Monday, May 30, 2016

My craziest "adventure" yet for the biggest of all causes - childhood leukaemia


Dear Swimmers

I am writing to inform you that I'll be absent from my squad coaching duties from Friday 10th June until Thursday 23rd June (inclusive, returning to pool deck on Friday 24th June), but for a very good cause indeed. You can read on for that reason if you're keen to know a little more about the weird and wacky stuff I'll be doing whilst I'm away, or just finish now and know that I'll be away for that period - I can't guarantee this is a short email, but hope you enjoy!

Meeting great people, doing great things:

One of the biggest privileges I have with my crazy life of being able to whip around the world teaching swimmers how to improve their swimming and coaches how to improve the way they coach, is that I get to meet some very special people along the way; people I become close to and get to know much more about them and their families than a simple exchange on pool deck allows me.

In March 2015, one of the three Swedish swim coaches we invited on our 3-day Coach Education Courses in the UK was a guy named Matti. We clicked instantly and at this point Matti was hopeful of ditching his career in IT for the pursuit of becoming one of Sweden's first Swim Smooth Coaches. Sadly, life for Matti took a very sad twist when on the 28th September 2015, his 8 year old daughter, Stina, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL). The news understandably devastated the family and given that my new friend's daughter was only 12 months older than our own son Jackson, the reality of how lucky we are to have our health and - even more so - the health of our children, really hit home. 

You can read more about Stina's journey at http://hejastina.se/about-stina-and-leukaemia/ which has seen her be subject to intense chemotherapy which has resulted in no less than five brain strokes and coma when her body rejected the treatment. It's been simply awful, but Stina is a tough little cookie and has been pulling through! As of 20 days ago, Stina is responding very well to the treatment now and doctors are confident of her recovery.

During this period Stina and her family have been making special bead necklaces to raise awareness of the condition and Swedish rap sensation "Petter" even got together with the family to produce this video:


Swimming Smooth for Stina:

Back on the 4th December I remember messaging Matti with a proposal which I at first thought as being "inappropriate" but surprisingly was met with great positivity.

Apart from being known for it's furniture behemoth, IKEA, it's meat balls and also those crazy chefs from the Muppets, Sweden has been home now for the last 10 years to one of the hardest and most crazy sports developing on the planet, "SwimRun". This is a far cry from the aquathlon events that usually tag onto triathlon events around the world where the world championships see athletes perform a 1500m swim followed by a 10km swim - that's a piece of cake compared to the ÖTILLÖ (http://otilloswimrun.com) which is a beast of an event that sees athletes working with a partner to cover 65km of terrain including 10km of swimming and 55km of hardcore trail running over mountains and crazy stuff like that! The thing is, you don't just swim the distance, have a nice cosy transition and then do the run, oh no, these Swedes are crazy! You literally swim between islands, run over the top of them, swim to the next island, run over the top of that etc etc! 

All up, these events usually comprise about 13 swims and 13 run sections as a continuous race. What's more, you have to carry everything you start with around the entire course! So yes, that means running in your wetsuit and swimming in your trainers all whilst tethered by a 2m rope to your mate! 

It's insanely hard! I'm a previous British Universities national aquathlon (and triathlon champion), I've swum the English Channel in the worst conditions of the 2011 season (28-35 knot head winds), I've swum - and won - the world's longest marathon swim, a circumnavigation of Manhattan Island in New York (a total of 46km of just swimming), but this thing's got me spooked, believe me! Spooked, but equally intrigued at the same time…

…intrigued enough that when the first official ÖTILLÖ World Series event outside of it's home of Sweden was announced on the gorgeous Isles of Scilly (off the south-west coast of Cornwall in the UK and amidst the oft-brutality of the Atlantic Ocean), I thought "what the heck!" let's do this and lets do it to support and raise money for Stina's treatment and that of the Childhood Cancer International Foundation (http://www.childhoodcancerinternational.org)! 

So I got on the Facebook messaging service to Matti, and tentatively asked him if he'd be keen to be my partner. Matti has previously done the Swedish version and is very experienced with this type of event (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=32&v=z317rjs0gxw - yes, that's ice he's climbing out of!!), but given the situation with Stina's health, I was more expecting him to say no, than yes. Despite the race date also being his wedding anniversary on the 18th June (and my wife Michelle's birthday on the 19th June), Matti and his family were excited for him to have something positive to aim towards, and gave him the full tick of approval. 

