Swimming

The Long Course Weekend

Every July since 2010 Pembrokeshire plays host annually to one of the most difficult multi-sport events – the Long Course Weekend. This unique event lasts three days and has grown from humble beginnings to now accommodate some of the best triathlon talent in the UK and the world, including a number of athletes utilising it as the perfect preparation and build up to the Ironman Wales event in September.

Beth did the event last year when I was away training in Switzerland and thoroughly enjoyed it so this year we both signed up for the full Long Course Weekend event; it was great preparation for Beth’s Ultraman event later this year and in my case I still love to participate in the sport I coach. There are a number of options for each discipline but to qualify for the Long Course and that elusive fourth medal you clearly have to do the full distance in each event. The weekend kicks-off on the Friday evening with The Wales Swim. There are two options a 1.2 mile and a 2.4 mile swim and it takes place on Tenby’s North Beach. The Long Course athletes have to complete 2.4 mile swim. Having not swum at all for a month due to a rotator cuff injury this was never going to be pretty for me and so it turned out with me exiting in 117th place. The course is a two-lap swim, for the full distance, with a so called “Aussie exit” (although I’m led to believe that Australians have no idea what an Aussie Exit is, nor why we call it that) and goes in a clockwise direction. The first buoy was reportedly 800m away but it seemed to take forever to reach it. There was a minor swell running and it was a little lumpy, there were reports of jellyfish last year but I only saw one however it genuinely was the biggest one I have ever seen! Straight up this event felt different to an Ironman branded event, with very little of the testosterone fuelled hype at the start and a much friendlier atmosphere. So straight away I liked it. We had stayed in a B&B in Tenby so you could just walk down to the start in your wetsuit if you wanted although we chose to just change on the beach and use the bag drop which was all very efficient. It was also quite nice to just do the swim and go back to the B&B rather than the thought of getting straight onto the bike.

On Saturday the attention turns to The Wales Sportive, and 112 miles of “undulating” Welsh countryside lined in parts with enthusiastic crowds. There is also a 44 mile and a 66 mile route option. This ride is extremely tough and some of the “undulations” are full blown hills. The weather was dark, rainy and in parts foggy. The rain did not ease up for the entire event and I did not take the rain jacket off. They start you in small groups and I started near the back and was constantly passed at the start by the likes of Lucy Gossage who was safely tucked in behind a peloton of riders from Cambridge. I wasn’t able to stay on the back of the group, to be fair I couldn’t even get on the back of the group! It is not a ‘race’ as such it is sportive so is fully draft legal. For me I spent the majority of the ride on my own and it wasn’t until near the end that I started catching riders. I rode my road bike as opposed to my Tri bike and at the time this seemed to be a mistake as there are certainly large parts where you can get nice and aero on the tri bars (perhaps a bit of grass is greener) although I was happy to be on the road bike for the decents as in the rain and fog with steaming up glasses there were a little sketchy, quite a few people came off. The ride is tough and my ride was fairly miserable going about 90 minutes slower than I did at my last Ironman. Got it done though and saved some time by not using the sportive style food stations and carrying my own food; I finished in 98th place.

To finish the weekend, the athletes have the small task of completing the 26.2 miles of The Wales Marathon, which is quickly establishing itself as a fantastic event in its own right. There are 5k, 10k and Half Marathon options with the latter two starting after the marathon. The Half for example starts 2 hours after the marathon start so if you are quick enough you will be cheered on by those runners waiting to start the half. In my case the fastest runners in the half and the 10k started to pass me around my 20 mile mark. The run was by far my best event and with the weather being much improved I aimed to run around 3:15 pace or 7:30 per mile. The route is an extremely hilly single lap and is not the Ironman Wales run course. I stayed on pace until around mile 18 or 19 but started to drift off towards the end. I came in at 3:25 which was the 26th fastest marathon time. Swim and bike for show – run for dough! You can tell which event runners are doing by their bib colour and both spectators and other runners alike were appreciative of the Long Course athletes. I passed a fellow LCW athlete on the run and rather than trying to race me he was complimentary about how well I seemed to be going – this isn’t what happens in an Ironman when you pass someone in your Age Group!

