I was reading an interview with 2012 Ironman World Champion Pete Jacobs, and this portion really stuck out to me, as some many triathletes struggle with swimming.
TZ: It seems you have no (known) weaknesses now however with your swim strength does this allow you to focus more than the average person on your bike and run? How much of an advantage does this give you?
PJ: Yes, people do tell me that I’m very lucky, and I guess I am, but the reason I swim so well and so little is because I just focus on my technique every single stroke. I have a high awareness of my body and what each muscle is doing so I am my own coach and am constantly tweaking my technique. I swam less than 10km per week leading into Kona last year, and had one of the best swims I’ve ever had because I just sat in the pack and swam efficiently.
This is what it takes to be a great swimmer. I don't care how much time you're willing to put into the pool, open water, weight room, devoted to your diet, etc. If you aren't mentally focused and engaged in what you're doing with your stroke, you will have a crap stroke, and not go as fast as you can. Many athletes take the "Just get to my bike" mentality in the water, as Gerry Rodrigues pointed out in his great blog.
I went from a 2:00 per 100 yard base time in the pool in 2003, to 2006 coming out of the water with the leaders, or just off them, and contrary to common belief, it wasn't because of physical talent. It was because I learned, became a student of the sport and focused every stroke. Like a single song on repeat in my head, I would go thru the same analysis and questions of my stroke and my surroundings as the race would unfold. I got that mentality from what I did in practice/training.
So if you're struggling in the water, maybe the problem is between your ears.