Archive for September, 2012


I pulled up a little sore on Wednesday after swimming hard on Tuesday night. Just a bit tight across the shoulders and arms. Sign of a good workout!

The set was more pacing, at randomly chosen varying distances (a “listening” drill from coach Kingy) rather than the usual planned and printed up set. Good fun and another hard swim.

The drill we did at the start was one that I really struggle with. I’m not entirely sure what it’s called (perhaps if my dodgy description rings any bells with anyone they could post a comment?), and I didn’t have any luck finding a YouTube clip to show you, so here goes my best explanation.

  1. Push off the end of the pool backwards like you would for backstroke.
  2. But keep your arms by your sides the whole drill.
  3. Propel yourself by kicking.
  4. Using your core (not by turning your head) rotate your whole body 180 degrees until you’re face down in the water. then rotate back the same way back onto your back.
  5. Do the same thing the other direction. Then alternate directions the whole way down the pool and back.

This particular drill is designed to work on body rotation. This is an unbelieveably big part of good swimming technique. Super important.

Good swimming technique, at its most basic, is about two things: maximising forward momentum, and minimising drag.

A good body rotation helps with both of these things through:

  • Helping get a good long reach when your arm enters the water. Try reaching your arm forward standing straight and holding your torso and shoulders rigid. Then twist your torso at the waist and angle your shoulder forward and look how much further you can reach. Same thing in the water.
  • Your arm comes more easily out of the water and higher on the return part of your stroke. Air has a lot less resistance than water so this is a good thing!
  • Your body is more streamlined and glides more efficiently through the water. Think about if you’re in the surf and a wave hits you front on instead of side on…..

In my case, this particular drill means water up my nose, wonky zig-zag path up and down the pool, and sore legs protesting that they aren’t used to getting so much use!

Guess I must need to keep practising!

Edit: if you odn’t believe me, I found a great SwimSmooth article on rotation. Much more comprehensive than mine and definitely worth a read!

Tuesday Training – we were light on for people so there was plenty of room in the lane. We did a straight up pacing set against the clock…..time trial 100m average time: Swim 100m. Rest 15 seconds. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat…….

Sounds simple, right?

Surprisingly gruelling. It’s a really tough job to do the following things:

  1. Hold yourself back in the first couple of laps
  2. Keep up on the last few laps
  3. Stay focussed enough to know what your pace is. Every lap. Without getting distracted by the voices in your head.

I’ve been feeling great in the water lately and about as fast as I’ve ever been (possibly faster), so decided I would make a really concerted effort to stay right on track.

First couple of laps were fine. I still can’t seem to ever get the first one right and was a touch fast, but then I settled into a rhythm.

About two-thirds through I was starting to feel it. My face was flushed (yes, you can definitely sweat when swimming if you swim hard enough) and my breathing was heavy at the end of each lap.

As the set progressed it was getting harder and harder. My shoulders were aching and I heard Coach Zoe speaking to one of the other swimmers as I finished a lap and stopped for my 15 second break…..

I think a few people might be coasting tonight. *pauses a second, then hears me* Except maybe Jacki. There’s a good bit of huffing and puffing!

And I was certainly puffing. I hammered it out til the end of the hour, fighting increasing discomfort and resorting to the mantra approach to staying on track…. “train hard, race easy. train hard, race easy. train hard, race easy”

So did I do it? Maintain my new and improved pace for the whole set? Well no. I lost it on the last 2x 100m. But you know what….that’s only 2 out of (ummm….lost count somewhere along the line….) somewhere between 15 and 20. Great progress and I’m more determined than ever to get there (and maybe faster again!).

As the winter swim season draws to a close, I’ve been reflecting on one of the most common things I hear when someone discovers I swim in the ocean every weekend, even in winter.

“Winter swimming? Are you insane?”

Funnily enough, I’m at a point where I understand their reaction about as much as they understand my swimming. I’m a total convert to winter swimming, and have grown to love its charms.

