Friday, May 30, 2014

Halfway House!

Dear Swimmers

Many thanks to those of you who braved the cold and turned up for another rip-roaring Fresh 'n' Fruity session yesterday morning and gave us privileged access to your smiles and grimaces as photographer extraordinaire Janine Kaye from went through the group and took some shots of you all looking dapper in your new caps! Massive thanks to Janine for this - we should see some of the results by Wednesday next week. Can't wait!

So as you may have guessed I got my Swim Mojo back on Wednesday and off came the beard! Wahoo! In all honesty the Mojo was back as soon as I decided to commit to the task of getting back into the swing of things and I've totally loved the last 4 weeks of swimming, perhaps more than I've ever done in my life. So things are good! My target was to get done to a CSS of 1:15/100m again and I did that on Wednesday with the same set as you all did yesterday morning. I was super chuffed.

So here's the before and after for your amusement:

I couldn't resist doing this as well (my ode to Hugh Jackman - I need some bigger pecs and biceps though at the very least!):

So we're at the Halfway House through this 8-week Program and how are you all feeling? Despite how many of you might state that you're not doing this to be competitive (the original goal remember was just to establish a good routine, one which you can keep up through winter), ultimately though you will judge your improvement by whether or not you've increased your absolute speed or CSS / threshold pace. We all do that. The interesting thing about repeating the last 4 weeks though (just the harder, threshold sessions that is), is that you can look at either getting faster (like my own personal goal) or achieving the same paces as 4 weeks prior and feel a little easier doing so. Either would be an improvement - both would be a bonus!

To lead you into that last 4 weeks, let's have a bit more inspiration from a follow-up to Megan's blog last week as prompted by Liz's question from the 9.30am squad - thanks Liz!

Have a great long weekend and remember all the usual sessions are on as normal this weekend (just so you don't have to break that good routine you've now established!).



Wednesday, May 28, 2014

New Beginners Squad at 11.30am every Friday & Public Holiday Information

Dear Swimmers

Firstly, despite the public holiday this weekend, all of our sessions will run as normal - this includes Friday's 5.30am & 6.30am sessions (remember, photo time this week, so please come well pruned :-)), and the new 9.30am Endurance session, Saturday's 1pm squad session and the 7am and 9.30am sessions on Monday next week. Hope you can make it down!

Also, Coach Sally is starting up a new Beginner's squad on Friday 6th June at 11.30am. There is a maximum of 12 places and the cost is $20 per session (separate to our PAYG card system). Swimmers who fit the description below may attend after confirming their place directly through Sally on - here are the criteria:

  • be able to swim 50m continuous freestyle (with or without fins)
  • must be slower than 2:15/100m if they have tested their CSS pace

All enquiries directly to Sally please. Thanks!


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Photo time and "in case you missed it...!"

Dear Swimmers

Wow! Blustery morning today - thank goodness I'm not swimming in the river or ocean today…then again, it could be fun!

Just in case you missed yesterday's extensive blog and video review (Before and After) of squad swimmer Megan Surrette's amazing improvement from the back of Lane 1 to the front of Lane 3 in a little under 2 years and a sensational 6h42m Rottnest Solo Swim in February this year, you can read all about it here: - thanks again to Megan for allowing us to publish this!

Here's that rate of improvement - just sensational:

Next Friday is Photo Shoot Day!

Next Friday morning from 530am to 730am (subject to weather and the removal of my beard!) squad swimmer, 2nd biggest recent improverm and photographer extraordinaire Janine Kaye of Janine Kaye Photography ( will be down at the pool taking some photographs of the squad in action. If any of you prefer not to be photographed, please just let Janine know on the morning, but I am hoping that you'll all be OK with it, especially wearing your shiny new Swim Smooth caps!

We have an exciting new project due for release in about 6 weeks and these images will be used as part of that with your permission. It's going to be very exciting and really take what we do down at little "old" Claremont Pool to the wider world of swimming and help improve swimming coaching on a much greater scale. I do hope you'll support us on this.

Most of Janine's shots will be unposed action shots of the "candid" variety (i.e. please "Just.Keep.Swimming"!) but she may select a few of you for some quick portrait-type shots without disturbing you for more than a few seconds…who knows, this might be the perfect "legitimate" rest opportunity during the hard swim! ;-)

I would also love to get a quick group shot of the 5.30am/6.30am squad cross-over, but we'll see what we can do!

For the 9.30am swimmers on Friday, Janine will be participating herself then, so maybe I'll turn the camera on her (and you!) then too!

