Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday Morning Links

A couple of really interesting links to look at today:

- National Team member, Stefan Hirniak blogs from his training camp in Australia where they are doing many of the same things that our Elite group has been doing (VAS does it on a much larger scale, of course). The thing I like about this blog is that he incorporates some video from some dive 200s they did as a test and gets pretty specific about it. I love Randy Bennet and the Victoria Academy of Swimming (VAS) and they willingness to share ideas. They really care about Fast Swimming!

- Always a controversial topic, this is a report on a renewed way of looking at youth fitness, taken from the new fitness guidelines released last week by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. Food for thought if nothing else. The second I finished reading it, I wondered what other coaches thought of it.

And for the few people who have asked me, you can find me on Twitter with my email address:

BTW, this is my 101st post. Thanks for reading. We're well over 10,000 hits since September!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sam Burwell, this one's for you!!

Tonight, I capitalized on Chris being very sick (get well soon, buddy) and used my 2 hour Elite and Regional Development workout to really enforce push off depth and how to get there in a turn. Long story short, he question was brought up: "How do you get that that depth in BR or Fly turns?"

The answer: You don't need to go over the water to turn in a breaststroke turn. You have the unique ability to drive into the wall at whatever depth you want with a 2 hand touch. Because the ledge of the wall is an attractive thing to grab onto and pull on, doesn't mean that its the best or fastest way to turn (in fact, I strictly enforce the "No Wall Grab" rule for all 2 hand touch turns). Check out this race from TSC's Warren Barnes (from 2008 Canada Cup) which illustrates great turns at every wall:

Notice how going into wall #1, and all subsequent walls, Barns spends very little time above the water: just enough time to take a breath.

Check out World Championships where there is an entire field of world class breaststrokers:

Freeze frame on 34 seconds and pay attention to Brandon Hanson's body position on his turn as well as the others slightly behind him. Does he turn his body around, or just switch direction and push off on his side? How much time does he spend above water during that turn?

There is a whole world of wonder to be found by watching great swimming. Anyone who has the chance to make it out to London Ontario for Eastern Canadian Championships will have the opportunity to see some great stuff, and even if you can't make it out of your house, check out the live web feed of the Western Canadian Championships the same weekend. Details available @ My plan is to video tape as much as I possibly can at the Grand Prix in Indianapolis as well. A lot of great things to learn from paying attention and watching!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Under Water Works

Since watching some of the best in the business on Saturday and Sunday @ Canada Cup, I returned to practice on Monday night feeling deflated. HHBF in its current state is the deepest and fastest team in our club's history. We've got some very fast and fit athletes, but we get blown away on the technical aspects of races. In both Toronto and Oakville, we got killed off of starts and walls (I can't think of more than 3 races where an HHBF swimmer caught up on a turn) and its not because we can't do those things well, its because we're not trying hard enough to do those crucially important things well.

I spent a great deal of last night's Elite/Platinum workout making sure that everyone understood the importance of deep water. Basically, my argument went like this:

- We push off the walls with our feet too high. As a result, bouyancy pulls us to the surface before we're able to actually kick effectivly. In cases where we're trying to kick, we're too close to the surface and our kick creates too much turbulence at the surface. The turbulence slows us down. We need to push off deeper (below the hash mark of the "t") and kick deeper in order to be effective.

- The same principle counts for dives, BK starts and turns. If you're too close to the surface, you're creating too much turbulence and its slowing you down. You'll also float to the top before you're able to maximize the force from your dive or your turn.

Case in point: Kyle Haas' Bk Start.

Kyle has a very powerful start and goes 58.38 for 100BK which makes him the second fastest 15 year old in the country in that event. Clearly he can swim fast, but we knew he was getting blown away on his walls. Take a look at the video below which tells the tale of why he is pretty inefficient on his start and wall:

Now take a look at how it should be done. Pay particular attention to the surface of the water with the underwater camera shots: is there any turbulence as a result of the kicks? It has a lot to do with how deep they are kicking.

I worked individually with the girls and boys from each of the Platinum and Elite groups last night really hammering this principle. We did lots of drills and worked on the depth of pushing off, kick (both from a push and off a turn) and even finishing well. We started slow and easy, then gradually turned up the intensity, forcing these athletes to perform the task under stress. As a result, we had one of the best practices this season and Platinum did very well this morning as well. These are the types of skills that our athletes have to master going into Central Regions, Eastern Canadian Championships, Provincials and Halton Cup. I'm pretty happy intensly focusing on these things going into the meet because I feel that if our athletes can be as efficient as possible, all of their fitness and speed will result in fantastic races.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Good day

Lots of people at finals in Oakville tonight and a few great swims. Still waiting for the official results to be posted from oakville but it looks like Kelly Smith and Sam Burwell qualified for central regions and a couple of others were very close. Congrats to Britney Dortona for finishing her first (of many) 200fly.

