Give some attention to your swimming ahead of Outlaw

Give some attention to your swimming ahead of Outlaw

Posted by on 22nd March 2018

 Official coach, Simon Ward, offers some assistance with the swim for all those doing the Outlaw this summer:

“Swimming isn’t really that important for Outlaw, as it’s the shortest discipline, you spend far more time on your bike and on the run.” You may think this statement sounds odd, but we hear it fairly often.

Swimming occupies the shortest part of your race day yet triggers the most fear. It’s for this reason I argue strongly that you should not ignore the swim part of your training:

This is why….

  1. Being comfortable in open water will allow you to start the day feeling calm and thus reducing the amount of nervous energy you might lose worrying about a 3.8k swim with 1000 other athletes.
  2. Emerging from the water, not necessarily having swum faster but using less energy to reach the exit will leave you with more energy for the bike and run section, areas where you can definitely make up time.
  3. You can approach the swim with a strategy based around sound open water swimming tactics and pacing rather than one just of survival.
  4. If you are going for a time or position, then losing valuable minutes before you even get to T1 can lead to you going too hard in the early stages of the bike and that can be even more disastrous for your run performance
  5. If the swim takes too much energy, you’ll feel tired and possibly dehydrated starting the bike.
  6. You may feel you don’t have enough time in the week to add in more swimming, but pool work is a very good way to develop aerobic fitness without the risk of injury that say, running brings.

How I recommend approaching swim training in the next few months:

  1. Arrange for a knowledgeable triathlon or swim coach to video you swimming and identify three key technical flaws in your stroke, and then demonstrate drills to improve these. Your primary goal is to reduce inefficiency so that you can swim with less effort. It may be that you just need some mobility work outside of the pool to achieve this.
  2. Swim frequently. Your feel for the water will improve with regular visits to the pool. Even 1000m will be enough when combined with other sessions.
  3. Aim to swim 4k at least once every two weeks. Knowing that you can swim the race distance inside the cut off time will do wonders for your confidence. A simple test set would be to swim 40 x 100m at your chosen race pace with 10-15sec rest. Your first attempt will show you how tiring this might be and what work you have to do in the remaining weeks. You will also be able to develop a sense of the right pace.
  4. Practice Open water skills. Right now you’ll have to do this in the pool but come the middle of May you must try to swim in open water once per week. The skills you need are: swimming with others in a tight formation, sighting, drafting, pacing, head up breathing, learning to breathe comfortably to either side.
  5. Make open water sessions specific. It’s not enough to wear a wetsuit and get wet. You actually need to simulate some of the conditions that you will experience on race day. There will be no clock for reference, so you need to develop an internal pacing sensor. Swim at race pace, with others and practice deep water starts.

On race weekend I have lost count of the number of Outlaw entrants whose main concern is the swim and mostly due to a lack of swimming. With a little bit more pool work in your schedule, you will find that you arrive at Holme Pierrepont feeling much more confident and the weekend will be that much less stressful.

Happy training and see you on race day!

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