Monday, September 30, 2013

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Saturday, September 28, 2013

A quick reminder about which sessions are ON / OFF this weekend...

Dear Swimmers

Just a very quick reminder that there will be no swimming today (Saturday 28th September) at 1-2pm due to the AFL Grand Final and the anticipation that few would attend the session anyway - go the Dockers! (I think that's how you say it?!).

Monday 30th September's 7am and 9.30am sessions will both run as normal. Please note that the pool only opens at 7am on Monday so there will be no class in before us, but equally please be ready to rock and roll as soon as they open the gates. See you then!


Thursday, September 26, 2013

October 2013 to March 2014 Swim Smooth Perth Lane Allocations

Dear Swimmers

I've been promising the following squad lane allocations for several weeks now and they are finally here for your reference:

Of course, not everyone is expected to turn up for every session that I have them allocated for - that's the beauty of the PAYG card system - flexible for you the swimmer, without being charged for the sessions you miss. I normally express this list with a "buffer" with 2 or 3 more people over the "normal" 8 to 10 per lane, however, this time I have not done that due to the "seeding" nature of what I have done with the list which should help to better manage the lanes. Would love to hear your feedback.

A great deal of observation from a) regular attendance, b) time trial results, and c) observable paces being held in the various squad sessions following the tests 3 weeks ago has gone into collating this list. I am hoping it's 98% complete and accurate, however, there are a few gaps with respect to paces per 100m of some of the very new faces in the squad (namely the Tuesday / Thursday 6.30pm sessions and the Saturday 1pm session) so if you have any amendments or additions for me, please just let me know.

As discussed in our "Mind the Gap" blog a few weeks ago, I have been working diligently to try to ensure three things in the smooth running of the squads lately:

  1. that you are all pacing as well as possible in the harder interval sessions.
  2. that you know exactly what your current threshold (CSS) pace is (you will notice that I have made some minor tweaks to the resultant paces from the 800m time trial for some of you based on how you've responded and having been progressing recently) and that you're training at the right intensity*
  3. ensuring that you leave an appropriate gap** between you and that you don't try to close this down to draft on the feet of the person in front of you, unless I specifically state that as an aim for the session, i.e. Saturday 1-2pm

*you will also see from the linked file above that in some cases we have elected for 2 or even 3 sub-groups within a lane to try to ensure we are getting as close to everyone's individual threshold paces as possible within the realms of possibility of a squad session. The slight downside with attempting to do this is there usually comes 1 or 2 occasions during a main set when the faster sub-group laps the slower sub-group and it can get a little messy for 100m or so. If you're aware of this though and have respect for your fellow swimmers, all should be OK. You'll often hear me managing the lanes with firm commands to "leave now" or "cut in front" etc - these are there to help the sessions flow as well as possible - please don't think I'm barking at you! I know exactly what it's like to have the challenge of a target time in front of you and wanting to meet those targets - it's very easy to get a little snappy. Calm control in "adversity" will make you a much better swimmer all round ;-)

**in some of the busier sessions (i.e. Wednesday 5.30am specifically) it's a challenge to keep the flow of the session running smoothly at all times. I would like to take this opportunity to commend those of you there this Wednesday when 42 showed up for this session and how well you handled yourselves, especially in lane 2. It was a sudden jump up from previous weeks with several old faces popping up unexpectedly out of the woodwork. Luckily this specific session with its long intervals, short recoveries and little or no pull & paddles, drill / technique or fins work can operate well with several more people in the lane than some of the other squads and in theory with gaps of 5 to 8 seconds and at a lane pace of 1:40 per 100m (for example) we should be able to accommodate between 12 and 15 people in a lane for this type of session. However, the amendment that we are going to try next week in lane 2 (as promised) is to move 3 swimmers who normally swim at the front of lane 2 across into lane 1 as the faster of two sub-groups (as indicated by the double-headed arrows). What will then happen is that these three swimmers will be matched up with three swimmers across in lane 2 of similar speed and thus provide the opportunity for more of you to share the workload. I am hoping this is going to be a success, but we will trial next week and see how we go. We will need to be mindful of the other group in lane 1 who will be moving ~4 to 8s per 100m slower, but one of the things that I like about this session is that it very much accustoms you to controlling your pace and your temperament just like is necessary when you're racing in the open water - it's the perfect Red Mist Set! The more turbulent water and the occasional draft from a passing swimmer is also great practice for those of you who race, after all, when is the ocean ever as smooth as the pool!

