Recently in Swim Report Category

Mooseman Report: Swim (Part 2)

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Having found my stroke, I settled into the rhythm of freestyle. I took a wide line around the swimmers, aiming for a point to the right of the first left turn buoy. I was breathing every second pull, and on my left, which was weird. Jeff had remarked that breathing on the left was an advantage when the buoys are always on your left, so maybe I incorporated that idea.

I would occasionally see a swimmer on my left, but never for long. I'm not so sure that I was swimming terribly straight, but I was moving. Time slipped by almost without notice. One buoy before the first turn, I passed my first blue swim cap. I'd made up the 4 minute stagger on somoene.

Around the turn, and I noticed that the water was pushing me towards shore. Maybe we'd been swimming into the wind, and the home trip would be easier? Some wheel in the back of my mind told me to go steady on this phase, then pick up the pace after the second turn, on the run back to the beach. I had to mentally preempt this idea, reminding myself that I wasn't here to race, no matter how small the swim was in the grand scheme of the day.

I actually made the second turn surprisingly close to the buoy, as there was nobody there. I got behind a pair of feet or two, but at this point anyone that close to me had to be slower than me, given my start (I never saw any swim cap beyond dark blue and light green, so I don't think anyone from a later start caught me.) At one point, I came in too close to the buoys, and got behind three swimmers abreast. Yuck. I kicked it out wide and went on my way.

Suddenly, I could see the bottom. I watched the rocks go by, and tried to at least use them to stay straight. I saw lone fish, who scurried off, annoyed by my presence.

I pondered doing some butterfly close to shore, to try to get a laugh from the people on shore. Beyond it being a bad idea for injury reasons (I'm not THAT coordinated), the rhythm of freestyle was so ingrained in me by that point that I knew I'd have a tough time switching up.

Suddenly, it was too shallow to swim.

As everyone else ran across the mats and into T1, I strolled leisurely along. I may have been coming out of the water with the big boys, but I truly was a minnow. I needed to stick to my pre-race strategy, and take my time in the transition.

We got up early race day morning. Our fabulous B&B host got up early with us and, being a former marathoner herself, had bananas, yogurt, muffins, juice and water out for us. Fantastic.

We parked near the race site, and walked up. We stopped to help someone pump up his tires on the way there. I racked my bike in the transition area, and everything suddenly spun on its head.

I only had 1 pedal on my bike.

What followed was a few seconds of very vocal panic. What on earth had happened? What should, or even could, I do?

I dragged my bike to the local bike shop support tent. They weren't too optimistic about my chances. Remembering my bike dragging a bit after we left the guy who was pumping his tires, I told them that I MIGHT know where my pedal was, and offered to go look. I ran off.

Great - so much for conserving energy. I sprinted in sandals half a mile back to the site, and scoured the lawn on all fours. No pedal.

Almost in tears, I ran back, head down, scanning the ground for the pedal. No luck. Had it fallen off in the car? At home?

Back at the support tent, some good news. "I've found some pedals that should work. Want me to put them on?" Some unintelligable gratitude followed. I ran to get my shoes, and bike guy tried them out. He had to force them a bit, but they fit. Hurray!

By the time I got back to the transition zone, they were calling for people to start moving to the beach, and all the free space around my bike spot was gone. I put my towel and bike shoes out, grabbed my wetsuit, and joined my friends in the walk to the start line.

I have to take a moment to offer two huge thank yous. The first, obviously, is to the MC Cycle and Sport. The loaner pedals saved my bacon. The second goes to Lisa Bentley. I remember attending a talk she was giving, when she spoke about bad things happening to her during triathlons. She made the point that "everything happen for a reason".

Well, here I was, on the brink of the terrifying cold water swim, and my mind was blank and calm. The pedal fiasco had completely preempted my rising terror at the swim.

The PA played "Don't Stop Believing" and I smiled. They played "Welcome to the Jungle" and the first wave left. Now it was our turn.

My feet touched the water. "Damn that's cold." I need to watch my language when I get nervous. I put my hands in, because that usually helps get me acclimatized. "Oh god oh god oh god oh god."

I was intending to go to the front, being a competent swimmer, but now I wanted to go backwards. I didn't want to be here, I didn't want to do this. This was terrible.

"30 seconds to start".

I crouched down, to get my body wet. There was a slight chill at the base of my spine, I guess at the bottom of the zipper. Everything else was fine - the wetsuit did its job unbelievably well. Of course, my hands and feet were still SO COLD.

I looked at jeff. He had already gotten his face wet. Smart guy. I couldn't bring myself to.

"Go go go go go!!!!!"

Terror and panic. Step, step, heads up breast. Ugh. I DO NOT WANT TO DO THIS. OH GOD. More heads up breast. Everyone is going away from me.

Ok, put my face in. Now gasp for breath. Another heads up breast. The support boats must think I'm insane, doing nothing but heads up breast at a tri. Roll over, fix my goggles. Man, nobody is behind me. I'm dead last. How the mighty have fallen.

Roll back over. Head in the water again. UGH. Heads up breast. How about dipping my head halfway under on breast. Ok. How about all the way? Ugh. Try a pull of freestyle again. Ugh. Again, this time I remember to breathe out. Does blowing help to warm the water, making it easier? Heads up free is too tiring, try heads up breast again. Try two pulls in a row. Breathing on the left is fine. Man, I really shot forwards there. Do it again.

Maybe I should sight?

Wow, I passed that guy like he was standing still.

I AM GOING TO BE FINE.

Public Swim

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After a few weeks of no swimming, it felt like visiting an old friend to bolt out of bed early and rush to the pool. Granted, no master's swim, but I decided to try a public swim at the pool on the way to work.

