Archive for June, 2012

Things were a bit different than usual for training this Saturday. Firstly, I was without my usual Saturday Swimming carpool buddies. Fiona was away, in her hometown spending some time with the family, and Ronene was heading straight out as one of the first shift of swimmers for the MS Megaswim team (post to follow) and could manage both.

For me it was going to be a bit of a push for time as well, so I had dispatched my trusty other half J with the car and all the equipment needed to the Megaswim, and I raced off to training on my motorbike, to complete an hour and then head straight across town to that event. Slightly crazy, I know, and probably a little unnecessary to do an extra training session before a 24 hour swim event, but I do particularly love a Saturday morning ocean session…good for the soul!

Going on the bike and knowing I would be a bit short of time, I had decided to do the session sans-wetsuit (or “newd”, as we refer to it). The water was still pretty warm – around 18 degrees (celsius), but there was a pretty decent chill to the air that meant it was colder out of the water than in (common at this time of the year).

We headed out to do our warm-up and water acclimatisation after the briefing where coach Zoe had told us we would be doing a longer swim today. But ocean swim truing is nothing of not flexible depending on conditions, and after finishing the warm-up we were advised that as the waves were pumping we’d be doing some body-surfing practice instead. Yay! My favourite!

We spent an hour doing ins-n-outs. It’s a pretty good cardio workout and takes a specific set of skills to swim hard and get out under the waves when they have a bit of power behind them. It’s so totally worth it though, when you catch a decent wave, pull your head beach and surf down the front of it! Then lower your head and streamline as it breaks and ride the rolling shore-break all the way in…hopefully to the point that you graze your forehead on the sand as you arrive!

As a bunch of the swimmers in this squad are reasonably new and a touch nervous in the bigger waves, the coach divided us into two groups. This is my second winter swimming and I like to think of the bigger swell as kind of my ideal conditions as I’m slower, but strong and with a shorter stroke that cuts down into the waves (people with a longer stroke that gives them an advantage in the pool or flat conditions can end up putting their had straight through the tops of waves and find themselves trying to grab the air on the other side), so I decided to join the more seasoned group and head out on our own in search of big waves!

After an hour of this, there was a bit more going on…a new format for the Saturday sessions has a second shorter group starting at 10:15 (for those who are also doing running programs or other crazy stuff) so the 9:30 session now goes for 1.5 hours until 11. I, however, needed to finish early and head straight over to home bush for chapter 2 of my swimming adventures for the day.

Tuesday night training in the pool tonight with squad.

There want anything too new or exciting, but given I’m trying to get myself back into regular pool sessions after a little injury break (and the struggle to get back into it…a break is a dangerous thing for me) it was a good steady set.

There was one particularly pleasant surprise, though. I was heading down the stairs to the pool from the entrance with my regular training buddy Fiona, when I heard my name being called. Lo and behold, it was my sister Pia! This weekend is the MS Megaswim and I’m captaining a team (more on that to come), and Pia is part of the team, so has been trying to get in a few laps here and there to prepare. She’s a pretty good swimmer, and even did her first ocean swim race at the end of the summer season, but hasn’t done squad training before. Ever.

Our squad has a first-week-free policy, so with not much arm-twisting (she’s good like that), I introduced her to the coach and just like that she was set to do the session.

So the session went like this:

  1. Warm up – 500m with pull buoy
  2. 2 x 100m drill – 10 strokes normal, 2 strokes sighting
  3. 1 x 100m aerobic (swim hard) then 300m tempo (sustainable pace) on the clock (i.e. you have a certain time to complete each 100m. The quicker you swim, the longer you have resting before you start the net one.) Repeat 4 times.
  4. Warm down.

I was fine with the distance, but definitely off pace from what I can do when my training is a bit more regular than it has been. It’s a good winter set – a couple of fast laps to keep/build the aerobic fitness, and endurance training, pacing yourself and working on a consistent effort. Less of a focus on speed and race-fitness.

I swam in the slow lane. Fiona, who is pregnant, embarassingly lapped me at least once, and Pia was a bit quicker than me in the pool too. In my defence, both of them are younger and fitter than me! But seriously, I do this because I love it, certainly not because I’m particularly good at it. Mostly I was feeling pretty good about the fact that there were actually two swimmers there who were slower than me, so I wasn’t lagging behind in last place!

As distractingly attractive as I look in the photo in that last post, its possible you may have noticed the fancy red white and grey goggles I was wearing.

