Category: racing

What 200 Calories Look Like in Different Foods

Here’s a photo series showing how much of a given food you get for 200 calories. As you think about your training and race day nutrition, check out the benefits of eating well vs junk food.

Being able to visualize how much of a given food pays back in calories might help you make decisions come snack or meal time.

Vegetables are good value for calories. And I know I’d rather eat three eggs than eight Hershey’s kisses.

Nutrition is a key part of training and racing triathlon. Use these photos to guide your diet and decision making.

What does 200 Calories Look Like?

How many calories are there in the foods you eat?

How many calories are there in the foods you eat?

A Fine Example of Smooth, Powerful Technique to Inspire all Triathletes and Swimmers

It’s a sprint breaststroke race but a perfect example of powerful, efficient swimming technique.

In this race, Kevin Cordes broke an American record, swimming 100 yard breaststroke in 50.7 seconds.

Yes, FIFTY seconds!

Kevin Cordes, American Record 100-yard breaststroke, Texas Invitational [Dec. 6, 2013]

You can see how controlled he is for the first half of the race before exploding into the last 50 yards and pulling away from the competition.

That’s good discipline and race management – most of our instincts would be to sprint from the start and end up spinning our wheels. A race killer on a triathlon course just as it is in the swimming pool.

He also does the small things very well – not least his turns. Spending time on skill acquisition – and perfection – can lead to big gains in time, as well as giving you confidence.

It may be a sprint swimming race in a short course yard pool but there are lessons for all endurance athletes be it an Olympic distance triathlon or an Ironman.

As seen on Twitter at @SwimmingWorld and via @swimergency

3 Key Open Water Sighting Tips for Triathletes

Sighting is a seemingly small element of a long open water swim. However, when not performed well, poor sighting carries a significant cost. Watch the following video to see how much extra distance the highlighted swimmers go:

I coached at our team’s final open water practice of the season last weekend. It was a great session, with a lot of good, hard swimming done. However, in general the team’s sighting was poor. I watched them snake through the straight out-and-back course. I was secretly (and sadistically?) pleased as it made the workout longer but I recognize the need to correct their technique for race day.

My swimmers (and maybe you too?) have two key elements to correct:

1. Poor sighting technique

Poor form is tiring and inefficient.

  • One of the most common faults is lifting your head too long which expends energy and causes your feet to drop.
  • Not sighting within the rhythm of your stroke will cause a pause in momentum and break your cadence. Stop-start swimming is no fun.
  • Finally, don’t lift your head to sight just for the sake of it, lift and scan for your landmarks. Use it to make sure you are on course, or don’t sight, just swim normally. If you are swimming parallel to shore, there will be minimal use to lift your head up and to the front.

2. Not sighting regularly enough

  • The swimmers tended to sight too late, only to discover they had veered off track. It’s a trade-off (energy and rhythm) but sighting more frequently would have prevented them from swimming the extra yards.
Keep your head low while sighting in the open water!

Keep your head low while sighting in the open water!


Key tips for Open Water Sighting

  • Sighting Tip 1: scan the course pre-race for landmarks that are bigger and more obvious than the buoys, e.g. telecoms masts, distinctive buildings, boats (as long as they are not moving!), etc.Even though my fellow Coach’s guns are HUGE, it was tough to see them from the water. Swimmers had to work hard to spot him. At Coney Island beach on Saturday, rather than using Coach as the marker in the water, it would have been far easier and more effective to sight using one of the huge buildings behind him on the beach.
  • Sighting Tip 2: Incorporate sighting into the rhythm of your stroke. Lift your head only enough to spot your landmark and throw your head into the breath and next stroke.
  • Sighting Tip 3: Sight regularly, but not too often. It all depends on how ‘straight’ a swimmer you are and how much you trust yourself.  Somewhere between 3 and 12 strokes is the norm. Experiment in training to find what works best for you and your internal compass.

Review the Swim Smooth video above that clearly shows how far you can go off course if your sighting is off. Be sure to practice a little before your next race(s). You get no points for swimming extra distance!

Keri-Anne-Payne-open-water-swim-Beijing-2008_1127785 Olympic Open Water, A Seminal Event About To Occur openwaterswimmingnews

Keri-Anne Payne’s crocodile eyes – head barely out of the water

Photo credits: Flying Cloud &

Monday Motivation: Ironman Hawaii World Championship 2009

Ironman Hawaii World Championship 2009

One from the archives. An oldie but a goodie.

Watch this before your next session, and be inspired:

In the words of Waterboy, YOU CAN DO IT!

