By Adam Radford
For many years the analysis of performance in swimming has been tedious and manual. Cycling training has been transformed by power meters and power training, Running has been greatly impacted by GPS to provide pacing information. Accelerometers popular in consumer devices such as iPhone and Wii games are now being used to analyse swim strokes and provide performance metrics. Commercial versions of this technology are now about to hit the stores. As with many data collection tools, the secret is not in the collection of data, but the understanding of how to turn data into useful information to impact your training program.
Elite athletes make their sports look simple and elegant: Haile Gebrselassie running a marathon (at what looks like 4:30 pace, but is sub 3min/km), Lance Armstrong powering up Alpe d’Huez, or Ian Thorpe ripping up a 400m freestyle in the pool. At first it may seem that Thorpe’s stroke is long and slow, at least longer and slower than his rivals. The reality is that his rating (number of stroke cycles per minute, I.E the number of times his left arm (for example) enters the water) is about 36-38 cycles per minute. For many age group swimmers, they will struggle to hold a rating of 30.
Thorpe is a pool swimmer and the rating characteristics of pool swimming are very different to open water, and triathlon in particular. Open water is much rougher and your stroke can never be as smooth as in a controlled environment like a pool. As a result your rating will be much higher. Lets take a look at some real world rating data from a triathlon swim.
Figure 1: Stroke Rating During a Triathlon Swim (not too scale on Time Axis)
Figure 1 shows a typical rating graph during a triathlon swim. There are four key phases of the swim. The first is the initial 30 seconds of the race. This is complete chaos as people start, fight for position and try to get some clear water to swim in. Rating during this time is maximal, and above a sustainable level. The second phase, the period of time up until about the 300meter mark is where the race positions are decided. The rating will often be above what is sustainable, but will have a degree of variation. The ability to change rating is critical during this phase. The third phase, the middle part of the race is relatively easy. Stroke rating often drops as the swimmers are simply maintaining position. There will be some requirement for changing pace, particularly around turning marks and re-entering the water for a second lap of a two-lap swim. The final phase will often have an elevated rating as athletes fight for a better position out of the water and into transition for the bike leg.
Obviously this is a generic graph and just shows relative ratings for specific sections of the race, but it is derived from real race data. Specific race tactics will impact the rating. It is also different for swimmers at rear of the pack, rather than towards the front. Gender will also have an effect, with females normally rating slightly higher than males.
Specific conditions will also affect the exact rating. Freshwater, particularly â€œheavyâ€ freshwater (think Lake Burley Griffin) will give relatively lower ratings. Salt water will result in higher ratings due to extra buoyancy. Similarly a wetsuit swim will rate higher than non-wetsuit.
How can I measure Rating?
Most decent swim stopwatches come with a function called base 3. This mode allows your coach to hit start, then stop after the third stroke (Two tips: remember the rating applies to one arm only. E.g. the time the left arm enters the water. In addition, remember that the first time the arm enters the water and your coach hits start, you count 0. This means I count 0 when the swimmers left arms enters the water, and hit start, I count 1,2 and on the 3rd stroke of the left arm I hit stop).
You can also use a table I have devised that takes into account stroke count and time for a 50 to calculate rating. This is not 100% accurate as it will not take into account the push and glide off the wall, but provides a relative measure.
Figure 2: Table of time/50m vs Stroke Count/50m to give rating in stroke cycles/minute.
As detailed in the table above, If you take 40 strokes/50meters and you do this in 37 seconds, this gives you a rating of 32 stroke cycles/minute. This is relatively low in triathlon terms. In order to increase your rating to 36 stroke cycles/min, you can either increase the number of strokes to 45 (holding the same time) or decrease the time to 34 seconds (holding the same number of strokes).
The point behind this table is to show the relationship between stroke count and rating. Many triathlon swimmers will be focusing on efficiency where they try to reduce the number of strokes per 50. This is great for developing good body position and streamline. If you look at some of the typically low stroke counts swimmers aim for (<40 strokes/50), you need to be holding a time of <30sec to achieve a rating of 40 stroke cycles/second.
If you are an elite triathlon swimmer, you can likely do this, but for the average age group athlete, this will be quite difficult. For all athletes, the skill of rating is critical, so it is important during rating development sessions to have a higher stroke count and hence higher rating.
