Ben Titley, Swim Coach at Loughborough University, England. MSc Sports Science (pending- final project only) BSc Physical Education, Sports Science & Rec. Management 5 A-Levels. 1996-present Swim Coach at Loughborough University; 1998, gained ASA Coach Certificate; 2003, Coached 1st British swimmer in 28 years to win a World LC Title; 2003, awarded the BSTCA Award for Coaching Excellence; 2003. Keynote Speaker at UK Sport World Class Coaching Conference 2004. Invited to be International Speaker at the American Swim Coaches Association World Clinic in Indianapolis, 2004. At present he has 5 swimmers selected to swim at the Olympics (most by any British Swim Coach this year). Has coached 17 Swimmers to break National Records. Has coached swimmers to 95 National Records. Coached swimmers onto Great Britain, England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France, Sweden, and Norway National Teams. Swimmers have held World, European, and Commonwealth Records. Swimmers have won 21 medals at the World, World University, European and Commonwealth Level.
Thank you to your coaching federation for inviting me here to speak. My talk today, is about one of my swimmers, Melanie Marshall. You probably haven’t heard of her. She is probably the fastest swimmer that you haven’t heard of – for reasons that may become clear during this presentation.
My name is Ben Titley. I am 27 years old. I am from England and I have a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education, Sport Science & Recreational Management from Loughborough University, which is in the middle of England, about 20 miles south of Nottingham. It is a university town – kind of a sports college and not a lot else. I don’t have an MSc in sports science. I have been studying it for five years.
Since 1996, when I went to Loughborough University as a student to obtain my sports science degree, I have worked there as a swimming coach. I have coached 17 swimmers who have broken 95 national records in the time I have been there. They have broken world, European, and Commonwealth records and have won 21 medals, including 12 gold at world, university, European, and Commonwealth-level competitions. I also had five swimmers at this year’s 2004 Olympic Games.
I will briefly take you through the Loughborough University program so you have an idea how it works. The director of swimming there is Ian Armiger. I am in transition now in terms of whom I work for, but he has kind of been my boss for the last eight years.
From 1996 to 2002 the only pool that we trained out of was a 4-lane, 25-yard pool, built in the 1930s. I think it used to be a state-of-the-art pool back then, but believe me, it really is just back then. We can’t use it any more (thank God), because it has a big asbestos problem, something they didn’t tell us until 2002 when it closed and we got our new pool. I still remember trying to open the windows with one of those long wooden poles and all this stuff falling down in my face and thinking, ‘God – it is a bit dusty – hasn’t anybody cleaned them for a while?’ You laugh. I don’t think I’ll be laughing in twenty years, but anyway there we go.
From 2002 to present we have had an 8-lane, 50-meter pool with a moveable bulkhead and full sports-science support. It is actually turning into the national center now in Great Britain and it is all singing, it’s all dancing there, you know – gadgets coming out of your ears and whatever else you pretty much want. A lot of the stuff there is designed by a guy called Heinrich LaComie, and this is a sales pitch I guess (I am not even on the payroll), but if any of you want to buy any swim racks for sprint training, Heinrich makes them. They actually go the full 50 meters down the pool.
We have three university sports, catering to approximately 70 swimmers. It is the biggest university program in the country, and the most successful university program in the country. We don’t have as much competition as you guys do. We can’t offer big scholarships, and university swimming in general is nowhere near the size that it is here. To put things in perspective: We have won your version of the NCAA’s for about the last 12 years, certainly the last 8 years I have been there. It is also now a Great Britain high-performance center. From 1998 to present they have placed swimmers on every major championship team, and this year we had 41 swimmers who obtained cuts to swim in Olympic Trials, and in total the program, including the national center, placed 9 swimmers on the 2004 UK Olympic Team.
