Reply To: Step 2 Sarah.b

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Coach Mat

I am glad you are a data geek. I love the numbers too, but have to hold back because not so many are so geeky. We can unleash the math on each other then.


I assume you were using a wetsuit in those triathlon swims you’ve described above.

So, we’ll need to calibrate expectations for pace goals in a 25m pool practice knowing you’ll be swimming without flipturns and with a wetsuit on during actual performance. Flipturns and swimming between walls generally makes for faster swimming times (and a bit higher effort level too, for psychological reasons, I think). Yet, the wetsuit gives some time advantage in ow – it may make you roughly 1.0 minutes per 1km or 6 seconds per 100m faster.

Also, your wetsuit is going to influence your SL x Tempo combination strategy (versus racing naked) because the wetsuit may noticeably resist your shoulder extension. It may not be worth fighting this to keep a longer SL. This will take some experimentation and a judgment call on your part.


You’ve been aiming for 18 SPL. How did you come to the decision that this was the suitable SPL to use for your event?

At 163cm height, my calculations estimate an SPL range of 18-23 SPL, with a 4m push-off (a SL of 70%-55% of your height or wingspan). So, you are working at the longer end of your estimated SPL range. You may consider allowing yourself a slightly shorter stroke and slight faster tempo combination. For this I will give you a specific practice to test and expand your tempo abilities.

In your BTS today, I took a sample combination from your swim – and estimated that you used 18 SPL x 1.26 Tempo to produce a 26.25 second 25m split (on your first 100 for each repeat). Take a look at the attached pace mini matrix. You could have also used
19 SPL x 1.20
20 SPL x 1.14
21 SPL x 1.08

They all produce the same (approx) 26.25 second 25m pace.

The question is: which is a better (easier) combination for you to use to achieve the exact same pace?

I am wondering if 18 SPL may be too long for you in this application. The fact that you can achieve 18 SPL, and do it consistently, and hold it (nearly) for a whole BTS reveals your skill and is very beneficial training. But for the actual race (and wetsuit), it may or may not be the most suitable SPL for the cruising phase of the swim. Like picking the right gear set to use for a particular bicycle race course, you also need to pick the suitable SPL combinations for your distance and conditions, even race by race.

Now, you can’t just click on the Tempo Trainer and start using 1.14 or 1.08 tempo if you are not already conditioned for those. Your stroke will break down quickly. It’s takes a series of practices to adapt your neuormuscular system to moving the arms with precision in a compressed amount of time. So, I would like to assign one of your weekly practices to this task – expanding your Fast Tempo Threshold.

The task of the first phase is to do some experimenting to assess what your ideal SPL may be, so we can establish a suitable Tempo starting point, so we can then start chipping away at your pace goal.

So, you may set up an experiment with those 3 or 4 SPL x Tempo combinations (or pick another set of them using the pace matrix) and run a subjective test for which combination feels easier to hold.

3 Rounds of 4x 100
15 seconds rest between 100s
45 seconds rest between rounds
Use one combination for each 100, repeat the same series of combinations for each round, so you have 3 times to compare the ease of each combination.
Take notes on which felt easier, or more sustainable.

Though, it is possible you’ve conditioned yourself to be so loyal to the longer 18 SPL stroke that you find it hard to shorten the stroke intentionally. You’ll need the rounds to help you learn to ‘shorten’ up a little and be ok with it – like switching gears on the bike.

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~ Coach Mat