Some great racing @ Ontario Cup today! Karl Massey was right on top of his lc pb in 200bk and finished in the top 20. He was also right at his pb in 200im.

It was great to be able to see 2 of the fastest Canadian swimmers race prior to world championship trials in Victoria. We were treated to a faceoff between Tobias Oriwal and Matt Hawes in 200bk. Hawes won in the final 40m in a time of 2:00.01 and Tobias was slightly behind in 2:01. The morning also saw Joe Bartoch win 100fly in 54.73 which is his fastest lc time ins while. Joe is a great guy and a friend to HHBF, I'm happy to see him do well.

Pretty happy about Sunday overall. Let's get back to the pool to get ready for central regions, team champs, easterns, provincials and Halton Cup. February if full of opportunities to shine!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Ontario Cup & Oakville

Its always difficult to have 2 meets going on simultaneously. At all costs, I try to get to as much of both meets as possible. Last night, I was @ U of T for Ontario Cup and this morning as well. We finished up the morning around 12:30, then I hightailed it out to Oakville to watch a few hours of the 12&under session, then back to Ontario Cup for the night session. With the weather being what it was, it was a LONG day, but I'm glad that I was able to see as much swimming as I did.

Ontario Cup is a Long Course meet. I believe the design of it is to give people going to World Championship Trials in March, the opportunity to swim LC under large load and to get the first few LC races of the season out of the way. The first LC meet is always a painful reminder of how tired you might be and this weekend really has not been an exception.

Elizabeth Skuriat's 800FR was about what we expected. We knew that SC swimming was getting better and figured that we'd be around 12-15 seconds off of our best. She finished in 33rd place with a time of 10:02.20.

This morning, we had Elizabeth in 200FR, and Kyle Haas, Karl Massey and Elizabeth in 100BK. The 100BKs were pretty good morning swims (remember that older athletes swim in the morning to make it into finals. THEN they race at night. Note: There were no finals here, but we're trying to train our guys to swim fast in the morning so finals is easier to make). Elizabeth broke her own club record in 100BK (new record of 1:13.32) and came very close to her existing record in 200FR (200FR video below).

Karl Massey was out of there quite quickly after 100BK. He was in about a second of his best LC, had a 2nd best ever morning swim, and looked alright, just some technical stuff to fix. He finished 31st.

Kyle's 100BK was pretty solid: a best ever morning swim (1:02.52) and finished in 13th spot overall (Note: this is an open standard meet, there are no age classifications. The top 3 in this event were over 18. Winner was 24). The video of that race can be seen below.

Tonight was pretty good! Elizabeth started out the night by basically even splitting her 100FR and coming within a second of her best time. She finished 77th overall.

Kyle's 100FR was a personal best and a new club record of 55.34 and finished 18th out of 89 men (video below). Karl's 100FR was okay, but Karl is more of a 200 swimmer, as you can see in the video below... his stroke rate is longer and more powerful than short and sprinty. He finished slightly off his best in 87th place. Karl's 50BK was only a tenth off of his best time and if you watch the video closely, you can see on his finish where he could have timed his wall better for a best time.

Kyle clocked a 33.54 in 50BR, only .08 seconds off of the club record. He did, however, break the old 50FLY record (new record 27.89) and placed 27th.

Kyle's 50BK was very strong (only .01 away from his PB) and placed him 6th I think (results for that event have strangely not been posted... perhaps because of some controversy in the fastest heat).

A very solid showing overall so far at Ontario Cup. I am very proud of our Blue Fins and you should be too.

I was able to catch some races at Oakville today, but was surprised by the low population of our team in both sessions. I was even more surprised that a few Blue Fins opted out of the opportunity to swim finals, an opportunity that is not always afforded, but is extra valuable when it is. I feel it important to remind everyone reading, that if you make it into finals, or have the opportunity to make it in to finals (you're an alternate), show up! Almost everyone swims better at night. Its a free chance to race again; to place; to medal. We need to get better at this. Perhaps the problem is lack of communication on my part. I am determined to get better at that and have a better showing at finals going forward.

I would love to post some official results from that meet here, but Oakville has not posted final results, only prelims from today... and since I can't get anyone to return a text message tonight, I can only wait until tomorrow.

