We are joined on The Kona Edge by Riana Robertson and chat about her Ironman Swim. Riana shares how her Ironman Swim improved after she joined a swim squad and hired a coach. She also reveals why swimming is not all about being fast in the water.
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BRAD BROWN: Time to chat some swimming on The Kona Edge. We head back to Pretoria in South Africa to catch up with Riana Robertson.
Riana welcome back onto The Kona Edge. Thanks for joining us today.
You mentioned that the swim is not your strongest of the 3 disciplines. But when it comes to Ironman, as much as you want a strong swim it’s not the end of the world if it is your weakest discipline. It is sometimes probably better that way.
Your Ironman swim is not all about being fast
RIANA ROBERTSON: Yes. I started out being a very weak swimmer and ironically enough and I mentioned in the previous chats that I’m a bit of a diesel engine. So I’m able to keep a very high pace for a longer period of time and that works for Ironman. Most of my swims I normally do in about an hour, so it works brilliantly for that. What I say to my athletes as well; it’s not about having a fast swim.
It’s about getting out of the water where you are in a position to start biking and running. By the time you get out of the water you don’t want to be lactic, you don’t want to be tired. You actually want to have the rest of the day ready to be able to push on your stronger disciplines. So swimming is not just about being fast but also being efficient and saving energy.
BRAD BROWN: You’ve made big gains on your swim as you say. What are some of the things that you think have helped and aided that process? Some of the things that you’ve done that has improved your swim?
RIANA ROBERTSON: I think growing up in Bethlehem where there wasn’t any swim we tried to do as much as we can with Mom and Dad and the pool and the dam. When I got to Pretoria I joined a squad. Rocco Meiring, a lot of triathletes swim with him, he actually helped me a lot with my swimming stroke. There was a bit of a natural swimming stroke that came to me but I got into a squad and I got myself a swimming coach. And that obviously paid off in the long term.
Getting help for greater gain in your Ironman swim
BRAD BROWN: Yes, and Rocco is great. He’s worked with some big names. You mentioned Kate Roberts in our last chat. I know he’s worked a lot with Katie. He was also based at the High Performance Centre in Pretoria, I don’t know if he’s still there now. A lot of South Africa’s top triathletes have come through there and I think of Wian Sullwald, I’m sure Wian has worked with him at some stage.
It’s important to get some help. I hear it so often, people say they feel like Michael Phelps in the water but as soon as they get some video analysis they realise maybe not so much. Getting that help is important.
RIANA ROBERTSON: There’s a bit of a story about this. I went to Rocco, when I got to university and I was lucky enough to be there on a triathlon scholarship bursary. They threw me in with the swimmers so I had to do swimming with proper swimmers in a 50m pool and I would get lapped by kids half my age. This was a little bit of a different ball game.
I remember going to Rocco and saying to him “Rocco, we need a swimming coach for triathlon” and that’s how Tuks Triathlon swimming actually started. My parents moved to Pretoria during that time and my Dad was the founder of the Tuks Triathlon Club. So it’s a bit of a personal passion, Tuks Triathlon.
But it’s nice to see all the swimmers that actually come through there, like Wian and Kate and Rudolph. There’s so many. Wikus Weber, and to know that deep, deep, deep inside, very deep inside, I planted a little seed with regards to that so very happy about that.
Deal with those dark moments in your Ironman swim
BRAD BROWN: Yes. That’s very cool indeed. I’m good friends with Lindsay Parry so I’ve been following what’s been happening at Tuks and the HPC for quite a while. It’s an amazing academy and we see these little centres of excellence popping up. Not just in South Africa but globally there’s lots of these.
Being part of a swim squad that pushes you is quite important to getting better as well. You can push yourself so far but getting into the pool with swimmers that are better than you, you’ve got no choice but to improve. Otherwise like you say you’re going to get lapped by kids half your age.
RIANA ROBERTSON: Yes. I remember me and Casper Moody, we were the 2 weakest swimmers in the lane and we would barely just touch the wall. It was like touch, breathe, and then we had to go back again. So yes, there were some really challenging and dark moments in the pool, I won’t lie about that.
But again, never give up is what I meant earlier, is the one thing that triathlon has taught me and if you look now an hour’s swim on 4.2k’s, or 3.8k’s on an Ironman swim is a very good swim and it’s a very competitive swim.
I got to do that by just getting the job done. And by joining a coach, getting my stroke correction, joining a squad, it really helped me.
BRAD BROWN: What do you love doing in the water now? You said it’s improved. It’s obviously easier and feels better when you are swimming well. But what are some of the workouts you love doing?
Get into your groove with brutal Ironman swim workouts
RIANA ROBERTSON: Neil McPherson still does my coaching program for me and every now and then he throws some really interesting sessions in there. For me, I like the faster more competitive, 100m sprints on a timeline. Those type of things. It also makes the session go a bit quicker than the long slow stuff.
But Neil definitely keeps me on my toes and he mixes it up a little bit for variation. Every session is obviously outcome and goal driven but for me I prefer those 100m sprints.
I would get like 40 x 100m on a certain pace with 20-seconds rest. It is brutal, but you get into a nice groove and I enjoy them, they go quite quickly.
RIANA ROBERTSON: Fantastic. Riana thanks for your time today on The Kona Edge. Look forward to chatting a little bit about your bike next time out but we’ll save that for next week. Thanks for your time today.
RIANA ROBERTSON: Thanks Brad.
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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