Monday 31 December 2018

Strava 2018

Well it has to be done, here's my Strava movie for 2018. I'm basically happy with 1000km running but it would have been great to have reached a cumulative 1000miles.

Saturday 29 December 2018

Flat walking

Just before Christmas I took delivery of Vivobarefoot Magna firmground boots for use commuting and on easy hikes. The reviews were mixed, especially regarding the stiff heel counter and tight ankle.

I can't say that I've had problems with either. I've gradually upped the distance I've walked in them an have now managed 16km and 22km in them, albeit on easy level ground. My left heel is slightly sore but nothing much - I think there is more to do with a heel  strike habit more than the zero drop. Interestingly I had no problems with some running intervals yesterday evening so can't be anything severe.

Monday 17 December 2018

Looking at stroke rate

Much earlier in the year I was trying to increase my stroke rate to gain some speed. My arm turnover is slow and may well be associated with a drawn-out glide phase. So today I tried sets at 64, 65 and 66SPM hoping to get some good times, I remembered 66SPM being a good rate for me. I got a good workout but unfortunately the pace didn't improve. Even my first set at 65SPM was at a below normal pace. This suggest quite strongly that the  stroke rate was too high for me to be effective.

Some final sets with bilateral breathing and a standard pullbuoy with a greater tempo were disappointing too.

Looking back to April 2018 it seems that 62SPM is closer to my ideal turnover than 66SPM, I'd remembered incorrectly, even from earlier in the month...

It's also possible that I'm tired, yesterday's run was the slowest I've ever done for that regular route.

Sunday 16 December 2018

HRM-tri battery swap

On today's run a message popped up on my watch that the Heart Rate Monitor battery was low. It may well be linked to the cold weather but clearly it must be past its best. Luckily I keep a stock of CR2032 3V batteries in stock. There's a YouTube video of the process if, like me, you're not sure where the instructions are at home:

Note the the official instructions include a few extra tips.

Monday 3 December 2018

Stroke rate

For a change I swam 3 sets with the ToyBuoy at 62, 64 and 66SPM. Previously 64SPM seemed about right, and it did today again as at 66SPM my pace dropped and the SPL increased. I felt to manage the arm turnover OK so the potential is there. Even 64SPM is faster cadence than usual and did give a slight boost to pace and uniformity so is a good point to work at currently.

Thursday 29 November 2018

Unexpected pace

I wondered today how I'd do over 200m with the ToyBuoy with RHS breathing. I'd expected to be just over 4 minutes as a while ago I'd cracked the 8 minutes for 400m with the BigBuoy. Strangely it took 4:25minutes which was a little disappointing and my SPL increased alarmingly. Basically back to the old more effort and less speed.

So, onto the main set of just over 1100m with tidy controlled bilateral breathing but aided by the ToyBuoy. For this I was pleased to record 2:12min/100m average with a fairly uniform pacing. The SPL rose from 21 to 23. Importantly these results show that with the ToyBuoy I seem to achieve a similar pace with bilateral breathing, focussing, than I do with RHS breathing whilst rushing.

Tuesday 27 November 2018

Back to the spike

It was in 2016 that spike sets last featured in my routine but today it felt to be the right thing to do. Actually it wasn't. I didn't want to swim for much over 30 minutes so started with 8 recovery lengths (so the sequence would be 8+2, 6+2, 4+2, 2+2, 2 cool down) giving a total of 1000m. My plan was to do as many of the recovery lengths as possible with bilateral breathing.

Quite early in the session I could tell that I was still tired from yesterday's swim. The 'fast' lengths were terrible at 2:20min/100m at best! For the recovery lengths I couldn't maintain the bilateral breathing even at a slow 2:40min/100m and ended up pausing in a few sets.

Anyway, I completed back-to-back swims again and put some effort in for both.

Monday 26 November 2018

A little bit further

Today's main set was 1267m with the ToyBuoy and I managed to maintain bilateral breathing except when overtaking. The pace was reasonable too at 2:14min/100 with some lengths in the middle of the set peaking at 2:10min/100m. I felt I was fading towards the end and indeed there were some lengths at 2:20min/100m. I thought hard about keeping a high leading arm, getting a good roll and keeping my legs up. Every so often I realised that I'd become careless and my stroke was collapsing but with a bit of focus I go back on track even with some tiring.

Hopefully my neck and shoulder won't be too tired or aching tomorrow.

Apart from a few lengths when the pool was very rough I felt pretty comfortable and am intrigued to see if I could manage that rhythm in a wetsuit in open water. After all, the ToyBuoy is supposed to mimic the buoyancy of a wetsuit.

At some points in the warm up set, without a pull buoy, I noted that I was close to a 2 beat kick but the vey thought of that made me kick a little more energetically.

There is still some progress.

Friday 23 November 2018

Trying a bit of pace

I needed a change of approach today and didn't have any aids with me to hope the session pass. I decided to alternate single length fast intervals with two lengths of bilateral breathing. The speedier lengths were pretty good, and I managed 1 in just under 40seconds which I think qualifies as a personal best equating to 2:00min/100m. Just as a note, in previous blog entires I've mentioned achieving this pace but that was WITH a pullbuoy.

For the 'rest' sets I focussed on bilateral breathing with a roll and trying to keep a relaxed style and not rush. Admittedly that distance seemed enough to feel comfortable but I was happy with a pace of around 2:20min/100m.

Using a web swim watch viewer  that displays SPM it was clear that I increased SPM to do the fast intervals beyond the warmup. However I also needed a faster arm turnover for the bilateral breathing sets related naturally to higher SPL. This shows inefficient strokes and probably a panicky approach to breathing with a falling leading arm.

Anyway, progress is occurring. Let's hope elbow is OK tomorrow.

Monday 19 November 2018

A little too much?

This evening my left elbow aches more than it has for quite a few months and is perhaps telling me that it's worked a little bit too hard over the last 36 hours.

I started Sunday with 1300m swimming with just over half of that being bilateral breathing sets with no aids. I'll admit that I only did 100m sets on the whole but that's a start. I did one 200m set with alternate lengths of bilateral and RHS only and that was OK.  In the evening I did my elbow/shoulder weights session and was well aware of that effort this morning.

Just to cap it off, after work today I swam again with a main set of bilateral breathing with the ToyBuoy. The smallish pullbuoy is definitely easier than using a kick but still needs some input to maintain good posture (unlike using the BigBuoy that makes things far too easy). I was happy to keep a pace of 2:12min/100m for that with some lengths better than 2:10min/100m.

Fortunately on the way home I had a physio appointment and so I've had the various tight spots around my shoulders and forearm massaged out leaving a little tenderness around the elbow. As usual we had the talk that this means I don't have a classic tendonopathy and can continue training; although a rest is divided tomorrow.

Sunday 11 November 2018

Tired legs

I've run both days this weekend, just as I have for many weekends before. Even the same routes! Both runs have felt very hard work, my legs have been heavy and lacking power whilst overall I've felt simply tired. I pushed on, walked as necessary and both days I've completed at pretty much the usual pace.

