Wednesday, May 11, 2011

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
Guy Crawford
Guy Leads Out The Field At Busso
Melbourne Photography, Blinq Photography

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. 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 his 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. Being the talented swimmer he is, Guy took these changes on board very quickly giving him an immediate benefit. 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

Stuart enjoying the scenic run at Busselton

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

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 so avoid crossing over.

We didn't over-do this and drop his stroke rate so low that he added a glide or pause to his stroke 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.

In the race 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
Find the right rhythm for your stroke

Making adjusting to your stroke rate is very hit and miss without a Wetronome: it's hard to co-ordinate and hard to judge things accurately. By simply timing your strokes to the perfectly timed beep-beep-beep of a Wetronome it becomes easy to adjust your stroke rate up or down depending on your individual needs and develop a more efficient 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 lop-sided, perhaps as the result of only breathing to one side in your stroke, 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 here.

Swim Smooth!

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