Saturday, October 02, 2010

Swimming to a better triathlon



If you had told me 10 years ago that I would enjoy swimming and the training that goes with countless laps in the pool.....I would have laughed and called you nuts. In fact three years ago I had to say this about swimming...Becoming a Shark. So here I am again writing about the part of triathlon that many people don't like, struggle through, tolerate, or survive so that they can get onto their bike and finish with a run.

When I started to get serious about triathlon I got with Coach Angela. She had workouts for me to do in the pool. Structured workouts for swimming was something new for me but it also made sure that the time in the pool was worthwhile and not boring.

At some point during our coach/athlete period together she was evaluating my swim stroke early in the season and she had the most awesome comment for me, "You are a swimmer." I thought I had posted about it before but I can't find the entry. Anyways, her comment really struck home for me. It was definitely a turning point in my triathlon career.

A couple of years later I find myself at the end of another successful season....and my swimming has never been better. In each race I was at the top of my age group in regards to swim times. Understandably a race is more often lost during the swim, it is rarely won during the swim. But my swim times kept me competitive despite what I felt were lackluster bike splits and finishing with a strong run.

Bare with me as I need to back track a little now. On August 13th I had the opportunity to attend a swim clinic made possible by friend and fellow triathlete Daniel Smith. Daniel had done the photography for a new book written by Four Time Olympian Sheila Taormina titled "Call the Suit".

It was awesome meeting and hearing Sheila talk about her thoughts on swimming. She broke down swimming to it's basic elements and two things clicked in my head.

First, I was already on track with some of her views about the basic swim stroke.

Second, she explained swim speed so simply that a light went on in my head.

And I'm not talking about the 25 Watt bulb like you see below.

I'm talking about a 8 million candle power military grade searchlight baby.

Years of miscellaneous information finally came all together like the pieces of a puzzle.

I left the swim clinic eager to read her book and apply what she was talking about. Of course I didn't want to jump into it right away because I still had two more races ahead of me, Vermilion Harbor two days later and the HalfRev on 9/12. We all know you don't start changing things mid-season.

I still started reading Sheila's book to get the basics in my head. I could immediately see what I would be focusing on in the off season. A lot of drills and technique would help me build a good base during winter swimming. A good technique base would then allow me to work on the speed and endurance portion for the second half of the winter.

Despite telling myself to be patient and wait for the post season I just...couldn't...resist......

During some of my swim workouts I tested out some of Sheila's swim techniques. I call them her's because she wrote the book, but in actuality the basic principles are used by all the top swimmers in the world....period.

I swam some 100's and 200's just to see what would happen. Nothing long that would damage me or change my swimming before the HalfRev.

If you happen to look back in my blog you will see that I've normally been a 1:30/100 yard swimmer. This season I was consistently in the 1:25 range for the short stuff and still around 1:30 for anything over 300 yards.

On two different occasions I tested my new found knowledge and was excited by my results.

I first did some really short stuff. A couple of 25's, then some 50's to warm-up. Each of those splits when multiplied made for some very fast 100's, interesting. I finished up with a couple of 100's to see if the estimates were correct.

I was pulling 1:15's out of my butt like nobody's business, and I wasn't winded after each one.

The second time I did my little test was during a work trip. I was in a local Y pool near Joliet, IL and decided to rip off three 200's. I'm usually happy to be at 3:00 or just under for a 200.

My first 200 was a A 1:25 average which is about right for my fitness this year.

Second 200....2:42. REALLY?!? I felt pretty good after that one also. Gave myself some rest an hit it again.

Third 200....2:38. Holy Crap!! 1:19 average.

At this point I not only drank the punch that Sheila was serving but gulping it down by the gallon.

So what is the punch Sheila is serving? Honestly, I can't do her justice by trying to describe it on my blog unless I plagiarize her book.

And I'm not even going to try and go there. It may sound like a plug for her book.....okay yes it is....but for $18 how can you go wrong? "Call the Suit" is by far one of the best training books I have ever bought and is well worth the money, plus I got mine autographed by Sheila.

So go and order her book. After you have read it then we can talk about what you learn from it.

Hey Sheila.....for this hand I'm calling Hearts.

This winter I'm getting my Swim On.


Christi said...

You have me sold!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Eric!
..That was an awsome post, a wonderful send off to me as I head out on the road tour with Sheila to romote the book and her swim clinics all over the west coast this fall and winter!)- an FYI- if anyone missed her, we will be at Oberlin college with her clinic..while home on break in December,for an intensive swim clinic.. (see;
I too can agree to everything you've said (as I worked on the book/photos for the book alongside Sheila and 2 other olympians that made swimming 100's under 55sec..(they made it look as easy as me snacking on candy corn) I was lucky enough to garner free advise and swim instruction from her and become her clinic sidekick in the process! (as well as some incredible cycling skills and also run technique).She is one smart athlete!
anyway..I just completed my fastest ever 1/2 Iron Ever 9by 21 mins!)I swam in the 28's for the first time too, took off 14 mins on my run..and made a long course nationals qualifying time..Whooohoo!
..Just proves that we can,.with hard work and patience ..get better with age!
cheers to you Eric.
you RULE..hope to see you all soon or at Oberlin :)
Daniel Smith