I wonder if I can blame swimming for my lethargy, at least in part, as this is the first week that I've swum for over an hour in the week since May. Some of that swimming was done with the ToyBuoy but it was still exercise and I have been trying to 'engage the core' and 'lift my legs' throughout so it will have had some impact on me. It is notable that my faster Sunday runs tend to be when I haven't done a run on Saturday; the back-to-back arrangement is tiring.

It's also been arduous at work and I've even had to do some tasks over the weekend, which is quite unusual for me, so I suspect my 'stress bucket' is overflowing.

Friday 2 November 2018

Ooo, neck pain

After a hard day writing a lecture I just had to go swimming yesterday. I'd half planned to do it but didn't have a pull buoy and didn't bother taking the snorkel. That meant I had to swim unaided! I set myself a 1000m target with an intention to do bilateral breathing whenever possible after the usual 200m warm up.

I found that I could only manage a 3 stroke cycle every 5 breaths or so, meaning a few times per length. Certainly my stroke was scrappy and I could tell that I was letting my right arm fall as I breathed to the left. I also felt that the first stroke after such a breath was ineffective. I don't think my roll was well controlled, especially to the left, which always felt like a heave to breathe rather than smooth positioning. Anyway, after 26 minutes of struggling I'd completed the task. This wasn't an attempt at a time trail, more an exercise to see how much I could cope with bilateral breathing. Not very much it appears without a pullbuoy.

This morning I awoke with a stiff neck which has been troublesome all day despite some attempts to stretch. Now I'm trying to decide whether the pain has come from doing 80% of the swim with unilateral breathing and struggling to do 20% bilaterally and badly. Until I hurt my elbow I did nearly all swims with unilateral breathing but I'd built into that. Recently I've been focussing on bilateral breathing in various guises. So perhaps I simply twisted to the right too much. I hope the muscles relax overnight.

Monday 29 October 2018

Some swim gains but at what cost?

Today's swim was basically the same as last Monday's although I went a little faster throughout. I could have had a better pace as I was blocked on the warm up and during the pullbuoy main set. There was probably little to be gained in the main set as I lapped a swimmer three times and made quite an effort to pull past so gained a few seconds there.

However even before starting the swim my elbow was stiff - Thursday's snorkel rekindled the elbow pain and it only settled a little over the weekend. I'll keep an eye on how it develops.

More positively I felt that bilateral rotation was better controlled today and I was keeping a leading arm forwards more consistently. Strangely the SPL was slightly greater for bilateral breathing with the ToyBuoy than for right side only breathing with a kick; not what I'd have expected.

Monday 22 October 2018

Some swim gains

This evening's swim went better than usual, perhaps because I'd not run yesterday and wasn't physically fatigued. The warm-up 200m felt a little easier and faster and indeed was, at 4:42 minutes. Not fast, but clearly below 5 minutes.

I then set out to swim 1000m with the ToyBuoy to help me maintain bilateral breathing but with less support than with the BigBuoy. The pool had lots of fast youngsters and so I was under pressure to keep going so as not to be in the way. Naturally I lost count and had to stop to look at my watch, and even then it miscounted.

Overall I swam for over 30 minutes which is a distinct point that I've not gone beyond in months - hopefully my arm won't be too sore tomorrow. Second, my time for the 1000m was good at 22:23 minutes. Of course I can't include this in my 1000m achievements as it was assisted by the pull buoy, but good to see that I am now starting to manage my breathing.

During the swim I was aware that some strokes were tidier than others, with a good leading arm and not collapsing on breathing. Breathing to my left tends to be weaker, my lead arm is more likely to drop and I feel as though my head is lifting and twisting rather than being part of a controlled roll.

Sunday 14 October 2018

Simply wet

The weather forecast was spot on, 95% chance of rain and it was. Anyway I was out of the house so committed to my usual 13km cruise to Oxstones. When I first bought the Garmin HRM-Tri I was interested in the R/L contact balance especially as I was always lop-sided. Then I forgot about it and noted that I was drifting closer to 50:50. Today's run is interesting in that I averaged 50:50 but started off to one side and moved across to the other.

If I'd been on a cambered road and gone 'there and back' it would be easy to explain. On a trail run where I was running around puddles it's hard to explain other than by linking to fatigue (or that the device simply drifts as it changes temperature and is thus useless?).

Saturday 13 October 2018

Hot 'n' humid

It's amazing that the average temperature on today's run was 21.5ºC, and I'd guess upper 90%s humidity. Initially it was raining so I was 'boil in the bag' with a jacket on but feared I'd have too much wind chill without it. Luckily on Houndkirk Road the wind was behind me and that meant I achieved a Strava achievement for the first time in ages.

It's become increasingly harder to receive one of these as I'm being more cautious in training and getting older every day. Also today should have been run at an easy pace although the heart rate data suggests I isn't take it quite easy enough.

I took a few photographs of autumnal leaves but they are all rubbish as there was so little light they are grainy and blurred.

Monday 8 October 2018

1km point re-achieved

I'll admit that today's 1100m swim was in 2 sets and I was assisted by the pullbuoy but the point is that I still swam just over the 1km mark and was moving for just over 25 minutes. That feels like progress, so long as I can move my arm tomorrow morning!

Just as a reminder, the pullbuoy set was all bilateral breathing and I put effort in towards the end and brought the pace to 2:05min/100m. Mostly I took it pretty easy, focussing on form, especially keeping my right leading arm high whilst breathing.

Thursday 4 October 2018

Snorkel time

Another week of swimming and my arm is doing OK. I'm aware of pain and stiffness in my left elbow still but if anything it's becoming less each day now even tough the arm is in use. Circuits last night wasn't very arm based but lifting and throwing a 7kg medicine ball repeatedly is a fair load.

In line with my policy of trying to improve bilateral breathing, today I swam most of the distance with the snorkel. That's not bilateral at all but it is still symmetrical! That's the main thing. My body seemed narrow and I worked to get a good weight transfer on both sides although I was aware that I wasn't rotating very much. Breathing through the snorkel was hard work even though I breathed on every stroke. I suppose there is a large dead space and resistance which conspire to reduce respiratory efficiency, that is a training load. There are many videos online about the technique gains offered so I should ignore pacing - 'process' not 'outcome'. Lots to practice.

Thursday 27 September 2018

Back in the water for 800m

On Monday the physio found that my left arm tested to be as strong as my right even though there was a little pain during the loading. On that basis I'm considered to be well on the road to recovery. So swimming is back on the cards although clearly it is important that I restart very gently.

On Tuesday I swam 10 lengths fairly gently and today 14 lengths. After the warm-up I did a set of bilateral breathing assisted by the pull buoy. It seems to make sense after asymmetric pain and injury to try to develop a bilateral style. Since I'm not pushing for speed or endurance currently there's also logic in trying to be neat, so there the reach, high elbow, bent arm, rotation and elbow-led recovery to try to maintain in my stroke.

