I've realized with some disappointment that I am certainly one of the worst swimmers of the winter NTP class. I'm posting in this general forum because any advice at all would be much appreciated.
I am in a timing range, in a pool, where I am at risk of getting DNF'd at Smallwood Olympic. Those at the OWS at Lake Anna this weekend will note that while I was repeatedly bitten by fish, this did not translate spiderman-style into super human fish powers.
Should I hire a coach? Swim every day? Punch sides of beef? Note that I joined the Friday-only masters in hopes of improving somewhat before d-day. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to reduce my time to a (not particularly impressive) sub-hour.
A wetsuit usually helps poorer swimmers more, so that may give you the boost you need to make it through this race, but it certainly isn't a solution to your problem.
Just to put some more familiar numbers to it, a 1 hour 1500m is 4:00/100m. The average at last August's club training tri was about 2:00/100m (over only 400m though). So you've got a long way to go. There is no easy one month solution to do this. It will take time and effort.
So without knowing anything about you other than what you said above, I'll say two things:
At that pace, I'd wager to say that you are lacking some of the most basic swimming fundamentals. I'd recommend some serious one-on-one time with a swim instructor (not necessarily a "coach"), then lots of time in the pool practicing their lessons. Will that get you there in the next month? Maybe, maybe not. But it will get you there eventually.
I'd also wager to say that most people swimming at that pace are not safe swimmers. Only you know if that is the case for you. But if it is, I would advise you to avoid putting yourself in an unsafe situation. If you aren't ready, you just aren't ready. There's no shame in that. I know it would be a complete let down to not do it, but there are always other races! Safety is always first.
I've recently witnessed big improvements in a modest amount of time at both the club's Wilson High master's team & the Curl-Burke AU clinic.
I'd second the one on one coaching. I did that and met every other week for about 4-6 months. Now my coach emails me workouts and I meet with him 2-3 times a year. My times have dropped a good bit.
Ed - did you hear that Chinquapin is closing for 3 months, Sept, Oct & Nov this Fall. Chinq is pretty much my only indoor option so I don't know what I am going to do besides spend alot of time on my trainer.
A training client of mine has had great success with District Fitness. http://www.districtfitness.net. He's improved his times by about 25% in 3 months. Feel free to email me for more details mike (at) districtfitness.net
Being an equally poor swimmer I would suggest having someone help you with your body position and maybe catch (if there's time). Those two would pay the most dividends IMO. A wet suit is a must as it would improve your body position and give you some confidence/peace of mind.
I will note that in two races I have seen people with swimming aids. In the DC triathlon I saw a guy towing a kick board, just in case (I assume). And finally in the Giant Acorn last year I saw a guy using a front facing snorkel. You might not be allowed to use either but might be worth asking if you're uneasy.
Don't get disheartened!! Former DC Triclubber and Pacers Manager Robbie Wade was one of the worst swimmers in 2008... he couldn't swim a lap without stopping. After a lot of work, he brought his 1500m swim time down to a very respectable 24-minutes, and he won the Nations Triathlon in 2010! (it didn't hurt that he rode 26+mph on the bike and ran sub-5:10 miles!) He's now a pro triathlete, so there is hope for those that don't start out as swimmers!
In cycling and running, the people finishing at the front are generally among those working the hardest. This is not true in swimming... form is everything. I beat people out of the water who are working much harder than me by several minutes, simply due to using good form. Work on your body position, keeping your body level in the water, rolling, and taking long strokes.
As people have pointed out, a wetsuit will help a lot. Wetsuits keep you more bouyant, so your body has less work to do to stay afloat, and all of your effort can go into moving forward. The benefit of a wetsuit is far greater for weak swimmers than for strong swimmers, but given the choice, you will almost always see all of the pros and elite amateurs using wetsuits.
What is your current breathing pattern? A lot of people try to breathe every 3, 4, 5 strokes, etc. This may work for sprints in the pool, but it simply is not enough for a long distance swim... you will quickly deplete your oxygen supply doing this. As one of the faster swimmers, I breathe every other stroke (occasionally switching between right-side breathing and left-side breathing about every 45 seconds or so).
All of that said, it would probably be a good idea to take a few private lessons from a swim coach. They can show you exactly what you are doing wrong, and how to correct it. Plus, they will be able to provide insight on how to swim in open water, which is very different than swimming in a pool. They can teach you how to sight, and give you some tips for swimming around others (it can be rough at times!)
Now, if anyone has a plan to drastically improve my cycling in one month, I personally could benefit from that!
at 4:00/100 meters, I think that form isn't your only problem. I think swim fitness and perhaps even confidence in the water are issues for you. The best way to resolve that is to hit the pool as often as you can. If you can do it every day, do it! Just be careful not to try to get it all at once or you'll end up getting injured.
I think that you are looking for a quick fix and there ain't one.
Re-read all of the advice that have been posted so far. A newbie can't realistically incorporate and master all those things in a month. If one can **drastically** improve one's swimming in a month, swimming wouldn't be much of an issue for triathletes. The exception of course is if you were a fish to begin with and were trying to get back in the water after a long layoff. I know a few fish in DCTri who took months off of swimming due to injuries and when they came back ... still were able to pull a 1-hour Ironman swim. Bastards!
My advice to you is to hit the pool as often as you can and just log yardage for the next month. Straight swim, drills, whatever ... but feet in the water is a must. Also consider downgrading to the sprint. 1500 meters out in the open water, once you've seen the layout in person, will look 10x longer than what it currently looks like in your mind at the moment. I swallowed my own vomit after I saw the layout of my first 750 meters open water sprint swim course.
Have you videotaped yourself? if you're a visual learner that may be more useful then reading websites/books, etc on proper technique. A simple camera doing the recording will work. You could then have a friend or coach review it and offer advice. Youtube has a lot of good videos on various aspects of swimming - I watch it right before jumping in the pool.
Jewish Community Center probably has the best rates on swim lessons. They won't turn you into Michael Phelps but you'll improve.
I second Tuan on the issue of 1500m - in open water it looks really far so be prepared physically and mentally.
When I started triathlons in 2010 I was a pathetic swimmer...first tri had a 750m swim which I finished in 27:22 (3.39/100m) and after that I went crazy with practice and now swim 1500m in around 28 minutes so don't get too discouraged, with time you'll learn!
Old Town Tri Club is doing video tape analysis at Mt Vernon Pool tomorrow at 5p.
Stroke Analysis Clinic (w/video)
Old Town Tri Club Social Network Site
Friday, June 8, 2012
Mt. Vernon Rec Center
2017 Belle View Blvd
Alexandria, VA 22307
Not sure who to contact, but if you post your email, I will send you the email I received.
These tips are all really great-- I will also be looking into them-- thanks! To the original poster, FWIW, I've finished the Nation's Tri three times, all with a swim time of around 48-50 minutes (no wetsuit). (And I'm not a great cyclist or runner either!) Not saying it's brag-worthy, but don't let the concern about DNF turn into counter-productive panic.
Hold onto the swimmer in front of you's ankles (as if they're a kickboard). No rules against this I believe. Practice by being a holder for a double jump rope (will get arms acclimated to movement). Breathe periodically as needed.
Don't hang on to Tuan though.