News December 2018
Keep up to date with what's happening at Dartes and performance swimming in Doncaster. This page records the news as it happens -- history in the making!
The Stories behind the Headlines
Sports Nutrition Partnership
30 Dec 2018: Last year we were approached by a Newcastle based sports nutrition company with a view to becoming a local club partner. That resulted in one of our athletes being chosen as an affiliate athlete. We've just re-signed our partnership agreement with them for another 12 months so thought it was high time we told you a little about this arrangement and who they are.
Youth Sport Nutrition provides sports nutrition for the youth market - as the name suggests. Their products are designed to help young athletes perform and train to their highest level. In short, the type of athlete we develop at Dartes are YSN's target audience.
Their flagship product is PRO-TEEN. It's billed as "The Ultimate Athlete Constructor" as it provides all those post-exercise recovery ingredients we're forever telling our athletes they need to help their bodies repair themselves. That magic 20g of protein within 20min of finishing training is the cornerstone of the PRO-TEEN shake, but it also contains an equivalent amount of carbs alongside a mix of vitamins and minerals specially formulated for hard-working youth athletes. That means it provides the body with everything it needs to repair as much of the damage caused by intense training as possible (and 14hrs a week or more of swimming definitely qualifies as that). It does all of that in a tasty, easy to use milkshake-type drink.
Earlier in the month we heard from Andrew Shepherd about the importance of getting basic nutrition right before looking at supplements. We stand by that message 100%. For those who already have a solid nutritional base however, PRO-TEEN might be a useful addition to aid recovery between sessions. There are other alternatives (a banana and a glass of milk perhaps) but this one looks to tick all the boxes with minimal fuss.
How much of a difference will it make you're wondering?
The answer to that will depend on your current post training habits. English National finalist at 200m Butterfly Hannah Newnham (Arm) has been one of YSN's affiliate athletes for the past year. If she drinks her PRO-TEEN shake immediately after training it will provide as much protein as her body can make use of. Waiting until she arrives home on the other hand, will be much less effective. As hinted at above, and discussed in previous workshops and articles on this website, there's a rapid absorption period of about 15-20mins during which an athlete's body can make use of more recovery fuel. The later you leave it, the less your body will absorb and less repair work is done as a result. An appropriate recovery snack at the right time is critical to getting the best recovery possible - PRO-TEEN is one option for achieving that.
For 2019, the coaching team have chosen our other 200m Butterfly finalist from the summer championships to receive a bag of PRO-TEEN. This will help us assess the product in a real-world case-study. As we're about to hit our first taper period of the season, Callie Ramshaw (Edl) is to wait until after Yorkshires before opening the bag. Once she returns to hard training again, we'll be monitoring her recovery to assess the product's effectiveness. Phase 5's Land training coach Steve can also use this as a practical experiment for the sports nutrition course he's currently embarked on.
As part of our arrangement with YSN, we have a limited number of promotional leaflets to hand out. Squad Manager Gary will be distributing those over the next week or so, but there aren't enough for everyone and this is most relevant to our older athletes.
15 Dec 2018: There's a train of thought that says Winter Nationals should be the first taper meet of the season. Unfortunately for the two in Phase 5 who qualified this year, that was never going to be an option due to the need to increase fitness across the squad - dramatically. This weekend marks the end of that 15 week process, having just completed another week of triple threshold sets and 6km sessions to further continue their adventures in to a world of tiredness and aching shoulders. For the next month, Phase 5 will be going anaerobic and developing their lactate abilities and speedy skills leading in to Yorkshires, safe in the knowledge that the endurance base is in place.
Just as much pain awaits them, but of a slightly different flavour.
Well we cheated a little. Not wanting to let Hannah Newnham (Arm) contest the 200m Butterfly with leaden arms, and sleepy eyes, we let her drop Monday evening. We also hid her paddles on the pull sets. Generous aren't we? We didn't hear her complaining. It was nothing like a proper taper, but enough to allow a strong performance on the day without sacrificing the more important meets coming later. Don't try this yourselves of course, it can easily go wrong and result in worse performances! You have been warned.
On this occasion it paid off.
Out in a 1:07.56 for probably the fastest opening 100m she's done to date. Traditionally she's been strong until the 150m mark and then collapsed in a painful mess. Recently however, the hard work in training appears to have fixed that. The final three 50m splits were an almost even 36sec. Nicely paced, but some long glides in to turns can be removed for another second or more (that'll be fixed during the speed work to follow). Overall, a 0.71sec PB over her November NERs performance which qualified her for this event - so a fine performance from her.
If Hannah's preparation for this meet ran like clockwork, the equivalent for Ajay Scott (Arm) was anything but. A strong season opener at the Lincoln Vulcans meet qualified him for this weekend's short course Nationals, but since then we've had a few bumps along the road. A back injury soon after Lincoln stretched all the way in to training camp and put his presence in Mallorca in doubt. Soon after camp a motivational wobble struck and caused another 2 weeks out of the pool. Returning back to full training just as triple threshold hell began was unfortunate and left coaches scratching their heads as to how to approach this weekend.
