Vasa Exclusive Interview: Meet Kathleen Doswell, a 71-year-old Sprint Triathlon World Championship qualifier. Kathleen trains on the Vasa SwimErg, significantly to reduce exposure to the Covid-19 virus.
Cartersville, Virginia resident Kathleen Doswell has been racing triathlon for the past ten years. She is a multiple-time qualifier for Triathlon Team USA and World Championship triathlons.
Due to Covid-19, Kathleen started swim training with the Vasa SwimErg. She is currently training for the Sprint Triathlon World Championship scheduled for October 2021.
Being in a Covid-19 high-risk category, Kathleen started training on the Vasa SwimErg to reduce her exposure and maintain a high level of training.
We recently had the opportunity to speak with Kathleen and learn about her experience training and being remotely coached on the Vasa SwimErg while in quarantine.
Vasa: Good to chat with you, Kathleen! How long have you been racing triathlons?
Kathleen Doswell: I started racing triathlon in 2011. Most of my adult life in sport, since the early ’80s, has been spent competing as a runner, running in races of all distances from the mile to the Marathon. It is truly where I excel, have been quite successful, and enjoyed the most.
I am a middle-distance runner and have been coached by Bobby McGee for the last seven years. Bobby uses the bike and the swim to enhance endurance and recovery for running.
One day, we decided to enter me in a Triathlon, I was very successful, and we have continued competing in triathlon ever since.
Vasa: In which triathlon distance do you compete?
KD: I am a short-course triathlete. I train at distances of Olympic or greater, but I compete only in the Sprint. My body type and my muscle structure are very well suited for the sprints.
Vasa: That’s very inspiring! Where do you find your inspiration & motivation to train?
KD: My inspiration and my motivation come from multiple sources. Initially, and to this day, when I meet and read about all the great people with such amazing stories getting out there and doing triathlons, it surely did inspire. It motivated me to try it myself and keep trying, workout after workout, day after day, year after year. Then I wanted to extend my running as far into the future of my life as possible and continue to compete successfully at as high a performance level as possible. So, I thought this was another reason to continue doing triathlons. The cross-training was great for my run. Finally, my motivation originates with a propensity towards type-A personality and the need for planning, structure, consistency, and physical activity in my life. Triathlon allows, no demands, this every day!
Vasa: How did you qualify for the Sprint Triathlon World Championships?
KD: After I had been competing in short-course triathlons for about five years, I began qualifying for Nationals. Then after competing at Nationals, one year, I was selected to be part of USA Triathlon’s Team USA at Worlds in a roll-down slot. My time had qualified, but I had not finished in the top 8. I was 9th that year. So, I had to wait to see if any of the girls who qualified declined, and I got the first roll-down slot that year. After that, it became my ardent goal to be eligible for Worlds both by position in my age group and by my time to compete for the USA on Triathlon Team USA. I have successfully done that for the past five years.
At 2019 Nationals, I finished on the podium in second place in my age group and first in the run and swim!
Vasa: Did you qualify for Worlds while training on the Vasa SwimErg or pick it up because of Covid-19?
KD: I started using the Vasa SwimErg specifically because of COVID. I swam in the open water from mid-March when the shutdown started until the end of October 2020 because of COVID. Open Water season ended for me about the end of October when the water temperature was below 60*. The pools were not an option. So, in discussions with my Running and Triathlon Coach Bobby McGee, he recommended the Vasa SwimErg.
Vasa: We understand that you are being coached remotely on the Vasa SwimErg by Jack Fabian, coach at Tower 26. How did you meet Jack?
KD: I met Jack through Tower 26 Coach Gerry Rodriguez. I am a member of T26 Swim. When I explained my situation with COVID and that Bobby McGee had recommended I purchase the VASA to maintain swim fitness over the winter until I could get back into the open water, I asked Gerry for assistance in planning the “swims” on the Vasa SwimErg, and he introduced me to his Vasa specialist, coach Jack.
