The brain brings the data

So coach Paulo read my race report blog below and it irritated him. Understandably. He is pragmatic and likes to actually be objective and look at the data when measuring improvement.

This was his e-mail, which explains the table of data shown below. The yellow indicates who had the best time in Kona that year. Red is the difference to my time in minutes.


Read your race report and thought I’d share some data about the
progression of your swim in Kona in the last 3 races you did there.

First table has your swim times, the best split for that year and also
the splits for some of your competitors.

Second table has the time difference between you, the best time and
your competitors.

Third table has the percentage from the best time for you and your competitors.

There are many features of the data presented, but I’d stress only three:

– Your time difference to the best time has decreased both in 2011 and 2012.
– Your time difference to the most consistent performer in the years
you raced Kona (Rachel Joyce) has decreased in 2011 and 2012.
– Your time difference to the best athlete in that list (Mirinda) has
also decreased from last year to this year.

There are athletes that swam faster this year than they did last year,
but those are outliers in this data set. I think the data shows your
clear progression in the last couple years, and is in line with the
evolution of your pool times.

I understand that right now you’re frustrated, but talking about a
“stagnation” is clearly not fair for you and the work you’ve put into
your swimming since we’ve been working together.

Like up until now, we’ll continue to work towards you having the best
rate of improvement possible. But it’s important to be realistic about
what we’ve done up until now and where we are right now, before we set
out to achieve what we want.


His response to my blog highlights some of the things that make him a great coach. Others are less tangible and have affected me greatly but they are my little secret and pearls of wisdom.

This is what I wrote back:

Hey Paulo,

Thanks as usual for the clear thinking and the data. Re-reading it I was like… ugh didn’t mean to sound like I was totally unhappy about your swim coaching etc. I just want to be MORE FASTER!!  🙂
Honestly, we hear so damn often – if you guys were just better swimmers, if only you could really improve your technique in the water… you’d really be in contention… We just start buying into it, without giving credit to all the work we’ve done. 
I am TOTALLY guilty, often, of subjective condemnation of myself, without really looking at the data.   
Do you mind if I post this? As like a blog ammendment? 

Of course, I didn’t wait for a response. Damn athletes.

He will likely get pissed at me writing this, but we always seem to work through differences in our relationship – in a spirit of mutual respect and appreciation.  So it’s okay that we piss each other off sometimes, right Paulo? In my experience, all genuinely productive relationships work that way!

It is any wonder people are so totally addicted to this sport? So much to think about and improve upon on so many levels… I love it!

Oh my god, I am going to suffer in the water this winter!!!!!  🙂

~ by trevorandheather on October 17, 2012.

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