I know that I said I was not going to post again until March, but I feel that if I don't I am missing an opportunity to get valuable info to the club and anyone else that reads my blog. A few questions have arisen in the past few days that I feel would be valuable to answer here for all to see:

1.) Dryland, Swimming, Resting, Racing.
Much confusion as to why we are pulling back training going into February for Platinum. To clarify, there is no cancellation of dryland. This was a break intended from the beginning of the season.
The primary focus of platinum is central region championships. They will taper off their workload going into that championship so to be 100% and represent well at a championship meet. When that is over they will recover and refocus on the Halton cup. The week of Halton cup they will revisit the gym for some slow burn and flexibility work. Then refocus on training in March with the training focus on central region long course.
Resting is crucial racing fast in our sport. Regardless of how fit you may be, it is tiring to pull yourself through the water over and over and over. Resting allows our athletes to recover from training physically, emotionally, mentally and neurologically. We purposely tried to swim tired in January to:
a.) see what we could do when we were tired
b.) to enhance our training
and c.) because if we rested all the time, we wouldn't train well and lose most of our fitness.
The regional development group is on the same schedule. The elite group stops later and returns to the gym later because their main meets are at different times.

2.) Finals.
Because I have been involved in this sport for over 20 years of my life, I sometimes forget that others have not. For those of you who do not understand how this works, please accept this basic explanation:
For some larger meets, 13 and overs (in most cases, sometimes the age groups are different) will swim preliminaries in the mornings. The top 8 (or top 10, or top 16... whatever the criteria is) from the preliminary round will move on to finals at night. Even if you finish in the top spot in the morning, you will not win the event unless you win at finals. Our goal in these situations should always be to make finals at night. Always always always. We will do a better job of making this point clear before leaving for a meet that offers these opportunities, but we cannot shy away from them when they are presented to us.

3.) I can't be everywhere:
Sadly there will be times when I have to be away from some athletes in order to be with others. I wish that I could be 2 places at once, but physics will not allow it (although I am working on a machine...). Our groups are coached to be coached... simply put: I teach them the ability to be lead by others. Most of them are quite good at this and the ones that are not are always free to contact me (I had one athlete call to talk to me today and got advice for an upcoming race). I wish that I could have been in Oakville for every race, but sadly it was not possible today.

One more day of racing at our 2 meets and I'm pretty excited to see some results.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Last post for a few weeks...

Hi everyone. Due to a million and one things that I have to focus on in the next month, this will be the last post for a while. Until March, big meet performances will be linked from here to and we have some BIG performances coming:

Ontario Cup - January 21st-23rd
Central Region Championships - February 3rd-6th
Eastern Canadian Championships - February 17th-20th
Provincials - February 24th-27th

AND it looks like I'll be joining Team Ontario to the US Grand Prix in Indianapolis, IN from March 1st - March 6th. Thanks to all of our big performers and performances this season for allowing that to happen!

I was looking at the recently amended record board and noticed that we have broken 32 records since September (not including the records that were broken more than once). To date (still a meet left this weekend), we have 19 people qualified to go to Central Regions and 6 people over qualified. We have 9 provincial qualifiers, 5 AGN qualifiers and several other HUGE achievements this season... and its ONLY JANUARY!

A quick peak in the mailbag and then I've gotta go.

Q. Do you think its fair that some 11 or 12 year olds are much bigger than others but they all compete in the same category.

A. No, puberty is a performance enhancing drug. Sadly its the kids that grow first that typically dominate the age category and there isn't much that we can do about that. The only reassurance that I can offer is that it all comes out in the wash... meaning that big kids only keep that advantage until everyone else catches up... then the field is leveled. Just because you're smaller than your competition now doesn't mean that you're out of it. Jeffery Swanston from the Newmarket Stingrays is still a small guy compared to his competition (while on top of the podium after winning 200BK at a recent international meet, the bronze medalist on the step below him was still taller) but is still able to dominate races (1:57 for 200BK).

Q. How are meet events selected?

A. There are many answers to this question because there are many different meets. Very generally, the coaches use a complex database which keeps as much info as you will feed it with. For younger swimmers, this is mostly times. For the swimmers in the Elite group, this can include, heart rate, stroke count, stroke rate, time, etc for the races I have that info for. This program reminds me the ages of these athletes, which meets they qualify for, how close they are to other meets, when they age up, etc. Given that anyone that wants to qualify for a Provincial level meet must meet distance FR and IM prerequisites, we must train these athletes to swim every stroke and train them to be able to swim every race.

Depending on the time of year, Ian may want to test his athletes and have them swim all 4 100s at a meet to see what is improving the most. If an athlete is struggling, Chris may want to put them in an event that has a higher potential for a best time. I usually keep my athletes swimming distance events to keep them in touch with distance swimming and like to throw tougher events at them (200FLY, 400IM) when there are no important meets around and they're been training hard... because I'm mean like that.

