Archive for February, 2013


Another Point of View

I stumbled across a kindred Sydney swimming blogger. Or blogging swimmer. If you can’t get enough of race reports for ocean swimming around and about Sydney, check out Writing Whims and Ocean Swims. There’s a bit of crossover, but she is definitely worth a read!

As the old saying goes…”Be careful what you wish for”.

Remember that post where I was kind of hoping for a time trial? Well I got what I wished for. Of course it was the first swim back after a week on holiday (with a sneaky 1km race for good measure).

Still, I was OK with the idea. It’s been ages since I’ve done a time trial…although I’ve been on the other side of the clipboard with my mentor duties this season and can not attest to the fact that keeping track of multiple swimmers at varying paces can be least (if not more) challenging that actually swimming a time trial yourself!

So off I went. In this sort of thing a 1km time trial in the pool is pretty standard, but for various reasons, we started with a 500m trial and then stuck with it for a while for the sake of comparison. Seems this was the day to return to form…and double the distance!  Not a problem…and probably an advantage for me since I do relatively better with longer distances, but it can still mess with your head when you’re used to doing something and measuring yourself and how you feel a certain way. So that was a challenge, but not enough of one for me to worry.

I was completely certain that my times have improved markedly, so even with a week off, I was ready and raring to go.

And then my cap decided to go a bit weird. I know, I know. The story about the tradesman blaming his tools and all that. But it was seriously weird, man. (even weirder than me starting that last sentence with a preposition and finishing it with “man”). This was my official 4SEASons orange and blue printed silicon cap. It’s a great cap and I’ve worn it a lot over the past months. It’s generally done pretty well at doing the one job it was designed for: keeping my hair out of may face.

Tonight, though, I felt as though my cap had been watching Braveheart and had taken the cry of “Freedoooooom” just a little bit too seriously.

It was trying to escape.

You wouldn’t think that this would be such a big problem, and I guess it wasn’t a huge thing, but it definitely cost me some time. For a start I did have to break my stroke several times to try to tug the stupid thing down. I also skipped tumble turns after the first one as there was no chance that thing was staying on my head through even one single more turn. But mostly, my hair was was struggling out from under the front, but the edge of the cap was actually holding it down in my eyes. I couldn’t see much at all which made it hard to swim straight and impossible to pass.

So, although thwarted by a humble swim cap (you’d think I’d have figure out how to actually use one by now) I did manage to improve my times…quite a bit in fact, but given what I’ve been using for my endurance pace I’d kinda set myself up for a little faster.

Still…it prompted me to look back at the time trials I’ve done in the last couple of months (since August last year). If you don’t worry about the distance, and just look at the average 100m pace, I’ve dropped a whopping 16 seconds per 100m! Clearly the type and amount of training I’ve been doing has been working a treat. I may have started off dismal, and worked my way through plain old slow, but I’m well and truly on my way faster than I could have hoped….the medium lane! With a big thanks to coaches Kingy and Zoe from 4SEASons for running such a great squad that I actually want to train.

Onward and upward (perhaps with a remedial class in swim caps 101!)

Nothing to do with Swimming

Big Girl Pnats

Big Girl Pants

Confession time – with my training posts I usually copy from a previous similar training session…just quicker than setting up all the categories and tags from scratch again.

Tonight, though, I saw a photo in an old post that I’d forgotten I put there and it made me laugh all over again so I just felt the overwhelming need to post it again!

 

Tee hee!

I swear I didn’t plan it that way but the big weekend of the Huskisson Triathlon was on while we were on holidays camping nearby at Cave Beach. I’m not a triathlete, but apparently it’s quite a big deal.

I also didn’t know (significant other suggested the holiday destination, not me) that there was an ocean swim on Friday night to get people into the swing of things before the bigger events started on the weekend.

I did hear about it a few days before.

I tossed up whether it was the right thing to do, but on the day of the event, my beloved came down with a toothache, and took some painkillers and settled into the tent for a long sleep. At that point, I figured I wasn’t actually sacrificing any “together” time, so jumped in the car, drove the 10 minutes to Huskisson and did an on-the-day registration.

The race was a bit of a funny one. It was a 1km course in a triangle and the water was pretty well dead flat. The majority of the swimmers, though, were triathletes. And triathletes tend not to put too much emphasis on the swim portion of their training as it generally doesn’t make up that much of the overall race.

It was very interesting sitting on the beach and overhearing snippets of conversations. There were a lot of very fit people on the beach who were quite worried about a pretty short race in pretty easy conditions. I was trying not to be smug…especially given how I would feel if faced with a triathlon!

