Thursday, September 11, 2014

MultiSport Canada Training and Racing Series: How To Draft In The Swim

As a member of the MultiSport Canada Ambassador Team I have been asked to write an article that will help new and experienced triathletes with training or racing. Here is what I have to say about drafting during the swim.

With the end of the season races here we are all looking to get the most out of them. One way to save some time or energy is drafting. While drafting is viewed as a deadly sin during the bike, during the swim it is completely legal. The two main forms of drafting during the swim are drafting on the feet or on the hip of the swimmer in front of you. There is some conflicting views in the swimming world about which one is more effective so I would go with what you are most comfortable.

Catching the draft

The first and most important part of drafting is that you need to catch the draft. You have two options at the start of the swim, you can go out hard to catch faster feet or go out comfortable. I think a lot of this depends on what you are racing for. If you are racing for the overall win or age group win you probably want to try and get on the draft of some faster swimmers. If you aren't aiming for the win, I would suggest not "burning a match" early on and start out at a comfortable pace. We all know the first 200m of a swim can be a bit of chaos so I don't worry about trying to find a draft here. Just focused on trying to maintain a comfortable stroke and composure in all the splashing. Once things calm down a bit I will look for the person for me to draft. This is where having some good goggles that don't leak or fog will pay off. When things start to calm down I will sight a couple strokes in a row this will allow me to make sure I'm on course then to find someone within a couple of meters to draft.  This is where not going out like a maniac can pay off, if someone is only a couple of meters ahead I will put in my surge here. This is also where you will decide to go for a hip or feet. If you are surging up to someone you will probably try to get on someones feet, and if the person you want to draft is more to your side you might look to get on their hip.

Drafting the hip

When drafting the hip you are going to position yourself between the lead swimmers belly button and knees. Some of the advantages to drafting on the hip are that the water you are catching is much cleaner because you are are on the hip there isn't as much turbulence coming off the head and arms compared to the feet. This allows you to feel like you are anchoring into the water more efficiently just like in a pool. It is easier to site when you are on someone's hip because you can still see ahead. If you don't trust the person you are drafting will go the right way this will allow you to stay on course *side note it is more efficient to draft someone going slightly off course then swimming alone perfectly straight, this will be another game time decision you have to make. The hip allows you to ride their bow wave and will pull you along slightly. Lastly, if you do start to fall off pace you can slide onto their feet and get a 2nd attempt at keeping in the draft. The downside to drafting on the hip is that if you only breathe to one side you will want to make sure that you are breathing towards them. If you are breathing away from them you are more likely to bump them or not realize they are pulling away. The other is that if you get to close you are likely to get hit by their arms so keep an eye on the flailing arms especially around the buoys.

Drafting the feet

Drafting the feet is when you stay about twelve inches off the feet of the person swimming in front of you. Drafting in this position is the most hydrodynamic position so it can be the most efficient, but it is a bit more sensitive to position. If you get to close to the feet, and the leader is a heavy kicker, the water here will be very turbulent, and it will tough to catch the water.  Also, if you get to far behind the benefit of the draft start to dwindle.

One thing to watch in both positions is contact with the lead swimmer. If you are constantly hitting their feet or bumping their arms you are disrupting their rhythm, and it will slow you both down. I know if someone is continually bumping me I will ease off and let them take the lead even backstroking a couple strokes if I have to.

Muskoka 70.3 Race Report

Well the pain has almost left my legs so I figured it was time to write my race report for Muskoka 70.3. Muskoka wasn't originally on my schedule, with the long hard bike ride it doesn't suit my strengths, but with some bad luck before Steelhead it was the option that made the most sense.


A couple weeks before the race I came down with a nasty stomach bug that put me on the couch leading to the race. Even the Thursday before Muskoka I had to cut a run short and spent more time in the bushes then running. Lets just say at the pro meeting when they said there would only be port-a-potties every 2k I was a little nervous. Also, I wasn't sure where this break had left my fitness, and long course racing is about being as mentally prepared as physically.