For those of you starting to build-up and prepare for Rottnest and wanting to either get some additional volume under your belt or seeking quieter lanes, I will personally be swimming "solo" at the following times and would welcome some additional company if you can make my rather weird hours:

  • Tuesday 11.30am @ Claremont Pool (same session as the 5.30am, 6.30am and 6.30pm session - technique & low intensity endurance work)
  • Wednesday 11.30am @ Claremont Pool (same session as the 5.30am session - long, hard endurance work)
  • Thursday 5.45am @ Claremont Jetty (long, continuous open water swim building from 4km to 10km on our 2km circuit)
  • Friday 1.30pm @ Claremont Pool (same session as the Wednesday 9.30am, Thursday 6.30pm and Friday 5.30am / 6.30am squads - hard intervals OR an easy recovery swim)
  • Saturday 5.30am @ Challenge Stadium Outdoor 10 lane pool until the end of November and then Claremont Jetty (long, steady endurance work)

...I can't guarantee to be there every session, every week, but if I'm not then the morning's session is usually still on the whiteboard or of course you can follow the session suggestions in our 2014 Rottnest Channel Swim Program.

Finally, as of next week, the pool will be operating on it's summer opening hours and as is customary, the Tuesday and Thursday sessions will shift to the slightly later time of 6.30pm for your reference.

Thanks for your attention - I think we are now pretty much set for the summer and I will now give you a break from my two long emails in as many days ;-)


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

It's here! Our 2014 Rottnest Channel Swim Program!

QUICK NEWSFLASH! Massive congratulations to Ceinwen Roberts (née Williams) who successfully crossed the Catalina Channel in California between 3pm and 11pm on Tuesday (Perth time), taking a total of just 8h04m for the 32km crossing (an average of just a shade over 1:30 per 100m!). The first 6 hours of this swim were spent in complete darkness for fear of a shark attack (apparently you're less visible to them at night!). This was just 37 minutes shy of the world record and make Ceinwen the first of us seven "Swimming Sandgropers" to complete the Triple Crown of the English Channel; Manhattan Island Marathon Swim; and the Catalina Channel. Really in awe of Ceinwen's achievements this year, notably: Rottnest Solo (1-way), Rottnest Solo (3-way), Manhattan Island Marathon Swim (46km and 1st lady overall), Catalina Channel - when will this pocket rocket ever slow down?! If you tune into at 3pm today, you'll also get to see Lisa Delaurentis going for her Triple Crown too! Good luck Lisa...wish I was there doing it as this space!

Dear Swimmers,

I'm not going to claim the same amount of monumental work as what went into this program as last year as this year remains largely unchanged building on the success and simplicity of the 2013 Rottnest Channel Swim Program. It is however all up-to-date and brimming with a few new nuggets of information which should see you well set for a great Rottnest Channel Swim Campaign, be it Solo, Duo or Team.

IMPORTANT: Next week I am planning to schedule a Google Hangout at 8pm WST on Thursday 3rd October for 60 minutes to discuss the program and answer any questions that you might have. Google Hangouts is like Skype essentially but allows me to readily share information on my screen, run through the program and field any questions with a large number of people. It'll be a great opportunity for those of you not living in the Western Suburbs and whom follow our program remotely to tune in and hear how to get the best out of the next 21 weeks of training. It'll be well worth dropping by.

To get started you'll need a Google Account and then download the Google Hangout Plugin - essentially Google creates a webspace for me to deliver the broadcast that you can tune into, watch and even type questions or (if you're one of the first 10 to register) be able to ask questions on live video - groovy! And if all that's too much for you, I will simply be able to post out a link before the broadcast which you'll be able to watch (but without being able to interact) through a simple YouTube video pane. It's very easy. And if even that's too much effort or you can't make that time, I'll even go to the trouble of recording the session and then uploading it to YouTube for your subsequent viewing pleasure in your own time. How's that sound?!

Further joining information will be sent out early next week - for now get yourself set up with a Google account and the plugin if you intend to participate - I hope you will!

Equally, if you have any pressing questions once you've gone through the program, please send them through and I'll go through them on the night.

The Program:

You can now download our 2014 Rottnest Channel Swim Program at the following link: is only 2mb in size and is designed to be read on your computer as it contains links off to various other bits and pieces that will help you during your training.

Please take a good read through of the material for anyone doing (or thinking about doing) the event in a little over 5 months time. By all means circulate to friends, family, work colleagues etc - I simply ask that if you are planning on doing the event and seek to follow the program that you quickly email me to let me know if you're doing a Solo, Duo or Team and then I shall watch out for you!