Previously my arm was sore in the morning g after swims; it was fine on Wednesday and I hope it's OK tomorrow. Actually recovery is improving as my arm became quite sore after tough circuits on Wednesday and was stiff early Thursday.

Saturday 8 September 2018

Elbow pain rehab ongoing

After quite a few months I suspect that my right elbow is showing some improvement. I'm doing a variety of shoulder and forearm strengthening exercises for both arms although I only feel them in the left. When I load the joint and in the morning I'm very much aware of discomfort. However it does seem that I'm getting stronger and that the load which induces pain, or stops use, is increasing.

This morning whilst tidying magazines I spotted this.

From Outdoor Swimmer August 2018
I agree with this short item in its entirety. I found the paddles a great training aid for positioning and I felt the training load on my chest. However I do think that engagement of my forearm was part of the set of problems that overloaded my elbow. When my arm is stronger I will be reintroducing the paddles into my programme but in a very gently way.

Sunday 19 August 2018

To the Tabular Hills

My long-for-me run was postponed from Saturday to Sunday but with the bonus of being based next to the North Yorks Moors. I planned a 25km run northwards out of Pickering, picking up the Tabular Hills Walk before returning south to Pickering.

My workflow of Viewranger on Android via gimporter to Garmin 935 worked a treat to set up a instant route to follow. However this approach doesn't work when the route is diverted, as it seems to be in the quarry. As it was a Sunday I allowed myself to hunt around in the quarry for the path to Haugh Rigg. However being sandwiched between quarry workings and a live rife range I had to accept that I'd missed the track.

I resorted to the road and then a sunken track to Newton-on-Rawcliffe. Next time I'm in the area I'll have to try descending along the ridge into the quarry to show the correct route.

Next my route continued through the lovely woodland of Stony Moor, which is no doubt boggy when the weather is normal, along the Tabular Hills Walk to Cawthorn Moor. I must say that I was finding the run to be hard work and was glad to note 'only' 10km remaining.

In Cawthorn I headed south, off the signed walk through expansive fields with Pickering just visible in the distant valley.

I finished off with a few km along the A170 back to town. I must admit that even though there were no obstacles I started on a run/walk routine to stay comfortable as I'd a week of hiking ahead of me.

Saturday 11 August 2018

Not stopping whilst running with someone else

Today's run included the ascent of Porter Clough. I used to run this weekly and always found it a tough little hill. I set off fairly gently but met another runner just after Forge Dam cafe. We chatted on the climb and I determined to keep up with him. It was a struggle and left to myself I would have gone more slowly. I thought I'd have achieved a reasonable time but actually my time for the clough was one of my slowest! Looking back at the data my heart rate was falling in the steepest part, perhaps I was running out of power in my legs? I was breathing hard though!

Maybe I also need to acknowledge that I won't achieve the times of 5 years ago?

Saturday 4 August 2018

5 years on...

After hearing last night's weather forecast for today I didn't hang around after breakfast. I wanted to be out and about before it became too hot. Seemed like a good day for my Blacka Moor 'half marathon'.

From the outset I felt tired, heavy legs, hot; even though the air temperature was moderate at a mere 19ºC. I admit that I didn't push myself but by the end I'd really had enough.

Looking back at my GPS data I first logged this route in the summer of 2013 when I was 1 minute per km faster! I don't have heart rate data from that run so can't compare 'effort'. I'm aware that I kept my heart rate low today whereas historically I used to try hard on every run, but even so, it still felt tough today.

Friday 27 July 2018

Easedale Tarn

The path started smooth, tarmaced and level, or even downhill, so the atypical summer sun was bearable at a moderate jog. As the gravel started the incline appeared, a stealthy attack on progress. Soon the surface was 'improved' with ankle-cracking slate slabs spaced to catch careless toes. An erosion solution with a hidden cost to health? Approaching the valley head progress slowed as rocky steps formed the route, occasional at first but progressing into a staircase too steep for running by city dwellers. Laborious steps and loose gravel formed the barrier to the corrie lip where the cool water was revealed beyond a soft carpet of mountain grass.

A literal dipping of toes was refreshing but all too brief. On this terrain a Grade Adjusted Profile reveals the cautious runners where descent pace is less than ascent. The fear of loose stones and uneven steps precipitating broken arms and teeth decelerates those with more imagination than skill. Short sections of firm trail are an opportunity to make progress ever more so as the curve shallows. The ankle-slabs were fewer whilst retracing steps, so the pace must have been better, or technique quickly learnt. The tarmac though is now uphill, through a village with tourists curious at the flustered runner. Why is the last 100m of a run always uphill?

Saturday 21 July 2018

Slightly hungover

Last night we were out for dinner with my employer and didn't get until 01:00 this morning. Naturally I woke up at the usual time and despite feeling a little groggy decided that it would be wise to get out and about to burn off a few alcohol calories. I'd an errand to do on Abbeydale Road which made doing a section of The Round Walk a sensible route.

 It's been sunny for practically all of the last 6 weeks (at least!) and this long grass in Meersbrook Park show how dry the countryside is.

Sunday 15 July 2018

Elbow week 1

No swimming but a fair bit of arm exercise has made my left elbow slightly aching now. After the DOMS from circuits I didn't want to do the exercises on Friday and although Saturday would have been ideal I cut the hedge - and wielding a large hedge trimmer was sufficient effort. This morning I took the chance to do them soon after breakfast and found that they were quite straightforward and didn't cause any pain at the time.

This afternoon I've been tidying the woodshed and sawn a stack of wood; although I'm right handed the left got used in moving the timber.

Wednesday 11 July 2018

Elbow rehab

The physio and I agreed on Monday that as my elbow is not healing it is time to start some focussed rehab. By working through a set of exercises it became clear that my left arm and shoulder is distinctly weaker than the right. Exercises such as press-ups didn't seem to hurt the elbow whereas front raises were a little painful.

So I have a progressive plan now to strengthen the whole chain. I'm to start with the exercises least painful, mostly to build shoulder strength and stability. When they can be done pain free I'm to move on to loading the elbow muscles and tendons.

This evening's circuit included stacks of press-ups and shoulder presses and I was only vaguely aware of my elbow, so that was spot-on. It'll be interesting to see how it is tomorrow, I think the rest of me will be tired as it was a tough session.

Sunday 8 July 2018

Short, slow run

My normal Sunday morning run was done after a longer than usual Saturday run. It was a lovely sunny morning and although I'd finished before 10:00 it was hot.

Presumably the combination of fatigue and heat was responsible for me being 10% slower than usual. Generally on this run I get to the finger post in just under 45 minutes.

Saturday 7 July 2018

Stanage edge

Knowing that I'm going to step back from swim training I decided to stretch myself a little more on today's run. Even though I was well on the way at 07:30 it soon became quite hot and Porter Clough was especially airless- as it always is!

I went up onto Stanage Edge, being very careful on the rocks. It was amazingly dry with a great panorama onto the Dark Peak.

I went down Burbage valley and then over to Houndkirk Road for the journey home. I must confess that some walking took place and the overall pace was very modest. Perhaps it was very well paced really as I've not run much over 20km in a long time and it the weather was rather warm. A good long slow run.

