Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2011 In Review

Please note - if you'd prefer not to read this year review of the Swim Smooth Perth Squad and just want to know about Christmas and New Year training times and session suggestions, please visit:

Dear Swimmers

I'm sure you're all gearing up for a great Christmas - I know I am very much looking forward to a bit of R&R down on the beaches of Esperance! And what a year it's been hey?! 

We ended 2011 moving back to the newly refurbished Claremont Pool which saw a marvellous improvement to the centre. Whenever we show photos of the pool to our Swim Smooth Clinic attendees back in the UK they all turn green with envy! Really, we're very lucky to have such a brilliant facility right on our doorstep with some fantastic staff assisting us with the program. I feel very privileged to be doing what I love in a venue with such great ambience.

Soon after we were back at Claremont it was a case of putting our heads down and getting into the 2011 Rottnest Channel Swim program which saw us getting nearly 40 solo swimmers across the line in February and countless duo and team swimmers too. Sadly, it seems that whilst we'll have a massive contingent again from the solo brigade for 2012, many of the duo and team swimmers have missed out in the ballot this year which is a huge shame.

After the Rottnest Channel Swim, the focus immediately shifted to the Busselton Half Ironman event in May where we saw some very strong performances from members of the Swim Smooth Perth squad, not least the brilliant swim performance of our very own 'Mr Smooth' (Guy Crawford) posting the fastest swim split of the day. It's such a great event and the fact that the 2012 race filled completely within 2 hours shows just how popular it's becoming here in WA. It seems that there's no limit to the number of people wishing to complete these hugely rewarding endurance events.

In May, myself and Adam were back in the UK running our fourth round of our 3-day Swim Smooth Coaches Education courses which, to date, has now seen a total of 48 budding coaches from the US, Canada, mainland Europe and the UK sit the course which aims to help coaches improve their own video analysis and stroke correction skills. It's been a roaring success and something which helped us secure the contract to consult and rewrite the entire swim coaching program for the British Triathlon Federation (BTF). Each year, 350 new coaches become accredited BTF coaches, all of whom will now be educated in the same methods that you all receive on a daily basis here in Perth - pretty cool hey?! We went on to select 8 of these coaches to then fly out to Perth at the end of September for 2 weeks of intensive training with the squad. These eight excellent coaches will be our first officially accredited Swim Smooth Coaches in the UK and will be announced at the start of March 2012. It's been a mammoth amount of work (and continues to be as we help mentor them in our techniques and for them to grow their own respective businesses) but something that has been personally very exciting and rewarding at the same time.

Through June, July and August there were some pretty 'wooly' weather days in Perth, but that didn't stop the dedication of the 'Channel Dare' team braving water temperatures as low as 13ÂșC for up to 6 hours at a time and often in the pitch black. Yes, seven of us in the squad were insane enough to consider tackling the English Channel this year and these conditions proved to make excellent preparation for us. People still ask me, 'did you ever get bored training for such a long event?' and the answer is always a categorical 'no' - the uniqueness of gaining (significant) weight for a sporting event, swimming in freezing temperatures in the middle of the night and for progressively longer distances whilst totally lathered up in wool fat is never boring! My actual swim on the 9th September 2011 will always be my greatest ever sporting and personal achievement I'm sure, but it was the camaraderie and support of not just the other six swimmers in the team but also all of your support and interest in the squad that really made this a very special time for me. I'm actually really missing it right now it has to be said! 

I have just found out too that the Channel Swim Association have actually recognised the fact that my swim on the 9th September was completed in the worst conditions this entire year in the fastest time too! I'm very happy to know this! ;-) Also, only 38 soloists made it across to France this year - six of whom were from the Swim Smooth Perth squad. Nice.

