Category: kit


Universal Truths

  1. If you swim a lot, at some point you will forget to pack underwear.
  2. Nobody looks glamourous in swimmers, a cap and goggles.
  3. You get over caring about looking glamourous when you’re into swimming. Possibly something to do with points 1 and 2.

After operation return to swimming got me back into the pool, and back to 4SEASons, part 3 consisted of a couple of Tuesday night regular 4SEASons session in the pool.

I continued to swim with the pull-buoy and band and with a bit of an assist to get in and out of the pool. Stock standard.

Then finally, after 7 weeks a follow-up x-ray and yet another visit to the fracture clinic…the good news was in: I could take the bloody orthopaedic boot off!

Unfortunately, there was still much work to be done to get enough strength, flexibility and stability back. The idea of walking on soft sand was pretty unthinkable for a while yet. I would have to be patient.

Then finally 2 weeks ago, after lots and lots of physio and exercise, it was time!

Part 4 of my return to swimming has involved getting back to my beloved Bondi beach and swimming in the ocean!

I have to admit I’ve chickened out and worn my wetsuit – the extra buoyancy (in my mind, at least) reduces the chance of coming down hard on the ankle. I’m still not up to running, let alone running on soft sand, and I lean on my lovely swimming friends as we head down the beach, just in case….

I’m not quite there yet, and I’ve obviously lost a bit of condition and fitness, but I’m back at the beach, baby, and loving it!

Yesterday I wrote about what it took to get back into the pool.the next step was to get back to actual training. Like many things, it’s far more productive to have someone telling you what to do, to push you further that you will on your own, and to pick up things that you might not notice yourself.

Lately the 4SEASons coaches had devised a plan for something different – a Sunday long session solely dedicated to specific technique training.

I emailed in advance to check on whether they thought it would be possible for me to do the session, and to make sure that I wouldn’t be disruptive to other people doing the session. Luckily, I have some of the most awesome coaches in the world and they assured me it would all work and encouraged me to come along.

The session was on a sunny but chilly Sunday morning. The session was held at the brand-spanking-new Prince Alfred Park pool, which I have to say is a pretty nice pool with great facilities…and has free entry until the 12th of November.

I had to switch out a couple of the drills, but it did give me the opportunity to play with one of my favourite pieces of kit – hand paddles.

I love training with hand paddles, and they are the perfect piece of kit for winter. There are two benefits to training with paddles. The first is that they increase the surface area of your hands, and therefore increase the resistance against the water. This is good for building extra strength in your arms…and feeling like you’re swimming really fast!

The second use of paddles is what I was focussing on during the technique day. They really exaggerate any technical flaws in your stroke. For example, if your hand entry isn’t fingers first, if it’s out by a little bit (think like making a “stop” signal with your hand” you’ll know about it…from the bottom edge of the paddles catching and kicking up water. The idea of the paddles is to help identify these little flaws, and to practice and embed the correct behaviours for a bit before taking them off. I certainly found myself with a couple of things to focus on about my hand entry.

Another thing that was great about the longer session, and running it on a Sunday (rather than racing against the clock of when the pool is closing on a weeknight) was that once we had finished the technique session, we took the time to do a 1km swim, no pressure around speed or times, just focussing on excellent technique and embedding the things we had learned at the session.

Then we had lunch and coffee at the cute little cafe there at the pool in the sun! It really was so nice to be back training, to be back hanging out with swimming friends, and to be able to enjoy a post swim coffee!

How soon can you get back into the pool after breaking your ankle?

I didn’t know the answer, so I did what anyone would do. I Googled it. As often happens with these things, I came away more confused than ever.

Then I did what a grown-up would do, and asked my doctor. I was treated at the Prince of Wales fracture clinic and my first appointment was 10 days after the accident. at that point, the doctor looked dubious, but I explained what I had in mind and received tentative approval. That was enough for me.

Seems, though, that being allowed to swim was one thing, and being able to…

  1. Get to the pool
  2. Get into the pool
  3. Get out of the pool
  4. Get home from the pool

…was another thing entirely.