Now I was in trouble! I'd have to learn to run all over again. My last run-type of event was the Singapore 70.3 Ironman in 2007 and I reckon if I've run 10km in total since that time, I'd be lucky! Whilst I know we aren't going to be out there doing this thing for the win (or even to qualify for the World Championships later this year in Sweden), I did have to start my run training in earnest and learn how to wear silly things like this:


Anything goes (so long as you can carry it!): wetsuit, trail running shoes, compression calf guards, pull buoy, paddles, cap and googles - if you've never tried swimming with your shoes on you should, it's a blast (not!), it's a good 10s/100m slower believe it or not, even with the buoyancy of the wetsuit and pull bouy (here's some stats: (www.worldofswimrun.com - see "The Perfect SwimRun Shoe 2016"))

So my run training picked up and I even managed a win in the local Lake Claremont 10k fun run a few weeks ago (Mo Farrah was a notable absence it has to be said though!). I've got my swimming back on track and am loving this crazy sport! There's something really weird but nature-engrossing being able to swiftly convert from a land-based mammal to a marine fish - I'm like aquaman! A truly amphibious beast! I had a 20km session (5km swimming and 15km of running) last night as the sun went down along the banks of the Swan River and got to see a side of Perth very few witness from the rugged shoreline along Dalkeith. It was wonderful! Maybe you even saw the weirdo in his wetsuit prancing along by JoJos restaurant in Nedlands?! Apparently it's not just me who finds this bizarre fascination with the sport, there's a whole webpage dedicated to the "lifestyle" surrounding it: http://otilloswimrun.com/swimrun-life/ 

Here's the course we'll be navigating (http://otilloswimrun.com/races/isles-of-scilly/) on June 18th (or maybe the 19th if the weather turns foul):


The route, 42km, comprising 32km of trail running (in a wetsuit!) and 10km of ocean swimming (in your trainers!) You can see the actual breakdown here: http://otilloswimrun.com/wp-content/files/OTILLO-Swimrun-IslesOfScilly-2016-TimesAndDistances.pdf 


Gorgeous - the Isles of Scilly - a lot like Rotto (but a tad colder!)

There's still a chance that Matti might have to pull out even as close as 6 days before the event (the date of Stina's next bone marrow test), but if that's the case Bjarne Koning (who many of you in the 9.30am crew met in January) will become my partner and we'll still race under the same team name with the same purpose. Worryingly Bjarne finished 15th out of 300 in yesterday's Swedish qualifier so whilst I had the measure of him on a >38ºC run through Bold Park in January, I dare say he'll take me to the cleaners on the actual race if that's how it eventuates!

Please donate:

If you feel you can help us with rising money for Stina, they are 70% of the way through their target and donations can be made here: https://www.barncancerfonden.se/1309393292/  (if your Swedish is not what it once was, follow this short video clip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmtmYN0Ge7w&feature=youtu.be&ab_channel=MattiTordsson

Thanks everyone - here's to a great day on the Scilly Isles then!

Paul

Monday, May 23, 2016

What to do if the weather turns foul...


Dear Swimmers

It's that time of year when it's worth re-iterating what is the squad policy in the event of bad weather, especially after this weekend's massive storm and with bad weather forecast for tomorrow.

Essentially, we are governed by the pool's decision to stay open or to close. The pool will close if an electrical lightening storm is close enough on the weather radar to cause potential damage to the pool and / or it's patrons. In this case we cannot obviously proceed with any proposed sessions that we might have on. Sorry to disappoint!

Come rain, (small) hail, or shine though, you can be assured that unless it's a huge lightening storm, we'll still be here encouraging you to take a dip…so at this stage, even tomorrow is still on for now! We know you're a committed bunch, so like you, we want these sessions to continue as consistently as possible too, and will do all that we can to ensure that occurs.

For your reference, the pool remained completely open on Saturday amidst the storm as no major hail or lightening was present.

