Friday, August 31, 2012

Only nine 1-2-1 Video Analysis Sessions left before Christmas!

Dear Swimmers

Hope you have all enjoyed a great week - I've certainly loved being back on the pool deck and cracking the whip again! ;-) It's always so refreshing for me to go away and do some coaching at other venues around the world and then to come back in fresh with new ideas and prepped for the season ahead - I am very lucky to have your support and encouragement in these pursuits! Thank you.

1-2-1 Video Analysis & Stroke Correction Sessions:

I have had many enquiries this week about our very popular 1-2-1 Video Analysis and Stroke Correction sessions (see: for those contemplating a Rottnest Channel swim or for gift ideas for friends and family members this season. I just wanted to inform you that we currently have a 13 week waiting period before the next available session and only nine remaining sessions before the Christmas break. This is an unprecedented level of interest which I have to admit I'm struggling to keep up with the demand for!

If you would like to reserve a place in one of the nine available December sessions (we have ~10-12 slots available per week typically for these sessions), please do so by completing the form at the link above.

Whilst we do occasionally get cancellations for these sessions, it is very unlikely that for those of you training for either the Anaconda or Busselton Ironman events that we'd be able to slot you in before these events - sorry! I just wish there were more hours in the day and space at the pool!

Squad enquiries:

Further to this, we have had an incredible 74 independent enquiries now for new swimmers and triathletes seeking to join one or more of the various 12 x weekly main squad sessions at Claremont Pool, which is enough interest to start two entirely new squads! What's more, this has all been within just the last month whilst I've been away in the UK - just incredible. Whilst this is obviously great to see the increasing level of interest within the squad and swimming as a whole, we are already pretty much at capacity with respect to what we can take onboard this season at Claremont Pool. 

I'm a bit miffed as to where the sudden interest has built from, but I have to say my first guess is due to the recent marine life movements out there in the ocean and am a little concerned at this stage about how this will affect people's preparations for things like the Rottnest Channel Swim this year...I know personally I'm not keen at all in swimming in the ocean right now!

In the next fortnight I will be sending out an expression of interest form for which sessions you plan to attend over the summer period, with priority (as always) given to those members of the squad who have trained consistently and diligently with us year-round. 

As I've mentioned previously, the PAYG card system works very well for you the swimmer as it gives you greater flexibility and that you're not paying for sessions that you don't attend...however, it is imperative (and somewhat tricky!) to ensure that we keep the squads running as smoothly as possible, and as such I'm always looking at better ways in which we can run things. 

As it stands at this point in time, we cannot get anymore lane space at Claremont Pool, thus I am now looking at the feasibility of approaching other local (and not so local) pools to potentially establish "mirror" squads at alternative venues with the assistance of the fantastic coaches who looked after you all very well indeed in my absence last month. I'll keep you posted on this, but by all means if you have any ideas or suggestions, then please do let me know! 

I'm very keen to not spread myself too thin (as personally I am very happy with my current workload) and will always seek to support the squad members (you!) who have supported me over the years with your attendance and have helped us grow to this level. What I see this seemingly sudden rise in interest as generating though are positions for other passionate coaches like myself to continue to grow the sport of adult swimming here in Western Australia, and that can only be a good thing! Through our work in the last 2 years with British Triathlon and re-writing their entire swim coaching curriculum for Levels 1, 2 and 3, I have a huge passion for Coach Education and nothing would make me happier than if we can bring a little slice of that over here to Perth where Swim Smooth all started.

Of course, my ultimate dream is to have my own 10 lane 50m pool right on Cottesloe Beach complete with palm trees and landscaped gardens, but I think I'm at least four lifetimes and probably about $10m (or one Powerball!) away from that one...alas, I can but dream! ;-)

Thanks for your attention, have a great weekend and hope to see some of you at the pool this afternoon for our super-fun 1pm Saturday session!



