"Turtle" Friendly Open Water Events

heartheart San Francisco, CACharter Member

Hi, my name is Hadar and I'm a slow swimmer.

<Hello, Hadar>

A combination of natural ineptitude, adult-onset athleticism, and multiple obligations on land mean that, even though I enjoy swimming, don't get tired, and appreciate the mental and physical challenges of swimming... I'm just not fast. That is, I'm very slow. I'm often among the slowest people--and sometimes the slowest--at each event I enter. And I'm likely to stay slow.

This, in itself, doesn't bother me; I enjoy my sport and have no record-breaking or competitive aspirations. But since I'd like to continue doing this, I'd love to hear from you--which events, solo swims or organized races, are friendly toward slow swimmers? As in, no cutoff or a very generous one, no dramatic current change in the course of the day, etc. We sea turtles like swimming, too.



  • JenAJenA Charter Member

    I love the use if the word turtle here! It's as legendary as bioprene in my mind. :)

  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member

    Swim the Suck. I'm also a turtle. StS was perfect, plenty of slow(er) finishers.

    The events in DC (Harborfest TriSwims, Swim for the Potomac 10K) are not a good option. They have course cutoffs that are not generous to turtles due to their having to give the harbor (National Harbor, MD) back to the boaters fairly early. I think it is something like 3:10 for the 10K cutoff. :O


    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member

    I'm a turtle also, working on my speed. We can also refer to ourselves as "velocity challenged." :)

  • JenAJenA Charter Member

    My coach once called me a diesel. Efficient, single-geared, and with amazing abilities to keep hauling? :)

  • I would definitely recommend the Kingdom Swim in Vermont. The lake was gorgeous and the swim was quite nice. They had plenty of options from a mile up to 15 that went into Canada. It is an event I will definitely do again. I don't believe there was a cutoff time for the swims but I am not 100% sure. There was a wide range of swimmers there and everyone was incredibly supportive.

    The other one that I did was the Potomac River Swim. 7.5 miles across the mouth of the Potomac River in MD. Great swim. Smallish event that was really well done. I especially loved the post race food. It was some SERIOUS eats. I don't remember that they had a cut-off but they definitely had a very wide range of swimmers. I was a bit freaked out when our captain told us they caught a 10 foot bull shark a week earlier at the same beach we were starting from and at that exact moment we started to see fins, thankfully they were just dolphins. :D


    Excellence is born of preparation, dedication, focus and tenacity; compromise on any of these and you become average.

  • tortugatortuga Senior Member

    I too am turtlish (see moniker). STS and Ocean Games in Ocean City Md are recommended.

  • NoelFigartNoelFigart Lebanon, NHSenior Member
    edited September 2015

    Am I a turtle? You bet your sweet ass I am.*

    Gonna second Kingdom Swim. Did the Son of a Swim, and it was awesome. No speed pressure.

    *Does that mean I owe myself a drink?

  • The 2.4mile Tiki swim in Oceanside, features a raft at the half-way point offering Hammer nutrition drinks and gels. I think that is very turtle friendly!
    They also allow swimmers to rest and hang onto to a lifeguard's board as long as there is no forward aid.

  • msathletemsathlete Victoria, British Colubia, CanadaMember

    The annual Thetis Lake Swim (the last Sunday in July) on Vancouver Island welcomes swimmers of all speeds and abilities.

  • Stages 3 & 4 of 8 Bridges might be doable. (Maybe even stage 6??? Dave???)
    Little Red Lighthouse swim, if it's still being held.

    For some races like LRL, keep in mind that even if you are slow, you also need to be confident that you are a "steady" swimmer. By "steady" I mean that if you are knocked about by waves or have other environmental challenges, you need to be able to keep swimming, regardless of the actual forward speed. Safety first!



    “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” - Oscar Wilde

  • ViveBeneViveBene Member
    edited September 2015

    I am quite sure most turtles would best me at any distance.

    May I recommend the many events @Fil puts on each summer in beautiful northern Vermont (his philosophy is, if you're still making progress and not in distress, keep on swimming!). The Swim the Kingdom week (daily swims, to get value out of your travel dollars) has a variety of distances, most of which can be halved. And while you are there, if you just took a fancy to do a particular unplanned swim, he likely can roust out a kayaker. (I'm totally in awe of what he has put together, with much generosity for those of us who will never take home more than the Red Lantern award.)


  • heartheart San Francisco, CACharter Member

    I vaguely remember someone mentioning that MIMS has, or used to have, a turtle division. Is that true?

  • j9swimj9swim CharlestonSenior Member

    i'm definitely a turtle and have swam MIMS, Ederle, Chesapeake, Kingdom (VT), Triple Dip, and Stage 6 of 8 bridges. I can rock a 50 a minute all day long - lots out there you just have to look and have the goal be to finish and swim happy!

  • NoelFigartNoelFigart Lebanon, NHSenior Member
    edited September 2015

    This thread is comforting. I'm doing the Sharkfest in Boston tomorrow, and I'm anxious about getting yanked from the water. (It's not that I can't swim 1500 meters in less than 50 minutes, it's that the course is going to close and open back up to boat traffic at that time, so there's little margin for error!)

