Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Rottnest Channel Swim Results!

Dear Swimmers

Please note we still have 1 x size 8, 4 x size 10, 1 x size 16 women's shirts and 1 x size L and 4 x size XL men's Rotto Squad shirts as proudly displayed by Anka below - cost is $20 and will be available at Tuesday and Wednesday squads - they're ├╝ber-cool!

Congratulations to all of you who competed in the 2015 Rottnest Channel Swim this last Saturday, 21st February 2015 - and boy, oh-boy what a day it was!

Just getting across to the island this year was what it was all about with terrible weather conditions making the old salts of this event reminisce years such as 2003 and 2006 when the weather gods also played havoc!

I'm sure you've already seen it, but this image probably encapsulates the entire day in one fell swoop! Courtesy of Fremantle Sea Rescue:

…and if that doesn't do it for you, this awesome shot from squadette Janine Kaye will:

It was my 4th Solo event and I can say without doubt it was the hardest! Maybe I was tempting fate by wearing this shirt on Friday!


I have done my best to sort through the Team / Duo results from the squad, so here they are - hope I haven't missed anyone!

  • Renee Baker went 5:45 with her crew (including Olympic Champion, Michael Klim!) "Karma Resorts"
  • Mark Wallis went 6:12 with his crew "Dave Bishop Allstars"
  • Bill Carmody went 6:47 with his crew "BRRL"
  • Sally Hollis and Chris Murphy went 7:03 with their crew "Team Stagg"
  • Natalie Britz went 7:14 with her crew "4 Pool Noodles"
  • Mark Bosisto and Kim Colero went 7:14 with their crew "Last Gaspers"
  • Luke Cameron went 7:18 with his crew "Bottom Feeders"
  • Francene Leaversuch went 7:21 with her crew "In the Family"
  • Nick Muir and Sean Webb went 7:23 with their crew "Team Salin Plus"
  • Peter Mannolini and Ed Negus went 7:29 with their crew "Phil and the Swimmers"
  • Paul McDade went 7:50 with his crew "Cafe Cooby Crew"
  • Anita Cottee and Ariarn Huston went 8:01 with their crew "Pixleys Posse"
  • Alberto Lacchini went 8:07 with his crew "Bay View Saint's Masters President's Selection"
  • Shelley Ulbrick went 8:10 with her crew "Ginger Ninjas"
  • Roberta Lori went 8:14 with her crew "Sharkpods"
  • Fiona Webster went 8:34 with her crew "Ducks"
  • Brad and Janine Kaye went 8:50 with their crew "Pot of Gold"


  • Jonathan Sammut and Salina Rash went 5:40
  • Bob Tarr and Matt Shepherd went 5:42
  • Simon Hazeldine and Christine Mincham went 6:31
  • Rob Franklyn and Clare Hanavan went 7:03
  • William Moody and Jeremy Nyman went 7:10
  • Jo Kocik and Louise Stevenson went 7:11
  • Sarah Cox and Sally Mauk went 7:16
  • Bryn Edwards and Alycia Garrick went 7:21
  • Michelle Atkins and Rupert Holman went 7:37
  • Michael Ivey and Gregory Madden went 7:46
  • Susanne Webster and Heather Felton went 7:48


Megan and Anka giving it large before the start at Cottesloe Beach!

  • A record 324 Solos entered this year's event
  • 260 Solos finished the event despite the atrocious conditions and many of them suffering with sickness, cold and general fatigue
  • There were 28 DNFs (Did Not Finish) compared to just 8 DNFs last year
  • Only six Solos swam under 5 hours compared to 16 last year
  • 54 Solos swam under 6 hours compared to 95 last year
  • The average drop-off in speed from last year appears to be ~12% from as far as I can tell

Kylie, me, Anka and Megan celebrate on getting to the island!

Here's how our 33 Solo squad swimmers faired this year (NB. we have had an additional ~30 people follow the free program that I put out this year but whom could not attend the squad sessions owing to location and time constraints):

This year my male and female "Stand-out Achievement Award" goes to Stephanie Gaudin and Jeremy Webster who's results far exceeded where I hoped they could possibly finish - that's not to say that I didn't have faith, but that their time and finishing position was just brilliant! Well done you two! Very impressed and proud!

It's easy to give credit to the fast performers of course, but every single Solo swimmer did a marvellous job of just getting to the island when over 10% of the field did not finish. You should all be very proud of yourselves as I am of you. I have a worried feeling that there will be some "fall out" from this event given how tough the conditions were and how many of you will have been initially disappointed with your time when you crossed the finish line, so I'd like to share with you a little about what was going through my head in the build-up to this great event and during the actual swim - I hope it helps put perspective on things for you. The conditions on Saturday really highlighted just why it's very hard indeed to give an accurate estimate of what time someone might expect to swim - Mother Nature can be a tough cookie sometimes, all we can do is get our head down and get on with what we've prepared so hard for!

