Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Top swim tips if you're racing at Ironman WA this weekend!

Dear Swimmers

I can't quite believe that this Sunday (4th December) marks the 8th annual Busselton Ironman. I was present at the 1st event in 2004 as a competitor but unfortunately didn't finish that year due to a big mistake with my nutrition and not trusting what I had done successfully week-in and week-out in the lead-up to the event. I haven't yet ventured back to Ironman but hope that I will one day especially as I feel that I've sorted my nutritional woes with the last three years of marathon swimming. Anyway, enough about me (!) what can you do to ensure a successful swim leg at this weekend's race? Here are my top 10 tips:

  1. Give yourself plenty of time in the morning. The PRO wave goes off at 5.30am and the Age-Group wave goes off at 5.45am so this is going to mean a pretty early start. I'd normally factor in getting up 3hrs before an event like this just to take your time over a light breakfast and to top-up on your fluids from over-night. Don't go crazy on the food and fluids as hopefully you'll have been steadily topping these up over the week and especially if you've tapered down for the event you'll have automatically started to store some additional carbs and fluid anyway. Listen to some tunes to get you pumped up, but it's a long day out there, so don't get too carried away! My personal favourite: 'I'm Not Afraid' by Eminem. Everyone normally panics that they won't be getting enough sleep when having to get up at ~2.30-3am, but the golden rule is to get a good night's sleep the night before the night before, i.e. Friday night to Saturday morning. Relax and enjoy your early start and think positively about what lies ahead.
  2. Not having a frantic start from Point # 1 will allow you time to get down to the transition area and spend an extra few minutes putting your wetsuit on properly - this can make a massive difference to how well you swim on the day. Check out my tips and short video here: http://www.swimsmooth.com/triathlon_adv.html (also including some more great open water swimming tips) - all too often we see people rushing to put on their suit on race morning only to then complain about it feeling tight and too restrictive around the shoulders leading to premature shoulder fatigue. As per the video, get a friend to shoe-horn you into the suit, but make sure they watch their nails! I personally now use Bepanthen baby rash cream around the collar of the wetsuit to prevent chaffing - it's less messy than vaseline and smells better than Bodyglide! It'd be well worth your while going for a quick swim in your wetsuit this week (even in the pool) just to test out the fit and feel and to experiment with some of the other ideas below. If you happen to be like last year's Ironman WA champion Kate Bevilaqua and find swimming in a wetsuit less enjoyable that without, you might like to check out this advice here: http://www.feelforthewater.com/2011/07/are-you-slower-in-wetsuit.html
  3. Head down to the start and check out the race course looking for the wind and current directions. You will swim around the Jetty keeping it to your left. The Jetty points to the NNW and the current forecast for Sunday morning is showing wind coming from the NE at anywhere between 14km/h and 31km/h (as per the forecast at http://www.weatherzone.com.au/wa/southwest/busselton) or 25km/h to 45km/h (as per the forecast at http://www.windguru.cz/int/index.php?sc=208628). This is a reasonably strong wind, but don't panic it could all change yet and even then, you can't do anything to change it! You need to remember that everyone will be in the same 'boat' as you - it's how you deal with it that counts. Because Geographe Bay curves around the Jetty (thus protecting it somewhat) a NE wind is not necessarily bad news, but given the very strong E wind we experienced at the Busselton Jetty swim earlier in the year, this did make for some challenging conditions out there, especially around the tip of the Jetty, forcing over 60% of the field to retire from that particular race. If the wind does kick up, you may find yourself needing to breathe a little more often to your LEFT on the outward leg and then more to the RIGHT on the homeward leg, thus breathing away from the wind and likely surface chop. You should still be able to breathe bilaterally (preferable as it will keep you straighter by being more symmetrical) but we've been practicing quite a bit of this single-sided breathing recently for this very reason. So remember, if you need to breathe to your non-dominant breathing side for extended periods, make sure the timing of your breathing to that side is good, as well as your rotation to that side. For more tips and visuals on this, see: http://www.feelforthewater.com/2011/11/checking-your-breathing-timing.html
