Today I got asked if I'd been an age group swimmer. Did I swim when I was 14-15? Heck no! I was an awful swimmer as a youngster, and quit altogether at around 12.
Which, I guess, begs the question as to what exactly I'm doing. The question I actually got asked is "how did you get so fast then?", but considering how far I still have to go, maybe that's not a fair question. I seem to be almost as fast now as I was midseason last year. Will I improve, and break through into new territory? I hope so, but it's far from certain at this point.
Our main set today was one of the toughest ever. 16x100, on a pace time which is 20 seconds slower than your PB. For me, that means 1:40. If we failed on consecultive attempts to meet the pace time, we were to stop.
As we found out afterwards, this is a workout that is used for age group swimmers - kids who swim 7-9 times a week, and have nothing else to worry about beyond swimming. The idea behind the workout is that it identifies your basic strength. Sprinters go fairly fast at first, but their times fall off, and if they complete the set, they only barely do so. Middle distance swimmers fare better, and long distance swimmers will probably never be in danger of falling off.
Of course, we aren't age group swimmers. The time that we were given was very tough, and realistically I don't think that any of us could have held the time. I know I certainly didn't.
My first rep was ok, as I finished just under 1:30 and so I had a few seconds to catch my breath. The second rep was much harder, and with less rest, things went crazy pretty quickly. I ran into some traffic on the 4th and 8th iterations, as some people were doing slower pace times. I snuck 15 seconds before rep 8, after having failed the 7th, to try to let the lane traffic clear. I was able to get back under my rep time, but I don't think I went any faster than 1:35 from there on out. Far more often than not, I swam 1:38-1:40.
I did fail, probably 4 times in total. My last failure was on 13, and I really hoped that I would fail on 14 so I could stop. Still, it's not in my nature to go easy even if I'm struggling (though it's not always in my nature to go full out, either). I think I swore alout when I finished 14 on 1:39, and instead of stopping had to head out again immediately.
My stroke definitely broke down early and often, as I had to revert to breathing every second pull, especially in the first 50 of some sets (but yes, sometimes in the first 100). Oxygen was at a premium, which made it progressively difficult to go fast. Hence, my times slowed down, and stayed slow.
I'm sure the swim would have been much more difficult if I hadn't had a disappointing 100m free race last year at Winterlude. Woe betide if I break 1:20 this year and have to repeat this workout next fall!
That said, I look forward to trying this workout again sometime soon, especially since the coach has said he'll tailor it based on our feedback. The 27 minutes or so I spent doing it were extremely NOT FUN, but it was an interesting and challenging experience. If the pace times could be tailored to something more appropriate to 3x a week swimmers, it would be interesting to see which profile fits me best - sprinter (not!), middle distance, or long distance.