Category: Mentoring

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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On Friday afternoon it started raining. Really raining. I really don’t have a problem with swimming in the rain (see: Palm to Whale swim), but I was at work, travelling on the bike and didn’t have my wet-weather gear with me. It would have been a pretty miserable ride to Bondi and an even more miserable ride home putting on wet clothes…so I bunked off. As did everyone apart from the coach and two other swimmers. Can’t say I’m even sorry…

Saturday morning, however, there was no way I was going to miss. Even though it was still raining. Although it was the final Can Too session, it was definitely the roughest day we’d had this season, and i had plenty of messages and emails asking about whether we were still on. About the point I was heading ot bed, I thought I would head the queries off at the pass and sent of an email to my mentor group letting them know that there’s always training on.

So many people don’t get it, don’t get training in suboptimal weather, cooler water, rain, or anything other than what we grow up with thinking of as “beach” weather.

Well, have I got news for you.

Revelations galore.

  1. Big surf is where you learn to handle…ummm…big surf. Practise makes perfect and all that. I talk a bit about how to deal with rough conditions on here, so it may surprise you to know that it was definitely not something that came easily to me. There was a really lot of hard work and two winters worth of swimming in tough conditions to make me comfortable and confident. then one day you turn around and realise that you have somehow become one of those crazy people who enjoy the rougher conditions. And you’re not entirely sure how that happened!
  2. Once you get in, you pretty much never notice whether it’s raining or not. OK, there have been one or two days I’ve trained where it was raining so hard that I couldn’t see the waves coming at me. but that’s a different thing altogether and I’m really just talking here about the sort of weather that you might think gives you an excuse for a sleep in…not a national emergency!
  3. I know you’re going to be dubious here…but whether you believe it or not, the truth is, those crazy surf days tend to be some of the most fun you will ever have. Overcoming your fears, discovering the joys of surfong a big wave, getting through to the back and realising how beautiful it is out there, and skipping the whole tourist crowds….those are only the beginning. I wouldn’t have believed it from anyone else a couple of years ago….but it’s true, regardless. It just is.
  4. As evidence, there was a particular Can Too person who posted about assuming training would be off and organising an alternative pool session. A certain mentor may have kind of done a bit of a guilt trip. And they came along. AND LOVED IT!!!!
  5. A good coach is never going to do anything crazy or dangerous. Yes it was rough, so we put our efforts into embedding some of those roughwater skills. “Hold the line” was a good example. We spent a good part of the session standing in one spot, well within wading depth, in a long line. the goal was to stay where you were, despite the waves rolling in. We had to learn to dive under those waves, stay down long enough to not get dragged backwards, and get under early enough. I can’t even tell you how many people told me how much they’d learned. Simple focus on one particular skill. It should never be underestimated. *One day I’ll fill you in on how I mastered these skills in detail….but the short version is that it was one little thing at a time.

so…don’t be scared….have a little faith. That’s where things really start to make sense: outside the comfort zone.

All good things must come to an end. Apparently.

Sad as it it, last Wednesday was the final training session for the 2012-13 swim groups, including the inaugural Andrew Boy Charleton pod. the good news is….we made it!!!!

It has been such an immense pleasure sharing this amazing experience with my mentor group, friends old and new, my entire pod, and all the people who have come along on Saturdays to the Bondi sessions. It makes my heart so glad to see people come to love the sport that makes me so happy, and see them do and achieve amazing and challenging things.

We did a bit of a training session, although a bit shorter than usual as we are officially on the “taper” now. And then the all important final event.

A Relay! With Pool noodles! My only sadness for the day was that I’ve been having camera issues (yes, again…). There were some magnificent performances and techniques, although I’m going to go ahead and call it that the highlight was seeing Tri coach Gordo complete his leg doing butterfly!

Thanks to all my amazing Can Too friends, this season has truly been a blessing and an amazing experience. I look forward to seeing you all at Bondi on the 10th…on for amny of you I hope you’ve caught the bug enough that I’ll see you at future sessions and races and beyond!

Saturday was Australia Day. Regardless on where you stand on the politics of the day, everyone pretty much agrees that if it’s at all possible, the thing to do on Australia Day is head to the beach. Unsurprisingly, Bondi is a popular choice and even early the beach was full of punters.

There was no Can Too session because of the public holiday, and just the one 4SEASons session….but we had invited along a bunch of our friends in orange and it was a pretty massive group that weaved its way between the sunbathers down the to the edge of the water.

After last Saturday’s run in with big waves, a few people were keen to work a bit more on that aspect of their swimming, and the weather helped out by providing some reasonable surf.