All in all I can thoroughly recommend the Long Course Weekend. It is challenging but more than that it is a well-run event with none of the drama that goes with the Ironman events, so no huge race briefing, no racking of bike or dropping of bags and it is conducted in an inclusive and friendly atmosphere. With the pick and choose nature of each discipline there is something here for everyone. For those doing an Ironman later in the year you could do the full swim and bike and perhaps just the 10k to save your legs for example. Entries for next year are open and if I was you I’d get on it.

If you have any more in depth questions about our experience of the event just contact us.

Thank Goodness for Clif Bar!!

clifThank goodness for Clif Bar!! I have been a bit busy with work, getting the house ready to put up for sale and looking for a new house, (or motorhome -stay tuned!) so I haven’t had the time I would have liked to experiment with nutrition bars. Enter Clifbars - an ethical company that takes whole food seriously. Plant based nutrition AND free of hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup who have sponsored me on this Ultraman journey AND as well as fuelling me have sent me some cool kit! I did find the time, however, to make these Super Simple and easy to put together (right up my alley!) Onigiri. A Japanese rice ball popular in ultra race aid stations due to its cooling effect on the body – loaded with carbohydrates, electrolytes and salt and easy to digest to boot. The photo is google image (mine weren’t so pretty) and I got the recipe from :

riceEat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness

By Scott Jurek, Steve Friedman

2 cups sushi rice

4 cups water

2 teaspoons miso or umeboshi paste

3-4 sheets nori seaweed

Follow the directions for cooking the rice, then rinse and place the rice in the fridge over night to cool.

Using your hands, form a 1/3 -1/4 cup rice into a triangle. Spread 1/4 teaspoon miso or umeboshi paste evenly on one side of the triangle. Cover with another 1/3-1/4 cup rice. Shape into one triangle, making sure the miso is covered with rice. Using half of one sheet of nori, wrap the rice triangle in nori, making sure to completely cover the rice.

 Next time I make these, I am going to make a bit smaller. These lasted a good 4-5 bites and on the bike I am not going to want to hold on to these suckers for that long. I also added pickled ginger (to keep the tummy happy). On the whole I am happy with these and with the seaweed sheets they have their own wrapper.

They are a big hit when you’ve been having sweet stuff and want something salty and savoury. But I’m not against trying these with almond butter or honey…

My favourite thing in the world is quick and easy to assemble snacks with as few ingredients as possible – hopefully at some point I will have the time to get stuck in making more bars. The toughest thing about triathlon- fitting life in between training sessions!

*This week I spent:

4 hours swimming (missed one session)

4 hours running

7 hours biking (cut 2 sessions short)

*And watched:

The Sasquatch Gang

Carpool karaoke with Gwen Stefani, Adel, Sia, JLo, One Direction, Chris Martin, and Elton John – and yes, I sang along.

Hundreds of swimming videos (at least 10)

Britain’s Next Top Model cycle 10… all 9 episodes… I’m not proud of this.

1, 2, 3 ....GO!

So my swim training is kicking into high gear – with 123 days to go, I guess it had to at some point. A Tuesday night 5.6k set took 1hr 45mins – which seemed ok until I realized the race is 10km in Lake Bala so basically I am looking at about 3.5 hours if I don’t speed up!  If you fancy replicating the session it was:  1 x 600 pb/pad

6 x 100 pb only – 10 sec rests

2 x 500 pb/pad – 30 sec rest

5 x 200 1st , 3rd and 5th are pb/pad; 2nd and 4th are pb only – 15 sec

3 x 400 pb/pad – 25 sec rest

4 x 300 1st and 3rd are pb/pad, 2nd and 4th are pb only – 20 sec

Dimond

The weather has been, shall we say, “changeable”. There was a 2 hour window last weekend to take out The Beast (I am experimenting with names for my bike). This was the inaugural outing – and I am so happy to say The Beast is ALIVE! She is a Dimond with Knight 65 front and 95 rear wheels – perfectly fitted as always by Richard at FreeSpeed.