Cancellation Alert:

Using the new squad app, I am able to post a notification that a session has to be cancelled. I will aim to do this 15-30 minutes before a set session. Please ensure that you have the app installed on your phone (visit www.swimsmoothperth.com from your phone and follow the links to install), and that you have the notifications alert turned-on. You'll know if you have this turned on as you'll have received an SMS-style notification from me earlier today briefly explaining our bad weather policy. If you opted to turn this off when you originally installed the app, you'll need to re-install the app to turn this feature back on.

If all that fails, you can always call the pool too to check: 9285 4343

Refunds:


If the pool is open and the session proceeds as normal (even in inclement weather), your account will be charged as normal if you remained opted in for the session. Of course, if you weren't able to get here because a tree had flattened your car etc (!!), then please just drop me an email later in the day and I will arrange a re-credit.

If the session has to be cancelled, and we notify you of this before the session starts, your account will automatically be refunded for that session later in the day so you don't need to worry about that.

In the event that we start the session and have to be evacuated from the pool (as happens perhaps once or twice per year if we're unlucky) then we'll assess how much of the session was completed before this occurred. For example we were evacuated last year during the final 200m of a 5,000m Red Mist Endurance set where the vast majority of the session had already been successfully completed. The major concern I had then was about 15 or so frustrated "Red Misters" who simply wanted to get the distance in - that's the spirit I say!

Hope this all helps. Of course if the idea of getting up in the wind and rain doesn't appeal irrespective of the pool's decision, please ensure you cancel out of the session up to 12hrs beforehand so that we can offer your spot to someone else on the wait list. Thanks!

Paul





Thursday, May 19, 2016

Which is your best side?

Dear Swimmers

If you're attending tomorrow's 5.30am or 6.30am session (or indeed tonight's 6.15pm session), we have a little experiment for you!

The main set will consist of 3 blocks of 4, 5 or 6 x 100 +10 to 15s rest at CSS pace with the beeper set per 25m (stay with the beeper!).

Block 1 = breathe left only (preferably every 4)

Block 2 = breathe right only (preferably every 4)

Block 3 = breathe bilaterally (preferably every 3)

…the 9.30am Wednesday crew did this yesterday and there was mixed feelings about it. Some liked the challenge, others didn't like the feeling of being "forced" to breathe to their least favourite side; but that's the idea! Whilst myself and Sally won't be holding a gun to your head to follow this breathing pattern, it is worth you being diligent about it as the results might surprise you!

I've been back swimming now for 6 or 7 weeks following a few shoulder niggles and a busy year last year with our two apps that we've developed (the squad one and the www.swimsmooth.guru one released earlier this month). When I started back at the start of April I was struggling to hold times under 1:30 per 100m. So a set of 10 x 200 might see me hitting 2:58 to 3:02 on a 3:20 cycle. This is all about context, having seen my CSS as quick as 1:12-1:13 per 100m before Rotto 2015, you'll know I'd have been a little disappointed with this. However, fast forward to earlier this week and I was holding 1:20 per 100m for the Goldilocks set. Much more pleasing. So for this set which you'll do tonight or tomorrow, I set myself the target on 1:19 per 100m when I tried it yesterday. My least favourite side is my LEFT, my favourite is my RIGHT, but I ordinarily breathe BILATERALLY for all the reasons that I recommend it to you; yes, I'm a goody two-shoes! I swam with a Garmin Vivo Active and the Tempo Trainer set at 19.75 seconds per 25m and these were the results (thanks Mike Fischer for compiling!!):


…on average I was 0.6s per 100m faster breathing to my least favourite side (LEFT) than to my favourite (RIGHT), and whilst I was about to write that off as perhaps because I was less fatigued breathing to the LEFT as it was at the start of the experiment, the real eye-opener is that at the end of the set I blitzed my 1:19 per 100m target and averaged 1:17 per 100m or a full 3s per 100m faster than only breathing RIGHT (my favourite). 

Only by experimenting like this was I able to see the difference and now go on to use this information over the next few weeks and months.

But what will the experiment show for you? Even if you don't have the beeper tonight / tomorrow or a Garmin to measure your times, or are worried about the drafting effect of swimming in a group etc etc (which can be limited of course by you being diligent about "minding the gap"!), you can subjectively measure how you go varying up the sides like this relative to your squad buddies and equally relative to the known constant, i.e. the pace which I set for your lane. If nothing else, it should provide you with a slightly different perspective on what is otherwise a tough session.

