As a coach I rarely get to train. I do a couple of runs each and also coach a few runs as well which gives me a little bit of cardio. So with limited swimming training each week, how did I get a 3rd (one second away from 2nd) last weekend?
I swam smarter not harder. A 2.4 km ocean swim race is not a short event. You do have to have some stamina and be fit enough to attempt it. Malabar is always a waist deep in water start due to all the rocks and it’s always almost completely flat with swell at the middle turn around points.

The starters gun went off and the guys around me bolted, there were about 10 men in front of me swimming million miles an hour at the start. I settled into a steady rhythm ensuring that my heart rate didn’t rise too fast, breathing every 2 strokes making sure I took big “diaphragmatic” breaths.

Lifting and looking, I swam in a straight line to the first buoy. I noticed a guy beside me swimming the same pace and he seemed to swimming relatively straight. I could see him edging past me so I thought, here’s my chance to enjoy a bit of a break and I’ll get on his toes. I made sure that I never touched his toes (one of the biggest no no’s in ocean swimming) and let him lead the way out to the turn around point.

Turning around the buoy with my new fangled buoy turn (come on Saturday’s at 3:30pm to learn it) I ended up at his waist. I let him go again and at the second turn around I did the same thing and thought, OK it’s time to move.
Whilst swimming up to this point, I had passed about 4 or 5 guys who’d taken off earlier. So I know my strategy was working. I continued on and after the 2nd last buoy I caught up with another two or three swimmers. It was at this stage I put my hardest work in.

I spend a great deal of time explaining stroke correction and improvement, so I started to recite it to myself. I was engaging my core, checking that my elbow wasn’t dropping and pulling through the water with my hands deep, ensuring that I got every bit of distance I could from my stroke. I was amazed! I flew past another 3 guys and had no one in front of me. About 200metres from shore I was thinking how much longer can I keep this up but I felt like I had put at least a length in from the guy behind me.

As I swam to shore, there were the infernal rocks of Malabar beach. I didn’t want to fall over, so I took it easy, the guy who beat me by a second obviously threw caution to the wind and ran as fast as he could to beat me. I should have run a bit faster once on the sand, and usually I would have, but I didn’t and it blew me a place.

So here’s a list of things I think are important to remember as you develop your strategy for your next Ocean Swim race:

  1. Don’t be first at the first can, very few people can keep that pace going for a long race. Most people blow up.
  2. When you are swimming with someone who’s beside you, utilise their wake and give yourself a break in the early part of your race. Never touch their feet and always make sure you still lift and look to make sure they’re not going off track. When you feel them slow down, move on.
  3. Come and learn a brilliant new way of turning at a buoy. Coach Jake was my inspiration. We practice it on Saturday’s at 3:30pm at Coogee Beach.
  4. Be really aware of your stroke and technique in the last part of the race. From about the last 25-30% of the race be really present in your thoughts about what you’re doing and how you’re swimming.
  5. Make the run up the beach end count – don’t dawdle like I did!

Join Sydney Swimmers for sessions each week at Victoria Park Pool on Monday, Wednesday, Friday mornings and Alfred Park Pool on Tuesday & Thursday evenings.

Video stroke analysis is the best way to improve your Ocean Swimming.