How Do I Know If I Should Be Happy With My Performance?

Many of you know that the build-up for this event has been quite an important one for me personally, but it's not been without it's hiccups, that's for sure! It's a little over 14 months ago since I had major spinal surgery and as such I was using this event as a chance to regain some of the form that I had that allowed me to win the prestigious Manhattan Island Marathon Swim in June 2013 and prove to myself I wasn't all "washed up". I started training seriously for the event 25 weeks ago and as you can see from the chart below, things started off very nicely but hit a flat spot between weeks 14 and 22 when a bout of sickness (first a sinus infection before Christmas and then tonsillitis after) curtailed my progress somewhat:

I had been hoping to get my CSS pace down to about 1:10/100m before the event, but that never eventuated (peaked at ~1:13/100m) and was also hoping to get a few more 36 to 45km weeks in, but I couldn't possibly. I missed two key events in my calendar but I had the best race of my season at the 5km event down at Coggee Beach at the end of week 12 when I had a PB of 1:03 for the event.

It's easy to look at the chart and suggest that I was perhaps over-training which led to the bouts of sickness from week 14 onwards, but compared to the guys who ended up finishing ahead of me on the day, my weekly volume is at best 50% of the majority of theirs (from discussion with them). However, what we must remember is that it's not just weekly training volume and intensity that determine our "stress load" but also other things going on in our lives. Week 14 coincided with an incredibly busy period for me when we released our brand new Swim Smooth Coaching System (which coincidentally now has a 48-hr FREE trial available which you should definitely check out: http://www.feelforthewater.com/2015/02/go-crazy-try-swim-smooth-coaching.html ), then there was Christmas and then the perceived need to crank it up to the big day. It sounds like I'm making excuses (we all have them!), but when you look at things objectively like this, you can start to see what is realistic to expect from yourself and what you will be happy with as a final result, accounting for all these factors.

At the end of Week 22 I had what I believed to be a very disappointing 10km swim at the BHP Billiton "Swim the Swan" event. We were set-off just before the elites came around to complete their first lap and in doing so swam right over the top of us after ~300m. This decimated our field and given that I was on the rebound from my prior tonsillitis I just couldn't stay with them as some of the guys who I'd been swimming with all season did. I spent the next 9.5km swimming alone and thinking about where I would have been had I just hung on. Needless to say, this wasn't a very positive frame of mind to be in. It did however, make me objectively assess where I was truly at with my form to allow me to readjust my aims for the big day and hopefully stay in a much more positive frame of mind!

In preparing my schedule / time-line for my crew, I sifted through some data from my previous three Solo swims and was able to determine some targets for what I'd be happy with when I finished. In order to make realistic predictions of my "chances" in the 2015 event, I looked towards two key swimmers (Tim Hewitt and Jaime Bowler) who've raced every event that I have done, consistently out-perform me, and have both won the event outright themselves. They're both raced this year as well. Their results have been:

I said to my crew: "as you can see, I'm slowly moving closer to them but wouldn't expect to beat them even on a brilliant day (being realistic). The closer I can get though, the more satisfied I will be with my performance. I think I can get to within 24 minutes of Tim and within 13 minutes of Jaime for your reference."

So I didn't quite get as close to Tim as I would have liked, but closed the gap to Jaime quite nicely - still though, for every event I have done I've been closer and closer to both of them so that has to be a positive.

I also said to my crew: "ultimately I am yet to break 5 hours (the holy grail of Rotto Solo), but this is very much condition dependent of course."

Little did I know how true that would prove to be! However, despite the weather conditions I was only 59 seconds slower than my PB for this event. Again, this has to be a positive. Also, only 15 Teams and 6 Duos in the entire event of 2,400+ swimmers beat my time, so objectively I have to be pleased with that!

I finished off by saying to my crew: "the 2015 event has a number of very good first-time Soloists swimming who are a little bit of an unknown. Having looked at who's racing, again a Top-10 finishing position would be excellent, with 10th to 15th being well within my reach I believe (out of 324 starters). Below is who I expect to be the heavy-hitters and how far behind I'd expect to be on a good day:"

So I pretty much nailed the predictions bang on the head. This allowed me to finish the event, look at the clock, realise it wasn't a great time because of the conditions but know that I had performed as well as I was likely to have done given my lead-up and the form I was truly in on the day. 

Suffice to say then I am very happy with this result: 10th male and 12th overall. You might not have this same level of insight yourself to determine positionally where you should place in the event (other than retrospectively to your closest training buddies perhaps), but this "happiness in one's performance" all stems from knowing exactly where you're at prior to starting any big event like this. Can you objectively look at everything you've had on your plate, what times you've been achieving in training, how consistent you've been and then take into account the weather conditions on the day and how you coped with them (cold, sickness, fatigue etc) and positively say "yay" or "nay" you were happy with your performance? 

