You stole my mudguard… Really ?

swim drills

Hey there thanks so much for stopping by, its so fulfilling to see so many people take an interest in my triathlon trials and tribulations.

So this week has been quiet enough. No race till next week which gave the the opportunity to do some training. It’s funny how as a sports competitor in spite of being in peak physical condition you always seem to be carrying a minor niggle and this week was no different. While that cut has healed on my foot (thankfully after cutting it on a rock in Seapoint three weeks ago) I acquired another minor injury to my right calf muscle a few days ago. I had gone on a 20km cycle and had decided to turn my training session into a brick session, where you run immediately after getting off the bike. Triathletes are advised to do this as it replicates what happens in an actual race and you need to physically experience running at pace straight after cycling at pace if you want to be able to compete in a triathlon.

Interestingly when you go from a being in a crouched seated position as is the case on a bike, to an upright running position, the body undergoes a shock of sorts. From a cardio circulatory standpoint the body has to immediately redirect blood to different muscle groups to meet the new demand brought on by the running leg of the triathlon. Many triathletes complain of having weak or wobbly legs in the initial stages of the run primarily because their body is adapting as they are running. By practising brick sessions you in effect rewire the body so that it undergoes less of a shock during your next race.

So having cycled 20 km I parked up my bike in the Phoenix Park at the polo grounds and proceeded to do a few laps at a reasonable enough pace. At one point I felt a twinge in my calf and I knew it was muscle cramp which I believe can arise from lack of hydration and or an electrolyte imbalance which in hindsight made sense to me as I didn’t have much to eat or drink prior to setting off that morning , a silly error on my part. I managed to complete a few laps all the same and cycled home. It was only later that day I noticed a tightness and stiffness which stayed with me for several days. I employed the foam roller and stretches to work out the tightness but running again would have to wait a few days. In the meantime it was back to open water swimming with a good session in Seapoint where I managed 2 km in 25 minutes which was a good time in the choppy conditions and certainly a faster pace than I managed in my last triathlon in Greystones and I think I know why.

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When you’re swimming in open water you don’t have the benefit of crystal clear waters and a lines to follow at the bottom of the pool so in order to see where you are going you have to periodically lift your eyes out of the water which is called sighting. Sighting is a vital skill that I had only done for the first time a couple of months ago and is just another element in the already highly technical sport that is swimming. I seem to swim faster in open water in training than I do in a race, especially in the sea and I think its because I am sighting too much in a race context. The problem with this is that every time you lift your head to sight, unless you are a very good swimmer technically, your legs drop thereby creating more drag and slowing you down. The more often you sight the more often you are putting the breaks on. With a mass simultaneous swim start as was the case in Greystones I think I was a little paranoid of hitting someone or being hit in the washing machine melee that ensued. There were arms and legs flying as swimmers manoeuvred for position and it has a disruptive effect and a disconcerting one especially to a newbie like me. As a result I found myself lifting my head too often and it showed in my race pace.

This sighting issue was something I worked on yesterday in the pool amongst other things. I had recruited the help of a former junior aquathon champion and 2015 winner of the Liffey Swim to help me with some aspects of my stroke in an effort to become more efficient and quicker in the water. Orla Walsh knows her stuff about swimming and managed a 4th place in her first triathlon of the year only last week so I could only benefit from her tuition. The beauty about having someone knowledgeable watching you swim is that they can obviously see what you can’t, suggest improvements and then watch you as you adapt to their instructions. This was in fact my first formal swimming lesson as such. While I had some lessons as a child I was never able to swim with my head in the water till I taught myself 4 years ago. While I have absolutely made immense strides since then I felt it was time to get help of an expert. Orla gave me a variety of drills to practise as she watched me go up and down the pool. The drills are designed to adopt a better stroke by getting you to break down the entire stroke into bits and essentially exaggerating them so they become imprinted on your muscle memory.

My overall stroke is apparently not bad, I just need to improve my hand entry and stretch more to get more length on my stroke. The other area which I need to work on is my  elbow position when I’m pulling through the stroke under water. I have a tendency to let my elbow drop which gives me less purchase on the water and preventing me from going faster. I have to say Orla was terrific and explained where I needed to improve and I’l be having another session with her to see if i have put those corrections into practice. And the best of luck to Orla who is competing in The Harbour Race tomorrow, its a 2.2 km race around Dun Laoghaire harbour which itself is impressive but even more so when you realise simmers don’t use wetsuits.

One last thing, I bought some triathlon goodies last week which included a speedometer and a detachable plastic mudguard for a tenner. Wouldn’t you know, someone decided they’d steal the cheap plastic mudguard!!! Thanks a lot !!! GRRRR. Another excuse to go shopping I suppose!


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