  4. Remember that the Jetty itself is not perfectly straight and has a kink about a third of the way along. Depending on buoy placement and race organiser rules and restrictions, the shortest course on the outward leg is as per #1 on the map above, not hugging the Jetty itself. Equally, on the way back, you need to be very careful to ensure that you veer away from the Jetty at the kink and not hug the Jetty at this point (#2) as you will add extra distance as I mistakenly did at the Jetty Swim in February. Sighting is not as easy as previous years when heading for the Goose and the helter-skelter turrets, especially if it does get a little choppy. On the outward leg, you might find yourself getting pushed into the Jetty itself and on the return leg pushed away - watch out for this as it can be pretty frustrating! Keep your cool and use the marker buoys as per the race briefing to guide you.
  5. If it does get tough out there, make sure you've read this simple bit of advice for staying positive about things: http://www.feelforthewater.com/2011/11/switching-off-negative-voice-inside.html - you can deal with anything out there if you know what to do and how to handle yourself - if anything a lumpy swim makes for a little more excitement than a perfectly flat day anyway and it'll keep you focused on each and every stroke rather than thinking about how much further you've got to go. Remember, if you're moving you're making progress!
  6. Choppy and swelly conditions can also require an adjustment to your stroke technique which also benefits your shoulders in a long-sleeved wetsuit. A straighter arm recovery is often adopted by many of the world's best open water swimmers and triathletes in these conditions because it: A) helps to ensure you get clearance of the hand over the surface of the water - a high elbow / low hand recovery might look pretty and 'text book' in the pool, but there will be no style points awarded out there (especially if it's rough) so you need to ensure good momentum and to not be buffeted around too much; B) means you won't be fighting against the restrictive nature of the rubber suit around your shoulders - it's much more fatiguing in a wetsuit to try and maintain that high elbow recovery style which looks so classical in the pool; and C) can help to keep your stroke rate at a slightly higher level than normal to help power through the waves.
  7. Don't make the mistake of seeking out 'clear water'. So many times I hear people (even good swimmers) saying that they like to find some space once through the melĂ©e at the start of the event, but doing so effectively means you're swimming solo, or worse still with a gaggle of blood sucking Swingers on your toes! Drafting effectively can save you up to 38% of the energy expenditure when swimming by yourself and it's imperative that you maximise this advantage when you're out there. This is what we practice every Saturday in our 1pm session at Claremont Pool. We have some more tips on this and how it might affect your breathing patterns at http://www.feelforthewater.com/2011/01/when-not-to-breathe-bilaterally.html - no-one wants to get bashed around of course, but if done effectively, drafting well can either save you a lot of time or a lot of effort or both! You don't want to be the person who everyone else is drafting off - there are no 'hero' awards out there on the day - sit-in if you can, it's allowed!
  8. Follow the advice based on Dan Tarborsky's GPS data in 2010 to ensure you don't swim more distance than you have to out there: http://www.feelforthewater.com/2010/05/whats-easiest-way-to-take-ten-minutes.html and follow-up with these summary tips: http://www.feelforthewater.com/2010/05/swimming-faster-and-straighter-in-open.html
  9. Sometimes you just have to let that smooth stroke go!
  10. Most of all, enjoy yourself - you've put in the hard work, now get out there and have a great swim!

Hope this helps, feel free to share with your friends who might be racing as well!



Monday, November 28, 2011

Eat Your Way to Rottnest Seminar 29th November at 6.30pm

For your information: http://www.rottnestchannelswim.com.au/content/eating-your-way-rottnest-presentation-29th-nov-2011 - well worth attending (RSVP to jhaines@iinet.net.au) especially if this will be your first Rottnest Channel Swim.

Cheers and have a great week!