This is the very first opportunity (ever!) that we've had to do such a thing and I do appreciate your help and support in advance and also the time and effort of Janine too. The main focus of course will be on you guys cracking out a good solid swim set, hopefully with steam rising off the pool and Janine acting as a fly on the wall (she might even pop under water too!).



Saturday, May 17, 2014

The results are finally out - sorry for the wait!

WARNING: This is a long post - but as studies have now conclusively shown (see below), those who read these posts are the biggest improvers!

Dear Swimmers

Hope you’re all having a marvellous weekend - the weather today was sensational, wasn’t it?! Here’s a quick picture of my kids enjoying the autumnal leafs and some sensational sunlight at the end of an afternoon at the local park:

…if only we could all remember to have that much fun when we’re swimming, hey?! And that brings me onto the topic of this email newsletter - getting your “Swimming Mojo” back!

The Results:

We’ve had a tremendous start to the first 2 weeks of the 8 week program, starting with me needing to plot 2625 unique data points into the spreadsheet from the 400m & 200m Time Trial on the 2nd May…hence my delay getting this to you! As it is it’s nearly midnight on a Saturday evening and I’m still going strong…kind of! Here they are:

…you’ll be best off downloading the file and then zooming in a good bit to see what you need to with respect to moving forwards with your swimming this next 8 weeks (and beyond!). See the bottom of this email for links to our historical Time Trial records.

These results were essentially not just the start of a new program, but the culmination of the last phase of training which I spoke about in depth here namely about how we could all improve our swimming with better pace awareness:

Now I know sometimes some of you affectionately mock the length of some of my reports, but I am very pleased to announce the following “movers and shakers” with respect to those who most improved since last time from taking on board this message of better pacing, especially Adam Wheeler, Janine Kaye and Jens Bischoff with simply massive improvements - well done you! All have moved themselves well out of the bottom 25% of the squad with respect to poor pace awareness - in fact Jens was 3rd last back in November and this result sees him shooting to the very top of the 180+ squad list with respect to improvement since then! So make sure you read the descriptors in the link above…again, and again, and again - it’s all there, and non of it is rocket science ;-)

The Good…

Below is a list of all those swimmers who have improved their CSS pace by 4”/100m or more. The reason I use 4”/100m as a bit of a benchmark of stupendous improvement is because over a 1500m swim, this would equate to 60 seconds improvement, which since the end of November is not bad going at all! Jens and Janine for example have improved by a whopping 13.5”-14”/100m, or a simply staggering 3.5 minutes over 1500m! Incredible. 

Here’s the list:

Jens Bischoff 14”/100m
Janine Kaye 13.5”/100m
Sean Webb 11”/100m
Adam Wheeler 9”/100m
Megan Surette 8.5”/100m
Anka Franzmann 8”/100m
John Edwards 8”/100m
Andrew Graham 6.5”/100m
John Turner 7.5”/100m
Carrie Anderson 6”/100m
Ashan Weerakody 5.5”/100m (to give a CSS of 1:15/100m - the best ever recorded in the squad!)
Bronwyn Fricke 5.5”/100m
Liz Dundas 5.5”/100m
Robyn Ahern 4.5”/100m
Elvira Strombock 4”/100m
Mark Bosistos 4”/100m
Sue Oldham 4”/100m

Other notable improvements see a great return to form for squad-stalwart John Edwards (now back down to 1:24/100m) and Ashan Weerakody who has tested with the fastest ever 400m and 200m time in the squad to give a truly sensational CSS of 1:15/100m! Brilliant! That’s even faster than ├╝ber-fish Guy Crawford!

ASIDE: Going Against Convention...

Anka Franzmann (arguably one of the most consistent and determined swimmers in the squad) also knocked off a massive 8”/100m! When Anka joined the squad, she had been taught that the only supposed way to be “efficient” was by taking as few strokes as possible per length and achieving ‘scores’ of under 40 strokes per 50m. This was something that had been emphasised so much by her old coaches that she hadn’t improved in over 5 years of swimming despite the same determined effort that we see in her today. We threw that “rule book” straight out of the window upon her first 1-2-1 Video Analysis session and have worked diligently to remove the endless pause at the front of the stroke, thus improving the initiation of her catch and as a *direct consequence* taking her stroke rate (the number of strokes per minute, not per 50m) up from the low-40s to 62-66spm during the last 12 months. 