The result was a tired Ajay racing against tapered competition. 2:17.09 was a little slower than his October qualifying swim, but the 200m Butterfly brutally magnifies any weakness on the day. A solid performance, but lots more to come in the New Year with renewed focus and hard work in the training pool.
It was also a weekend for reunions. Two former Dartes Head Coaches were present, plus an almost Head Coach from around 2000. At least four former Dartes athletes were competing too. Coach Andy Wallace was there with Loughborough's Team GB contingent. Among them were Max Litchfield (Drn) and Joe Litchfield (Drn) interestingly representing Dearne Valley on the programme - that should make for an interesting medal table at the end of these Championships (Gold and 2 Silver after Day 1's finals). We may have twisted a couple of arms to pop home to Doncaster and give a talk to our up and coming stars - more on that in the New Year. Jarvis Parkinson (Arm) was also around later in the weekend. In the 100m Breaststroke we also spotted Jessica Gillatt (SAS). Still racing at this level at 21 and last seen in a Dartes National Squad in 2013. Jess owns the Dartes age-group record for 200m Breaststroke long course for which Hannah snatched the short course equivalent last month! Great to catch up with all of them.
5 Dec 2018: It's been a while since our previous series of educational talks, so we thought kicking things off with the ever popular topic of nutrition would be a good place to start. We have a few more topics pencilled in for the new year, but for December we invited back our usual guest expert in the field: Andrew Shepherd.
Those who have been selected for England Talent workshops in recent years will recognise Andrew as the usual nutrition speaker used by Swim England. He has also spent time working with British Swimming at Loughborough University but spreads his knowledge across a number of different sports these days. His swimming background (as part of Russ Barber's senior squad at Sheffield for many years) provides ample practical experience of living the life of a swimmer to make nutrition relevant to age-group and youth swimmers. His advice isn't just theoretical (although he comes powered with a degree in Sport and Exercise Nutrition) it's tried and tested on some of GB's top swimmers.
So what were the fundamental messages to take from the talk?
Priority should be given to establishing a well balanced diet as the corner stone to any nutritional plan. Don't go diving for the fashionable supplements or sports drinks as a substitute for getting the basics right. Making meals colourful (vibrant fruit and vegetables) rather than bland (brown/beige carbs) is a good rule of thumb.
For any athlete, hydration is key. When an athlete is a mere 2% dehydrated they can expect a 10% drop in performance. In real terms, that's going to add a few seconds to your race times - 10% of 1min is 6sec! How often do you come away from a race at the end of a long day wondering why you added time? Dehydration is likely to be a major contributing factor.
The same is true for training. The level of training performance directly relates to competition performance. Attempting to train while dehydrated will reduce the quality being achieved which will subsequently affect race results at the weekend. It's easy to fix, sipping through a litre bottle of water every session is a good start. A litre and a half would be better over 2 hours. Get in to the habit of sipping at the end of every rep for best results. Infrequent big gulps aren't as effective, and tend to require more toilet breaks. Waiting until your body is screaming at you to drink is also wrong as you're dehydrated already at that point. Interesting to note that expensive sports drinks aren't necessary (and probably not even useful if training less than 90mins), simple water or squash is ideal.
Good nutritional habits can be built up over time. Big lifestyle changes rarely stick. Rather than a New Year's resolution to do everything 100% right, how about making a single change every week through 2019.
- Week 1: sip your way through a litre of water/squash every session.
- Week 2: remove takeaways from your diet 6 days a week.
- Week 3: eat a portion of fruit every day.
Slowly build up a better nutritional lifestyle over the course of the year, but do it in a way that's achievable. If you have ideas similar to the 3 above for subsequent weeks, send them in and we'll add them to the list to inspire everyone else.
More detailed slides and notes have already been distributed through our squads, but if you're still in need of them just ask your coach or squad manager.
Finally, a big thank you to DCLT for supporting swimming and providing their large conference room for the event. A good, strong turn out made that extra space necessary.
All Aboard the Medal Train
3 Dec 2018: It's rare that we have an opportunity to take the entire Dartes programme to a competition en masse. Last weekend's York meet was just such an occasion however, and despite all our squads being ravaged by illness the previous fortnight, 351 individual performances is our biggest of 2018. Historically, it ranks as our 4th biggest meet on record (out of over 900 going back to the late 1980s).
We often get asked why we don't take all the squads to the same meet more often. The simple answer is that we can't. Modern meets cater for a small sub-set of swimmers; cut-off times and minimum time requirements dictating who can go where. Meets which cover all our squads are extremely hard to find, or even the whole of one squad. Couple that with the requirements of those chasing National event qualification and things get complicated. Planning a competition calendar for a swim programme like Dartes is a maze of obstacles and frustration.
But when we find a meet for everyone, it's usually a weekend to savour, and this was certainly that. We took up a good quarter of the poolside at John Charles while enjoying a dominant team performance in the pool. 76 Gold medals were spread somewhat evenly through the squads, but leading the way for the girls was Grace Burton (Arm) with 7 Golds. A further 89 minor medals were amassed too. From our 351 swims, 259 were PB performances (PB or first time swim). That's a 73% PB ratio.
