Do you need a specialist swim coach to qualify for Ironman Kona?
Do you need a specialist swim coach to qualify for Ironman Kona?

Do you need a specialist swim coach to qualify for Ironman Kona?

Do you need a specialist swim coach to qualify for Ironman Kona?

We head back to Australia for this edition of The Kona Edge to catch up with Jo Coombe. Jo shares her swim secrets with us today and we find out why she feels you need a specialist swim coach if you want to become the best triathlete you can be.

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BRAD BROWN: Welcome onto this edition of The Kona Edge, it’s great to have you with us and let’s talk some swimming now and it’s a pleasure to welcome back onto the podcast, Jo Coombe. Jo, welcome, thanks for joining us once again on The Kona Edge.

JO COOMBE: Good to talk to you again Brad.

BRAD BROWN: Jo, one thing I’ve picked up in our first chat is you mentioned, and you almost did it as a bit of a throwaway comment, that you’ve got a specialist swim coach, obviously you’ve got a coach that helps you out on the bike and the run, but you’ve got someone that helps you out specifically on your swim?

JO COOMBE: Yes, his name is John Van Wisse, he’s got so many accolades in the world of marathon swimming it’s unbelievable, but he also broke the world record for the Enduro Man Arch to Arc last year, so he’s just an absolute legend and he was an Ironman triathlete, he was first out of the water in Kona 20 odd years ago, so he’s very, very practical about open water swimming. He’s not a pure swim coach, if you want to call it that. He’s all about maximizing what you’ve got to make you a better open water swimmer basically.

BRAD BROWN: Great stuff, Jo, as far as gains on the swim, do you think getting someone like him has just given you a huge advantage and a shot in the arm when it comes to your swim performance?

JO COOMBE: 100%, yeah. It’s partly his personality, he’s one of these people that every time you set a PB in the pool, if you were swimming two minutes for the first time, he would know that and he’d be talking you up. If you were a sub 1:10 minute swimmer for 100m, he’d know that too and then every time you do improve, he says ‘you can still improve further’ and I used to laugh. I’d go, ‘oh yeah, right, okay’ and he’d go ‘no, you can do this and we’ll get you doing this’ and so it just drives you, because of him being like that, you want to keep going back, you want to keep trying to improve and lo and behold, you do, it’s fantastic.

Ironman swim coach – What is his job?

BRAD BROWN: As far as coaches go, it’s amazing and I love hearing it, a lot of times yes, it’s technique and you want the programs, but a big part of a coach’s job is breathing belief into you as an athlete that you can do it.

JO COOMBE: Totally, yeah, and especially, in the past my swim was my weakest leg, so if you’ve come from a non-swimming background, you’re always going to have that doubt in your mind that you can keep up there with the real swimmers. You know what we’re like in triathlon, we call them ‘real’ swimmers or ‘real’ runners, so you never see yourself in that light and so yeah, to have somebody saying, no, you can first out the water and really believing that, is just awesome.

BRAD BROWN: Jo, is there one thing that you can pinpoint that you feel over the years that you’ve done in the water has made a huge difference to your swim performance?

JO COOMBE: Well, I’ll say this for all disciplines, which I know everybody says, is consistency, but after 10 years, I’ve been consistent for 10 years, so once it got to that point where I was swimming consistently and I was putting in the volume, I think the biggest difference I made to my swimming or John made, was my cadence. He said, you know, I don’t get out of breath and I think this is a problem for many triathletes, you do a swim set, you could swim 3.8km any day of the week or you could do 40 x 100’s, but you can’t push to that point where you’re hitting your lactic zone or getting into that anaerobic zone and he used to say to me, your cadence is too slow, until you’re out of breath, you’ll never get faster. So, he’s worked a lot on me, just turning my arms over and obviously you don’t want that to come with a loss of form, but he’ll say, I’ll say, oh, I just feel like I’m spinning now and I’m not really catching the water and he’ll say, ‘no, your stroke looks fine, I much prefer seeing you turn your arms over faster like that’ and it’s translated into my open water swimming. When I’m swimming longer, I am still now turning my arms over faster.

BRAD BROWN: Brilliant, as far as swim sets and mixing things up in the pool, what do you love doing, what’s your favourite swim workout?

JO COOMBE: I’ve got to say, my husband and I for years have done a 500 set, and that’s like one of our own swim sets outside of squad where we do just, so it’s up to 4 or 5km worth of 500’s, so 8-10 500’s and we just leave off, we’ll finish each 500 and then leave maybe on the next top on the clock. So it’s not very much rest at all, it’s pretty aerobic and we might mix it up with paddles, so alternating with and without paddles and I just think that’s a real banker set for Ironman. If you start with 3km, build up to 4km, maybe throw in the odd 5km one of those and you’re really just getting your endurance set done.

BRAD BROWN: It sounds brilliant. Jo, thank you very much for that and best of luck on improving those swims and it’s incredible, like you say, that when you think you can’t and you actually do, it just fills you with confidence and I’m sure you’re going to keep getting those gains, best of luck.

JO COOMBE: Thanks very much.

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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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