  • JenAJenA Charter Member

    @heart: I think MIMS used to have (may currently have?) "quiet" swims for turtles, on a day other than the race.

  • NoelFigartNoelFigart Lebanon, NHSenior Member

    If it makes you feel any better, @heart I was second to last in the Sharkfest today.

  • heartheart San Francisco, CACharter Member

    Turtles galore! :)

    I'll inquire about the "quiet" MIMS for turtles. Sounds like fun!

  • heartheart San Francisco, CACharter Member
  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member

    I'm thinking maybe I should have gone for the 10k. But having had my arm blow up in the last marathon swim, I'm being cautious for now and doing the mile. Arm is feeling better but sometimes muttering darkly. Are you doing Triple Dip?

    heart said:
    And, Triple Dip is giving you 5 hours to swim 10k.

  • swimrn62swimrn62 Stowe, VTSenior Member

    Hi fellow turtles! I liked the answer to my question about a 10K time limit for the Bermuda Round the Sound Swim. He said, if you want to make it to the awards ceremony, you'll need to finish by 2:30, otherwise, just keep swimming.

  • rosemarymintrosemarymint Charleston, SCCharter Member

    Something I find really interesting here is how many people here identify themselves as a turtle swimmer when I'd consider about half of you all calling yourselves turtles as hares. Speed is contextual. To non-swimmers, I'm a freaking dolphin. To most every other swimmer, I'm a slow-ass turtle. I'm back of the back of the pack, if I'm lucky not to get picked up on the way in (and trust me, I've paid for quite a few swims with boat rides to the finish.) Plus the anxiety of knowing I could get pulled kind of saps the fun out of things (ask me about that one a few weeks ago. Hovering fire boats are not at ALL intimidating.)

    I'm right on the margin for Chesapeake Bay and if it's hot, there's no way I'll finish (dontcha love heat exhaustion in the water? Me too!) Same with Potomac. I can't figure out the calculations for Charleston or Tampa Bay. Key West would never happen because of the heat. Boston Light -- nope, too slow. I'd consider P2P as that's a solo swim.

    Kingdom is super turtle friendly, as you know, @heart. So are most of Phil's events (even though I DNFed the 10-miler a few years ago because I was too slow and the waves were kicking up pretty big.) 8 Bridges lists the minimum speed you need to make the tide and I think I could handle the shorter stages under ideal conditions. LRL is absolutely friendly, if it happens again. I can't imagine a solo MIMS ultimately NOT being Turtle Friendly because it ends up being a tide surf and I've watched people get passed by floating tires at times. Just be prepared to turn on the motor to get through Hell Gate. Ederle is a heartbreaker depending on the tides that day. The Coney Island swims can be a big challenge because of the tide and weird currents around the jetties. I swam a ridiculously slow 5K there a few years ago because of that and I'd not sign up for the 10K even with the 5 hour limit because of that. (Yes, that's how slow I am!)

    I've also been contemplating doing more solo swims because of no time limit, but they're not cheap unless you have friends with boat and are not doing something under a sanctioned organization. But, frankly, that sounds like more fun these days because of the lack of pressure to finish within the set time. Make up your own course. No t-shirts, but you get to swim as long as you can/want!

  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member
    edited September 2015

    @rosemarymint ... at the beginning of swim practice, especially when there are new people, the women (less so the men, but sometimes the guys too) will be saying, "Oh, I'm very slow." And someone will chime in--you aren't slower than I am. I know that." And so on it goes.

    Our coach overhearing us one day said, "You're supposed to be trying to one-up each other and saying how fast you are. What's this competition to see who's the slowest?"

    I immediately head for the wall lane with the slowest swimmers--sometimes the coach will move me over a lane. "Gotta take some risks," he'll say. But as someone who feels she's going fast when her 100y free is less than 2:10, I'm not all about getting into a duel with a 90 second 100y freestyler. :)

    I will say my coach is doing right by me in pushing me in this way. I appreciate him even if I grumble (or stare w/ saucer eyes) when he wants me to do butterfly or stay on an interval that I'm thinking "but I barely d 100 IN that time, let alone ON it." He so very matter-of-factly says, "I guess you'll have to swim faster then." Grrr! And then I do and surprise myself. Sometimes. Sometimes I'm hearing him say go before I've caught my breath. (Yes, I pay for this.) ;)

    I think b/c of being in this group, though, I improved my Great South Bay swim to the point of getting a personal best this year (at 64... previous best time at age 56). I wasn't anywhere near the front of the pack, but I'd comfortably made the time limit.

    However, in my first marathon distance swim, I floundered... overestimated my ability to swim upstream four miles (progress was way slower than I wanted, but I figured I'd get a break downstream. No. That's when the wind changed direction and canceled out a lot of the current assist. And it was time for a boat ride at7 miles (arm was by then non-functional.) I don't regret anything though. It was a learning experience. And while at first I thought I should probably cancel my ambition to solo Boston Light, I began rethinking that once ashore (and with a pint of beer in me, ha!).