For me, the results show that bilateral is indeed the way forwards and that my CSS time is coming down nicely now that I'm on a roll with my training. All good stuff to know.

What will you discover in this session about your own swimming? The only way to know is to pop down, give it a try, and do your best to stick to the plan*

Cheers

Paul

*if anyone is concerned about unilateral breathing to one side causing / aggravating possible shoulder concerns, then by all means just swim it as a normal set of CSS-paced 100s - I won't hold a gun to your head!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Top Times & "Trendy" Technology!



5.30am crew' times


Dear Swimmers

Congratulations to all of you whom have swum this week's CSS session (the one with the 400 / 500m timed swim in the middle) - I hope you enjoyed it?! Some very commendable performances across the board.

What's great to see with this type of session is because it's NOT a formal time trial, people seem to just do it without the stress that is often associated with a proper time trial. Time trials are OK (we've done a lot of them in the past), however, gradually over the last 12-18 months we've been moving more towards the idea of testing more frequently in the sessions without you often really being aware of it!! Operating like this desensitises you a tad to the stress of a time trial and allows me to more regularly keep an eye on your progress. It also means we don't "waste" a hard training session with a much lower load time trial session, which, if you're only swimming 1 or 2 times per week for example, can be detrimental in the long term.

There is a saying: "training is testing and testing is training" which perfectly sums up this approach I believe

It is what spurred us to then build the new CSS Tweaker (see http://www.feelforthewater.com/2016/04/an-introduction-to-css-tweaking-future.html ) aspect of the new Swim Smooth Guru (www.swimsmooth.guru) which this week has been getting some rave reviews! It's essentially what I instinctively do with you each session as I adjust the tempo trainers up and down according to how you've been performing. Now with the tweak of a button, so too can other swimmers around the world more intuitively tweak their own paces. It's pretty cool!

 

The Virtual Squad

One of the points we're going to be talking about on tonight's blog (www.feelforthewater.com) is how using the power of the Guru, we plan to share our best 1 to 2 sessions per week with the wider swimming community from the squad sessions here in Perth. We're calling this feature "The Virtual Squad" and it will allow people from all corners of the world to tap into what we do day-2-day here in Perth and join the growing Swim Smooth community. From time to time you'll see me wearing these "funky" HD video glasses (I've been trialling them this week) which allow me to film short snippets of the sessions without interrupting my coaching to compile as a short video diary to complement the video introduction that I film later on in the day once you've all left the pool. We are hoping that this allows an immersive feel for those tuning in and equally provides a little fun and entertainment for you to pass on your stories of how much it hurt or what you really liked etc as you often do with the other squad members! By all means just say "no" if I ever ask you for a quick snippet on how you felt etc but I'm hoping you'll find it quite fun! Equally, if you're ever away from the squad and want to "catch up" on a session you missed, you'll be able to do that now within the Guru. For those of you who work FIFO, this should allow you to maintain your pace and fitness much better than in the past.

As ever, I'm keen to hear your feedback on these initiatives - so fire away!

Have a great weekend,

Paul


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Swim Smooth Cleans Up At Lake Argyle Swim!


Breathtaking!


Breath-taking! Coach Sally powers along to 3rd place in the solo 20k swim!

Dear Swimmers

I'm very proud to present this race report from Coach Sally who's been up in the Kimberley this past week competing at the Lake Argyle swim…yes, complete with crocs! Apologies for the delay in getting this out to you, the team has had limited email connection, but thanks to Sally for the report and Rocky Sutherland for the amazing photos! I think more of us will have to go back next year!


Winning team member Renee Waller prepares for her leg of the 20k "quad"

Sally takes up the story…

According to the Kimberley locals and regular participants of the race, the 2016 Lake Argyle swim will be remembered as one of the wettest, wildest and toughest swims in the history of the event. Conditions on the day meant times were significantly slower than in previous years.


Stormy conditions before the start of the 20km

Despite the storm before the start of the 20km race and another during; swimmers finished with clear skies and flat water surrounded by the incredibly beautiful landscape that comprises Lake Argyle.

The majority of the Swim Smooth squad members who raced on Saturday found swimming in water measuring 30 degrees quite challenging. The transition from Open Water Swimming in salt water to fresh was also a concern for many. However; we had some awesome results!