At the end of the session, quite a lot of people hung around. My friend Steph and sister had come down again, and we were joined by a few extras as we played in the waves and generally had a bit of fun. Such a nice thing to be able to do to celebrate a holiday!

I did a couple of wave-catching 1-on-1 sessions with Steph and Sonja who were still getting the hang of it. Seems they were both struggling with the same sorts of things.

My advice if you’re struggling with catching waves is that there are 2 key things.

  1. Timing. Get some practice somewhere you can stand, and watch the waves coming in towards you. Try a fraction earlier or later. See if you can pick how fast the waves are coming and get a feel for how the undertow tugs back just before the wave hits. These are all cues you can use to figure out the right timing to get on the wave. To early and you lose momentum, too late and you’ve missed it. Just right and you’ll be smiling all the way to the sand!
  2. Speed. Ideally you want to be going about the same speed as the wave. No point lifting your feet at the last second and hoping it’s going to be a sweet ride straight in. You need to really throw yourself into it. Dive horizontally as you jump on the wave. Push-off hard. And keep kicking, and stroking (one-handed works for me) while you’re on that wave to really make the most of it.

There are plenty of other tips and tricks once you’re on a wave, but if you’re really struggling I’d start with these. Getting there is a good part of the battle! Once you get it right, you can feel it working and running you all the way to the shore. It’s pretty amazing….for me pretty much always followed by wanting to do it all over again!



Graduation Night!!!

After months of hard work it was time to make sure everyone had their swimmers to try out and get used to before their big events. That, and have an embarrassing photo!


Not to be outdone, the mentors got to have photos wearing crazy hats! (Thanks to Captain Bel for the Arts and Crafts). Sadly the Wednesday weather curse threatened to send them off on their own adventure.20130130-145328.jpgWe also had a very special guest. None other than Can Too founder, director and dead-set-legend, Annie Crawford, who has done so much for such a good cause, and is perfectly lovely to boot.

Annie came along for a bunch of reasons, all of them good. One in particular stood out, though. The awesome and inspiring Tamera has been a participant in swim programs, a half marathon run program, a mentor, a team captain and now a coach for our wonderful premiere ABC pod. Just to add a little sugar, she’s a hero of mine for completing the Rottnest Island channel swim last year, embarking on the adventure of motherhood this year, and being just one of the nicest people you could meet.

And she’s now raised $10,000 for cancer research.



After a hot and steamy Friday night, the cool change was welcome. The big waves that come with it were a mixed blessing, though.

I did the early 4SEASons session before Can Too training, and after coming along to spectate at last week’s North Bondi Roughwater I had finally gotten my friend (and dive buddy!) Steph along to an ocean session. Talk about being thrown in at the deep end!






It’s been smooth seas for a while now, and I think it was a shock to they system of a lot of the Can Too swimmers to find themselves in pretty big surf.

Although it was tough and challenging, it was a really good chance to get back into those big surf skills – porpoising, getting under waves, swimming hard between the sets, and learning to judge the waves as they were coming at us fast and strong.

I personally love these conditions….lots of fun and bests of all is the body surfing! It did take me a long time to get there, though, plenty of winter Saturdays with Coach Kingy standing in the break giving instructions (mostly “Keep swimming!”) or literally holding my hand as I dived under the waves to give me a sense of when to go under and when to come back up.

I know there were a lot of people there who found the big waves quite challenging, but one thing I know for sure is that dealing with that sort of surf is a skill you can learn like any other. It doesn’t have to come naturally, and in fact some of the best things to do when encountering these conditions are actually quite counter-intuitive.

I’ve written about big waves before, and my favourite tips. Might be time for a bit of a review!

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Back in week 4 we did a time trial, for a bunch of good reasons. The first one on my list is that doing regular time-trials gives you a benchmark so you know how you’re doing and can check your progress.

In week 9, after 5 weeks of training (plus hopefully a few swims over the Christmas break) we did a second time trial to give us that second point of comparison.

So how do you think we went?

Well, amazingly of course. Our ABC swimmers have put in the hard work, trained hard, (not to mention raised funds for a great cause and had a great time along the way) and the results speak for themselves.

Everyone improved on their first times. Everyone. 100% of the sample! There were some spectacular successes…up to 10% improvements, and a few people who did the shorter 500m trial last time who felt strong enough to do the 1km trial this time instead.

Words cannot possibly express how proud I am at how far everyone has come. Great coaches and a great program definitely work, but consistent hard work, that’s the real key, and our ABC group have been doing plenty of that!