Like all public swims, the lane usage is horribly inefficient. A competent master's swim club could have fit close to 50 people in the pool, but at around 20 the pool felt very crowded. No point in complaining, it's just the nature of the beast.

I did a 5x100m warmup, trying to stay more or less out of other people's way, then did ~1000m continuous swim. This may have arguably been a mistake. As much as I really needed a longish continuous swim to stretch out and get used to swimming again, the lanes that I was in felt very crowded. I was one of the fastest swimmers there (which is a huge change for me), and I occasionally needed to shift gears for a 25 and blow by a few people so that I could get some clear water in front of me to return to a comfortable pace.

Technically, I was really feeling the loss of a few weeks worth of form. My body roll wasn't as good, my catch needed work, I needed to focus more than usual on my hand position, etc. Still, nothing in the swim told me that I won't be able to do ~1900m open water in a few weeks.

Still need to go wetsuit shopping, though.

More Timed Swims

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Monday was a sleep in day. Not really planned, but I need to conserve my energy. I'm starting to feel drained a lot.

Yesterday I did half an hour on the bike. Ho-hum, I guess, but the tension was a bit higher than it would have been a month ago, and I felt better at the end.

Today we did 2 timed swims, a 100 choice relay and a 50 choice relay. I did some of the worst flip turns imagineable on my 100 free, and came in in 1:17.9, a PB. It's funny how I can't seem to break 1:20 without flip turns, no matter how bad they are.

My 50 fly came in at 35.9. DIsappointing, as I know I can do around 2 seconds faster than that. I think I'm starting to lose my reckless abandon in butterfly.

Progress

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Swimming this year has been a bit of a disappointment. Between two illnesses, and a break for moving, my attendance hasn't been as consistent as I would have liked. Now, these are all valid reasons, and proper prioritization is needed in the real world, but, in the pool, there has been a sense of disappointment.

Ok, so I PB'd in the 100m in the fall. Since then, though, I've struggled to be consistent in attendance, and my strength and form in the water has reflected that.

Still, things have been largely better in the new year, and I'm finally starting to feel a bit of power and efficiency return to my stroke. I'm not yet ready to challenge the 1:20 100m, but things are slowly coming around.

I'm sure the cross training is helping. I'm on the bike two or three times a week, and trying to do some extra cardio, strength and flexibility work (read: Wii Fit) when I can. Still, no running, and I only have 107 days to sort THAT out.

Today was the annual 30 minute timed swim. This is always a good benchmark of technique and fitness, especially when you have a triathlon to look forward to.

Speaking of which - I had it in my head that the swim was ~2.5 km (1.6 miles). I double-checked today, and the swim will only be ~1.9 km (1.2 miles). Much better.

My goal for the 30 minute swim was to try to hold the form and technique I've had recently. I'm really focused on the catch, and on my arm/hand position on the pull. Specifically, I have a bad habit of not properly pointing my hand downwards, and thus losing surface area/pull. Focusing on a strong catch/efficient pull is somewhat tiring, but I wanted to see how long I could hold it all together.

There were three in our lane, a faster woman, and a woman with excellent technique. I started between the two, but finished at the back. For the first ten minutes, I was able to hold a strong pull at a moderate tempo. Then my arms started to tire, so I focused on a more conservative/catch pull. In the last 5 minutes, I tried to regain the power in my pull, but I think my tempo stayed slow.

Still, I finished up at 1825. Not too bad at all. This bodes well for a ~1920m open water swim, though of course there's no comparison between pool and open water. Still, I'll need every minute I can get out of the water, as Bill will be faster than me on land, I'm certain.

Looking over my previous years distances, I was surprised to see that I managed to exceed last year's distance. This is strange, as I don't feel nearly as fast, fit or consistent as I felt last year.

2005: 1500m (free and breast)
2006: 1725m
2007: 1775m
2008: 1800m
2009: 1825m

Obviously, no more quantum leaps for me. Still, I was awfully fit in 2007, so obviously these little tweaks to my form are still paying some dividends.

Consistency

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I made all 3 swims last week. The gauntlet has been thrown down with my wife, and we're both hoping to make 3/week a habit.

I also got on the bike 3 times last week, including a 40 minute "race" with Robbie Ventura. The volume was down just far enough that I could tune him out, but truth be told he was safe from my fists this time.

In fact, there was a brief moment in the DVD where he made me bury the needle. After that, my 10s were more like 7s and my 7s were more like 3s, but I'll get there in time.

Weathertop and Beyond

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October/November always has the same thing in store for me - being sick. It seems that every year at this time I come down with some version of the flu.

This year, it was in my chest, and I spent 3 whole weeks neither running nor swimming. Not fun.

I've been back in the pool for 2 weeks now. It's been tough slogging, and I've been slowly building both my level of effort and duration of my swims. I'm starting to feel a bit better, but I'm still not able to go all out the way I should be able to at this time of year.

Interestingly, we've had 2 timed swims, and both of them have gone fairly well. Last Friday, after my third swim back, we did a timed 100 IM, which I managed to do in 1:25.x. Not too bad, considering. This week's swim was a 100 free, which I did in 1:19.3. My PB is 1:18, set back in February, but this is likely only the second time I've broken 1:20, so I'm pretty pleased.

The interesting bit about the 100 free is that, for the first time, I did all flip turns. They were horrible flip turns, but still. To me, this and my lack of conditioning led to me holding back a bit on the first 75, in fear/anticipation of the turns. I went hard on the last 25, but the impression I had before I knew my time was that there was lots of room for improvement - both in the turns and in the swim itself.