This is the young lady I want to speak about today. Her name is Melanie Marshall and that is quite a nice picture of her. She doesn’t usually look quite so angelic as that. She has the nickname of Psycho, given to her by one of our sports commentators for swimming. To put that into perspective for you…and maybe I shouldn’t tell this story…but back in about 2002, before we moved into the new pool, our pool was a very quiet, student-oriented place. I leave my then-girlfriend’s house to walk to the pool on a winter’s morning. The wind is blowing and it is cold – it is miserable. It is raining and I leave the house and I walk down this alleyway between two houses and someone else comes down the other side of the alleyway. It is 4:30 in the morning and we both jump with fright and maybe I slightly soiled my pants a little bit, but anyway, we say hello. We move on and we keep walking. I am walking down toward the pool and it is about a ten-minute walk. With the wind there are Coke cans blowing around – it is like one of those old cowboy movies where you have those tumbleweeds going – except it was Coke cans and rubbish. I am walking down the middle of the road because I am a little bit wary of what is going on. I am not the perfect of characters when it comes to being away from the swimming pool and I walk around the corner – only about 300 yards from the pool – where there are some trees up on my right and I have been walking at quite a brisk pace just in case anyone is following me and of course they weren’t, and I hear this whistle…like this [whistles]…so I start to quicken my running and bear in mind it is 4:30 in the morning. So I start to run, you know, a little jog, kind of like one of the dad’s jogs when they are not really going anywhere, but they are just kind of moving. And then I hear it again [whistles]. So now I start to jog and I admit it is a jog, and I look up to my right and standing up in this grassy area is someone in a green mask and full black coat…4:30 in the morning…dark…side on…just looking at me. I would like to say I was very macho about the whole thing, but I wasn’t. My voice goes about four octaves higher than it is already, and I start to jog or sort of run. And I shout “You crazy something or other…” and I get about 30 meters from this individual hiding in the trees and I think – and this is my heroic part – I think my female significant is going to come along in about 20 minutes and this weirdo is still going to be in the trees. So I stop and turn and look straight on and this person looks straight at me and starts walking toward me. Now I think, well now you have really done it…what are you going to do now? So I start walking toward him and then I think well there is only one way to do this. If I run at him, he might turn and run away so I start running, but, to my horror, he starts running down this grassy knoll toward me. Remember, it is 4:30 in the morning. It is windy. It is dark. It is cold. It is spitting with rain and these two idiots are running toward each other with no idea what is going to happen.
Now I haven’t punched anybody in anger since I was about 12 years old and someone stole my bag. So I clench my fist and swing it back as I am running for speed toward this person. Another step or two and I will punch him and then he tails off and starts laughing and I am standing there shaking and my heart is going and I think what the hell is going on here and he runs off about 30 meters and it turns out he has a friend hiding behind a porta-cabin with a video camera. Anyway, the individual who nearly got punched in the face was Melanie Marshall. She and her friend had been hiding since 4 o’clock. Security had come along once and moved them on and – but that is just to give you a background on the sort of individual she is. She has calmed down quite a bit in the last two years – thank God – but it is an interesting experience coaching her.
Melanie is 22 years old now. She is 170 centimeters in height [about 5 feet 7 inches]. She is slim, and weighs around 67-8 kilos [about 147 pounds]. She first joined Loughborough in the summer of 2002. Before she came and swam with me she was already a good swimmer. She was busting records, mostly on sprints – things like 50 backstroke and 50 free – and she swam in a lot of the junior and youth competitions when she was of that age. She had a reasonable aerobic background compared to a lot of the swimmers that I have coached or that come to Loughborough, and she had done a reasonable amount of work. Maybe this has something to do with the sort of person she is. She had many clubs and many coaches before she came to Loughborough. That story might make you think well why doesn’t she have a different one now, and I am not too sure of an answer. She moved to a lot of clubs, but, on the whole, always had pretty good coaches so she had good technique.
Melanie missed the Olympic team in 2000 and I think that sort of spurred her on to make a change. Loughborough had placed 2 swimmers in the freestyle relays in 2000, and four of our women were in the top 10 at those Olympic Trials, so Loughborough was kind of the logical choice for Melanie, given the events that she swam. So she moved to Loughborough at the age of 18.
What I am going to do is take you through year by year and it is going to be like a history of Mel, if you like, and I hope some of it can relate to swimmers that you have got – certainly in terms of the sort of work that we had to do when she first came to Loughborough. As I said, we had a four-lane, 25-yard pool and swimmers came to Loughborough because of the program and not because of the facility. Not that Great Britain back then had too many 50-meter pools anyway, but this was one of the worst pools you could ever find. We had – or my group had – about 8 pool sessions a week and, at most, 40,000 yards a week. We do everything in meters and all the times that you see later on for sets and things are all in meters, rather than in yards for short course.
Our kids have only a very, very small wet side of the program, if you like. I had to try and find other ways around this, and so a large part of what we do is a pretty comprehensive landwork program of about seven sessions a week. For example, one of the pool sessions that we had on a Wednesday lasted only about 45 minutes, and that is the only pool time we had. Because of that, the pool work that we did was of a pretty high quality or intensity, and that hasn’t really changed too much, although in Mel’s program it has. Also, at Loughborough University in 2000, Melanie had to cope with all the external factors that went with going to a university. That’s no different from what your guys deal with at universities in the States, with the exception that we can’t provide scholarships in the same way that you can.