You will also notice that rating is likely to drop off during the back half of an interval. As well as capturing rating information for the start of a swim interval, take it for the final 50 as well. A likely drop off in rating will also result in a drop off in speed. Similarly, if you do a strength session earlier in the set, you will find it harder to develop high rating later in the session. This is similar to the effect of doing big gear efforts on the bike, then trying to spin.
You need to be conscious of when you are measuring rating; time of the season, time through the set, time through an interval will all have variations.
So What Does This Mean to You?
If you are a swimmer who struggles to hold 1:30 for a 100m repeat, then you are better off to focus on efficiency and body position, before focusing on rating. Similarly, early in the season when you are in your base phase, it is better to focus on stoke mechanics and efficiency rather than rating. In the race preparation phase, rating is a powerful tool to improve speed and change the dynamics of your training program.
As new tools become available, getting access to rating data will be much simpler and allow similar sorts of analysis as we see with GPS and power data today. That is not to say there are not ways to use rating today. Your swim coach can give you an insight into rating with a cheap base 3 swimming stop watch.
A great first step would be getting your swim coach to give you some rating data from your next threshold set. This will give you a baseline and an understanding of how your rating changes with fatigue.
I will talk about specific techniques for developing rating in the next article.
Jamie Turner – Head Coach
NSW Institute of Sport Triathlon Program
“Adams work has enabled us to gain a much greater perspective
of the stroke rate demands of competition, allowing the athletes to be
much better prepared for the specific demands of upcoming competition”.
“Variables that are encountered during different courses, water
temperature, salt or freshwater, wetsuit or not – are able to be
narrowed down and athletes have clarity and confidence in the training
tasks required to exceed the demands of competition and excel on race
Fours years ago I had the opportunity to work with Jamie Turner and the NSWIS triathlon program. Jamie wanted to get a better understanding of the demands of competition for the swim leg in triathlon. Using some commercially available accelerometers and dusting off some of my programming skills from my computer science degree, I set about getting some information on a key metric of swim performance: Rating!
Adam has a coaching business called NexusElite. One of his current elite athletes is Anel Stewart. You can reach Adam on [email protected] if you have any further questions about this article.
Peter Robertson’s Gamagori Memories inspire Australian Talent Academy Young Guns
Triathlon Australia’s National Talent Academy â€œYoung Gunsâ€ won’t have to look too far for inspiration when they line up in Sunday’s ITU Triathlon Asian Cup in Gamagori.
It was in 2005 in the picturesque Japanese coastal city of on Mikawa Bay that one of the legends of Australian triathlon, Peter Robertson created history when he won the last of his three World Championships.
After victories in Edmonton and Queenstown in 2001 and 2003 â€œRobboâ€ stuck to his two-year cycle to dig deep again and take a third and deserving world championship victory.
Now seven years on Robertson, 36, is one of several coaches on the NTA Young Guns tour in charge of an exciting new generation of Australian triathlon stars.
Melbourne-based Robertson has been appointed along with the likes of Craig Walton, Chris Lang and Keiran Barry to steer an exciting group of youngsters who have already made a big impression.
Queensland’s Sarah Deuble, who is coached by Dan Atkins, has already chalked up two wins from two starts in the Mooloolaba Oceania Cup and at last Sunday’s ITU Triathlon Asian Cup race in Amakusa and is looking for a third.
“I’m really enjoying my first experience with the Japanese races,â€ Deuble said. â€œObviously Amakusa was great fun, winning the race there. I hope I can continue to race well again this weekend in Gamagori.â€
Deuble was 20 seconds behind in the swim and then went on to dominate the bike and run.
Sydney’s Bree Jones had a great start and lead to the first turning buoy but was forced wide and wasn’t aggressive enough to hold position so lost time to the lead three Japanese athletes. A four-women second pack lead by Jones and included Kirralee Pride with Deuble was further 20 seconds behind and out by herself.
Onto the bike the Japanese trio tried to form a lead while the group formed behind and included all three Aussie girls. They were caught at the 15km mark.
The group completed the bike together with Deuble making a very smart, very sneaky move at the end, finishing the bike about 100m off the front, the bike course finished with a moderately steep downhill with a shallow turn mid-way through.
She positioned herself on the front for the dismount line but the Asian athletes all braked for the downhill and Sarah managed to roll off the front.
Deuble then built a lead from there and raced out of sight, finishing 1min clear of Japanese pair Kirra and Sato who ran together until the last kilometre where Kirra managed to get a small break on the last small rise before the finish.