Bitter

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There are all types of sports for all types of people. There are team sports, for those who thrive on that environment. There are individual sports, for those who prefer to rely on themselves. There are technical sports, non-technical sports, sports where you go hard for hours, sports where you go in shifts, and sports where you go for 10 seconds and then it's over.

In general, I think that the sports I partake in are well suited to my personality. Nonetheless, this morning's workout left me a touch bitter.

After a 1300m warmup, our main set was a complicated, but challenging one.

25x50m:
first 4 non-free
next 2 non-free, different than the last
on 1:01
The catch is that wherever the second hand was at the start of your first 50, that's where it had to be when you finished EACH of the 50s. If you ever failed to meet this finish time, you started doing 25m repeats instead of 50s.

So, to be clear, you had 60 seconds to finish the first 50. You had 50 seconds to finish the 10th 50. The last 50 you only had 35 seconds to complete.

The first 6 being non-free were fairly tough. I opted for 4 fly, then 2 breast. Finishing the 2 breast on time was kind of tough. When we were allowed to switch to free, things got easier - for a while. I had started on the 60, and for a while the freestyle 50s were being finished on the 55. As we were starting 1 second later each time, though, it started getting tougher. Once I slipped off of 55, I knew I was in trouble. I was able to sprint through a few, but around repeat number 20 I blew up.

I started doing 25s, trying to keep my stroke together and my speed up. The ladies behind me in my lane were all bitter than I seemed to be throwing off their time, but they kept doing 50s. When we finally finished the set, they started talking about how the set wasn't too bad, and how they felt stronger at the end. Um, what?

It turns out that they had missed the part about the finish time, and had just done a leisurely 25x50m on 1:01.

I felt an overwhelming need to explain to them that they'd missed something. I tried to explain the set, but quickly realized that it didn't matter. All that matters to me is what I do, and I was pretty happy with my effort. If everyone else did a different set and found it easy, more power to them. Or so I told myself.

It did make me feel better, though, to hear the guys from the fast lane talking about the "tough" set afterwards, in the locker room. It made me feel a bit better.

I think I'm still a bit bitter, though.

Work In Progress.

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With tired legs and sunburnt arms, I hit the cold, cold pool to start my week.

We did some IM work, but mostly we worked on sprint. The main set was:
200 fly kick negative split
4x50 free w 15s rest (3rd 50 fastest)
200 fr ez
8x25 free w 10s rest
4x50 free w 10s rest

Other than the ez, it was all intended to be fast. The upside was that each set was done on 6 minutes, so there was lots of rest between the 200s.

On the heels of this came the benchmark
25 build rest 30
50 sprint rest 60
25 ez rest 30
50 sprint (timed)

My timed 50 was 38 seconds flat. Not bad, but it's a far cry from my 50 fly time. It's also a far cry from what the fast swimmers do.

Part of it, for sure, is that the sprint came at the end of the set. Part of it, though, is that I haven't quite got my freestyle together yet. Which is fine - it, like so many things in life, is a work in progress.

Slogging

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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!

Illusion

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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. :)

A Miracle in 55 Seconds

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Monday's run got blown off due to the crazy cold. I want to be running, but not THAT badly.

Monday's swim was a no-go, albeit a strange one. I was in bed by 9:00pm, but couldn't get up at 5am. Turns out I went back to sleep and woke up at 9am. I wondered if I was sick or something, but apparently I just needed 12 hours of sleep.

Today's swim was such that I decided to stop comparing the swims. They're all tough at this point, and picking the toughest is kind of pointless. The toughest one is the one you're currently in the middle of.

The warmup was 850 metres. The main set looked like this:
3x150 (100 fr, 50 fly) on 3:30
50 ez
3x150 (25 fly, 50 build to sprint back, 75 br mod) on 3:30
50 ez
3x150 (25, 50 br build to sprint, 75 fr) on 3:30
50 ez
3x150 (100 fly, 50 fr)

That's almost two kilometers of swimming, with a ton of fly mixed in!

The first set really set the tone. I led out for the lane. The ladies were on my feet for the 100 free, but I lost them on the 50 fly. I tried very hard to focus on kicking through the fly, since it tends to be the first thing to go when I get tired.

We got lots of rest in the set, but not enough. After a 50 freestyle to get some active rest, I again led out for the second set.

The challenge here was to build to sprint in backstroke coming off a 25 fly. I'm not really sure I got to a full out sprint, but with my backstroke it's hard to tell if I even have a sprint. The 75 breaststroke was a welcome recovery, though I had a hard time doing to proper breakout at the end of the backstroke sprint. The hardest part about breaststroke, it seems, is the lack of oxygen on the turns.

I slipped to second for the third set, as my backstroke had been holding one lady up. It was interesting to see how quickly I could make up the stagger on the 50 breast sprint. As a result, I never quite felt like I was going all out on the breast. Believe me, I was ok with that. I lost ground again on the 75 freestyle. The rest for this set seemed quite short.

The last set wasn't revealed until we were into the third set. I had serious doubts about being able to pull it off. I was back in the lead, which meant I could take some extra time before the set started.

On the first set, I focused on breathing every second pull, and trying to keep my kick active. At 75m, I thought I was doing great (considering!), but then I took on water and sputtered to the turn. I had to breathe every second pull for half a length on the freestyle before I got things under control.

The good news? 55 seconds rest.

The second 150 was much tougher. My kick went away earlier, and on the final 25 of fly I had to start breathing every pull once or twice to keep myself going. The problem is that, while doing so gives extra oxygen, it also involves extra work (raising your body out of the water). Bleh. I sucked air hard on the freestyle.