What I explain to the young geniuses when they arrive at Loughborough is that they have to deal with the three S’s. I draw three large circles to show them what I mean. One is your Sport, one is your Social, and one is your Studies. They have to operate within those three areas whilst they are at the program, but they only have two points that they can use up. So someone like Melanie, for example, would use a full point on her Sport and she would then have to decide where she spreads the other point, and what most people would tend to do is go maybe two-thirds with their Studies and one-third with their Social life. The swimmers can’t really have the same social life as most of the other students, although some of my swimmers have in the past tried to.
Melanie was also away from her home. She has a very, very close family, which is very important to her, so she had to come to terms with that and also a personal fit within the team. She is a larger-than-life character. As a junior she always used to wear these crazy hats at swim meets, even on the national team, and it was a case of seeing how she would then fit in with the senior swimmers on that team. Because of the quality of the pool work she did, her sprint speed increased and she set lifetime bests in the 50 and 100 free during her first year in Loughborough, which ended with her gaining a silver medal at the 2001 World Championships in Japan on the relay. I think we were actually in that heat with the Americans – off the top of my head I think so.
From 2001 to 2002 Melanie did slightly more yardage – about 45,000 yards, which equates to about 30,000 long-course and short-course meters. In my opinion – in terms of the number of strokes that you actually do – that is still not swimming very far, but still very strong on the land. She did her first-ever 200 free in Glasgow in about June of 2002, and she went a 2:03.9 long-course meters and ends in the Commonwealth Games with a silver medal in the 4 X 100 free relay. But she was only a finalist in the actual 100 free individual. She didn’t get a medal and straight after that – I mean, it has been a policy in British swimming that we tend to go to a main meet and then bounce on to another meet straight after that. It makes the swimmers tougher and gives them more racing opportunities when they are about to be rested and it has been quite a good experience for them. Straight after the Commonwealth Games, which were in Manchester, we went to Greek Nationals and she swam a 55.3 100 free – faster than the gold edallist in the Commonwealth Games and a 2:08 200 free. Good taper, Ben, so I obviously have to take the blame for that, but there are also external factors in there. The pressure of being at the home competition – also the first time that she had swum internationally on individual events at the senior level, but it showed that she was moving in the right direction and they were both very positive swims.
To sum up, in those first two years Melanie had great improvement in terms of her speed and certainly on dryland power, and her priority switched to being in the 200-meter events.
I explained to you before that Melanie isn’t built like the tall, slender, sinuous girls who swim those 1500-meter freestyle events. Melanie is not like that. She is built more firm – like a rugby or American football player, and so she never was going to be able to compete on the international scene in the 50 freestyle. From 2002 to 2003, and at the age of 20, she moved from that swim background into training more for the 200 freestyle. It helped at that time that we got our new 50-meter pool, which gave her a lot more training time and flexibility within those hours.
In 2002 to 2003, she moved up to 9 sessions a week but I still kept it mostly short course. I think going from a short-course yards program into a long-course meters program has a big effect on a swimmer’s muscles and their fatigue and certainly their muscle breakdown, so keeping the short course in there for me then was the right thing to do. She went up to about 60,000 meters a week and probably only around 50,000 on average. I would like to say that she was doing more, but she wasn’t, and I was still quite wary that even that was a 25-30% increase in real training volume from what she had done only a couple of weeks previous.
Her racing program in 2002-2003 included a lot more 200 free racing, as it would do if that is the event that you are trying to target; nothing earth shattering there. It included the World Cup meets in Europe and what we call stage meets that lead up to our major games – also major trials for major games. After her first World Cup meets and Time Trials, she came back and was swimming long-course Time Trials straight after the World Cup meets of 1:59.9, which was her first time under two minutes. At that point – well, even now – I think there are only two or three girls in Great Britain who have been under 2 minutes for 200 free. It also involved her practicing a race plan that was going to be important in the years to come. There was no point in her doing – as she can do – just sitting on someone and then trying to burn them off on the last 50 – if the total time for that swimmer is going to be a 2:01. So, even though at this point she was not capable of swimming 1:59s or 1:58s or 1:57s back to back to back, it was important that she still practice that. At one meet, the race plan was to go as quick as she could and hold on. I think she turned about 12 meters ahead of the rest of the field at 150 – give or take – and at the end she won by about half a second. But the good thing was that she got used to putting her body through what she would have to do if she was going to swim the times that were going to be world class later on down the line.
