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How To Prepare For A Cross Triathlon Swim

Open water swimming can be a point of anxiety for many athletes novice or elite. One tactic to help thwart pre-race nerves is to do extensive research and preparation before you even arrive at the waters edge. Do you know if it will be wetsuit legal? Do you know what direction the course goes? Did you practice for the particular features of this swim? Did you bring extra goggles? Have you practiced sighting? Doing your homework gives you the confidence to conquer a cross triathlon swim as fluidly as possible.

Prepare for a Cross Triathlon Swim Photo: ITU Media
Photo: ITU Media


If you are racing the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championship at Lake Crackenback this November, we’ve put together all that you’ll need to know about the swim, as well as a couple of workouts to prepare you for it. These workouts will help you with any open water swim.

Big thanks to the folks at In2Adventure, Ben Allen, Jacqui Slack, and Suzie Snyder for their assistance in putting all of this together.

Prepare for a Cross Triathlon Swim Photo: In2Adventure

Important Information About The Swim


Average water temperature during November in Lake Crackenback is around 20 degrees Celcius which means it will be borderline for wetsuits for the elite category, but more than likely will be optional for age group competitors.

Technical Officials will measure the water temperature prior to each race and results will determine if wetsuits are permitted.  The water temperature and ruling about wetsuits will be published on social media, the event notice board and via the public address system.

Full details about water temperatures and wetsuit use can be found on page 20 of the ITU Competition Rules.

Water Condition

Water clarity is fair and there are some reed patches in the lake.


The race start will be a running start from the sandy beach into the water.  The water deepens quickly from the shore, minimal dolphin dives will be required.

Prepare for a Cross Triathlon Swim Photo: In2Adventure
Photo: In2Adventure

Being a smaller water body the distance to the first turn buoy is a shorter than usual distance – approximately 150 meters.

The Course

Here is the swim course for the Age Group, Elite, and U23 athletes.

Prepare for a Cross Triathlon Swim Photo: In2Adventure

Click the following links for swim course images for Juniors & Para Triathletes, as well as Mixed Team Relay.


To give you an even better idea of what the water and course will look like, check out this video by pro cross triathletes Ben Allen and Jacqui Slack. They have personally raced in this lake several times.

Prepare for a Cross Triathlon Swim Photo: In2Adventure

Two Workouts Geared Towards Racing

Head’s Up!

Whether your doing the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championship this November or not, this is a great way to prepare for a open water swimming. This workout focuses on doing head up swimming and sighting.

Prepare for a Cross Triathlon Swim Photo: Delly Carr ITU Media
Photo: Delly Carr ITU Media


Warm Up

  • 300 easy (mix in all strokes)
  • 200 kick
  • 2 x 100 [25 drill, 25 swim, 25 drill, 25 swim]
  • 6 x 50 build

Main Set

  • 6 x 100 [25 race pace, 25 fast, 25 head up, 25 race pace]. During the heads up 25, have your head entirely out of the water for the whole 25. You will need to increase your kick to help with this. These will be difficult, so take about 10-20 seconds rest.
  • 2 x 300 build to race pace. Start at an easy/moderate pace. Slowly increase to so that your last 100 will be at race pace.
  • 3 x 200 moderate pace with sighting. Sight 3 times every third 25. Practice your timing and how to sight quickly during those 25’s.

Cool Down

  • 200 easy (mix in all strokes)

In & Outs

Another great swim set to help you prepare for the race is the In & Out Workout created by American pro Suzie Snyder. This workout focuses on mid swim run efforts.

NOTE: Running on the pool deck is discouraged in many locations. We recommend you ask the pool staff for the ‘ok’ to do this type of workout and make sure to do this in a location that you won’t slip and fall and injure yourself.  You could do the same workout in open water if you have a beach or other accommodating location, and would be even better because you can practice your entry, exits, and dolphin diving.

Prepare for a Cross Triathlon Swim Photo: ITU Media
Photo: ITU Media


Warm Up

  • 400 easy. Mix in some of all the strokes.
  • 4 x 50 kick
  • 2 x 100 smooth and perfect
  • 4 x 50 descend 1-4 (go faster for each 50)

Main Set

Beginner Athletes – Do each set once and then take a recovery period. Repeat once more when you are rested.

 Advanced Athletes – Perform multiple sets continuously, depending on how much of a challenge you are up for!
  • In & Out Set #1
    • 200 at race pace
    • Hop out of the water and run 15-20 meters
    • Jump or dive back into the water
    • 200 at race pace
  • In & Out Set #2
    • 50 all out sprint (faster than race pace)
    • Hop out of the water and run 15-20 meters
    • Jump or dive back into the water
    • 100 at race pace

**Optional – Extend the swim portion of set #1 to make it more race specific. Add a 2nd water exit to either set to simulate race conditions (mid swim run and the run to T1).

Cool Down

  • 200 easy. Mix in some back stroke.

These workouts and race details were brought to you by…

Prepare for a Cross Triathlon Swim Photo: In2Adventure


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