Let’s just say it took me a little longer than I’d hoped to actually get in the pool. Finally, though, the lovely Sonja who swims and lives in my apartment complex agreed to help me out. Luckily we have a 25m lap pool in our complex so we had somewhere to go.

The process was not too bad, with the assistance of a helper. it went something like this.

  • I made it to the pool on my crutches, then used a seat there to get ready.
  • I used the crutches to get to the side of the pool then removed the orthopaedic boot and pressure bandage
  • Pivot around and slide into the pool, making sure to land on only my good foot.
  • Position a pull-buoy with a band around my calves to immobilise my legs
  • Kick-off…one-legged of course. Swim using upper body only, with the pull-buoy to balance out body position.
  • Finish swimming and do pretty much the lot in reverse…but with a seriously unglamorous exit out of the pool.

It’s wasn’t pretty, but it worked. I managed several of these swims in the first couple of weeks, with the help of some very generous and beautiful friends. It’s not the same as the ocean, but during those weeks of working from home and not getting off my couch for very much at all, it certainly kept me sane.

With the end of the Ocean swimming season and my goal race now behind me, there will be no more race reviews for a while.

I did think, though, that it might be worth touching on a few more general things about racing, rather than the individual events.

Pre-race preparation is a big part of getting the best out of your performance at any event. I’m not talking about training or necessarily what it takes so that your fitness is up to scratch, but more the short-term lead-up to optimise your performance on the day.

Here’s a bit of an overview of what I did in the lead-up to my goal swim, the South Head Roughwater. This is the big prep I do for a big event. In the height of summer when I’m swimming every weekend, and the distances are shorter, I do an abridged version of this, but the basic principles are the same.

A week or 2 beforehand.

  1. Stop drinking alcohol. I probably don’t need to do this quite so early…but mentally it helps me focus and feel really prepared.
  2. Really focus on my diet being nutritious and high in protein. Cut out any junk food. I try to eat at home during this period so I can cook healthily rather than eating out and not knowing how much oil or fat or salt is in my food.
  3. Taper. About a week out I still swim, but start taking it very easy. At this point I don’t want to wear myself out or risk an injury, and any training really isn’t going to add to my fitness.
  4. A trip to my osteopath. I have a dodgy shoulder, and swimming generally helps, but if it needs a tune-up I’d rather do it a few days before a big event. Before the SHRW my shoulder was definitely niggling so I went on the Wednesday before. I see Grant Brush at City Clinic near my office and he’s a genius. He’s a keen swimmer as well so kind of gets what I do and how to work with it.

The night before

  1. Pack my bags. The last thing I need to be doing early morning before a big stressful event is looking for stuff (or worse…finding out I forgot something once I’m there and need it). I make sure I have everything I need, plus spares, and warm gear for after the race.
  2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Obvious, but easy to forget if you’re a bit nervous.
  3. Carb loading! I love my carbs, but generally try to keep carb-heavy meals as a “sometimes food”. The night before a big event, however, game on!
  4. Goggle prep. Goggles are a pretty key part of any event. If they leak or fog or are uncomfortable they can bother you the whole time. My pre-race routine may seem a little over the top, but it definitely works. I used this method before the SHRW and did not have to adjust my goggles a single time in 2 and a half hours of swimming.
    • Wash well in dishwashing liquid, focussing on the lenses and the seals. This gets rid of any residual sunscreen, sand or salt that can cause problems with the goggles sealing.
    • Thoroughly dry with a clean tea towel.
    • Spray liberally with anti-fog spray into the inside of the lenses. Rub around well with a clean finger.
    • Rinse well with clear water. The film will remain but you don’t want any of that stuff ending up in your eyes.
    • Let sit a couple of minutes and then dry thoroughly again with your tea towel, and you’re ready to go.
  5. Garmin – make sure it’s fully charged, any previous records are downloaded, and it’s ready to go.
  6. An early night. It may seem elusive due to nerves, but it’s good to have a decent night’s sleep behind you on race day. I find a cup of chamomile tea helps send me off.

