Sunday, 2 December 2012

down under diaries - week 1&2

Week 1
As, a result of the cold ( which seems to come and go, very odd) and the jet lag,  I'm taking it a bit easy this week, which puts me a little behind where I'd like to be in my training for WA, but this is  a potentially great situation for some solid training over the next 3-4 weeks.  I'm 5 min jog from the water front where I have enjoyed some nice easy running in the sunshine, looking at boats and family's doing Australian leisure activities on the beaches.  It's really a wonderful city with everything connected by a network of well maintained cycle ways and footpaths - i'm finding my way round pretty well - apart from the inevitable choosing the one and only busy highway to ride back into town on, or getting lost in back streets on the verge of a "bonk". 

Having survived my first 3 days without being eaten by a shark, I was feeling a bit bolder this morning and took to the sea. Not entirely bold as it was part of an organized race so not only were there a couple hundred other swimmers, but also full lifeguard support with fin-spotting helicopter overhead. They did not SAY that this was to be watching for predators, but I'm fairly sure that it was high on the agenda - there have been several sightings in the area. Of course it's not stopping people from going in the ocean, even for long swims, but everyone is quite aware and no one goes alone - so I wont be. 

Anyway  - I wasn't eaten AGAIN however i got stung a lot by jellyfish. I had intended to swim 5km race, but got out after halfway ( it was just a training swim for me). Peter, my host, went on to swim 10km in order to qualify for "Rotty" - the Rottness Crossing swim - which is roughly equivalent to swimming the English channel but "easier" in that the distance is a bit shorter, there are less currents to content with and it's a lot warmer, so actually quite a lot of people around here have done it. Most commonly as part of a relay team, whereas Soloists earn a special number plate to display.

I'm surrounded with ace swimmers - Australians, i suppose - many of whom are starting their training to swim the Rottness channel so I've come at a great time to get drilled in the pool and some proper open water training - as opposed to my usual bobbing around looking at fish. 

The first swim with the Swimsmooth squad at Claremont was fun. A beautiful 50 m pool and the session was quite a nice easy introduction which suited me in my "condition". Paul's a nice guy, easy-going. Not sure that's exactly what I was hoping for in a coach, but I have yet to have a session with him focused on my swimming technique (twice a week he swims with us and it's purely a fitness session - he doesn't give out too much coaching on those days and that was what was Thursday's swim was) so I might see the Hard side of him next week! 

Week two
The following week I had a 1-2-1 session with Paul which included a video analysis. I’ve had this done before- or thought I had! But really I was so impressed with what Paul offers it is far more than just getting some really good footage of my swimming. In fact he did not go over board with that  -there was no need since he’d already seen me swimming several time prior to the session ( which is the case with many people he works with – most of the swimmers in Perth have had this consultation!) Paul was able to explain very clearly what the main issue with my stroke was  - not just the problems that I have with the rhythm of my stroke, a slight over-extension, failing to “catch” and dropping my elbow as I do so – but highlighted the very small error that is the cause of most of these issues. It’s a really small adjustment that I need to work on …and we did that there and then with the aid of a set of underwater ear phones and mic. that meant he could talk me through the adjustments. This was really exciting for me – nothing that Paul told me contradicted what many other swim coaches have been telling me for years – but he was able to point out the root cause of many of those other stroke symptoms. Of course  I know that I wont be able to make the change easily- but having a high level of confidence in the theory provides me with huge motivation.

 Feeling fully healthy this week and having discovered my way around and settled into a training weekend,  I was able to log  solid week of training and feeling pretty  good. There is very active triathlon and cycling community here – well, it’s a generally active culture, and we are in a sizable city with fabulous climate and variety of training terrain, so you’d expect that. But still – I was amazed at the sheer numbers of hug packs of cyclists that you see out from 5:30-7:30 on any morning but in  particular Saturday! I would have thought there was a large cyclo-sportive or race underway as they charged around one of the city’s favourite loops .Like wise if you go further and into the hills –it’s pretty crowded with weekend warriors blitzing one another on bikes! I love to see this- but prefer to avoid for my own training purposes. Whilst most locals get out and ride early morning before the wind and heat pick up,  I’ve been scheduling my training sessions for the hot windy afternoons , and rarely see a soul! The way that I see it,  I only have 3 weeks here to prepare for race conditions that are about as far removed from those of my last race, and that I have access to at home, as possible.   I’ve been able to balance this unsociable attitude with making contact with some local’s and joining them for an Olympic distance hit-out race in Bunbury, a town a couple of hours down the coast.  The race organizer was generous and comp’ed me an entry,  and kindly local couple Justine and Anthony gave me a ride and a room in the accommodation that they’d booked, so all I had to do was pitch up and race! If I’m honest, I was pretty hard on myself about my performance –  as a “special guest” it seemed appropriate that I raced “Open” category  - not really sure what this meant, but we got the best racking spot in transition,  and fist wave to start. Well, about 20 seconds into the race I figured out that it meant “ elite swimmers” anyway – as I was dropped quicker  than I could believe possible in the swim.  This must have looked pretty funny from the beach, and it didn’t do my mental focus much good. The Age-Group females started 2 minutes after us, and I was even lapped by some of them before the half way point. HUH. Still, I swam as well as I could and raced the long path into T1 as if I really were in contention – well, why not? There was one bike left there besides mine. Probably someone got eaten.   Wet suit off ( not swiftly – need to address that) and onto the 6 lap bike course. I like lapped courses for this distance  it’s really good for keeping pace and focus up, plus you get to see so much of the  other athletes in the race. I was having fun and  was riding  “OK” – for a half ironman distance. About 20bpm below what I know I should be at for 40km, but I just did not have that extra Go and couldn’t see anyone from my race to pace off or chase The run was a 2-lap 10km , flat and at least I had plenty left in my legs to enjoy a decent run. I pushed hard and caught and passed a few other girls – though more than likely they were the age groupers who’d out swum me. So ,I felt a bit miserable about the whole thing – doing an Olympic tri as a pre-race hit out is great when it all goes well  (or there’s not much competition)  but there’s not time to do much about your fitness by  then, and so if it’s not a great day ….then what ? Well , looking at the results online after the fact cheered me up a bit. Yes – my swim was bout 5 minutes off the pace of the Open girls, but my bike and run really were there or thereabouts – in fact I think I had 3rd or 4th fastest run split - and that was all without being “in the race”, and off the back of a 25 hour training week.
It was a really well organized and superbly supported event, with lovely refreshments afterwards and spot prizes from the many local sponsors.  I got to hang out with a really nice bunch of new people, and was looked after like a superstar by Justine and Anthony who I was really hoping would officially adopt me….they and the rest of the Stadium Triathlon club will be down in Bussleton  volunteering on Ironman day before making a huge racket at their support station. I sure look forward to seeing them again :o)

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