Category: time trial

If you’ve arrived here without part one of this post, you can read it here. the upshot is that Bel and I were at the pool, down to the wire, to see how we would go swimming 5km in one go as a final deal-maker or -breaker before entering as a duo in the South Head Roughwater.

The event has a cutoff – 5 hours.If the team can’t complete the race in that amount of time, they will be recorded as a “DID NOT FINISH”. That’s a long swim to record a “DID NOT FINISH” so, as you can imagine, we really don’t want that to happen. My goal for this pool swim was to complete the distance in under 2 hours…just to give us plenty of wiggle room (plus Bel is quicker than me) to account for conditions on the day.

I wore my Timex, which will record up to 50 splits. This had the double advantage of keeping track of how many laps I’d done (I get bad at counting the more tired I get), and collecting the times for each of those laps. And if you know me, you’ll know I love data nearly as much as I love to swim.

And my favourite thing to do with data is? Put it in a spreadsheet! Chart it! Analyse it!

So that’s what I did. Click on the chart below to get the full view of how the swim went, numbers and commentary (otherwise known as the little voice in my head when I swim) combined.


5km chartAs for the time I swam? 1 hour, 59 minutes and 4 seconds! I did it!

Bel and I finished up with a coffee and getting our entry in. Seems it’s all going to actually happen!!!! I’m equal parts excited and scared, but looking forward to the challenge.

The bit I haven’t really touched on too much is that this is all for a good cause (other than providing your reading material). If you’d like to support the valiant efforts of Cure Cancer Australia you can help me reach my fundraising goal here.


Exactly 2 weeks out from the South Head Roughwater. Crunch time.

Since the end of last season I’d been thinking about pushing myself a bit further and the Coogee To Bondi 5km kept popping  into my head as the event to do it. By the start of the season I’d decided that I wanted to train for the event, and that’s exactly what I did. Double-up sessions back to back , and keeping focussed on consistently training 5-6 times a week.

I was doing pretty well and on track to be ready when in February, 8 weeks out, the website advised the event was postponed with an alternate date to be announces. A bit later this changed to the event being cancelled altogether for the year.


After the initial disappointment (eventually) wore off, I put my mind to finding a plan B. There are not many long course ocean swims around, and there was only one that was even as a possibility…doing the South Head Roughwater as a duo. That’s 10km total from Bondi to Watson’s Bay.


This, however,  presented a couple of challenges.

      1. I needed a partner to swim with me. Someone who was a good enough and fit enough swimmer to do the distance, but who wouldn’t be put off by my slower pace.
      2. To even enter this event, you need a support boat. It’s in the rules.

Proving, once again, that wine really does solve everything, a conversation at the post-season Can Too Mentors and Captains celebratory drinks resulted in a plan. Team BelJack was formed as Bel S and I agreed to swim as a duo, and we brainstormed a couple of support boat options. Right before we solved all the rest of the problems of the world. 😉

Fast forward to this weekend. We have our boat and driver (pilot? Captain?) confirmed, but have put off actually taking that step and entering our team. Whilst I’ve done plenty of longer swims and double-ups whenever I’ve raced this season, I actually hadn’t done the full 5km distance and I really wanted to get that under my belt before I could feel really confident that I’d be able to do the event. With that in mind we had talked about doing a 5km pool swim. Initial discussions had involved doing this at the Icebergs pool as it’s ocean water and same temperature as the ocean. Seems our choice of days was poor, though, as it was the launch of the winter season there and they throw ice-block in the pool for a penguin swim!

Des Renford

It seems we needed a Plan B to train for our Plan B.

Instead we headed to Des Renford Outdoor pool, where we were lucky enough to secure a lane each to ourselves.

So how did we go? How did I go? What time did I do? And what was that inner voice up to all that time in the water?

Watch this space for part 2 where all your questions (and some you haven’t even thought of yet) will be answered.