Friday 6 July 2018

Friday swim

So I started the friday swim being aware of my elbow and set to the intervals. I managed a few lengths below the 2:00min/100m pace but couldn't crack it for 2 lengths consecutively. I'm quite pleased that I managed to finish with 267m at a very easy 2:30min/100m fairly consistently.

Today I also took the sensible course of action and withdrew from the Dart 10km. There's no way I'm going to be fit enough and I wouldn't want to start wit the intention of dropping out and being cold and wet waiting to be returned to base. There's a goal for 2019. Now I'm thinking that I will stop swimming for a month and see if that helps my elbow.

Tuesday 3 July 2018

Not healing!

Today my left elbow has been aching, with the discomfort extending into my biceps. Holding a phone still really aggravates it. No swim until Friday.

Monday 2 July 2018

Loss of pace

After work my elbow felt pretty good so I decided in favour of a swim; even though over the weekend I'd thought I might quit for the whole of July. I thought that a continuous swim was needed as I've become far too used to stopping for sets or intervals and lost the feeling of just keeping going.

The image tells the story as my pace showed a tailing off from start to finish. For the first 20 lengths I felt fine but I was well aware that the last 12 were a struggle. Nonetheless a scan of my blog suggests that 24:22min for 1000m is a PB with an average pace of 2:26min/100m.

02/07/18 2:26min/100m
02/02/18 2:28min/100m
18/01/18 2:32 min/100m
05/03/17 2:42 min/100m
04/01/16 3:02 min/100m
26/02/15 3:40 min/100m

During and after the swim my shoulder and elbow felt good so maybe I am healing?

Friday 29 June 2018

A bit of a catch up...

I've not been posting much recently as I've been rather out of sorts with my exercise. This spring I was to focus on swimming in preparation for a 10k marathon swim. So I cut back on running only to develop tennis elbow at Easter just as I thought that I was improving my technique.

I've seen the physic, tried exercises, cut down on distance, tried short swims, spaced them more, done them daily and all to no avail. I still have an irritated elbow and currently I think it might be spreading. Actually I fear that it may be spreading, apparently this concern about worsening an injury is major factor in people reducing activity when they have a pain.  But might that not be a valid concern, doesn't chronic overload damage soft tissues irreversibly? There is some recurrent tightness around my shoulders, especially the left, but I'm assured that there are no signs of rotator cuff damage.
Currently I have moved onto a swim every 5 days or so, alternating between intervals and a steady swim; none of them long. Today I managed 2 sets of 67m at 2:01min/100m pace although generally I couldn't maintain that pace for the intervals. Nonetheless there is modest progress in pace and gradually I feel I do have more than one swimming speed that I can draw on. It's a pity I don't believe it's possible to train longer and achieve the 10km goal.

On the bright side I have picked up on the trail running although I have lost pace on my legs and the hot (how can we complain?!) weather is a bit too much of a good thing in the afternoon.

Saturday 2 June 2018

Some recovery

A week off swimming and only a little exercise altogether seems to have help my elbow. I have been doing wrist pronation and supination exercises everyday although not as often as advised.

On waking this morning my elbow ached less than it has for a month  and so I went for a short swim. I focussed on careful high elbow technique but not to the extreme nor with overt should extension. I tried to keep my forearms relaxed and included bilateral breathing lengths to reduce the asymmetry of the session. The pace was modest but acceptable.

Now the elbow feels pretty good although I'm aware it's not 100%. Let's see how it fares tomorrow  - I must do the wrist exercises later this afternoon.

Sunday 27 May 2018


This week's swimming has caught up with me today. My left shoulder feels stiff and almost that I don't want to move it in case it hurts. My left forearm rotator muscles and the tendon insert are sore and even pain extending into my biceps. My right arm is OK, although it does feel 'worked'. I'm not sure if this problem is due to the set of swims this week or more specifically due to Saturday's swim when I was trying to do some shoulder extension - that will have worked deltoid muscles and pulled the joint to its limit of movement. I'm disappointed that the elbow pain reappeared strongly as I thought I was avoiding that load.

Saturday 26 May 2018

Hard work #2

So, it's well accepted that it's good practice to keep a training diary to reveal trends.

The last few weeks have shown me that doing 4 or 5, even short, swims during the week leaves me tired for Saturday morning. The effect is especially clear if I made an effort during my Friday afterwork swim. Today's session felt like hard work aerobically and my left elbow ached and my shoulder felt stiff.

This week I've ben focussing on high elbow and vertical forearm whilst trying to limit forearm movement likely to aggravate my mild tennis elbow discomfort. The style is feeling a bit more establish and less awkward although I think my left arm is not as tidy as my right. Part of this will be the unilateral breathing and partly due to my right-handedness (not that I'm useless with my left hand in general).

Despite the tiredness I managed the 200m warm-up at my supposed CSS pace of 2:23min/100m and 100m sets a little faster. The contrast is with Thursday when I did 800m at 2:21min/100m - so really my CSS pace must be better than 2:23min/100m!

The message is clear though; no swimming tomorrow!

Monday 21 May 2018

Lift those elbows

On Sunday and today I've been really trying to move my arms in the way that I thought through on Saturday. I'm getting tired deltoid muscles so that might be a good sign. This morning my elbow felt reasonable too, if it is OK tomorrow that may well show that I'm taking the load off it. Read this to see what it's all about.

Today I thought quite hard about keeping my elbows high. I fear that its giving me a rather boxer-like stroke with short choppy strokes. Currently it feels slightly harder work than my lower elbow style but if it is less irritating to my joints it is wroth a lot. Doing short sets I'm attaining a fair pace and even some rapid lengths (2:03min/100m is great!) but I'm finding longer sets harder to maintain at what is basically a higher strike rate.

Saturday 19 May 2018

Hard work

This morning somehow I knew I was too weak to do well at Hatfield so went to Goodwin for a 'technique' session. I felt tired throughout and struggled to keep either pace or form. Such is back-to-back exercise. I kept thinking about a high elbow but whenever I took a sneeky look I wasn't convinced that it looked 'high'. My forearm certainly didn't seem to be vertical!

On the walk home it started to dawn on me what all the business I'd heard about 'reaching over a barrel' meant. It's all about the hard-to-achieve action of shoulder and upper arm up and forwards. Just keeping the elbow high still allows the forearm to trail when looking from the side. What's needed isn't so much a high elbow as a forwards elbow. This involves some abduction of the shoulder which can be reversed to adduction to help drive the body over the arm and thus forwards.

Thinking about this, trying to achieve a force-generating vertical forearm with a non-abducted shoulder requires substantial input from muscles crossing the elbow to generate tension. If the shoulder is abducted the forearm is largely pushed backwards which may well be more resilient.

Friday 18 May 2018

Short and 'fast'

I had under 20 minutes for today's afterwork swim. So I started off sensibly on a 400m set and finished with a bit of a push. I was very satisfied to record 9:04 minutes with a negative split for the final 100m.