What tools do you use to keep your motivation levels up?

Swimming Workout of the Week (WOW!): Pacing

Goal: I’m working on pacing with my ‘beginner’ swimmers. Technique is solid now, and I want them to become well-versed in the art of holding a steady pace for longer periods, in prep for their triathlon swims (0.5 mile, 1 mile, 1.2 miles, etc).

swimming for triathlon - maintain high elbows and good technique during this longer pacing swim set

Warm up:

300: swim, drill, kick, swim by 75
4×50 build 1-4 strong on 10 seconds rest

Main set:

10 x 100: select a time to swim off that gives you 10-15 seconds rest each 100.

Your pace for each 100 should be one that you can hold consistently through the set with greater effort required towards the end of the set.

Maintain your pace and technique as the set progresses and gets tougher.

Cool down:

Easy continuous swim for the time remaining

Total:  ~2,000

How did you do? What times did you hold, and more importantly, what was the range?

(Photo credit: Airman Magazine via Flickr)

The Science Behind Usain Bolt and his 100m World Records

20130731-205618.jpgScientists say they can explain what makes Usain Bolt so fast.

“They say their model explains the power and energy he had to expend to overcome drag caused by air resistance, made stronger by his frame of 6ft 5in.

Writing in the European Journal of Physics, the team hope to discover what makes extraordinary athletes so fast.”

It would be really interesting to see models of top athletes in other sports. No doubt there would be a lot of learning for us all to enjoy and benefit from.

There should rightly be a lot of skepticism however given recent and not-so-recent drug testresults.

One thing I do not like about the article is the following section where the scientist talks about “improving” with a faster tail wind (all else being equal). Of course, he might run faster as a result but he is most certainly not improving as an athlete.

“Bolt’s Berlin record was won with a tail wind of only 0.9m per second, which didn’t give him “the advantage of helpful wind assistance”, he added.

“You’re allowed to have a wind no greater than 2m per second to count for record purposes, so without becoming any faster he has huge scope to improve,” Prof Barrow told BBC News.”

Secret of Bolt’s speed unveiled20130731-205759.jpg

First Out of the Water

I love this photo, from Ola Vista Photography on flickr.

open water swim triathlon first out of the water ola vista photography flickr

The photo is called “ITU San Diego Pro Men”.

I love how it captures the first athlete out of the water, with his competitors close behind, chasing him down. What a rush!

Do you finish the swim in first place?

5 Triathlon Race Day Mistakes to Avoid: Lessons from the New York City Triathlon 2013

While a lot of hard goes into any triathlon plan, a key element is an holistic approach to reviewing your races. To improve your triathlon performance, you need to be consistently learning from your mistakes, both in training and on race day.

I recently raced the New York City Triathlon and, long story short, it did not go well.

At all!

It was a fun event, particularly all the spectators and volunteers, but maaaaaan was it a tough day at the office!

As much as I wanted to expel it from memory, I forced myself to sit down and review what went wrong. It can be a tough exercise, but  ultimately being honest with yourself will help you identify areas where potentially big gains can be made in your next race.

Here are my race day triathlon lessons:

1) Nutrition is key for triathletes

My biggest error for this race was my nutrition. I simply tried too hard to eat well the day before. I had a big lunch rather than dinner to give myself time to digest but I also snacked too much during the evening which left me full and lethargic on race day morning.

I wrote out a to do list for race-day morning but still managed to forget some snacks on the long walk up to the swim. Given there was a good 45 minutes (and a 1 mile walk) from transition closing to swim start, this might have had an impact.

On the bike, I probably did not drink enough water due to my stomach feeling ‘full’, and again on the run, I skipped the first few aid stations as I was struggling with GI distress. This may not have been a bad idea but I definitely had no gas on the day.

Maybe it’s time to test new pre-triathlon nutrition and race-day snacks.

2) In a triathlon, race your own race

Keep calm and run your race

Despite being an experienced swimmer,  having good swim technique and a solid grasp of triathlon swim tactics, I forgot all my experience and in my haste to be competitive, I started the swim too fast.

I was gasping for air by 600m and had to dial it back in order to catch my breath and get into my normal rhythm. As a result, I tired myself out and lost time – a double whammy that is every triathlete’s nightmare!

I let my anxiety get to me, instead of focusing on my race, my pace and my technique. I train to start steady, build my pace and negative split my swims, and I threw away all those hours in the pool in the course of an anxiety-racked first 200m.

Swim, bike and run your OWN race. Focus on yourself first and your pacing, and then start kicking ass!

