Swimming for Hammers and Spoons

Like anything; the better you get, the harder the gains become.

Not sure 1:30/100 is “good”?
Moving from that to 1:25 shouldn’t be too hard…
It’s circa 6.5% improvement.

I’ve increased my FTP by 22% and my 5km pace by 16%.
Realistically, they’re both now at an acceptable level.

I want to improve my IM time to a low 57, to help me with the bike. If I can be out of T1 under the hour, then it’s game on tampon.

As you know, I don’t like cycling in poor weather (cold is fine, as is wind, as is rain - but only one at a time, please!) and hate indoor cycling at home.
Seeing as the pool is 375m from my front door, I should easily fit some more sessions in!

With the kids 6mins to 5.20ish is quite easy to get with regular swims (3 or 4 a week of 90mins) and a large technique focus. Once you get down to close to 5minutes then 5 sessions a week minimum with a real mix of intensities is key to get to the required levels.
One junior, academy level, was 5.10 a year ago when I took over the squad. I have him 4.52 last test, most of his gains came over winter when we did a swimmers structure, 4 strokes and a big focus on turns and underwater phases. Last year super series trial he went 10.40ish for 800 this year 10.08. (short course pool so improved turns made a big difference) another guy was 4.52 a year ago. Went 4.38 a few weeks back. His first year as a junior and swam about 9.30 for 800. Again lots of multi stroke and turn work over winter but he had a swimming background. For adults it really is diminishing returns at any point much faster than 5.30-5.45 / 400 although don’t underestimate the aerobic conditioning gains from swimming.


5:20 is the dream, had it down to 5:25 in 2012, so working to get there again + the ability to maintain it for 38 times that distance!

In other news, I arrived at the lake about an hour later last night, due to having to be in the office over WFH…
…the lake was busier and people make their swims public, so I saw who I was swimming with…they were all clocking it at 800m per loop, too, which is a huge boon!

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If anyone is following my FB feed, take a look at my recent post. A young chap came to me two years ago with a very awkward stroke and no real pace but a degree of consistency that formed a good platform to work on. In a year he had swum 65 at IM Wales and he has just swum 21.8k on a choppy sea at 1.36 pace…

Strong shoulders and consistent training take you along way…


I cant take the credit there. I got that from Tony Beckley at Beckenham SC. the fin helps balance the stroke due to the extra strength of the pull but using the paddle helps accentuate the issues with the catch and pull. As you know no matter how much we tell them correct or incorrect form, it can only really come down to them using their own feel of what is happening and what feels faster or more efficient. One of the juniors i mentioned above had a very strange left arm underwater pull phase. I used one of those finis freestyle paddles. It helped him focus on just getting that right which over a few weeks , typically during our 30 minutes “121” meant he ingrained a straighter pull.

As per Jorgan’s comments about the problem with swimming in triathlon meaning people just see it as survival and why less people probably do sprints\standards.

There seems to be a common theme in American races where the swim is massively helped by downstream currents to help people get through it with as little pain and effort as possible. The problem is that if any of it goes upstream there’s a reasonable chance it will get affected. Like IMLou I did last year, I was essentially letting the current take me to the exit and pretty much just steering myself. If they’d gone ahead with the full course I think only a handful of pro’s and the really top swimmers would have got past T1, most wouldn’t have got to the first turn.

A few years ago I put some effort into my swimming and got down to around 32 minutes for a 70.3 and most of my IM’s have been 65-69 with a couple of outlying exceptions.

I’ll be happy with sub 35/sub 70 ATM, but I’ve been getting back in the pool again a bit, although motivation isn’t high.

I find that if I put a bit of effort into my kick it helps, probably less for propulsion reasons, more for balance and timing.

I always wanted to get under 6/400M in a pool, poor turns don’t help but the best I’ve done was ~6:25, a couple of weeks ago I did something like 6:54, although oddly earlier in the week I’d swam at a better average/100 over 1200M, sometimes I think when I do a TT I try too hard and totally lose any rhythm etc.


Well, two people died in the IMSA swim in April and one died at 70.3 Barcelona two weeks ago. I don’t blame some people seeing it as survival!

You never get root cause analysis on these things. Triathletes want to believe they were weak swimmers or had congenital heart defects, no one wants the cause to be other swimmers and/or the way the swim was conducted.

They brought in the rolling starts at most races to deal with “the way the swim is conducted”. This is why they have waivers, because I think some people just don’t realise what they are undertaking; the zero-to-hero culture is making it more prone to incidents in the swim in particular.