When I stopped and checked the clock, I again had 55 seconds before I had to start again. I remember thinking that I needed a miracle in those 55 seconds. It was all I could do to suck air for the full 55 seconds, and when I started I was still feeling like I was a long way from ready.

I can't tell you how I got through the last 150. Maybe the part of the brain that records memory is the first to give out when you're low on oxygen. Maybe I'm just blocking it out. I do know that it took incredible willpower to switch from breathing furiously every second pull on the freestyle to bilateral breathing. As always, it made swimming easier, but I really really wanted the extra oxygen.

Rideaa Lakes and Winterlude signups are both this week. Hopefully I'll be able to get into both, though today has me wondering just how much I'll enjoy the swim meet....

Feeling Sore-ry for Myself

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Any morose thoughts that I'm not really training much these days have gone out the window this week.

After Christmas usually marks the start of the competetive swim season. The first week back after the Christmas break gave us a chance to get back into it, but this week the intensity has been noticeably increased.

It started Monday morning, with the transition set. The transition set is the set after the warmup, but before the tougher main set. The tranisiton set was basically 1100 metres of IM, finishing up with a 400M IM where each stroke started easy but built to sprint. I don't know about you, but after doing 100 butterfly ending in a sprint, the last thing I want to do is 300m of anything, much less a bunch more sprinting. (And yes, the main set was arguably tougher.)

Today's swim was much, much tougher than Monday's. The main set looked like this:
2x25, fast, moderate
2x50 fast, moderate
2x75 fast, moderate
2x100 fast, moderate
1:30 rest

There were pace times, enough to give decent rest on the fast, but less on the moderate. The net result was that the longer sprints started before you'd fully recovered from the last swim.

The first time through I did freestyle, and my fast 100m was one on 1:28 or so. I really could not have gone any faster by that point. The second time though, I did breaststroke, and it was SO much tougher. I managed a 1:40 for my 100, which I was happy with, but I was ready to disintegrate. Fortunately, we only had time for the 25 and 50 before we had to cool down and get out of the pool. I honestly don't know if I would have tried a third set if I'd been given the choice. My brain was already trying to chicken out, on the plausible excuse that I needed to leave early.

I guess the long and the short of it is that I'm still feeling sorry for myself. Before, I felt like I wasn't in good enough shape. With the work that's been done this week, I now know I'm not in good enough shape!!

Weaker/Stronger

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The plan for this winter was to run less and swim more. I had hoped that, by adding 1 swim a week to my schedule, that I would be able to push my swimming to the next level.

It hasn't quite happened.

In dropping from 5 runs a week to 1 run a week, I've naturally lost some cario fitness. It comes up in the pool more than I hoped it would. I struggle a bit more on the tough interval sets. I seem to take longer to recover from the sprints. Maybe it's just nostalgia, but the tough sets seem much tougher, and the challenges much less fun this year.

I had hoped that whatever losses the drop in running gave me would be compensated for by increased strength. It has, to an extent. Some of my isolated timed swims, buffered by plenty of rest, have been very good. My upper body and core strength feel like they're as strong as ever (not that that's saying much). In the day to day grind of swim training, though, it feels like a net loss.

Of course, in every year previously, I've been focused on peaking physically in May. This year, I'd like to aim for a more systematic development that stretches into the fall. Given that, maybe the differences from other years aren't such a bad thing.

One final note - I got asked to today if I was planning on swimming Winterlude in February. At this point, I think I am, though I'm less committed to it than I have been in other years. If I go, I would definitely like to do a longer distance breaststroke race, say 100m or 200m. Beyond that, who knows?

The Weather Outside is Frightful

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My running plans this week have been scuppered by bad planning and weather, though mostly the latter. An early week snowstorm gave way to a cold snap. Neither was conduscive to outdoor running, and not being compelled to pound in the miles this time of year, I happily abstained.

Swimming, though, involves nothing more than braving a very cold changeroom, wet and nearly naked. You know, now that I put it that way, I wonder why I get up at 5am for the priviledge so often. Nonetheless, swimming is my habit, and I was there again today.

Despite promises of an easy week, we still pulled off an even 3k today. Still, there was never really a moment of undue stress. Rather, it was 75 minutes of constant output.

One thing that I noticed is that I'm falling into the habit of breathing every second pull on freestyle from time to time. Whether it's the added exertion or added oxygen, it sends my heartrate skyrocketing. It's tough to do, but if I can force myself to breathe bilaterally, it all gets easier after a few moments.

The competetive swimming season is almost upon us, and I'm sure that the swims are going to be very tough in the coming weeks. This is probably exactly what I need. At times, I shy away from pushing myself speed-wise. This year, I intend to work on that.

New Year Swim

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I was a bit apprehensive about swimming this morning. I pulled a muscle in my arm over the weekend, and had been having problems putting my arm up over my head. As it turned out, it was the least of my concerns.

The coach promised to go easy on us this week. There wasn't much sprinting or distance, but what there was was a lot of kicking. It didn't take long for me to feel out of breath and run down. It also didn't take long for my left foot to cramp up, which make all that kicking a pain.

With swimming comes a slow return to routine and discipline. I'm looking forward to this year and everything it will bring.

Inter-Squad Meet

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The Saturday morning group at the Master's Swim Club was hosting an fun meet. I debated whether or not to attend, especially given my form this week, but decided that, if nothing else, it would be an opportunity to get some extra practice in.

The lanes were fairly packed, and there were a lot of familiar faces, both from my old Tuesday/Thursday group and from my new Monday/Wednesday/Friday group.