At the World Championships in Barcelona Melanie made the semi-final in the 200 free with a 2:01, I think, but she set best times in 100 free leading off the relay and in the 100 back leading off the relay. That is a big thing that happened with Mel. And with all of your juniors (except in breaststroke, which is a slightly different breed), it certainly helps if they have another stroke to their bow and Mel’s is backstroke.
Straight after Worlds we came back and swam national short course and Melanie swam the 200 free and just missed the pool record – 1:56.1, I think – so again the 200 freestyle was coming on and was going to be the main event for her.
In September 2004 we went to Australia after World University Games for a five-week training camp. Mel was in a group coached by Bill Sweetenham and I had the breaststrokers on that camp, and it is good for me to have a break from Mel and it is a very, very good experience for Mel to have a break from me because it proved to her – and to me – that she could do a lot more than she thought she could.
I mentioned before about Melanie getting ill and one of the big problems with that was that it was her college that made her sick. It wasn’t the training. It was the fact that she couldn’t recover in between the bouts of training. Following the Australia camp she now does around 70,000 a week, which is quite a big increase for a girl who two years ago was, in real terms, swimming only around 30,000 meters a week. But she handled it very well. Her land work is handled by a guy named Bob Smith, who is employed by British Swimming. He is a very, very good land-work guy, having designed men’s triathlons and all that stuff, and he is a very positive type and he told me to write down that her land work was functional and integrated so you can read into that whatever you wish.
Melanie started doing longer heart-rate sets and it helped working with people like Bob Treffene, a very knowledgeable guy with distance men certainly. He had a big hand in helping Mel, and I will later take you through a set or two of his. Melanie’s racing program now is starting to include 400 free, so the year previous it went to 200 from the 50s and 100s, and this is the first year now that she actually tried a 400 free, something she wasn’t too enamored with, and we had certain words about it at one of the World Cups this year.
Melanie’s first 400 free was in a booster championship, equivalent to your NCAAs, where she swam 4:09 for short course meters, which at the time for me was a big thing. I mean, this girl, getting her to do a 400 free and swimming it pretty well was then pretty good.
We then went in December to our European Short-Course Championship, which she won in 1:55.1 – relatively unrested. We were not allowed to rest for that competition and she set that time and she still ran forward #1. As the 2003-2004 season continued, we went to a camp here at Pinecrest in Florida, then bounced straight from that and literally flew to Heathrow and then flew from Heathrow to Stockholm for the World Cups. She swam 60-70K throughout that and her 200 free racing was of a very high level. I think she was 1:56 lows on all of her 200 frees and she dropped her 400 free down to where she could break the British record to a 4:02.22 short course meters. That was the same day that we had our big barny after the morning heats, but it obviously worked for her. Her performance showed me that she was slowly getting ready to win the 200 free long course. The 400 free short course for me is kind of an elongated or controlled sprint, and she swam that pretty well, although she got beat by 1/10. She came straight back from World Cups and the following weekend went to a local age-meet and swam a long-course 200 free and broke the British record at 1:58.5. She was fast going out – just like the plan – and she did tie up a little bit on the last 50, but she returned in 27.
In February, Melanie went to her fourth long-course British Championships, and then in early 2004 she went to our Olympic Trials. At Trials she swam 54.6 for the 100 free long course, and went 1:57.5 and a 1:57.8 for the 200 free. The 1:57.5 is still ranked #1 in the world this year. She also went a 61.7 in the heats of the 100 back. She swam only the heats in the 100 back on the first day as a swim to get into things.
Straight after Trials we went to French Nationals then went straight on again to Dunkirk, where she swam a 1:58 and a couple of 1:59s. The most interesting one was a 1:59 where the plan was for her to negative split it and she actually did. She swam a 1:59 200 free long course, negative-splitting the 100s. Then in Austria in June, Melanie beat the Olympic champion in a time that would have gotten a medal at the Olympics: 1:58.5 outdoors in full training. Then, at a camp in Cyprus about six or seven weeks before the Olympics, we sprang a time trial after she had done a 6.5K session. Melanie stood up and went a 2.00.3 long-course 200 free.
At British nationals in July, Melanie swam the backstrokes, not the freestyles, and had PBs on the 50 back (29.5) and 200 back (2:13.9) long course.
At the Olympic Games, unfortunately, Melanie didn’t perform. I would love to be standing here with a different situation because for me, personally, I have to wait another four years now to put right the things that I messed up on. But this talk is about how Melanie developed from a junior swimmer to being, well, ranked #1 in the world long course and short course on the 200 freestyle in a pretty short space of time. I think the important areas for that were #1 the training volume and intensity.