After that I finished off with 200m and 67m sets. I'm very pleased that 'sensible pace' is now well below 2:30min/100m.

Importantly I tried to focus on a good vertical forearm and pressing through my upper arm so as not to load around my elbows.

Monday 14 May 2018

Focus on arm technique

Since Easter I've really cut back on swim training volume as I was starting to feel shoulder problems. Soon after that I started to get pain around my elbow. I would link the onset of the elbow pain with an attempt to bend my arms to bring my hand below shoulder.

Whilst this may be great technique I've struggled to achieve it and now it seems that I've been trying to mimic it by using my forearm as the driving lever. This has caused some localised pain in my left elbow which is the onset of 'tennis elbow'. The physio believes it's quite mild currently especially since it doesn't hurt during the swim itself. All my swims are quite short currently as I'd backed off because of the potential shoulder problem!

Today I focussed on high elbow and use of the upper arm as the driving lever. The pace achieved was around my current norms so no great impact there. The interesting thing will be how it feels tomorrow.

Assuming I have found a way of not aggravating it I've now got an exercise to do to try to stimulate repair through very mild loading.

It was suggested that I use a hammer - progress nearer to the end of the shaft as strength increases.

Saturday 12 May 2018

Gradual improvement in pace

This lunchtime I sent the 935 back to Garmin for replacement or repair. The barometer module is clearly defective resulting in fixed altitude and temperature readings which are off the (sensible) scale. Before packing the watch I went for a swim at Hatfield but only managed 1.4km before I was getting cold and aware of the troublesome left shoulder.

I've collated the swims recorded over the early one year I've had the watch. The data has been cleaned a little in that I've chosen laps where the GPS data looks valid and without long pauses.

I really am getting a little faster
The data shows a distinct trend for  faster pace. I know that in the pool I've made gains and some of this is translating to the open water but I think that I'm tending to sight better and swim in a more direct line. The GPS track lacks detail in water so small zig-zags aren't recorded as additional swimming distance.

The cluster of faster swims in October 2017 are from Costa Brava where the saltwater gave buoyancy, a HUUB wetsuit was probably faster than my warm and stiff Alpkit wetsuit and finally the guide kayak helped with sighting.

Sunday 6 May 2018

Don't swim with an altimeter

Yesterday I went to check the temperature of the lake at Hatfield (bearing in mind usual limitations of wrist-based thermometers etc) and found that the temperature was a constant 39°C. Now it was a lovely sunny morning but the reported temperature was a more reasonable 13°C!

What I usually see is a drop to a temperature a few degrees above that officially posted.

So I downloaded an app to show the instantaneous temperature from the watch and that showed a fiery 295°C.

Looking back through my data, including runs it then become obvious that the altitude readings had become grossly out of range too, and showing no change on a known hilly route. 

So, a bit of Googling revealed how to get into the service menu and a glance at the barometer check screen confirmed that internal data of the watch was wrong, rather than it being anything to do the Garmin Connect or IQ apps. The temperature and barometer module are linked as ambient temperature is required to adjust the absolute pressure into local altitude. It's worth noting that the watch has another temperature sensor, perhaps on CPU or GPS, which is working fine; but this isn't the one used for user data.

More online searching, ending up on the Garmin Forum, showed that this isn't my unique problem and actually affects other models, including the Fenix. This suggests to me that Garmin use a common subsystem for temperature/altimeter function which is prone to failure. There are at least two devices available including NXP's MPL3115A2 or Servoflo's MS5540 for this subsystem, the MS5540 being waterproof. In this strip-down feature the Fenix's barometer looks rather similar to a MS5540.

Thinking it through, although a barometer device may be rated for 100m salt water use, repeated immersion in chlorinated pool water, occasional salt water and then periods of drying out and perhaps the occasional drop is a very tough environment for a precision micro-mechanical component. Perhaps the whole concept of a multi-sport daily-wear watch is flawed?

Friday 4 May 2018

CSS test with TempoTrainer

I had under 20 minutes for today's post-work swim so thought that doing 400m and 200m at a set 62spm would be a useful trial. Both times were a couple of seconds faster than in February (and I didn't try all that hard) but strangely the CSS training pace is slower.

Tuesday 24 April 2018

First 62spm session

With a new CR1620 the TempoTrainer was set to 62 in Mode 3 and put to work. I found I could manage 4 lengths for a set, 133m, and maintain the stroke rate and reasonable form so 6 sets of that was great after a warm-up.

My pace was 2:14min/100m consistently across a set and only slight variation within each. I felt as though I could have managed longer sets but focussing on high elbow and tipping my fingers gave m plenty to think about and I didn't want to loose focus.

My left shoulder and elbow still have a slight niggle and it'll be interesting to see whether the physio thinks it's Ok to continue with these short sessions.

The display is fading on the timer after 24hours stand-by and 1 swim so either the eBay batteries are junk or there is some sort of short in the unit causing the battery to fail prematurely.

Saturday 21 April 2018

Stroke Rate and Early Catch

Today I was at Askern with @CoachMorg. The initial video showed that my stroke was more relaxed than previously and I had some degree of elbow bend in the catch. However my hand entry was still leading into a dropped elbow and raised hand. We spent a while working on dropping my fingers to gain an early catch and tend to raise my elbow at the same time. Naturally this leads to a reduced reach.

Next we looked at stoke rate. We did the ramp test from my leisurely turnover of 56spm to a tough 70spm. There didn't seem to be an obvious dead-spot glide but it was clear that an increase to 62spm would give a distinct increase in pace  with only marginal increase in effort. Notably, at the highest rate it looked as though I might crack 2:00min/100m if I could sustain it. That would be great.

Anyway, the plan is to work on 100m sets at 62spm and then lengthen the sets until that rate of arm turnover is natural. Then increase the rate a little! It felt far simpler to focus on stroke rate than my previous attempts at CSS lengths,  Morg described that focussing on process of stroke is far simpler and immediate than thinking about an outcome such as pace.

The only problem is that my TempoTrainer seems to have perpetually flat batteries despite replacing them.

Monday 16 April 2018

Short swims

My shoulder felt much better during today's activity and I had time to do a short swim so that worked out well. I didn't plan to do anything from my programme, just do a few sets to loosen my arms nd keep some technique.

Anyway, today's personal best for a 200m of 4:21 minutes knocked off over 10 seconds. This shows that I might be usually fatigued for training and that keeping a good form with focus can give a good pace without a rushed feeling. I suspect that this time will take a while to beat!

Tuesday 10 April 2018

DOMS, impingement, spasms or just tired?

Last week's long swim within a long week seems to have taken its toll. I have a dull ache around my scapula and occasional twinges from an area I imagine the brachialis to be. I don't believe either of these symptoms indicate even referred pain from an impingement, which is a good thing.

This week I have a stack of tasks after work making it unlikely I'd find time for a swim, so that is a useful opportunity to try to rest it and hope for recovery. I've a massage booked for Thursday which will be helpful if the pain merely indicates tightness in the back and shoulders.