We did a light warmup with some drills, and work on free, breast and back. We then did 5x50 free descend on 1:05. Then, it was time to start.

The order of events was as follows:

25 open
50 open
challenge relay
200 open
4x50 free relay
100 open

I was going to forego the 25, but it looked like everyone was going to do it, so I decided I'd try a 25 fly for fun. I managed to only breathe once to the end of the pool, and was rewarded by breaking 15 seconds with a 14:23. I was pretty pumped.

For the 50 fly, I decided to see how my fast 25 metre fly time translated over 50 metres. On the starting block, I resolved to try to only breathe once on each 25, and of course on the turn. On the way out, I managed to only breathe once, but after the turn it occurred to me that I wasn't going to make it. I think I breathed 3 times, which isn't bad. Nor was my time, at 34.95 it was a PB over the distance for any stroke. Best of all, TWO!!

The challenge relay was interesting. 4x25, with a foam 1metre x 1metre square. Each 25, a different relay member had to be sitting on the foam. Any method of propultion was allowed, including pulling on the lane ropes.

We managed to avoid finishing last. Barely.

I jumped immediately into a 200 breast, the event I was most looking forward to. I tried to start slowly and build, but at about 115m I wondered if I could even finish. Rather than strengthen my kick and pick up my turnover, I was struggling. It was Friday's dizziness in the water all over again. I ended up at 3:18.

(Afterwards, I chatted with my coach, and he said that he had timed me at 3:16. (Aside - the Qual time is 3:17.) Either way, I know I can go faster, based on how it felt.)

I got sucked into doing a 50m free as part of a relay. Our team did not do very well, and I'm sure my slow lead lap didn't help.

At the end, I was rested enough to try a 100m free. I wasn't expecting much, but was pleased to break 1:25 (1:24.35 I think). Not horrible.

My arms, however, are stupendously sore this morning. I guess I must have worked. :P

One!

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Monday was the start of round two of the benchmarking sets. Again, the main set was:
100m timed
3 minutes rest
100m stroke count
3 minutes rest

This was repeated twice, for two different strokes.

Like last time, I opted for free then breast stroke. Unfortunately, my times did not stack up too well against last time. Again, my 100 free was done in 1:25, though my stroke count was a little high. I didn't feel overly winded at the end, which made me think that maybe I did not go hard enough.

I worked a little harder on the 100 breast, but was a bit slower last time, at 1:35.

Today, the test was a timed 200m. Last time I did 200s, the were freestyle, and I came in in 3:08 and 3:11. This time, I reluctantly decided to try to tackle breaststroke.

200m is a long way to go for breaststroke, and if I'd started out with an anaerobic kick, I might never have made it. So I opted for 100m moderate, 50 build, 50 sprint as a basic plan.

On my 4th turn and my final approach, I overglided - I should have put in one more short stroke. I knew it, and the coach pointed it out as soon as I was done. Still, I came in in 3:16.4, which I was thrilled with.

Even better, I just looked up the FINA 2008 world masters qualification times, and the standard for my (still upcoming) age group is 3:17. Hurray!

My seasonal goal, if you remember, was to surpass as many of the qualification times as I could. While the shorter distances have proved daunting so far, I now have one success under my belt. With so much of the training season still ahead of me, the future suddenly looks a bit brighter.

Reflux Redux

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Sometimes, it's just not your day.

I was keen to put in a good swim on Wednesday. Right from the time my alarm went off, though, it just wasn't my day.

Three years ago, I would have chalked it up to being sick when I woke up with my stomach on fire. Instead, I rolled out of bed, hit the bathroom, and got cozy with a big glass of water and a banana.

In 20 minutes, I was able to eat only a quarter of the banana.

Two years ago I was diagnosed with nothing more serious than acid reflux, and put on medictation. It subsided. For around two years now, I haven't had any problems with it.

Wednesday morning, I woke up with about a 9 severity out of 10. No idea why.

Theoretically, this just means I'm uncomfortable, and shouldn't really impact swimming at all. Alas, this wasn't the case, and I struggled mightily. The workout was an excellent one, with a nice mix of speed. I just could not keep up with it, and was very disappointed.

I haven't had a reoccurrence of the reflux, yet. I guess I'm grateful that I knew what it was this time, and just went about my day as best as I could.

Success, as always, is framed by context.

Age Group Swim

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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.

Rediscovering

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Ok, so I haven't run in forever. So be it.

Swimming, on the other hand, is coming along well. Monday was another benchmark day, with 100 full out, then 100 doing a stroke count, in 2 different strokes. (We were also supposed to do heartrate measurements - active rate and recovery rate.) Yay, but there's a catch - we had to do the 2 different strokes than we did last time.

That meant backstroke and butterfly. Yuck.

I opted for backstroke first (duh - believe me, it's a duh). My time was fairly awful, at 1:50. I don't have the best backstroke at the best of times, and I haven't felt good at it yet this year, even for me.

One hundred butterfly is further than anyone wants to go in that stroke. I put on a brave face, and charged out of the gate. The first 50m actually felt pretty good - I was actually kicking twice per pull, and while there may not have been much propulsion in my kicks, my 'fly had a pretty good feel.

By about the 60m mark, everything was (unsurprisingly) going away. When I say everything, I of course mean oxygen. My kick started to founder a bit, and my arms were burning. I tried to keep the pace up (and my head down, butterfly is one of those strokes where not breathing feels like it's way faster), but that smooth fun feeling was long gone. The last 25m involved gasping and sputtering, and trying to push my burning arms through the water, over and over.