The program that I have run is pretty intensive on the whole. It would have to be, from my formative years when we were in that asbestos-ridden puddle. But Melanie can take as much training as you want to throw at her – whether that is intensity or volume – it doesn’t really matter. What is important is what she does away from the pool, and the college situation or the university situation was a problem for her because she actually had to work from 9 until 5 in classes – so she was not actually recovering mentally or physically from the training she was doing. She has actually cut back on the college now and does it part-time.
Melanie’s diet/nutrition from when she first came to Loughborough to how she is now is an awful lot better. She looks a lot different and is not quite so dumpy. She is a lot more cut, if you like, and a lot of that is due to the fact that her weight in 2001 at Worlds was 73 kilos [about 160 pounds] and by Trials this year was 67 kilos [about 147 pounds]. She is still a stocky character, but stocky now rather than tubby maybe. Socially she has some friends – like I said before – her family is very, very tight-knit, and she is the same with her friends. She lives with about eight people in the house, much to my frustration sometimes, but the important thing is her attitude. She realizes that she is slightly different to those people. They all swim – all her friends swim or most of them still swim, but she has to do certain things that maybe they wouldn’t do. You know, she is different to them. She is a world-class athlete or she wants to be a world-class athlete, so she has to act in that manner.
Since she first came to Loughborough, the biggest change has been in her attitude. Now she is probably the most focused or most professional athlete – despite her early morning scarings and the scream mask – I have ever coached. She will write down what it is she wants to do in a particular session, whether it is doing several meters of forward turns or doing a certain stroke count on the 50. She will write it down on and stick it on the wall and in between sets I see her reading it. She is focused and I think that has been the biggest achievement area so far.
Athens 2004 was the worst two weeks of my life. It shouldn’t be the case – I am far too young to get hung up on things like that – but unfortunately that is the way it was. Of the five swimmers I placed on the team – I think only one recorded life time best, and it wasn’t a great meet for me, personally, but it was the best learning experience I will ever have and I have been to a couple of World Championships now – long course, 2001 and 2003 and things like that. But the Olympics were different and I am glad I have got that experience now. I just hope that next time it rolls around I have the athletes that I have got now – if that makes sense. But, again, it is me that has to live with that – unfortunately – them too.
Doing this presentation actually was one of the most helpful things I have done. After the Olympics my swimmers and I sat down and discussed coming to this meet [SCM World Championships] and we decided not to do it. Last night, after seeing the Americans win all the gold medals, I told Melanie I wished I had changed my mind and we had brought them along just to see if we could spoil things for you a little bit.
After the Olympics I wasn’t going to come to this conference, but Guy Edson and John Leonard said they still wanted me to come so I said okay, but I am going to look like a bit of an idiot standing up here and saying all this stuff after having the worst meet in my entire life. But then I thought well at least I will get to hear some of your guys speak and I am going to learn from it. I think that is the most important thing for me – that I try and learn from everything that I do. Mistakes: not just a physical preparation. This is just in regard to Mel. This year I spent perhaps two and a half months at home, which I don’t mind too much – I mean – my mum is used to the fact that the only time she sees me is Christmas Day. But I actually left for a training camp this year ay 3 am on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, so she didn’t really get to see me then either. But for Mel, being away from her friends for long periods of time maybe wasn’t the best thing for her. She needs to have people whom she can be a bit loopy with and maybe she missed out on that. Maybe we went too fast down one route in terms of from Trials to the Olympics – through no fault of my own – just the situation – I was then put in the situation of where all I had to coach was those five swimmers – maybe six. I personally didn’t enjoy that. I didn’t enjoy working with a very small group of athletes and I know that it was difficult for them as well. There was only one guy in that group and he didn’t enjoy too much hanging out with five girls. Girls are for the girls. I am sure he wound them up just the same.
Communication: it is important, I think, with your swimmers and certainly if they are someone like Mel who had a very steep rise in how fast she could swim, that they be able to communicate with you exactly how they are feeling. Case in point being at the Olympic Games, Mel swam the heats of the 200 free and she wasn’t right. She was sick for an awful lot of this period between April and August, and so it wasn’t like she got there and just choked. She physically wasn’t in shape to swim the 1:57s that she had done all year and 1:58s mid-season, but she told me after the heat for the 200 free that it felt easy…it felt okay. She said she was all right about it, and I was in the situation where I was like, are you sure? She is like yeah, yeah, yeah. So the race plan for the evening was to do the normal thing and go out quick. Well unfortunately, with hindsight, it wasn’t the best plan. So make sure that in terms of you to your athlete and your athlete to you that the communication is clear. With me and Melanie, communication is good most of the time, but in this one situation where she was trying to convince herself that she was okay, it wasn’t the time to do it.