First and foremost you should all be very proud if you made it across (especially first timers and especially in those conditions) - for many of you your time and position will be irrelevant - you've achieved a life goal and that should be a great feeling that stays with you forever. Equally though, it is OK not to be happy with your performance as well (we can't all be) - I wasn't after the BHP Billiton event but something good came of it: I addressed what my current form was truly like and was able to adjust my goal posts to have a realistically positive day on Saturday. You might know that you could have done more ocean swimming, or that getting sick really knocked the stuffing out of you! It's OK to be disappointed, the challenge now is to pick yourself up and move onwards, not dwell on what has happened but do something within your control to be better next time. We can all do that.

Process Goals vs Outcome Goals:

From squadie Jeff Davis in discussion about his wife Kylie (squadette's) first successful crossing of the Rottnest Channel - some very good take-home points:

"I have a cool process goal vs outcome goal story via Ian Thorpe (he bought the house next to my Nan & Pop… A good "shire boy" like yours truly).

One of his proudest moments was when he won bronze in the 100m at the Olympics. People can't comprehend that because they see all his gold medals and think "why would he be so proud of bronze?" Well it was because he felt like he executed the perfect race... from his training, to his start, to his stroke, the turn, his pacing, and finish. When he hit the wall there was immense satisfaction knowing that he could not have done a single thing better. 

When you make the processes your goal it's all in your control. And of course when you get the processes right you're going to get the best outcome possible for yourself anyway. Don't put satisfaction in the hands of things you can't control - like the weather (time) or your competition (place)."

Do you feel you executed the race as best as you possibly could? I know I did and am satisfied as such - not a world-class performance but respectable in my own eyes after a little reflection. Equally I could not have done it without the amazing support of my crew - Sally S (paddling and who was just amazing to stay upright the whole time); Chris Mc (skipper - cool as a cucumber!); Chris K (accurately working the GPS plots); Matt K (chief motivator who flew all the way from Sydney to help me out); Cyndy H (chief liaison officer between land and sea!) - and my family, Mish, Jackson and Isla who put up with a tired, grumpy Daddy for the last six months to go for his dream!

Me and Sal prior to the start - awesome team work!

The crew (minus Cyndy) after the finish

And Finally to the Weather…

Finally, here's an email and assessment of the conditions from squad swimmer Chris Knott (my GPS nav-man for the day) - I hope you find this enlightening:

"There are some telling reasons as to why people found it tough as the day went on. In my opinion, conditions became markedly easier for you and the lead swimmers around the 10km mark, probably 9km in fact. In the lee of Rottnest (from about 17 to 18k), the wind speed was down to less than 10 knots. There were no white caps.

1. When you started, the Rotto wind speed was significantly stronger than Swanbourne. The wind speed jumps up fairly quickly to match Rotto as you move away from the coast, i.e. it's not a linear increase with distance from the coast.

2. The wind speed at Rotto died down quite a bit so it was at or below 15 knots from 8:30am to 10:30am. It rose to 16 knots by 11am but you were well in the lee of the island as that happened and finished before 11am.

3. The wind speed then increased and hit 20 knots by 2:30pm by which time anyone in Wave 3 or Wave 4 of the solos would have been out there for about 8 hours.

4. The Direction Data tab and the Direction graph also show what is probably the most significant factor in the middle of the morning. From 9:30 to 10:30am, the wind at Swanbourne swung from SE to SW. That's a full 90 degrees on the compass. In the same time period, the wind at Rotto only swung from SSE to S, i.e. only 22.5 degrees on the compass.

5. The Rotto wind direction stayed southerly until 12 noon, which was pushing the faster swimmers north, but not slowing them down. Whereas those out in the channel had an ever increasing south-westerly in their faces, impeding their progress. Of course, by the time they got closer to Rottnest, the Rotto wind direction had also changed to SSW so the pain just continued.

I don't have the current & swell data to look at. They might show something of interest too. A combination of northerly current and increasing SSW wind would obviously make it difficult for swimmers to stay on course.

I don't think the swell was a factor. People often mistake "seas" for "swell". So the photos of swimmers on the top of a "wave" are usually the "seas" being generated by the wind. And as you know, there is a gap between the southern islands (Garden, Carnac, Mewstone, Stragglers) and then Rottnest where the seas generated by the wind for many kilometres are no longer broken up by the islands/reef. That's why the ocean is rougher there and the seas "jump up".

Here's the data graphically presented: 

Wind speed - notice the dip to 10.30am/11.00am before building again significantly

Wind direction - notice the switch to SW around 10.30am/11.00am

So needless to say, the slower swimmers in the event had a much harder time than the quicker swimmers due to the strengthening conditions against your favour. This will account for some of the significant time differences that you might have witnessed between the front and back of the pack.



PS a reminder that I will be away from this Thursday 26th February and back on pool deck Wednesday 18th March - I leave you in very good hands though! Please let me know if you are planning to have a break from the squad for a while also - thanks!

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