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rottnest Stuff

Dear Swimmers

Well the ballots are done - who got in for the 2012 Rottnest Channel Swim? I know there are quite a few people from the squad who tried for teams and duos who unfortunately missed out - big shame!

If you're racing (solo, duo or team) drop me over a quick email titled "My Rotto Swim" with your team / duo name or your solo race number so we can keep everyone posted in the lead up to this great event and on the day.

Also, I realise that many people might still be searching for boats, skippers and paddlers still or equally you might be able to offer your own support for someone else? If so, please check out our specially created thread on the Swim Smooth forum at:

...just register for an account (free - top right of the web page under 'register') and start posting.

Our first swimmer seeking a boat and skipper is Mary-Anne Paton (reachable on macp@iinet.net.au) - can anyone help her out? If so please email Mary-Anne direct or post a note on the forum.

Thanks everyone - enjoy the heat!


P.S a friendly reminder to remember your PAYG payment cards at the squad swim sessions - it's very hard to keep track between the various coaches if you forget to bring them with you. Thanks in advance!

Friday, November 11, 2011


Dear Swimmers

Hope you all enjoyed the session this morning with the new beepers. If you used one for the first time this morning and haven't already given me feedback on them verbally, please do so - I would love to hear how you found them!

I think the session worked well this morning - the goal being three-fold: 

  1. To allow the leader of each lane be able to manually adjust the new beepers themselves and in doing so maintain the flow of the session nicely. Ordinarily we won't be changing pace as much as this on a Friday session but it did allow us to be much more precise with our pacing and hope you all found this to be beneficial. I could literally now say to the guys in the fast lane (for example) that their goal per 100m is 1'17":44 and we'd be able to set the beeper at 19:36 and be able to achieve this. Pretty cool. These smaller increments will really help you develop your threshold speed - the key determinant to how well you perform in an endurance event!
  2. To allow you to experience that pace whereby all of a sudden it starts get very hard and you start to struggle to hold the times, i.e. tipping over that threshold point.
  3. To have a bit of fun with a completely new session - the geek in me loved it, don't know about you?!

Obviously it was VERY busy this morning - every man and his or her dog seemed to come out of the woodwork! It's surprising as knowing how tough that session would be, I thought it might have actually scared a few people off - far from it! I think several factors were at play here: 1) it sounded like an exciting session and I hope it lived up to expectations; 2) people have just got their entries in for Rotto and so are all fired up; 3) people are petrified of the sharks at the moment (me especially!). 

It's interesting to note that on a wider scale that the Rottnest Channel Swim was 15% over-subscribed this year, the 2012 Busselton Half Ironman filled entirely within 2hrs of entries opening and demand for a whole variety of new sporting events is at an all-time high! This is great for sport in W.A, but as I said to the pool manager this morning, we need another 50m pool at Claremont to cope!! ;-)

I am a little concerned that the session this morning was a little too popular and that we started to spill over the 8 + 3 buffer per lane that we normally try to adhere to - one of the 5.30am lanes had 12 people in it. I have three solutions to this:

  1. Depending on how things go over the next fortnight we will re-issue the Session Sign-Up Form. We normally allocate 8 people per lane in all the sessions, with an additional 3 "buffer" spaces per lane as well. If you are on the buffer list, you can attend. The way this system works is a little "give and take" - we have decided to maintain the flexibility of our Pay As You Go Card system (PAYG) to allow you maximum payment flexibility at the sessions - don't fancy swimming one day and your name is on the list? Not a problem, we won't penalise you for it! This often means that the squad operates with fewer people per lane than we anticipate. Again, this is great for you guys. However, at peak times (i.e. the next 2 weeks and December 2011 and January / February 2012), we do anticipate times when the sessions will be a little busier when everyone nominated may turn up for a session. I hope that you can understand and support this as it all balances out in the wash (as they say), leaving everyone happy, i.e. you the swimmers and us the coaches. Below I have detailed my top tips for good lane swimming etiquette at the busier sessions.
  2. I am just investigating the potential of operating a third 7.30am to 8.30am session on a Friday morning. We tried this two years ago and for the summer period it worked very well indeed. Do please email me if this would work for you (detailing which of the 5.30am or 6.30am sessions you are currently attending). I'll let you know how we progress on this - there's a few changes I will need to make to my other bookings to accommodate this change.
  3. I am looking at bringing in the cavalry with an additional coach on pool deck with me at these busier sessions to help keep things running smoothly!

