Thursday, November 29, 2018

How To Correct "Snaking" In Your Swimming Stroke

Snaking is when your body jackknifes to each side at the hips going out of alignment with your legs with each alternate stroke. It can be caused by swimming too flat in the water (not rotating) and by a stiff, wide arm recovery flinging your body out of a straight alignment.

To fix the problem try rotating your torso with each stroke. Visualize pointing your belly button to each side of the pool with each stroke, like rocking a boat from side to side. Here are a few drills to work on rotation. I suggest using fins as well so you don't have to worry about sinking while getting these right. 

Start with kicking 6-12 beats on each side, then switching. Place your ear relaxed on your arm...
...once that is mastered you can add 3 strokes in between and a slow relaxed arm recovery

Another thing to try is relaxing your shoulders and forearms during the recovery phase (when your arms are out of the water) of the stroke. This will prevent your body being thrown out of alignment by a tense arm swinging across your body. These two drills lift your elbow and even shaking your hands at the wrist during recovery can help you stay loose.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The Face-Out Swimming Workout

There are two reasons I can think of that you might need this. The most common is you forgot your goggles. Another is you scrapped your face along the road. In any case, here's a workout you can do without getting your face or eyes wet (much). Can't vouch for how your neck is going to feel afterwards.

4 x (100 backstroke / 25 front sculling)

8 x 100 kick, 3 freestyle, 4th one flutter kick, with board and fins, 20 seconds rest.

100 easy backstroke kick (hands stretched out behind you)

8 x 25 water polo drill fast. 20 seconds rest.

100 sculling with pull buoy (25 side sculling, 25 front sculling)

8 x 25 kick with board fast, no fins. 20 seconds rest.

100 backstroke easy

Total workout distance: 2000 yards/meters

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Morro Bay Triathlon Preview

Here I preview the Morro Bay Triathlon based on my experience doing the Olympic event in 2017.



For the Olympic it's 2 anti-clockwise loops. The bay was fairly protected and very smooth and clear in 2017. It was cold last year (around 55 degrees from memory) but apparently this year it's 58 so should be fine with a normal cap on or perhaps a double cap. The start line is narrow but it didn't seem like people were too keen to line up near the front so it was a fairly polite start (see video 0:28). If you want to pick a side, pick the left side so you're not pushed wide around the buoys. There is some running on the sand between loops but it's just a few steps and not that complicated. Just a little annoying to get vertical in the middle of the swim.


There's a decent run to T1 but it's on a smooth path. They do make you do a "U" through the entire transition area to get to your bike which means there isn't a huge advantage in having your bike near the bike entrance as I normally recommend. Although, if you put your bike shoes on in transition, which you shouldn't be, you probably want your bike close to the bike exit so you're not clacking around in your cleats. There's an argument I suppose to have your bike close to the entrance of transition from the swim because although you're forced to push your bike through T1 longer you'll have more time in your running shoes getting out of T2. I'll leave it up to you, folks.


In 2017 there was headwind but not ferocious and probably blowing a bit more in 2018. The point is you're probably going to be faster on the return so don't freak out if you're not on your average goal pace on the way out as you might be able to get back on track on the return. You have to go by feel. There's one 5% grade at 6 miles but that's the only time you're out of aero. The rest is undulating. All and all an interesting course. I did hear some people got stopped on the way back into town by a light but I must've struck it lucky because I was never impeded. The table below shows distance, time and average speed of the 1st half to the turn around and second half on the way back. As you can see that's a 3.5mi/hr differential between out and back.



As mentioned you come in the same way as you came in for the swim and have to run around the entire "U" transition area again. A little painful on the footsies but they are likely still frozen anyways. 


