Category: pacing

Time trials this week again. They seem to come around so quickly!

Still, I was feeling OK about this one, because

  1. I’ve done the work. I’ve been training hard and training consistently.
  2. I’m feeling good in the water, fit, strong and confident.
  3. I didn’t have too much time to think myself out of it…I was on two day’s work training and went straight to the time trial. No time to get nervous and psych myself out.
  4. Last TT was a bit of a disaster as I was still recovering from a nasty neck crick (technical term!) which hindered my training and my technique. I was unlikely to swim that slow again, so I had nothing to lose.

So how did I go?

Definitely not as bad as last time…..

and 5 seconds quicker than the time before!!


Consistency really is key. Training Works. No magic solutions, no secret arcane knowledge, just straight up hard work.


Let the games begin!!!!

First race of the season…it was very exciting, a bit nerve-wracking, and the beginning of what should be a great summer ahead!

Apologies in advance…I’ve been on work training for the last couple of days, and would have liked to have finished writing this up a touch quicker. That whole work thing interferes with my swimming so much, It’s outrageous!


I carpooled with the gorgeous Vanessa, who lives in the same apartment complex as me. a) she’s a superfish fast swimmer b) she’s lovely and c) she grew up in the shore and had a bunch of local knowledge to share about Cronulla…including parking options!

Thanks again to Vanessa for the local knowledge, but the perfect timing of the race was a major win. Too early you can stress out, overthink, wear yourself out or feel like you need to wee when you don’t actually have to go. Too late and you can stress out, over think, under think, wear yourself out, or feel the need to wee when you don’t have to go.

Beautiful day. After so much crap weather it was nice to have a bit of sunshine, and the 1-foot waves seemed like a walk in the park compared to recent conditions.

Free goggles!!!!!! Yep, lots of exclamation points for this one. Seems a nice silicone cap and a pretty decent pair of goggles were included in the entry fee. Score! Made for really good value for money! Us ocean swimmer go through more goggles than you might imagine, and these were pretty good. A very pleasant surprise indeed.

Low numbers. I think total swimmers in the 2km event were about 102 total. this meant very little hassle with start line tussles and the usual argy-bargy.

I felt pretty good with this race…strong and consistent and I didn’t feel negative or struggle at all throughout the race. In general I’m feeling like I’m pretty much ready for this season!

Well organised. Registration was easy, kit collection was even easier, the course was well marked and there was adequate water safety. All good.

The single wave start. Small race, meant for the first time ever I got to start with all my friends! And since I’m one of those people down the back, mot of my friends were also there to cheer me on at the finish (makes me feel a bit like a rock-star!)

Best of all, somehow, by total chance, for the first time ever, Ronene and I swam almost the entire race pretty much side-by-side (yes, I am aware there were quite a lot of commas in that sentence. Why do you ask?). I’m normally a touch slower than Ro, but the crazy training regime is obviously paying off and I was doing pretty good time (for me) and keeping up. It was pretty awesome having someone to swim with, and worked out in the end when a nasty calf cramp right at the end pulled her calf muscle (yes, again! The other one this time). I’d gone in for a dual arm raise for the glory dash up the beach to the finish line, but it ended up being handier as a crutch as she hopped there instead!

Here’s a photo Paul snapped in that exact moment….

First place = Friendship!

First place = Friendship!

Room for Improvement

The 2 lap course. I dunno, jut personal, but there’s all that ocean out there…were you short on buoys? I don’t get it. I just prefer a bigger course with one loop instead of doing the same thing twice.

Condition-wise, the water was a touch chilly. And one side of the triangular course had a bit of chop. Nothing really problematic, but since we’re here…

How did I do?

2km = 44:47. Not bad for me (and the same time to the second as Ro!). It’s not a great time int he scheme of things, but given where I came from, I’m super-happy…and I had a brilliant time overall!!!

The verdict?

Sensational start to the season! Can’t wait to see how it all unfolds! Nice work Cronulla, lovely race.


More photos on Flikr

As the seasons change and the weather warms up and it’s light in the evenings, us ocean swimmers start to mix things up a bit. During the winter we’ve been focussing on endurance and strength (and practicing with challenging surf conditions), and that’s the prefect time for it. Now racing season is looming and it’s time to think about what we need to do to do well at the events.

That means the focus shifts to a couple of things:

  1. Technique. Worth revising to make sure we’re optimising power forward through the water, minimising drag against the water, and not injuring ourselves doing it.
  2. Speed. Or in other words, cardio vascular fitness.
  3. Ramp up = More sessions.

To that end, 4SEAsons have switched their Wednesday night sessions to technique night!

This is brilliant for me (this week, anyway)…as my technique is kinda, well, suboptimal. ahem.