Don’t try to do too much. I think that is one of the main things I learned between Trials and the Olympics. I didn’t have to do anything different. I didn’t have to try and force anything more than she already had moved things on. She was doing pretty well the way it was going, and just because it was the Olympics – maybe I tried to move things on too much. I won’t do that next time. Olympics is a meet where each athlete has to go and enjoy it and be there to swim fast, but not to worry about it. Trials for Melanie was – I can do this – I am going to show you I can do this. Olympics was – I HAVE to do this – and I think that was the wrong way around. At Olympics you should do what you want because at the end of the day it is you who has to live with it and that is the lesson I have learned. Over the last few years it is probably the most important thing that I believe for myself.
Now I am going to take you through some workouts. You are all swimming coaches so maybe these are the things that will interest you the most. I have taken the four training weeks starting immediately after Melanie’s 1:58.5 (or something like that) at the local meet right after World Cups. I will take you through one week’s full training and the next week is just a progression of the main sets. You will also see that the warm-up is in short form and is very, very general. It is just that I didn’t want to type everything in because a lot of it is distance pool. Mel does quite a lot of the distance pool. She is a very strong girl, and 2,700 warm-up wasn’t obviously a straight through thing, but I didn’t want to put in all the sets. Included are the resistance pull and then an aerobic set. A lot of the work she does is on a protocol so she has to hold even pace on all the reps that she does. I know that everybody does even-pace swims or negative-split swims, but in doing everything that she does she must hold the same pace all the way through.
So: Three under 3, fins and paddles, holding 35-second pace to 50 – fins holding 36. Two pull, paddles, holding 37 and two swim holding 38. It has to be that on every single 50 – from the first to the last. She had a 30-second rest and went into 12 X 100 free on 1:20, holding 1:10 or 1:11. That is a long-course workout and the heart rates for those 100s were around 30 beats below max – 72. Monday night – a kick set. We don’t do massive amounts of kicking in terms of volume, but what we do do is pretty fast or of relatively high intensity. Mel’s program isn’t the same as the programs that I will put up for my sprint guys, but on her kick set we did a bit of kick with the shoes. Kicking with shoes helps her work the upbeat, as well as the downbeat, of the kick so there is a long ———- including a few sprints – and then a kick set went ——– shoes – 50 moderate – 50 work and then this is something I do quite a lot. I follow a kick set or a relatively intensive kick set with fast swimming. So – on race pace and so she goes to 200 kick followed by 2 X 50 swim. The first one is at 35, just to get her arms back into the swing of things, and the second one is at 30, to feel her target time hitting 30. ——– on 60. She hit 29.7 on the first one and then went 4 X 150 kick, holding under 2:25 on 2:45 and 2 X 50 as before (29.9), and then 6 X 100 kick holding under 1:35 on 1:50 and then 2 X 50 swim (she went 28.9). Then just a bit of aerobic stuff at the end: 10 X 200 – three back – again holding a protocol pace and then the swims holding 37s and 36s twice through.
Tuesday morning: Again, the warm-up and then 6 X 100. Pretty boring stuff to be honest with you. Then 6 X 600 – one free and one back on those times – again – holding certain paces and then some technique. On Tuesday night more sort of a set that I do with my swimmers – the heart-rate type set – a lot of rest and 1200 loosen and this was short-course meters – to the prep set there at the top – just progress the paces down so she could get into the speed that she had to hit and then two rounds through of five 100s, four 75s, and three 50s and then 150 easy. Big rest. The 100s were on 2 minutes, the 75s were on 1:30, and the three 50s were on 1:10. Back to five 100s progressed – one at 30 below, one at 20 below, two at 10 below, and then one at 38. pace. The target times are 65, 63, 61, 61. For the four 75s, the target times are there on the right. All the 50s had to be under 28.5 – zero race pace 200 free short course.
Wednesday morning: Again, I haven’t written much for this – just a recovery session really – swimming pretty steady. Again, a protocol pace, a bit of kick and lots of backstroke. We tend to do backstroke when Melanie starts to get tired on the freestyle or the freestyle gets stale. It tends to be the best thing for her to do and then Wednesday night is pretty similar. We do some medley, some drills – slightly longer, but very, very steady.
Thursday morning Melanie had off. Thursday night was, again, pretty general. So Wednesday and Thursday are kind of a recovery from the two fast sessions on Monday. The kick set on Monday really is a heart-rate set because for her that kick was almost maximum – the 50’s fast swim so the Thursday evening session is relatively steady again.