OK, so to finish off then, here are my Top Tips for good lane swimming etiquette at our sessions - follow these and everyone will be happy chappies! Have a great weekend and I look forward to seeing you back at Claremont Pool from Monday, Paul.

  1. Unless otherwise advised, please use the clock and set-off exactly 5 seconds behind the person in front of you. You do not (and should not) try to catch them up immediately, as whilst this gives you a draft and makes it feel easier, you're not getting the best possible workout that you could and it also annoys the person in front. The coach will announce when drafting is actively encouraged, but especially on drill / technique sets, please keep your distance to allow everyone to perform at their best.
  2. Always keep to the left and swim in a clockwise direction (like you would on the road). Stay close to the lane rope and avoid swimming in the middle of the lane as this is when head-on collisions occur or whacking of arms. This is especially important in Lane 4 (fastest lane) as there is a good range of ability within this lane especially in the faster, harder sessions.
  3. If someone is catching you up and you are aware that they wish to get past you, either pull right over to the left (keep swimming), or better still, when you reach the end of the pool pull off to the left, stop, and let them past here.
  4. Be vigilant when you are pushing off in the middle of a set - is someone coming up to the wall to effectively lap you? If so, don't push off immediately in front of them as this is very frustrating. Let them through and then when it is clear jump into a spot behind them.
  5. Aim to start each and every lap with a good torpedo push off. If you don't know how, check it out here: http://www.feelforthewater.com/2010/03/sunk-without-good-torpedo.html - it will really pay dividends and make you look quite the "pro"!
  6. When using fins or pull buoys, chances are the speed order (pecking order if you like) of the lane often changes. If you know that you are particularly quick with fins on, don't be afraid to ask to go in front of the person in front of you.
  7. Aim to pace yourself well, this is ultimately what keeps the lane flowing really well and makes the most out of your own practice time. See how here: http://www.feelforthewater.com/2010/07/poor-pace-awareness-and-how-yours-may.html
  8. Aim to do your drill and technique work to the best of your ability. Don't feel pressured to rush through this aspect of the session. I will quite regularly slide to the back of the lane in the squad which I swim with when working on my technique, even if it means missing the odd lap. A drill worth doing is a drill worth doing well - please always remember that.
  9. Try to keep all your kit neatly organised on the pool deck - a mesh kit bag is highly advisable and prevents other swimmers mistakenly walking off or using your kit. Also, naming your kit in bold black marker is ALWAYS worth doing!
  10. Lastly, be nice to your fellow lane swimmers...it might be early in the morning and we might all be a little grumpy normally at this time, but there's never an excuse to get irritable with anyone in the lane. If there's a problem, let the coach know or just diplomatically address it with your swimming buddy. We're all here to have a good time and not feel pressured when we swim. Having said that, it was smiles all around this morning - well done!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A heads up for Friday!

Dear Swimmers

Hope you're having a fabulous week...whilst a little cooler I'm glad of the temporary respite from what looked like an early summer last week!

Notice for 9.30am swimmers: Sandy Burt will be covering the 9.30am sessions for me this Friday and next Wednesday and Friday whilst I take a small break to finish one of our exciting new Swim Smooth projects due on the 20th November. It'll be well worth it (guaranteed!) and I can't wait to share with you what that project actually is!! Exciting times.

This Friday:

Just a quick "heads up" about Friday's 5.30am and 6.30am "Fresh 'n' Fruity" sessions. Normally I'd keep it a surprise, but I need to let you know about this one because: a) it requires you to get a mental picture of how it all works prior to the session, b) we have some new technology to help us, which I'm going to show you how to self-adjust, c) it's quite an exciting concept and I just wanted to let you know about it!