Friday, August 24, 2012

Wayne's World

"It's been a ride, I guess I had to go to that place to get to this one. Now some of you might still be in that place - if you're trying to get out, just follow me, I'll get you there"

Eminem, from the album "Recovery" Not Afraid

Dear Swimmers

It is with much admiration and huge relief that I write to inform you that at 2:02pm (BST) on Tuesday 21st August 2012, Wayne Morris from the Swim Smooth Perth squad successfully swam across the English Channel from Samphire Hoe in Dover, UK to just west of Cap Gris Nez, France in 11 hours and 34 minutes - a sensational time, and in doing so completed the Channel on his third attempt - a testament to what can be achieved when you never, ever give in!

As Lisa Delaurentis (the fastest member of Team Channel Dare 2011/12) tweeted upon Wayne (The Train) Morris's arrival in France:

"This train has now terminated"

...and so bringing an end to seven of the squad's shared goal of swimming the 34km stretch of water between England and France which historically only has a 10% success rating...not bad for seven swimmers from the same group in little old Perth!

From a personal perspective, Wayne's accomplishment was without doubt my own most treasured coaching experience to date and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to have worked with Wayne on this goal through the highs and lows of the last 3 years, with the last 12 months following his disappointment of not making it across on his first two attempts being particularly challenging. This achievement though is all the more sweet now and I'd now like to share with you the full story of what such a great guy and brilliant swimmer had to endure in order to get to this place. Of course not all of you will read this lengthy report, but if you've ever aspired to such a feat as this, then hopefully there'll be something of interest in here for you.

When seven of us set out in late 2009 to book pilots for the English Channel for an assault in 2011, we all understood that statistically not all of us would make it. However, knowing this and accepting this as reality are two entirely different things. None of us wanted to discuss this very much - we felt it better to deal with it, if and when it happened. When we saw Geoff Wilson (super strong and a sub-12 hour Rottnest Channel Double swimmer) take 15 hours and 15 minutes to get across what the 'average' swimmer supposedly gets across in 13 hours, we knew that it wouldn't be an easy task. To then see multiple 3rd-place Rottnest Channel Solo super-fish Ceinwen Williams take just a smidgen under 13 hours to get across, the reality that one or more of us might not make it, really started to seep in. Wayne was next up and faced terrible conditions which saw his pilot (not Wayne) abandon the first attempt after 8.5 hours - but suggested Wayne could have another crack 4 days later. If you've ever done a Rottnest Solo in shocking conditions (i.e. 2003 and 2006) and then had the prospect of doing a double crossing 4 days later as well, you'll realise that the practicality for your shoulders just isn't there; but to his credit, Wayne did attempt his second swim but 'only' made it another 8 hours in before both shoulders packed in. This was a crushing blow to someone who had worked at least as hard as the rest of us but got dealt a very tough set of 'cards' - tough, but entirely possible with the bitter mistress that is the English Channel.

And so the despair set in - the same despair that each and every one of us would have felt to have been in Wayne's shoes and to watch the other six team members successfully reach France. The reality is that it could have happened to any one (or more) of us. Had it been me, I would have no qualms in saying that I doubt whether I'd have been able to pick myself up like Wayne did. There was the prospect of the third attempt last September (which made physical sense in terms of preparation) but psychologically myself and Wayne spent a couple of hours on the phone talking about what another 'defeat' could mean for him so soon. It just wasn't an option.

Wayne returned to Perth and immediately immersed himself back in the for exactly what and when, only Wayne really knew at this point; but I know many of us felt like we were treading on eggshells at that point - no one really knowing what to say or how to help Wayne cope. It was a tough time and again I openly admit that the only way I knew of helping Wayne cope with it was to simply keep his interest in swimming there - my fear being that this may dwindle. How wrong I was. Wayne carried his fitness through to an excellent showing at the Rottnest Channel Swim in 2012 (as a Duo) and from there began talking about the prospect of another English Channel attempt in August 2012.