Friday morning: A 20 X 100 set on 2 minutes. This set changes as it goes through and the next week that I will show you is again 20 X 100 although it changes slightly, but after these two weeks I think we started going 150s and 50s and 100s instead, so on that set she had to go one at 68.9 – probably about 20 beats below effort.
Friday night was pretty steady, some low-level kick, and then Saturday again a race-pace or a heart-rate type set. It depends on what you want to call them. Four rounds through of four 75s, four 50s and then a 300 freestyle fins recovery. Even the fins recovery is done at a pace. It is not just a swim easy and sometimes we need to swim easy, but on this particular day she just had to hold the pace, but with fins on that is pretty soft. The four 75s alternated – long course this is one fast 44. points ahead going through the 75 and one recovery. The recovery could be at whatever speed she wanted and the four 50s same thing: one at 29.1 recovering so again, it is working at the race pace that she needs to perform for the majority of her 200 free and if you take out the first 50, which she is probably going to be just under 27.5, the rest are going to try and average under a minute and our speed plan at the trials was that when I’d look back over 200 freestyle – the 200 freestyle women is a very strange event. It never tends to go the way that people expect it to do and it never tends to be as quick as what people expect it to be and I thought that one of the big reasons for that when I looked back to the results was that people sat back in the middle hundred so at Trials, Mel’s big thing was that she had to be under a minute for the middle hundred and most of the pre-race planning worked around that. I think 7 days or 6 days out from the 200 free at Trials I made her do 150 – in a suit – long course where the only parameter was that that middle hundred – oh – that was the last hundred because there was only 150 – had to be under a minute and she actually went 58.9 for that 100. But I also said to her that she could do whatever speed she wanted on the first 50. If she wanted to go out in 30, it didn’t matter, but she had to hit that time for the middle hundred. She went out in 27 and she went 1:26.7 or something for the 150.
So it was 7 days out and you could pretty much tell she was going to swim well at Trials. The progression of some of those sets from the week before – I put up only the main sets – I got lazy and I apologize – the kick set then went two ……. Through and the 300 kick with shoes ……… at 50 max – 500 kick holding under 1:35 on 1:50, but this time it pushed 75 instead of the push 50s if you can remember last time where she had to hit 44 to 45. But again, it is a race-pace swim. Have to watch the ………….., not far off max kicking – two rounds through of that.
The Tuesday heart-rate set – last time I think it was the five 100s and six 75s and three 50s. This time around it was the 100 at 20 below on 3 minutes, six 75s – five at –10 and one at 38. pace on 1:40 – a bit more rested this time. Swim 100 again and then six 50s this time instead of three. Again, target time remained the same, but the turn-around time was 1:10.
Friday – the heart-rate set that she did the week before was one and three; this time it was one and four – same target times although she really had to try and beat the average from the week before and in this set was actually something she got down to doing before the Olympics. Although, like I say, her performance there wasn’t as quick. She actually got down to hitting 59s on the fast bits and 67s on the steady ones. Not for as many and with more easy ones than fast ones, but so that is the progression from that set and the Saturday race pace then went to ten 50s – one max – one easy being 28-29 on the 50s. Steady backstroke on the alternate ones and one 100 freestyle but pretty much done as a 75 – a push 75 – again – target time 44-45 seconds on 2 minutes recovery – 3-4 sets – if she was doing pretty poorly it would have been three – if she was doing well it would have been 4 – if she was doing awful it would have stopped at 1 and I think on that day she actually did all 4.
That is pretty much the end of what I have to say. I hope it has helped a little bit. I will answer questions now if anyone has any. Thanks for your time.
The question was: Would Melanie’s poor performance at Olympics have something to do with the length of time between Trials and the Olympics?
No. We had a very long cycle between Trials and Olympics. In Great Britain it is 15 weeks, so I don’t think so. Fifteen weeks is a long time for her to get back to where she needs to be. Two days before we came here we had a long conversation about it and we sat down and went through everything and like I said – actually going through this talk actually helped me a little bit with what I said to her with that. I still do believe that communication with them is the best thing. I have never had a problem with it before. I don’t think I am particularly clever. I don’t think I am that kind of a motivational type of person, but I think my strong point has always been, I guess, my communication and it let me down on that time and it is not something that I want to happen again so – but, it is difficult when you have a senior athlete who tells you one thing and you trust them – you know you have to trust them and then it kind of shoots you in the foot, but yeah, I think our relationship now will be a lot stronger in that respect.