The race itself was pretty good. I’m so not a sprinter, and it’s been bloody ages since I did a race that short without following it up with a longer one straight after. So decided to consider it a sprint.

For all of the nerves, it was a reasonably paced race. I couldn’t resist and did a bit of a comparison with a more specific ocean swim race of the same length with a similar number of competitors and the tri race was faster at the winners end, but otherwise the finishing profiles were surprisingly similar.

Here’s a bit of a chart with the male and female fields split out….

Husky Analysis

Sorry – I know it’s super geeky, but I honestly didn’t expect to be racing. I didn’t have my camera with me, I didn’t have my garmin on, and since we did a deep water start I forgot to so much as hit the button on my stopwatch!

It was a nice swim, though, with lots to see in the water…we even swam over the top of the least-timid wobbegong I’ve even seen!

Update – Yep, in response to a few questions I’ve had…lot of them wore wetsuits and tri suits. More than you’d get in an ocean race, although I guess that’s understandable. IMHO, though, would’ve been bloody hot!

Cave Beach – Jervis Bay

I’ve been on holidays! Yay!

And I got to swim here every day…..

Met some of the local wildlife…..

Spent some romantic time with this bloke (it was our 10 year anniversary! Can you believe it?)

Just lovely! why are there not more ocean swims in this part of the world? It’s beautiful and the beaches were spectacular. The water was like crystal!

I did mostly relax, but managed one swim that I’d consider any kind of real training…and may have managed to sneak in a race…kind of!

I woke up on Sunday, and it could not have been brighter or better!

After the…errr…challenging conditions at the first Can Too Goal swim at Palm Beach, it was brilliant to see the sun shining, the tiny shore breakers the only waves lapping at the beach, and the smiles more common than furrowed brows on the orange-clad sea of Can Too swimmers buzzing on the beach.

As for the race, well the water was clear and the course was well marked. The main thing of note with the race was just how crowded it felt out there. In particular, in the 1km the wave start I was in was men and women 30-39. In a race this size that was a lot of people. It felt like you were swimming and being jostled the whole way along. I twas hard to overtake, and it felt like you were being pushed from all sides as faster swimmers passed. In the 2km this was slightly improved as they split the start group by gender, but it was still a big group. And it still felt super crowded out there. I’m normally a fan of not stretching the start times out too far (Cole Classic anyone?) so that the water safety people don’t have to be out there for hours, and people aren’t having to wait too long on the beach at the start and the end, but I did really feel this race went to the other extreme.

Other than that, though, the races were great. The water was clear and there was minimal swell.

As usual for me lately, I got no joy out of the 1km race. I’ve just been working too much on distance to have any idea how to sprint…and it was never my strong point in the first place. I seem to also overthink it…worrying about whether I’m going too hard so I’ll lose it in the longer race and then worrying I’m going too slow and don’t need to. then somehow I do these completely rubbish times.

The 2km, as usual for me lately, was a sheer delight. I felt good and strong and kept a fairly good line and came out with a PB for that distance even if you account for the fact that the course was a little short.

I’ve added the GPS maps for each race below…and thought it’d be interesting to add the 1km from a couple of weeks ago…just to show that a 1km course isn’t always the same thing…even at the same beach only a  couple of weeks apart!

It’s normal, right? To think about doing the swim leg of a big triathlon (hehe, the 1km “long” course), because its close to where you’re on holidays camping? Right?

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Wow, I haven’t been to a 4SEASons Wednesday session since 24th October.

It’s not like I’ve done it on purpose, but my Can Too Mentor group was the ABC pool on Wednesdays, and they’ve been kind of the most awesome thing ever.

That being said, it was kind of nice to get back to a proper technique session. Even though i’m totally out of practice with these things and completely forgot my pullbuoy and fins.

Regardless of my forgetfulness, I managed to get a really lot out of this session.

As I mentioned about last week’s endurance set, I seem to have suddenly gotten a little faster. Somehow, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that that seems to have happened pretty much while I’ve been focussed on a change to the timing of my stroke. In fact, in my experience, a change to technique is the only thing that will give you a step change in times. Anything else, like general fitness, will give gradual improvements, but they won’t be as marked or as sudden.

Not to undervalue that other stuff…technique improvements tend to be less frequent, and after a while those sudden things are harder and harder to find as you get better at everything and learn more.