And so together and with the help and support of the rest of the Channel Dare team (Paul D, Andrew, Ceinwen, Shelley T-S, Geoff and Lisa), Wayne's family (Goldie, Taylor and Harriet) and Wayne's brilliant physiotherapist (Prue Newnham) we began to re-create a program to get him so fit and strong that the only thing that could possibly stop him would be poor conditions. 

Between March and August 2012 we battled freezing temperatures and shocking conditions in the Swan River every Saturday and Sunday morning with Wayne doing top-up swims at Mettams Pool. Interestingly enough, no swim was over 4 hours during this period in order to ensure the health of Wayne's shoulders and the consistency of his training. In the pool we focused on becoming super economical at between 1:32 and 1:38 per 100m pace (15'20" to 16'20" per km) and then being able to back this up consistently in the open water. Pacing was absolutely essential, and if you know Wayne, you'll know that (like me) this is not his natural forté! We did several video analysis and stroke correction sessions to work on Wayne's form with the specific goal of making his shoulders more injury robust, which he further complimented with two dedicated pilates / physio sessions with Prue per week as well. Let's just say that the whole thing was a veritable mission, with Wayne even opting to go t-total for 4 months too! Wayne is a fantastic father and husband and owns his own very successful security firm as well, and so to fit all of this in around everything was a mammoth task and something which I think we can all thank Goldie (his wife) for!!

So, onto the swim. As luck would have it, I was always planning on being over in the UK during August (for the Olympics and to run some of our Swim Smooth Coach Education courses) and had suggested to Wayne that I would be available to support him on his boat. Paul Downie was also keen to assist, and if you know Paul you'll know that there isn't a warmer, more funny person you could ever wish to have on your boat helping to take the edge off proceedings - a key point with the magnitude of what was to be attempted in Wayne's case.

Wayne's first call came for a swim start at 1.30am on Monday 20th August which was just a few hours after I'd personally finished my final course up in Loughborough some 4 hours away. It was also the day after my grandfather passed away after a very short battle with lung cancer. The timing was good in the respect that I had at least finished any coaching duties, but bad with the family bereavement that would ensue. As it happened this first attempt was called off and reset for the following day, allowing me to quickly go home and see the family. I then made the 450km drive down south to support Wayne the following evening on no sleep with literally 45 minutes to spare...that was one frantic drive, let me tell you!

We met Ray Cooper and the crew of the Sea Venture II down on the docks at Dover Harbour at 1.15am on Tuesday 21st August. Our initial concern was whether or not the fog would set in (as this had curtailed the previous day's attempt) - luckily it didn't and we were soon whisking our way around to Samphire Hoe in relatively choppy conditions it has to be said! During this time we set about greasing Wayne up with a good lathering of wool fat and suncream:

A rather manic look in my eyes prior to greasing Wayne up - oo, er missus!

Wool fat around the kidneys helps to insulate against the 16 degree water

A little pre-swim massage goes a long way to helping sooth the nerves

You have to be close friends to get this close to The Train!

We were ready to rock and roll at just after 2.20am as Wayne plunged into the icy waters which would remain perfectly dark for another 3 hours!

Ready to rock and roll!

The apprehensive face of a man about to meet his destiny!

Holding his nerve in the pitch dark conditions - not easy - the mind wanders and then some!

Keeping Wayne's World posted on progress via Twitter until the signal ran out 5 hours in!

The first feed stop after 30 minutes...this was done with military precision following Wayne's menu, carefully aided with Andrew Hunt's advice and experience.

The water droplets on the lens aren't rain, but super thick fog that brought visibility down to just 100m!

Paul Downie in high spirits as usual - a brilliant person to have on your team!

Wayne immediately settled in to a pre-determined rhythm of 62 strokes per minute and didn't stray from this the whole way across to France. Every 15 minutes we would hold up an Aussie flag to indicate that he was half way to his next fuel stop (every 30 minutes), and also hold up encouraging signs and messages from friends and family to spur him on. Aside from this though it was all very much an exercise in consistency, never straying away from the game plan and slowly but methodically making our way across to France under the expert guidance of pilot Ray Cooper who was just sensational:

Pilot Ray Cooper in full control at all times - if you're contemplating a swim, Ray is your man but will retire in 2013!

