5.15.2014

New Open Water Swimming Device on Kickstarter

The IOLITE. A new open water swimming and triathlon GPS device. Image from the IOLITE Kickstarter campain page.
I stumbled across a new device for open water swimming on Facebook today.  The IOLITE is currently funding on Kickstarter and looks like it is being developed by a couple of guys here in Utah.

Basically, the IOLITE is a GPS device that also has a "heads up display" that attaches to your goggles.  The display helps you to swim on pace and in a straight line.  It looks like a pretty cool idea, and I'm sure that triathletes will be all over it.  But as I was watching their video, I asked myself "is this really necessary?"

I'm all for using GPS during training swims.  Unless you have a course that has been measured and marked, GPS is the only real way to know how far you went.  It's also nice to have some data about average speed, pace, etc.

The thing that the IOLITE adds that other devices don't have is the real-time display that attaches to your goggles.  The display can tell you if you are swimming off course and if you are on pace or not.  I kind of like the idea of having a visual indication of your pace for training, but I think the "guidance system" is unnecessary and will teach swimmers to rely on the device rather than learning proper skills and technique.

Swimming straight takes practice and requires that you learn to balance your stroke, breathe on both sides, and learn to sight, etc.  For many this doesn't come easy, and I can understand the temptation to buy a device that makes it easier.  What if the battery dies while you are swimming?  What if the display comes off of your goggles? What if your goggles get bumped or knocked off? I imagine swimmers spending more time fiddling with the device during a race than they would have saved by just learning to swim straight. Plus, you would still have to sight at some point to know when to turn.

The device has two modes: programmed course and freestyle. For the programmed course, you can use the software to input the exact course into the device and it will act kind of like a turn-by-turn GPS in your car. The IOLITE can hold up to 5 unique courses. If the course changes, the device also has a freestyle mode that uses algorithms to figure out which direction you are headed and keep you on a straight line.

What about if you are swimming where there are tides or currents? When I swam Alcatraz several years ago, I was aiming for the same spot the entire time and ended up swimming and "S" shape because of the tides. I could see the IOLITE freaking out the whole time that you were off course, when really, the the tides might push you right where you want to end up. On the other hand, it might "re-calibrate" your direction and send you way off course.

The IOLITE would be most useful for triathlon, since any marathon swimming organization would view the device as an "aid". I wonder if it will be legal for USAT races...

In general, I think it's a cool idea, but I'm just not sure how practical (or necessary) it is. Maybe it's just me. I'm sure there are a lot of swimmers and triathletes out there who would jump at the chance to buy one.

I have friends who will hate this idea, and other who will love it. What do you think?

Link to IOLITE website:
http://www.swimiolite.com/

Link to Kickstarter campaign:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/603926872/iolite-open-water-swimming-revolution

5.02.2014

Cinco de Mayo 500 Postal with South Davis Masters

I got up earlier than usual this morning to swim with South Davis Masters.  Today was the second day of a postal event that they are hosting called the Cinco de Mayo 500 Postal.  The idea is to swim a 500 as fast as possible, with a special award given to anyone who can do it by descending their time each 50.

After a quick warm-up, we got ready to swim the 500.  There were quite a few swimmers and we had to split up into three heats so that everyone could swim with a timer and counter.  I counted for two people and swam in the last heat.  I wasn't expecting a great time, I just wanted to be part of the event.

My first 100 felt pretty fast and I was a little worried that I was going to bonk before I was done.  I felt better than I expected the whole 500 and my elbow (which I messed up at the last meet) didn't bother me at all.  I was surprised when I finished at 5:53.66 (with a wall start!).  That was just a bit faster than my 500 time at the QUAC meet (5:56.72).  With a proper start from the block, I probably could have been closer to 5:50.

My splits are below:




This was a fun event, and only cost $5 to enter!  For anyone who wants to give it a shot, I'd be happy to be your timer.  Entries have to be received by May 6th.  Click here for event details.

5.01.2014

GSL Swim and "Open Water" Practice at Fairmont

Yesterday afternoon I met Gordon, Chad, Sam, Sarah and Lisa at the GSL Marina.  It was a bit windy, but the water didn't look too bad from the parking lot.  After greasing up, we walked down the ramp and waded in.  It's been a while since I have been able to make a group swim and the water felt a bit chilly.  To those who have been swimming more regularly, it probably felt pretty nice.

My elbow has been bothering me since the State Championship meet and, after an IM workout that morning, I didn't want to put much more strain on it and decided to just swim a mile.  Everyone else planned to do 3+ miles.

Once we got out of the marina, we were slapped in the face with waves.  We all headed out towards Black Rock.  Gords, Lisa and Sam were a ways ahead of Chad, Sarah and I.  After swimming about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way to Black Rock, I stopped and looked back to see Sarah just floating in the water.  I swam back to see if she was ok.  She was not used to swimming in the chop and I gave her a few tips to try out.  When the water is rough, I tend to lengthen my stroke; it seems to help stabilize me in the water.  I also told her to breathe away from the waves, since she had taken in some salt water.  I left her there and headed back to the marina.

There were quite a few boats on the water.  A few of them went out and then turned right back around and went back to the marina.  There were some pretty good sized waves at the first red buoy and it was fun riding them back into the marina.

After I got out and rinsed off, I noticed Sarah coming back into the marina.  I guess she decided that the waves were too much today.  She and I watched the rest of the group finish their swims.  Gords, Lisa and Sam went out to the end of the buoy line after getting back from Black Rock for a total of about 3.25 miles.  It was Lisa's first time in the Great Salt Lake and I was really impressed that she stuck it out for so long in the windy conditions.  She ended up with some pretty bad chaffing on the back of her neck because she didn't put on any grease.  Chad came back to the first red buoy and then turned and swam straight out into the middle of the lake against the waves for a while before turning back.

It was a fun swim.  The weather is going to be pretty warm for the next few days which should be good for raising the water temp.

This morning was "open water" day at Fairmont.  We take out the lane lines and swim laps around the pool.  We also practice starts, swimming straight, sighting, drafting, etc.  Today we did one of my favorite drills where our coach put out four cones and we had to swim a pattern between them, while he moved them randomly.  It is good practice for sighting.  On the last drill, we added a "worst case scenario" where we had to completely take our goggles off and put them back on each time Max blew the whistle, all while swimming the same pattern and sighting on the moving cones.  It was a blast!