But for this season, the tick of holding just a fraction longer seems to have made a huge difference….I think something to do with making me rotate more (always a challenge for me).

The thing is, though, you can never get too comfortable with your swimming. You might improve (note I don’t say “master”) one thing, but that’s just as likely to highlight something else you can improve. To keep it in perspective I try to remember that even the top swimmers have coaches and work on this stuff down to the tiniest degrees forever. And ever amen.

Interestingly, I have been letting myself fall into this trap, and been a bit chuffed with myself and my decreasing times. Seems a technique session was just what I needed to jolt myself out of it and remember that this is a game of continuous improvement.

One thing we can use to measure our improvement in the pool, is a stroke count. The number of strokes it takes for you to swim 50m is a pretty good indication of how efficiently you are swimming. My count is pretty atrocious and a very good indicator of just how much I rely on strength, stubbornness and good old-fashioned moxie to get me through. Bad enough I don’t want to admit it and quote numbers on here.

Thing is, though, we did a few different drills. And then switched to one in particular that gave me what we call in my (corporate) job and “ah-ha!” moment. (I think they used to be called “light bulb” moments before we all switched to compact flouros).

The drill was a very simple one that involved swimming as normal, but ticking your thumbs out and making sure they brushed each hip at the end of each catch. Lo and behold, something finally clicked in my head and I realised I’ve been focussing so much on the front quadrant of my stroke, that I’ve been completely neglecting to make sure I follow all the way through with my catch. All that energy to get there and I’m wasting all that energy that’s just stored up and ready to go.

Well, not only did I manage to drop a substantial number of strokes per 50m….I now know what my next real technique focus is going to be.

Wish me luck as I embark on Operation “thumbs”!

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Ah, ocean swimming, my passion, my joy and keeper of my sanity.

I love it so much, and think that if everyone did it the world would be a happier place 🙂

But how do you get started if you don’t already do it?

You can read my personal story over at my How did I get here?” page but the short version of the story is that there are a few different ways the people I swim with have gotten into it.

  1. Can Too Swim programs seem to be a pretty big part of it. It’s how I started and a lot of my friends  There’s a lot of crossover here in Sydney with coaches and captains and mentors and water safety people involved in the Can Too Programs, but also in more regular swimming groups. It’s a well structured program that begins with the basics and builds up skills and confidence to the end point of a goal race…and is definitely enough for many, many people to catch the swimming bug!
  2. Follow on programs from Can Too. This year 4SEASons is offering the 4SEASons 8 week Coogee Wedding Cake Island Swim Program that starts this week. If you’re reading this and thinking you’ve missed out on Can Too but would like to start now…here’s your chance! I cannot recommend this group highly enough for anyone who is or wants to be an ocean swimmer.
  3. Friends of friends. Goodness knows there is enough to chatter about with ocean swimming, and if you get a few of us together out of the water the excitement can be contagious. I’ve certainly roped at least one sister and a few friends into giving it a go…and nobody has regretted it yet!
  4. Some swimmers have been involved in the sport forever, too…they may have lived by the beach growing up and/or been involved in Nippers, or surf lifesaving or swim squad at school. You can always tell these people as they seem to take to the sport like….well….a fish to water!

So there are plenty of paths to the water! If you’re thinking about it, you should do it!

There was bad news and good news on Saturday. the bad news was that there’s no more Can Too training for the season. The good news was that lots of Can Too swimmers showed up to do the 4SEASons swim on Saturday morning. I’m certain the 9am start, and the title sleep-in it allow for helped! As did the looming goal event for those doing the 1km and/or 2km the next day at the North Bondi Classic.

Above all, the good weather stuck around, giving us a glorious day for getting in the water. The sun was shining and there were even pods of dolphins swimming in the bay! I was hoping they might come over for a bit of a closer look at the crazy humans thinking they could swim (it’s happened once before), but for today we had to be satisfied with watching them from a distance.

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We swam a medium distance, with a slightly shorter session. This was for the benefit of those really wanting to save their best for tomorrow’s race. There is benefit to a bit of a taper in training if you have a big event you want to do your best at. It means you’re going into the event at your peak, not tired or sore from training. As a general rule, you don’t gain any extra fitness in your last two weeks of training, and hopefully by then any tweaks to technique are well and truly embedded, so it’s a matter of eating well, not drinking too much, and doing any last emotional and psychological preparation you need to. Keeping up your presence in the water is part of that, and I have to say, it was a pretty easy task on a day as lovely as Saturday. Especially with the return to beach training of the truly-inspiring Fiona!

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