My time was very rewarding - something like 1:24 (maybe a tiny bit faster!). My freestyle PB is only 1:21, and that's with putting a lot of work into it (not a beginning-of-season type thing). This was even faster than my freestyle time of 1:25, though I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised by that.

Even better, I was only about 5 seconds off the Perth qualifying time of 1:19. I'm not sure that I want to be working on 100 fly this year, but maybe I should be.

Today's set was a long one, with very little rest. I ended up doing 2850 metres. It was a healthy mix of freestyle and breaststroke. Interestingly, I wasn't terribly fast (though I did pull off a 1:30 100m free somewhere in the middle of a set), but my stroke was feeling noticeably better. I'm starting to get my feel back from last winter, and even my coach has noticed the difference.

Now what I really need to do is go for a run.

Consistency

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Once again, I ran at work on a Tuesday. That's 3 runs in 8 days - I'm almost a runner again!

On Monday, I got some feedback that I needed to kick harder on my freestyle, as my legs were riding low in the water, and adding drag to slow me down. I've always known that my kick wasn't that great, and the start of a new season seems a perfect time to focus on this weakness.

Today's main set featured 18 repeats of 50m freestyle, with a gradually reducing pace time. I tried to focus on my kick, and while I definitely lost the plot a little in the middle, I was able to finish up with a strong kick. The upside was that the strategy saved my arms some grief. I was some winded, though!

As the weather cools off, I'm finding myself more and more drawn to being outside. Hopefully, I'll be able to get another month of running and cycling in nice weather before I have to start thinking about the elements, again.

Benchmark

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After 1000m of warmup, we did a benchmark set.

100m at 100%
rest 3 minutes
100m at 85%, count strokes
rest 3 minutes

First time through was freestyle, second time through was breastroke (or fly, but like I'm chosing that!)

First off was the fast 100m. I was hoping for a 1:30. My PB is 1:21, and the Q time (FINA 2008 world champtionships) is 1:12.7. I surprised myself by managing to stay at a high level of exertion throughout the 100, and with my finishing time of 1:25.

In the warmup, I was doing 16-17 strokes per lap fairly consistently, although admittedly I was taking it pretty easy. It makes a difference. At 85% effort, I was having trouble with my stroke count - it went 19, 19, 18, 18. Still, I'm happy that it was under 20.

Of course, I strongly suspect that there are only 2 or 3 of us in that half of the pool who can't swim a 1:20. Bleh.

On to breaststroke, which I was frankly much more keen to do. I had the priviledge/pressure of leading out the lane. I don't have a recorded PB for the distance, but the Q time is 1:33. I worked extremely hard over the first 100, but wasn't immediately sure I was pulling away from the lane. Maybe that added pressure helped, as I finished with a smokin' 1:35.

On the next set, I aimed to stretch out a bit more, but still keep my speed. I barely held onto a 9 stroke per 25m average, but came home in 1:37. I was very stoked.

It will be interesting to see if I'm able to take any time off of these in the next month.

How Long It Takes

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This week, swimming seems to be a mix of drills (mostly kicking - yuck) and "easy" pace times. When I say easy, I mean in comparison with February.

On the first day last week, I was afraid that everyone in my lane was going to be way faster than me. I'm sure it didn't help that I was sharing a lane with a lifetime swimmer and a top-class triathlete. So when we did a long set of freestyle pace work on Monday, I was very happy to hang around at the back of the line. Interestingly, some of my lanemates who were just flying at the beginning of the set weren't really getting away from me by the end. While it made me feel a bit better about "belonging" in the lane, I'm sure it will only last until everyone is back in shape, at which time I'll have some real work to do.

Despite not running on the weekend (bizarrely, I had early morning errands both days - that never happens!), I was able to get in a run yesterday. It was raining, and cool, but still very nice. I only did about 5.5 km, but was rewarded by a (rainy) BBQ lunch at work.

Today, I did my first 200 IM of the season. The breathlessness of it all was almost nostalgic, but not quite.

The pace work was a mix of free and non-free. The whole lane opted for breaststroke, and I was asked to lead out. Yes, there is one stroke in which I can keep up with the Joneses. It only took 4 sessions to be tagged as the breaststroke guy, I guess. The stroke itself is going ok, I guess. I started out holding 50s/50m, but couldn't keep it up. I'm fairly certain that I'll be able to gain some time on my turns, once I'm used to not breathing (again).

Hopefully, I'll be biking to work tomorrow, and swimming again on Friday. I strongly suspect that I'll be pretty sore by the end of the week.

Rest is Good

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I biked to and from work yesterday. Actually went fairly fast, too, averaging over 27 km/h in both directions - not bad for mostly urban riding.

This morning's swim was easier than Wednesday's. There was more rest build into the workout - the coach even promised it would be easier than Monday. I also probably did a better job pacing myself. I definitely faded towards the end, maybe at around the 2000 m mark. Still, it was a much more encouraging swim than Wednesday's was.

I think I'm going to be sore today.

30 minute swim

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Today we did the annual 30 minute continuous swim.

Last year, our coach told us to go out hard off the top. I did so, and was able to finish up with 1725 metres. This year, I was out to beat that mark. What I was not willing to do was to go out hard.

For the first 200-300 metres, I focused on trying to cut my number of strokes per length of the pool. After that, I settled down, and just swam.

I counted my laps up to 19 repeats of 50, but then I started getting lost. (I also got lapped.) Fortunately, the coach was counting for us. From the occasional glances at the clock when I made my open turns, I didn't think that I was doing all that great. I figured I could get to about 1500, but I didn't figure I'd go all that faster.

So, with something like 8 minutes left, I stopped counting laps, and started counting strokes per length again. I wasn't able to get below 19 very much, but I started working harder, and apparently going faster. The guy who lapped me remarked later that I started reeling him in towards the end.