A few notable points:

most of the early morning squads are already close to capacity and as such, if you're not already swimming in some of the sessions which feature in this program, please email me on swimsmooth@me.comto be kept informed if / when spaces become available. I can't guarantee to be able to get you in but will keep you posted.
we do have 5 places available in our Tuesday / Thursday 6.15/30pm session (note this will go back to 6.30pm for the summer season from 6th October onwards) and also our Saturday 1pm session for the first 5 people to raise their hands for interest in these. 
given that the squads have been so busy, it may not be possible for those of you who sometimes do a double 5.30am to 7.30am session on a Tuesday and Friday to do this this season, however, three solutions: 1) swim in the 6.30am session and then continue on to 8.30am when the pool is much quieter (I'll still be on pool deck with a 1-2-1 which is good); 2) do the double at 6.30pm on a Tuesday evening, i.e. two separate sessions in a day - if you've never tried this it's actually very effective; 3) swim with me on a couple of the sessions listed in the Program to boost your volume at quieter times.
if you don't already have a copy of our new book and are planning to do quite a bit of swimming by yourself, I'd highly encourage you to order a copy as there are literally over 5,000 possible training session ideas in there that you'll be able to use to compliment the longer, more specific sessions that feature in this program.
we start on Monday 30th September and run for 21 weeks to Saturday 22nd February 2014 (race day).

Cheers everyone, can't wait to get cracking!


Monday, September 23, 2013

Ceinwen & Lisa to swim the Catalina Channel, CA right now!

Dear Swimmers

As most of you are no doubt aware a group of four "Sandgropers" are over in California right now preparing to swim the 32km Catalina Channel. In fact, right now if you switch over to you should be able to see Ceinwen Roberts starting her attempt which will take anywhere between 7.5 and 11hrs. Her GPS tracker will give live updates of her progress as will the Twitter feeds @ceinywilliams11 and @ssandgropers

Unfortunately after nearly 6 hours in the water on our Saturday afternoon, Paul Downie suffered some bad shoulder pain and had to withdraw his efforts. Then on Sunday it was Wayne The Train's turn and unfortunately he wasn't even able to start owing to a poorly timed ear infection. I am sure you will be with me wishing these two swimmers the speediest of returns to full health. It just goes to show how tough this marathon swimming business is!

So after Ceinwen today, Lisa Delaurentis will also attempt the swim on Thursday at 3pm Perth time using the same @ssandgropers Twitter handle.

Go girls! Best of luck from everyone here in Perth!


Swimming this Long Weekend

Dear Swimmers

Wow! The Dockers made it through the AFL Grand Final. Now I'd be the first to put my hand up and wave a white flag of apology in not knowing too much about AFL (shame on me, I know, I've lived here 12 years now!), but if you're a Dockers supporter - well done!

Given the high anticipation about this game on Saturday we have made the decision to cancel Saturday's 1-2pm squad session at Claremont Pool. This will resume as normal on Saturday 5th October. If you've been wanting to get into this great open water skills session, please let me know asap as we do have some availability here.

Also, the pool does not open until 7am next Monday 30th September, but the plan is for the 7am and 9.30am sessions to continue as normal. 

Thanks and have a great's hoping for some sunshine!


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Home stays for coaches - can anyone help?

Dear Swimmers

It's that time of year again when we invite several coaches from around the globe to come over to Perth and develop their own swim coaching skills for a period of 2 weeks between 11th and 23rd November. 

Both Adam and Emma will be back during this period as well, so it'll be "all hands on the coaching deck" so to speak which will be great for you all in the pool as well with the additional input. 

There might also be the option of getting a 1-2-1 Video Analysis & Stroke Correction Session in with a couple of the coaches during their stay. I'm personally fully booked for these until the start of April if you need your stroke checking over, please reply to this email and I'll collate a list of interested parties. For full details on this service, please check out: 

Please also note that Coach Sally is now running these 1-2-1 sessions as well to great effect and has had a plethora of excellent feedback, so if you need seeing asap, drop Sally a line at

I am yet to hear exact dates of arrival departure from the coaches listed below, but if anyone has a spare room and would be happy to accommodate one or more of the coaches during this period, that'd be very much appreciated. Contributing to costs and even a little weekly rental wouldn't be out of the question, at your discretion of course. In 2011 we organised a group house for the 8 coaches at that point, but being a smaller group is making this a little cost prohibitive this time around. Here are the coaches:

  • Morgan Williams, UK
  • Cath Liversidge, Calgary, Canada (although actually a Pom from around the corner from me in the UK!)
  • Stacee Seay, Chicago, USA
  • Dominic Tsui, Hong Kong
  • (potentially) Karl Stine, Florida, USA

Please let me know if you can assist. Obviously if you're very close to the pool, even better! ;-)

Lastly, I've been collating attendances over the last 2 weeks in the various squad sessions to see where we have potential "gaps" and spots for all those keen bees thinking about training for Rottnest. I will be sending out full details of our 2014 Rottnest Channel Swim Program very soon, but if you've not been down for a while and were hoping to get back into it, now would be a great time to let me know of your intentions as we're already 90% full across the board and I will start to open up any availability to the 287 people currently (still) on the wait list. Reply back by email which sessions you were hoping to attend. Thanks!