It was nice to be outdoors as I have been doing all of my cycling on the turbo trainer in the garage. At some point I think I will have watched every movie on YouTube!

Happy training!!

 

What do you do when Marathon, Ultras or Ironman isn't enough?

IMG_4348It all started with a book. “The Race Within” by Jim Gourley – a story of passion, courage and sacrifice at the Ultraman Triathlon. Having spent the last 15 years racing triathlon up to Ironman distance and running up to Ultras my planned ‘easy’ 2016 season of ‘just’ racing half ironman distance was slowly slipping through my fingers the more I read.   In December 2015 when I entered UM UK I had a great idea for a blog writing about what it takes to get to the start of Ultraman, as a Vegan how I plan to implement a plant based nutrition plan and ultimately how the race goes – then all of a sudden it’s the MIDDLE of APRIL! Day one of this three day race is 1st of September. Roughly 4 months away. Training so far has been about keeping the fitness I already had from training and racing Ironman distance and staying injury free. Four week blocks of training have emphasized building consistency and volume – nothing too daunting… yet. If you are not familiar with the rigours of Ultraman the race information is below.

Friday – Stage 1 – 10.0 km (6.2 mile) 1km x 5 loop swim up the right side of Bala Lake . The swim is immediately followed by a one-loop 144.8 km (90.0 mile) bike ride beginning & finishing Day 1 in Betws-y-Coed in Conwy. Time Limits – All swimmers must be out of the water within 6 hours and the bike stage must be completed in 6 hours.  Stage 1 has a total cut-off time of 12 hours.  All athletes will be timed.

Saturday – Stage 2 – One-loop 275.8 km (171.4 mile) bike ride beginning and finishing Day 2 in Betws-y-Coed in Conwy County. Time Limits – Bike (Stage 2) in 12 hours. All athletes will be timed.

Sunday – Stage 3 – Mt. Snowdon is central to the 84.3 km (52.4 mile) double-marathon run course. Day 3 begins & ends in Betws-y-Coed in Conwy County. Time Limits – Run (Stage 3) in 12 hours. All athletes will be timed.

Each must be accompanied by an individual support team of at least two persons over the entire course.  Individual resources: mental, physical and spiritual, are shared in an atmosphere where the pursuit of human excellence is the fundamental rule of the road.

Stay Tuned: Next week I will be experimenting with my plant based nutrition plan!!

The ABC of Training

ABC-logoThe 3 key principles of Accuracy of Session, Balance in Training and Consistency are key to any training programme regardless of the sport and are ones that if you or your Coach builds them as central pillars to your programme will aid you in your desire to achieve that PB in the race season. Accuracy of Session or making your sessions more Specific to you, your abilities, your goals and your event is a key pillar to ensure that the desired adaptation occurs. The term specificity is sometimes used interchangeably with the acronym SAID, which stands for specific adaptation to imposed demands. The underlying principle here is that it is the type of demand that is placed on the body that dictates the type of adaptation that will occur. So if you are training for a marathon then an accurately designed session would revolve around perhaps some race pace adaptation, or some shorter interval type work to facilitate that leg speed and improve the aerobic engine efficiency, or tempo work or an appropriately paced longer runs. Not long and slow but longer and appropriately paced. Similarly if you are training for a Ironman Triathlon then you need to swim 3.8km efficiently in a wetsuit, therefore to match the stimulus must match the desired adaptation, so a session might be something like 40 x 100m with some small paddles and pull buoy Would swimming open water make you a better open water swimmer? Perhaps yes, because it is more specific – it is also quite tough to do all year long in most climates. So the examples I have used here are ones where I am trying to activate or recruit the same motor units required by your sport and by incorporating training that mimics the movement patterns of your sport as a Coach I increase the likelihood that muscles involved in the sport will be recruited.

