SwimRun - To Gear or Not to Gear
Ever wonder what your swim speed difference is wearing shoes, Pull buoy, Paddles, Buoyancy Pants?
In the 2017 Rottnest Swimrun I partnered up with a good pool swimmer of similar pace, between 1:20 / 1:30per 100m. However, race day I was surprised just how slow he was compared to me, while he was fighting the water I was frolicking. I used a pull buoy only, and he went without any gear just shoes and jammers.
Why was he so slow? The major issue is of course the dragging shoes. Besides feeling pretty weird, the primary challenge of shoe swimming is they create massive drag and without using any toys to compensate swim speed is going to suffer massively. Different types of shoes are faster/slower, but you ultimately need to pick a pair that work for your running style, otherwise you run the risk of injuries.
My goal was to see just how much time I lost wearing shoes vs. wearing no Shoes. More importantly I wanted to work out how much speed I could recover using different gear or combinations of that gear. Would I have to race with all my gear or maybe I could get away with just buoyancy pants? Early Sunday off I went to the pool with all my gear for a little T.T.
The experiment was a T.T based set. Adequate warm up and build with the crux of the set being Timed 5 x 200m max efforts x 2. Each was tested twice and average time taken from each. I also measured Heart Rate on the quickest tests.
The gear I used for the Test: Buoyancy Pants by Blu_smooth, Pull Buoy by HUUB (Big Buoy), Paddles – Barracuda Large, race belt no brand. Here is the set, please try it out
SWIM RUN T.T pool test set:
400m easy Freestyle
300m as 50m Fast Free 50m easy Back Stroke
6 x 50m Build on 50 seconds or roughly 10 seconds’ rest
Timed 10 x 200m with I min recovery as;
200m No Gear - Speedos
200m Shoes On - Speedos
200m Full Gear: Shoes On /Buoyancy Pant/ Pull Buoy/ Race Belt /Paddles
200m Full Gear: minus Buoyancy pants
200m Full Gear: minus Paddles
Repeat X 2 (Test each once then re test).
400m P/P Cool Down
The results I thought would be much closer. There are some rather decent time gaps. I didn’t think that buoyancy pants would make much difference given that I was using a large pull buoy but without them I was 4 seconds per 100m slower!. However running in these on a hot day wouldn’t be pretty, so wait and see what the forecast is like for race day on that one.
Most surprising to me was using Full gear - how I was able to swim closest to my top swim speed while at a significantly lower Heart Rate. This means I’m going to be able to recover from the run while still swimming a decent pace. The limiting factor using paddles is seemingly maintaining a high enough stroke rate, some swimmers just don’t have the shoulder, back and lat strength to maintain a high enough stroke rate and will find themselves slower with paddles on. Paddles (Especially Large ones) also become tricky if the water is choppy as they tend to catch. For me Paddles Vs No Paddles I gain just over 7 seconds per 100m so paddles on race day it is.
I would advise that you experiment with your swimrun partner, time each other and work out what gear is going to work for you both so you can get the best possible swim times whilst keeping heart rates down, effectively turning the swim into some active recovery from the running.