When swimming for the best part of half a day, one can often drift off, but if you could have seen the grit and determination in Wayne's eyes and that steely focus, you'd have realised too that there was only one place Wayne was going that day - to the rocky shores of Cap Gris Nez! I have never seen (and doubt I ever will) so much belief in oneself as I saw in Wayne's eyes that day - it was super inspiring but almost chilling at the same time:

One-way ticket to France please...this at 9 hours in!

Holding excellent form and consistency in rhythm is what this challenge is all about

Never, ever, ever give in!

That's a big unit...the ship is pretty huge too!

Body surfing one of the waves created by the huge tankers

An absolute highlight of the trip across to France was about half way into the swim. Wayne's Mum had given him a small green dolphin to use as a good luck symbol for the swim and said he must have it with him on the boat. Unbeknownst to myself and Paul he had handed it to Ray (the pilot) before setting off but then we remembered that it might be a nice opportunity to also show Wayne this as a reminder that his Mum was with him every stroke of the way. Of course we couldn't find it, but as soon as we started looking and with a freaky sense of timing, four massive dolphins surfaced to the right side of the boat, turned and swam over to us and then proceeded to spend about five minutes swimming directly underneath Wayne chattering in funny Flipper-speak as they went! It was the most amazing thing I have ever witnessed and you can only guess what sort of a boost this gave Wayne once he realised they weren't sharks!

Brilliant timing - a pod of dolphins join us!

You're never quite sure if a swimmer is going to make it across to France given how the conditions and tide can all change so quickly, but with about 6 or 7km to go and given that the tide was about to turn in our favour, we all started to get our hopes up on deck, however, we didn't tell this to Wayne until he had about 800m to go! This then became a full-on sprint into the beach which myself and Paul couldn't even catch him on as we dived over the side to join our mate over in France!

Wayne starts to lift the pace in his customary style - Man Machine!

The end is nigh!

Cap Gris Nez in beautiful sunlight and warm(ish) water - it felt like the Mediterranean! 

Paul N (yellow) and Paul D (blue) jump in to try and catch Wayne but fail miserably!

Wayne The Train in France!

Preparing to swim back to the boat - you can see the relief and happiness for Wayne clearly on my face!

Getting back onboard is the hardest part of the day!

Greeted by Bob (First Mate, right) and Pete (Observer, left)

Fresh as a daisy - it was remarkable how fresh Wayne was after the swim - testament to all his hard work in training!

After boarding the boat and setting off back to Dover we learned that we were the only boat to attempt a crossing that day given that the tide was particularly big, thus making Wayne's time all the more impressive. Furthermore, we also learned that the fog that surrounded us for about four hours of the swim giving a very ethereal atmosphere became enough to physically close that part of the shipping lane that we'd just passed through as visibility dropped to zero meters. Very lucky timing - any later and we'd have had to abandon the attempt. And if that wasn't enough, 5 miles from Dover the boat's gearbox blew up leaving us a floating, sitting target for the huge tankers that were cruising by - we had to be rescued by the RNLI Coast Guard! Imagine if that had happened during the swim!

RNLI to the rescue! It took them 8 minutes to reach us but over an hour to drag us back!

All these men are volunteers - an amazing institution!

I think it's safe to say that as much as 2011 just wasn't Wayne's year and that things completely out of his control curtailed his two attempts, that in 2012 the gods were clearly looking after him and that he was just meant to get across! I am so pleased and relieved that he did. 

Of course just to be in the position both physically and financially to even attempt an English Channel crossing one must consider themselves to be 'fortunate' - but to see and witness first-hand what Wayne has endured with this monkey on his back for the past 12 months and to see how well he achieved his goal with unfaltering focus during the day was just so inspirational. I feel personally very lucky to have shared this journey with Wayne (as I know many of you in the squad will also feel) and I can't help but feel that his achievement and how he did it will fuel my own coaching and swimming passion for many, many years to come. 