Mark Lewis - looking a lot happier than during a Wednesday morning Red Mist session!

20km Results

First place overall (5:21)
Quad team 'The Toad and The Gropers'
( Renee Waller, Mark Lewis and Steph Gaudin)
They battled it out all day with the second placed team and won by 18 seconds!


Winners are grinners! Renee, Tracy, Mark and Steph

Fifth placed quad team (6:04)
'The Argonauts' (Serena Wells, Lotti Van Merwyk and Tony Van Merwyk)


Pre-race nerves…

Second placed Duo and Third Overall (5:39)
Vaughan Davies (locally known as 'The Legend of the Lake')


The Legend himself!

Third placed Solo (6:40)
Sally Scaffidi - (Paul: nice job Sal!!)

10km Results

Fourth placed Solo (3:13)
Cyndy Hetrick


Coach Marie in support of Coach Cyndy - it's a coach thing!


Cyndy - glad it's over! A marvellous effort!

Cyndy had a fantastic result despite battling nausea throughout the majority of the swim. Marie Hunter, who paddled for Cyndy did an amazing job of managing her through all of this and Marie's support and experience got Cyndy across the finish line at the front of the field.


A local squad swimmer…


Well done to all! You've done the squad very proud! Thank you!

Paul

Monday, May 9, 2016

How to pick up a permanent spot in the squad now winter's here!


Dear Swimmers

I hope you had a great weekend and for the Mums in the squad (and swimmer's Mums in the squad!) I hope you had a great Mother's Day too!

A few of you have been enquiring how to snag a permanent spot in the squad now that we're going into the colder months. I can't quite believe that the "new" PAYG-BLUK payment system and funky app is nearly 12 months old now - wow! How time flies. I'm hoping that you've found it to be a beneficial addition to your squad experience and I thank you for supporting that change-over last year as it's made a big difference to how I've been able to personally manage the ever-growing wait list. 

I've got some good news for those of you trying to pick up a permanent spot in some of the squad sessions. Basically we have two user groups in the squad:

  1. our permanent members who have been allocated a permanent spot in the squad through regular attendance - with the PAYG-BLUK system you guys have to "opt out" of sessions you cannot attend, thus freeing up space for…
  2. ...our waitlist members who are allocated spots in the squad, but only when space naturally opens up by permanent members opting out. Our wait list members have to thus "opt in" and depending upon the popularity of which session you're trying to get in for, this can be hit and miss - though generally the reports from the front-line is that this is working well…still, we all like "certainty" though, so…

…I've had a good scan through the upcoming months and I am pleased to offer the following permanent spots on a first-come / best-dressed basis*
  • Monday 7am = 5 permanent spots available - contact swimsmooth@me.com 
  • Monday 9.30am = 0 permanent spots available - keep using wait list please!
  • Tuesday 5.30am = 0 permanent spots available - keep using wait list please!
  • Tuesday 6.30am = 2 permanent spots available - contact swimsmooth@me.com
  • Tuesday 6.15pm = 5 permanent spots available - contact swimsmooth@me.com
  • Wednesday 5.30am = 0 permanent spots available - keep using wait list please!
  • Wednesday 9.30am = 2 permanent spots available - contact swimsmooth@me.com
  • Thursday 6.15pm = 2 permanent spots available - contact swimsmooth@me.com
  • Friday 5.30am = 0 permanent spots available - keep using wait list please!
  • Friday 6.30am = 0 permanent spots available - keep using wait list please!
  • Friday 9.30am = 0 permanent spots available - keep using wait list please!
*in the event of over-enquiry for these spots, spots will be awarded based on the number of sessions you've managed to get in for over recent months via the waitlist system. I will make a review of these applications after 5pm on Friday 13th May, and invite those of you who have secured a spot past that point to join the squad as a permanent member.

Booking in past August 12th 2016

You will have probably noted that you've been unable to add yourself to the waitlist or make changes to your schedule beyond Friday 12th August. This is simply because I can only extend the schedule out 12 months at a time. So in the next few weeks I will load up the next 12 month block. Anyone currently assigned a permanent spot between now and then will hold that spot going forwards (unless you tell me otherwise), so it's definitely worth aiming to snag a permanent spot to carry you through into the next summer season when demand lifts again. I will let you know when the new schedule has been loaded so that you can make amendments or register for various waitlists etc.