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Mind the Gap!

Dear Swimmers

Hope you're having a cracking week - the blue skies are back - wahoo!

In case you missed it on our main blog, here's the interview with our very own Kate Bevilaqua after she won Ironman Louisville in the USA last weekend - she's races again this weekend in Las Vegas at the 70.3 (Half Ironman) World Championships - good luck Kate!

As Kate mentions in the interview, she has been working with me for the last 2.5 to 3 years following all the exact same advice and principles that I deliver to you guys here in Perth on a daily basis. What's that I hear you say? "Why haven't you dropped your IM swim time from 62'30" down to 49'03"?" - well that's a good question! Let's focus on one potential reason (irrespective of technique changes you could make), courtesy of Tuesday / Friday 6.30am squad member Ray Steffanoni (thanks Ray!) - you have to "mind the gap!".

In our harder Fresh 'n' Fruity CSS sessions (Wednesday 9.30am, Thursday 6.15pm and Friday 5.30am & 6.30am) you hear me constantly harping on about three things: 

  1. pace awareness
  2. the benefit of swimming at (or close to) CSS pace - defined simply as the pace you're able to currently maintain for ~1500m racing
  3. ensuring you leave an appropriate gap in front of you, namely 5 or 10 seconds (or for the person in front to be at the green sign at ~9 meters before you set off)

Last week, 150 of you 'kindly' participated in an 800m time trial to find out exactly where you are at right now. Now we can come up with a million and one different reasons why you had a bad day (some of them genuine admittedly!), but in one fell swoop, you have everything you need right here as a benchmark of where you're at right now. You may or may not be happy with that point, but that's where it is, good or bad. The point is, what are we going to do about moving that point forwards? Firstly, here are your results:

...some very nice performance improvements from the squad - well done! We'll be re-assigning some of the lanes based on these results, but more on that below in Jeff Davis's email.

But what if you were one of the swimmers who didn't improve? Should you be embarrassed about this? Absolutely not! Should you dwell upon it and feel down? Balderdash! (a phrase from David Walliams "Big School" TV Comedy on the BBC - check it out, it's a classic!). Should you identify what is potentially holding you back and move forwards positively? Totally!

In an ideal world, during these 800m time trials (which are a slight variation on the 400m / 200m time trials we have done in the past) I would be able to get everyone's 1st 100m split and compare that with the average pace sustained for the 800m (which will form your target paces for the next 4-6 weeks). In a couple of the groups I was able to do this, and notably in the 9.30am Friday group (for those who missed Wednesday's time trial), I saw consistently swimmers losing 60 seconds in the 700m after the initial burst at the start, i.e. if the swimmer went out in a 1'30" for the 1st 100m, if they'd held this pace they would have swum 12'00" but were more likely to swim 13'00". So somewhere along the line they were swimming a whopping 9 seconds per 100m slower than the first 100m. This is a massive drop-off and something that needs to be addressed.

People think of time trials as all out efforts, but forget that a good 800m swim still needs to be paced well. One of the best pacing results from the whole squad was that of Suzi Scarff in the 9.30am squad. Her 1st 100m was 1'24" and her average was 1'25" giving her a time of 11'23" - brilliant pacing. The problem you get into with poor pacing is that if this is done on a repetitive basis (and I'm a serial offender for this, now in remission though I'm pleased to say!) session after session, week after week, you are never truly getting the most from each session and this is when stagnation, plateauing and even going backwards occurs. Let's say I tell you that your pace needs to be 1'40" per 100m on a set of 200m intervals but either through eagerness to swim hard / fast or through the belief that 1'40" is somehow too slow for you, you do your first interval at 1'32" pace, then 1'38" for the next, then the following six intervals progressively getting slower than 1'40" per 100m, then realistically you've only spent 10-15% of the session at the pace that you were a) meant to and b) will elicit the best performance improvements over time. 

Knowing this benchmark, accepting it as simply where you are at right now, and then slowly and diligently chipping away at it is how you move forwards - nothing more, nothing less. It's really quite simple, once you remove the part of the brain that's saying "go fast!" or "I am better than this" or "I should be better than this". If you're anything like me, your brain often thinks you're fitter than what your body actually knows you are. Control the brain, improve the body. Simple. Stick to the beeper - even more simple!

