February 2008 Archives

Winterlude Year 3 Results

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50 Breast: 43.42
200 Breast: 3:21:42
50 Fly: 34.15
800 Free: 13:50.60

Winterlude, Year 3


aka The Nepean Masters Long Course Swim Meet - In Memory of Doug Petty

The results still aren't posted, but I'll say what I know, and fill in the blanks later.

This was my third year doing the swim meet, which has been described in the past by the adage "do one thing every day that scares you". Swimming is, for me, anything but a lifelong pursuit. There's a clear distinction between me and a lot of the other swimmers. Many of these people swam when they were young, and are either continuing or rediscovering their passions. These people learned efficiency and technique young, and have an element of grace in the water.

That's not my story.

It has been interesting, though, to observe my development over the years. It probably took me 6-8 months to swim 100m in under 1:50. It took 1.5 years to get under 1:30. It took almost 2 more years to get under 1:20.

Clearly, I'm learning. Clearly, I had a lot to learn. But the returns are diminishing. Gone are the days when I could jump into the pool, put it all together, and shock myself. Progress these days is slow, and metered, when it happens at all.

Case in point is my breaststroke time. Two years ago I swam 43.13 in the 50m. Last year I swam 44.05. This year, despite intent, I really haven't been any faster than those times.

I was signed up for 4 events:
50 breast
200 breast
50 fly
800 free

(My earlier post had an error - apprently I couldn't remember what I'd signed up for!)

The most important race, for me, was the 200 breast. I put in a very good time in December (under 3:20), but had been over 3:20 more recently. This is an intensely gruelling event. The whip kick is powerful, anaerobic, and very hard to sustain for over 3 minutes. Even on my effort in December, I'd felt like I was badly failing towards the end.

The next most important, I suppose, was the 50 fly. I knew I could be fast in this race. Both my 25 fly and 50 fly in December had been very good.

One key difference between my practice times and this meet was the pool length. I swim in a 25 metre pool, but the meet is in a 50 metre pool. I should expect to be slower in a 50 metre pool, as there is less opportunity to use a wall to get a burst of speed. This did not really factor into my pre-race expectations, but maybe it should have. In past years, I was improving quickly enough that small considerations like this didn't matter. These days, every small detail matters.

My first event was the 50 breast. I did not seriously think that I could challenge my PB (43.13), but I wanted to focus on technique, especially getting a solit glide and strong pull, in preparation for the 200. Unfortunately, I got butterflies right before the start, and my abdomen didn't really unclench for most of the race. Overall, the swim was ok, but I don't think that I had the power in my kick that I did in previous years. From recollection, my time was ~43.9.

Next up was the 200 breast. I tried to start out with a moderate first 50 and build from there, hoping that I would have something left at the end, without sacrificing too much time. Dropping from 7 turns (in a 25 metre pool) to 3 may have helped my breathing a bit, too. Still, by the end, I was getting near to the end of my rope. My time was something like 3:21. This wasn't quite what I was hoping for, but I think it's a decent result.

If I could do it all over again, though, I think I'd go out hard. It might not have given a better result (and quite possibly would have been slower), but I think I'd like to know how the more courageous option would have fared.

After the break, my next event was the 50 fly. I was wary of the butterflies (haha) on this start, but managed to stay loose and keep them at bay. I was quietly optimistic about this race. I did 36:00 2 years ago. This year, I broke 35 seconds for the first time (34.95), and broke 15 seconds on the 25 (14.23). My goal was more technical than result oriented. I wanted to keep my head down as much as possible, taking as few breaths as possible.

Off the start, I was able to keep my head down for the first couple of pulls. After a second pull, I was able to keep my head down for about 7 pulls in a row, taking me past the halfway mark. I mentally resolved to focus on picking up my kick over the last 25. When I came up for my third breath, though, I took on water, and was forced to breathe again the next pull. Yuck. That threw my off my game just a bit, and I had to breathe at least 2 more times on the way in. Still, I came in with the PB that I was hoping for, swimming 34.15 (?). This is not only a fly PB, but a PB over 50 metres over any stroke. It's also my first World Masters qualification time in a 50 metre pool.

