Category: 4Ts

Wow. Time-trials crept up on me again! Of course, falling at the worst possible time after a week off training with a crickity neck….isn’t it always the way?

Of course with the inconsistent training and consciously taking it easy during the time-trial itself my time was less-than-stellar. I gained a dismal 12 seconds on my last time trial. Very annoying. Still, I reasoned that it’s better to have a bit of a rough time-trial than to push through and make anything worse at this point when the race season is just about to begin.

I am taking a lesson from this, though. It’s something it’s easy to forget both when things are going well, and if you’ve been a bit out of training for a bit. In fact it’s actually THE. MOST. IMPORTANT. THING. about the whole training malarkey.


No matter how hard you’re training, what skills you’re learning or technique you’re mastering, none of it means a damn thing if you aren’t doing it often enough for it to stick. The sad truth is that you lose fitness about twice as fast as you gain it.

In swimming, three times a week is pretty much a bare minimum for me to keep improving. If I do nothing, my conditioning will last about 2-3 weeks before I really find myself starting from scratch again. Once a week and I’m still going backwards. Twice a week, depending on intensity, will either just maintain or will have me slipping ever so slightly backwards week on week. Bear in mind that I also box around 1-2 times per week during the winter months, and that this training will ramp up substantially starting in a week or so when the season begins.

It sounds like a lot, I know. Until you remember that I freaking love swimming. If this felt like hard work all the time (obviously there’s always gonna be the odd day here and there) I’d never manage. As it is, I guess I’m lucky I’ve found something that I get such joy from that’s good for me as well.

Tuesday training last week was a funny one. Daylight savings has just begun, so there are now two options for training sessions on a Tuesday…a 6pm session and a later 7pm session (the pool opens an hour later during summer).

I had initially thought that I would be switching to the later session, as it’s always a bit of a rush for me to make the earlier sessions. But you know what they say about the best-laid plans. Turns out I had basically finished what I needed to at work and so I left in time and made the early session anyway.

Making the earlier session definitely had some advantages. The group was smaller so we had plenty of space in the lane. this meant that I could make up for last Wednesday’s lack of tumble turn practice! I definitely did this and even started doing a few at the shallow end (with a bit of encouragement from coach Zoe) since we were doing 300 metre sets which involve turning at both ends. I’m still feeling a little uncoordinated and the more tired I get the worse I get at the turns, but I finally feel like I’m getting more of them right than wrong so I’m calling it a victory. Albeit a victory with more work to be done.

The set was another one of those pacing sets that seems deceptively simple, but has the capacity to completely kick your butt!

Swim 300m at you time trial average pace.

Rest 60 seconds.


That 60 seconds feels like a very long time at first….but by the end I was doing my usual red-faced huffing and puffing and needed every second of it! guess that’s what I’m there for, though. I don’t think it’s ever supposed to feel easy!

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!).

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


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!!!

After the 4 week specific 4T Tuesday sessions were so successful, it seems they have been confirmed as continuing. This is great, except for the fact that my boxing class is also moving next term to Tuesday nights (or 6am Fridays). I know it falls under the hallowed auspices of #firstworldproblems but it is a choice I’m going to have to make at some point down the line.

This week, though, there was no clash. Work wasn’t too crazy, sunset is getting later and I was in a really optimistic state of mind.

After a good result with time trials last week, we were ready to start all over again with a new and improved pacing time.

I powered off, feeling great and ambitiously thought I’d round down to make my laps easier to calculate…it can be a touch tricky if you’re not on a 5-second mark, especially as you get towards the end of the session. I lose the ability to even count as I get tired, let alone calculate lap times!

We did 500m with 100m on new pace. That was fine. I was feeling great!I can feel myself getting a bit fitter and I’m finally over that stupid cold and it felt magnificent!

The second part of the set was 5 x 200m on the new pace.

I’m not sure quite what happened, but I think it’s called hitting the wall!!

I may have gone out a little ambitious…I certainly felt it at the end of the session (when I felt decidedly flushed in the face and out of breath) and then again the next day (sore in the shoulders!).

Thing is, though, I know myself well enough to know that I can push through it. Any new thing for me takes 2 weeks to condition. It’s like clockwork. If I stick at it, and keep pushing. I’ll get there…..

Time Trial Analysis

Outside my ocean swimming adventures, I do actually hold down a real job. Occasionally my worlds do collide, though. Like this example of the analysis I threw together of our recent time trial results. Here it is for the nerds and mathematically inclined: proof that I’m better at numbers than swimming!

The first thing I noted was that 88% of people improved their times from TT2 to TT3, compared with 56% from TT 1 to TT2.

Using a weighted average, we improved by 4% overall, compared with 0.09% improvements in TT2.

I checked the correlations between % change in time against 3 things:

  • ·         The total number of training sessions attended between TT2 and TT3
  • ·         The total number of training sessions in the pool attended between TT2 and TT3
  • ·         The number of 4T sessions attended between TT2 and TT3

The most significant indicator was number of sessions (proving that consistent training is the key to success), then pool sessions, then 4T sessions. Only 4 people attended 4T sessions and did both time trials, however, so the sample size is a bit small for significant conclusions.

Our fastest swimmer was the outlier here, with highest percentage improvement to sessions attended ratio. Worth noting, though that this could be because she was the only person (again) who did their first 100m slower than their average 100m time…and the fastest person overall!

On that, we may not have exactly done what we intended there, but it was still a significant improvement. Weighted average (against total time) we were 7% faster on our first hundreds, but in the last time trial that number was 11%. The spread was also interesting










If we look at where around 2/3rds of the swimmers as the indicator, for TT2 we had 67% of swimmers between 9% and 12% faster on their first 100m. In comparison TT3 we 64% of swimmers between 3% and 8%….which is a fancy way of saying we weren’t as bad as last time!

