Friday, 18 July 2008

swim recovery

Anyone who’s taken a little l more than a passing glance at my race results over teh last few years will have observed that its my swimming which is my weakest link. Not having a history of swimming (I taught myself to swim ‘properly’ when in my early 20s - a weekly session in Taunton pool after work, gradually increasing the number of lengths front crawl that I could do – starting with 1!) this is something that for the past 4 years, I’ve just accepted. I considered myself pretty lucky really, since the swim constitutes the smallest proportion of the race and I was sufficiently strong on the bike to make up the 2 or 3 minutes lost in the first leg of an Olympic distance race with relative ease, and still achieve a high position finish. Even when I started to take the racing a little more seriously, going off to the world camps in Hawaii, then Lausanne, I still considered myself to be doing well to exit the water in the top 20. By comparison, not being top 3 on the bike, or top 5 on the run would have been a disappointment.

The reasons for this are partly covered above – but more crucially that I just did not considered myself to be a swimmer. I did enjoy swim training, rarely saw improvements and get little satisfaction out of the whole ordeal. I just did not think that the 2 minutes i might save were worth the effort.

But, the further step towards ‘serious’ competition and into longer distance triathlon has opened my eyes a little. Though the proportion of the swim leg to the rest of the race are actually smaller over Ironman distance, the time I was loosing was now more in the realm of 5 – 10 minutes to my own age group, and 10 -15 minutes on the Big Girls. In the grand scheme of things, not a huge amount in a 10 ½ hour race, but enough to cost me places.

I’m using the past tense because I no longer want to loose those places, and so I am gonna fix it, starting now.

I’ve had my stroke videos and analysed and been given lot of advice on my technique. More tan I can actually remember – one coach managed to list about 5 ‘primary’ faults and a further half dozen ‘minor ‘ faults. Often the advice has seemed contradictory, but still, I’ve tried to work on them all. My pool swim times seem to have gotten slower, adding to my frustration and detracting from my motivation.

The best advice that I have been given recent (the best in that its the easiest for me to follow) is that I simply need to swim MORE, to develop a better FEEL for the water, build greater strength, and apply more POWER with my stroke. Gordo suggested doubling my swim volume. So, my new training schedule has me swimming 6 days a week until Wisconsin, which should get me around 20km/week rather than 10-12km that I’ve managed to average so far this year.

Swimming a variety of strokes has also been advocated by a number of resources that I’ve been checking out, including out Tri club/masters swim coaches. More learning from scratch for me, as I attend our local Masters swimming sessions, but so far it’s been an enjoyable challenge. There is a lot to be said for breaking habits and stepping out of the comfort zone for a heightened focus.

I’m currently in a phase that I call ‘ swim recovery’. Still just 1 week post IM DE, I’m only doing light and short bike run sessions and have used the time to get into the pool.

Here’s what last week’s swim training looked like:

Sat – Masters (coached)2.8km
Main set f/c : 4 x [100 as 3Easy/1Hard,100 as 2E/2H, 100as 1E/3H, 100as4H]

Sun – own swim 50m lido in wetsuit 3.2km easy stroke swim
Main set: 10 x 100/off 1:40

Mon – own swim, Ironmonger Row (30.3m) 4.3km
Main set: 4x [4 x 6length (180m)/ off 3:10]

Tue –own swim TEST, Ironmonger Row 2.3km
Main set: 12 x [ 3length ( 91m)/off 1:30]

Wed- Tri Squad (coached) – 4.0km
Main set: pyramid [50/0:50, 100/1/;40, 200/3:20, 400/6:40, 200, 100, 50]
6x [100/off 1:40]
Repeat pyramid as above

Thur – Masters (coached) -3.8km
Main set backstroke: 3 x [5 x 100 stroke count]

Fri- Tri Squad (coached) -4.6km
Main set: 4x 650 with paddles/off 11min

Week total: 25km

That’s more that I did in a week during epic camp!

I’m already feeling pretty good in the water (improved feel) really focusing on my stroke (high elbow, faster turn over) and have been hitting target times consistently.
Most importantly I’m feeling motivated in the pool and working on dispelling the belief that ‘I’m just not a swimmer’.

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