Thanks Wayne, you're a champ!


P.S see you all back on pool deck from Monday next week!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Some inspirational words from Adam

Dear Swimmers

Hope all is going well over there in Perth. Just two weeks before I'm back on pool deck - cant wait! In the meantime, here are some inspirational words from Adam - enjoy!



Thursday, August 9, 2012

My reflections on London 2012

Dear Swimmers

It is with much excitement and sense of awe that I write to you from over here in London where I've been fortunate enough to have been throughout the entire Olympic Games. I am struggling to explain exactly how this experience feels for me and what I am witnessing it doing for all sport and even the British nation as a whole...but I will try!

We kicked off our tour by shooting straight down to the wonderful Cardiff International Pool in south Wales where it was a balmy 31ºC to deliver our first 3-day Coach Education course and met 12 fantastic coaches and then 12 developing swimmers on the final day, all of whom made some significant improvement in their coaching and swimming skills respectively:

The coaches get involved directly with the swimmers on day 3 in a 1-2-1 environment

The swimmers are introduced to the concept of using Wetronomes and Tempo Trainers to assist with developing stroke rhythm

Paul and Adam with the coaches at the end of the 3-day course

Given the fact that Great Britain has spent millions of pounds over the last 14 years on British sport, the country was initially affronted by the prospect of potentially failing to deliver when Mark Cavendish only finished 29th in the cycle road race on Day 1. Despite Bradley Wiggins taking the Maillot Jaune at Le Tour de France just 6 days earlier, this left the country initially a little deflated, but such is the random nature of cycle road racing, especially without the use of race radios to help riders be aware of their positioning and what is happening up the road ahead.

We then made our way over to London after a quick trip to see my parents in North Wales and had 2 days free to be able to take Jackson and Isla to the Natural History Museum (a personal favourite of mine as I've always loved dinosaurs, and so too now does Jackson) and also Legoland in Windsor which was a lot of fun:

JJ and Paul being chased by an animatronic T-Rex - scary!

Jackson powering along in a F1 lego car in Windsor

Iconic images in London

Our first disappointment of our trip came last Thursday when we thought we had secured tickets for the swimming finals. Sadly these turned out to be fake and we had to report the whole saga to the police. Ticket fraud is big business over here at the moment and these tickets were worth nearly $1,200 too! VISA are doing everything they can to protect their card users though so hopefully we'll see some resolution here.

If Thursday was a low-level, Saturday turned out to be the highest high I've ever experienced in sport. Being present in the Olympic stadium for the athletics at what is now being dubbed "Super Saturday" was just incredible! We have Gary and Caroline Claydon from Perth to thank for our tickets here as we were able to witness Jessica Ennis (heptathlon), Greg Rutherford (long jump) and Mo Farrah (10km) all claim gold within the space of about 45 minutes. I cannot begin to describe the atmosphere and elation that came from seeing Mo take that gold medal in the 10km - the stadium just erupted!

Proudly wearing GB!

We were sat behind the Olympic flame which was lovely and warming as the temperature dropped

A jam-packed stadium of 80,000!

The women's 100m semi finals

The heptathletes celebrating behind the Olympic flame

With Gary and Caroline "representing" Canada, UK, Hong Kong and Australia - United Nations!

The start of the men's 10km

Mo Farrah - a stunning performance!

Paul and Mish in front of the 115m high "Orbit"

On Monday night we then led a 50-strong field of swimmers through an open water swimming clinic at the fabulous Bray Lake including Perth swimmers Tim Humphry and Richard Kelso-Marsh alongside British triathlon team athlete Harry Wiltshire and a guest appearance from Charlie Houchin, 2012 Olympic gold medallist in the 4 x 200 f/s relay and room-mate to Michael Phelps!

The calm before the storm...

When it rained, it poured!

1 week prior coach Kevin had been on our course in Cardiff, now he's alongside an Olympic Gold medallist!

