Monday, February 28, 2011

Rottnest Channel Swim Results

Dear Swimmers

Firstly, congratulations to all those of you who successfully completed the 21st Rottnest Channel Swim on Saturday 26th February. I know from talking to many of you at the pub afterwards (whether you had done a Solo, Duo or a Team event) that you were disappointed with your times. Me too. I think what made that especially apparent was that everyone's expectations and hopes for a "fast" year for a change were built up by the seemingly "perfect" conditions that we faced. This didn't prove to be the case.

I am still sifting through all the Duo and Teams results and would really appreciate you letting me know how you got on if you raced in these categories.

Adam has posted some excellent photos here for your enjoyment:

As for the Solo swimmers though, we had some absolutely fabulous results!! These can be seen here:

...highlighted in blue are all those swimmers who've been training with us in some capacity over the last 5 months, whether that be in full squad mode, Saturday morning's Rotto Specific squad at Challenge Stadium, or with private coaching. I would like to make a quick mention and thank you here to Peter Tanham, Shelley Taylor-Smith and also to Mary-Anne Paton for their help and assistance with the squad over this time frame also - their input has been invaluable. Thank you.

Ceinwen Williams for the second year in a row proved she's got what it takes by finishing 3rd lady again to two top-class swimmers - we're all very proud for you Ceinwen - you did great! 

As you'll see from the results, we had real depth this year within the squad with ten Solo swimmers from the squad finishing "together" in highly commendable times between 6h20 and 7h00 which is just fantastic. It is the shared goal and camaraderie that was inspired during all the hard training sessions that made this squad so successful this year, so hats off to you guys!

The stand-out performance this year for me had to be that of Paul Downie who first attempted the swim back in 2009 when we first ran our Solo squad with just 13 swimmers in total. That year Paul went through a very rough patch and suffered with very sore shoulders with about 4km to go to record and eventual time of 9h16. This year he absolutely smashed it and recorded 6h51 - nearly 2.5 hours quicker! Truly brilliant. This will give Paul great confidence going into our preparations for our respective English Channel Swim attempt(s) in ~6 months time. Well done Paul! Also smashing his PB with a very well deserved time of 6h37 was Wayne Morris who strung together the "perfect" race finishing superbly strongly with a massive sprint to the finish - nice job! 

Sadly, Susanjane Morrison was pulled from the water with just a few kilometres to go after having inhaled quite a bit of seawater and then being unable to finish. Susanjane was taken to Fremantle hospital where she is now recuperating. We wish her a speedy recovery and hope that she can bounce back next year in a similar manner to Paul Downie from two years ago.

Well done to all our Solo swimmers who took part in the event - your commitment and hard work over the course of the program has been truly inspirational to me and I thank you for the great times we've shared's going to seem like a quiet few weeks ahead! 

Hopefully those of you who maybe did a Team or Duo this year might be inspired to try a Solo next year perhaps?

I thought I'd take this opportunity to share with you a few thoughts of my own about this year's race. I hope that these thoughts and feedback can help you analyse your own race. You know me, I love my numbers and this objective feedback as you just can't hide from the reality of what they tell you - good or bad. The key is in learning how and where you can be better next time.

A quick bit of history: prior to Saturday's swim I have done three Duo swims and my first Solo swim in 2009, just 6 days before we had our first baby, Jackson. In 2009 I was really hoping to get close to breaking 5h00 and trained very diligently for it, averaging ~40km per week in training. That year I felt I executed my best possible race and got my nutrition spot on. However, I exited the water in 5h24 and was immediately dissatisfied with my result based purely on my time. In retrospect though, conditions that year saw a strong North to South current in the last few kilometres really slowing progress with the winner only doing 4h40. Like this year, it looked set to be a great day for fast times as well, but sadly this proved not to be the case and most people left feeling a little deflated - but that's what this event is all about - it's totally open to the elements which makes for strategy being a key player in a successful swim.

