Rock Your Best Swim at the Barrelman’s Swim Course

Figure 1.  Welland International Flatwater Centre where Barrelman racers will swim 2 km in a rectangular course.

Figure 1.  Welland International Flatwater Centre where Barrelman racers will swim 2 km in a rectangular course.  Underwater cable is available for most of the course to, which racers can follow without excessive sighting.

It is August, and many Barrelman racers are also deep into their training. With work, family, life, and triathlon training all require one’s time and attention, a fundamental aspect of training is keeping yourself motivated to make the time to work out while also balancing everyday responsibilities. To this end, this article serves two purposes: (1) to offer some specifics in the Barrelman’s race site at the Welland International Flatwater Centre (WIFC) that may be useful to triathletes, and (2) to offer a simple (no brainer) swim workout that can be used by anyone in the pool or in open water.

Based on my regular open water training swims at WIFC, knowing a few things particular to the center can help you make the most of your training and racing.

Figure 2.  Meter markers at the bank of the canal.

Figure 2.  Meter markers at the bank of the canal.

Figure 3.  Meter marker on the opposite side of the canal.

Figure 3. Meter marker on the opposite side of the canal. Large buoys are placed at the meter to denote the distance traversed in the water.  

Many triathletes and pool swimmers, including myself, desire to know the distance they are swimming and how fast they are going. While it is more challenging to measure speed and distance in open water, WIFC marks distances at several points:  *200 m, 250 m, *500 m, 750 m, and *1,000 m. [1] The distances marked at WIFC make it easier to swim intervals at varying speeds in open water (similar to a pool workout), which breaks up the monotony of swimming a single speed and is more beneficial for conditioning. For example, tonight I swam 8 x 200 at faster-than-race pace as a workout. On race day, the markers palso provide distance information to aid in pacing, which is important for many participants in Barrelman.

In addition to meter markers along the shore, WIFC also places buoys (Figure 4) in the water both lengthwise and widthwise. Buoys placed along the width of the canal (Figure 3) demarcate separate lanes for swimming, rowing and other aquatic activities. Buoys throughout the length of the canal are anchored to the cables and spaced 25 m apart, which aids in measuring distance per stroke and provides a more precise measurement between meter markers.

Figure 4.  The buoys in the water demarcate the rowing/swimming lanes at WIFC

Figure 4. The buoys in the water demarcate the rowing/swimming lanes at WIFC, with small buoys approximately 25 m apart.  

The precise measurements at WIFC allow you to work out much like you would in a pool. Whether you are training at WIFC on a regular basis, or from your local swimming pool, here is a no brainer workout that I used from time to time:

x (m*100), 25 build + 25 distance per stroke + 25 fast + 25 decelerate, with 15 seconds rest , where n is the number of reps, and m is the distance (in 100s) per rep (i.e., if = 3, you are doing x 300)

This workout provides a lot of flexibility in stroke choice, distance per rep, number of reps, technical emphasis, and even rest interval. This main set is scalable in three ways: (1) swim nx 100’s as many times as one desires in one workout, e.g. ranging from = 5 to = 20+;  (2) one may scale the workout, such as x 200 or a longer distance for a more challenging workout; and (3) after repeating this workout for a few times, gradually reduce the amount of rest between each 100 in subsequent workouts, from 15 seconds rest to 5 seconds rest to 0 second rest. Sometimes in a very busy day, I don’t really want to think too hard in swim training, but the above main set contains practically everything you need to get through the swim portion of a triathlon. The build portion is designed to train you body to swim fast, for example, when you need to get around another swimmer. Distance per stroke helps with endurance swimming that one maximizes every stroke, gaining further distance for less effort. The fast portion is self-explanatory, by adding some speed work into one’s repertoire. The decelerate portion is designed to give one some way to recover before ramping up the swim speed again. This portion teaches you to recover while still making forward progress in the water. The goal is to reduce the amount of rest you need until the 25 decelerate becomes sufficient for your body to recover before moving into the next rep.

I hope the above gives many Barrelman racers some insights into the WIFC swim course as well as a simple way to train for the race. Happy swimming!

Chris Yuen, 2019 Barrelman Racer,

Buffalo Masters Swimming Club

USMS Certified Masters Swim Coach

[1]* Indicates the presence of a watch tower at this distance, which is ideal for sighting.