In ocean swimming, like in most sports these days, the kind of kit you use is both very important, and the topic of endless discussion amongst the crew.

Goggles are a very big and endlessly fascinating topic for ocean swimmers, even more so than for pool swimmers. You need to remember that we are out, far from shore, and trying desperately to swim in a straight line (no black line on the bottom of the pool for us!). Leaky goggles can cause serious issues with our ability to see where you’re going, how far we actually swim, and how comfortable we are while we do it. And we don’t carry backups. When we are racing, stopping to fiddle with ill-fitting goggles takes time we don’t have…plus we risk getting in the way of the other swimmers if we have to stop and tread water.

Then there’s the fact that different people have very different facial structures. Women generally have narrower faces. Eye sockets, nose bridges, and angles of cheekbones are very different on different people, so there is no such thing as one size fitting most when it comes to goggles.

If that wasn’t enough, different goggles are better in different conditions. I certainly have a selection that I can choose from for any given swim. I have clear goggles for training at the indoor pool in the evening. I have dark tinted pairs for bright summer days, particularly if the sun is going to be on either side of me (or both, if the course is a long loop), and polarized lenses for high glare or low light days (my favorite). I also have smaller sleeker line goggles for racing when the conditions are flat, and chunkier ones (and usually older pairs) that I save for days when the surf is pounding…there’s a higher chance I’ll lose them, plus, they’re not going to seal properly the whole swim, no matter what, so the newer higher quality ones are wasted. Other people have different preferences. I know people who are fiercely loyal to one type of goggle and never wear anything else, so that is certainly not universal.

Then you need to think about the fact that ocean swimmers are particularly hard on their kit. We are in saltwater and chlorine. A lot (particularly in summer). We get pounded by waves and scorched by sun and buffeted by wind. Goggles get exposed to all this, plus they’re clamped on faces slathered in sunscreen and thrown in bags to rattle around with sand, sand and more sand. Down on the beach there’s not always the opportunity to rinse goggles off with fresh water, and if you’re running between races and cheering on your friends, it’s easy to forget the best of intentions and throw your poor goggles into your swim bag instead of parking them carefully back up in their dedicated cases.

Add to all those considerations that goggles aren’t super cheap, and they are easy to lose, especially in big surf.

So all I want is something that is…
-seals well
-and works for e conditions you’re swimming in.
-with a homing device.
Simple, right?

I’ve taken the liberty of sampling numerous types of goggles over the last 3 years. Nothing at all to do with the fact that I get a bit obsessed with this sort of thing, I assure you. To share the benefit of my experience, I’m planning on posting reviews on here. So if you’re looking to buy goggles, don’t know where to start, and think my opinions might help, please watch this space.

Update: Zoggs Predatorflex review

Saturday was miserable. Cold and wet and about as wet as winter throws at you in Sydney.
Training was on anyway. It always is. I may not be the best swimmer out there (or anything near it), but I can participate like nobody’s business!

Despite the miserable weather it was a great swim at Bondi. This year’s new full-length wetsuit may be a bit of a mission to get in and out of, but while I’m in the water I’m toasty, and the extra buoyancy seems to be doing my technique a bit of good.

Last week was ins-and-outs…some (finally) decent waves meant there was some pretty decent body surfing and I have finally been managing to get the bigger ones a bit more under control, so I was hanging out to try my hand again.

First, though, a longer swim. Coaches Kingy & Zoe split us into two groups (faster and slower) but each person was paired with a buddy in the opposite group. We started in the middle of the beach and headed out the back of the break. Once there, the faster swimmers headed north to the boat ramp and the slower (me!) south to icebergs. The idea was that the faster group would turn at the end and then try to catch their buddies, turning around when that happened. Turns out we weren’t as slow as we thought and made it all the way to the point and part of the way back.

My buddy was Jayne, and as I had my trusty waterproof Pentax, we managed a photo when we finally met up

Back in the middle of the bay we were given an option…swim across to the boat ramp, then back in to shore, or head directly in for some waves. I took the waves option (of course) and managed a few decent ones, but nothing compared to last Saturday or even Monday…they were easy enough to jump on, but didn’t have the power to take you all the way in. Still fun to have a bit of a play, and during events, when you’re stuffed near the finish line, little waves are often all you’ve got to bring you home, so practising with them is never wasted.

Cold showers (Waverly council, what’s with that?) and hot coffee with the troops topped off another stellar start to a Saturday!

Other photos from the day available on flikr.

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