By Hammer Nutrition
Brendan Halpin is a very talented athlete with a big capacity for absorbing a training load, and his results have improved steadily. He had a very good 2011 campaign, and I have a feeling that 2012 will be a breakout year for him. I've known Brendan for the past five years and have had the pleasure of riding and swimming with him in the winter months in Tucson. I now also have the pleasure of coaching him. If you want to be a good coach, train a good athlete like Brendan. It will make your job a lot easier!
My contact with him has given me some insight into Brendan the athlete - both his strengths and weaknesses. Brendan can run a "three hour and small change" marathon in an Ironman consistently. He often is in the top three overall run splits at Ironman competitions, and I'm confident he'll break three hours this year. He's very solid on the bike and split a 4:50 this past season in an Ironman.
Brendan's swim is his weakest discipline, as he did not grow up as a high school and college swimmer; in fact, he has taught himself to swim. I waited on shore at Ironman WI for Brendan to come out of the water and thought perhaps I had missed him in the fray; he was over an hour and in the mix with a lot of other athletes. Brendan finished 6th that day, but he obviously could have done better if he hadn't given up so much time on the swim. After a recovery from the race, we needed a plan to get his swim time down.
When we swim together, I sneak peeks at his stroke under the water. More often than not, triathletes don't get over their stroke . . . that is to say they can't keep their elbows up and out, and therefore can't brace themselves in the water with their arms while moving their bodies over the brace. Brendan is long and lean, and while his slight upper body is great for the running and cycling legs of an Ironman, he doesn't have the upper body strength to swim efficiently. I correct myself - he didn't have the strength he needed. The quickest, most efficient way to lower his swim split was to increase his strength with the Compex.
I come from a swimming background, and I can tell you from personal experience that I swim faster when I am using the Compex on my upper body. Like most of the rest of us, I don't have time to train six muscle groups a day with the Compex as well as work, train, and be a family man (even in an empty nest). Like Brendan, I prioritize which muscle groups I train to enhance my swim, bike, and run. Three days a week it's the quads and gluteals, and three alternate days a week it's the lattissimus dorsi, triceps, and abdominals. I wish I had time for more because of the improved performance I enjoy. Unlike the aerobic adaptations that come from months and years of endurance training, I can feel a difference in two weeks with the Compex. I measure the improvements in watts while on the bike and the pace clock while in the pool. I merely feel the difference, particularly on the hills, while running.
Since Ironmans WI and Cozumel (between which Brendan saw a very significant drop in his swim splits), I've been back to Tucson to swim and ride with him. What is very noticeable to me now when I sneak that peek under the water at his swimming stroke is how he is finally able to get over his stroke. He's not just pulling his arms through the water anymore; now he is bracing himself on the water and moving his body over that brace. He has the strength to do it. He has the times to prove it. I can't tell you how good it is to see it.
Brendan continues to train with his Compex and is going to have a breakout year. Go Brendan, go! HN