Do you think she’s happy and less frustrated now? You betcha! Do you think she ever obsesses anymore about how many strokes she’s taking per 50m? Absolutely not. At less than 5’4” tall (Anka will no doubt correct me here!) sub-40 strokes per 50m was never going to be efficient for her despite what the “rule book” might say. The irony here is that those who still believe the rule book publicly call me out on a regular basis online for talking “BS” - maybe we’ll let Anka be the judge of whether these changes that we’ve implemented are “BS”?! By working on her individual merits and determining how to swim for her own given attributes Anka even went on to average a brilliant 1:46/100m (33:47 compared with previous years all being +40 minutes) at the recent Busselton Half Ironman, clearly demonstrating that the CSS Time Trial results are indeed reflective of predicted performance - so it’s always worth knowing where you’re at, as bad as that might be. It is what it is and they are what they are. 

In fact on that note of current CSS ability being a sound indicator of performance for racing - Matt Illingworth, John Chipponeri and Nicole Anson all swim together in the Wednesday 5.30am “Red Mist” session, all have CSS paces of 1:34-1:35/100m and all swam within 6 seconds of each other (at just a smidge under 1:34/100m) down in Busselton at the 70.3 race despite all starting in different waves too! Freaky? Not really. Predictable? Definitely - with CSS work anyway! 

Might I also add that at 45 years of age, Matt Illingworth recorded the fastest overall 90km Cycle Time Trial result of the day as well (including the PROs) in 2h03m52s or a mouth-watering 43.7km/h!! Some of my critics say that Matt must have been “dangerously close” to his limit to swim at such a pace in the swim and that he’d be better spending his swim training time solely dedicated to refining his technique through endless “efficiency drills” and “never, never, never training hard”. However, this clearly shows no understanding of what this type of training involves and how it can benefit you when you see that he still produced an incredible bike split and finished 2nd overall in his Age Group. In fact, Matt’s ability to ride and run to his true potential relies upon him being fit enough to recover quickly and properly from the swim - drills and technique work alone will never give you this ability, irrespective of whatever level you’re racing at. It’s always about respecting the Three Keys of an holistic swim program: 1) Specific Technique work; 2) Specific Fitness work; 3) Specific Open Water Skills work - by attending one of each of these types of sessions per week, you can be assured that Matt’s ticking all the right boxes for his swimming.

And lest we not forget the wonderful performance of squad swimmer Kate Bevilaqua who won the overall female Professional event in Busselton - I don't really need to say any words other than "massive congratulations" and then show this graph which demonstrates undeniably how a little consistency and attention to defining the right stroke for you is what really counts! In 4 years Kate has improved her 3.8km swim time by 16 minutes and she's certainly not done that by ignoring the need to train hard, to train consistently and to ensure that she's swimming with a stroke that's right for her. Supposedly the swimming "wheat and chaff are separated at those who can swim less than 40 strokes per 50m and those who can't" - try telling that to Kate, she takes 56 to 58 strokes per 50m and has a stroke frequency of ~90spm - a pure "Swinger"! They also say that "you can't win a triathlon on the swim, but you can certainly lose it!" - the irony here being that Kate is winning these events now (3 Ironman titles and counting and multiple 70.3 events to her name!) because of the improvements in her swimming, as evidenced below - watch out Guy, she's coming for you!

Sorry, I digress - back to the squad!

And if all that wasn’t enough, in the last 20 months of swimming with the squad, “Mega” Megan Surette has dropped her CSS pace from 2:12/100m to a truly incredible 1:32/100m, or 40 seconds per 100m! This is the biggest percentage improvement I have EVER witnessed in a swimmer in such a small space of time. To put it another way, if Megan was to race herself from nearly 2 years ago over a mile swim, she’d beat herself now by over 12 minutes! Insane! Or for every 300m she swims now, she’d only have done 200m in the old days. Watch out for a very special report on exactly how Megan has done this on our main blog in a couple of weeks time! It’s going to be a very interesting case study!

Similarly Sean Webb who posted a 9+hr Rottnest Solo swim on his maiden attempt a couple of years ago is now the proud owner of a 5:38 400m P.B and a CSS of 1:25/100m - ranking him well within the Top-20 of the entire squad. This is not the result of any wizardry or magic spells, just consistent training of the right sort over a sustained period. Well done Sean - we’re very proud of you!

The Bad…

Now of course the whole stimulus behind running the last CSS Time Trial session was really to stimulate the Mojo of those of you who haven’t had a good run of consistency recently. I’m sure none of you will wish to be highlighted like I have done with those who have improved (above) so instead I will use myself as an example!

