($40 for the Summer)
  • Lakeview YMCA – lessons are available, even for non-members
  • LSAC & LPAC – both offer “pool only” membership packages & lessons
  • Lake Michigan – you would definitely need a wetsuit for a lake swim, however many local multisport stores rent them – let us know if this interests you & we will organize a meet-up!

If you are really nervous and want onsite swim practice, Experience Triathlon offers clinics at the race location (Centennial Beach). CLICK HERE to learn more.

As far as managing swimming with a crowd of other people, the best way to sight during a race is to lift the head and look forward as you are turning your head to breathe. You want to limit how high you lift your head because your hips will drop, so try just below the goggle line. Then take your breath when you turn your head to the side.  Keep in mind, the more you look, the more tired you get. The less you look, the less straight you may swim. It is a trade-off, but you need to find what is comfortable for you in the race that you are in. In this case the distance is so short that it is hard not to stay on course, so look only when necessary. Also avoid the clumps of people! Unless you’re trying to win the race, it will cause much less anxiety to swim around a crowd versus taking the shortcut through them. Lastly…don’t panic! You might get kicked, have to do backstroke for a bit, grab the lane line, etc. – it’s all good. You are doing a triathlon and are a rockstar – stay confident!

Just remember the swim is BY FAR the shortest portion of the race and if you are even remotely comfortable in the water, most people find the swim very manageable! Just don’t forget your goggles 🙂

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