Vasa: How does Jack coach you on the SwimErg?
KD: Jack deploys Gerry’s Tower 26 philosophy of training but accommodates the sessions for the Vasa. He creates the workouts to be compatible with the Vasa SwimErg power. He focuses on the same principles of building pacing skills at different percentages of effort, form, tautness, alignment, and propulsion. He assigns differing power wattage for the percentages of effort and creates repeating sets to practice and build competence and confidence. Jack started our training sessions by videoing my form on the Vasa SwimErg and walking me through the process of correct form on the SwimErg that supports proper open water freestyle.
Vasa: What does your training schedule look like for using the Vasa SwimErg?
KD: I train two virtual sessions a week via TrainerRoad. One with Jack and one session on my own.
The image above: TrainerRoad workout results connected to the Vasa SwimErg via Ant+ technology
Vasa: How long have you been using the Vasa SwimErg?
KD: I have been using the Vasa SwimErg since November 2020. My triathlon and running coach, Bobby McGee recommended the Vasa SwimErg after the open water became too cold to swim in even with a wet suit and pools in our area were not open or if they were, that was not an option in my situation with a severely immune-compromised spouse.
Vasa: What do you enjoy about the Vasa SwimErg? Any Pros / Cons?
KD: I enjoy doing the “swims” on the Vasa SwimErg and watching my form on the camera. I also love the way my lats are feeling so strong, and I am able to engage them in the stroke process.
The work on the Vasa, in my experience so far, has been so specific to strengthening the muscles that are actually used in the swim I am really excited to get back in the open water in a few weeks and try out the new weapons. I don’t have to worry about the water on the Vasa as I am practicing the swim.
The image above: Kathleen Trains remotely on the Vasa SwimErg with Coach Jack Fabien via TrainerRoad
Vasa: What improvements have you seen in your swimming since training on the Vasa SwimErg?
KD: My muscle strength is building in the lats and delts. I can feel it and I see it on the screen in the power numbers. It is much easier to reach Jack’s assigned power numbers for each segment of the workouts. Additionally, my pacing is smoothing out. I am able to hold Jack’s assigned power number for longer periods of time, most recently several 4-minute segments. This is going to be a huge benefit in the water and in competition.
Vasa: How long have you been out of in-water training? Have you gotten back in yet or are you completely avoiding it completely due to Covid-19?
KD: I have been out of the water since March 15th, 2020 due to Covid. Yes, I am completely avoiding contact because my spouse has a significant heart condition, with only 25% use of his heart. I cannot take any chances of exposure. Fortunately, we both have now (as of yesterday) received both Covid vaccinations. So, things are looking up for the future, which is still a way off, but at least a speck on the horizon now.
Vasa: What is your favorite workout on the Vasa SwimErg?
KD: I like them all. It is so much fun and just thinking about the fact that < again, in my opinion, the device is actually a secret weapon in training for the swim. I have not been using the VASA long, just 5 months, but I totally believe that swimming with power is on the horizon for swimming and VASA is providing a great tool to provide that future as well as the best, most biomechanically specific dryland work any swimmer can do to strengthen and condition their swimming muscles for a strong swimming stroke, especially the back end. I’m so excited to see how this plays out when I am able to get back in the water in a few weeks.
Vasa: What would you say to someone looking into buying a Vasa SwimErg?
KD: Join the future now! Get strong and compete with more confidence.
Vasa: You’re 71 now, what are your goals for the next 5 years?
KD: Continue swimming, running, cycling, and perfecting myself for the demands of life and of competition.
Vasa: What advice do you have for someone that thinks they may be too old to get into triathlon racing?
KD: If you are breathing, you are not too old, just start and take it one day, one hour, one moment at a time. Live in that moment and love it for itself.
Editor’s Note: The interview for this blog article was conducted and written by Shannon Coates, Vasa’s Social Media Manager. All quotes are used with permission. Read more about Shannon Coates’ own triathlon swimming journey of improvement in this blog article.