Swim Course FAQ's
1. Does the race begin on the beach or in the water?
In-water start. The participants in each start wave are grouped in the start chute on the beach right at the edge of the water. The group then moves about 20 yards into the Lake where the water is about 2.5-feet deep. At the start horn, participants can push off the bottom and begin swimming. You may also get into the water and swim around prior to the start of the race to warm up. But you'll need to get out of the water and enter the start chute with your wave.
2. What will the water temperature be on race day?
By the first weekend in June, the water in Lake Sammamish is typically 68 to 70 degrees. However, the water temperature is rather dependent on recent weather. If we've had a lot of rain, nearby Issaquah Creek will carry chillier water into the area and the water temperature can be up to 3 degrees cooler than the rest of the lake. We take the water temp the morning of the event and post it at the Information Station and at the swim start chute. You can monitor water and weather stats by checking this weather link. Finally, since our triathlon is a season opener for most people and we know the water temp is cool, we purposely keep our swim distance short at just 0.25 of a mile.
3. Are wetsuits allowed, required or just recommended?
Wetsuits are allowed by not required. We find that about 60% of our participants bring a wetsuit with them. Whether you should wear one or not, is hard to answer and is completely up to you. Admittedly, the water is a bit brisk ... but it's also only a 0.25 mile swim, so most folks are in the water for about 10 to12 minutes, or less. Unless you get cold deeply and easily, you probably won't need a wetsuit for this distance. Many competitors like a wetsuit for the extra buoyancy and speed it gives them. For a 0.25 mile swim, many don't get much of an advantage when they add in the time to take off the wetsuit back in the TA. If you have a wetsuit available and you're accustomed to swimming in it, we recommend you bring it with you on race day. We take the water temp the morning of the event and post it at the Information Station and the swim start chute. Rental shops around the area include Speedy Reedy in Seattle and Everyday Athlete in Kirkland.
4. What swim strokes are allowed?
You may use any stroke to propel yourself through the water and you may tread water or float.
5. What equipment is allowed?
Please wear the swim cap that you receive in your race packet. You may also wear swim goggles or a face mask. You may not use any artificial propulsion devices such as fins, gloves, paddles, or flotation devices.
6. How deep is the water?
From water's edge, the beach slopes to the 4-foot level at about 25 feet, and then continues a gradual slope. At the turn buoys, the water is just over 30 feet.
7. What is it like to swim in open water?
The biggest difference between swimming in open water and training in a pool is that there are no lane lines or sides to hang on to if you get tired. Our swim course is trianglular, with separate entrance and exit points. The course is marked with buoys. It is important to sight (look up and see where you are) occasionally so you swim fairly straight. The wave start can be tricky. If you're uncomfortable being shoulder-to-shoulder with 40 or 70 other swimmers, just count to 10 or 20 when the start horn sounds and let everyone else get further out on the course. Staying to the outside of the pack is also an option. Set up of the course is done on Friday, June 6th. The buoys are typically in their final position by 6:00pm. We can NOT set the buoys up earlier, because this is a public park. In the meantime, practice open water swimming within the swim lines at Swim Beach at the State Park.
8. What happens if I swim off course?
First of all, you'll lose time. It's important that you look up occasionally, sight the turn buoys, and then adjust your swim direction as needed. The Swim Course Marshals will alert you if you are significantly off course and swimming out into the Lake. However, their main job is to keep all of the swimmers safe, not to act as course guides.
9. What if I get tired and need to rest?
You may stand on the bottom or rest by holding an inanimate object such as a kayak or the swim platform on the tournament boats. You may not use these inanimate objects to gain forward progress.
10. If I hang onto a course marshal kayak or on the swim-step of one of the boats, will I be disqualified?
You may stop and rest during the swim, but you must not interfere with the progress of other swimmers. Furthermore, you are not allowed to use inanimate objects (i.e. the kayaks or boats) to make forward progress on the course. Where the water is shallow, you are allowed to stand on the bottom.
11. What should I do if I need help during the swim?
The Swim Course Marshals are carefully watching the swimmers for this situation. Raise your hand as high as you can and wave it. If you can, yell for help. A Swim Course Marshal will come to you, and, if appropriate, throw you a flotation cushion. Depending on your situation, you will rest until you can continue, be carried/towed to shore, or moved onto one of the speed boats.
12. If I'm unable to finish the swim course, can I still participate in the rest of the race?
If this were a USA Triathlon event, you would be required to withdraw from the remainder of the race. However, we're not USAT and we want as many folks as possible to get to participate. Therefore, if you can't finish the swim, check in with the Swim Course Captain working near the swim start chute. The Captain will determine if you may continue. If so, your race number will be noted and you'll be told how to re-enter the race. You will be listed as a "Did Not Finish" (DNF) on the results sheet, but we'll also list as many split times as possible.
13. Why do I have to race in the swim cap they gave me?
Everyone must wear a swim cap for safety reasons. A swimmer is easier to see in the water if they're wearing a bright cap. The Swim Course Marshals and Lifeguards are looking for the specific colored caps assigned to the participants in our race.