My last event was the 800 free. Unfortunately, I was a bit fatigued by this point in the meet. I decided to break the swim down like this:
- 200 focus on technique
- 200 moderate
- 200 build
- 100 fast
- 100 sprint

They had bells out to ring at the 700 metre mark, but we were swimming 2 to a lane, and I was a bit paranoid about losing track of where I was. Ergo, I worked very hard to try to keep my mind clear and focused.

The first threat to that came at the 70 metre mark. The heat featured a staggered start, with heat 3 starting, and moving into one half of the lane. Once they got to the far end of the pool, our heat would start, and we would move to the other half of the lane. It was all a bit complicated, so I both listened carefully and watched to make sure I knew where to swim. Alas, my lanemate may have missed part of the instructions because at 70 metres he swam right over me.

I settled back down quickly, but at 150 metres I started swimming very "heads up" looking for him. He did not trouble me any more, though.

I still don't have the results for this swim, but I suspect that I was quite a bit slower than I had hoped to be. Part of it was fatigue. Talking to one of the club coaches afterwards, she confessed that she was surprised that I didn't start out a little harder than I did. Point taken.

Right after the 800m, blogger Wendy approached me, to offer kind words and congratulations. She had been slated to swim in the same heat, but alas a cold had shelved those plans. Still, she was very complimentary of my swim.

Hopefully, the results will eventually be posted. Overall, I don't think my results were great, but nor were they horrible. They probably fell where they could reasonably be expected to fall. Overall, I did ok, but if I have a regret it's that I did not swim aggressively enough.

Comfort Zone

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It was a bit colder than I would have liked this morning, but circumstances dictated that either I run early, in the cold, or wait until much later in the day. Given my recent track record for actually getting in those "later in the day" runs, I opted for the cold.

Next week's swim meet was very much on my mind. Also on my mind was the fact that spring will soon be here (maybe??), and that I'll need to start training harder.

As a consequence, I didn't take a walk break until the turnaround, and after that I picked up my pace a bit. I hit the turnaround in around 15 minutes, but managed to come home in 13 minutes.

On the way back, since I don't have a good feel for my speed yet, I aimed to try to keep myself just outside of my comfort zone. The theme for this year is going to be to spend as much time as I can training outside of my comfort zone, with an eye to becoming both faster and stronger. While it was only a 5km run, today's run was tough both because of the cold and because I pushed myself. It's a good start.



Wednesday's swim involved backstroke starts and 50s. The backstroke starts introduced me to the idea that you can actually do the same thing as a bellyflop, only on your back. Ouch.

I had to leave early, but there was every indication that I was going to fail the set. It looked like this:
4x50 on :50
4x25 on :50 (fly)
6x50 on :50
4x25 on :50 (fly)
8x50 on :50
there may have been a short amound of rest after the 25s, I'm not sure.

One element that contributed to the difficulty was my decision to do butterfly over the 25s. It meant that I got a fair bit of rest, but even then, the set was probably still a net drain.

Anyways, for the first 4 50s, I was able to hold only 40-45 seconds per 50. The second set was tougher, as I slipped out towards say 48 seconds. I was only able to do 2 of the 8 in the final set, but I was already over 45 seconds, so chances are that I wasn't going to make it.

Today's swim focused more on 200s.

After a tough 1300 metres of warmup, we were faced with this:
50 ez
200 neg split
50 ez
1 minute rest
50 ez
200: 50 hard 100 build 50 sprint
50 ez

We were to do this twice. I opted for breaststroke the first time, as I race that distance in 8 days. I opted for freestyle the second time through.

When I last did a hard 200 breaststroke, I really struggled, and felt pretty awful. I felt like I had a better swim in me. Well, maybe I do, but it didn't happen today. I came in around 3:25 for both the first and second set, and it was all I could do to just finish. Rather than 50 hard/100 build/50 sprint, it was more like 50 hard, 50 breathe hard, 50 flail, 50 I can't even do breakout I'm so winded just get me home!

This does not bode well for Winterlude.

Freestyle was a bit easier. I was able to hold myself together, barely, and managed a 3:04, which is a PB. I was hoping for sub-3:00, but I just don't think I had enough left in the tank at that point.

8 days to go, and I'm being taught humility. Clearly, I have some work to do before race day.

One final word - happy birthday to our favourite super hero!