I did my CSS Test on Wednesday 30th April and it was the first time in my life that I have never broken 5 minutes for 400m! Still, I was realistic going into it following a good 5 months of rehab from my back surgery before Christmas and predicted 5:14. I swam 5:04 so was pleasantly surprised. With my 2:27 for the 200m, this gave me a 1:18.5/100m CSS pace which was about 2.5”/100m quicker than I was expecting. Still, when my usual “unfit” starting point is 1:15-1:16/100m normally and my Manhattan Island Marathon Swim winning form was ~1:08 to 1:10/100m, this is still a massive gulf to try and peg back. Why the need to peg it back? I’ve not got any major races planned, but like those of you who just want your swimming mojo back, so too do I, and what better way to do it than tracking my improvement through Twitter @SwimSmoothPaul if you’re interested!

The Ugly…

My goal is to simply get back to 1:15/100m as quickly as possible and remove this damn beard!

Once I’m at 1:15/100m, the beard goes - thank god!

On Friday I had a stock-take to see how I’m going and this is what it’s looking like…

I’m confident I’ll be able to get rid of the beard within the next 2-3 weeks, all being well as I had a pearler of a session on Wednesday with a 2.8km main set of 4 x (3 x 100m + 1 x 400m) all with 20 seconds recovery and done as Set 1) 1:22/100m; Set 2) 1:20/100m; Set 3) 1:18/100m; Set 4) 1:16/100m. This was a slightly longer version of the set you all did on Friday, where the aim was to start off about 4”/100m slower than CSS pace and finish 2”/100m faster - if you could!

Anyway, enough about me - I have included my CSS Time Trial Results as part of the main squad’s results so you can see that I’m far from perfect with respect to pacing as well! I’m working on it and if I had my time again as a young triathlete, this is undoubtedly the sole thing that I would work on.

And Lastly…

As you know I always love receiving your feedback on various aspects of the squad and its fair to say some of the most insightful comments come from Jeff Davis (lane 3 at 5.30am) and I’d like to simply finish off with his last email to me for your entertainment as one “unsung” hero from this report is that of Graham Crocker who’s been swimming with me now for 12 years and won his Age Group down at the Busselton Half Ironman by a phenomenal 17 minutes - he’s seemingly the only person in the squad who the CSS predictability doesn’t apply to - why? I’ll let Jeff expand on that - enjoy:

Hi Paul,

Didn’t get to chat this morning but a few observations from the weekend (Busselton 70.3):

1.     Broad Swimsmooth domination across the board: Kate, Kira, Emily, Nicole, Matt, Derek, etal all with podiums (I’m sure I have missed some). Jono first AGer out of the water (though I think shaded by Nedepelt for fastest split). Swims ok for a bloke who apparently lost his swim mojo in 2004… No doubt you get a buzz from helping these people achieve. It’s cool just seeing them on the race course and thinking “I swim with / in the lane beside that person!” It’s inspiring to see people achieve at that level.

2.     #CSSworks: I saw this on twitter and it was true for me. Although I didn’t do my time trial I know from the week in / week out of training that my CSS was sitting around 1:32. And that’s exactly what I swam on the day (29:16). Mind you it felt like nothing more than a warm-up before the bike so it’s nice being in that kind of condition.

3.     We could all learn a thing or two about race craft from Graham Crocker: Perhaps the only guy who CSS doesn’t apply to is Graham. Graham swam 28:08 and won his age group by 17 minutes. Although 30 years my senior he is my personal hero and someone we could all learn something from. Tough as a coffin nail and a true “racer”. I’d bet my house Graham couldn’t swim 1:29 in the pool but why should that matter? He doesn’t train to train he trains to race!

4.     You get what you train for: Further to the point about CSS – your numbers are what they are. I’d barely ridden my bike all year and was lucky to be running once a week. As such, I was realistic about what I could produce on race day. A 2:33 bike and 1:45 was solid if not spectacular and a good base to work off for the IM at the end of the year.

5.     “What is your why?”: I read a blog about the concept of exploring why you do something. Because if you know why you do something then you’re less likely to give up when training gets tough. I need to spend some time thinking about this. I am a natural sprinter trying to do long distance - Why? Do I honestly love it? I am not sure about the answers to those questions. But I think it’s time to get honest with myself and find some pure motivation.

See you on deck tomorrow!


Cheers, and as always, thanks for reading if you have!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Change of format and feel to the Friday 9.30am session

Dear Swimmers

Owing to popular demand for a more endurance-focused session for the 9.30am "Time-4-Me" squads, this Friday (and for the next 3 Fridays) we shall be a running a 4-week trial 90 minute session to gauge the popularity of such a swim.

All the early morning squads have: one technique session; one endurance session; and one threshold development session, but the 9.30am session has always historically had two technique sessions (Monday and Friday) and just one, harder threshold development session on a Wednesday. Given the original format of this Time-4-Me squad, that has suited everyone relatively well for the last 6 years, but a growing number of you have asked for a more demanding session to be delivered instead. This pleases me no end ;-)

Indeed, the most popular 9.30am session is the Wednesday session, which certainly indicates that you guys are not afraid to push on a little harder knowing that the Monday technique session is serving you well in that capacity.