Of course, this added effort got pretty tough on me. I now had one eye firmly on the clock. I couldn't wait for the swim to be over, and was pacing myself to go hard right to the end.

I finished up, and caught my breath while I waited for the tally. 1775m. Hurray!

My split times were something like:

400m: ~6:40
800m: ~13:35
1500m: 25 something? not sure....

My shoulders are going to be sore today, I think....

Ian Button Memorial Swim Meet

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A lady at the meet asked me if I'd known Ian. While I didn't know him well, I could have picked him out of a crowd. Still, his death last spring came as a huge shock. There was definitely some imperative to attend a swim meet in his honour.

My original primary goal for the meet was to break 1:20 in the 100m freestyle. My secondary goal was to do a 200m IM. Of the two, the second was far more daunting, even without a specific performance goal. In the light of hindsight, I think that I invested more mental and physical preparation in the Individual Medley.

In the end, I selected the following races:
- 200 IM (No previous 50m pool experience, 25m pool PB: 3:12)
- 100 free (Last year's time: 1:27.73)
- 50 breast (Last year's time: 43.13)

Other than having been at the meet last year, I also had the advantage of having swam in the pool last summer. We only used half the pool, but I had had the opportunity to get familiar with the temperature of the pool. Compared to my usual pool, the sportsplex pool is cold. The temperature is supposed to be better for competetive swimming, a subject to which I only technically subscribe. All I knew was that getting in was not a lot of fun.

When they opened the pool for warmup, everyone got in, and the lanes got quite full. I had to warm up in all 4 strokes (butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle) as I would be doing all 4 in the IM. In a packed lane of an unfamiliar pool, this was a little scary. Then I did a dive or two, to practice. I almost hit the bottom on my first dive, and made a mental note not to go too deep on my starts at the shallow end. Once I was warmed up, I got out, pulled some clothes on over my swimsuit, and took it easy.

Shortly thereafter, my parents showed up, having come into town for the weekend partially to watch. After nearly slipping and falling down trying to get their attention, we sat together, and watched as the first events started. Mom was impressed, much as I was last year (and again this year) at the broad range of people involved in master's swimming. There are faster 70 year olds, and very slow 80 year olds. There are incredibly fast 30-40 year olds, and then there are people like me - just getting into it in our 30s and 40s.

Soon enough, it was time for me to get back into the pool, to warm up for my IM. Lane 8 was reserved thoughout the whole meet for warming up and cooling down. When I got out and made my way to my lane, the butterflies started fluttering in my stomach. Pun intended.

Suddenly, I was up. On the blocks. My starts aren't the best.

The starter's whistle blows, and I have to do my first competitive dive of the season. Into the water I go. I give a couple of dolphin kicks, and surface.

Generally when I do IM, I take it easy on the butterfly. I can be pretty fast at it when I want to be, but my goal is to conserve energy. For me, that means staying relaxed; keeping the cadence down a bit, and not pulling or kicking as hard as I can.

Here I am, at the 25m mark. I'm wearing a bright yellow cap, in lane 5 (from the top, just below the blue lane rope).

Feb 24,2007 042.JPG

Unfortunately, I put in way too slow a pace time for this race. When I signed up, my best 200 freestyle time was 3:20, so I put in 3:30. Subsequently, I started breaking 3:15 with both. Ugh. Oh well.

Anyways, I seem to ride higher in the water than most people. I make no claims that I do butterfly correctly, but I can move myself through the water doing it.

I've always said there's a logical progression in IM. After the gut-wrenching oxygen deprivation of butterfly, you get to swim on your back in backstroke, and gasp for all the air you could want. My backstroke is arguably my weakest stroke, though I think my catch and pull are much better this year. Sadly, my kick is non-existant, and kick is where it's at for backstroke and freestyle.

Feb 24,2007 047.JPG

Notice how I'm all on my own? Yeah. It's not that I'm fast, it's just that I entered the wrong time. Like I said, oh well.

Anyways, I usually just watch the ceiling on backstroke, to make myself go straight. In my usual pool, the ceiling struts are parallel to the lanes. In the sportsplex, they aren't, so I had to be constantly peeking at the lane ropes beside me. This is actually the more correct way to go, I'm told. A lot of swim meets in the US are held outdoors, where there's absolutely nothing above you to use as a guide!

My time after 100m was 1:36.08.

My goal in back was to pull hard and rest my legs, because breaststroke is very, very, very tough on the legs. It's also probably my most natural, comfortable stroke.

Feb 24,2007 053.JPG

To me, it looks like I've come a long way out of the water here. I was trying to keep my head more neutral, and not look so far ahead of me. Oh well.

I'm at the 125 metre mark, and I can tell you that me legs are starting to burn. I'm a little confused as to why I can't see anyone, but I'm also at the point in the swim when my brain starts to not get enough oxygen to really formulate complicated thoughts. It's just streamline, up, kick, streamline, over and over.

Feb 24,2007 056.JPG

From memory, I was breathing every third pull here. With 30 metres to go, I was also trying to build towards a full-out sprint. I was able to do this, and felt ok. Actually, I remember wondering somewhere around here if I'd taken it too easy, as I wasn't completely destroyed at the end of the race.

My finish time was 3:06.02. This is a 200m PB for me, period. I certainly would never have expected to go this fast in the IM. I figured on being at least 7-10 seconds slower than whatever I could do in freestyle. There's simply no denying that I'm very pleased with this result.

Overall, I finished 2nd of 2 in my age group, over 20 seconds behind first. (It's a good thing I'm under no illusions about my swimming abilities, eh?)