OMG, it’s official! I’m in the medium lane! With the extra squad members picked up this season, many of whom are doing the Coogee Swim Challenge, our Tuesday squad now needs 3 lanes. My times have been improving since August, so I’m now well and truly middle of the pack. I couldn’t be more thrilled!

Just goes to show that if you stick with something long enough and work hard enough at it, you can get the results…in fact they can even sneak up on you!

The session itself was an endurance and pacing set that I’m now very familiar with. I felt pretty comfortable maintaining my time trial average 100m pace the whole way. Given I felt I could have done a bit better with my time trial without my runaway cap issues, I’m even considering taking the drastic step of knocking a second or two off my pace from next week.

I know it’s an outrageous suggestion…so wish me luck!

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!)

I hadn’t been to a Tuesday endurance set since before Christmas. I think I was a bit scared…those sets can be kind of brutal.

Time to put on the big-girl-pants, though. Harden up and get back to it. For me, nothing works better at improving my speed and fitness.

Big Girl Pnats

Big Girl Pants


Funny, though, how sometimes you can surprise yourself. I’ve been swimming quite a lot this summer. Not as much as I’d like, and some of it has been kind of focussed on other people’s progress instead of my own (no complaints, mind you…loved every second of it). On the other hand, I’ve been focussing pretty hard on a small change to my stroke, have been staying very active, not drinking too much, and eating well. And it seems, on the balance I’ve come out ahead.

We were doing sets trying to stay consistent, and keep to our lat time-trial 100m average times. Pacing, as it were. Thing is, after the first 100m i looked at my watch and realised there was no way I was going to be able to swim at my time trial pace. I was going way faster!

I did a reasonable job of keeping to a consistent time for my laps. Well, apart from a random one I suspect was more due to my inability to use my watch properly rather than one super-slow The good news is my new 100m time is a good 8 seconds faster than it was in November.

Who’d have thunk it? Apparently all this training actually works!

Would it be wrong for me to be thinking I’d quite like to do a time-trial right now?

As a little aside; as proud of myself as I was, it was incredibly impressive to see Fiona back at training a mere 6 weeks after giving birth to the super-cute Lachlan! She’s always been an inspiration (she’s the one who got me started on this whole swimming thing in the first place) and she outdid herself this time!

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!


The Can Too Pool session this week was a tough one, and a good reflection of how far our swimmers have already come in just a few short weeks!

We did some pacing, and in lane 3 where I was swimming we did 20 x 100m! That’s 2km that people are already swimming. It’s truly amazing and inspiring to see how fast people are improving and how far you can come with the right motivation, and a good program!

We had another amazing guest speaker this week, too…a physio. There were plenty of questions, including some very pertinent ones from Ronene who has been through two calf injuries in two months! Nothing like having a real-life example to talk about.


Wow, the weeks are sneaking up on us now! Seems we are already at the dreaded time trial week!

It’s kind of funny…we don’t use time trials for anyone to have to qualify for anything, we don’t publicize the result or compare anyone’s performance, but it seems there is definitely something quite confronting about the pressure of swimming against the clock. I think I heard one quote along the lines of: “I know I swim slow, I don’t know why I need to do a time trial to prove it!”

Well, the thing is, they were exactly right. The time trials are absolutely not about proving anything. What they are, however, is a useful tool.

In this level of swimming, there are a couple of things we get out of running a time trial.