The Morning Of

  1. Early rising. I like to get up earlier than I need to. I hate feeling rushed. It also gives me plenty of time to…
  2. Have a good breakfast. And let it settle. I need something in my stomach before I swim. My go to is a slice of toast and a hard boiled egg from the fridge (I usually do a batch and keep a couple handy for the weekend). Alternately, if I’m home on my own on Friday nights my go-to meal is a frittata or quiche. If there’s a leftover slice floating around they make a good pre-swim breakie too. The key is to not try anything new on the morning of an event…the same thing I eat for breakfast before training sessions is the same thing I’ll eat on the big day.
  3. Check the conditions. Actually this one belongs in all the categories… I have a collection of weather and surf condition apps and websites that I use. I don’t know that it helps, but I like to feel prepared, mentally, for what’s out there.
  4. Mix up sports drink etc. My philosophy is that I’ll only use sports drinks sparingly, and only if I’m swimming longer than an hour. My preference is for coconut water (Cocobella plain), but I’ll also use Staminade from powder as both are lower sugar than the other options out there.
  5. Leave early so there’s no rush to get to the beach (or wharf). The last thing I need on top of nerves is to be worrying about running late!

So there you go…mostly common sense, but it’s a routine that’s done me well in the 30+ events I’ve swum over the past 3 years!

 

I get a lot of traffic here from people looking at my review of my Garmin Forerunner 10. For the full review, please click on the link and go read that first, but a few months on, I have a few more insights to offer, so I thought I’d add this follow-up post.

First point I’d like to make is that I have a couple of friends who also purchased this product and have given it a go swimming. I seems the issue with calculating the distances is worse than I initially thought, and that everyone I know who has one of these experiences the same thing. There doesn’t seem to be any logic to it at all.

The rest of the points I’m going to mention are because of the fact that I recently borrowed a generous friend’s Garmin 910. That watch, although quite a bit more expensive is worth every penny. The distances were detailed and spot on and could more sharply contrast with the forerunner 10.

I also loved the haptic feedback of the watch vibrating when it found the satellite and if it lost it. One of the main problems I have with my Garmin is that I switch it on to find the satellite, and then forget to hit start. This is completely not an issue with the 910. I also loved the extra features of the 910 in how it understands swimming, including your stroke rate.

So, sorry to my poor old Forerunner 10, I think I’ll be passing you on to a runner who might appreciate you more than I do, and adding a 910 to my birthday list.

I’ve written a bit before about Zoggs. Firstly I reviewed my favourites the Zoggs Predatorflex polarised. Then recently a new model was released so I reviewed the slightly different black version.

Well, it seems that at the same time I bought the black model, I may have also accidentally bought the other new offering – a photochromatic or transition lens goggle.

Zoggs transitionsI wear transition lens glasses when riding my motorbike and am a huge fan of the versatility under different conditions, particularly when you’re in a situation where you can’t just take sunglasses on and off. So I was prepared to love these. I really hoped to love these because they’re also substantially more expensive than my usual goggles.

I’ve trained in them a few times now and raced in them at Queenscliff so thought these’s only one thing for it…it’s time for a review!

Here’s a list of the pros…..

  • These lenses are clear and the transition works pretty well. They are advertised as taking 2 mins to transition to new light levels. This is supposedly so you don’t get anything weird happening as you turn your head in and out of the water to breathe. I don’t know of any other company doing this type of thing, and I have to say it’s a great idea….especially for longer races where conditions may change and/or might be different at different legs of the course (ie facing into or away from the sun).
  • They do come in a very fancy and sturdy zippered hard case. It’s even big enough to fit a spare pair of other goggles inside! Plastic zipper so no rusting. All goggles should come with cases like this!
  • The lenses are quite big and give a good range of visibility
  • These fit nicely and have the ratchet straps that Zoggs never should have abandoned with their black model. Width is good again, like the originals.