If you're planning a winter break from swimming, do please drop me an email with your dates so I can help you bulk cancel.

A quick reminder about the 12-hour cancellation window

You can cancel out of any session you're nominated for up to 12 hours before the session starts. This allows time for those on the waitlist to ready themselves for a swim, so your help in opting out as soon as you know you cannot attend really helps thanks. Inevitably though, we'll always see that flurry in the last hour before the cut-off I suspect, so waitlisters, please be prepared for that. Equally, if you are on the waitlist and can no longer attend, please cancel this waitlist as the system will assume you can still make it if you haven't opted out and will add you in automatically.

Thanks everyone! I don't know about you, but there's something virtuous about the feeling of getting up at 5am, swimming in the dark with the steam rising and then heading off to work, proud of the fact that you did it when most others would have rolled over and hit the "snooze" button! As ever, I'll do my very best to keep you engaged with some new session ideas going forwards to tempt you down!

Cheers

Paul




Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Our best ever offer on a 1-2-1 Video Analysis & Stroke Correction Session for Mother's Day!


Dear Swimmers

We've got a great offer for you today to celebrate Mother's Day this weekend:

**$50 off a 1-2-1 Video Analysis & Stroke Correction Session with Paul or Sally (either for an initial consult or a follow-up session within 6 months)**

That brings the cost down as follows:

Paul
  • 1-2-1 75 mins Initial Consult $229 to $179
  • 1-2-1 60 mins Follow-up within 6 months $179 to $129

Sally
  • 1-2-1 75 mins Initial Consult $195 to $145
  • 1-2-1 60 mins Follow-up within 6 months $159 to $109
Full details of what our premium service offers can be found here http://www.swimsmoothperth.com/#!videoanalysis/c21nc - recent attendees are knocking chunks of time off their CSS pace and feeling easier with it too - take advantage of this great offer today!

Hi Paul and team,

I can’t thank you enough for my 1-2-1 session last Friday.  (And also to Cyndy and Sally for welcoming me into their squads!)

After watching the YouTube clips of other swimmers’ assessments over the past few years, I kept thinking “Finally, this is happening to me!”  A great experience and one that I have recommended widely.

It’s been 5 days, and already I’ve been able to use my assessment video:

·         With my physio to diagnose the causes of some lower back issues that I’ve been having:
o   I cross over on my right hand side due to tightness in my lats, that causes me to then “reach” with my back, not my arm
o   I’m sustaining my straight-arm pull through by loading my back
As a result, we’ve been able to tweak the focus of the physio, with good results
·         With my personal trainer to adjust the upper body strength conditioning I’m doing to work on some of the weaker muscles that are perpetuating some of my stroke defects.

Everyone I’ve shown the assessment to has been really interested in the biomechanical aspects.  They loved the angles, the comparisons with Phelps and Addlington, and how this flowed through into a diagnosis and training regime.

Most of all, it’s simply a huge motivation to get into the pool.  I’m confident that the targeted drills I’m doing will correct and improve my stroke.  I can look over at the faster lanes in my squad sessions and know that I have the potential to join them!

Finally, bring on the new WebApp!  I can’t wait!

Thank you again.

Juliet

Additional Info

  1. please either book through the app or online with Paul or with Sally
  2. search for available dates (Paul - from Thursday 19/5 at 11.30am, Friday 20/5 at 7.45am, Tuesday 24/5 at 9.30am and then good availability from Wednesday 25/5 at 8am onwards // Sally - from Saturday 14/5 at 2.30pm onwards)
  3. use code: mothersmooth16 to take advantage of the $50 off voucher
  4. offer valid until Friday 13th May 2016 (and only applicable for 1-2-1 Video Analysis services)
  5. any Dads sneaking in with this offer will be kindly requested to wear a skirt for their session. Just joking. The offer can be used by anyone, so go ahead and treat yourself to a little stroke tune-up going into the winter months!
  6. all sessions will come complete with a complimentary 1-month free access to the www.swimsmooth.guru which launches today at 5pm! Check here for a cool video with more info: https://vimeo.com/164311757

Cheers

Paul