Friday, June 27, 2014

Getting Better At Swimming

I dislike swimming the most out of the swim/bike/run trio.  I have expressed my dislike to my coach and he nicely said, "...if you don't want to swim, then you should do duathlons".  Psh.

Fiiinnnneee... I'll swim more.  So, I was swimming and swimming and swimming and swimming, and... You get the point, right?  For almost 2 months I was at the pool/beach 3 - 4 times a week with no improvement.  My splits were still the same.  This was getting very frustrating because it was taking away precious time that I could be using to get faster/better at biking or running.  YouTube to the rescue!  Honestly, I think I've watched at least a dozen videos.  Maybe even somewhere between 15 and 20.  And I took a couple of pointers from the masters swim coach at the new gym I'm going to (Harbour Island Athletic Club).  So, for the last 3 months I have been working on my form, making little tweaks here and there, and I have finally started to make some improvements.  So much so that some of my training peeps are noticing!  Bryan asked me to send some of the YouTube videos that stuck out to me.  So, I sent him a whole email and I thought it would be good to post here as well.  Hopefully someone who reads this will find something useful out of all the videos.      

Most of my adjustments came from watching how the pros swim.  I only posted one video, but there are a bunch online.  When they are swimming race pace and in the open water, they all have a high turnover... there is minimal/no gliding.  Some of them swing their arms around, almost horizontal to the water, instead of up and over to get the faster turnover.  So, one thing I focus on when I'm doing fast and sprint sets is to make sure that I am constantly moving my arms.  Gliding can have the potential to create dead spots and slow you down (see the third link below).

Another adjustment for me was learning that I was an over-glider.  This was creating dead spots for me and making me scissor kick when I would take a breath, throwing me off balance and forcing me to work harder on the next stroke to get back up to speed and straighten out.  Also, when I would stretch out to try and get more reach, I was lifting my fingertips which was slowing me down.  
Discover Your Swim Type!
Hi there and welcome to Swim Smooth! You know, when I left England in 2001 and became head coach to Australia's largest triathlon club, I encountered a ...
Preview by Yahoo
Freestyle Swimming - how to develop a longer more effici...
High stroke rates - How To Develop A Longer Stroke short scrappy stroke technique? lacking stroke length? See related articles: Rhythm, Timing and Strok...
Preview by Yahoo

The 'catch and pull" and "high elbow" phrases/techniques were very confusing to me.  I tried bending my elbow to almost 90 degrees because that's what a lot of the videos and articles made it sound like you had to do for high elbow.  But, it's not really 90*.  When you are doing faster sets, you want closer to a straight arm with a slight bend, like a 150*, and when you are doing steady work you want a "high elbow" which is really like a 120-130* bend in the elbow.  

2 more videos showing the difference in stroke styles: 

I don't have a videos for my last 2 adjustments.  They are just things that I was told to work on by the masters swim coach at Harbour Island.  One is working on finishing the stroke, making sure that my thumb comes close to or even brushes the side of my thigh.  This is really important when I start to get tired.  I have to remember to relax my shoulders and finish my stroke.  This usually helps me keep pace.  I don't always worry about this if I'm doing sprint sets, but I try to remember because it does help.  The other thing is to rotate more.  Well, relax my shoulders and rotate more to get into a better position for a longer reach.

Garmin Vector Pedals - update 1

I was supposed to give an update on the pedals a couple of weeks ago.  But, they didn't function the way I wanted them to so I made some more adjustments, made some adjustments on my bike seat, made some more adjustments to the pedals, changed my bike seat, changed my bike seat again... yada-yada-yada.  Anyway, I didn't want to give an update when I only had faulty data that I didn't know what the cause was.  So, as for the pedals, after I have everything pretty much set, or as good as they're going to get for now, they work ok.  As far as I can tell, they work exactly like any other power meter.  Although, if you don't have the torque right, you're going to get different outputs.  Which is annoying because if you take off the pedals, you have to set the torque exactly to how it was before to get the same output.  I think this is a user error, but for $1500 and the selling point that they are easy to install and move to different bikes, I think the torque should have some wiggle room and still achieve the same output.  I compared the pedals to the CompuTrainer at my LBS and the CompuTrainer was always 10 - 20 watts higher than the Vector.  It's not a huge deal because if I'm only using my Vectors then I'm always going to be using the same equipment to measure my output and gauge my effort.  It's just a little discouraging to feel like I'm working harder than the power is reading out.  Oh well.  I'm going to try re-installing the pedals one more time.  If it magically starts working how I want it to, then I will post an update.


10/3/14 Update:
After some trial and errors and taking my time, I have learned how to successfully, install/uninstall/repeat the vector pedals.

After buying a 15 mm wrench with a long handle, removing the pedals is a lot easier.    

If I can't apply enough pressure using my upper body, I steady the bike and use my legs by putting one foot on the wrench and pushing down.  But, so far I've only had to do that once.  Other times I just need to wrap the handle with a towel so it doesn't dig so much into my hand.

As far as re-installing them, make sure to add some grease to the threads of the pedals to make it easier to get them off later.

Hand-tighten the pedals first, then snap in the back piece of the silver/grey pedal pod, then tighten with the regular wrench just enough so that you would need the wrench to unscrew them.  Then use the torque wrench with the attached crows foot (the picture below shows 19 mm, but you will need a 15 mm with 3/8'' Drive) to tighten down to the recommended torque: 34 - 40 Nm or 25 lb/ft.  I have installed the pedals 3 times successfully.  Each time, I set the torque to 40 Nm and my readings have been consistent after each install.  So, I recommend just going to the full 40 Nm every time the pedals are installed.

Hope this is helpful to someone.  Please let me know if you have any questions and I will try to answer them.