This week, we'll be using the new beepers to maximum effect with a progressive set of 100m intervals which we're going to affectionately name "how low can you go?" 

The idea is that you do between 14 and 20 x 100m with ~20s rest between each one depending upon your lane, i.e. lane 1 = 14/15 x 100m, lane 2 = 16 x 100m, lane 3 = 18 x 100m and lane 4 = 20 x 100m. Nothing new there then. As opposed to being restricted to increments of 4" per 100m though, we'll actually just get 1" per 100m faster each interval.

We will start off at a very steady pace  (~10-15" per 100m slower than you'd normally do on a Friday) and as such the actual warm-up will be a little shorter than normal as the set in itself has a very gradual increase in pace. Be warned - this will feel very easy to start with!

Last week if you recall we did a similar small increment but in blocks of 3 or 4 x 100m at a time - this week will literally be 100m, rest, then 100m 1" faster, rest, then 100m 1" faster etc etc until you can't go any further! Sounds nice?! Well, today's 9.30am group actually really loved the challenge! I think you will too!

Starting times:


  • Lane 4: 20 x 100m starting at 1'31" and finishing at 1'12"
  • Lane 3: 18 x 100m starting at 1'38" and finishing at 1'22"
  • Lane 2: 16 x 100m starting at 1'50" and finishing at 1'35"
  • Lane 1: 15 x 100m starting at 2'02" and finishing at 1'48"


  • Lane 4: 20 x 100m starting at 1'36" and finishing at 1'17"
  • Lane 3: 18 x 100m starting at 1'44" and finishing at 1'28"
  • Lane 2: 16 x 100m starting at 1'54" and finishing at 1'39"
  • Lane 1: 14 x 100m starting at 2'05" and finishing at 1'52"

What if you can't make it to the end?

Firstly, whoever is leading has two strikes before they're "out", i.e. miss two consecutive intervals and we swap you with someone else in the lane. We do this until such time that no-one in your lane is able to lead and hit the times. This didn't happen this morning - it was tough but doable. That is what I am hoping for with you guys. If we can't make it, we then go back up the ramp by 4" per 100m and then re-start from this point down again until such time as all your 100s have been done.

The beepers & rest:

The leader of each lane is responsible for the beeper. Immediately after completing each interval, you will take the beeper from underneath your cap (please have one!) and use the LEFT arrow key on the beeper to reduce the interval by 0:25, i.e. 20:00 to 19:75, which equates to 1'20" down to 1'19" in this example. Each tap of the key is a decrease by 0:01 - hold the key down and it goes a little faster. You'll then put the beeper under the cap again and press the top button to reset the beeper at this new pace - you'll hear a single "BEEP" and that is your cue to set off - the beeper will now beep every time you should be at each 25m marker as normal. In practice this process takes about 10-15" and this forms your recovery period.

Those following the leader MUST maintain their gap of 5 seconds and NOT race to catch up and draft, otherwise you'll: a) be swimming faster than you need to; and b) be doing it too easy in the draft of the lead swimmer. Please be conscientious about this!

How hard will this set feel and why are we doing it?

The first 50% of this set will feel unusually easy for a Friday (phew!), the second half will gradually feel much faster than we're normally able to swim. All up, it'll be a great challenge and will demonstrate the benefit of being able to now be a little more precise with our pacings in the squad sessions. Ultimately, in future sets this will allow us to make more significant gains because the gap to the next "step up" can be as little as 0.04" per 100m as opposed to 4" per 100m. You'll probably appreciate that this has got me all geeked out and excited...you should be too - together we should be able to really develop our swim specific fitness this summer!!

The set is also designed to allow the leader of the lane get a little practice using the new beeper which will again speed up the flow of future sessions.

Great, can't wait for Friday!