I had been injured last year and not particularly fit but even if I had been the run was BRUTAL. There are some normal sections on the way out, on some sandy trail and suburban roads. You won't regret holding back here because before the turn around you hit some hill and stairs and then on the way back it is ALL in the sand. Some sections (like 1:50 on the video) you're forced onto soft sand. The majority of the way back, about 2.5 miles, you have the choice between quick sand, near the water edge, or pure dry soft sand. I couldn't tell you which was the worse option. Either way you're going to be running at least about 1min/mi slower on the way back if the sand was like it was last year. So factor that in as you're running to the turn around and make sure you've saved plenty of energy for the return. Oh, and don't take your shoes off. I don't think anyone was disqualified but it's actually illegal so you could be. The finishing straight is paved and feels like heaven. 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Rules To Not Annoy Your Triathlon Coach Using A GPS Watch/Strava

I use Strava more and more to keep track of both the details and for an overview view of my athletes progress. Unfortunately you can't set plans in Strava, so I rely on my TriLog I've developed over the years for that. But for checking in what athletes actually achieved in their workouts Strava combined with GPS watches are helpful. Here are some personal preferences on how to use your watch to display things properly. 


It's debatable whether wearing a GPS watch in the water is that useful as at most pools looking at the clock for splits and send-off is accurate enough. But it does hold a few advantages. 1. you can get your total distance for the workout without counting laps if you're doing longer stuff. 2. If you can be bothered tapping your watch at the start and end of each interval you don't have to keep your times in your head and Strava will hold a nice record of it. But there are some pitfalls that drive me nuts.

Total Time in Water

There's more stopping and starting in swim workouts than the other 2 sports. As a coach, I'm primarily interested in how long you are in the water. So if you get in the water at 6am and get out of 7am, for me that's a one hour workout. Unless you're chatting up a lifeguard for 15 minutes in the middle of your workout you should only press the START/STOP button twice, once when you get in and once when you get out and the rest of the time you should just be tapping the lap button. Unfortunately Strava has a preference for "Moving Time" which I think unfairly discriminates against swimming (when your coasting on the bike it still counts that).


GPS doesn't track drills and kick great. It doesn't matter. As I mentioned it's time in the water that's important. If you really need to tell everyone how much distance you need make a note in description (+400 of kick) or something. Now, I've heard you can do a manual entry with some of the newer watches as a work around. Problem is my drill sets usually alternate between drill and normal freestyle swimming so that's a lot of fooling around with your watch instead of concentrating on your stroke. Let it go...Times aren't important for any warm up or drill stuff so I wouldn't bother touching your watch at all during this time.

Main set

On to the part of the session where you are working on your fitness. As an example I might give the set 8 x 200 (3:40) - 200 yards departing every 3:40. I usually look at the pool clock (not my watch) for the depart interval. It's just easier to see. So if you tap your LAP (or confusingly called BACK button on newer versions) button at the start and end of each interval it will come out like this on Strava.

Which is mostly great except, strangely, there's no record of your resting time. So ideally you could write "8 x 200 (3:40)" in the description or heading and your long suffering coach will immediately understand how much rest you got. Or, if you're doing a set with varying distances you can say "on the 1:50/100 cycle" or whatever the case may be.

A final note, unlike running it's a little bit of an art to press the LAP button while swimming. I recommend pressing it at the start when your head is under the water just before pushing off the wall in your streamlined position and pressing stop just as you bring your hand over to take your final stroke to the wall (so both hands are in front)


Strava is better adapted for riding. In general I really just want to know the total time riding. Speed and average on a regular aerobic ride doesn't concern me too much as terrain and conditions vary so much. I'm split on activating the Auto Stop function (the watch will automatically stop every time you come to a complete stop). I don't use it and just stop for major breaks and leave it for short stop lights. Up to you.


There's a couple of ways to do intervals, most of my intervals are time based and involve continuous cycling, e.g. 4 x 4 mins hard, 2 mins recovery pedaling. Ideally for something like this you'll hit the LAP button at the start and end of each 4 min interval and it will show up nicely in Strava, giving me an idea of the pace you hit for your intervals.

Another way to record intervals, or hill repeats, is riding intervals over a known Strava segment distance. Hill repeats are a good example of that. In this case don't even worry about hitting the LAP button as I'll be able to see the details of the hard interval on Strava by looking up segments. Below is an example with a segment I created myself.

If you do it the segment way it might be useful to mention in the Strava title a key word (like the name of the road) for the workout in case you do it again and want to look it up to see how you improved. "granite creek road intervals". Or, make the segment a "Starred Segment" as shown.


