Monday, March 23, 2009

And the winner was...

Dear Athletes

Hope you have all had a great weekend and are looking forward to a great week of weather just perfect for getting some quality training done.

NEW OPENWATER SESSION - change of time:

Thursday's - 6.30am for 5 weeks, Cottesloe Beach Open Water Swim Skills Session. Starting Thursday 2nd April.

Just a quick note first, Wednesday evening's proposed new openwater swim session will not commence until next week. We've had a look at the sunrise / sunset times for the change to daylight savings (effective as of next weekend) and we've decided that this will make it too dark in the evening to attempt this session. However, Thursday morning's are free and so as of Thursday 2nd April we will be running a 5-week program aiming to develop your skills and confidence in the openwater in readiness for the Busselton Half Ironman on the 2nd May. These sessions will be suitable for any of our squad swimmers and will feature technique and fitness work in a fun environment down at Cottesloe Beach. Cost is just 1 credit off you card as normal and we will meet each week at 6.30am (stretching) for a 6.45am in-the-water start. Session will run for 45 mins followed by optional breakfast at Daisies. Hope you can make it!

The Hunt for the Squad's Most Consistent Athlete:

As you know, last week was all about consistent pacing and we put this to the test on the following 3 sessions:

  • Thursday's 4km + 3km + 2km + 1km run session (getting progressively faster per 'block')
  • Friday's 12 or 15 x 100m threshold swim session
  • Saturday's 1km + 70.5km + 9.25km brick session at Cottesloe Beach

Thursday's run session:

The whole goal of tonight's session was to start off doing a 4km run at ~ HIM pace + 1'30" rest and then do a 3km run, followed by a 2km run and finally a 1km run (1'30" rest between each set), aiming to get 10" per km faster in each set. Pacing was critical. 15 athletes attempted this session. Showing the most consistency on tonight's session was Mike Bowles, Dan Timbers and Neil - the results of which (including EVERY km split for EVERY athlete) can be seen below:

This was a good test for all the athletes and an important session for pace awareness.

Friday's Threshold 100s Swim Session:

Then it was onto the swim challenge of the week - who could hold the most consistent 100m intervals on a short rest of ~10 to 20 seconds for a total of 12 or 15 intervals. Topping the charts today was Jane Day, Andrew Maslen, John Harris and Judi Clemie, all of whom held their intervals within 1 second of each other - good work! 54 swimmers took part in this test and the results of each athlete can all be seen below (we are missing results for Guy and Annette van Hazel however - guys if you have yours, please let me know!):

Interestingly enough, several of the athletes were instructed to use the Wetronome swim pacing tool (see details of this great tool here - ). These athletes were using a new demo model of the Wetronome which can be programmed to beep at you every time you hope to be at 25m / 50m / 75m / 100m etc. For example, if Judi wanted to swim 2:04 per 100m, she would program the Wetronome to beep at her every 31 seconds and would then make sure she was at the 25m markers every time the beep went off. You quickly learn to slow down in the first 25m in order to maintain a consistent pace in the final stages of the session. It really will be an excellent tool for helping our athletes maintain consistency in their pacing - and as you know, that is the key to success in this sport!

Saturday's Brick Session:

Finally, 14 athletes partook in our 1km swim + 70.5km bike + 9.25km run "brick" session on Saturday morning in excellent conditions down at Cottesloe Beach. Again, the focus here was on consistency and aiming to establish knowledge and appreciation of what "Half Ironman" pacing really feels like. 182 time data points were collected over the course of the morning's session to ensure that EVERY athlete knew not only what time they had done for each of the respective disciplines (swim, bike and run) but also how their lap times compared from lap to lap. Knowing the exact distance of each lap, we have been able to determine the actual pace each athlete was holding for each discipline, which will allow them to now continue their development of this pace in the remaining 6 weeks before the Half Ironman. 