Here's a useful introductory article on swimmers' shoulders.

Sunday 8 April 2018

New longest swim

This morning's long swim was my longest unaided (no pullbuoy etc) pool swim at 3000m. I started a little too fast in the first 1km and trying to maintain that for the second 1km was too hard and I felt as though I 'hit the wall' as is described for running. I committed to a more sedate third 1km and also that I would break it into 10 length sets. I appreciate that I won't be able to stop on my 10km swim but each of these long swims is a stretch currently.

Toward the end of the session I aimed by reach deeper into the water and I think that was helpful; I wonder if I've let it creep too close to the surface recently?  I also dropped the pace, settling into  restful rhythm which felt considerably easier and more sustainable.

Friday 6 April 2018

Pace progress and aspirations

Over the last week I've noted a few improvements in freestyle pace. These aren't PBs nor has any useful barrier been smashed but there are indicators of progress.

The first is that I achieve 2:00min/100m with paddles over a 100m interval reasonably regularly now. Second, during interval sessions I can exceed 2:10min/100m without paddles or pullbuoy and on occasion have reached 2:05min/100m for the occasional 25m length.

These timings suggest to me that 2:00min/100m is an achievable goal over the next few months, if only for a 100m set. OK, so I need a 10% gain, but the data show that I am applying  more force to the water and developing the strength and technique to do it. A year ago I wouldn't have thought it possible as I was struggling to do that with the pullbuoy.

Thursday 29 March 2018

Carbis Bay Ocean Swim

Before heading to Cornwall I'd made contact with Tom of Sea Swim Cornwall  and had a flexible arrangement for him to lead a swim. Today wasn't ideal for either of us in a way but later in the week I'd find that the weather would be even less favourable. At first the plan was to swim between Newlyn and Penzance but by high tide the sea was far too rough for me. The wind direction made Carbis Bay preferable and so we headed across the peninsula and quickly got changed.

The sea was rougher than I'd find ideal but outdoors you have to take what there is. It was also a little cold, my watch said 13°C but the TV forecast said it was a bit colder and I certainly suspected that it was. We headed west along the bay towards the headland having agreed that a 30 minute swim would probably be enough. After a brief pause we turned back and it was then apparent that there was a headwind. Making headway became hard work against the waves and later analysis of the data showed a much reached distance per stroke.

Overall it was a 1050m swim in 27 minutes which was plenty for me. Tom pointed out a rainbow over the sea which I'd missed due to my focus on forward movement. He was capable of swimming a lot faster than me and just kept a polite distance and checked that I was OK which was enough support; he seemed pleased when I said I was cold enough to warrant stopping.

The next day I ran past Carbis Bay and looked down at where we'd swum and it looked a very little journey.

From the beach to a rocky outcrop, wave movement visible
I hoped to swim along the beach another day but the weather tended to decline and was too poor when I was available and the tide suitable.

Monday 26 March 2018

A rest day

It isn't often that I feel that I really mustn't exert myself, but today has been one of those days. After work on Friday I completed the week's long swim of 2733m. The pacing was poor in that I slowed progressively and the average was tardy. But it was done and that's the main thing. I think it's the longest swim I've done without wetsuit (record of 3486m) or pullbuoy (record here is 3866m); each week that should be the case now.

On Saturday I worked in the garden for most of the day, digging, lifting and sawing until I was really tired. Nonetheless on Sunday morning I walked to the gym for a CSS set and found that I couldn't develop much power and my pace was way off the mark. I was a good 10 seconds per length slower and needed 1 or 2 more strokes per length. Still fatigued then. Just to be sure I shovelled hardcore and worked to get a smooth gradient across 20m2 of dirt with a hand-sized rammer. Maybe it would have been worth hiring a compactor?

Anyway the gardening job seems OK thus far and a day in work wasn't too bad without a swim or run. I wonder if I'll be OK for paddles tomorrow?

Thursday 22 March 2018

Another step with paddles

This evening I felt strong enough to do 6 sets of 100m with the paddles.

It didn't feels quite as tough as previously and very importantly I managed one set at 2:00min/100m pace and a few lengths at 1:58min/100m. Mid session I even achieved 2:05min/100m over 2 lengths without paddles, pullbuoy or other aids. That is a great result. Most of the time these less intense sets were around 2:15min/100m or a little faster which is probably an anaerobic pace but shows that I am getting better at applying power to the water.

Friday 16 March 2018

Long swim with loss of pace

This evening's long swim was just over target at 2300m. Some lengths were at a slower pace than I wished due to others in the lane, but in general my pace declined through the hour. I did start off gently but my form deteriorated noticeably and is quantified by an increase in SPL from 21 to 25.

Last week I was clearly faster than today. But I mustn't be disheartened as last year I swam a very similar distance at a pace of 2:53min/100m compared to today's of 2:36min/100m; so now I'm 10% faster.

As I'm taking the long session beyond 200m it is evident that I'm needing to drop the pace, as I do in running to a 'long slow' approach. An hour of exercise doesn't permit working at a threshold of any part of the metabolic or muscular chains.

Friday 9 March 2018

A good long swim

After work I leant my shoulders into the week's long swim and was happy to complete 2067m. It was tiring and for 50 minutes or so of exercise surprisingly tough as I don't run with anything like this level of effort.

The outcome was good though as although my pace varied a little I managed 2:30 min/100m for both 1500m and 2000m; both personal bests. I believe I saved 8 minutes on the 2000m since last year's equivalent session which is a significant improvement.

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of today's swim is the rather dull observation that I managed my pacing well as the first 1000m was at 2:30min/100m too. I have to reveal that the two final, 'bonus' lengths were a little slower!

Saturday 3 March 2018

Snow Week

The Goodwin pool has been closed for some of this week due to bad weather and actually I've simply wanted to get home on those evenings. This morning therefore I went to nearby Heeley pool which was clearly stating that it was open. As it's a mere 25 yard pool I planned to do 2000 yards as this week's long swim. I forgot to start my watch and so lost data for the first 20 lengths. Then, as the lane swimming session was coming to an end I lost count and cut short by 2 lengths.

Overall I swam 1950 yards which is only 1783 metres. The pace was practically 2:30min/100m which is OK, although I'd have hoped for better in a short pool.

The first (recorded) 1000m (43.7) lengths took 24:35 which is a PB but I'm reluctant to highlight a drop of 4 seconds (a fraction of a percent!) when it was achieved in a short pool. The 1500m pace is also a PB, but the same caveat about pool length applies although, the pace was around 1% better.

Monday 26 February 2018


This week's swimming hasn't generated a PB or anything exceptional. My fast session with the paddles included a few speedy lengths and I managed sets of 100m without difficulty. The long swim had a very mediocre average pace but at least I keep going. And today I did a 1000m swim at a fairly consistent pace I'd have been happy with a few months ago but which now seems tardy (actually I think I 'wasted' a few seconds through weak push-offs as my watch didn't keep track of turns as well as it has over the last few weeks). Overall I suppose I can say I'm consolidating the gains of the past month and not taken a step back. After all, it isn't reasonable to expect to make a pace gain every week.

