Swim Club Blog: Is there a draft or is it me?

If you follow our blogs, you'll know that we are big fans of 'race specific' training. A real bugbear of mine is that triathlon is becoming more about the 'training' and less about the racing. We swim in the pool doing various drills, watching out splits per 100m and then on race day, often fail to deliver. Training is no more than a means of conditioning but 'race craft' is key for performance. For example, if you train in open water you should swim close to others, in rough water at a faster pace as that's what you have to do on race day. Open water swim training is often far removed from the race day environment.

All too often we hear people saying that they prefer to swim on their own, they prefer their own space and they hate the rough water created by other swimmers. I'm not knocking the enjoyment of swimming on your own, in a peaceful lake. As a stand alone activity, it can be one of the most enjoyable and relaxing things you can ever do. However, if you're training to race, then swimming alone in a calm lake as a means of preparing for a rough / mass start event with 1000+ other people is not adequate preparation.

Drafting... stay on topic!!

I'm already starting to drift off topic, so lets get back to it. Drafting is one of the easiest ways to save time and energy in the swim. If you can draft faster swimmers, you'll swim quicker, if you draft someone the same pace as you, you'll use much less energy than normal. Here's some things to think about:

1. A large pack can create a large draft, so swim behind a large pack! The issue here is that the water will feel rough/choppy and you will feel as though your stroke technique is faltering (you can't maintain a 'smooth & gliding' stroke in rough water). It's important to understand that even if it feels as though your stroke is faltering, you'll still be moving faster. Forget technique, relax, swing your arms over and focus on drafting. The stuff you've been learning in the pool, forget it.

2. If you're used to swimming on your own, you're more likely to move away from the pack to find your own water. This is the slowest option, move back into the main pack.

3. Ideally you need to find the perfect pair of feet and get as close as you can. If they are swimming straight, let them tow you round the course. DON'T keep jabbing their feet, it's bloody irritating!! It may feel extremely easy behind someone, so control your speed to prevent yourself constantly jabbing them. Many people feel the urge to overtake as the pace feels so easy, when they try to do this, they realise they can't swim fast enough to get past.

4. Position yourself correctly at the start line. If you want to find faster feet, don't go to the back... go to the front and go off fast, then look to your left and right, waiting for someone to come past you.

5. There are times when you'll be swimming and suddenly realise that the person next to you has been there for 15 minutes and you are both swimming exactly the same pace. Drop back and draft, what's the point in wasting energy to swim at the same pace?

6. Drafting should be a strategy which you employ from the start. Don't consider it half way through the swim... stand on the start line with a clear strategy. If you want to find faster swimmers, it's too late half way through the swim.

7. Drafting and pack swimming is a specific open water skill, which pool swimming does not prepare you for. When you make the transition to open water, you should learn the skills and tactics. Pool swimming is a solo time trial, open water is a bunch race with different skills and requirements.

8. You need to practice and become accustomed to open water pack swimming. Don't think you can train in the pool, train alone in open water then simply jump into a mass start swim and be efficient at drafting and pack swimming. Use every opportunity in open water to swim close and swim as a pack, it's your only chance to practice. You can swim alone in the pool for training, so use your time in open water to develop the specific skills required.

Join our coached open water swim sessions

We run a coached open water swim session every Wednesday from May 8th. There are 4 groups from novice through to advanced and a coach leads each group. It's perfect for novices as you can learn front crawl and the water is only chest deep. You need to register in advance (it's free to register) and it's £5 on the night to swim. To read more and register GO HERE

Need a new wetsuit or buying your first?

We've got a range of wetsuits in store and a huge amount of experience! If you're buying from us, you're welcome to try them on and we can ensure you get the perfect size and fit. We're based just off junction 27M6, in Wrightington, Lancashire. Call us on 01257 251217.

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