For a regular aerobic run I'm pretty much just interested in average pace and how your pace progressed mile by mile. All this is recorded in Strava without you needing to touch your watch. I DO stop my watch whenever I stop for water or toilet breaks as I like to know my average moving pace. It sucks when I forget to start it again. Again, I don't use Auto Stop as I just think it gets weird sometimes and stops when it's not supposed to etc. but maybe the newer versions work better. 


My biggest frustrations are with people using their watch at track. Again, unless you are stopping for prolonged times, like over 5-10 minutes I would just start my watch at the beginning of the warm up and leave it on for all the drills and walking around and what not until you've finished the cool down. My position is if you're moving around and your heart rate is above resting during a workout then you're exercising and that should count in your total workout time. Like swimming, your average mile pace is irrelevant during a track workout. What IS important is how fast you're doing your intervals. You HAVE to hit your LAP/BACK button and the start and end of each effort. Strava will show clearly your work and rest. What is slightly annoying is that the distance will often show up in miles and track workouts are in meters so it's sometimes hard to figure out the interval. So it's useful to write the workout in the title.

After I have that info it's easy to make sense of the data in "Laps".

Other intervals

Like on the bike it's a simple matter of hitting LAP/BACK at the start and end of each interval, be in time or distance. You can use the pre-set interval features, especially for something like the 30 second ON, 30 second OFF workout which is a favorite of mine and you don't have to be looking down at your watch all the time. Outside of pre-set interval workouts I prefer to have the Auto time or lap feature turned off as it can mess you up if you're recording manual intervals.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

How To Win At Kids Triathlon

Most kids triathlons are held over pretty short distances and much of the total time of the event can be spent in transition if they don't practice it! The goal should be to have your kid complete the triathlon without any assistance. Not always easy to keep your hands off when your kid is struggling with cold hands and wet equipment!

Here a few tricks to make the transitions easier:

Elastic Laces - You don't want your kid to have to tie shoe laces in the transition from swim to bike! There are two options. Shoes with Velcro they can just slip on. Or buy or make some elastic laces that you can replace the normal laces. A final tip. Sprinkle some baby powder in the shoe to avoid blisters. No time for socks!

Race Belt - Kids should plan to complete the triathlon in their bathers (i.e whatever they swim in). They do generally need to wear a number according to triathlon rules. The solution is to attach a number to a race belt and putting that on. Much quicker than putting a t-shirt on a wet body! You could probably make one with elastic from the craft store but you can also buy them online for about $10. May need to be modified for skinnier waists!

Most kids aged 6 and above should be able to handle the skills with a bit of practice.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Should I Do a Marathon To Prepare For My Ironman Triathlon?

I don't have anything deeply scientific to answer this question but it comes up often and I have a few thoughts on it. Except for the very elite, and even for them, marathon running bears little resemblance to Ironman distance triathlon running. Aside from obviously being a slower pace, the mechanics of running after 112 miles of biking are not the same. It's a marathon shuffle right from the beginning and for most will likely include some walking. Ironman running will also involve more variables such as calories intake and the associated possible digestive issues that go with that. They are the same distance but for "middle of the packers" you're trying to compare a 3-4 hour event with a 10-15 hour event.
Ironman shuffling at Arizona 2008

I get that psychologically, if you've never done either, covering the 26.2 distance may help with confidence but I think there are more and potentially better options from a preparation perspective. A half ironman event will give your legs some preparation for how it feels to run after biking in a 5-7 hour format. A long, over-distance bike ride (like 120 miles) will also be closer in total time to your goal event, and with only the swim proceeding it in the triathlon it will give similar sensations that you'll experience during an Ironman.

The other thing to consider about a marathon race as preparation for a long-distance triathlon is that it causes quite a bit of muscle damage with the pounding inflicted especially on the road. So yes, you're covering a large distance but if you get injured, or it takes you weeks to recover, has it really been that valuable a workout if it's impacted your total training volume overall? A triathletes motivation to do a marathon can sometimes be to get a time, test themselves out at a single sport, or just have a goal to motivate them to clock some running miles and that's fine. But I would always suggest a 6-9 month buffer between a marathon and a goal triathlon race to ensure an uninterrupted build up from either injury or an unbalanced training load.