Most consistent:

Swim = Marius Grobelaar
Bike = Helen Masson (note that Lap 1A and 2A are the 'northern laps' of this course and 1B and 2B are the 'southern laps')
Run = Mel Cundy

Half Ironman Race Prediction:

What is more, after several requests for us to try and determine suitable target times for each athlete within the squad for each discipline (and a predicted race finish time), we have been able to have a reasonable attempt at doing this, as can be seen in the spreadsheet below (you will need Microsoft Excel to open this file):

Obviously their are a few caveats with this and we have assumed the following in these calculations:

  1. Swimmers will hold a similar pace for the 1.9km swim in 6 weeks time as they did in today's 1.0km swim. This is simply due to a) more efficiency within 6 weeks of training, and b) due to the beneficial drafting effect and the aid of a wetsuit on the day of the race.
  2. On Saturday's session we have assumed that each athlete was held at traffic lights for a rough total of 5'00". This could have been longer, it could have been shorter, and each athlete will accelerate / decelerate differently in response to the lights. We have "corrected" their cycle times in response to this and have used the "corrected" average speed for predicting their Half Ironman bike pace. Saturday's course was also quite lumpy and certainly not as flat as Busselton and without the effect of loads of cyclists on the course either. It was, however, 20km shorter and as such, we have simply used this pace to predict HIM pace, though my true prediction is that we can expect each athlete to ride ~ 5 to 10 mins quicker still than these times.
  3. We have factored in for between a total of 4'00" and 10'00" transition times in the Half Ironman prediction, except where the athlete has already competed in this event and we were able to access this actual time from the records.
  4. We have factored in a "fatigue factor" of 5% on the 9.25km run times from Saturday in the predictions for the Half Marathon run. My suspicion is that this may need to be as much as 8% in reality, but it's a start and may go some way to correcting for the slightly slower bike times than expected. Again, this is where the run-walk Galloway Method ( ) will really come into it's own on race day to help stave off this fatigue.

Having said all of that, once I fed all the times in to the spreadsheet from Saturday and then cross-referenced these against the four athletes from the group who have previously competed on this course last year, I was pleasantly surprised to find the following*:

  • Mel Cundy - 2008 race time = 5:49'42", race prediction = 5:49'40" - a difference of just two seconds!
  • Mary Tennant - 2008 race time = 6:42'15", race prediction = 6:42'10" - a difference of just five seconds!
  • Helen Masson - 2008 race time = 5:53'00", race prediction = 5:50'38" - a difference of just 2'22"!
  • Helen Buckle - 2008 race time = 5:22'00", race prediction = ~5:16'00" - a difference of just 6'00" (please note Helen did not complete the run on Saturday, so I am basing my assumptions here on Thursday's run session)
* please note that since the initial posting of this information, Helen Masson (our GPS guru) has informed me that Saturday's ride was 71.36km, not 70.5km as originally used in the formula. Correcting for this means that everyone's cycle times are actually now a little faster anyway, but I'd expect them to be another ~5 to 10 mins quicker still come race day. you could read this in a number of ways: 1) that the prediction calculator can't be too far off the mark; 2) that the athletes concerned are only a touch faster than this time last year, which may be disappointing if they were hoping to have improved; or 3) realizing that we still have 6 weeks to go, and knowing this 'information' should really help motivate the athlete's concerned to develop their performances in the areas that still need work. Take this information with a pinch of salt obviously, but hopefully some of you will find it useful / interesting to see where you're at currently.

Numbers, numbers, numbers...blah, blah, blah!

Now you could look at all these numbers and think "yeah, yeah, so what - it's what happens on race day that counts and you can't control X, Y and Z on race day to be able to accurately give a guestimate of what someone is capable of"  and I'd agree with you, up until a point. As much as I hate giving out athlete's my predictions of their future performances, simply because things such as punctures, bad weather etc may totally screw up your 'plans' and that if you see yourself falling behind your targets or slowing down too much when you are actually having a stellar day can really mess with the most important element of the race - your mental control. However, this week has been an excellent chance for those of you who participated in the various sessions to actually "feel" what it "feels" like to exercise at these intensities, so come race day, if you are in tune with your body and know what pace you feel you can maintain consistently, you're in a much better position than someone who has ignored the "numbers" and thought "she'll be right mate!" as "she" quite often is not!

Have a great week...need I say "let's make sure we pace it out well?!"



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