Aside from the question about getting into the ocean, I recently came across an article about Why you should keep on swimming through the winter. This was mainly about pool swimming, but had some good points that apply to all swimmers.

As for me, I have quite a long list of reasons why I do it, and why I’ve grown to love it. so here goes….

  • Less tourists at the beach (and therefore less parking issues) so less crowd-dodging in the water.
  • It’s really not that cold. Not where I live and train. so far the water temperature hasn’t dropped below 17C. There’s actually a lag in water temperature to air temperature, so funnily enough the really cold water tends to be around November when people start thinking about getting into the ocean. And if the water temperature really bothers you. Ummm…heard of wetsuits? No rules against ’em!
  • The water clarity is better. No idea why, but it is totally true.
  • Wildlife. I think it’s a combination of the cooler water and less swimmers around, but there’s more fish, and it’s only during winter swims that I’ve swum with dolphins and whales (and even a wolverine!).
  • Body Surfing. A good enough reason all on its own.
  • A surprising number of winter swim days are actually pretty nice.  A quick review of the icebreaker notes shows there was one horrid day, one overcast, and one where it came in started sunny, rained, and then went sunny again. Not too bad all things considered.
  • There’s really no better start to the weekend. Salt and surf and sand, enough of a workout to justify a few wines on Saturday night, followed by coffee and good company!
  • It’s a well-kept secret, known only to a select few, that we actually have a ball out there. Even when the weather is sub-optimal. There’s this whole perception out there amongst the general populace that it’s difficult and cold and you have to give up your Friday night plans…when really, it’s amazingly fun.
  • It’s great for your summer race form. Keeping up training over the winter really gets you trained up for bigger surf, rougher conditions and cooler water. you can work on strength and endurance, and you’re not starting from scratch fitness-wise every year.

I know. I’ve given away a few secrets here. So maybe we’ll see you in the water next winter….

Saturday training marked the end of the winter, and more importantly the end of the Icebreaker season!

I know it’s actually a couple of weeks into spring here, but for reasons one can only assume were to do with being in tune with the natural seasons rather than subscribing to the unnatural calendar construct devised by an egotistical emperor (or something like that) our winter season went from equinox to equinox.

Winter, spring, or any season, it was a cracker of a day! Sunshine and surfable waves and clear water and not too much wind. In celebration of the end of the winter season (and perhaps to gain a final few extra icebreaker points) there were a few more newd swimmers than usual, despite the water being a touch colder than it has bene the last couple of weeks….definitely a shock getting in!!!

Our session was quite similar to last week’s, with squares and a couple of rip swims. It was definitely a different experience to last week, though. The weather and the waves for a start. I firmly believe that, even swimming at the same beach at the same time every week, the ocean always gives you something new. Occasionally it’s a lesson in humility, but more often it’s a pleasant surprise.

This week it was a wolverine. Yes, you heard me correctly. Luckily I’m not referring to this kind of wolverine:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

so much as this kind of Wolverine….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, that’s right. Mr Hugh Jackman was at the beach, in all his beardy muscly glory. It’s just possible a couple of our beach briefings were a little more giggly, and a touch longer than they usually are while all the ladies may have indulged in anything from a few furtive looks to outright staring (or in Leanne’s case, obliviousness!)

So there you have it – winter swimming….whales to wolverines!

We went off and had a lovely lunch with certificates and awards and new timetables and new challenges now the icebreaker is over (and perhaps a little bit of champagne!). Watch this space for all sorts of new adventures….as the weather warms up the fun really begins!

If you’ve been checking out the great training program from the fabulous Ky Hurst, week 4 is now available. This week’s focus is on long strokes.

Here’s where I’d normally give you my take on the topic. Except that it’s probably the biggest flaw in my swim technique that I don’t do this nearly enough. I have a sneaky suspicion that may have something to do with why I’m down in the lower end of the pack on a consistent basis.

If you’ll excuse me, I think there’s something I need to go do…..

If you’re looking for them, here’s week 1 and week 2 and week 3

Wednesday training this week was a far more successful outing than Tuesday’s failed attempt at cheesecake redemption!

