Two Great Half Ironman Swims: How They Did It

Our local Half Ironman here in Western Australia is the Busselton 70.3 which burst into life with another exciting day of racing last weekend. A big congrats from us to all those who raced at this fantastic event! Here's the inside line on two very different triathletes in the race who made some tweaks to their stroke in their build up and had brilliant swim performances as a result:

Guy Crawford

Our first story comes from the pointy end of the field. Pro Triathlete Guy Crawford produced the fastest swim split of the day, gapping the entire field with fellow pro Bryan Rhodes sat on his toes.

Guy Crawford
Guy Leads Out The Field At Busso
Melbourne Photography, Blinq Photography
A few weeks ago we did some work with Guy in the pool giving his stroke a little tune-up. Guy is a very accomplished swimmer and as you can see here, he is very tall with long arms. However, he had recently become a little reliant on kicking hard and had a tendency to over-reach at the front of this stroke which dropped his stroke rate. In training his performances had become a little inconsistent, fluctuating between good and bad sessions.

In the pool we worked on tuning up Guy's catch technique to remove the over-reaching and lifted his stroke rate a touch using a Wetronome, improving the rhythm and timing of his stroke. We also raised his head position to make him more balanced when swimming in a wetsuit as Guy has a naturally strong six beat kick.

If you're an analytical person yourself (perhaps an Overglider) it's worth noting here that Guy didn't over-think this, he kept it very simple in his mind and focused on the improved rhythm it gave him. Because of this he took the changes on board very quickly giving him an immediate benefit to take into the race.

This is what Guy had to say after leading out the field:

"I lifted my head heaps so my feet were a bit lower in the water, tried to increase my stroke rate and concentrated on my hands. 3 things: hands, feet, stroke rate and I felt awesome... I was swimming hard but ready to go if some-one came round me... just had that extra gear... Bryan Rhodes sat on my feet for the whole swim."

Awesome job Guy!

Age Group Triathlete Stuart Murray

Our second story comes from age group triathlete Stuart Murray who is a strong cyclist and runner but in the water has those Arnie tendencies to overly shorten his stroke and fight things. Being a good athlete he's understandably been a bit frustrated with his swimming!

Stuart enjoying the scenic run at Busselton
In our recent video analysis session with Stuart we worked on removing the crossover from his stroke and increasing his body rotation to both sides. To help him do this we used a Wetronome to reduce his stroke rate, slowing him down from around 69 SPM (strokes per minute) to 63 SPM. This gave him a little more time on every stroke to extend forwards properly and avoid crossing over. With this improved alignment Stuart felt much better in the water and he's started to get a much better feel for his catch at the front of his stroke.

It is important to note that we avoided dropping Stuart's stroke rate so low that he added a glide or pause as that would have have harmed his efficiency again. Instead we found Stuart's stroke rate "sweet spot" between fighting the water and adding a deadspot. After around 4 weeks of working on his stroke technique at this lower stroke rate we were able to raise him up slightly to 66 SPM to add a touch more rhythm for the race but still keep his better alignment and catch technique in place.

Stuart had a great swim setting a 36:30 PB for the 1.9km distance, exiting right on the heels of many other athletes who would normally beat him out of the water by several minutes, and was still fresh for the bike leg.

Great work Stu!

Your Swimming

Making accurate adjustments to your own stroke rate can be very hit and miss without a gadget to help you. By simply timing your strokes to the perfectly timed beep-beep-beep of a Wetronome it becomes straightforward to adjust your stroke rate up or down depending on your individual needs and so develop a more efficient stroke.

Use a Wetronome to find the right rhythm for your stroke
As an age group swimmer or triathlete you're likely to be in the 50 to 60 strokes per minute range at the moment. You will normally only need a change of between 3 and 5 strokes per minute in the right direction to find your sweet spot where your stroke starts to click and you experience an increase in your speed and efficiency. This stroke rate will be individual to you but the point here is that you're not looking for a radical change in your stroke rate at any given point in time.

In fact, you might not need to change your stroke rate at all. If you feel lopsided, perhaps as the result of only breathing to one side, then a Wetronome can help even out your quick-slow-quick-slow stroke rhythm to develop a more symmetrical, efficient stroke.

Find out more about the Wetronome stroke rate tool here and for further reading about stroke rate see here.

Swim Smooth!


Anonymous said...

Hi Paul,
Am enjoying the blog and have been trying to improve my lopsided swim by bilateral breathing. However when i breath to my left (and not so good side) i struggle to find the 'pocket' my head comes higher my legs drop and i take in lots of water. I am finding my left arm anchors better when when i breath to my right but my right arm stroke doesn't and so i don't feel like i get enough time to get a decent breath on the left. I'm working hard to breath out adequatley but progress slow. I'm getting tightness across my left shoulder blade and elbow pain in my left arm. I'm aware that my left arm is not doing the same as my right and am struggling to correct it. I don't have fins so the Unco excercises also lead to near drowning! I recently got a wetronome which has helped with my pace, although i'm not sure i have it set right yet, bit on the fast side. Any ideas?

Paul Newsome said...

Hi Tracy

The key is to not breathe out too forcefully but for this to feel like a long steady sigh in the water. This will help you be more relaxed.

The Wetronome is easily programmed to a steadier level, so if you're at (say) 70 strokes per minute, try bringing it down to 64 and see how you go.



Anonymous said...

Thanks for the quick reply, will keep on trying

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