  1.  Benchmarking. It feels tough now, but when you do your next time trial and see how far you’ve come, it’s a real confidence boost and helps people really believe that they are going to manage their swimming goals and goal races.
  2. Lane ranking. Lane etiquette is hard enough to figure out without people having to guess what order they should swim in. A a general rule, in a pool lane (unless it’s for a specific drill or set that calls for something different) the fastest swimmer leads off. It minimizes overtaking (always fraught with danger!) and seems to work using a kind of telescoping effect. A time trial gives people a realistic idea of the order they should be swimming, as most people tend to underestimate their abilities….apart from the odd macho man who has issues swimming behind faster women…but that’s a controversial topic I should probably explore later. Luckily I didn’t see any of those shenanigans on Wednesday.
  3. Pacing, pacing, pacing. Ideally, we tend to swim faster if we start out slower than average, swim at our average page most of the race (or training set, or time trial) and then finish hard with whatever energy you didn’t burn up by going too hard at the start to maintain. In order to do that, you kind of need to know what your pace is and what it feels like. A time trial lets you work out what you should be doing, and if you’re doing them regularly when you should increase your pace. At 4SEASons we use time trials to figure out a 100m pace for drills and sets ALL. THE. TIME.
  4. Building up distance, and fitness overall. We did a 500m trial for the shorter distance swimmers, and 1km for the longer distances. That’s not a bad effort for anyone!
  5. Building up a swimmer’s confidence in being able to swim that distance. For some people on Wednesday, they had not swum that distance in years. Or ever. I know I’m talking about confidence again, but ocean swimming (like many sports, I imagine) is very much psychological, and confidence is a big part of it.

 So look at that, will you? 5 excellent reasons for doing a time trial…and not one of them really scary after all!

Seems the question of watches for swimming is a bit of a hot topic in the swimming world lately. I’ve seen multiple facebook threads about it, and had some questions on Twitter recently.

I’m a bit of a gadget tragic, so it was bound to happen sooner or later that I’d jump on the bandwagon.

I went through a bit of process of research before I bought a swim watch, and realised there are really a few different categories of  options for what you can look at. I thought I’d share my criteria, my thought processes and my decision here as a start. The jury is still out on what I ended up with, so I’ll follow up soon with a review.

The first style you can go with is an all-purpose waterproof sports watch. The advantages here are that these have been around for ages, and there are heaps of different styles to choose from at a pretty low price point. They generally have a stopwatch so you can independently check your race times (and know what they are before the results are published). Depending on how fancy your watch is, it may also have some internal memory to help with recording laps and reviewing them later. At the really fancy end of the range, you can connect these with a computer to review the data (and help with things like pacing). Coach Zoe’s analysis of her pacing progress was done on one of these…a Timex if I’m not mistaken.

Next is a purpose-specific swim watch. These are fairly new to the market and there’s pretty much only 2 brands I’m aware of in this market – Garmin and Swimovate. They have some pretty nifty features like being able to tell what stroke you’re doing, counting your laps, and calculating your stroke rate and swimming efficiency. Pretty awesome for pool swimmers and for ocean swimmers if they’re doing pool sessions.

The third category is to go with something with GPS so you can map your swim, see how far you swam, how straight you swam, and what pace at different points in the swim. There’s nothing swimming specific out there that does the GPS tracking, so you end up having to repurpose a run watch (important note – must be waterproof!). The trade-off is that these are really not set up for lap timing, so that makes them pretty useless in the pool unless you’re straight up using it as a stopwatch to time something like a time trial. Again, Garmin seems to be the big market leader in this space, but a few other brands seem to be catching up fast.

The big daddy of them all is the Triathlon watch. These will look after your lap timing needs and have a GPS, and are also useful if you ride a bike. There are only two real problems with this type of watch – The price is usually substantially more than what you’ll pay for any of the previous options, and the devices themselves tend to be pretty massive. The size isn’t much of a problem when you’re training and racing, but they look a bit full-on and are quite heavy compared with a regular watch.

So what did I go with?

I went with the Garmin Forerunner 10, the Garmin entry level running watch which is waterproof to 50m. I got it on sale, but even full price it’s still very reasonable at around $US129. The reasoning was that at this point in the year I’m more interested in tracking my races than my training, and at the price I paid I could afford to buy this plus a dedicated swim watch for less than the cost of a Tri watch.

So what do I think of it? Well, let’s just say it hasn’t been entirely smooth sailing. You can watch this space for a full review soon.

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.

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