This whole season has been an interesting one. I haven't really been running, which, while it's more or less what I was planning (I hoped to run a bit more often, but not a lot), has led to self-reriminations. I've been adjusting to swimming three times a week. I'm not succeeding at consistent attendance, but I don't think I'm missing many more sessions that I would have in other years that I only swam twice a week. It's just more noticeable I guess.

I thought that I would be a lot stronger this winter, but so far I haven't felt it. Swimming has been very difficult, at times discouragingly so. I'm trying to work hard, and I try to acknowledge that it's not supposed to feel very good right now. I do notice that my shoulders are stronger than they were in the summer, but in the water, I feel like one of the slowest people in my half of the pool.

On Wednesday, I wrote:

The one event I'm not concerned with is the 100 free, which probably explains why my time is 4 seconds slower than my PB. I haven't been that fast at freestyle all year. I really wanted to do some other event instead, but nothing really fit in the schedule. Or maybe I was just too picky about it.

Well, with the meet fast approaching, we did some work on dive starts today, culminating in a 100m freestyle. I went in the final heat, which included two much faster swimmers. Thanks to water in my goggles on the dive, I never saw anyone the whole way. Mentally, I'm not quie sure I was ready for a timed swim - I didn't feel aggressive enough early, and as the swim progressed I started to flail a bit. The final 25 was done breathing every second pull, which wasn't really ideal.

The coach initially gave me a faster swimmer's time, which was cause for alarm and a few laughs. Alas, the swim was NOT a 10 second PB.

It was, however, a 3 second PB, at 1:18.

To put this in perspective, last season I worked very hard trying to break 1:20. I really focused on my freestyle, and at the meet was only able to do just under 1:21.

This year, I've spent the whole time berating myself for being out of shape, and disappointed that I've regressed from last year's form. Then I go out, have a poor dive start and an undisciplined swim, and PB by 3 seconds.

Apparently, my perception has been disconnected from reality.

I Suck

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Last week was derailed by insomnia, but this week I'm back in the pool.

Monday's swim was ok. It was pacework for 400s. After the swim, some people were complaining about how hard the swim was. I didn't find it that hard, but maybe I just wasn't working hard enough.

One of my 400s (which was really a4x100 with short rests) went something like: 1:35, 1:40, 1:30, 1:37. That's 6:22, only I think there was. My PB for a 400 continuous is over 6:30. On Monday, all I could think was that I'd been trying to break 1:20 on the 100 free and failing last year. So I felt slow. While the Olympics aren't exactly calling, apparently that pace wasn't quite hideous for me after all.

This disparity between perception and reality was NOT in place this morning. Somewhere in the warmup we did a kickset, that looked like this:
25 fly kick
50 back kick
75 breast kick
100 free kick

Somewhere in the free kick, I died. The main set was working on doing fast 200s, but I blew off the first rep just trying to recover from the kicking. When I finally regrouped, I did an unimpressive but still gutwrenching 200IM in 3:20.

There just wasn't enough oxygen this morning. I felt like I was swimming at altitude. My aerobic fitness is pretty sad, I think. Or maybe it just wasn't my day.

That said, I signed up for the swim meet on the 23rd. My events list shows that I'm a glutton for punishment.

50 fly (35.00)
100 free (1:25)
200 breast (3:15)
800 free (13:15)

Time will tell if the 800 free is full or not. If it is, then oh well.

The one event I'm not concerned with is the 100 free, which probably explains why my time is 4 seconds slower than my PB. I haven't been that fast at freestyle all year. I really wanted to do some other event instead, but nothing really fit in the schedule. Or maybe I was just too picky about it.

I'm very interested to see how the butterfly goes. I swam that fast before Christmas. I think my fly is slowly improving, but we'll see what I can do on the day. If I can complete it on 3 breaths, I'll be very happy.

The 200 breast is the event that I really want to do well in. I've been working on it all year, though at times it was hard to tell. I haven't really had a breakthrough in my breast stroke like I wanted to, but I've done 2 200 breasts under 3:20, and I don't think I've nailed the event yet. Hopefully it will all come together on race day.

As for the 800, well, if it happens, it will be interesting. My pace time is just under 1:40 per 100, and I've come very close to that in the past. It should be doable, but it might expose my fitness limitations. Or, the event might be full, and I'll be saved from a quarter hour of embarrassment. :)


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This page is an archive of entries from February 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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