Thursday, April 14, 2016

Bama Triathlon - Relay Time!

It's early season for triathlon. I have a lot of friends who are already racing this season. My first race is still 3 weeks away. But last weekend I decided to compete in the inaugural Bama a relay!!

A few months ago I talked to a couple of the good people that I've met since moving to Tuscaloosa, asked them if there is ever a triathlon that is close by if they would be interested in doing a relay with me! Charlie Wolbach rides with the Druid City Bike Club - he is a great cyclist. He has pulled me back up to the group on many rides when I've been dropped off the back. I have to work to stay on his wheel when he is riding hard. I thought he would be perfect for the relay.

Ann Besanceney and I worked together at Wagner's RunWalk. Ann is an amazing runner - an All American from Michigan State in Steeplechase. When Ann runs, think gazelle! She is also the first friend that I made in Tuscaloosa, she has a good heart, a kind heart.

This is a super sprint race, actually I would consider it a runner's race. Short 400 yard swim, 11 mile bike, and the run ended up being 3.6 miles. It's a pool swim.... ahem, if you've ever read any of my other posts about pool swim triathlons you'll know that I'm really not a fan. Sunday, we were really lucky that the timer sent us off at way more than the 10 seconds that was advertised. She let the person get to the end of the lane (25 yards) before she sent the next person off. If not the swim would have been a hot mess. 

On the registration they asked us to submit a 100 meter swim time. Initially, the race was going to be held in the 50 meter pool, but a swim meet was scheduled for the same weekend, bad race planning. Typically people submit a very "optimistic" swim time. I used a swim calculator conversion since I swim in a short course yard pool. Entered a 1:27 per 100 meter time. Now, I can swim one 100 meter freestyle way faster than that, but I was basing it on what I believed I would hold for the entire 400. Obviously I was one of the only ones who did this. Long story short, I was about the 15-16th person in line and had the 5th fastest swim split. The guy in front of me, Blake caught and passed the person in front of him, and I caught her about 10 yards from the swim finish. My friend Margaret caught two people who were seeded in front of her. She had the 3rd fastest overall swim! What did I tell you, hot mess!

My recommendation for next year for the race director - have people submit a 400 yard (or meter) time. 

T1 - Usually when there are relays they have them rack together. There are going to be two other people in transition, and having the relays somewhere so that we're not in the other athletes way is a good idea. There was a tiny rack, that would hold 4 bikes, and I asked the RD if that is where he wanted us to rack, but he said just to rack the bike anywhere. 

My recommendation for next year - if the racks are not assigned, still have the relays rack together out of the way of the other athletes, so they don't get in the way.

Before the race started we were given a piece of velcro to stick to our disposable neoprene ankle chip. It wouldn't stick. So I stapled one end of the velcro to the end of the neoprene, you could still get it off but the whole thing came apart when we tried to take it off to put on Charlie's ankle. We ended up just stuffing it in his back jersey pocket. I saw Dani (a friend doing another relay) running to her team carrying her timing strap, I think it had come off completely in the water - they duct taped it from then on. There has to be a better way for the timing chips for the relays.

There is a fast triathlete in Tuscaloosa named Wilson. When I told Wilson that I was doing a relay, he said "I won't catch you on the swim, but I'll just have to catch Charlie on the bike". Of course we couldn't let that happen! And Charlie delivered! Wilson out split him, but never caught him! Oh... and Charlie was on his road bike, not a time trial bike. He had a fantastic ride! 

My recommendation about the bike course - Move the Mount/Dismount line to the road as opposed to the edge of the parking lot so the athletes can see it. We saw one girl endo on her bike as she came in to T2 because she didn't see the line. A MOUNT/ DISMOUNT sign would be a good idea, and more volunteers on the bike course, too. Charlie missed a turn because no one was directing people at a corner.

We handed Ann the timing chip, and she headed out onto the run course. I was excited to see her run, so I'd told her I was going to try and head out onto the course to cheer her on to the finish. I saw her coming down Hackberry, the last long stretch before the turn to the finish. She was flying! I cut across a big parking lot diagonal to see her finish (think Pythagorean Theorem) and had to sprint as hard as I could and barely made it to see her go by! Man that woman can run!

