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September 2017

Swimskin – yes or no….

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Do you have a non wetsuit swim this Autumn/Winter, Kona even? should you factor in a swimskin from the likes of…. ??

When I went to watch Kona in 2015 everyone was in the Roka suit but they were loaning them out to trial so not conclusive.

Swim skins are designed to obviously go over a tri suit for the swim section of your race which will streamline a two piece tri suit and probably help over not wearing one. Over a one piece I am not so sure so factor that in as to what you might race in. The saltiness of the water off Digme Beach/Kailua Bay was very impressive as we floated around drinking coffee handed out from one of the sponsors boats so for sure do not stress too much about it being non wetsuit.

You obviously take a swimskin off in transition which takes a bit of time so add that in to the eqation. Supposedly they are hydrophobic so you swim faster but most tri suits aim for this as well and are hardly full of drag in their own right. Some more compression might help if you can get it on tight enough but again it then gets harder to take off. They are not allowed neoprene so no buoyancy.

Some swear by them and use them all the time in Non Wetsuit swims. Since Speedo do not make one I have not really tested all the claims of speed gains and can only go on feedback. Most positive feedback I have had came from Women who might struggle in a tri suit only <if they have a small waist> as water might gather in the lower back. With two suits on and the outer one tight it might stop the lower back area filling. Not 100% conclusive but perhaps something less likely that men would suffer as much if waist bigger. So anatomical considerations as well!

Sorry there are a lot of ifs/buts with this

I used to use the Sailfish version years ago but that had neoprene in it and helped massively. Probably in the grand expense of Kona it is a small extra amount but it all adds up I know.

As for justifying the expense I also think it helps where you might, time wise, be exiting. If you can make a breakthrough to sub 1:10 it will help massively. The usual peak exit of an IM at 1:20-25ish now becomes 1:10 as it is the worlds and most complained how scrappy/violent the swim is at this timeframe.

Goodluck whatever you decide and I would appreciate any feedback on your experiences.

River Dart10k Swim

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Dart 10km


Finally, a swim that fully went to plan this season. I last swam at this event in 2015 and recorded 1:59. You should not really compare swims like these from one year to the next but it is nice to just flat out be quicker and enjoy it come what may. However, rainfall, tides and positioning in a very wide river all make for completely different events. I use the word event rather than race as when Kate Rew initially came to me with the idea of a 10km river swim many years ago <I helped write the training plan on the OSS website.> it was to be a fun, enjoyable mass participation event quite unique in its approach. If you have seen the swim exit on a sunny day with the deck chairs and cheering crowds you will know what I mean. Think village fete rather than swim race. However, you cannot help feel that there is a competitive element between the two days wondering who had the best conditions or the strongest currents. This weekend just gone a little breakdown suggested Sunday was the harder day or the least assisted. The following show the number of swimmers who swam –

Sub 2 Hrs         Sub 2:10          Sub 2:30

37                    89                        344 – results from Saturday

15                    42                         180 – results from Sunday

Not conclusive by any means but interesting. It might have been that the overall quality of swimmers on Saturday might have been better but at the other end of the spectrum the 600th swimmer was 2:50 on Saturday and 3:23 on Sunday, with over 1300 swimmers finishing.

You also have the interesting idea of what time you depart impacts your swim. The tide looked to be turning at 9am yesterday, the River at the start area in Totnes was extremely static. Those leaving at this time would have had less help at the start compared to the Elite wave leaving at 10am. I swam in the Fast wave departing at 9:45 and the Elites went off at 10am. 6 from this wave beat me so was pleased to have been quickest on the day from my wave.

I was pleased to be 4mins quicker than in 2015 but I try to measure my swims a little more internally to check on progress and see how I did. Openwater is many amazing things in terms of swimming but what it is not is accurate when comparing distances, events and performances from year to year or even day to day. So many factors to consider, so many contributing factors beyond your control and some within. I was pleased to get so many within my control right this race and some of those out of my control not playing a part having had an upset stomach at London Docks, goggle malfunction in Oxford, tired arms in Sheffield and Camping woes at Henley!