Okay, the question was how did I work out the target times for her set – the 20 100 sets – being in the position that I have been in was quite a fortunate one for someone of my age I guess and I have worked with a lot of pretty intelligent people so someone like Bob Trefine. He helped me a lot with those sets. Those were based on Mel’s critical speed is what he calls it and you can work those out by doing a series of tests or as I probably did then, because I don’t intend to the 200’s test too often – I just would have guessed them –not very scientific – I apologize, but if you work with an athlete that closely you tend to have a pretty good idea of what the times or the best averages that they could hold. Mel’s taper set which was a series of 100’s, 12 100’s – four sets of it, about every four or five days – sort of went from paces I know she can hold pretty comfortably on two minutes even though her heart rate is quite high – Mel’s heart rate actually goes quite high without actually doing anything. She swam 1:10 and she swam 1:01 – the difference in heart rate might only be 20 beats at the most yet there is a 9 second difference, but it is a time that she can hold pretty comfortably it helps the lactate to get removed from the system so its not keeping pounding her. It is a rest, but she is still working – you know what I mean? The 63 would have been the critical speed if I had worked it out and maybe 62, but at that time in January that was the best that she could have held to a taper – the fast one is actually scheduled to go 63. The first time we did the 12 100’s 62 – second time 61 and then 60. But the steady one stayed at 68-9.
Her maximum heart rate is probably about 205 – 204-205. I have seen it 205.
I question was do we work with stroke rates and tempos when we do fast work. Her stroke tempo for a 200 free is about 1.3 per arm cycle and so whenever she does sprint work – if we do, do sprint work on freestyle – whether it be with band and paddles or fins and paddles or – I try and get her to hold 1.2 to 1.3 stroke rate because she is not a 50 meter swimmer – there is no point in trying to get her to swim a 25 in 12.1 when 13 zeros is more like the speed she is going to have to swim for a 200 free, but with this sprint work what we tend to do – a lot of it on backstroke – I am fortunate in the fact that she is a good backstroker we are going to do a bit more backstroke this year – the year after the Olympics just to give her a change, but the backstroke she can just go hell for leather, I don’t care so that is my way of getting the speed and the power work is letting her swim backstroke rather than affecting her 200 free type stroke by getting her to sprint freestyle. So yes, we do work on the tempos and that, but we don’t actually do that much speed work on freestyle – it is mostly done on backstroke.
Standing next to her you would realize that they she is not that sort of athlete. She is not a pure sprint sort of athlete and so for her to achieve her dreams or ambitions in swimming, she needed that change of focus and the 200 meter free was just the next step up for that. The biggest challenge was getting her to do the 400 free short course – but the 400 free short course really, really did help – maybe one of the biggest factors in helping her 200 free long course time come down because her 200 free then seems easy – in her mind – you know what I mean, she has gone 4:02 for the 400 free short course and again that was swimming pretty much the same way – it was pretty fast all the way through so I think by constantly moving her boundaries up or her psyche up from what she is expected to do – counts on the events that she is best at – I guess. She is never going to be a good – that’s a lie – she is never going to be a world class long course 400 meter freestyler. She may get down to 4:10 – 4:11, but it certainly is not going to go any quicker than that – I don’t think – she is too muscley for that. It has changed a lot as we have gone through. I mean – I am still kind of learning what I think is best for them. I came in at the end of one of the talks the other day and your coach Dave Salo and he spoke about doing a couple of days on and then a day off. I wish I had the balls to do that right? I wish I could do something like that.
With regards to them having time off through the year after the Olympics – they had quite a big break, but – well the most I have been on is sort of 4 ½ weeks or 5 weeks, but in that time she does a lot of biking or running or that sort of thing. She is fortunate she likes doing those things. At Christmas we don’t tend to have much of a break – maybe two or three days actually over Christmas – the 24th, 25th and 26th although they usually return on the 26th and New Year’s Eve, New Year’s day we tend to swim just straight through, but with hindsight in terms of how she got sick I think I will have to watch that a bit more closely from now on in and certainly from our trials in 2005 to Worlds 2005 we have a long cycle. I think it is in like 18 weeks so I may well be tempted there to actually say – take a week off and then maybe a week of cross-training before we then start swimming, only from the learning experience I have had from her these last 4 or 5 months. Her resting pulse – they are supposed to take their resting pulse every morning to give to their physiologist when they weigh in at camps.
What is Mel’s resting pulse rate? Probably 160 – I have no idea – no – I honestly don’t know. Has she been stress tested? Yeah – she had a series of tests with the doctors in terms of just something where they strap them, I don’t know – like electric postings or something and they made them lie down and stand up and measure the heartbeats and all of that stuff and I guess I will get the results of those when we get back.
Okay – thank you very much.