Thursday, March 6, 2014

Swim series continued . . . a view from the otherside

I asked if any of my followers on Twitter would be interested in writing up a counter argument to my swim series (sounds more impressive than it is). It took several weeks but I finally got a bite! "Billy Pilgrim" has been a mainstay in the NC Triathlon community. He does not have a swimming, cycling, or even running background. He just decided to become a triathlete. In wearing the mantle of "triathlete" he has foisted upon himself the necessity of training for three sports.  Billy, unlike previous blog posts' point of views, maintains the opinion that swimming MORE is simply unnecessary. I recognize not everyone is in it to win it but I firmly believe taking the time to improve your fitness in the water will catapult you out of the middle of the pack (MOP). Billy believes that once you reach an "acceptable" level of swimming the time is better spent invested on your favorite and best sports. Some may say Billy is obviously completely wrong but nonetheless here is his post:

Hi. My name is Billy Pilgrim and I’m a middle of the pack triathlete who 1) races for fun (mostly) and 2) likes to challenge myself by completing in events. I mostly do sprint triathlon racing, but one day want to do a half or even a full Ironman distance race. After a race, I’ll look at the results, and I’m pleased with my performance as long as I beat 50% of the other men in my age group. Running is my main sport, but I’m no slouch on the bike, and swimming is my least favorite. In fact, I wish practically ANY other sport were at the front of a triathlon race.

I read your swim/cat blog :) and have a few issues raised there that I wanted to point out, with my main point being this: People such as myself don’t need to spend much time in the water. Basically, I can swim pretty terribly, and still meet my goals for almost any triathlon race. My swim training only needs to consist of what will get me through the race, where I get to T2, and the real race starts. I know I sound like a duathlete, but those guys are weird dorks, and there is no Slowtwitch forum for duathletes.

Triathlon and cats are a great combination, IMHO
 In your first blog, to pick out a few things, I see:
“People want to get better at swimming but very few people actually do what it really takes to see improvement in the pool” and “…how hard I continue to work at swimming” and “..I would venture to guess you could benefit from doing a little more focused swimming”

I’m not a great swimmer. I swim maybe 1:40/100Y, when I’m well trained. Last year at my key race, the Lake Norman Triathlon, there were 66 people in my age group. For the 750-meter swim, people in my AG swam from 13:21(1:37/100y) all the way to 24+ minutes (2:55/100y). If I swim anywhere near 1:40, or heck, even under 2:00/100y, that should put me into a good position to bike down and then run down most of the other guys in my age group. Heck, at smaller races I may even see the podium! And I can do all of this with hardly any swim training. Especially without hauling myself to the pool 4-5x a week in the dead of winter.

Another example, in your second blog from Tim Ferguson. He pointed out 2 swim myths.  1, The swim doesn’t matter, and 2) The swim is all about technique, not fitness. I agree the swim DOES matter in that you have to finish, but other than that, I can swim just fine with very minimal training. And while good technique and good fitness may be important to the ICE Racing team, me swimming 1:45/100Y doesn't take a whole heck of a lot of technique or fitness. I’d certainly never swim 37K over 6 days unless my cruise ship were taken over by Somali pirates and I had to figure out a way to swim back to shore.

Then we come to James Haycraft. Is this guy real, or did you just make him up for the blog? Sure, he has dreamy hair and is gorgeous-in-a-non-gay-way running wearing that pirate hat and green speedo, but for MOP Pilgrim, I just can’t resonate with him. I hear he swims so much, the chlorine turns his hair blonde. I’ll come back and read his tips when I line up beside a Raelert brother at my next race.

MOP James Haycraft, circa 2009
People forget how far he has come. I guess that's the point
And this latest post written by Lori Ackerman is like a breath of fresh air. I’d marry her if I weren’t already married, and if she weren’t married to a guy nicknamed the Honey Badger. I’ll show up to the pool once a month, maybe in the early morning. I’ll see Lori there swimming long course, and doing her flip turns. I’ll do my 3x500 workout, and get out before her. Sure at our next race she’ll beat me out of the water by a minute or two, but in the end it won’t really matter. I’ll finish in the top 20% of my age group, celebrate with 3 or 4 cheeseburgers, and go back to reading my cat blogs.

So all this to say that swimming is only important to swimmers and to folks trying to win triathlons. Bike for show, Run for dough. Swim, NO.

Poor widdle guy
I agree. Somewhat. Swimming a lot is not absolutely necessary. The best way to determine how you should spend your time is by evaluating your goals, priorities, and happiness. If you goal is to find your way to the podium, tackle an ironman, or maybe qualify for AG Nationals, I strongly suggest you use some portion of the off season to build some swim fitness. If you have a demanding job, personal, or home life then yeah, maybe 9 hours in the pool isn't for you.  If you hate swimming and swimming makes you miserable then don't do it. Simple. 

But . . . 

If mid-season, every season, you find yourself frustrated having been left behind by the podium pack then I would like you consider swimming now to break down some of those barriers preventing you from being more competitive. If your frustration leads to you making excuses like "the swim does not matter anyway" then I challenge you to try actually training and seeing first hand the difference it will make.