For those of you a little unsure about this, please view the next 4 weeks simply as a change to the norm - something to excite and inspire you! You don't need to stay for the full 90 minutes and even though this session is ordinarily conducted without much use of pull buoys, paddles and fins etc, there will be the option to use these in the next 4 weeks at times in order to smooth that transition to this type of session.

We will make an assessment at the end of the 4 weeks as to how popular this might be going forwards. For those of you who haven't yet managed to score a spot in the most popular session of the week (Wednesday 5.30am) - this might be your chance to come and perform the same (or very similar) version of that session and gain the massive benefits that those who have been doing the Wednesday 5.30am session for a while.

It'll be a great session to boost your overall endurance, develop your pace awareness and even develop some mental aptitude along the way as well. It is not an easy session, but a challenging one and you are all more than welcome to give it a go!

I would strongly recommend always having an energy drink and even a gel with you at this session - it's not generally as fast as a Wednesday 9.30am session, but the interval distances are usually in the range of 50m to 1000m at CSS +2 to 6"/100m.

This type of session has the nickname "Red Mist" and you can read why here:

So why not pop down tomorrow, give it a whirl and see what you make of it? I guarantee not everyone will like it (at least initially) but 4 weeks is a great period for you to judge the effectiveness of it yourself and you will be impressed if nothing else!



Thursday, May 8, 2014

The NEW swim box has finally landed!

Please note: I am still waiting on a few times from last week’s Time Trials before I publish the data - please do make a record yourself and don’t forget you can easily calculate your CSS pace by using our little calculator here:

Also, don't forget, Saturday's 1-2pm Squad Open Water Skills session returns again as normal (and going forwards!) with Coach Sally at the helm - this is a great session to get along to and for this week only, meet Riki, our visiting elite junior triathlete from Kuala Lumpur - he said he'd like to have some feet to chase this week - can anyone help him out??

Dear Swimmers

Please welcome to the Swim Smooth Perth “family” - our very special NEW swim box who we’re going to call “Syd” (after our old Swim Smooth Bus circa 2005!):

Syd has been 7 weeks in the workshop but now he’s ready in all his powder-coated aluminium glory! I hope you’ll make him feel welcome:

He’s still waiting on his whiteboard lid which will be laser plastered on there on Friday at ~11am and then he’ll be truly “open for business”!

Here’s some more shots showing the features…can you tell I’m excited??

When he arrived…

Adding the logos…some better than the others if you closely inspect!

The lid, where the new widescreen whiteboard will be clearly visible from all 4 lanes!

I like to think he prettifies the pool deck rather than being a bit of an eyesore like his predecessor!

Inside: a place for everything, and everything in its place!

The “Staff Only” sign is really just to ward off the general public, many of whom freely help themselves to our kit and often don’t return - you are more than welcome to access and borrow the kit from the two right-hand training kit compartments…alternatively, you might like to order some of your own to be assured of some proper kit every session - here’s what we have available:

IMPORTANT: Please can we request that if you use the kit during a session, please remove as much excess water as possible before returning it neatly in the relevant section: paddles and pull buoys in the middle column and fins in the right column…thank you! It might also be an idea to get yourself kitted out prior to the start of each session rather than having to either ask the coach midway through or hop out yourself…be prepared it’ll Smooth-out your session!

Mish reckons I’m no good at DIY but I’ve cleverly crafted this rain-cover table-top from perspex which also includes sections for the relevant Tempo Trainers per lane to be readied - cool hey?!

The lid covers this area to stop it getting wet over the winter…

We also have a holder for our clipboards, leaflets and even a suncream dispenser…watch out for the drips though please! :-)

I have sectioned the good paddles (Finis Freestylers and Agility Paddles) from the older ones that we have available for use…please pop them back where you found them - thanks!

I’ve permanently got my wet-weather gear stored closely at hand…bring on the rain I say! ;-)

Now you’ll always know where to pop your PAYG card…in the blue box on the outer right corner of the box as you look at it when you walk towards it - simple!

…and it’ll always be ready to collect from the “Ticked Off” tray on the outer left corner on the far side of Syd when you finish!

I’ve got some hardcore heavy-duty drawers for all my important bits and pieces…

…and also some great wheels for rolling him around (he’s a heavy lad at +120kg!)

So, there you go - I hope you like Syd and welcome him into the family! Have a great weekend!