What is the secret to swimming a sub 60 minute Ironman swim? According to Ben Fuqua it is simulating race conditions in every swim set.
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.
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BRAD BROWN: It’s time to chat some Ironman swimming now. Joining us is Ben Fuqua. Ben welcome back onto The Kona Edge. It’s good to catch up.
BEN FUQUA: Thanks for having me.
BRAD BROWN: Ben you’ve got a distinct advantage over guys who don’t swim. You mentioned that you did swim a little bit growing up. You may not have been that competitive, but having that background really does help doesn’t it?
BEN FUQUA: Yes it does. It helps a lot.
BRAD BROWN: As far as things you’ve done in the water over time, are there one or two things that you can really pinpoint, that you go “you know what, this has really helped me move the needle when it comes to improving my swim performance?”
Simulate racing in every Ironman swim workout
BEN FUQUA: My swim background is a little different. I didn’t grow up on a swim team, but I did grow up swimming a lot and I’m comfortable in the water. I think that’s a big thing for me.
Something though with the training that’s really helped me a lot is I try to simulate racing in every workout. Whether it’s very intense, or just mentally. I try to simulate some type of racing in every single swim workout I do. I think sometimes you can get lulled into the quietness of being under water and lose your focus. And I try to have times in every workout where I’m putting myself mentally in a race and focusing on that pace. So I think that’s been big for me.
Also, having longer sets and not breaking it up into these really short 50m, 100m sets. I think getting used to swimming hard for a long distance is something that’s really helped me a lot with my racing.
BRAD BROWN: Are you a big volume type of swimmer or not really?
Do you need more than 2 Ironman swim workouts a week?
BEN FUQUA: I swim twice a week and I swim about 10k every week, so I think that’s kind of middle of the road in my opinion. There are some people that swim a lot more, some people that swim less. I can get away with two days a week just because I feel really comfortable swimming.
I know typically people are swimming three or four days a week but with my work schedule and with where I’m at, two days a week for me is perfect and I swim about 5k each time I swim.
BRAD BROWN: Do you swim on your own or do you swim in a squad?
BEN FUQUA: I swim by myself; I do all my swimming by myself.
BRAD BROWN: And as far as workouts that you love doing, what would your favourite workout in the water be?
Segmented Ironman swim workouts to get faster in the water
BEN FUQUA: I divide my workout into three different mile segments. The first 2 miles I try to do about two-thirds of that at my old day good pace. Not slow, not fast. Then I try to finish that last third of the mile off at Olympic distance pace. Where I’m really moving fast in the water and in that last mile, after those first 2 miles, I focus more on form.
I use some paddles without a buoy, I do some intervals with sprints and then slowing down and sprinting and slowing down. Getting used to my heart rate going up and down like it does in a race. So that’s kind of my go-to as far as my swim workouts go.
BRAD BROWN: Have you done much work on your technique? Or are you pretty comfortable with the style you swim and that’s good for you?
BEN FUQUA: I’ve done a couple of things several years ago with analysis. I don’t think the person I went to was very good to be honest.
Coaching videos can help improve your Ironman swim stroke
I do a lot of research online and I look at a lot of different coaching videos on YouTube and different stuff like that. In honesty, I’m a very visual learner and that has helped me a lot with getting really comfortable with my stroke in the water.
BRAD BROWN: As far as times go, you mentioned that first Ironman that you did, in our first chat; your swim time has improved quite a bit over your Ironman career. What’s your swim PR for an Ironman swim at the moment?
BEN FUQUA: My best swim was this past year in Kona and I believe I was just under 56 minutes. I think I was like 55:57 or something like that which I was really happy with. I honestly think anything under an hour in an Ironman is pretty great.
BRAD BROWN: What’s the secret to dipping under an hour in an Ironman swim?
BEN FUQUA: Being aggressive and being ok with contact. I grew up wrestling and playing football and soccer and different physical sports so I kind of like it, honestly.
Establish your spot in your Ironman swim
I like getting hit and I like hitting other people and creating my own space, and not letting people into my space. Being competitive in that way with establishing your spot in the water helps a lot because then you’re not swimming around and stopping and slowing down.
I also think getting comfortable finding people to swim behind is really important. And understanding pacing well enough to know if that person that you’re swimming behind is swimming at the pace that you want to be at. That’s been something that has really helped me.
Being able to find strong swimmers in races to draft off of, but also being focused and not going to sleep swimming behind somebody. Making sure that this person is swimming at the speed that I want to be at has been really helpful. But I just think swimming; I think you have to swim a lot to get comfortable swimming long distances fast. So those are kind of my go-to things.
BRAD BROWN: Open water or pool, what’s your favourite?
Kona swim is the best part of the day
BEN FUQUA: Oh, open water for sure. It’s just not as easy to get into those situations. I think you can do just as good swimming in a pool. I do all my training in a pool but I would much rather swim open water.
I do most of my swimming early in the morning when it’s still dark so that is just not an option. I love swimming open water. The Kona swim was incredible; it was the best part of the day. It was just unbelievably beautiful but you can’t always get the Kona swim every day.
BRAD BROWN: Yes absolutely. Well Ben as always, great to catch up. Thanks for joining us. We look forward to catching up about your bike next time out.
BEN FUQUA: Yes, it sounds good.
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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