â€œOn the last hill of the bike I managed to break away from everyone and had about a handy lead on the field going down the hill but then I didn’t realise that the dismount line was so close so when I got to the line I had to fully slam on my breaks to not go over it as I still had to get one of my feet out,â€ Deuble said.
â€œBy the time I did this the main pack had all caught me so I was a little disappointed about that but I still managed to be third out of transition onto the run.
â€œThen on the run I started off at a nice comfortable pace and just eased into the first 1km and then at about the 2km mark which was this long gradual hill I pulled away.
â€œFrom then on I led the whole way although I started to struggle at about the 8km mark with a really bad stitch.
â€œOver the last 2km I just tried to push through the pain as best I could and finally at about 500m to go the pain finally subsided and I was able to finish strongly.
â€œOverall I was really happy with how I raced, I was just annoyed at my dismount but apart from that everything else ran smoothly.
â€œMy transitions were nice and fast so hopefully coach Dan Atkins will be pleased with that.â€
Mitch Keally wins Bronze in the Men’s race
In the men’s race it was Shane Barry and Taylor Cecil who led out of water with a five to seven second lead to a group of men including former Commonwealth Games athlete Mitch Kealy (who would go on to finish third) Marcel Walkington, Kenji Nener and Kane Simpson.
Michael Gosman was a further 10sec back with another Japanese athlete. Sam Speachley was 1.10min down on the leaders.
On the mount line Kim (Korea) ran into the back of Walkington who broke his rear derailleur resulting in a DNF.
This group formed a lead pack of 12 men on the bike that worked well together to build a 2 min plus gap on the chasers.
Onto the run a lead group of 10 formed straight away with Michael Gosman falling off the pace out of transition.
Mitch, Taylor and Shane ran at the front until the 4km mark where Svarc (CZE) and Goldsmith (NZL) formed a small break on the steep downhill.
Goldsmith built a strong lead from there and looked well in control from the 8km mark and was never headed.
Svarc built a small lead but that was cut in the last 1km as Mitch and Taylor finished strongly dropping Shane over the last rise on the course a bridge with 1km to go.
Svarc held on while Kealy and Taylor had a sprint finish for 3rd (the race finished on a tartan track for the final 300m) with Barry fifth, Shaw sixth and Nenner seventh and Simpson ninth â€“ giving Australia six of the top ten.
As for Robertson he can’t wait to get back to the Gamagori course with so many great memories.
“After winning the world champs in 2005 in Gamagori I can’t wait to return this time to watch and support the young guns from Australia!â€ said the duel Olympian.
â€œThe Japanese always put on great events and I sure Gamagori will once again be exciting racing. A little less painful for me this time around though!”
Australian Triathlon Olympic Team Voting Results
We ran a poll on Trizone a couple of weeks ago to get some feedback from the Australian triathlon community. 474 people voted on who they wanted in the Australian Triathlon Team for the Olympics. It was interesting to watch the voting. Macca and Atkinson were the overwhelming favourites to fill the remaining two men’s spots. Brendan Sexton receivedÂ around about 12% of the men’s votes. Interestingly Macca received 1% of the vote to fill one of the female spots.
For the record Brad Kahlefledt and Emma Moffatt are already in the team.
In the women’s voting things were heavily weighted towards Erin Densham for obvious reasons. However voting for the third spot was interesting. It was all Emma Snowsill for the first few days then over a 2-3 hour period on a Thursday afternoon there was a plunge on Emma Jackson and she swept to the lead and remained there until we closed the poll.
The talk is that Snowy will get the 3rd spot and it is pretty obvious that Erin Densham is the number 2.
A lot of people are questioning why Ashleigh Gentle’s name is not being mentioned. The word is that she is still young and not quite consistent enough but is definitely being groomed for the Olympics in Rio 2016. Along with Emma Jackson and whoever else we will have an incredibly strong female Olympic team in four years time.
In the men’s team things are not quite as straight forward. Courtney Atkinson has come good recently and with his past form will get the nod for spot number two. To everyone it looks like Chris McCormack should get the nod ahead of Brendan Sexton. However the inside talk is that Sexton has met more of the selection criteria over the last year.
In Sydney during the ITU it was obvious who the triathlon public wanted to see in the London 2012 team. Everytime Macca came past the cheers were huge.
Sexton seems to be struggling to get out of the water and is then struggling to get back in to the race.