Balance in life whilst still achieving the consistency, that as you will read below is fundamental, is key to achieving long-term success in sport. Training adds to our daily dose of stressors, work, death, marriage, taxes etc. and therefore by achieving balance and limiting that total stress you allow therefore just Training Stress to be placed upon us. If we achieve this then we can perhaps up the training stress thus facilitating greater adaptation. By achieving this healthy balance you can eke out the most from those training sessions.

Consistency is the unqualified key to long-term progress. Consistency in training is paramount and in its simplest form is limiting those sessions you miss. Your Coach may plan weeks where you will do no training – and believe me when I say these will be tough but in principle we look to keep ticking over. Aerobic progress and fitness, in general, respond well to continued stimulation. De-training happens very, very quickly. For this reason, avoiding injury is absolutely imperative. Injuries do nothing but put you on the couch, undermining consistency, and therefore long-term progress.

 So when you or your Coach is designing your next block of training consider the ABCs.

“How do I improve my swim leg for triathlon?” – Also very applicable to Runners!

images“How do I improve my swim leg for triathlon?” – Also very applicable to Runners! There are 3 go to tenets that should help you improve and certainly make you more efficient in that triathlon swim leg.

Be Consistent
: Consistency in training is the number one method to achieve success in all three disciplines of triathlon, especially swimming. Depending on background I encourage my athletes to maintain at least 3 training swims a week a solid structure and basis to each session. For some who do not have a swim background yet have lofty goals like a Kona qualification we may work up to 6 swims a week and 20km of swimming. Typically this would consist of four 4km sets and a couple of 2km recovery type sets that would follow other disciplines – so Sunday for example might be a longer run and later in the day a 2km recovery swim.

Understand Your Speed: 
You need to know how fast you are swimming your 100s so learn to read the Pace Clock or use some form of timing equipment, like your fancy Garmin 920 watch, or use a Finis Tempo Trainer. This skill is essential in order to measure improvement – you can’t measure improvement if you don’t know where you are starting from. Knowing what times you are swimming and the pace you are holding is central to improving your times. Having said that for a triathlon swimmer I’ll take efficiency over ultimate speed every day of the week. So I’d much rather you swam 1:15 in your Ironman efficiently than you swam 1:05 but it took a lot out of you. To achieve either result we still must understand our relative speed and the simplest way is to start reading that pace clock..

Build Sessions
 These work to prevent the common mistake of going off too hard. We see this error in all three disciplines in triathlon where an athlete starts a session or a race too fast. Try to break sets down into 3 where you build through the session. So if you were swimming a 2400m main set maybe as 12 x 200s think of the first 800m or 4 x 200m as easy, the middle 800m as steady and the last 800m as fast. This means getting faster, or at least trying harder, throughout the set. This not only applies to swimming but all disciplines in triathlon. This will allow you to be aware of your pace in a race and can teach you how to start fast but not too fast and then to build throughout the swim.

So in your next swim set why not try and put one of these latter two tips above into practice and over the next few weeks work to become more consistent in your training and soon you’ll reap the benefits.

Rachel Qualifies for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii!

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Here is a great Blog post from one of my athletes who recently raced Ironman UK at Bolton. Rachel had the most audacious goal in that our only goal for this season was to win the 30-34 AG at IMUK and qualify for Kona. Coming out the water in 57 minutes, the fastest time in the AG, then riding the fastest time in the AG, 5:52, and finally running the fastest run split of 3:29 is certainly the way to achieve your goal! Rachel finished in 10:28 which won her AG by 32 minutes and gave her 6th female overall and 2nd age grouper so we were extremely pleased and have already started making our preps training wise for Kona. I'll be writing more about how we achieved this in due course but for now enjoy Rachel's report on her race.