We had a great day! Both Charlie and Ann were amazing! Would I do another relay? With friends like that, you bet! 

Oh... and yes, we beat Wilson. 

Next up for me, Lake Guntersville Tri! See you at the races!!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Why I Became A Swim Coach

Why did I become a swimming coach? That's an easy one, Coach Steve Panzram.

Coach Steve with his
Crawfish Aquatics Team.
I grew up swimming in our back yard pool in southern California, trying to imitate my Dad. He swam when he was in high school, back in 1944 or 1945. I remember seeing the 8mm film of us in the pool, my Dad swimming laps, breathing to the side, swimming breaststroke and backstroke. I wish I still had those films.

I joined a swim team way back in 1978 when I was a junior in high school. My school didn't have a year round team, but 11 miles away in Ocean Springs, MS there was a YMCA team - the OSY Sea Serpents. There was a co-worker of my Dad whose kids swam on the team, and we thought it would be something I might like. The team was on their 2 week break after State, so I went to the pool every day until practice started back. The coach told me to try and work up to swimming 20 lengths - a 500. I did that and remember very clearly my first practice, the coach told us to warm up with a 400 IM. That's a 400 individual medley - or 100 of each stroke - fly, backstroke, breastroke, and freestyle. I'd never done one stroke of butterfly in my life but I got in the lane and did my best.

Throughout the two years that I swam with the team the coach never once gave me any technique pointers, or told me what I was doing right, or wrong. I learned by watching the other swimmers in the lane next to me, and tried to copy the faster people. I made it to state my first year, swam on two relays and the 100 backstroke, and 100 breastroke, all by learning on my own.

When I got older and started racing triathlons I joined masters swim practices. In Jackson, it was just a group of us that would get together and swim. In Baton Rouge I joined Crawfish Masters, coached by Scott Rabalais. Still no one ever helped me. Just swimming what they said and trying to keep up.

I moved to Dallas and joined DAM, Dallas Aquatic Masters. This is Jim Montgomery's program. Here I finally had a coach tell me something. Bobby Patten told me, "Ginger, we don't swim looking forward anymore, look a the bottom of the pool and let the water hit you in the middle of the top of your head." And one of the other coaches told me... "When you take your first pull off the wall, use the hand that is on the bottom."

That's it. That was the extent of the coaching I received in 30 years of swimming.

Then in 2010 we moved to Hattiesburg, MS, and I started swimming with the HubFin Masters. I was told that I would like Coach Steve. I think it was either the first or second practise that he told me, "I'm going to completely change your freestyle." During the year or so that Steve coached me he did completely change my stroke, he focuses on technique. I went from 24 strokes per length to 17. Got much faster, and did it using a lot less energy, learned a ton of drills, and why they improve your swimming. I finally got to experience really being coached. Someone that wanted me to get better, get faster. A coach that cared.

Swimming in the Mississippi State Games.

A time came when he needed a new assistant coach, he asked if I would be interested. Of course! An opportunity to work with an amazing Head Coach, and learn from one of the best coaches out there. Unfortunately Steve left shortly after I joined the staff for Nevada, but I will never be able to thank him enough for the opportunity. To this day, I stay in contact with him, mostly to ask questions about swimming, he responds immediately.

Last Day with the HubFins

If you haven't noticed by now I have an incredible passion for swimming. When we moved from Hattiesburg to Shreveport, Steve reached out to Butch Jordan, the Head Coach of COSST - The City of Shreveport Swim Team.

At COSST I got to work with JV1 and JV2,  the 11 and unders. I had the best experience there, the kids soaked up the information I gave them. Every single one of them will never be forgotten. I have memories that will last a lifetime. I got to work with a coaching staff that all have the same goals, we were all on the same page, it was a dream job.

COSST Coaches
I've told others before that being a swim coach is the only part time job that feels like a serious career. As a swim coach, or any coach for that matter, you're not just helping them to athletes to be better in their sport, you have an opportunity to teach them so much more. Teach them about respect, and integrity. Teach them about hard work, and the pay off they get from their efforts. Teach them about teamwork, and about being a team.

I'm not coaching here in Tuscaloosa, it just didn't work out with the local team. I miss it daily. I miss the kids.