What a bunch of superstars!


You may have noticed that there’s not a Can Too pool session week 8 pool session post. There was a Can Too week 8 pool session and I would have loved to have gone to the Can Too week 8 pool session. As a matter of fact I was on my way to the Can Too pool session week 8 pool session. I left work in plenty of time to make it to the Can Too pool session week 8 pool session. I arrived at my bike in time to ride to the Can Too pool session week 8 pool session. To discover some jerk had knocked my parked motorcycle over and driven off. Grr. Broken clutch lever – not a big problem, but it did make the bike unrideable til I could get nd fit a new one. No training for me.

Not to dwell…sounds like it was an awesome set, and I’m sad I missed it, but lucky to have been part of the rest of the program. Onto week 9….

Wow – I’m a bit behind due to a tricky gastro thing, followed closely by lots of swimming. I haven’t yet figured out how to both swim and write.

What I can do, however, is (kind of) swim and take photos.

So here are some photos from last week’s Can Too session. It was a lovely day and the coaches instructions were for everyone to hop in and swim point to point without stopping. So everyone did! How far we’ve makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside!

The glorious weather continued for the Can Too Beach Session on Saturday. After the Christmas break I think it was a bit of a shock to the system for anyone who hadn’t gotten in much swimming as it was a leap straight back into training! The warm-up itself was a reasonably long swim around our water-safety helper out on a board, and each circuit was longer than the last as we really keep building endurance.

We finished up getting a bit of body-surfing practice in. The surf was small, but with half-decent technique you could catch a little shore-breaker into the shore.

I’m no expert on these things, particularly compared to coach “big-wave” Dave or fellow 4SEASons swimmer David S (perhaps there’s something in the name), but on a good day I can catch a wave and there are a few tips I’ve learned over the years I thought I’d share.

  1. Kick! One of the key things for catching a wave in the first place is that you want to be going pretty close to the same speed as the wave. If you’re catching the wave from a standing start you can do this by springing forward and throwing yourself onto the wave. If it’s deeper, you need to get that speed up with a surge, and since you want to be getting into the right body position, that mostly means you need to kick like crazy! Also, don’t stop once you’re on the wave!
  2. Body position is really important. General rule is you want to be really streamlined, tuck your head down and remember point 1! As with any rule, though, there are exceptions. If you find yourself on the front of a big wave that’s lifting your legs up behind you and threatening to send you tumbling, you can control your speed by lifting your head up and forward.
  3. Keep swimming. Once that wave starts petering out it’s tempting to stop swimming and catch your breathe. Instead, you can resume your stroke, and breathe to the side. You can get a surprising amount more ground out of the wave this way, and it may be enough to jump you forward a place or two in a race environment.
  4. Timing and breathing. Getting the timing right for when to jump onto a wave or when to get into the right body position from a swim is something that takes a bit of practice. What does help, however, is being able to keep an eye on the wave as it’s coming, watching where it’s breaking and how fast it’s moving. When swimming you can keep an eye on waves behind you by peeking under your arm behind you as you breathe. I often find it useful to switch to breathing every second stroke in this case…it allows you to gauge the wave more clearly, and it gets more oxygen into your system in preparation for having to go a few seconds without lifting your head while you’re on the wave. Remember to exhale as you’re surfing, as excess CO2 in your system is never your friend.
  5. Get a feel for it. Conditions can vary wildly, but as a general rule, as a big wave builds behind you, you can feel the water in front of it tugging back . The closer the wave, the harder the tug. If you get used to paying attention to this it’s anther cue for how to time your wave.
  6. Prepare to sacrifice. The best days for body-surfing are by definition the rougher days out there. It’s more likely that you will lose caps and/or goggles. You can minimise the risk by wearing older kit you don’t mind losing so much, by pulling your goggles down around your neck as you hit the wave zone or tying them onto the zipper cord of your wetsuit (if you’re wearing one…winter only!). On occasion, if the waves are powerful enough that I know I’ll get a ride in regardless I’ve been known to set my position with one arm out in front for the streamline, and the other hand up on my head securing cap and goggles, but with elbow tucked in and chin right down. It’s not pretty, but it works in certain circumstances!
  7. Extra buoyancy. I generally prefer to swim without a wetsuit under most conditions, but if there’s really big surf I will do the wetsuit dance to get into it as I know how much easier that extra bit of buoyancy makes it to catch and stay on a big wave.

So that’s my take on it…if you have anything to add (or argue!) feel free to weigh in below in the comments!

Some photos from the day….

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