A dark horse would be Aaron Royle. If it wasn’t for a major mistake in T1 Royle could very well have placed top 10 in Madrid. Coming out of the water with the leaders Royle then proceeded to follow them through transition forgetting that he was around number 49 not 9. So he had to double back to get his bike and missed the front pack. In saying this Royle has not had the opportunity over the last year to meet selection criteria.
Let’s see what happens this weekend.
Triathlon Australia’s Newest Board Member Mick Maroney wants to Connect Triathletes with the Board
The appointment of Dr Mick Maroney to the Triathlon Australia board recently has been met with a positive reaction from the general triathlon community in Australia. A professional in the sport in the late 80s and 90s Mick Maroney brings a true â€˜triathlon’ representation to the sport’s governing body.
Maroney has replaced Michelle Gallen on the TA board. “I have jumped at this great opportunity. Whilst it is an 18 month term I hope to be involved at this level for a lot longer. I would like to eventually be involved in the High Performance area in TA post London.”
Maroney is adament that he wants to be a conduit for communication between the general Australia triathlon community and the board. “I am passionate about the sport as everyone who knows me is aware of. I want to be someone that triathletes in Australia feel they can come to and talk about anything that is going on in the sport.”
Many newcomers to triathlon will not be so familiar with Mick Maroney, especially if they are from outside NSW. These days you will see Mick racing the NSW triseries, TriShave Sprint Series and world ITU age group championships. In 2009 and 2011 Mick won the ITU world sprint championship title for his age group and regularly wins NSW sprint race and always his age group. At 45 he is still showing the young guys and girls how to race. He has been heavily involved in the junior development of the sport.
In 1989 Maroney won the Noosa triathlon title and was selected the following year in the elite team. He then went on to race domestically and made the unselfish decision to travel the world and support his young sister in her swimming endeavours. You can find photos of Mick standing with Fidal Castro in Cuba when Susie Maroney famously swum from Florida to Cuba amongst many other great endeavours.
Out of school Mick followed his father’s (deputy police commissioner ) footsteps in to the police force. This lasted for only a couple of years before he realised it was not for him. He went on to do triathlons professionally for a few years.
In 2001 he stepped down from racing completely and didn’t take it up again until 2006 when the children were getting a little older.
Maroney came from a swimming background. “When we started we knew nothing about triathlon. I spent all my time reading magazines from the US trying to work out what to do. A long with a number of other pioneers of the sport we developed a bunch of guys in Cronulla like Troy Fidler, Greg Welch, a young Chris McCormack, Craig Alexander, Brad Bevan occasionally turned up along with Peter Roberston, among others.”
People like the great Scott Mollina where his idols and what got him in to the sport. Something that a lot of newcomers to the sport don’t have. The past greats of the sport were what attracted people to triathlon. These days it is more about lifestyle for most people.
After pulling back from the sport and supporting Susie in her endeavours Mick became a fireman. “While my colleagues were watching Foxtel I was studying to get a degree so that I could become a teacher. I wanted to get a career that would be ideal for family life and triathlon coaching.” He now teaches PE full time and also lectures at university in Educational Psychology. Mick received a Doctorate in Education Psychology after doing extensive studies and papers on adolescent development.
I took the opportunity to ask what everyone wants to know. Is the way that TA selects the Olympic team is working? “The process is a collaborative process and is put together by a number of parties. TA really only looks at the process to make sure that it is followed. The selection committee makes the policy in collaboration with coaches and athletes. TA oversees its implementation.”
Could TA communicate this better to the triathlon public so that there is less â€˜TA bashing’ taking place?
“The board is a representation of the membership. Some information bandied about is incorrect. The board has copped a bit of flack when all it is doing is following a process. The communication process could be improved no doubt. But that is more my opinion as a triathlete.”
“The board doesn’t say this person should be in and this person shouldn’t. The board simply makes sure that process is followed.”
On the board because he thinks he could make a difference. “I hope that people in the sport will come to me and tell me what they are not happy with so I can make a difference. It is alright to complain after but what about tell me earlier if there are things you are not happy about. We need to hear from people on what is working and what isn’t.” Mick hopes this will happen.
Inaugural Port Stephens triseries a Huge Success
The end of season and inaugural triseries race at Port Stephens last weekend was a great success with Elite Energy holding their usual three race format and putting on a great triathlon festival. A race for everyone is what seems to make these events so great. The weather was perfect and the times the main races were held was ideal for Sydneysiders and those travelling to the race on the day.