Saturday 17 February 2018


The plan for today was to clear an area of garden, removing bushes, digging out roots and taking down  a short fence. The work went well but it was a tough workout. After yesterday's swim my shoulders felt tired and using secateurs above my head needed  me to summon all of my strength as my arms felt so tired. The work went well and has improved the look of the garden. My mental well being should be great after all that exercise in the great outdoors amongst the plants (unless there's a lot of bad karma invoked by cutting out overgrown shrubs).

Friday 16 February 2018

A little bit further

My training plan is requiring progressively longer swims and there's quite a way ahead of me to be ready for 10km.With the advice on high elbow I've very much taken a step back on distance especially as I'm working without the full buoy currently. Nonetheless today I needed to exceed 1500m. Reaching 1667m was quite struggle, especially trying to keep good form. After the first fast lengths my pace settled down and was maintained pretty much through the set; the final two lengths averaged the same as the overall average pace.

From the data I think this is a PB time for the first 1500m as a pool set, I don't think I have an equivalent 2017 swim. Although each week seems to show little progress, data across a few years is quite remarkable.

16/02/18  2:32min/100m
06/02/17  2:38 min/100m
04/01/16  3:02min/100m
05/03/15  3:35min/100m
26/07/14  3:52min/100m (estimated)

In Hatfield, wearing my Alpkit wetsuit, I've certainly not had a pace close to this although in Costa Brava (i.e. salt water advantage too) with the HUUB wetsuit I managed this pace, that is all reasonable as a good wetsuit should make an average swimmer faster.

Tuesday 13 February 2018

A short threshold swim

Yesterday I had a sore throat which made me feel I didn't want to swim. Today it was a little better and having sat at my desk for most of the day I needed some exercise. How about a sharp 20 minutes? So I did a leisurely 200m then 400m and 200m with a bit of effort.

The first half of the 400m was done at around my PB at 4:37 minutes the second 200m in 4:41 minutes, still respectable for me. After a pause I struggled for the final 200m with 4:39 minutes so not great data for a CSS calculation, although a drop off of 0.4% shows a good aerobic system, but little ability to sprint. What's new then?

A month ago in a 25 yard pool I estimated 2:23min/100m so today's result may show a little progress. It's worth noting though that in the interim I've had little success at using the Tempo Trainer for pacing.

Saturday 10 February 2018

Reached a limit this week

Today's swim started off being hard work and didn't get any easier. Basically I felt drained and de-energised from the outset. I'd imagined that I'd swum for longer or done a greater distance than in the preceding weeks but the cumulative data say otherwise. Friday's swim was the longest time and distance I've done so far in 2018 so maybe that took a little extra out of me.

Nonetheless tomorrow must be a rest from swimming, which is fine as I'd like to go for a morning run.

Tuesday 6 February 2018

Paddling along

I'm gradually increasing my use of the paddles and today managed 5 sets of 67 metres each. As mentioned previously, I'd been advised a maximum of 100m per set but in the first week I don't dare try that for fear of a shoulder injury. Now I expect that I'l get there in a few weeks. Currently I still felt clear shoulder fatigue immediately after each set (good) whereas last week they felt tired a day later too (maybe not so good).

For the last few swims the data recorded by my watch has been much more accurate than in previous weeks as I've done clear push-offs and ensured that I paused my first stroke briefly.

Sunday 4 February 2018

Pullbuoy timetrail barrier smashed

Whilst working with Julian in London I'd tried a few time to break 8:00minutes for a 400m set with the pullbuoy and whilst I'd come close a year ago I hadn't made clear gains on this over the previous year.

For the last month I've barely used the pullbuoy and have been focusing on the catch phase and have increased my pace remarkably for both single lengths and up to 1000m. Last night I thought I should be able to break the 8:00minute barrier now and today's swim seemed the perfect opportunity.

After a 200m warm-up I set to the trial trying to focus on the catch and hoping the pace would follow.  It was great to rest my legs. Anyway, at the end I could see from my watch that I'd done a great time:

There was some loss of pace towards the end of the set including one length below target pace with some excellent times in the middle the outcome was secure.

After this set really I'd done enough, my arms were tired and working without the pullbuoy felt laborious, but after such a great success the final few lengths weren't psychologically important.

Friday 2 February 2018

Yet another PB

Around 3 weeks ago I achieved a PB for 1000m by focussing on CoachMorg's high elbow advice. Today I knocked another 40 seconds off to record 24:39 minutes for the first 1000m of my set without really trying. That's a pace of 2:28min/100m, nice to get below 2:30!

02/02/18 2:28min/100m
18/01/18 2:32 min/100m
05/03/17 2:42 min/100m
04/01/16 3:02 min/100m
26/02/15 3:40 min/100m

I've a plan to increase the distance of my 'long swim' so I suspect this won't keep happening as this session really should be about total time rather than pace.  However it's no bad thing to develop pace too as I don't want to be in the water longer than necessary for the 10km I'm training for.

Thursday 1 February 2018

Technique focus

I had under 20 minutes for today's technique swim so had to make every minute count. My warm up set was extended to 8 lengths as I caught up with another swimmer (the set pace was 2:22min/100m). I excluded the blocked lengths to give 200m in 4:37minutes which I believe to be a personal best.

I then had time for 3 sets of 67m with paddles and 67m without. This is the first time I've done a pair of lengths with the paddles so 3 repetitions seemed sufficient overload! The pace of the ordinary lengths was acceptable at under 2:20min/100m, the flow of the pool clearly affecting pace.

Saturday 27 January 2018

Back to back

After a tough swim last night it might seem mad to have gone for a swim this morning. Feeling tired now, I think it might have been! Today I worked short sets with the paddles after a slightly slow warm-up. It was under, but rather close to, 5:00 minutes.Back to back runs are quoted as being a good way to simulate a long training session so hopefully I can take my general and localised fatigue as indicators of lots of training.

Friday 26 January 2018

CSS set

My first attempt at a CSS (critical swim speed) set wasn't very successful. I couldn't keep with a 48 second length time even over 100m. I rest the timer to 50s (equivalent to 5:00 minute 200m) in a 33m pool and couldn't match that either. I think a combination of factors were at  play. First, I was probably still tired from Wednesday's circuit; my abdominal muscles certainly were. Second, I felt as though I was rushing my stroke to stay on time and this was very likely making me inefficient.

I think I'll start with 50 seconds per length next week as I know that pace is attainable over short sets.

Wednesday 24 January 2018


In a quick after work swim I completed 1000m as a single set. The time was a little slower than last week but I did get held up in my lane twice and swapped lane once. Those few delays easily account for the 14 seconds lost; basically I was at the same pace. Timing of the first 200m was indistinct but appears to be below 5:00 minutes, if only by a couple of seconds but as the set finished my pace was 2:35min/100m.

I'm disappointed with length recording with the 935, I tried to do distinct push-offs at each length although sometimes not as easily as hoped due to people standing at the lane ends. Powerful push-offs save time too!