In conclusion, whichever way you measure it, the improvements were significantly better than between TT1 and TT2. Well done to everyone for the hard work and well done to the coaches for coming up with a training plan that clearly works!

Last night’s training was the big day of reckoning – us against the clock!

5 weeks had elapsed since the last time trial and the squad had been doing the extra 4Ts Tuesdays and working on pacing for weeks now to improve times.

I, only the other hand, started strong, but had that horrid cold and did my dive course and have been kind of all over the place with my training.

I was a little nervous.

I worked from home yesterday, so I drove down to the pool. It’s closer to my house than my office, so I was there plenty early. It was a particularly gorgeous day yesterday and the sun was shining and it was balmy warm, so I had a bit of a wander in the park as the sun was setting and that helped with the nerves.

We did a warm up and a 3-5-7 breathing drill to get our arms warmed up and turning over. Despite my reservations I was feeling pretty good in the pool. I’d had a very early (alcohol free) night the night before, eaten thoughtfully through the day and I think that helped.

We did a 200m as timed 50m sets on our pace with 15 seconds rest in between. It wasn’t taxing at all, but it was good for me to get that feel for how fast I should be going out at the start.

Then we started the time trial. 500 metres, same as last time.

I continued on, keeping to my pace. To my surprise I was feeling good. Very good.

At about half way through I surprised myself by catching up to Leanne, who was swimming in front of me and had started 10 seconds earlier. I used her to pace myself for about 100m as I know we swam a pretty similar time trial last time and that she’s been a touch quicker than me in the pool lately. I was feeling like I could overtake, but didn’t want to go out too hard too soon and leave myself with nothing for the finish. I wanted to trust in all the pacing work we’d done!

Then , just as we were heading in for the 2nd last turn, I knew I could ramp it up the rest of the way. The leader in our lane came from behind and passed the both of us, so I took the opportunity and jumped on her feet for a tiny boost and overtook!

The next 100m I ramped up to 90% effort and I had a good feeling, then on the home stretch with about 20m to go I really went into overdrive!!!! I was focussing on keeping technique and getting enough oxygen and turning the arms over as fast as I could!

I hit the wall and Coach Kingy noted my time. There was a bit of confusion since we needed to adjust for staggered start times and I get very bad at basic maths when I’m tired.

But I had dropped a full 30 seconds from my last time!!!!!

I was both floored and ecstatic with that result!

Near as I can tell there are a couple of reasons why the improvement was so massive.

  1. I think I must have had a bad swim last time trial. Compared to other time trials I’ve done it was slow.
  2. The change in strategy definitely helped. Keeping a consistent pace and then finishing strong is, intellectually, a better idea than killing yourself on the first hundred and dying for the rest. I’m so trying this out this race season.
  3. The coaching and training sessions definitely helped. I may not have made all of them, but I’ve been pretty active (apart from when I was sick) and it all helps with general fitness.
  4. Knowing the time trial was coming meant I could prepare physically by not coming stressed and rushed from the office, make sure I didn’t do anything silly the night before and could make certain I was eating well and hydrating on the day.

Afterwards we did a bit of a swim down and then the coaches gave us an early mark so we hopped out and showered and changed and all went out for dinner and wines!

It’s called rehydration people 😉

This email arrived in my inbox on Monday:

“Hi Swimmers
The regular Time Trial (TT) in the pool helps to measure your improvement from the training you have been doing. At the last TT 56% of people improved their time over 500m. That is a fantastic result. We’d like to see this trend continue!
Usually the TIme Trial in the pool comes as a surprise, but training for a specific goal is effective in increasing your motivation and enjoyment of training.
Imagine if we all set our selves a goal of swimming at least 5 seconds faster at our next time trial. That seems very achievable – 1 second faster per 100m.
To achieve an improvement is performance we need a plan.
Next 500m Time Trial date is on 5th September 2012
Keep coming to Wednesday 6pm for the regular pool session coached by Kingy
ADD from tomorrow>>>
Tuesday Time Trial Training  >> 4 week effort – called 4Ts
4Ts session
6pm Tuesday Victoria Park Pool
Swim with the coach/s
Warm up 200m
15-20 x 100m on YOUR TT pace with 15 seconds rest between each 100m
Warm down 200m
You will need
1.       Watch
2.       Be able to operate and read the time on your  watch (or ability to read the strange clock at Vic pool)
3.       Your TT pace (we will have a sheet for this)”

On Tuesday I had plans, but they were with Fiona who fully understands the importance of swimming, so I rescheduled and trundled off to the pool for an extra session. Last year I was doing 3 sessions a week plus boxing all winter, so really it’s just back to the same for me, rather than adding an extra session altogether.

The session was quite different in a couple of ways. For a start, the coaches were swimming with us. Usually at least one of them stays out of the water to answer questions and provide directions and offer feedback and advice. In this case, too, the session, what it would involve, and what it was designed to achieve was fully spelled out beforehand.

These sessions are quite simply designed to get us used to swimming a certain pace consistently without burning out too quickly or tailing off too much at the end.

This is harder than you’d think.

For a start, I had a new watch and just could not seem to figure out how to get it to work properly to time my laps. In the end I had to just stop playing with it and took note of the time and did the sums in my head. Hoping this will improve with time.

Making this more difficult is the fact that I’ve found with swimming (and particularly when I box) thatI become less and less able to deal with numbers the more tired I get. I find this particularly funny given it’s my job to work with numbers every day…and give me an hour at the pool or punching, and I can’t add two and two together! Still, with 4 weeks of focus, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to get the hang of it.

Watch this space…my time trial was a full 30 seconds slower than I did for one in February this year, so with a bit of focus and strategy I’m hoping for big results!

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