How much to swim? The law of diminishing returns in the water

How much to swim? The law of diminishing returns in the water

How much to swim? The law of diminishing returns in the water

On today’s edition of The Kona Edge we splash out to the UK and chat to Roger Canham about his Ironman swim.  He reveals his likes and dislikes regarding his weakest discipline and tells how he continuously works on improving his Ironman swim technique.

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BRAD BROWN:  Welcome back onto The Kona Edge, it’s good to have you with us and we head back to the United Kingdom once again and we’re going to chat some swimming today. Roger Canham joins us, Roger, welcome back onto The Kona Edge. Good to have you with us.

ROGER CANHAM:  Thank you very much, pleased to be back.

BRAD BROWN:  Roger, you’re self-professed that you’re not the best swimmer on the planet. You’re not bad, you’re obviously good enough to qualify and top ten in Kona, but swimming, out of the three disciplines, is your weakest.

Things to do to get better at your Ironman swim

ROGER CANHAM:  Yes it is, it’s something that I think most triathletes who weren’t swimmers as juniors, are wrestling with, how to get better and I guess I’ve got to the point where I’ve got to be fit enough to get out of the water to ride well and run well, and still be in contention, then that’s good enough for me now really. Of course I continue to work at it, continue to try to do better.

In domestic races or Ironman’s, I can be competitive now, but clearly when you’re in Hawaii, there’s 250 guys in your age group and you know what? They can all swim, so it’s a different ballgame and that swim start in Hawaii is really quite something.

BRAD BROWN:  The swim, particularly if it’s your weakest discipline, it’s quite a strange one because you get to that point where it’s almost the law of diminishing returns. You can put X amount of time into the pool, but you’re going to make up such a little bit on race day. Where do you draw the line and get that balance right, knowing that the swim is the weakest, you need to put time in, but you get to a point where particularly if you’re busy and you’re working as an age grouper, hang on a sec, if I’ve got a spare hour, maybe I should put it into the bike because I’m going to get more returns. It’s a difficult and a fine line to walk.

ROGER CANHAM:  Yes it is and I got the attitude that I’m just going to cram in the swimming when I can, minimum of 3 x a week, if I get a 4th in, that’s great and I’m never afraid of over-swimming. It’s a good aerobic workout, it’s no impact, so if you’re in a period where you can fit a bit of extra swimming in, it’s going to do your whole training a lot of good anyway.

BRAD BROWN:  As far as the way you train, do you swim on your own or do you swim in a squad, what do you prefer?

Group swim is my motivation

ROGER CANHAM:  There isn’t really a Master squad that’s close to me, there’s a local pool that I’ve been swimming at and there’s half a dozen athletes that have gravitated towards swimming at the same time, so I have a group swim, half a dozen of us 3 x a week and that’s great for motivation, competition, really enjoy that and for me, training in totality is about training with people.

Certainly when I started in the sport it was training on my own, long distances on my own, but I’ve very much come around to the idea that the thing I love about this sport is the people and training with people and the social element of it as well. So yes, training in a squad I think is really important.

BRAD BROWN:  You mentioned in our first chat about getting a coach and working with someone up until Kona 2016, as far as technique and getting help in the pool, have you sought help from a technique perspective in the pool, do you have someone helping you now with stroke correction?

ROGER CANHAM:  We don’t have a coach on deck, unfortunately and if somebody has got a coach on deck or able to get access, then absolutely, it would be fantastic. Inevitably I’ve had the underwater video type stuff, I’ve been to set sessions that are put on by coaches and technique orientated but that sort of thing, unless you’re going to do it regularly, at least once a month, I think it’s very hard to consolidate the benefits of getting technique analysis. Either commit to getting a once a month analysis with a coach or go to a squad where there’s somebody on deck. Otherwise, you know what, it’s reading books, it’s watching videos, reading online, stuff that’s available and do what you can and get in the pool and just swim hard.