I was testing a new 2018 sleeveless wetsuit for Speedo so was keen to put that through its paces. I only had a brief chance to swim in it the previous week so this was a risk but minimal as I know the products intimately. Fuelling was also going to be critical to get right. Swimming hard for close to 2hours is very different to swimming 6 x 1 hr steady with 5hours rest between each swim as we did in Geneva. I took a Powerbar Hydro Gel as they settle quickly and don’t really need extra water just before starting, at the 4km food station and the 7km station. For events over 5km I usually like to carry my own supplies in the form of gels inside my wetsuit around the leg/shin area. They seem to cause no irritation there and I forgot about them once the race started. I fatigued heavily with 1km to go so may have just run out of energy but the weather deteriorated significantly at the end of the event so it might have just been a tougher swim at this point. Pacing for the most part was good, I saved a little for the end knowing when the River opens out it does get choppier and harder to navigate. I kept breahting under control knowing my HR was remaining sensible. The start was probably the hardest as it felt extrememly cold and I had to resist the temptation to speed off trying to warm up. The early KMs passed by and we were all keeping right but I was passing people form the earlier waves on their left trying to be considerate and staying within the channel marked out by the safey cover. I don’t think there was a single minute where I glanced up or breathed left or right and not see some form of safety cover. The OSS really have this aspect perfected.

I ‘only swam’ 10079m which considering how accurate the course is I am really pleased to have only added this small amount. Swimming any event for the second time is probably the best preparation you could ask for. Knowing approximately where the aid stations are going to be, where is half way, when you pass that particular boat ramp it is only 2km to go, what to look for in the distance when the river widens all helps. At times it is not easy to accurately get across some the larger openings so familiar landmarks will help.


Arriving at the finish to the deck chairs, the helpers, the hot chocolate then this suddenly becomes a real reminder about the true history of this event. It is all about fun, sense of accomplishment and comradery of all regardless of ability. I swam a similar time last year for the Coniston 8.5km lake swim to give you some idea of how much the current helps. This event is a great way to achieve the 10km badge of honour as a stepping stone to longer events if you are building up. Good luck in 2018 if you are contemplating entry. This is truly a classic on the openwater circuit.


Kona Bound….

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Swim Boo Swim….

I have had the pleasure of working with Boo for over 2 years now and helped her 1900m Half IM swim time come down significantly in the first year. A key member of the Hillingdon Tri Club it has not been easy to take all points on board while volunteer coaching and working a demanding job involving a lot of travel. It has been a long journey since we first met but finally it all came together at IM Sweden recently and Boo is now heading to Kona. Boo has worked tremendously hard on improving the weakest part of her Triathlon and I could not be prouder of her and pleased for her success.

If anyone promises fast results in the pool, be sceptical. It takes time, patience and diligent practice and when Boo arrived for her Initial consultation it was clear there was a lot to be done which would result in much quicker times.

Initial Consultation Early 2015 – Points from the lesson

Need to remain narrow – Currently swimming low & wide, minimal rotation.Warm up with Torpedo <5m off each wall> to elevate the shoulders, to help narrow the stroke. This will also nicely warm up the legs and remind them that they drive rotation. Not for propulsion

Catch up to float to reduce the cross over which is causing a side to side swim action.

Sculling brought the focus to the elbows and helped the catch by working on a fingertip to elbow paddle it also helps keep the water feeling more solid.

Use the central snorkel a lot now to help keep the head still

The hard bit is then convincing the swimmer that it is possible to improve if they put the time and practice in. It is years as a process for significant improvements depending on how far you wish to go. Not months especially when the aging process is against you <sorry Boo J .>

15 Sept 2015 – Club La Santa swim camp

Regular filming was allowing Boo to identify issues, feel when her stroke was good and how to adjust things when the stroke was not so good. Surfing the arms back up to the surface after entry was an issue and Boo could now run an internal diagnostic and check various stroke components and make the subtle adjustments.

You will see the Extension <superman> drill pop up in fitness sessions time and time again. A solid all round body position drill that helps many areas of the full stroke. If the hands are surfing up after entry this is a great drill to check their depth and know where they should lie – i.e. aim to enter and extend to parallel to the surface but quickly fade slightly down as if you were about to set an early catch position.

Avoid returning up to the surface in an attempt to pull more water, the exposed forearm will create drag and slow/fatigue you.

Add fins to extend the amount of drill swum and if not possible recall how it flows nicely into the full stroke. 

Hold the drill for 2-3 Breaths to one side then swim an odd number of strokes to take you back to the drill on the opposite side. This is a great way to perform the drill accurately if you cannot wear fins.