Coach Kingy was back on deck and so was the pacing training at the new and improved (read: harder) time.

Also returning was an old favourite of Coach Kingy…pyramids! These are a very special form of torture, particularly if you’re doing pacing, and they work like this:

  • 100m. Rest 15 secs
  • 200m. Rest 15 secs
  • 300m. Rest 15 secs
  • 400m. Rest 15 secs
  • 300m. Rest 15 secs
  • 200m. Rest 15 secs
  • 100m. Rest 15 secs

All at a consistent pace. Obviously this set can be dialled up and down depending on how much time you have and how fast the swimmers are and if you’re doing drills as well.

It’s a good one at really learning to maintain that pace we’ve been working on over longer and varying distances. In an ocean swim, you don’t have  that neat end of each pool to tell you when you hit 100m, so it’s good to know what that pace feels like over different distances. It’s also a good one for developing stamina and endurance and I know my arms were feeling it by the end!

Allison was back from what sounded like a brilliant swim tour in Fiji and it seems we’ve hit a point where we’re swimming almost exactly the same pace, so we stuck together and switched up leading a bit (I’d like to point out that I bravely took the 400m leg!). I do love having someone to pace off, both at training and in races, so it was nice to find and stick with a buddy and I was pretty happy with the pace we maintained.

On another note…bet you’re wondering if I faced my fears and tumble turned after last week’s master class. Well, good news…I did! I decided to make myself do it at the deep end turns only, to start with. I kept it up most of the way, although I found as I got tired towards the end of the set I started to go a bit wonky and became a bit of a danger to myself and other swimmers. Oops! At that point I eased up a bit, but will keep at it until I can get in more per set, faster and better.

Coaches Corner – By Coach Zoe

 After the last time trial, Coach Zoe sent out a wrap-up from her perspective. I thought it was great, so have reproduced it below (with her gracious permission). Hope you enjoy as much as I did! 

4SEAsons Swim

My TT Story by Coach Zoe

My story starts here

On 20th June 2012 the first 500m Time Trial for the 4SEAsons Swim group, my result: 9min 05 sec. Average time per 100m: 1:49 – first 100m 1:40

On 1st August 2012 at the next 500m Time Trial my result was: 9min 05 sec. Average time per 100m 1:49 First 100m: 1:37

Uuumm – exactly the same time but even bigger blow up in the first 100m. I really believed that I would swim faster even though I had made NO changes to my training.

 

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Albert Einstein

 Reflection

On the drive home from swimming after the second time trial I thought what can I do differently to improve just a little bit next time, just 6 seconds faster would be good I thought. The obvious answer was to add a swim training session to my week and to focus on pacing, as clearly I was getting that very wrong. So a goal and pathway was forming in my mind;

  • Goal: swim 6 seconds faster over 500m at the next Time Trial in one month
  •  Plan: add 1 swim training session per week; focus on Time Trial pacing pace
  •  Action: Book a lane for Tuesday night and define the swim set
  •  Motivation: share the challenge with all the 4SEAsons Swimmers

 My training data shows some ups and downs

Aim: swim 20 x 100m on 1:49

 

Zoe lap times

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moment of Truth

After very sluggish training on Monday night I was not sure what to expect from the TT but I felt OK , I had good food and water on TT day. Ready to go.

On 5th September 500m Time Trial with 4SEAson swim results, 8min 47sec – Average time per 100m 1:45 – first 100m 1.40

 YIPPEE 17 second improvement

I’m not the fastest swimmer and this isn’t my best time ever, but I really enjoyed the feeling of specific training paying off. I set a short term specific goal, put in place a plan to help me achieve this goal and shared this goal and plan with other people to keep my motivation high. I also measured my performance and reflected on what was working and what I needed to change for next week.

Three key elements of motivation are; purpose, autonomy and mastery.

Zoë L

Triathlon Level 1 Coach

M. Applied Science (Psychology of Coaching)

Tuesday was a pretty rough day at work. I’d had Monday off as it was my Birthday, and had a few people over for dinner and a movie night to celebrate. With all that, I was a day behind on work, and I’d possibly had several wines the night before. Not enough to really be a problem, just enough to make the day seem extra long.

