Friday, March 12, 2010

Working on my swimming

For the first part of this year I have really been working on my swimming technique. I have been swim training for about 3 years now and before this season, have seen very little gains in my overall pace. Okay, I have improved my fitness, but I always seemed to have problems with getting faster, especially as most of my friends at Masters swim training are going considerably quicker than me.

This year, I thought that I would look into my swim stroke and get it analyzed from a third party point of view. For this, I turned to TTS and coach Ian Murray for a 4 week swim clinic. Essentially for me, this was a back to basics course with the important point that someone was going to be evaluating every step I take.

Their drills work on balance first then slowly develop to introduce efficient propulsion. Slowly is the important word here. I have always been impatient with my swim drills and never really understood what I was doing or aiming for, but as the weeks moved on, this all came together and I was already starting to feel much better through the water.

The video camera came out in the final session and filmed our progress. At this point, I was hoping to see a complete transformation in my stroke but I could still feel old habbits coming through and it was stressed to me that this was just a start and that I had a lot of practice to do before this became totally natural.

This was by no means a put off however. In the pool, my times were already coming down fast and with all of the pointers I was given in the classes and the issues highlighted when being fimed underwater, I have a lot more speed still to come.

I did my first Threshold swim test (T1000) today. This is a way of determining my 100m pace. I swam 1000m continuously in a 50m pool. The time for this was 00;15:18. To get my T100 pace I just need to divide this by 10, (being careful to convert to seconds first). The result is 1:31.8.

Last year, although I had never done a test like this before, I would have expected this T100 pace based on a T1000 swim to have been closer to 1:50.

With technique changes alone, I am guessing I have gained 20 seconds per 100 and I would also add that the pace felt really comfortable and sustainable. This was not the case last year.

My target for this year is to try to get down to 1:15 T100 pace.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Desert Triathlon - Race Report

So many positives and negatives from this first race of the season, but to be honest, without the negatives, I wouldn't have so many things to improve on for the next race so I see these as positives anyway.

So the weather was a big question mark for race day. We are out in the desert and they rarely see rain but this time around, it was on the cards. I was in the first wave of the day, kicking off at 7:30am. This was such a blessing as the skies were clear but it looked like the weather was rolling in.

Without warning, the horn went off for the swim. Normally there is a 3..2..1.. count down but for some reason this was missing for the first wave. This caught a lot of the swimmers out, not least myself but I was towards the front so I went for it anyway.

The start was brutal. I had never done a lake swim before and the first big difference that I noticed was how tightly packed everyone was. I was right in the middle and I now realized that I would have done better starting towards the side and maybe swimming a little further but in clean water. I was cut off so many times by athletes swimming in random directions. With nowhere to go, I needed to sit up a couple of times to get space to swim. After turning the first Buoy, I found clear water and started to get into a comfortable stroke. After the second buoy, I found clear water to the outside and started picking up places. I wasn't in the lead pack but I headed out of the water at the front of the chasing group.

With numb feet, it's hard to tell how sharp the shingle was, but after the race, it seems that I has cut up my feet a little on the swim exit. This didn't bother me for the entire race so I'll leave this part there.

I found my bike without a problem but messed up the bike mount. I didn't cleanly get my left foot on and my shoe flipped over jamming between the pedal and the ground. I fumbled 3 times to recover before stopping and putting my left foot in the shoe and starting again. This time I got going and quickly picked up the pace. On the way out to the main 10 mile loop, I got up to 30mph which felt great. As the course got a little windy though my speed reduced to about 22-23mph. For early season, this still felt good so I was pleased with this. No-one passed me and due to the duathletes that got out on the bike course early, I had plenty of riders to chase down. I'm not sure if I actually made up any positions, but I definitely did not lose any, so I was doing well.

The dismount caught me out as well. I hadn't taken my feet out of my bike shoes so on seeing the dismount line, I quickly got my right foot out and removed my left foot after stopping as swiftly as possible. Only a second or too lost but still something to get right for next time.

T2 resulted in a couple more seconds lost as I initially got the wrong bike rack to return my bike. Lots of empty racks which make it hard to identify your slot, also give you confidence as you know you are one of the first back off the bike.

A smooth change and off on the run. There was no-one around me. I couldn't see anyone in front or behind. It was a strange situation to be in. As I passed the first water station, I asked how many were in front. I was told Seven. I had no idea whether these were all triathletes or duathletes but regardless, this was far better than I had expected coming into this early season event.

The start of the run course does a small loop before heading around the lake. This was the first opportunity to see where the competitors were in front and behind. The lead runners were a good distance ahead but more importantly for me, as a runner that needs to improve his pace a little over the coming season, the next runner back was a bout a minute behind. I had 3 miles to go to stay in front of him, with no other runners in sight.

Half way around the lake, I could see that I was being reeled in. The last race of last season saw me get overtaken on the run with less than a mile to go to the finish, resulting in me being pushed back into 4th place. I was gutted and that feeling started to build up inside me. I didn't know if I was in a podium position or whether I was actually racing this guy, but that sinking feeling of finding out that I had missed out by such a small margin was giving me the will to fight for my position.

Everytime I looked around, he was ever closer, but with less than 1 mile to go, I picked up the pace. I was holding him off and once we got on the sand for the final quarter mile, I gave it all I had. The gap remained at 20 seconds or so and I felt that I had a great race.

The rain had held off just long enough for me to finish and to top it off, I had placed 2nd in my age group and 12th overall.

A great start to the season and a lot of positives to walk away with.

I felt sorry for the International distance racers who had to tolerate a very cold and wet course but on this day, it seems I was racing the weather too and won.

Finish Time: 01:09:37
Overall Rank: 12
Age Group Rank M30-34 : 2

500m Swim: 00:09:16
Rank: 22

T1: 00:01:31

14 mile Bike: 00:38:05
Rank: 18

T2: 00:01:14

3 Mile Run: 00:19:31
Rank: 22