    I have two terrific coaches (same masters' group), and the head guy in particular doesn't let me hide behind my age. His approach: If you want to do something, he'll help you aim for it--and expect you to do the hard work that comes with that. But he won't say "you can't do it." And when I've expressed doubt about being able to do a particular workout, he's given me that "I'm waiting for the right answer" look--until I say, "sure, no problem."

    I still tend to estimate my speed pretty conservatively and get in the back of the pack at the start of open water swims. (He's trying to get me to stop doing that, but the last race I was in, just a short one a few days after my seven mile DNF, I got in the back--and started to pass people along the way. I thought I'd have my slowest time of the series, but I'd improved a little from previously.)

    Still, I'm very grateful for the dwarf seahorse, which, it's said, is the slowest fish in the ocean, moving at about 5 feet per hour. I love this fish for making me feel like Missy Franklin. :)

  • heartheart San Francisco, CACharter Member

    Can I just say how much I love this thread? Turtle hugs to all of you!

    Re the dwarf seahorse: I feel kinship with the humuhumunukunukuapua'a, my fellow sportsfish and inspiration, because it swims super slowly, by itself, but looks so flamboyant and cool and seems to have so much fun doing it!

  • tortugatortuga Senior Member

    @rosemarymint your report of hovering fire boats reminded me of my many times DFL in a swim. It's soul crushing to have the boats and kayaks hover around you waiting for you to die. I equate it to being a dying dog on the side of the highway as the buzzards gather waiting for the enevitable. I feel ya.

  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member

    tortuga said:
    @rosemarymint your report of hovering fire boats reminded me of my many times DFL in a swim. It's soul crushing to have the boats and kayaks hover around you waiting for you to die. I equate it to being a dying dog on the side of the highway as the buzzards gather waiting for the inevitable. I feel ya.

    Yes, I've been there too. I tried to think of it as the race organizers' way of welcoming me back. :)

  • Sometimes a modicum of speed is necessary for safety or the ability to complete the event. This is especially true on tidal events or a group event. Safety of the GROUP is paramount and if one person is out of synch, then many resources are used protecting ONE swimmer, taking resources away from the GROUP. This is a safety matter.

  • JenAJenA Charter Member

    @suziedods said:
    Safety of the GROUP is paramount and if one person is out of synch, then many resources are used protecting ONE swimmer, taking resources away from the GROUP. This is a safety matter.

    If you really want to keep a group together, you would have to eliminate anyone swimming too fast, as well. If the group averages 2.5 km/h, and anyone under 2.0 km/h is excluded, you would want to exclude anyone over 3.0 km/h as well. After two hours, anyone swimming 2.0 km/h or 3.0 km/h would each be one kilometre away from the group.

    I have never seen this happen though.

  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member

    suziedods said:
    Sometimes a modicum of speed is necessary for safety or the ability to complete the event. This is especially true on tidal events or a group event. Safety of the GROUP is paramount and if one person is out of synch, then many resources are used protecting ONE swimmer, taking resources away from the GROUP. This is a safety matter.

    I think people aren't so much questioning time limits (agree there are safety issues) but looking for events with relatively generous time limits (while still mindful of safety). If one 10 mile swim has to have a time limit of x hours due to safety, but another 10 mile event has a longer time (also within the limits of safety), the "less fast" among us (as a running coach gently put it) would like to know of such an event so that we can choose swims we have a decent chance of completing.

    I actually like that there are some swims that are a stretch for me -- an analogy (forgive its banality) might be the person wanting to lose weight having a "skinny outfit" as a motivator. :)

    Okay so such-and-such swim has a ___ hour time limit but currently my pace of ___ per mile would put me short of that limit. If it's way too unrealistic, probably that's a swim I'd pass up, but if it's possible with the right kind of training, hey, let's do this! Meanwhile, of course, the swims with easier time limits allow one to have experience at the distance and grow into the faster times.

  • I agree about slowing the speedsters down.. and WE DO THAT in our SF Bay club swims, to a certain extent. Especially on the cross channel swims.. if a swimmer gets too far AHEAD.. we may hold them up. Ours are sWIMS ( for the most part ) not RACES.. so we are able to do that. Again, it's about safety of the GROUP and fair allocation of resources, in this case , pilots. If you want to acquire a personal pilot then you can do that, but for group swims, there are only so many pilots/boats per swim. Hence the 'podding" of swimmers. Safety for the group is paramount.

  • LakeBaggerLakeBagger Central OregonSenior Member

    Just wondering what are the turtle friendly races/group events these days?

    Add Portland Bridge to the list of not turtle friendly. Yikes.

    I heard Semena Nautica was nice because apparently they wait to hand out the awards until everyone is done… and actually have someone announcing finishers until the very end. Applegate Lake 10k was like that too (haven’t been in awhile so not sure if still is).

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