Technique is one of those things where you have to aim for continual improvement, not perfection. It’s such a complicated thing you’re doing, using your whole body, and there’s really no single answer to the right way to swim. Different body types, different conditions, different habits, different strengths and weaknesses and injuries…it is really a lot of variables.

On Wednesday night we worked on a couple of drills designed to help with arms and timing. To help with this we used fins for the first time in ages, as they give you extra propulsion through the water and allow you to concentrate on slowing down your stroke to concentrate on different aspects of it, without feeling (all the time) like you’re going to drown.

I use these Speedo BioFUSE as they’re pretty inexpensive, fit in a backpack, and that’s what was in stock when I was shopping and they do exactly the job they need to do, exactly the way I want them to, so I’m pretty happy. (Not sure that fins could be life-changing, so don’t want to get too weirdly overly enthusiastic here).

You’ll note these are pretty different to diving or snorkelling fins. They’re a lot shorter, for a start, and quite rigid. This is because they’re designed for a distinctly different purpose. Dive\snorkelling fins are designed to give as much propulsion as possible with as little output of energy as possible (when diving, so you use less air and can stay down longer before your tank runs out). These fins are just designed to give you a little bit more than a regular kick…mostly to work on different aspects of your stroke, catch, or return.

They do have a slight down-side for some people (me included). Wearing fins does make you more susceptible to foot cramps. I’m not exactly sure why, but I know that I need to make sure I relax while swimming and stretch out well when the inevitable cramps hit. Not a biggie or a deal-breaker, given the benefits you can get from using fins in your drills, but something to be aware of.

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!

Wow. Post-long weekend craziness at work meant that despite my best intentions I didn’t make Tuesday training this week. I was at my desk working away when I realised time had gotten away from me and it was too late for me to make training. Very sad!

Still, next week should get easier – when daylight savings starts the pool will open later and the training timetable will be changing to include a later session on Tuesdays that will make getting there a lot easier.

Wednesday, though, I made sure I got there. I can’t say I had the best attitude about it as the long weekend work fallout was continuing, and I had a super-sore calf muscle (result of a nasty cramp while diving over the long weekend), but I always convince myself to go anyway with the logic that a half-assed workout is still better than no workout at all.

And of course it never really works out that way. It was a tough pacing session and I found myself focussing so hard on trying to keep my pace that all the cares of the day melted away. It was a kind of funny session as I found myself behind my friend Julie, who started swimming the same day I did (and has a Can Too Trivia Night coming up 1st November at the Harlequin in Pyrmont…quick plug!). She’s a bit quicker than me, but I found with a consistent effort and the effects of drafting, I was able to stay right on her feet for several of the 200m sets. I felt a bit bad about it, but there was no way I could possibly have passed her, and it was taking all I had to stay in that draft, so it was still a good workout and not at all a cruise for me. Same effort but much faster times! (wish that could happen more often…)

I may have been a bit slack on my tumble-turn resolution, though…I tried the first couple of laps, but there were several of us in the lane swimming very similar paces, and my turns are still somewhat lacking in coordination. After nearly taking out other swimmers a couple of times I decided to give it a rest tonight and focus on the main set. A concerted effort will be made next week to get back on track!

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!).

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


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)

I was almost a little hesitant about Wednesday training this week. After going out a little hard on Tuesday night, I was just a touch tired and sore in the arms.

Then there was one of those good news/bad news situations.

Good news! No pacing tonight!

Bad News. Tumble turns.

In ocean swimming we rarely need to tumble turn. Most of us avoid it like the plague. I personally have an unnatural aversion to them. I once put my neck out doing one incorrectly and have been a bit traumatised ever since.

So I was definitely outside my comfort zone. Well outside.

So I decided to do the only sensible thing under the circumstances: Sulk a bit, then pull on my big-girl pants, suck it up and get on with it!

It was actually a pretty good session. Nobody’s ever really taught me how to do a proper tumble turn. Coach Zoe was running the session and I knew from seeing her swim in the MS Megaswim team, that she could do a killer, effortless-looking tumble turn, so that gave me a bit of confidence that I might get the hang of it. She also explained some of the ways that learning to tumble turn could help in the ocean (not freaking out if tumbled by a wave, timing)

Zoe, as expected, was great. She broke down the turn into different aspects and had us lined up against the side of the pool, and somersaulting down the lanes.

It must have looked ridiculous!!!! To be fair, though, we wear goggles and caps so we’re pretty much already on the ridiculous-looking side of life.

In the end, I managed one or two successful tumble turns.

Goes to show, that if you put your mind to something and have a good teacher and you never know what might be possible.

I was tossing up whether to continue using them in my training, when this conversation happened…

Coach Zoe: So I’m OK if you don’t want to use these every turn, but I would encourge you to tumble turn at least a couple of times per session.

Jacki: Will they make our time trial times quicker?

Coach Zoe: Yes, absolutely. Up to 5 seconds per 100m.

Jacki: Sold!

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