Nation's Tri blog


Waiting for your age group wave to start is no fun, especially in the rain! In our 2010 post race survey many athletes asked us to find a way to reduce the wait times, especially for those that started in some of the final waves. We listened and decided to pilot a swim time trial start in 2011.  So what does this mean?

Here are a few of the most Frequently Asked Questions and Answers:

1. Can I dive in?

No diving is allowed due to safety rules. Athletes will jump into the water from the deck.

2. How will I be timed?

There is a timing mat on the deck that will be activated by your chip as soon as you cross over the mat before jumping in the water.

3. What is my start time?

Each athlete will be assigned a swim group number, and swim start time range, which you can find on the Athlete Services Platform (by logging in with either your last name or bib number). You will line up in the swim corral according to your swim group number. There will be signage for all groups so you will know where to line up in the swim corral.

The first group will go off at 7:00 AM with a time trial start where 10-12 athletes will take off every 15 seconds. Please see the Swim Line Up for a breakdown of swim groups and start time ranges.

4. How do I line up?

Everyone will line up by your swim group number. There will be plenty of signs letting you know where to stand.

5. What if I am a slow swimmer? Can I switch groups?

The time trial swim start is not based on seed times or speed, so if you feel that you are a slow swimmer, head to the back of your swim group. You cannot switch groups.

6. Is there any break between groups?

There are no breaks, our goal is to get everyone in the water as fast as possible in order to reduce wait time.

7. Can I warm up in the water before the race?

Unfortunately we cannot allow pre-race water warm up.

8. Why isn’t there a Saturday swim practice like there was last year?

There is no swim practice this year due to the recent opening of the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial at West Potomac Park


We piloted the time trial swim start at the 2011 Washington DC Triathlon on June 19th. In the post race survey we asked participants what their preference was and 87.3% said that they preferred the time trial start to the mass start. Here are just a few of the reasons why:

  • I loved it! It really cut down on the chaos that usually occurs at the beginning of an open water swim.
  • Please do this for the Nation’s Tri. It is more fun and most importantly more safe!!
  • AWESOME. PLEASE KEEP!!! So nice to get in on your own and not be kicking and hitting people next to you.
  • Time trial start was a tremendous success! It completely removed the mass of people on top of each other that is common for most triathlons.
  • Go right ahead and Quote me. It was the best swim I have ever been a part of and I have done events all over the US. I was at the DC tri this year and loved the swim start thanks for your dedication to improve the swim starts versus mass starts. I don’t think I bumped once single person it will be nice to do that again. From the time trial start to the finish and that includes the water buoy’s at ever 100m (Crash Pepper from Facebook)

We are looking forward to bringing the time trial start to Nation’s Tri and hope you enjoy the new race start!

Michelle Harburg

Originally a six-day per week runner, Michelle started training for triathlons in 2007 when she realized that she should cross train in order to keep her knees healthy into old age. Since then she has competed in all of the triathlon distances. Michelle is a USA Triathlon level 1 certified coach and has lots of tips on effective training for triathlon. She currently is attending American University for her MBA while working as Program Director for ACHIEVE Kids Tri. ACHIEVE is a free six-week summer camp that teaches at-risk youth fitness, nutrition and health through the sport of triathlon, and ends with a USA Triathlon certified mini-kids race. Her 2011 race schedule includes the National Half Marathon, Miami Olympic Triathlon, New Orleans Half, Ironman Texas, The Washington DC Triathlon and The Nation's Triathlon.