Spend more time in the water if you want to improve your Ironman Swim
Spend more time in the water if you want to improve your Ironman Swim

Spend more time in the water if you want to improve your Ironman Swim

Spend more time in the water if you want to improve your Ironman Swim

If you want to improve your Ironman or half ironman swim, you need to spend time in the water. That’s according to  Lisbeth Kenyon who joins us to chat about her Ironman Swim.

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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.


BRAD BROWN: Welcome onto this edition of The Kona Edge. I’m Brad Brown and it’s time to chat some Ironman swimming now. We head back to the United States and we’re joined once again by Lisbeth Kenyon. Lisbeth welcome onto the podcast again. Thanks for joining us.

LISBETH KENYON: No problem at all. Thank you.

BRAD BROWN: Lisbeth, let’s talk about your Ironman swim. You mentioned that growing up you swam a bit, but has it been something that has come naturally to you?

Getting comfortable in the water counts when improving your Ironman swim

LISBETH KENYON: Yes, indeed. I swam in high school. I wasn’t very good; my sister was good. She was a Norwegian Champion and was recruited to Division One NCAA school here in the US. She was a good swimmer.

I basically just went around watching her race but I’m comfortable in the water. I like to surf, so rough water swims are good for me.

BRAD BROWN: It’s interesting you say rough water swims. Consequently, an article I read about you is you felt the swim at Kona is quite hectic. The swim starts, it’s something else that, isn’t it?

LISBETH KENYON: It’s terrible.

BRAD BROWN: One word describes it. It’s beautiful to look at when you’re swimming on your own but that washing machine to start with is just crazy.

The changes to the Ironman Kona swim

LISBETH KENYON: It is so crazy. And interestingly, Ironman Kona has changed from a mass start, to 4 different starts. The pro men, the pro women. And now the amateur men start before the amateur women. By about 50 minutes and I don’t like that at all.

I liked the huge, massive starts because it would work itself out after maybe 15 minutes then it wouldn’t be so bad. But now the women start afterwards and you catch up with the back of the pack men. As a result, you have this discrepancy in speeds and it’s terrible.

BRAD BROWN: Lisbeth, over the years, can you put it down to a couple of things that you’ve done in the water that you think have improved your swim.

Spend more time in the water to improve your Ironman swim

LISBETH KENYON: What I would like to do is spend more time in the water. That is what I probably need to do, and I don’t think I have improved much. Just kept the status quo, which I guess as you get older is kind of like improving because you haven’t slowed down.

But my time is so limited and swimming is what is getting on the back burner for me because it is the smallest part of the triathlon. Therefore, I tend to neglect it more and spend the time on the bike workouts and run workouts. I only swim twice a week in the pool and then I swim with a gatometer once in the pool. So, I haven’t been able to really improve but I also haven’t gone backwards.

BRAD BROWN: Just maintained it. What sort of workouts do you love doing in the pool.

LISBETH KENYON: My favourite one is when the taper starts. I love the 500. 5 x 100, 400, 4 x 100, but ladder down. It’s a 3000m set and I love that. With little rest and sort of mimics. As a result, you can go a little faster than Ironman pace because it’s shorter but it kind of mimics the distance.

It’s distance specific. I love that set. And I also love doing, in the beginning, maybe a 400, and you sprint 25 then you go easy 25 and you do that for durations. Then you come back and make those longer and longer. I feel that sort of gets me in shape.

Open water swims count when training for an Ironman

BRAD BROWN: You mentioned you don’t mind doing the rough stuff too much, being a surfer. Do you get to do the open water?

LISBETH KENYON: Oh yes. We have water surrounding us everywhere. From May until November, we live a kilometre and a half away from a town beach, so we swim all summer. I’m not in the pool at all during the summer time. So yes, lots of open water.

BRAD BROWN: Do you think that has improved you swim a lot? Having that open water experience?

LISBETH KENYON:  Well you must be careful with that swim, you need to incorporate some sets. Even though it’s easy to just go and swim one pace the entire time when you do open water. You need to make yourself do some sets. Maybe go from buoy to buoy and do some variable speeds.

BRAD BROWN: And from a technique perspective, having that open water experience and sighting. That must give you an advantage over someone who has just done pool swimming.

Correcting Ironman swim technique in open water

LISBETH KENYON: It is good because it gives you a feedback of what kind of swimmer you are. I tend to swim to the left. So, when I’m in the pool I work on that. Then again, I have some errors in my technique that I work on. When you go to open water and you swim so much open water those things become obvious to you.

BRAD BROWN: I’ve got that problem too, Lisbeth. Although sometimes it’s left. Sometimes it’s right. I’ve yet to figure it out, but I can’t swim straight for the life of me in open water. It will be something I will improve on.

Lisbeth, thank you so much for you time on this edition of The Kona Edge. I look forward to chatting about your bike next time out.


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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