I am hoping that if nothing else that the efforts of the 'Channel Dare' team this year and the $70,000+ that we raised for Breast Cancer Care will have inspired some more of you to tackle your own 'English Channels' in the future. It's absolutely brilliant coaching the Wednesday 5.30am squad at the moment as I can see this same buzz growing around the group of Rottnest Solo 'Virgins' in this session. It's amazing what you can achieve with a shared goal amongst friends...all you've got to do is keep ticking along and focusing on the process of the 'here and now' and not on the seemingly scary nature of the 'outcome'. One stroke at a time, then one lap at a time, one kilometre, one session, one week, one month etc etc - never looking too far forward, always concentrating on the 'now'. If you believe in yourself now (and you should) you will get across to Rottnest. The hardest part is motivating yourself for the seemingly relentless training. Turn your brain off, do your first 30 strokes without thinking about it, and before you know it you're halfway through the session. Easy - sort of! I read the world-renowned Channel swimmer and Aussie icon Des Renford's book just before I swam the English Channel and he referenced a quote in there which always helped him and arguably played a massive factor in getting me across to France - 'the darkest hour still only has 60 minutes'. Remember that the next time you're having an off session.

After the Channel Swim it was quickly back to Perth for the birth of my second child and first daughter, baby Isla Rose. And what a cutie she is! Having two children definitely changes things for sure (as those of you with multiple kids warned me it would!) but I'm very proud to be a daddy for the second time. 2012 is Michelle's year to shine as she takes on the Rottnest Swim as a duo with her friend Karlee - I'll be sidelined for this one but cheering them on madly with Jackson and Isla in tow!

And if all this wasn't enough for a year, we've also managed to find time to write our very first book too! I'm not obliged to release too many details at this point but suffice to say we were approached by the world's largest and most established book publishing company of academia to write a book on swimming technique using our methods. They contacted us in April this year and complete with a full advance we set to work feverishly bringing together everything that we have been working on since 2004 when I first launched Swim Smooth. This has been a hugely rewarding process for me and I'm so happy with the final draft that we submitted. There were countless nights in the last few months where myself and Adam would work straight through the night to then have to be down on the pool deck each morning for a 5.30am start. Very tiring of course but with the light at the end of the tunnel being our first published piece of work due in May 2012, all being well. Adam called it a 'period of pain' that we just had to press through, but sure enough we got there one step at a time. I just can't wait to share this with you all once it's published.

Of course there was then the Busselton Ironman in December in which last year's winner, Kate Bevilaqua, swam 4.5 minutes quicker than 2010 when most people swam 2-3 minutes slower given the tough conditions. You may have heard me talk about how we have helped Kate with her stroke over the last 18 months and much of this has been by going against some of the 'conventions' which many believe form an efficient freestyle stroke. Kate now excels with a shorter, faster stroke with a forward looking head position and a straighter arm recovery. These recommendations are based on her natural physique and excellent natural body position in the water which used to mean that swimming in a wetsuit was quite arduous as her legs would pop up too high out of the water. Hard to believe, I know, especially for those of you with sinky leg syndrome! Is this the right advice for you too? Maybe not, but without going against the 'grain' with Kate she might forever be playing catch-up with the lead females. I'm very proud to now see a swimmer with excellent potential for further improvements. From this work with Kate, and with Kate and Guy Crawford's assistance, we have now set up an elite group of ten of WA's best professional and semi-pro Ironman athletes with whom we will work closely with over the next 12 months to see if we can also help them reach ever higher with their goals.

So all up it's been a pretty busy but very exciting year, none of which would have been possible without your help and support by attending the squad sessions on a regular basis. I am so lucky to be doing what I'm doing and to know that you are enjoying this is a great reward in itself. I have mates back in the UK who are earning the big bucks in the 'City' who frequently email me saying that they're bored / fat / stressed / burnt-out (or all of the above) and always at this point I have to pinch myself in my 'office' on the pool deck on a lovely spring morning with the scent of eucalyptus in the air and the sound of a kookaburra singing his song from the tree...ok, so not every morning is like that and the 4.20am wake-ups are tough, but I just can't wait to have 10 days off now with my family down in beautiful Esperance and to come back totally refreshed and brimming with new ideas for taking your swimming to the next level in 2012!

Maybe over the Christmas break you might even like to consider your own next goal...would love to hear about it when I'm back.

Have a great Christmas everyone and a massively prosperous 2012! Thanks again for all your support, we really appreciate it.

Paul, Michelle, Jackson and Isla Rose.

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