They go into it thinking “they got this” and they’re going to #smashit like an absolute legend. Then the swim goes all Andy Ruiz on them. They haven’t been kicked in the face before, or have a wave dump on them. Their plan goes to rats.


That’s precisely the assumption I’m talking about Jorgan - has anyone seen any evidence this is the case for the triathletes who died? Is anyone checking the helicopter footage, interviewing swimmers?

I don’t think so.

I think it’s just what we want to be true so we can be confident that we’re not like them, and we’re at no risk, before we run into the same melee.

One of the guys I’ve referred to was an Ironman triathlete for many years. That’s not evidence of anything, but does indicate that he knew how to swim and what to expect in the water.

London 2013 Worlds was THE scariest swim I’ve ever done, bar none.
Every starter could do under 12 minutes for the 750m.
So soon as the gun went, it was just a sea of bodies doing the same pace.
I had a panic and stopped, tread water, then started again. But this was only after going under and being swam over a number of times.
At this point, I considered myself a decent enough AG swimmer. This race showed otherwise.

I canned my swim time and took time out to not drown. Stuff like that comes with experience and maturity. You can make up the 2 minutes somewhere else.

Hyde Park was my worst. The first year they held it in 2009 they decided to do deep water start behind the pontoon with 90 degree turn after 50 metres to join the full course. It was utter carnage. I even had a canoe come over as I got smashed and held under for what seemed an eternity and every time I tried to come up for air I was pushed by the next person. In the 2011 Olympic test event we went from pontoon so much safer.
Off Topic but 2009 was a monumental cock up from beginning to end. Exiting T1 had barriers both sides, 100m or so run with bikes. 2 people wide at most. I was exiting with a para tri with blade and some cunt decided to push us both out the way to get through. I ended up the wrong side of the barrier with my bike on top of me and a couple of spectators covered in my energy drink. The para tri was in a heap somewhere else. Run was 5 laps around a field dodging football players and kids on bikes. Wasnt cheap either.

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So, poor course management is a contributory problem for sure…but if you recognise that the swim will be bedlam, throttle back and wait for the carnage to die down…


The military say “train hard, fight easy”. That coupled with experience is what gets you through the hard times. I’ve had the odd moment in swims over the years; most notably Perranporth 2 years ago in 5ft surf (not properly surf swum for donkeys) and when I got swum over in the Pro/elite wave of the Erding Oly dist in Germany. But the ‘training kicks in’ to use another hackneyed military maxim.

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I think that there have been 4 deaths this year, all in tough sea swims. Also, consider Weymouth last year, where 50 people had to be pulled from the water. It can be really hard to spot someone drowning, especially in the sea.

Also consider that many former Elite triathletes now have heart conditions… Let’s be honest, some of us may be over training. I had to get a medical certificate for a recent windsurfing event, the doctor was very concerned about my resting HR of 38BPM, I had to do an ECG and some tests before she was happy, but she wants me to do regular checks… It is likely that I am just very fit, however there is a small chance that it could be an issue (ECG was 100% fine)

Also, if you’re on the ‘zero-to-hero’ plan, picking something like Tenby or Lanza as your first Ironman is probably an unwise choice; one you’re likely to make if you’re not ‘surrounded’ by more experienced people, rather those that will egg-you-on with superlatives.

My worst swim was the Nottingham Relays a couple of years ago. 500 swimmers with only 500m to swim knowing they’re going to get a 20min rest after it makes for absolute banzai pace from the start.
I made matters worse for myself by not paying attention and ending up nearer the front than I had any right to be as I went in with a better swimmer from my club. There was no count down before the hooter went off and I got caught napping. I’m not sure how many swimmers came over the top of me but every time I came back up I got pushed down again. When I finally found some space I couldn’t get my breathing under control so had to swim the first 200m head up, water polo style, before some semblance of calm returned.
I consider myself a decent swimmer but that was a lesson learned. I’ve done it subsequent years no problem but it shows a relatively minor misjudgement can escalate (a few more dunkings or a badly timed one when I was trying to get a breath could have made matters much worse)
Having said all that I do agree that swimming is a problem overall. I help run open water sessions and water safety should be for unforeseen events, illness etc. Not pulling people out who haven’t prepared sufficiently and hope they can make it. You’ve only got to see the panic that ensues on IMJ at the hint of a non-wetsuit swim to realise the swimming ability of a lot of them.

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I’ve never done the Relays - as it’s on an August Bank Holiday. So it’s never worked for me.

That’s sounds like an horrendous swim!!!

I’ve been wanting to swim sans-wetsuit for a while now, but I don’t want to freeze. My northern side is slowly being eroded…

In a Harry Hill style … FIIIIGGGHHHTTT