I’d also had a big slice of the world’s craziest richest birthday cake….a Maltesers cheesecake!

Ridiculous baked Maltesers Cheesecake

Ridiculous baked Maltesers Cheesecake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Super delicious,but also just a touch guilt-inducing!

Enough to ensure I didn’t want to miss out on training.So I raced out of work and negotiated some gnarly traffic and made it to the pool just in time. I changed and headed out to the side of the pool….

To be informed that the pool was closed because lightning had been spotted. Apparently outdoor pools have a policy about when there’s lightning. Who would have thought?

So I got a refund on my pool entry and went home…and somehow got talked into takeaway pizza. Double fail!!!

If you’ve been checking out the great training program from the fabulous Ky Hurst, week 3 is now available. This week’s focus is on surging. This is something I’ve personally found really useful in races for different reasons.

I’ve used surging to quickly get past another swimmer. Particularly if they have a *ahem* creative stroke and are flailing or swinging wide or, worst of all, swimming breaststroke, that most heinous of ocean swim racing sins!

In contrast, another way I’ve used surging is to get out of the way. With different types of wave starts, and being a slower swimmer, most races see me with the vanguard of a different age and/or gender group coming up behind me, closing fast, and looking like they’ll happily swim right over the top of me to maintain their line. I’m not that competitive a person. Not enough to get into a fight with a big burly fast swimmer over a line, so I usually try to move slightly to the side and just get out of their way.

The last one is a tactical move. I frequently use a surge to catch up with or keep up with a slightly faster swimmer and see if I can get a bit of a draft. In this case it’s definitely worth extending the effort a touch to gain a bit of a boost and/or rest.

So there are my thoughts on why this skill is really useful for all ocean swimmers, even me!

If you’re looking for them, here’s week 1 and week 2

Saturday morning was sunny and beautiful. I was packing up my swim bag and getting ready when I looked at my wetsuit. It’s so bulky and hard to get on and off and I really enjoyed swimming without it last week. A quick check of a couple of weather apps confirmed that there wouldn’t be much in the way of waves, and the water temperature wasn’t too crazy-cold.

Snap decision…left the wetsuit out of the bag.

I headed down and met up with Fiona and Ronene. We were talking about the weather and how nice it was on the way. The conversation moved on to how lucky we’ve really been this inter, with hardly any really cold, rainy horrible days.

And as we headed closer to the beach, we started noticing some dark and ominous looking clouds forming off the coast.

We had jinxed ourselves! By the time we got to the beach it was dark and overcast and starting to rain. And I had foolishly and prematurely decided not to bring my wetsuit! The waves, of course, had also picked up with the wind.

Ah well, there was nothing for it but to forge ahead and swim anyway,. It was a chilly entry, but really not too bad. We did some squares out, across and back to the beach, but with a bit of a twist where we had to watch for coach Zoe to turn, and turn at whatever point we were at (ie faster swimmers further out, slower ones not so much). Sometimes she was at the back of the pack, and sometimes out deeper. With the bigger swell it was hard work and at least once I had to actually stop swimming and look around…only to find her nowhere near where I thought she was!

This is actually a great activity for ocean swimmers. In a race swimming in a straight line towards a particular point, regardless of conditions, can mean huge gains, so this is a fun but important exercise.

For some of the circuits (square circuits…I hope this makes sense!) we caught the North Bondi rip out, and man that thing was FLYING!!! It also had a rare visitor in the shallows….a well camouflaged little wobbegong shark, who I caught a glimpse of (only as he moved) and who was no doubt startled and perplexed by the sudden influx of legs and splashes above him!

By the end of the session I was pretty stuffed. Those sets in the bigger conditions were definitely in the cardio vascular zone!

And then, wouldn’t you know it, after a quick shower and lining up for coffee…the rain stopped and the clouds cleared and it was a beautiful day again!

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