Its a very tough question to answer for coaches as a whole because its a big picture question, but I'll do my best to summarize it by breaking it up this way:

Intro/Intro-Comp: Beginners need to have a general feel for the basic races like 25/50FR and 25/50BK before they can get more complex. At the beginning of the season, we start them with those races and slowly build through the season.

Bronze/Silver/Gold: These swimmers need to learn to swim everything technically well because this age is when they learn to do it best. These groups work on a lot of skills and meets can be a great asset when trying to practice these skills under stress (when they're tired, excited, scared, etc). You can practice something at our pool until you're blue in the face (which actually happens) but there is no better place to practice kick outs and not breathing off of walls than in Etobicoke while you're swimming next to someone who wants to beat you. When they're ready to move through the club and go to higher level meets, these skills will be huge assets to them.

Regional Development: Usually these athletes will swim their best events in order to allow them to score a Central Region qualification, but occasionally they will swim off events to keep their confidence up and to expose them to different skill sets. It sometimes happens that while working on a certain skill in practice, an off stroke suddenly becomes one of your better events (Taylr Cawte's sprint Freestyle comes to mind).

Platinum: Due to the success of Ian and Chris's groups there are two type of platinum groups. A. swimmers that swam with me last season and B. swimmers that flourished in the skills model. Athletes that worked with me last season need less off event work because they have swam basically every event at this point. I will still swim them in off events because the program has changed since last year so I need to check out every stroke and every event to see where major gains can be made. New athletes to the group are still missing a lot of events because they are young (not all events are offered at all ages) and had been sticking to the skills model. Both types of athletes need time to develop their best events (and related events) to qualify and peak at Central Regions.

Elite: These athletes have not really specialized yet, but definitely have best events. What I found this season from the training we have been doing is that very few of them have a worst event. These athletes are all around provincial level so IM training is a must, and part of that is RACING all 4 strokes in as many different ways as possible. It is not a stretch for many of them to do tougher events and accept that challenge with excitement. I will usually swim them best events early in the season to get qualifying times, then switch to off events for training, then go back to best events just before championship season in order to qualify, or better their seeding.

As I said before, it is a very difficult question to answer. If you have a question as to why your coach has put you in an event, ask. I'm sure that they will be very open about that specific case.


Thats it for me, I've gotta go. Check back from time to time. I cannot post video on HHBF's website so I will be posting that kind of thing here (Races, people I see/meet, etc) so keep checking the blog. At worst, it will just refer you to the HHBF website.

Enjoy February and SWIM FAST!


Dean Boles Report

I have a very good relationship with Dean Boles. He was a great coach and teacher for me throughout my teen and adult years. His monthly reports are usually pretty inspiring. This months is actually pretty to the point on a few issues... feel free to read...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Etobicoke AB Meet

Lots of great swimming this weekend. Visit our website for details.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Halton Hills Blue Fins present D-Moos TV

The Halton Hills Blue Fins are proud to present D-Moos TV on The Bluefins have been working behind the scenes to help Big Daddy and Foster the Moose get their station off the air and D-Moos TV is just part of it.

"Its a good opportunity to draw people to the station," says Russ Horton, the DJ also known as Big Daddy, and founder of D-Moos radio. "In time we want to draw attention to whats going on in our community and do some video and commentary from community events. Of course, with Coach Mike's help, we should have some good stuff up about the Blue Fins on a regular basis."

There is a lot of potential with this radio station and with the Youtube channel. Please subscribe, become a friend and check back frequently for all your community news... all of which, of course, is brought to you by the Mighty Halton Hills Blue Fins.

The channel address is

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Thank you, Dotmar!

I feel that I need to thank Jamie Crane @ Dotmar Fitness Equipment for helping me out with some equipment we need for training. Check out their store if you are considering buying some gym or workout equipment for your home, office etc. They carry everything from treadmills to bowflexes to weights, benches and heart rate monitors.

Dotmar Fitness Equipment
2555 Dixie Rd Unit 9
Mississauga, ON

View Larger Map

Monday, January 10, 2011

Cobra Ca$h Challenge

A trend emerged this weekend in Brampton which really shouldn't suprise anyone: The people who trained through Christmas and who have been keeping good attendance swam really well. Those who are just returning from time off are going to find it difficult the first few weeks back because they're trying to catch up.