Early 2016 FITNESS WORK starting to develop.

As Boo’s technique started to hold together and improvements were being made we started to put the stroke under some pressure. Fitness blocks were added on camps and in lessons such as the following with the idea that swimming hard beyond 1900m in training would help race day be very comfortable, low stress and relaxed getting on the bike.

1x100FC with 30secs rest. 2x100FC with 20

3x100FC with 15, 4x100FC with 10

3x100FC with 5

4x100FC with 10, 3x100FC with 15, 2x 100FC with 20

1x 100FC with 30. The aim here was just to build the endurance for the 70.3 season.

13 MARCH 2016- 121 lesson.

Wake up the legs CHALLENGE – 200M LEGS -In an attempt to stop Boo dragging her legs along for the ride I challenged her to break 4mins for 200m FC with fins. We broke this up into

week 1 – 100m fast, rest 10 into 4x 25m rest 5

week2 – 4x50m, rest 10

week3- 2x 100m, rest 10

week4 200m for time.

These little time trials were added into usual tech sessions.

22 June 2016 – 121 lesson.

Race season. I love race season and get excited about tracking competitors progress on race day. Not being at a venue to assess conditions make it hard when you just have stats from the tracker. I might look at the pro results to get a feel for a fast or slow race, demanding conditions etc. when evaluating a slow or fast performance. 

‘Good luck this weekend, I am so happy you are now getting the success you deserve. A couple of things to think about….Just a couple of things!….

Think Narrow, add in some rotation, you have gone a little flat again which is causing snaking and low wide arms – avoid the cross over when rotation is reduced <low arms due to low shoulders – creating the inevitable low wide sweep>

Later Breath, watch the hand pass under the body and follow it into the breath with the turn of the head.

Xmas 2016

I have all the time in the world for swimmers who are dedicated and diligent.  

When someone asks me ‘do you think I can break x mins for y metres in the pool, in an Open Water race or in a Triathlon’ within reason I rarely say no. I can help provide the training and stroke improvements to get you there but you need to get to the pool, get your dryland shoulder strengthening done, stay healthy, rest well, eat well, slowly build volume and make sacrifices. By this I mean give stuff up to find time to do what you need to do.  Saying yes to you is the easy part but are you prepared to help answer your own question? So no Boo you did not drive me bonkers it has been easy guiding someone so determined.

31 March 2017


Another chance for filming, a chance to swim 1-2x per day in the pool and open water and really enhance that familiarity in the water. Once in a while a swim overload can be really useful to your progress. At this time, we were consolidating a great winters training and refining some technical aspects. Technique will suffer when you overload it with fitness but that is how you progress once your technique has been cured of a lot of the basic problems. You need to train it, hold on to it and polish it when it does fade as a result of a big fitness block. I love the concept of technical endurance for this aspect of swim training. One of my favorite sets we worked on was the following.

5x300m FC rest 30 – Tech Endurance Session1 normal FC when the lane rope is blue and white.

THEME- with the following ‘interruptions’ will shake up any standard 1500 swim.

1) Fists clenched FC when in the red zone, <5m into and off each wall>

2) Legs only in the red zone <arms folded on head as you push off, by your side as you finish a length>

3) No breather in the red (and you probably will be!)

4) Add fins but point them downwards in the red zone to feel surplus drag & work the arms harder.

5) Windscreen wiper scull off the wall. Pivot at the elbow, fingertips to the bottom of the pool, palms to push out to the pool walls then return to facing each other

As you can see a substantial amount of fitness but with lots of tech pointers interrupting a long steady swim where form no doubt would have suffered.

JULY 2017

Openwater – you need to swim in it, train in it and be ready to race in it. We know it is very different to pool swimming and confidence, the cold, navigating all make or break a good OW swim. From previous years Boo and I swam many Monday afternoons at Hyde Park checking her tech improvements in the pool were transferring across to OW. Everything was falling into place and Boo was starting the season with some early season events. There is nothing quite like some low key OW events and Triathlons to help practice and work hard with less stress of things going wrong in a key A race.

On the big day in Sweden Boo was familiar with the location having raced in 2012 and swum a 1:31. She was not massively quicker this time but conditions were different and exiting in 2012 she only beat 4 others in her AG out of the water. In 2017 only 5 were quicker this time as she swam 1:24 and headed onto the bike in great shape. See you in Kona Boo.