The Ironman swim is 2.4 miles long as most of you know. That is a long way and not having a strategy to tackle that distance could result in a longer day than expected or trained for. When I wrote the post on the Ironman Texas Bike Strategy Katie of Run This Amazing Day asked where the swim strategy post was. At the time I had written one because I had one simple strategy for the swim and that was to get through it. Just get out of the water as fast and as efficient as possible. The more I thought about that the more I thought to myself: What does that mean?
Swim fast yet efficient? What’s fast? I do know that when I swim more efficiently I swim faster. I remember reading that you want to make your body like a javelin because when you submerge a javelin in the water and push the javelin will reach the other end of the pool. If you stretch out a rope and push it under water it will just collapse. As I’m in the water I always think ‘javelin’ and this has helped me tremendously.
At 70.3 Puerto Rico I had a strategy of getting in the front at the start and going hard for the first 100-200 meters and then putting it on cruise control. Big mistake. I had the worst Half-Ironman swim I’ve ever had. The reason is that I pushed so hard that my heart rate soared and I had to back it down considerably to get my breath and find that rhythm. After talking with my coach that night she made the comment that the race didn’t start until you get out of the water and that the swim is just something you have to do.
Taking this theory to the pool and the lake over the past month has been a huge help and essentially a huge boost to my confidence about the swim. I get in the open water and press the cruise control button and just swim. I don’t worry about how fast I’m going I just think about being a javelin and conserving energy for 2.4 miles or 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes. It has worked. I did a 2.2 mile swim (my math in the water is not as strong as my math while riding or running) in 1 hour 10 minutes. This pace projects out to 1 hour 16 minutes for the 2.4 miles. I would be thrilled to swim that time and feel as good as I did that day.
So what’s my strategy? My thoughts are to start slow. Let anybody and everybody pass me. There will be thrashing and there will be punching and kicking, but if I am swimming efficiently then this won’t bother me. If I start out too fast and I start to get hit then the heart rate will spike even more and I’ll be pouring lots of energy into getting back to a steady state. Energy that I will need some 10 hours later while on the run.
I can say that I don’t know how to draft properly because I don’t do a lot of swimming with a partner and practicing the art of the draft. I have read lots of articles and if I can find feet in the water and swim at about their waist then I will be conserving energy and swimming fast and efficient.
I came across this article on TriFuel and it pretty much cements my thoughts that swimming efficiently and conserving as much energy as possible is the best way to go. Enjoy this post: Swimming Smarter May Help Your Marathon.