Ironman Triathlon Open-Water Swimming in Madison, WI - Four OWS Swims

(Updated 5/14/2018, Original 5/24/2012)

I have been back in the Midwest for four days and I have done four great open-water swims. The number of swims in Madison and the surrounding area is endless but I thought I would post the following in case other triathletes or open-water swimmers were looking for some ideas. Now I never advocate people trying to replicate these swims, but personally, I take my chances, and while wearing a bright yellow cap I find it more peaceful than getting buzzed by cars on the open roads.

I used a Garmin 910xt for the swims (Garmin 935xt is latest and greatest) and I must say it does a pretty good job. I noticed some of the overlays are slightly off as I stopped at very specific points that don't match exactly, but overall I couldn't be happier with the Garmin. The Garmin 935xt has come along way from the discontinued Garmin 910xt and is much better in my experience for tracking your open-water swims.

Although I didn't use any protection for this swims the New Wave Swim Buoy is becoming a popular item to give people peace of mind while swimming outdoors. Not only does it provide great buoyancy but it also provides great visibility to boats.

#1 - Extended Ironman Wisconsin Swim in Lake Monona - ~4250 yards or 2.4 miles - Start at the Ironman Wisconsin swim start and swim the Ironman course but instead of turning around continue on hugging the shoreline until you get to the sailboat that is docked in the middle of nowhere.  Ends up being about 2.4 miles, or the exact length of the IMOO swim without doing two loops.

#2 - Swim Across Lake Monona - ~6000 yards or 3.4 miles - Start at the Ironman Wisconsin swim start and swim straight across Lake Monona.

#3 - Swim to Picnic Point #TheRealWay -  ~6000 yards or 3.4 miles - Start at James Madison Park and swim straight across to picnic point.  There are other great access points like starting at the Memorial Union Terrace or along the lakeshore bike path but if you want a real challenge then start at James Madison Park. On this particular day there were 25 mph winds kicking up some serious waved and this will probably always be the toughest of the four swims as it is more exposed in general.

#4 - Swim Across Lake Wingra - ~3200 yards or 2 miles - Start at Vilas Beach by the Madison Zoo and swim straight across to the boathouse at Wingra Park.  I added on to the swim to bring it up in yards but it is about 1600 yards straight across.  The only downside to this swim is I find it gets weedier and weedier every year.  There were some points that I was in thick weeds and all I could grab was weeds and very little water.  The overlay shows some of this with some sharp edges where I was navigating trying to find cleaner water to swim through.

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