This evening I received an envelope of CR1620 lithium cells from eBay so I can get going with CSS sets using the Tempo Trainer Pro.

Sunday 21 January 2018

Short pool PB, still making gains

In St Annes YMCA pool this morning I managed another PB without trying all that hard. It's only a 25m length so easy to shave a few seconds but managing 4:40 minutes for 200m is worth noting for me.

I also did a 100m set with bilateral breathing which was OK, a little collapse of leading arm and loss of high elbow, but a fair start. I'm not sure which set it was in my records so not clear on the pace, but that's not important. Across the whole session the pace was fine, although the recorded average pace is incorrectly low due to missed turns (the Garmin 935 isn't as good as the Swim for recording lengths).

I put a fair bit of effort into these short sets and was pleased to see that my pace was better than my estimated CSS suggesting that the CSS may be approximately right.

Thursday 18 January 2018

Trying 1000m

I couldn't stay in 200m sets any longer and so today I went a little against instructions and set out to do 1000m with my new technique. Despite thinking that I was starting slowly the first few lengths were at CSS pace, although I soon settled into a sustainable rhythm. Towards the end of the set I noted that my stroke was becoming scrappy and this is shown in the figures by a progressive increase in SPL from 21 to 26. I refocussed and managed to finish with a final length of 22 strokes.

Over the first 200m (i.e. my usual warm up) I took 4:54min which is clearly below 5:00 minutes although by no means a PB. That makes sense as I had my mind on the longer task. The 1000m took 25:25mins which is a PB pace of 2:32min/100m. Two seconds less will make a great goal!

Some collation of data:

18/01/18 2:32 min/100m (ie 4% better than a year ago)
05/03/17 2:42 min/100m
06/02/17 2:38 min/100m
04/01/16 3:02 min/100m
26/02/15 4:00 min/100m with pauses (moving pace 3:40min/100m)

Looking back over 3 years it is very clear that I've made substantial progress even though week on week gains seem erratic or negligible.

Monday 15 January 2018

High elbow

I seem to be getting the hang of the high elbow approach which @CoachMorg recommended a mere 9 days ago. Once again I set a PB, 4:45min for 200m without the pullbuoy, suggesting that my 5:00 minute 'barrier' is well and truly overcome now.

I'm still working on technique and noted a fade in style and pace over the 6 lengths so then spent another 4 sets doing single lengths with the paddles followed by pairs of lengths without. As usual the current in the pool affected my pace but I was pleased to manage a length at 2:05min/100m (with the flow) as this approaches my previous pace with the pullbuoy. The load on my arms with paddles is moderate and currently one length at a time really does feel to be enough. Naturally even with a slower arm cadence my pace was faster, but not in a sustainable way. At this time I can't image doing a swimrun event with paddles over a 1000m swim.

Sunday 14 January 2018

First CSS estimate

With a new freestyle technique that needs practicing it would also be nice to be able to track progress and plan some longer sessions. So even though I am a little tired I completed a Swimsmooth CSS estimation this morning, albeit in the warm and short Heeley Pool.

The outcome is 2:23min/100m without pullbuoy which sounds fairly fast considering my performace over the last months (although slow in absolute terms). Notably this pace approximates to that of my 200m PB last friday so perhaps it does all make sense?

I tried to do the same series with the pullbuoy but I was tiring and my 200yard set was at a slower pace than my 400yard. Excitingly the 400yard set was at such pace that I would have achieved my ongoing goal to beat 400m in 8:00min with the pullbuoy. I appreciate that shorter pool is always faster than a long pool but I believe I had a few seconds spare (7:52min estimated).

The shortest set today was 100 yards and I was aware of my technique slipping on occasion but I then refocussed and tried to neaten it up. I think the good timings show that I achieved that overall.

For future reference, set Finis Tempo Pro to 47.8 seconds/33.3m length at Goodwin.

Saturday 13 January 2018

Hard work this morning

It should have been so easy. A 'quick' half marathon loop via Blacka Moor which I've run many times before. It was hard work within the first 100m and it didn't get any easier despite walking far more than I should have needed too. Being objective though, I suppose that I can accept that:

  • I did swim quickly yesterday
  • This is the furthest I've tried to run in a some months
  • Circuit class was tiring after a few week's break and so leg muscles will be tired
So now I need to rest and do some stretches and rolling to encourage recovery and get rid of some irritating muscle knots.

Friday 12 January 2018

Making progress again

After work I did a 20 minute or so swim session working on high elbow catch without the pull buoy. As usual I started with a 200m set without aids and focussed on technique throughout. I was thrilled to complete within 5 minutes but couldn't see the exact time. Looking at the data afterwards I'd managed 4:47 minutes which is a clear PB by 4 seconds.

Unfortunately I lost the data for the rest of the session as I was working with my new Finis Agility paddles and found button pressing difficult - so I pressed the wrong buttons! Anyway, the session data isn't all that important as by alternating lengths with and without the paddles I didd sense the paddles lifting off my hand when I over-reached, and a strong catch, even without the paddles, when I was well positioned. I'd been told to only use the paddles in 100m stretches but even that load seemed too much for me at the moment as my technique waned over 2 lengths at 66m.

This is great progress over the last week but of course I can't expect to maintain progress at this rate.

Saturday 6 January 2018

Swim coaching

It's nearly a year since I last went to London for my swimming stroke coaching and I could tell that my technique had fallen below its usual poor standard. I'd become slower and started to develop shoulder pain.

During the year Morgan Williams has opened as a SwimSmooth coach in Doncaster, which is around a 40 minute drive from home and he works some weekends, which is a bonus to me. After a discussion about my goals which are:

  1. Reduce reliance on pull buoy for freestyle
  2. Develop technique to reduce risk of shoulder injury
  3. Improve my pace hopefully as a result of the above

he filmed me without the pull buoy. He felt that most of my problem came from poor arm position and action, especially in the 'reach'. The video revealed that currently I have a typical issue described on the SwimSmooth website.

My hand and elbow position were exactly as described.

Not only does this slow me down, due to my limited flexibility it tends to force my hips down and increase drag.

This was demonstrated quite clearly to me as against a wall I'm unable to have my arms straight above my head against wall, so in the water by forcing my arms forwards my hips drop to  compensate.

So for the rest of the session I had to focus on spearing into the water almost a foot below the surface when fully reaching and then to keep my shoulders 'shrugged' to facilitate elbows forwards. The 'doggy paddle drill' was helpful once I got the rhythm of it. Gradually it became clear that if I could control this movement my arm turnover increased without forcing it and across my shoulders felt more comfortable. Significantly my pace improved to around 2:12min/100m without the pullbuoy. As an aside, my legs worked less hard as my body position improved, giving me more energy to put into my arm stroke.

Part of the the style I'm aiming for is to bring my hand closer to my body, under my shoulder rather than to the side. This did feel to be a way to exert more power.

My plan for the next few weeks is to focus on these points on a length  by length basis, ensuring that technique is good and I don't resort to my (imprinted) habits.