COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho -- A new program called SwimStart being tried at Ironman Coeur d'Alene this year for the first time was a huge and safe success.
At 6:30 a.m. Sunday, 2600 athletes filed into the water in an orderly and spread out fashion, far different than the mass start use in the previous Ironman triathlons in Coeur d'Alene.
Athletes self-seeded based on their swimming abilities and gathered in groups on the beach according to their estimated swim finish time. Instead of the fists into faces associated with the old mass start, athletes ran into the water spaced out to 10 to 15 across with plenty of room between each other.
"This swim smart initiative was such a big success I can see this opening up Ironman competitions to a whole new group of athletes because the fear and anxiety level is much lower, " said Kirk Wood-Gaines, six time Couer d'Alene finisher who was watching Sunday.
The rolling start also spread out athletes in the transition area to the bike. Wood-Gaines said in prior years athletes would be waiting 100 deep to have their wetsuits be stripped off by volunteers. This year there was no wait.
The triathlon includes a 2.4 mile swim in Lake Coeur d'Alene, then a 112 mile bike ride then a 26.2 mile run along the shore of the lake.
The water was 62 degrees at the start of the swim.
The first 50 people to finish the triathlon qualify for the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kon, Hawaii.