And of course the cons…….

  • Not really many. I think the time it takes to transition could be a touch quicker. 2 minutes just felt a bit long as I came around a can and into full sunlight at Queenscliff. Just being picky here.
  • I know I can’t have everything, but can’t aI have goggles that are transitions lenses and polarised? I have certainly noticed you can’t see as clearly or as deep into the water.
  • The big problem with these, though, is the price point. At around $60 these are around 3 times the price of my regular goggles.

So in summary – these are great. Really great. Clever idea and executed very well. Buuuut….are they 3 times as good as my regular goggle? Well, I can’t really say they are. I love them, but I’m not sure that I love them enough to make them my regular goggle. If I was a millionaire or sponsored or something, I’d always keep a pair handy for those days when you don’t know which way the weather will go, but for now, honestly, I’ll probably stick with my old faithfuls.

If you want my general thoughts on goggles, I’ve written about them in a  previous post.

In case you’re wondering, this is not a paid endorsement, just my opinion. I imagine I’m about as far from commanding paid sponsorships as you can get…short of not swimming at all!

I’ve already done my race review of the Bondi Bluewater event from Easter. Seems a very clever someone immortalised the race their own way and did a magnificent job of it!

If you haven’t already seen it doing the rounds, please hit play on this…it’s a wonderful lens on the ocean swimming experience, complete with 4SEASons and Can Too swimmers and wardrobe malfunctions (fortunately not on the same person!).

If you happen to have come here wondering what it’s all about the video above is the best thing I’ve seen to show you (short of jumping in the water and giving it a go!). Well done to the very clever fellow who made it.

I have written (probably more than once) about my favourite goggles, the Zoggs Predatorflex polarised. I love them, and have converted many people to the joys of polarised lenses and a good fit.

You can imagine my excitement, then, when I discovered there was a new model of Zoggs Predatorflex…different colour option and everything.

Next time I did a wiggle order, a pair may have just happened to accidentally slipped into my shopping cart……

Zoggs black

I’ve had a chance to wear these a few times now and have raced in them once, so thought it might be time for a review.

 

Here’s a list of the pros…..

  • These have the polarised lenses I love. You can see so much more, particularly if you’re interested in checking out the local inhabitants below the surface. Plus they cut glare without sacrificing clarity.
  • The lenses are actually a bit darker than those on the older model of predatorflex. This is good for super-sunny bright conditions, and I feel like when I’ve worn them in those conditions they have helped my eyes not get sore.
  • The lenses are quite big and give a good range of visibility
  • Like the previous model, they seem fairly resilient. They don’t seem to scratch or wear too badly.

And of course the cons…….

  • These goggles come with a cloth pouch instead of a plastic case. I’ve put them in a different one, because nothing lasts long in the bottom of my swim bag without decent protection. Sand is amazingly abrasive.
  • The lenses being dark, they wouldn’t be much good for pool sessions, or in really low light.
  • For some reason, this model replaces the ratchet strap with a double elastic string around a plastic closure. I cannot fathom why as I hate that and think it’s a big step backwards. I like to be able to tighten and loosen the straps for different conditions. In particular this worked badly for me at the Freshwater race where they came off my head (I would have tightened them up at the start of the race if it hadn’t been such a pain) and I had to finish with no goggles (they turned up later, thanks sea-gods!).
  • These seem a bit wider than the previous model. This might actually work well for the bigger blokes out there, but I found they were a touch wide for my face and this affected the sealing ability. I had a bit of a leakage problem when I wore them at Freshie. I can’t see myself racing in these again, so might give them to one of the guys I train with to test out.

So in summary – not a bad goggle (apart from the straps!), but probably not very likely to make their way into my shopping cart again. If I were a guy or had a wider face, the story might be different, though.

If you want my general thoughts on goggles, I’ve written about them in a  previous post.

In case you’re wondering, this is not a paid endorsement, just my opinion. I imagine I’m about as far from commanding paid sponsorships as you can get…short of not swimming at all!

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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