Today on The Kona Edge Jackie Foley joins us once again to chat about her Ironman swim volume and technique. Jackie comes from a competitive swimming background and still believes that volume and technique is important to improve your Ironman swim.
She shares how to tackle solo Ironman swim sessions.
Swim faster without spending more time in the water
Discover the 4 most common swim killers and how to fix them so that you can shave minutes off your swim time.
If you need an Ironman coach, check out the Coaches Corner
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BRAD BROWN: It’s time to chat some swimming here on The Kona Edge and we head back to Sydney, Australia to catch up with Jackie Foley. Jackie welcome onto The Kona Edge. Thanks for joining us.
JACKIE FOLEY: Thanks Brad.
Back off or keep your Ironman swim volume in your build up?
BRAD BROWN: Jackie, coming from a swimming background and then taking up the sport of triathlon and particularly Ironman. Did you find in the build up to that first Ironman of yours that you almost backed off a bit on the swimming to compensate for what you hadn’t done on the bike and the run? Or did you find that you still swam quite a bit in the build up to that first one?
JACKIE FOLEY: I still swam quite a bit. I did 3 to 4 swims a week and 3 to 4 runs and 3 to 4 bikes so I was still swimming quite a bit into there.
BRAD BROWN: Would you say now that you’ve done a few Ironmans that your swim is still your strongest of the 3 disciplines?
An unfair advantage with a strong swim background?
JACKIE FOLEY: Oh definitely yes. I think having had such a strong swim background, it’s hard for me to make up that time on the bike and run because I didn’t start doing them until later in life.
BRAD BROWN: Do you wish the run was your strength and not your swim?
JACKIE FOLEY: I often do. The swim is such a small percent of the total race that it’s pretty hard to win something on the swim but it sure would feel nice to be able to run some girls down.
BRAD BROWN: Yes, absolutely. As far as things that you’ve done over time, and it’s probably difficult because you’ve been swimming for that long. But some of the things that you’ve done in the water that you think have made a difference to your swim performance overtime?
Time in the water hones your Ironman swim
JACKIE FOLEY: In high school I came from a strong distant program so I had a lot of time in the water. We usually had a swim meet at least every month so you just had to practice racing. They weren’t all big meets but you practiced racing all the time. And a lot of that has just translated over to being able to be a strong swimmer now at the Ironman distance.
BRAD BROWN: Do you think that’s what it takes as an age grouper? Even if you didn’t have that high school or college background, it’s putting in the hours and doing a lot of volume to start with and then really honing your skills with time?
JACKIE FOLEY: Yes, I think so. I would say somebody who didn’t grow up swimming probably does need to do a bit more time in the water than I do. And the easiest way really is to just join an adult swim group and go with them. Because you’re going to get the good intensity and you’re going to race your lane mate and get a good swim workout in that way.
BRAD BROWN: You mentioned in our first chat that you’re still pretty competitive in the pool. I’m taking it you still swim in a swim squad, Masters Group sort of thing.
More effort in your Ironman swim training in a group
JACKIE FOLEY: I haven’t here but I did the whole time we lived in the US, I always did. And that very much helped. In Singapore I had a group that I swam with once a week and I would find myself swimming much harder when I was swimming with them.
BRAD BROWN: Yes absolutely. As far as technique goes, you mentioned in our last chat that one of the down sides as a triathlete is you didn’t see your coach as much as you did when you were swimming. Having a coach on deck, particularly even as a good swimmer, it’s always good to have someone looking at technique and maybe just tweaking and changing one or two things along the way. Is that something you still value?
Is someone watching your Ironman swim technique?
JACKIE FOLEY: Yes and a good way to do it is drills. And sometimes you just have to chat with the people you’re with at the time and have somebody kind of watch you. My husband is really into watching me too. If he sees something funny in a race that I’m doing or in the pool, he doesn’t have a swim background, but if something’s really off he can tell. Or if I feel something is off I’ll ask someone to specifically look at that.
BRAD BROWN: You also mentioned, in Ironman not kicking as hard as you would if you were racing in the pool for instance. That’s quite a big thing and I see a lot of triathletes making that mistake. They absolutely smash their legs on the swim. You almost, particularly coming from a competitive swimming background, you want to really focus on just using upper body as much as you can.
Using your upper body more than your legs in your Ironman swim
JACKIE FOLEY: I wouldn’t say don’t kick at all because you don’t want your legs to just get stiff in the water. You do need to be kicking but having a strong upper body and the good technique. A lot of it comes down to how you’re pulling through the water, underneath the water. My arms aren’t super big or muscular but it’s having that technique and being able to do that. It does allow me to save some legs and not kill them in the first hour of the race.
BRAD BROWN: As far as workouts in the water, what do you love doing? What are some of your favourites?
Mentally build into your Ironman swim set
JACKIE FOLEY: Right now having done a lot of my workouts alone, I enjoy doing something that starts to get me some speed work but I work into it so I’ve been doing a lot of sets where I do several rounds of 5 x 100’s. And I build into the speed by doing 25 fast, 75 easy, 50 fast, 50 easy, 75, 25 and then 100 fast, then 100 easy.
Usually by the second or third round I’m really hitting that 100 fast pretty well because I’ve given myself a chance to mentally really get into the set. And I’ll switch it up. Like sometimes I’ll do a couple of rounds just swimming, and then I’ll do a couple of rounds with paddles or with paddle and fin. It’s kind of fun to put the fins on and really feel like you’re going fast.
BRAD BROWN: Yes it’s the only time I feel like I’m going fast I’m afraid. Jackie, I love that sort of set as well. How many of those blocks would you typically do in peak training for an Ironman? How many of those would you do in a set?
Gain stronger swim sets with longer warm ups in the Ironman swim
JACKIE FOLEY: About 3 to 4 rounds so you get in about 1500 to 2000 of it. I like long warm ups so I usually do 15 to 20 minutes of just warming up. Switching and some stroke in the warm up then I would hit 3 to 4 rounds of that. And then I might do a long pull set. Like 1000 with paddles.
BRAD BROWN: Oh brilliant. I look forward to chatting about your bike next time out. We’ll save that for another day. Thanks for your time today on the Kona Edge.
JACKIE FOLEY: Great, thank you.
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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