Harry, Charlie and Matt prior to the timed 1500m swim

That's one heavy medal!

After the open water clinic we were straight down to Hyde Park for the men's triathlon. Erin Densham did well to claim the bronze medal in the women's race on the Saturday, but sadly the UK didn't pick up a medal despite Helen Jenkins being a strong favourite:

Mish and Isla in Hyde Park

Could the British Brownlee Brothers deliver was everyone's question? Yes they did:

It's very easy to forget just how much hard work and dedication goes into even qualifying for the Olympic Games, let alone standing on the dais and listening to the sound of your national anthem being played aloud to literally billions of people worldwide after winning your event - what an incredibly proud and satisfying feeling that must be! I was very fortunate enough to be part of the British World Class Performance Program for triathlon back in 1997 to 2001 in the hope of then building up for the Athens Olympics in 2004. Sadly, severe injury in 2001 put an end to these dreams but what really puts the dedication of those who will compete for Great Britain in London this summer into perspective is that 11 years later, some of my peers are only just qualifying for their first Olympics! In this time I've personally emigrated to Australia, set-up a coaching business, built a website, got married, had two children and swum the English Channel! I've also lost my whippet-like physique of 11 years previous and yet all the while, those who will now be proudly adorning their country's colours in front of the whole world have been steadily progressing and improving with unwavering focus and determination through thousands and thousands of hours of blood, sweat and tears. Amazing, simply amazing. "Devotion" does not even begin to explain it.

That all being said, to see Britain claiming gold and bronze in the men's triathlon was just amazing. Having trained with and then seen Simon Lessing (5 time world champion) sadly only take 9th place in 2000 to seeing Alistair Brownlee take the gold in Hyde Park is the culmination and legacy that British Triathlon has put in place over the last 12-14 years. Britain hasn't just suddenly got good - it's literally taken over a decade of building the world's best sport development infrastructure infused by massive amounts of money and grants through the National Lottery system to reach this point. And it's only going to get better. For a country in severe economic crisis, I cannot begin to explain what these results are doing to lift the mood of the population. Being here and witnessing it first hand is truly remarkable. I know I will be taunted back in Perth for being pro-British, but this is my heritage and background and I am truly very proud to have been present at the start of this whole process and to see it now finally flourishing. 

What many people won't understand is that it's not just the money injection that has helped British sport but what has been done to proactively make best use of this funding, especially when in the early days and with the lack of medals it appeared to the world that Britain was squandering this support. The reality is that it takes this long for a country to develop the infrastructure necessary for these results to come, just like it takes an athlete 10-15 years to truly start to reach their peak. There are no short-cuts and quick fixes and it will be easy for skeptics to say that "if we had all that money, we could do the same" especially with the reports that each gold medal has effectively cost Britain £2.5m to £5.0m, but this would be scuffing over the fact that it's so, so much more than this. The National Lottery was set-up in Britain in 1994 and the then British Prime Minister (John Major) sought to use this money to benefit the sports and arts - this was 18 years ago now! Britain (now in 3rd place overall on the medal tally behind China and the USA) took it's lead from Australia as the world's leading sporting nation and I only hope that Australia and the rest of the world will in turn look now towards what the UK has done to turn Australia around and back into the sporting super-power that it was and should be. 

Seeing first-hand just how deep the sporting development has gone over here in the UK from grass roots up is incredible. That just doesn't happen over night. On a radio interview with a British Hockey representative yesterday they spoke of how hockey clubs the nation over were all ready and prepped to absorb the influx of interest following the Olympic Games - not next week or next month or next season, but now when it matters most. Every other sport is exactly the same as this. Britain has clearly and effectively identified a performance pathway that works and it now looks set to really benefit from this heading towards Rio in 2016. Will other countries sit up and take note and will they be willing and able to put in the same infrastructure that Britain has? We have 4 years to wait and see...

...OK, gotta go, Keri-anne Payne is now leading the women's 10km marathon swim in the Serpentine...