I was exceptionally surprised by the Elite and Platinum groups. The platinum group did quite a bit of distance this week, capped off with a 7.1km practice on Friday night and most of them were still hitting best times or coming very close. The Elite group did 7.7km on Friday night and most of them were swimming really well as well! Kudos to Aaron Brautigam who too almost 5 seconds off his 200IM and 2 seconds off of 100BK. Aaon's work ethic this season has been great and he should be enjoying his success. Among other standouts were:

Kyle Haas: who's 200FLY and 200BR were huge PBs and 100FR was within about a second of his best.

Mitchell Krafczek: 200BR was great (2:50.55) and both 200IM and 100FR were around best time.

Karl Massey: 200FLY was a first and 200BR pb by over 2 seconds. 100FR was around best.
Bjoern-Ole Schrader: 200FLY PB and a new club record by around 16 seconds. 200BR was a best time by around 13 seconds and 100FR was around best.

Keri-Lyn Copeland: 200IM was faster than best time and she showed that her 200BR could be competitve with a PB of 3:17.93.

Emma Fender: Slightly better 200IM, HUGE PB in 100BK and right on PB for 100FR. Pretty solid overall!

Nolan Haas: 23 second PB in 200FLY, 5 second PB in 200BR, 100FR was around his best.

Britney Dortona: After her nerves took her our of 200FLY, Britney took 13 seconds off of her 100BK (another central region qualification) and got down to 1:13 for 100FR. Hopefully she's starting to understand that she can tackel bigger obsticles.

Aysia Leckie: had another HUGE meet with another central region standard (100FLY) and several other PBs.

Paige Olmstead: Significant time being cut off of all events. She is narrowing down on B standards in 3 different events.

Total reults can be found at the link below: Simply choose our club from the drop down menu and click the "show" button.

Elite and Platinum took off to Waterloo on Sunday to train LC @ WLU... at least that was the plan. When we got there, no one was at the pool, everything was locked and no one knew where the keys were. Luckily Nandi from ROW texted me what to do. The Elite and Platinum groups worked together to move the bulkhead to 50m and change over the laneropes. We ended up losing about 21min of time but were able to stretch our workout about 17min longer so the time we lost was pretty insignificant. Luckliy, I used to work there and they haven't changed too much about where they keep the keys or equipment. It would have been terrible to have to send people home after driving all that way. Crisis averted... except I hurt my back moving the bulkhead. Grrrr...

It actually ended up being a great workout. Average distance, but some good swimming by everyone (which is not always easy after the distance/race combo we just did with no rest). It should be most helpful for Kyle Elizabeth and Karl, who will be representing HHBF @ Ontario Cup at UofT in a couple of weeks. It will be a long course meet.

The AB Meet in Etobicoke is coming up quick. For many this will be a pretty good look-see at what we'll see in February. It should be a good weekend.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Hapy New Year!

Welcome to 2011. I trust that everyone had a good holiday and are ready to kick it back into gear. A lot of visiting and visitors over the holidays with HHBF. Romana Matthews, Kira Patterson and Jen Ormiston (all visiting from University) stopped in to train with us while on break from their university programs. The Elite group also visited ROW, NYAC and BROCK to get some decent workouts in over the holidays. Last night (Monday January 3rd), HHBF returned the favor by allowing a few of the Mighty Tritons to train with HHBF while MTST could not find pool time for the day. It was nice to have them and coach Rick Madge visit and it felt even nicer to be able to extend the favor, the same way that NYAC, ROW and BROCK extended it to the Elite group (freeing up holiday training time for the younger groups).

Understandably, some athletes have a hard time keeping 100% attendance over the holidays. The thing to pay attention to is to avoid allowing your fear (of how bad it is going to feel after missing a workout or 2) keep you out of the pool. The degree of difficulty in the Elite and Platinum groups makes it difficult for swimmers to skip 1 or 2 days and then try to get back to work; the nature of the program is consitancy. The first day back after missing 2 workouts feels pretty brutal. As a result, the swimmer is likely to take an extra morning off to sleep in and "get better", which compounds the problem. The problem over time becomes consistency and what the program offers. If you cannot hit a consistent training rhythm and allow your body to break down, recover and adapt, you are missing the full benefit of the program: you are allowing yourself too much rest and as a result you're basically only maintaining aerobic fitness. That’s great if you swim an event where you swim at a constant pace until you can't swim anymore, but sadly, no such event exists right now. Lets make sure that we focus on consistency in training for 2011.

A lot of parents and swimmers made note that they wanted to qualify for nationals, provincials or Central Regions in 2011, but have now been slipping in attendance. I think since its the begining of a new year, every Bluefin should make the effort to renew their commitment to their goals and train to perform; perform to compete; and compete to win. Just remember that it all begins with TRAINING.

...any objections?

**eventhough the above video is in another language, you can still see some lightning fast 100FLY from World Championships in Dubai in December.