How to Predict your Ironman Finish Time

mathsAs a Coach when I am chatting to my athletes it is not long before the subject of Personal Bests/Personal Records and prospective finish times for races comes up. Indeed it is a vital conversation as by having an idea of this information leads to appropriate pacing and very often it is the lack of appropriate pacing that causes races to awry and leads to those ‘explosions’ and statements such as ‘I was going ok until mile X’. If you are looking to estimate your finish time for a run race there are a number of online predictors and you could do a lot worse than to start with those. By entering a known finish time over a set distance these will calculate a prospective finish time for a variety of distance races one of favourites for the marathon was quoted by the late great Frank Horwill from Serpentine AC who stated that if you take you 10km time, multiply it by 5 and then subtract 10 minutes you will get your predicted marathon time. As a rule of thumb for the marathon this is surprisingly (or unsurprisingly if you knew Frank) accurate!

However in the world of multi sport the predictions made become more difficult. Not least that, in the case of triathlon, there are three sports involved and, in the case of Ironman triathlon, the extended duration of the event allows for the potential for more unexpected events or for the terrain/weather/fatigue etc to play a greater part and to make predictions difficult However that is exactly what scientists at the University of Zurich[1] did. They set out to assess whether physical characteristics, training, or pre race experience were related to performance in age group male Ironman triathletes and measured the results at Ironman Switzerland.

The findings show that speed in running during training, personal best marathon time, and personal best time in an Olympic distance triathlon were related to the Ironman race time. The results are not just saying that faster runners over the marathon and the faster an athlete is over the Olympic distance the faster the Ironman finish; they have created a relationship between the times. One of the major findings was related to pace in that the scientists discovered that the triathletes swam and cycled at much faster speeds that they did in training yet ran at significantly slower speeds. The equation that was developed for predicting your Ironman finish time based on Olympic distance triathlon and marathon finish times was:

Iron Distance Finish Time (mins) = 152.1 + [1.332 x (Marathon PB)] + [1.964 x (Olympic Distance PB)]

Whilst your Personal Bests may have been set on a different type of course than the Ironman and the results must be current results I do feel that this formula gives us a great starting point to predict finish times and as a result goals and training paces along with aspirations can be better understood and adhered to. Worthy of note in the research is that slowing down factor on the run and as always it is she or he who slows down least that will do well.

Test it out and let us know how you get on!

[1] BEAT KNECHTLE, ANDREA WIRTH, and THOMAS ROSEMANN (2010) PREDICTORS OF RACE TIME IN MALE IRONMAN TRIATHLETES: PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS, TRAINING, OR PRERACE EXPERIENCE?. Perceptual and Motor Skills: Volume 111, Issue , pp. 437-446. doi: 10.2466/05.25.PMS.111.5.437-446

Is your Training Camp making you Slower?

imagesAs we prepare to head out the door to host our April Triathlon Training Camp in Mallorca I wanted to give you some thoughts about the rationale of the camp and perhaps some things you might consider when choosing a triathlon training camp. Each Spring we see northern hemisphere age-group athletes go out in search of some sunshine and great training facilities with the sole intention of getting some big miles in the legs as well as the opportunity to eat, sleep and train with fellow athletes without the distraction of work and family ties. Sounds great right?

The problem is that on some of these training weeks the age group athlete will potentially quadruple the volume that they are used to (believe me I have been there) and this can lead to burn out and over use injuries (again, been there). Yet the true rationale for going on a camp is that we get a performance benefit down the line and actually get faster – isn’t it? So here at Performance Edge the rationale is slightly different. Yes we will train - after all we have great weather and all day to do it – we do not bring our athletes out for a Spa week - but we do not try and over work them to the point of ultimate fatigue as most of these athletes are only really starting to emerge from the Northern winter and this will be the first foray into the sunshine and some consistent volume.

Rather the aims of the camp are:

  • To complete an appropriately increased volume of training with some great rides at an increased volume than they are conducting at home– after all they are not working and we have removed the distractions of home so we do have all day to train.
  • To work on athletic development – so we conduct both run and swim video analysis as well as constantly watching for areas during run & swim sessions where we can improve the athletes efficiency
  • To do all of this in a great location, with some great weather so the athletes can train and recover from both life stressors and the stress imposed by the training they are doing and
  • To return them fitter and in better shape than they first arrived – not more tired and needing the following week off to recover

So at the end of next week I want to see a dozen refreshed, fit, tanned and better informed athletes returning home with a passion and an ability to progress towards their A Race of the season.