Roll on to 2011 and I had assembled a brilliant crew for my second attempt at getting close to that magic 5h00 boundary. Nathan Thompson was to be my "official" skipper and key organiser as per 2009, Jan Kolbusz was to be my driver and boat owner (a life saver when the original boat "pulled out" 7 weeks previously), Adam Young was to be my faithful photographer and coach, Aaron Milward my brilliant paddler, friend and motivator, and Andrew Hunt my key GPS / Navigator. All of the crew worked seamlessly during the event and without doubt, it was Andrew's superb navigation skills which got us over there in a superbly straight line. I am not yet permitted to reveal exactly how well he was able to do this (?!), but if you take a look at the plot from my GPS (worn on Aaron's wrist), you'll see just how straight that line is, particularly from 3.5km into the event once the kerfuffle of the start is all over:

...this zoomed in a little closer to show the slight deviation at the start of the race:

...and if you're really geeky like me, you might want to have a look at the file in Google Earth etc:

...however, you'll never be a true swim geek unless you can download the file into Training Peaks and extract all the cool data to give you a graph of your speed like this:

...which you can see a little bigger here:

So, why show you all this? Well, I think it's always interesting to know exactly how far you've swum when you've supposedly done a 19.7km swim firstly. As my paddler was wearing the watch, it meant that it was started at ~400m into the event, give or take a couple of runs to the boat to "refuel", and then the final finish where Aaron is not allowed down the shoot, we believe we did a total of ~20.6km. 900m sounds way off course obviously, but I think the general plot on the map indicates this is not the case. I spoke to many swimmers yesterday who claimed to have swum over 25km due to being pushed south by the current.

The speed curve is interesting. I am definitely swimming the fastest I ever have going into this event, having recorded some significant recent PBs over 1500m, 5km and 10km in the last 3 weeks and was confident I could swim at ~14 minutes per km which (with the added fuel stops) would see me averaging out at somewhere around about 14'30" per km to be on target to break 5h00 for the swim. If anything was lacking from my training it was a bit of mileage, with me only being able to consistently swim 22-24kms per week due to work and family commitments, with my peak week being 30km. My 10km result a few weeks back suggested I was well on target with things though. However, as soon as I hit the water I just felt flat and wasn't able to find a good rhythm until between ~4km and 7km into the swim. This may, or may not, have helped me as normally I set off too quick and tend to blow up. After the 7km mark I felt like I was getting stronger and stronger and as reported by my crew was making up good ground and passing a good number of swimmers after my relatively poor start to the race. Looking at the speed curve though we see this though:

  • 0 to 50 minutes = ~14'00" per km (my goal pace, but when I was feeling particularly sluggish)
  • 50 minutes to 3hrs = ~15'30" per km (when things started to pick up and I was holding good form)
  • 3 hours to 4 hours = ~14'30" per km (when I started to peg other swimmers back)
  • 4 hours to 5 hours 23 minutes = ~17'00" per km (when I was powering at my best)
The significant drop off of 90 seconds per km after 50 minutes is very interesting, especially as it happens so quickly and at a time when I was just starting to find my groove too. Could it have been an early current? Who knows. The crew started to feedback to me where I was in the field and who I was chasing at around the 3 hour mark, so maybe this spurred me into action at that point? Without doubt though, I was hammering in the last 90 minutes of the swim and made up 5 places in that time but was "only" doing 17 minutes per km. I think it's therefore a safe bet to say that the current at this point was particularly strong for those of you a little demoralised by your times too.

Was I happy this year? Physically I don't feel like I had my best swim this year, but mentally I felt like I was able to really tough it out which will be very important for when I attempt the English Channel on the 5th September. I've always felt that this has been a weak side to my preparation and racing in the past so it's a good feeling I guess to think that this is maybe getting better as I'm getting older. At the end of the day I didn't get close to the 5h00 marker, but placings-wise I did finish exactly where I thought (hoped) I would and I did manage a 65 second P.B in the process, so it's not all bad.

I'm sure many of you irrespective of whether you did a Team, Duo or Solo might be feeling the same way about your swim if you were off pace with where you expected to be this year. I'd encourage you to go through and spend 15 minutes or so simply jotting down where you could improve for next time. This will be really useful. Looking at my notes after my 2009 race my goal was to see if we could improve my navigation as I felt everything else that year was pretty much spot on for a first attempt. Whilst I don't have the records to prove this was the case though (no GPS in 2009 to compare against), I do feel was achieved and without my crew's awesome support on the day I'm sure I'd still be out there swimming to Mandurah!! Thanks guys, you were great!

OK, crew, I'll see you all over the next couple of weeks, take it steady and enjoy the hot weather - eeek!


P.S anyone got any tricks to overcome that horrible salty / swollen tongue problem?

1 comment:

  1. Paul, great write up and congrats to you for training the squad so well this year. Congrats also to the squad, a great effort all round. Paul Downie, losing over 2 hours, that is amazing. Cheers, John Edwards


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