An outstanding job, well done everyone!
It's important not to get carried away though. This was only a level 3 meet and with just a few big clubs present. A stronger test will come in February at Yorkshire Championships. Over the next couple of months, there are a few process improvements we need to make.
First of those improvements is competition day nutrition. By sheer coincidence that's also the topic for our first educational workshop for this season, coming later this week. Drinking plenty of water during the weekend is a critical part of that. If your body dehydrates, your race performance will suffer. Dehydration by as little as 2% will have a 10% hit on performance levels. At that point, dehydration isn't even recognisable as thirst! That type of performance hit over 100m will be approaching a full second slower than PB. In a pool hall set to 30°C and dozens of over-energetic young athletes buzzing around, everyone dehydrates through sweat and even talking. Replacing that lost body moisture is essential if performances aren't going to suffer. Energy drinks aren't necessary, simple water is adequate for this job.
Athletes need to look after themselves poolside. We enjoyed the company of many inexperienced athletes and their families this weekend, which highlighted a number of weaknesses. It may feel hot poolside, but the floor is anything but. Bare feet in contact with cold floors very quickly lose heat. That process drains heat from the rest of the body too, starting with the lower legs, and working upwards. Think about what happens to your race performance with cold legs. Keeping muscles warm is an important task for race day, that's why you see Olympic athletes walking out in big coats on TV.
Insulate your feet - clean trainers are ideal.
Finally, attention needs to be paid to the quantity and spread of events being entered. A good rule of thumb is no more than 400m or two races per session. A 100m race alongside a 200m race should work fine; two 200m races is probably pushing things a little bit. Make sure those events have good separation on the programme too (experience helps with this one). Picking two events with just a 200m Butterfly in between for instance, will probably give you a single heat to relax between swims; is that enough? Give your entries some thought, with an eye on maintaining performance levels throughout the weekend instead of piling in everything and getting extremely tired!
To help you avoid rookie mistakes, have a read of our Meet Protocol page.
We brought home a sack full of medals, and competed in some tough events like our favourite Animal Squad races: 200m Butterfly (9 swims) and 400m IM (13 swims). Younger swimmers were having a crack at them like Jesse Goodwin (Adw) winning Gold in both, all the way up to our more established stars like Callie Ramshaw (Edl) winning Gold in the Butterfly and just missing out in the big Medley.
Speaking of the Animal Squad, we've given ourselves a hefty target this season (it's 10th anniversary). The objective is to beat all previous records for participation in these tough events. We're doing okay considering it's only turned December, but we need to keep the momentum flowing. Here are the numbers so far (remember: 200m Butterfly is actually fairly easy once you've completed it once).
|Fly||400 IM||800 Free||1500 Free|
The standard necessary to win medals at each meet can vary wildly of course, so isn't necessarily a good indication of performance. A better guide to performance levels are our club records and age-group records. Our top 6, all-time best performance lists are getting extremely competitive after 30 years or more of performances. Don't let that stop you aiming high though - use them as a target instead. They're tough, but everyone at Dartes is meant to be aiming for those lofty heights. Olympic finalist Max Litchfield (Spa) lost his 11 years, 200m Freestyle record to Callum Broadhead (Arm) this weekend, on his way to 10 Golds and a Silver. 2:13.89 shaved a quarter of a second from Max's mark from 11 years ago (how time flies). Right behind him Luke Gilliver (Drn) slotted in at 3rd for a Max sandwich.
Callum also managed to make it a class of 2018 1-2 in the 50m Breaststroke. Last month, Nicholas Honeybone (Arm) took the 11 year olds record from Joe Litchfield (Spa), this weekend his training partner jumped in at 2nd place.
Wrapping up the 11 year old boys, Luke also jumped in at number 2 for the 400m IM (another Gold). He was 11sec behind that man Max again, but with another 6 months to close the gap. Our 11 year old boys are a particularly strong age-group. Little wonder that three of them were selected for the Yorkshire development programme. Luke also set Dartes' 3rd best time in the 100m IM; another Max sandwich with Callum sitting on top after Winter NERs.
The tough part for the 11 year olds is continuing this high level of achievement. There's the best part of a decade of hard training ahead of them if they're to follow Max to Olympic success. As those in Phase 5 are now discovering, training at this level involves lots of pain and tiredness. It's far from easy, and most drop out before completing the journey. Hard work, setbacks, and getting beat occasionally will be constant companions.
The big 400m events always give ridiculously large improvements. The honour for biggest PB of the weekend goes to young Grace Blair (Adw) in the 400m Freestyle. A 38.02sec improvement from her last time with Dartes two years ago. It was a close call though. Two Phase 5 athletes also made 30sec improvements. James Robinson (Adw) in the 400m Freestyle, and Ben Wright (Arm) in the 400m IM.
In addition to the fast swimming, there was a lot of fun to be had poolside. The usual mix of sharing games on consoles, weird selfies, and just generally hanging out for the weekend with friends makes for a great atmosphere poolside. Mentioned here are a tiny selection of highlights from the weekend. If it's inspired you to tell everyone about your own, why not write a little article to be published here too. Just get in touch with the coaching team.