Want to improve your swimming? Try this.....

“People wish to learn to swim and at the same time to keep one foot on the ground” Marcel Proust 1871 -1922. images 2I’m sure that Proust was not talking about triathlon when he made the above statement however it resonates deeply with many of those of us involved in coaching triathletes to improve their swim abilities. I’ll state it quite simply that there is no substitute for spending time in the water in order to improve your swimming ability. Spend some time just immersing (pun intended) yourself in swim training, increase your volume and you will improve. I know I will already be losing some readers who want the quick fix, the latest technique or technology to get faster with less effort and time. To those I will say please stay and read on as by doing so you truly will be on the road to a better swim split.

I consulted a couple of weighty tomes on my bookshelf to consider what volume is considered to be. Former national performance director of British Swimming, Bill Sweetenham and coach John Atkinson consider in Championship Swim Training that 40km a week is the starting point. The astounding thing here is there are not talking about swimmers they are talking about triathletes. When Sweetenham and Atkinson come to swimming per se they consider that swimming 8 hours a week offers “participation, fun, involvement and significant health benefits, but it is not competition swimming and never produces” what they call “a competitive result”. Bear in mind they are talking about competitive swimmers when they make this statement but it puts swim volume in perspective I believe. Again I may be starting to lose more readers who really don’t want to hear this but I’ve said it before; “I’ve not come across a good swimmer that hasn’t swum lots”, yet this is the one area of triathlon where it appears people are looking for the secret. For those of you still with me I am not saying go out and swim 40km or 8 hours a week what I am saying is that by spending some time training like a swimmer will improve your ability to swim in a triathlon.

If you were training a marathon runner you would probably have them build up to run a long run of around 20 -22 miles or 76 – 84% of race distance. Reading this across to swimming would mean an Ironman distance triathlete would build up to swim a constant 2900 – 3200m. No stopping, no drinks, just do the distance. The key here is to build up. Swimming has less impact on the joints hence you could quite easily go over distance, and in swimming you could do this a number of times whereas with running you would limit it.

So try turning up that volume and seeing how you get on.

 

Swimming Tumble Turns

Following a great Coaching Session at Westonbirt Triathlon Club last night where we worked on perfecting the Tumble Turn I thought it was an ideal opportunity to cover the basics in a blog post. Tumble 11 Accelerate to the wall but do not lift head to look at wall.

One mistake we see often is swimmers slowing as they approach the wall. Swim fast in those last 5 metres and convert that forward momentum into a fast turn.

2 Don’t take a breath on the last stroke.

In order to keep that nice acceleration to the wall do not lose that streamline position, which would decrease your momentum.

  1. Do not get too close to the wall.

With the knees in too bent a position you’ll restrict the power you can push off with so don’t get too close.

4 If possible do not breathe on your first stroke.

It’s sad but true that your fastest period of swimming in a length is just after the push off so the longer you can hold that streamlined, fluid dynamic position the quicker you will swim.

5 Tuck your knees in – a smaller ball will turn faster

Try doing an underwater flip turn – if your legs are straight, or body is not in a tucked position, you will see how much effort it takes to get the legs around and ready for push off.

6 Flip straight over – angle your feet at the wall and rotate body on the push off

The fastest way to get feet to the wall is with a flip straight over – chin to chest, knees tucked

7 Keep both arms straight by side/palms up –using abs to create the flip- hands and arms will be ready for a streamlined push off

8 Flip and Freeze – After executing a straight flip- with feet on wall, freeze to make sure your arms are straight, hand on top of hand ready for push off

9 Stay relaxed – exhale through nose to keep water out – and practice, practice, practice!!

Tumble 2