My best time for the 3,800 meters is 56 minutes and 22 seconds (with a wetsuit, in Challenge Roth which might well be the fastest course in the world).
Top guys may swim good 10 minutes faster, but it's really a no-brainer as the options for me seem to come down to these two:
- swim comfortably in 56+ mins and save energy for the 180 km bike and the marathon run, or
- try swimming under 56 mins and totally cook myself before the ultralong race really begins!
My main swimming goals are:
- effectiveness: how to get good enough to get the 3,800 meters done, with as few swim training miles and trips as possible, and
- economy: the more relaxed one can feel and the more energy one can save for the bike and run portions of the race, the better.
Triathlon Swimming Made Easy: The Total Immersion Way for Anyone to Master Open-Water Swimming is a must-have for triathletes. It is all about how to swim easy, focusing on your technique. Previously I thought all I need is speed and endurance, but the book totally changed my attitude. It really helped me to improve and there are two ways that one can measure the improvement accurately:
- lower heart rate (this requires a HR monitor that works under water)
- fewer strokes per pool length (this you can easily count yourself and write the numbers down after the workout).
Freestyle: Made Easy is one of the best instructional swimming videos I've seen. It's also based on Terry Laughlin's Total Immersion method, and there are lots of free video samples on the website.
I spent the whole morning in the pool today, doing nothing but these easy exercises - and visiting the sauna frequently to stay warm. Remember: easy does it!