Big Changes Part I- Swim

Things are a bit more settled now, therefore I have had no excuse not to follow coach Robs plan, and even if work and official red tape seems to have eaten up my time I was feeling ready to get down and dirty with my training.

So, I am an old hand at all of this, been there done that since 2004, 6 Ironman, 8 half IronMan, 15 plus marathons… I am Iron Fit, nothing much new for me to learn… right?

Wrong! Very very wrong, this week has been wake up and smell the roses week, and boy do those roses hurt!

To date I have successfully prepared myself for each race by training distance, maybe slight variation in how far and what pace, but basically it all about how many KM is my long run (or bike or swim), and the total KM I mange in a week.

Why break a winning formula?

Apart from it hasn’t been winning anything, it has been getting me to the finish line, faster than first timers but far behind the leaders.

And that is why I decide to get myself a coach, and after a little internal battle, I decided to follow his training schedule, word for word, letter for letter, no matter what.

And boy, the changes are dramatic. To be honest they don’t look so different on paper, pretty much what I would do by myself, maybe a little less, but every work out has a purpose, with a variety of instructions which take me out of my comfort zone. Simply put, I do things I would probably avoid normally as its “uncomfortable” or “looks silly” or “too much hard work”. These instructions are based around intervals, involving stopping and starting, timing and changing form, and if the extreme tiredness and hunger I feel is anything to go by, it’s been damn effective too,

On top of the new training routines, I have hired myself a swim coach to help with my form and I fixed my indoor bike trainer. Although probably more importantly, I took the time to learn how to use it properly.

This post I am just going to talk about the swim, so sorry to those who come here for the running, although it is all related. I will be posting about bike and run in next few days, so maybe worth signing up to “follow me” if you haven’t already.


homa ironman, gettherundone
Checking out the swim buoys before Hona Half Ironman.


Monday was easy day – leg day in the gym, plus my first lesson with my swim coach. Lisa was an Olympic hopeful in open water swimming and has won numerous awards and competitions. I actually had a few lessons with her some time back and she was by far and away the best coach I had. Not saying the others were not good, but for my particular swim issues (basically I swim very slowly and with stretched out arms… technically called the “drowning daddy longlegs”, she really made a difference. The problem was that as soon as the lesson stopped I forgot what I’d been taught and went back to my old ways.

So once again I waited nervously on the pool side for sensei to arrive. I was determined to not look for easy ways out, so tried to stay enthusiastic and focused, although I think I may have been more like an excited puppy! But I was not disappointed, Lisa had me doing a few drills and magically I could feel the better form creeping back. By the end of the 60 minutes I felt so much lighter and streamlined in the water, it really is amazing what a few good pointers from a good coach can do.

I didn’t have time to practice after, but on Wednesday I was down to do my swim training. Not my usual 40 or 80 laps nonstop, but 8x100m then 200×10, off 15-30 recovery, with few 50s to finish. I decided to try and incorporate the lessons learned from Lisa on Monday… it was an eye opener, I seemed to cut through the water, and I was faster than the majority of swimmers in the “fast lane” next door. The only problem was I tired quickly, I was using different muscles than I am used to, and I started to suffer badly around half way through. This is when the effectiveness of doing intervals really became obvious, as each time I took a break even if just for 30 seconds, it enabled me to reset my form and reset my concentration. I did continue to the finish, even doing the prescribed cool down, but it was around 1:20 minutes that I finally dragged my exhausted body from the pool. I felt elated, really seemed things had changed

Exactly the same thing happened with my lesson on Thursday. A few pointers and I was powering through. Lisa was impressed and asked how I felt so I told her “this doesn’t feel serious, it’s so easy it’s like I’m playing, I can’t believe I’m actually going faster … now I know what swimming is!”. I had never felt so good in the pool, I wasn’t fighting the water and it seemed so natural it was hard to keep it slow as I had been instructed. Score!!

Friday, I headed back to the pool for my second swim set of the week. This time it was decreasing warm ups from 400m to 100m off 30 seconds, then 6 x 300m off 15. As soon as I started to swim I could feel the tiredness, both from the previous swim sessions etc and also the increased intensity on the bike and run. My whole body ached, and I really struggled to stay on top of it. My stroke wasn’t as smooth as it had been earlier in the week, but I battled on, only too aware that if I gave up I would be forced to explain my reason to coach. Again, the intervals came into play, allowing me to take a breather and shake the stiffness out of my arms.

Eventually I finished, again I was exhausted. For the first time ever, I decided to forgo a weight training session I had planned and just head home to nap, then gorge myself on food…. Before starting my bike intervals, but that is another story.

I really cannot stress how much hiring a coach has changed what I do, and I will give more details over the next few days. But what I can say for certain is I have never felt this tired, I have used muscles I have never used before and I am more motivated then ever before.

Will be interesting to see how it all translates into better performance on race day in 4 months’ time.

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