Friday afternoon I made my way up to Muskoka with my mom and dad. Saturday involved a short bike ride on the first part of the course, registration, pre race meeting and all that fun stuff. Ang was supposed to race in Wasaga Beach Saturday, and she was able to make the trip up to Muskoka Saturday night. My support team was all there to cheer me on.

Race Morning

Come race morning I woke up, prepared my usual rice cakes and bananas, and went about packing up my race stuff. I decided to leave my bike racked over night so come race morning all I had to do was pump up tires, set up my shoes, and calibrate my power meter. After a quick run it was time to get my wetsuit on and hit the lake. I really thought I had a good shot at top 5 and my first pay check, but I knew it was going to be a tough race.

The Swim

With a small pro field and large start line we all had lots of room on the start line. Usually I'm aggressive on the line and try to hang on to the front as long as possible. Confidence was a little bit on the low side coming off very little swimming so my plan was to try and jump onto Cody's feet and hang on. I was feeling pretty chill, on what I thought were Cody's feet, but unfortunately it was someone else. By the time I realized the lead group was gone. I finished the rest of the swimming cursing myself for this mistake. Good news is the swim felt really easy so I was ready to make up for it on the bike (mistake #1 never try to make up for something just move on). I believe I was 6th out of the water with 2 other Canadians right with me. My 2XU wetsuit and Vorgee goggles did exactly what I want from them. When you have peace of mind in your gear thats one less thing to stress about.

The Bike

After the tough run up to transition it was on to the bike. I was feeling good, but I knew I had some work to do. The first 10k was spent exchanging pulls with fellow Ontario athlete Ed Cyr, and we were caught by Kyle Pawlaczyk around 15k just as we were getting onto the highway. When he went around me Ed came up quickly right after. I settled in at the 12m, and I was to get pulled for a bit on the more open highway roads. A gap started to open between Kyle and Ed, and I had to make a decision at this loin: to I try to ride with Kyle or do I just stay back. I was riding within my power and feeling good so I decided to try and go. I hesitated a little bit to long though and by the time I got around Ed the gap to Kyle was to large to close. However, this surge put me within I sight of 4th place. I didn't know at this point what place I was in, but the racer inside of me took over. I knew we had gained on 4th during the first 15-20k so I kept pushing on hoping to catch him. At this point my power just started to increase. With the exception of Welland where I only did the swim and bike, my best bike split was at Syracuse this year where my ap was 197, np 207, and best 20 min was 225 well at Muskoka thing might have been a little bit higher. Ap was 214, np 220, and best 20 min was 229 (this was mistake number 2 coupled with a max of 448w whoops). I moved into 5th place at around 65k, but this was short lived. Once I caught Tom Eckelburg he counter attacked on a longer climb, and I had nothing left to go with him. This was when I was starting to wonder if I rode to hard. Tom managed to put about 30s on me in the end.

The Run

This was the first time I got an update on what place I was in. Someone told me I was sixth, and when I heard that the turbos went into to action, shoes on and Smith sunglasses and I was on my way . I was getting my first top 5!!! Legs were feeling ok and at 6k I moved into 5th. Tom and I exchanged leads over the next 6k with neither one getting much of a lead. This is when then went from great to terrible with the flip of a switch. On a small hill Tom put in a surge, I clawed my way back onto his shoulder just in time for the next small riser, this is when Tom put in another surge and put the nail in my coffin. From about 12k to the finish it took all the will powor I had to keep going. There was a pretty big gap to 7th, but I knew they were coming up fast. Only a few times have I felt absolutely powerless, and this was one of them. The only thing keep forward motion was a slightly forward lean and just catching myself before I landed on my face. With about 2k to go the race directors do a really mean thing. You're running on the final road towards Deerhurst Resort when they make you turn right and drop down a hill just to add one more nasty up hill. At this point the train started to catch me. I was broken I had nothing left and as people started passing me I started walking. I never thought the day would come in a race when I would walk. I thought I was a failure and I wanted to quit. How can I call myself a pro while I was walking. I tried to start running again, but every time the road turned up all I could do was walk. I was so happy to finally make it to the finish line. There was a 2 minute difference in pace between my first 11.8k and from 11.8 to the finish. I had dropped from 5th place down to 9th in the pro field. This is still my best finish ever, but it was a little bittersweet after being in the top 5.

