SwimForTri coach, Dan Bullock is a frequent host of triathlon training camps here at Club La Santa. We caught up with Dan and went through a Q and A to discuss the success of SwimForTri and gain crucial insight into the world of triathlon swimming.
I was a pool based competitor and raced at the 1988/92 Olympic Trials, I was also fortunate enough to spend 4 years in the US on a College Scholarship. I loved all aspects of training and racing but I was also interested in the techniques of those faster than me so without realising I was also interested in coaching. Now I mostly race Openwater events after 10 years of Triathlon and really enjoy the opportunity to be outdoors competing. Pool racing was very clinical and exact. With Openwater events you are always going to get something very different. Even the same location the following year will be a very different swim. My sister and I set up SwimForTri in 2003, teaching and preparing swimmers for the unexpected and how to be adaptable swimmers given the many conditions of Openwater was the exciting challenge we wanted.
We have had people very poor at front crawl managing the 1900m lagoon lap on the last night at the mini race/timetrial. This event completes the week before the final night celebration/awards dinner. Some who were afraid of Openwater are happy to do their first shorter Openwater swims while others are minutes quicker than their previous 1900m times but of course when it comes to Openwater it is not fully scientific so we test in the pool as well. A few images might help illustrate. Given the density and resistance of water compared to air even just a few degrees improvement in body position can yield dramatic improvements.
Early in the week we offer a simple test set where we swim for 10 minutes repeating as many 50m efforts as possible with just 10 seconds rest between each swim. It is not so daunting to the newcomer but gives a fair measure of fitness and technique. In the follow up homework a few weeks later I suggest it is repeated and many people add between 50-100m of distance as fitness improves and people get used to their improved technique. Due to the fatigue build up on camp it is hard to instantly be significantly better by the end of the week, so we suggest some rest and then provide weekly homework to continue the momentum.
We film pretty much every day and show the footage in lectures after the days efforts in the Pool or Lagoon. Both underwater and surface angles are used and also the swim drills we perform are filmed. Narrowing the disparity between how you think you swim and what you swim are key to improving. Many perform swim drills for a while and feel they are ok so move onto pure fitness swimming. Once swimmers have seen their drills performed they can see they still have more to practice and it helps them continue with a better balance of fitness and technique.
I recall a question from a Triathlete about an Ironman swim and its lower significance compared to the bike and run. Traditionally most spend much longer on the bike and run so many focus all their attention on those aspects. If you panic in a mass start or don’t swim inside the cut off time at many events then regardless of how fast your bike and run are you will not get to continue so confidence to complete the distance inside a cut off is key. Tolerating being surrounded by many other swimmers in cool conditions with poor clarity can be quite unnerving as well. We work to cover all eventualities.
We work hard to ensure swimmers/Triathletes have fun and become faster and more confident. There is an awful lot of exercise available, perhaps equal to a month of normal training back home yet I am always amazed so many attend nearly every session especially as some sessions are quite early in the morning. The temptation of so many other activities at Club La Santa is really appealing so it is important to get enough rest so you can focus on the key elements of the swimcamp. Many come back year on year which is a nice endorsement we are helping.
Date Posted: 20th March 2018