How warm was it for mid May? You did not need a wetsuit and in the Sprint race there really was no advantage. With the rip dragging everyone out to the first buoy it was really only and couple of hundred meters of swimming before we had to stand up and run another couple of hundred meters in calf deep water. That was hard!!
In the main race of the day Kieran Roche and Caroline Sweeney took the overall Olympic distance honours. In the men’s open category Roche pulled away on the bike from second placed Sam Douglas and was never headed. He ran a 36:42 to cap off a successful race.
First time to the open category was Wollongong’s Nathan Miller racing in the Mark Scott stripes. Miller headed out of T2, along with Shaun Vidler, ahead of Ben Hammond. Hammond fell off the pace in the bike leg towards the end but had enough of a run in him to get over the top of Miller and take third place.
(Victor Lee’s photos from the day can be viewed here)
Upstaging them all though was age grouper Adam Conquest who’s race time put him in second place overall. Conquest is known for his very strong bike but backed it up with a run that was faster than the open guys to have the third fastest run time overall. The three fastest runs of the day all went to age groupers. Balmoral’s Owain Matthews posted a 34:59 to continue his impressive start to the sport of triathlon. The renowned runner from Great Britain is loving the multi discipline sport. He is still playing with the balance between the bike and run. Jarred Adams posted the second fastest run with a 36:14. Adams works with Mark Newton at Jet Cycles and is part of the coaching team that looks after Douglas and Roche.
In the women’s race there was again a lack of open females racing. This is no slight on Elite Energy as there have been a distinct lack of open females racing this season everywhere. Brook Langereis was down to race open but with no other open female entrants she changed to her age group which she duly won.
Caroline Sweeney eventually took the overall title. This â€˜Wonder Women’ (full time worker, mother of two pre schoolers, violinist in the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra) has made a fairly decent comeback to the sport of triathlon after taking time out to have her two children. Although Sweeney’s swim was almost three minutes behind Langereis she was able to use her strong bike / run combo to finish almost three minutes ahead of Langereis.
Julie Uebel finished third overall.
In the Sprint race we were lucky as always to watch the ability of 45 year old Mick Maroney as he claimed the overall fastest time of the day. He decided to redline all day and see how long he could keep the pace up. Until the end as we found out. He pulled out one of his fastest runs of the year in doing so.
Cameron Roberts and Luke Chalker rounded out the overall podium. In doing so Roberts won the 16-17 age group and Chalker won the 14-15 age group. Roberts ran a 16:46 for the 5kms and rode very well.
In the women’s race South African Anel Stewart had a solid hit out and was the fastest female on the day with Balmoral’s Hannah Lawrence second overall and Michelle Wiseman third. Stewart has raced at ITU level and on her day is a very fast triathlete. Lawrence is a solid age grouper with some good potential. Loves racing and is always positive and outgoing.
Elite Energy puts on triathlon festivals that we love going to. The atmosphere and vibe from the team is always great. From a couple of events (including Husky of course) three years ago to over 10 triathlon festivals next year is a significant growth curve.
Australian Triathlon Olympic Team Makeup – Have your say!
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Triathlon on TV in May – One HD
Channel Ten’s One HD has 10 triathlon programs still to run in May. Saturday May 12 at 1pm sees Ironman Melbourne with a repeat on Sunday at 4:30pm. The San Diego round of the ITU will be shown on Wednesday, Thursday and with highlights early Friday morning next week.
- Sat May 12: Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship, 1-2pm
- Sun May 13: Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship, 4.30-5.30pm (repeat)
- Wed May 16: ITU World Championship Triathlon Round 2 San Diego Womens Race, 12-2.30pm
- Thur May 17: ITU World Championship Triathlon Round 2 San Diego Mens Race, 12-2.30pm
- Fri May 18: ITU World Championship Triathlon Round 2 San Diego Highlights, 6-7am
- Mon May 21: ITU World Championship Triathlon Round 2 San Diego Womens Race, 6-8.30am (repeat)
- Mon May 21: ITU World Championship Triathlon Round 2 San Diego Mens Race, 8.30-11am (repeat)
- Wed May 23: ITU World Championship Triathlon Round 2 San Diego Highlights, 2-3am (repeat)
- Sat May 26: Ironman Australia 2011, 6-7am
- Sat May 26: ITU World Championship Triathlon Round 2 San Diego Highlights, 7-8am (repeat)
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