Tuesday, March 29, 2011

MS Heat Tri Clinic-The Swim

I know I promised swim lesson secrets from the PROS but I though I would first tell more about the tri clinic put on by MS Heat (they just moved to the new website – growing pains).

We had about an hour on pool deck to eat and drink and greet each other.  I had run 8 miles at lunch and not eaten much afterwards.  I, in my typical fashion, sucked down more Lara bars than should ever be consumed in a single sitting.  Anyway, while I was circling the snacks like a shark I got to chatting with Gordo Byrn and Justin Daerr.  Both were very approachable and gracious with their time.

Cheesing for the camera

These were just regular guys like you an me that have a passion for the sport.  It was great having conversation with each of them as well as the 70 other passionate triathletes that were attending the clinic.  I need to repeat myself, it was so much fun being around like minded, passionate people.  The excitement was contagious.

After the meet and greet and carbo load (that was just for me) we made it over to the pool.  The four coaches were lined up and gave a brief background of their experiences in the sport (two talented local athletes / triathlon coaches were also there - Kendrick Gibson and Jeff Fejfar – Jeff and I stayed at Kendrick’s house for the weekend – Thanks Kendrick!).

The coaches each had talking points on “What it Takes for Swimming Success”.

Gordo explained some of the differences between pool swimming and open water triathlon swimming.  Most of what he said was in stark contrast to everything that Steve, my Master’s Swim coach, teaches.  In fact, when Gordo demonstrated how he swims it was exactly how Steve tells us how not to swim.  Gordo has a huge windmill swim stroke.  There is no high elbow on the recovery above the water – finger tip drag or zipper drills need not apply.  The hand does not enter just in front of the head and glide forward – it is thrust far above the head and enters the water fully out stretched.  There is no pause and glide out front – there is no trying to feel and catch the water – the pull is immediate.  Once the pull starts it is more traditional, you pull with a high elbow straight back.

The stroke technique is fast wind milling, the arms being  thrown way out forward and then pulling them back quickly.  Several people asked questions and then Gordo stripped down and jumped in the water to demonstrate for us.  When he swam it looked smooth and it was definitely fast. 

He further explained why he swam the way that he does and a lot of it made since for open water.  A lot of the technique was about throwing the arms out wide and protecting his space while in the pack.  This gave him room to get the maximum from his pulls and prevented him from getting jammed up.  The tight pool swimming technique allowed others to compromise his space, shorten his stroke and force him to lose velocity.  He described his stoke as follows:

  1. downward entry – no cutting through the water and gliding it forward.
  2. windmill the arms – keep them high in the air and enter the water fully extended
  3. pinkie down entry – the thumb should point straight up while in recovery (you will feel like the thumb is straight up but in reality it will be a lesser angle)

After the hour or so lecture with Q & A we all jumped into the pool for some instruction.  When we arrived we were placed in lanes by ability.  I was in lane 3 with 3 other athletes.  Gordo was instructing the first 3 lanes.  We did a few laps adjusting the rate of our stroke, to see how few and how many strokes we could achieve.  It was fun.  He also had us do some progressive 100’s (each faster than the next).  Most of us could not do this.  Of the 5 the last 3 of mine were the same speed.  He then told us to take note of that feeling.  He asked us if that was the way we started out in our last triathlon?  The answer would be “Of course!”  Gordo mentioned that in a longer race that bi-lateral breathing could be used to regulate effort – force you to slow down.

Next we were placed into pre arranged relay teams and had a friendly competition.  The first 4 lanes were stacked with the fastest swimmers but they would have to swim a medley.  We still got it handed to us.  My relay team was first among the slower lanes.  I am firmly in the B-Team.

Shortly after the friendly competition, dinner arrived.  We had boxed lunches from Newks (a sandwich shop).  While we ate we had another presentation and an informal Q & A.

After the session, I followed Kendrick to his house.  We sat around the kitchen table for about an hour swapping stories and talking shop.  Jeff worked on one of his presentations for the next day.  I got to bed a little after 11.  The 5AM wake up call came quick.


Caratunk Girl said...

Wow, that is really interesting about the stroke technique. I am not going to think about it though because I am confused enough on the swim right now. But it makes sense for sure. That clinic sounds awesome.

Pounds To Miles said...

The stroke makes sense. Is there any video on the web where we can actually see this stroke. I'm a visual person. But great explanation. Thanks for sharing!!

Tri-James said...

I wish I had some video. I had my camera with me but this time I wanted to watch the event and not 'work' the event.

Maybe next time.

misszippy said...

So interesting that his open-water approach is so different from pool technique. Never thought of it in those terms.

BTW--You were in a dream of mine last night, conducting some tour or something. Bizarre!

Karen said...

Interesting on Gordo's swim, trying to visualize it. I might have to try some windmilling later! :)

Matty O said...

So here is my experience with swimming. Everyone tells you that what you are doing is wrong. Even if you are perfecting another person's technique.

What have I learned in my one year of triathlon experience? Find what works for you. How do you want to swim on race day?

His points were awesome though, demand your space and assert it, do NOT let others compromise your space. LOVE this.

Heather and I are different swimmers. The way she swims is different than me, but we are essentially the same speed in the water haha. Good stuff James, can't wait for this series to continue to unfold.

Tri-James said...

MissZippy - What kind of tour? ...

Matty - Gordo was quick to point out that there is no right way. Do what works best for you. He said that at the top level, if you look at the super stars (swimming or triathlon) they all have their own stroke.

Jim ... 50after40 said...

The MS Heat clinic sounds great - you're right, it's so cool to visit with people who speak your language and can relate to the everyday struggles and successes. I think that's the thing I love most about blogging.

Unknown said...

Does... Not... Compute...

I think I'd have to be there to see this technique in action. Granted, all of my technique was honed for pool competition, I'm a bit confused on the benefits of this "new" one. It may very well be useful though.

I do agree that everyone has their own form though and no one form is best for everyone.

I'll second the idea of bilateral breathing. On a sprint tri (~500m), I will breathe unilaterally for about 50-100m to get out of the craziness of the pack, but then settle back into bilateral breathing. It really does settle down your pace. Also, you should always train with bilateral breathing to avoid cramps for overuse and uneven muscle tension in your bank and neck.

Anonymous said...

Awesome clinic! I have always wanted to do one but I am too scared.