Post race analysis

In just the few days since the race I have already learnt a lot. 1) I'm not invincible - I used to think that no matter how things got I would always be able to finish strong. Never before in racing had I pushed my body until I couldn't go any more, I didn't end up in medical though so maybe I could go a bit harder. 2) Pacing is key in long course racing. Most cramping issues are either from pushing to hard or messing up nutrition. I don't think nutrition was the cause of my issues, and my Infinit served me well. However, I think I pushed a little to hard on the bike especially from about 35-60km. 3) I can't get down on myself. It has been a tough year with some bad luck, from mechanicals to crashes to illness, but there is something to learn from each of these. Next year I will come back stronger from this season.

I have one more race left at the MultiSport Canada Barrelman race in Niagara Falls. I was going to keep racing into October, but after being sick I am ready to pack it in. I am coaching the Western Triathlon Club again, but I am hoping to only be in London until December. I am really hoping that I can get away somewhere to put in a big early season training block. I am already starting to get excited for next season.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Big News!

A couple of you may have noticed a couple new edition in my support section. I am super pumped to be part of the ambassador teams for both Smith Optics and Vorgee. I have been using Smith sunglasses now for 2 seasons, and Vorgee goggles since I was introduced to them in the winter.

Smith Optics

As I said earlier I have been wearing the Smith PivLock sunglasses now for 2 seasons. I found these to be the perfect glasses for training or racing, running or riding. The lack of frame really opens up your field of view when in the aero position, and the pivlock mechanism makes changing out lenses, when the weather changes, quick and easy. When I crashed, and lost one of the arms, the customer service was awesome and I had new set in my possession before I could even start riding again. With numerous performance and lifestyle options you are bound to find something that fits your style.

One of the upcoming products I am most excited to get my hands on is their new Overtake helmet. I used to think crashing would never happen to me, and for 4+ years I had never crashed, but one day it happened. Having probably suffered from some minor concussion symptoms brain protection has become more important in my choice of helmet. This comes without much downside with wind tunnel testing showing it faster than the Giro Air Attack and slightly slower than the Specialized.


Vorgee goggles were introduced to me last winter at MultiSport Zone. I will be honest, at first I was a little hesitant. Sometime I feel like with how much time I spend on Slowtwitch and other triathlon sites, that if I haven't heard of a product I become a little skeptical.  However, once I tried their Missile goggle it was love at first dive. I had alway struggled with finding goggles that fit my face and was left with "swedish" style goggles where I was trying to trim the string to tie as the nose piece, but with the Missile goggle Vorgee offers 4 different nose pieces which seems to fit most faces. And don't even get me started with goggles fogging. Previous goggles would maybe last me a month before they started to fog, and I would be trying every trick in the book to no success. I know all goggles will eventually start to break down especially when used in nasty chlorine, but my Vorgee goggles seem to last forever. After swimming ~10 hours a week for January - March I finally retired my first pair in April, but they probably still had another couple months (I actually gave them to someone to test out, and they ordered 2 pairs of their goggles a few weeks later). If your someone that doesn't like a goggle that sits inside the eye socket check out the Vorgee website (link on the side or above) for a wide selection of goggles.

I haven't used any of their equipment, but I have some on the way. Everything looks to be of a higher quality and I can't wait to hop in the pool with it.

If you have any questions about either of these lines let me know, and I will either find the answer for you or get you in contact with someone who can.

The 2014 season isn't even over yet, and I can't wait to see what 2015 brings.