I couldn't count using my two hands plus the hands of several of my friends how many times I've heard a triathlete say - not exactly like this but close - "Swimmers have it so easy." Even, "swimmers are so LUCKY." Or some other form of excusing their own lack of swimmerness.
There is so much wrong with that thought process. It's SUCH a cop out.
While I don't have personal experience, I'm pretty confident in saying that in terms of sports, swimmers have it the hardest. I'm not speaking to the "big 3" sports that dominate American athletics (football, baseball, basketball), those are irrelevant in this discussion. Top level high school and collegiate age swimmers can hit 80,000 yards (or more?) per WEEK of training. Maybe not every week, maybe not more than once or twice a month during a big build you can bet your boots that many swimmers are hitting double workouts each day and totaling well over 10k a day. Just think about that for a second. 10k a week is a fairly big number for most triathletes.
Collegiate runners may hit 100 miles a week or more but they get to go out and explore trails, paths, roads, etc and run and converse with their skinny buddies. I'm not discounting how much work they do, they're just limited by the fact that running is so high impact. 100 miles a week for a good runner is, at most, ~15hrs a week of actual running. They fake their way through strength training and other such non-running activities but the bulk of their work is probably in the 12-18hr a week range. 100k a week of swimming is probably double that. Then add in dry-land. Then add in strength. It's ridiculous how much work swimmers do in their ''careers.''
So to say something like "oh they have it so easy" is preposterous. They worked HARD for that strength. I do not feel sorry for myself in any way that someone like Doug Van Wie can put 2+ minutes into me in a sprint triathlon. I admire the work ethic, dedication, and athleticism that put him in that position. It took him extremely far in his prior sport (to the Trials and a world-record if I'm not mistaken?) and will take him extremely far in triathlon. It's impossible to begrudge him (or anyone like him) that kind of "advantage." To even call it an "advantage" is frustrating. Everyone else had the same opportunity to get in the pool at a young age. Everyone could have started down that path a long time ago, but few chose to do so. I know I toyed with the idea of joining the swim team in high school but didn't because they had to wake up early.
Think swimmer's "don't know how easy they have it?" Why don't you go and try to do a workout with a real swimmer. They don't have it easy. In a triathlon, they don't have it easy. It doesn't get "easier," you just go faster.
Too many triathletes putz their way through swimming thinking they'll get better with their pathetic swim workouts. It's not going to happen. You don't just "get better." It's a long, patience-driven and sometimes frustrating path of years and yards.
Triathletes seem to understand that to get better at running you have to run more and sometimes harder. They also understand that to get better on the bike you have to...umm...ride more and more harder. Yet somehow that knowledge and understanding is lost when it comes to swimming.
Take a look at this list and what stands out:
Every one of these guys (and I'm sure some I'm forgetting, sorry) will be at or near the front at a local race (some even near the front on a bigger scale). As far as I know, none of them grew up a "swimmer." All of them put in year after year of hard work in the pool to get where they are.
Speaking from personal experience, 4 years ago I did my first ever open water swim at the Lake Norman YMCA sponsored swims. It was the longest 1500m of my life and took me a little bit over 30 minutes. I had started lap swimming (for the first time in my life, I might add) in June of that year. So four years ago I would have swum 30-32 minutes in an olympic distance triathlon. Now I would expect to swim under 22 minutes and come up within a minute or two of the fastest swimmer (unless Doug, Matt, or Duff show up to race) at any local race. Anyone can look at my training logs. I had never stepped foot (or dipped a toe I should say) into a pool with the intention of becoming a faster swimmer until the summer of 2008. And now I expect to emerge from the swim and get on the bike in the top 5. Progress.
And all these swimmers didn't get better by busting out weak-ass swims of 5x100 pull on [insert low effort interval here]. They did it by hammering over and over and over, day after day, month after month, year after year. Swimming all out 100s until your arms and legs tingle so much and you start seeing stars. Gut-wrenching sets of 500+ yards at an effort level similar to a 20 minute power test. Over, over, and over again.
So, in short:
1) Stop complaining
2) Work harder to get better
3) Come into T1 closer to the front than the back
4) Problem solved
It's simple. Just that step 2 takes a while...