Ask the Experts: Open-Water Q+A with James Lock

Get an advantage on your competitors by getting all the open-water advice you need

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15/08/2012 at 13:56

A quick question from me:

How competent do you need to be at swimming before you take on your first triathlon? If your swim is weak, can you still make up the time on the bike and run?

 

15/08/2012 at 14:02

Yes, you could always make up the time on the bike and run but swimming open water can always be a challenge in itself so it's always best to be as prepared as possible. You don't have to be a strong swimmer but you should try to train regular for the race, be comfortable and confident about swimming the distance and also have some open water experience before starting. Sometime failing to prepare can be preparing to fail! 

15/08/2012 at 14:05

That's all we have time for!

Many thanks to James for such excellent advice and thanks to everyone who joined in the webchat. 

We'll have more webchats over the next few months, so do keep checking back at triathletesworld.co.uk. 

kittenkat    pirate
15/08/2012 at 16:39
Dominique RW wrote (see)

A quick question from me:

How competent do you need to be at swimming before you take on your first triathlon? If your swim is weak, can you still make up the time on the bike and run?

 

In my first Oly I had a panic attack and breast stroked the whole thing. Some bored 16 year old on the open canoe offered to take me out of the water, I refused and came out second to last but made up so much on the bike and run that I got 3rd place female.

This is why I think (and maybe wrongly) that if you're not a fast swimmer but can get round, and since then I've moved up to mid pack in the swimming, even better... Then a stronger bike and run is much more advantageous.

Which is also why I'm interested in a web chat with a swimming specialist on a tri forum, and my initial question.

To disadvantage the good cyclists and runners, the swim would have to be much longer than it is in each triathlon distance imho.

15/08/2012 at 16:49
Thanks very much James for the advice
kittenkat    pirate
15/08/2012 at 18:43

I know it's not only me that realises that the questions from 'new' people on these web chats are employees of RW/TW.

 

kittenkat    pirate
15/08/2012 at 18:45

That's not a criticism, just an observation.

 

16/08/2012 at 12:19

Hi KittenKat,

Yes you are right, I am a keen swimmer and I am training for my first triathlon, so wanted to make the most of having an expert to answer my training questions and settle my nerves about cutting up my wetsuit

16/08/2012 at 15:03

KK - I don't think strong swimmers are disadvantaged in olympic or sprint races. In an average olympic race a strong swimmer could make up 3 or 4 minutes on the swim over the lead group. I don't think a strong biker or a strong runner would make up any more than that on the bike or the run. Do you think they could? In your case you must have been well above average in 2 of the 3 legs so it makes sense that you did well.

In iron distance races i would definitely agree that the swim should be longer but that would probably raise problems for nutrition. If it was much longer I think you would need some kind of drink and food stop on the way.

kittenkat    pirate
17/08/2012 at 05:40
B_Kins wrote (see)

KK - I don't think strong swimmers are disadvantaged in olympic or sprint races. In an average olympic race a strong swimmer could make up 3 or 4 minutes on the swim over the lead group. I don't think a strong biker or a strong runner would make up any more than that on the bike or the run. Do you think they could? In your case you must have been well above average in 2 of the 3 legs so it makes sense that you did well.

In iron distance races i would definitely agree that the swim should be longer but that would probably raise problems for nutrition. If it was much longer I think you would need some kind of drink and food stop on the way.

As an aside as you mentioned nutrition, I thought it was fascinating watching the 10k swimmers in the Olympics take their drinks mid swim

I think my answer to this would be for the majority of people doing tri (elites are a different ball, well non ball, game); a naturally good swimmer is not built like a naturally good runner or cyclist. It's a different somatotype, so therefore is it worth trying to hone the swim when concentrating on other areas might have more benefit. You ask if a strong biker or runner could make up more. I would generally say yes, especially someone who has a good bike but it very strong in the bike to run transition. How often for non elite triathletes is the first one out of the water, the first to cross the finishing line? It would be interesting in a very geeky way to look at segments of the triathlete community and see the breakdown of swim/bike/run times for all.

Of course at elite level, every second of every discipline counts. Even photo finishes and boobage size do now

kittenkat    pirate
17/08/2012 at 05:41

But yeah on a personal level I would love to be able to swim faster

17/08/2012 at 10:05

Wouldn't we all! For me i only really started swimming 3 years ago after focusing only on running. I started off always thinking that i couldn't match the 'natural' swimmers but in the last year i've started to think i was just using that as an excuse not to work hard at swimming! I started swimming 4 or 5 times a week and i'm starting to get decent times now, though it is still possibly my weakest. I think it is worth the extra effort because i've gained about 3 minutes in a sprint over the last year. No chance i could have gained that in the run or bike. The nutrition in the 10k was a sight alright. One thing that struck a chord with me during the olympics was that the 1,500m swimmers swim up to 120km a week! That's not just natural talent, its incredibly hard work!

I am quite geeky when it comes to looking at results and its surprising well distributed at the top end anyway. Generally the top 10 overall are pretty close to the top 10 of each discipline. In any race i've done this year I don't recall the winner having a relatively weak swim. There are obviously exceptions. One guy that races regularly is a monster on the bike and makes up about 5 minutes!! He can also swim and run pretty well though.

kittenkat    pirate
17/08/2012 at 16:47

Actually you're right, I can swim faster, i just never have because I'd have to train to sustain it and I'm not sure that it would make that much of a difference to me personally.

Or I'm not sure I would be disciplined enough to try.

or I'm just not sure!

In our club the fastest females are like me, the weakest is the swim on a personal level.


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