BRAD BROWN:  Yeah, you’re right, you can’t fudge a good workout, it’s one of those things, either you do it or you don’t. What do you love doing in the pool Roger?

ROGER CANHAM:  I guess my favourite sessions, we run a session, particularly when we’re coming up to an event, we will do maybe a 2km or a 4km straight, but three or four of us in a lane and we’ll just take it in turns on the front. 250 each, you swim half of 250, you sit in, so it’s kind of a bit of a race simulation, you get a good, long, hard work-out and it’s good fun. Tapping the toes of the person in front, pushing them on and then it’s your turn to bust a gut, to keep pulling everybody around, yeah, those are the sorts of sessions that I enjoy actually.

BRAD BROWN:  Brilliant. As far as the sessions you don’t enjoy in the pool, is there anything you don’t particularly like doing, but you know it’s a necessary evil and you have to get them done?

Gaining mental confidence for those laborious swim sets

ROGER CANHAM:  Yeah, it’s the sort of 10 x 400’s or the longer ones, they’re not 100’s, they’re not 1km or 2km, it’s that in between where you’re beyond anaerobic, but you’re pushing really hard and you’ve got ten of them in front of you and that mentally takes quite a lot of getting through, for me, certainly.

BRAD BROWN:  I’m rubbish when it comes to open water, I’ll be the first to admit it, I can’t sight for the life of me. You do lots in the pool, do you get to do much open water in training or is it pretty much race time, that’s when you get it done?

ROGER CANHAM:  Yeah, pretty much race time. To get to an open water venue here is a bit of a pain and again, back to time management really. I figure I can use that time differently. When I get to a race venue, I’ll make sure that I get a couple of swims in prior to the event, just to orientate myself, get used to the water temperature, look for any sighting landmarks that I could use during the race and then just get on with it.

For me, open water swimming is useful, but you’re saving 15 or 20 seconds, for me, I’m probably going to use that time better doing something else.

BRAD BROWN:  Too true. You mentioned in our first chat too that you quite miss the mass starts, the rolling start makes it quite difficult from a racing perspective later on, for a lot of people that mass start in a swim, it can get quite hectic. I miss the odd left hook and the punch, but I particularly like those mass starts. Are you a huge fan of them or do you quite like the less frenetic starts now with the rolling?

ROGER CANHAM:  No, I really enjoy the tension, when you all sit on the beach together, or treading water and then the physicality of the first 400m or in Hawaii the first 1900m. I think that’s one of the things that marks out Ironman is special and I think that that’s very sad that that’s gone and also, as you mentioned, the notion that you’re no longer racing, you can’t see as you’re on out, back on the bike, or on the run, whether you’re ahead or behind, that’s really unfortunate.

I understand the reasons for the rolling start, how it makes sense from a safety perspective, but maybe they could have wave starts per age group or something that you kind of get a little bit of both worlds, but yes, the mass start is something special and I hope it still exists in a number of races, if possible.

BRAD BROWN:  Too true and I think it might be our rugby background Roger, that we enjoy that scrum in a start, there’s just something special about it.

ROGER CANHAM:  Yeah, absolutely, some people get freaked out by that physicality, where you said, we’re from a rugby background, yeah, absolutely, it doesn’t faze us at all, you’re right.

 BRAD BROWN:  Bring it on, I love it. Roger, it’s been awesome catching up. I look forward to finding out what you’ve done on the bike and we’ll save that for another time, thanks for your time today.

ROGER CANHAM:  Okay Brad, thank you.

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About Us

Brad Brown is a 40 something age grouper that dreams of one day qualifying for and racing on the big island (He may have to outlive everyone in his age group though).

Morbidly obese in 2009, Brad clocked in at 165kgs (363lbs) at his heaviest.

He's subsequently lost a third of his body weight on the way to a half Ironman pb of 5:06 and a full Ironman pb of 12:21.


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