We chat about the importance of sighting on this edition of The Kona Edge when we chat to Sydney Tervort about her Ironman swim. From learning how to swim we discover how she has shaved minutes off her swim time. She shares her thoughts on missing a training session and tells the most helpful training has been consistently swimming with the team and the group swims.
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BRAD BROWN: Welcome onto this edition of The Kona Edge, time to chat some swimming and we’ve got a returning guest once again, we head to Salt Lake City in Utah and a great pleasure to welcome Sydney Tervort onto the podcast. Sydney welcome back, thanks for joining us today.
SYDNEY TERVORT: Thank you, glad to be here.
BRAD BROWN: Sydney, when we first spoke you mentioned to me that when you took up the sport of triathlon you pretty much had to learn to swim. For a lot of people the swim is the most intimidating part of triathlon but you’ve pretty much taken to it like a duck to water so to speak.
SYDNEY TERVORT: I love that you believe that! I hope my coach believes that! Our head coach actually swam in college and swim is a real big part of our training, so I had to learn to do that but I think the most important thing with me is, if I have to miss a workout during the week, I try to make sure it’s not the swim workout because that’s where I need the most work and what’s helped me the most is just spending more time in the water. I’m learning, feeling better about it.
BRAD BROWN: You almost mentioned the group of people you train with and that makes a big difference to your swim too, is when you are in a group and a Masters group where there are better swimmers and possibly worse swimmers than you, but it really pushes you to get better.
SYDNEY TERVORT: It really does and especially when you’re in a lane with most swimmers of similar ability but the coaches and workouts are pushing you, so you push yourself harder. I find that the most benefit I’ve gotten in the swim portion is from being at the team workouts where you are pushing yourself and being pushed by the others in your lane.
BRAD BROWN: For someone who has got a very busy schedule, as you do, how many times a week, how many sessions would you generally get in the water?
SYDNEY TERVORT: I shoot for three and then closer to the races four and they become longer swims. Some of them are an hour and a half, so three or four is what I do and I know some of the pros, the faster people in our group actually swim more than that, like 5-6 times a week.
BRAD BROWN: You mentioned the importance of being in a group and that’s helped you immensely, would you say that is the one thing you’ve done that’s given you the biggest gains or is there something else that you could pinpoint that you think has really helped you in the last year and a bit?
SYDNEY TERVORT: The most helpful has been swimming with the team and the group swims and then the second to that is that I just try not to miss the swims, the more time in the water for me.
BRAD BROWN: Consistency isn’t it? It’s building on what you’ve done and you don’t feel like you’re having to start over all the time.
SYDNEY TERVORT: Exactly, when you miss a few swims or a few weeks of being in the water, when I get back in I’m a bit slower.
BRAD BROWN: I’m feeling that at the moment because I did an Ironman in April and I think I’ve been in the water 4-5 times since then, I’ve been hanging out in the dark side, but I know it’s going to be really hard when I get back in and it’s probably not the ideal.
SYDNEY TERVORT: Yeah, it takes me, after that it takes me a while to get my speed back, to get a little faster again.
BRAD BROWN: I don’t have speed Sydney, so I don’t have to worry about that fortunately!
SYDNEY TERVORT: This is only compared to speed for me. In our group it’s all about speed.
BRAD BROWN: As far as workouts go, what do you love doing in the pool, what are your favourite sets?
SYDNEY TERVORT: I like the longer ones where we do the 800’s and kind of mix it up with the snorkel and the buoy and the paddles and you’re not pushing as fast. I think in the pool, for me, the speed part like the 25’s, those hurt worse but they’re probably the most helpful, so fast 100’s, you’ve got to gear up for those. Those are very helpful, but maybe not the most fun.
BRAD BROWN: I know it’s not practically possible throughout the year where you live in Utah, but as far as open water swimming, do you get to do much during the season?
SYDNEY TERVORT: In the summer we go up to the lakes, so we’ll get our wetsuits and go as a team, we’ll go up to one of the lakes and do a long training day, like swim then bike, we do have some places in the mountains here that have lakes and good biking and then a short run after. We do get to do some in the summer. You have to do some driving to get there, like half an hour or 45 minutes, so it’s not like convenient for daily, like if you lived in California or something.
BRAD BROWN: You also mentioned in our first chat that your swim time in Arizona was almost comparable to the time in Kona and you had a bit of a throwaway comment, you said you’re swimming a lot straighter, that’s something that comes with a bit of practice too in open water, it’s quite tough sighting isn’t it?
SYDNEY TERVORT: It is and Arizona that was my goal. I feel like I’ve made some strides this year in the swim. In Kona what I was able to do, that I was really excited about was that I was able to get in a pack and stay and get in a group and stay there as opposed to when I first started I would always get off to the side by myself where no one would touch me. So, yeah, I’m getting better with having people around me, that’s been a big deal in the swim for me, is being comfortable with people around me and hitting into me and me trying to find my spot in that group. That was the stride I felt I’d made in Kona and then one step further, when I got in Arizona, I was able to sight better and stay along the buoy line which for me is a stride forward. I did, one of my biggest challenges was swimming straight, I was always off in my own pool out there.
BRAD BROWN: Was it something you worked on or was it just a conscious decision that you need to focus on it more during the swim?
SYDNEY TERVORT: It was a conscious decision, definitely a conscious decision. In fact I even practiced it in the pool on some of my swims, would be on the sighting.
BRAD BROWN: It makes a big difference and you’d think that it doesn’t, but it can really shave off minutes. As much as you put in hours and hours in the pool getting a lot fitter, if you do get that sighting right, it can make a significant difference in your swim time.
SYDNEY TERVORT: It really can. Like I said, in Texas, I swam an extra 400-500 yards and I could tell that from some of the other people on our team that were on Strava and I could see the distance they swam versus the distance I swam, so that confirmed that I actually swam an extra 400-500 yards and I was just, if I looked at my Garmin thing, I was just all over the place, it added 10 minutes to my swim.
BRAD BROWN: I blame my Garmin, I just say it over-reads all the time, it’s got nothing to do with how skew I swim.
SYDNEY TERVORT: I should blame my Garmin too, it’s so hard.
BRAD BROWN: Sydney, awesome catching up once again, I look forward to chatting about your bike next time out but we’ll save that for another day. Thanks for your time today.
SYDNEY TERVORT: 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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