3) Race-day training and practicing triathlon transitions

One thing I certainly did not do was practice my transitions. From a non-scientific review of the results, I lost 3-4 minutes on my (would-be) rivals during T1. Had I been competitive on the day, that would have been the end of my race.

I even put my bike shoes on the wrong feet! So, lesson learned, I will practice my transitions before my next race!

And not the changing equipment, but running after the swim and jumping on a bike while out of breath, and then running on wobbly legs again after T2. I simply wasn’t able to get going quickly enough to be effective. Watching the pros and how seamless they do it is inspiring.

4) Equipment – know it, test it, trust it.

man on an old bicycle

(Feministe blog)

No matter what you are using, know and trust your equipment.

I adjusted my saddle the day before the race. Major error, as I wasn’t used to it, it wasn’t effective and I just didn’t feel at one with the bike on race day. I should have left it as is, or gone to my fitting guy, but I just had this nagging doubt that plagued me all week.

The old adage, “don’t do anything new on race day” holds perfectly true. A mantra for the ages. Still annoyed with myself for this one.

5) Stick with it.

It might be a horrible race, and all you want to do is quit and lick your wounds, but (as long as you’re not injured) persevere: it will help develop that race day toughness. As bad as it seems now, the next race will seem so much easier because you stuck with it when times were tough (figuratively and literally!).

I’m glad I finished, even though I was 30+ mins behind my goal time. Given all the mistakes above, apart from persevering, the only other good thing to come out of this race was my bike tires getting a good cleaning thanks to a little moisture on the roads!

Here are some good quotes on failure, if like me, you struggle to see the positives:

  • “I have not failed I have just found 10,000 ways that did not work.” Thomas Edison
  • “Remember that failure is an event not a person.” Zig Ziglar
  • “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill
  • “Just because you fail at one thing doesn’t mean you will fail at everything.” Marilyn Monroe

2013 World Tour Series, Hamburg recap

Watch the pros storm through the course in this short recap of 2013 World Tour Series, Hamburg.

Jonathan Brownlee pips brother Alistair to World Tour Series gold in Hamburg

The level of intensity is unreal – they take the swim out hard, and then push the pace from there. To be able to do that they must train their bodies to switch disciplines quickly and maintain max effort levels. There simply is no time to ease into the bike or the run.

Their transitions are pure efficiency – every movement maximized and practiced to eliminate redundancies. Given the first three were mere seconds apart, any hiccup in transition would be very costly.


How do you practice transitioning from one discipline to the next?

When you visualize your race, what do you see?

I previously published the “31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence”, a series of key tips that will kick your performance to the next level, without any inordinate expenditure of time or money. How do you plan on reaching your goals?

Your commitment to training hard for miles and miles is but one tool to excel in sports (and other endeavors). The hard work is required, but your effectiveness will only be maximized by taking a holistic approach to triathlon. Nutritionrecovery and technique are a few examples that will add to your performance gains with a little effort.

This tip is particularly relevant, given many of us are about to race, putting into action all the hard training of Winter.

Visualize Victory

10 Success Secrets of Olympic Greats - Phelps visualizing pre-race

Visualization is a technique that has been used by elite athletes for decades. It involves mentally rehearsing your race and picturing yourself achieving your goals.

Picture yourself conquering a weakness, of racing fast and performing strongly. Imagine yourself crossing the finish line arms raised aloft, having achieved your goals.

If you get nervous pre-race, anticipate yourself calm and relaxed, steady heart-rate, breathing comfortably while awaiting the gun.

It is not my favorite sport but I am always impressed with the focus of baseball pitchers. They appear to visualize each and every pitch just beforehand.

The more you do it, the more stretch goals become achievable. Picture yourself swimming smooth and long, efficiently powering through the bike leg and finishing fast and strong on the run. The joy of visualization is that you can do it anywhere – while on a long swim or run, in the office, or commuting to work on the train.

Like anything, practice it and you will improve. I have heard anecdotes of swimmers, with practice, being able to rehearse their race within tenths of a second of their goal time!

Picturing yourself outperforming and conquering major challenges will help with your confidence on race day, and will help as you churn in the wash of the swim or as you struggle up that final, steep hill.

I’m in my 30’s but still fantasize about winning Olympic gold and later becoming a professional football player. The more I picture myself covered in glory, the more certain I am that it will happen.

So, picture yourself long and strong before your next race. You’ll find your confidence soars and you’ll be primed to perform when the starting gun goes off.

Mo Farah wins gold - visualize yourself sprinting to victory in triathlon races