That leads me finally to point 3, and the topic of this post: mind the gap. The upside (and it is a big upside!) of swimming in a squad is that the motivation to complete hard sessions like this and measure yourself against your friends is quite simply massive. The downside is that not everyone will be swimming at exactly their threshold pace - there's typically a 5-7 second differential between the swimmer leading the lane and the swimmer at the back of the lane. Is this a massive problem? No, not really. Given that you will still feel a drafting benefit from sitting 5 to 10 seconds behind another swimmer, 1'36" per 100m sat behind 2 or 3 other swimmers will likely feel more like 1'40" or 1'41" per 100m and thus nicely account for some of these differences. But this is also why we need to minimise that drafting as much as possible on key sessions like these...set-off too close and/or repetitively short turn, and you're really doing yourself a disservice long-term. You need to be able to be diligent enough to maintain the gap in front of you. It's not always easy to do this (I know!), but if I could proffer some advice, it would be to work on doing just that: minding the gap.

In Friday's session you will have the opportunity to do a variation of the following set:

  • 4 x 100m at CSS pace, with 1 beep recovery (or your approximate average pace for the 800m time trial which will be very close to the 400m / 200m tests that we've used previously)
  • 1 x 400m at CSS + 3" per 100m (i.e. 3" per 100m slower than the 100m intervals)
  • 4 x100m at CSS pace, but with only 15 seconds rest (we will use the re-sync button on the top of the Tempo Trainer for this)
  • 1 x 400m at CSS + 1" per 100m
  • 4 x 100m at CSS pace, but with only 10 second rest

...this will be a tough set, but a fair one. You'll all feel it's too easy at the start, but then be challenged by the end. But you'll do it, if you pace correctly and if you're diligent about those gaps!

So please, save me some breath on a Friday morning :-) and let's get minding those gaps, pacing correctly and truly tapping into the benefits of swimming at this pace and progressively chipping away at it - and if you do, maybe in 6 weeks time you'll be writing an email like this one from Jeff Davis in the 5.30am squad who's now swimming nearly 8 seconds per 100m faster than he was 6 weeks ago - well done Jeff!

"Hey Paul,
A little bit hard for me to share how excited I was this morning with my 800m time… So I'll do it over email.
6 weeks of doing the 530am Tuesday / Wednesday / Friday sessions took me from 13:15 to 12:14 (or something like that anyway).
I have been stuck at 1:40 per 100m pace for years so this feels like a massive break through!
I understood the concept of "CSS" but now I've seen it actually work. The discipline of 3 sessions a week, respecting each session (no cheating), and operating at / around threshold has helped me a lot.
So a big thank you from me!

My thoughts:
  • I was actually relieved to move to lane 2. What I found was that the short repeat sessions (Tuesdays and Fridays) I was ok in lane 3. But Wednesdays would blow me up big time. I got to the point where I was honestly nervous before turning up on a Wednesday morning cause I knew it was going to be too hard! Interestingly, while I was relieved to move down a lane I think other people see moving lanes as a "demotion" of sorts. I just never saw it like that. I think there is a bit of "ego" around which lane you swim in. But who cares? Don't you want to do whatever makes you a quicker swimmer? I see guys in other lanes doing short turns and jumping on feet and I laugh – how can you be getting anything from that?
  • Ironman World Champion Chris McCormack talks about threshold sessions where if you are working above threshold you can only do a little bit of work at that level (like trying to pull your threshold up) whereas working just below your threshold you can do a lot more work at that level (like pushing your threshold up). Obviously we do a bit of both of those over the course of the week. But lane 2 felt like I was able to sit just below threshold – and therefore do more work. It was comfortably uncomfortable. And almost straight away I was getting through the Wednesday set (my suspicion is that we're not talking massive numbers here are we? Would it be like 4-6 seconds / 100m between the groups???). The start of the long sessions in lane 2 would feel easy to me – but that was ok because it would always catch up with me by the end of the session. Over the weeks I started feeling stronger and stronger over those distances. Which meant I could jump on the front and do some of the harder work. Then today, after 5-6 weeks in lane 2 building my strength and aerobic base I could jump back into lane 3 and hold my own (still lots of better swimmers than me in lane 3 but the point is that I didn't feel totally out of place).
  • I would also say that mentally there is a massive difference in being able to lead a lane and being the worst swimmer in the lane just struggling to hold on. I don't know what it's worth as a % but being one of the strong swimmers makes you swim better. It's probably the puff your chest out factor!"
Hope this helps crew going forwards into a great summer of Swim Smooth in Perth!