Back up on deck, I got to chat with my parents, who were thrilled. I ate some jelly beans and drank some water. Life was good.

Next up was my A event, the 100m freestyle. I had put in an expected time of 1:20, and had been put in lane 1. This meant that everyone in my heat had put in a faster time than I had. This was very good news - it meant that there would be lots of people in front of me, to chase.

Even better, there was a guy from my session in the club in the lane beside me. We wished each other luck as we got up onto the blocks.

Incongruously, as I waited to start, it occurred to me that I'd already done more than half my swimming for the meet.

At go, I dove in, kicked twice, and surfaced. Oh my. Lane two was already well ahead of me. That gave me a kick in the pants, and I went to it - breathing every 5th stroke, and trying to narrow the gap. It didn't narrow, but it didn't widen much, either.

Here I am, approaching the turn - at the top, again in the yellow swim cap.

Feb 24,2007 083.JPG

It looks to me like I'm pretty much in last place, as expected. Still, I'm not too far back at all.

Here are the split times. Lane 1, me, is at 38.38. I'll take it!

Feb 24,2007 087.JPG

Unfortunately, by about 60 metres, I'd clued in to the fact that I'd gone out way too hard. Rather than building towards a fast finish, I was starting to gasp for breath. I fell off the pace, and swam more than 42 seconds for the second 50, to finish up at 1:20.96. I finished 5th of 6 in my age group, over 9 seconds out of 4th and 16 seconds out of first.

Ergo, I did not break 1:20. Disappointing, but it's still a PB. I had done 1:21 in the 25 metre pool, but the 50 metre pool is different. I guess the disappointing part is that I didn't race a smart race. If I had, I think sub-1:20 was there for the taking.

After this, there was a long break before my final event, the 50 metre breaststroke. This event was a throw-in. I had been much more focused on the other two events, but wanted to do something in the second half of the meet. As I mentioned, breaststroke is my most natural stroke, and I'd like to be fast at it. But since I haven't really worked at that much this season....

Once again I was in lane 1, the slow lane. There would be lots of people in front of me to chase.

Feb 24,2007 113.JPG

I tried to kick really hard and streamline and glide a lot. Unfortunately, I ended up kicking over the top of the water a few times, wasting time and energy. It was just not my race; I wasn't comfortable going this hard in breaststroke. I just hadn't trained enough.

Feb 24,2007 115.JPG

Lane 1's time: 44.05. Slower than last year. I wasn't surprised, given the mistakes I made during the race, and the lack of preparation. Oh well.

On the bright side, I won my age group. Of course, I was the only one entered.

I think next year, I may focus much more on breaststroke, with the goal of racing longer distances. I'm not a sprinter anyways, so trying to hold pace in breast might make more sense for me. Of course, it promises to be very hard on my legs - any distance of breaststroke can turn your legs to rubber. Still, I think it would suit me better than the shorter distances.

Since my performances got worse with each sequential event, I walked away less than thrilled with my meet. Missing 1:20 on the free was disappointing, for sure, but the 200 IM was a very, very good swim for me. Short events are like that, though - you only get one shot at it, and if you set your standards high, the margin for error is small. I'm still very much a beginner at this swimming stuff, so every lesson I can take away from a meet is a win.

This year, my goals were much more ambitious than they were at this time last year. Who knows, maybe next year all of my swims will again be beyond what I could hope for this year.

Swim Meet Short

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I'm home from the swim meet. Here's what I remember of my times:

200 I.M.: 3:06.xx
100 Free: 1:20.96 (Last year: 1:27.73)
50 Breast: 44.xx (Last year: 43.13)

2 out of 3 are PBs. The breast was disappointing. I had hoped for a better result on the freestyle, but I'll definitely take it. The I.M. result I was very, very happy with.

More later.

Trepidation

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I was eager to get in the pool and work on my breaststroke this morning. Oh, how naive I was.

You can do a few strokes of breaststroke and think "yeah, this feels pretty good". The problem is that your legs start to burn. Breaststroke just takes so much power. Before you know it, your legs are burning, and you're screaming for oxygen. Not to mention the oxygen hunger on the breakouts.

I threw 100m of breast into my warmup. It was about all I could do. I was trying to push myself, and after 100m, needed to revert to free to rest. We did some breast kick during the warmup, too. I tried to catch up to my lanemates, but despite a perceived huge power output, I wasn't making up huge ground. Ugh.

Our main set was 8x100 (supposed to be 9 - oops). The first three were freestyle, which was fine. The next three were breast. I was mentally chiding myself for not working hard enough after a while, but I found my tank was emptying really fast. Incredibly, the 2 IM sets at the end were a relief.

Then we got some rest, in preparation for a timed 200 IM.

I had done two different 200 IMs in 3:20 on Tuesday, so I should have been really enthused. Instead, I was nervous. I didn't feel well rested, and wasn't looking forward to swimming the 200. It's weird; I love doing timed swims, because I love challenging myself. For whatever reason, though, all I could feel was dread.

...which might just be what I'm feeling the day of the meet, too.

I ended up facing off against my two faster lanemates, both of whom I suspected (rightly) were doing 200 free. I expected them to be a bit faster than me, but was hoping that I would be able to hang with them. I thought my dive start was ok, and I tried to settle into a relaxed first 25 fly. At the turn, they were both well ahead of me, which was a bit disappointing. My fly isn't that slow, but in IM, I'm more concerned about conserving energy (rightly or wrongly) than speed.

At the second turn, I got a good push off the wall, and a couple of dolphin kicks underwater, on my back, before I surfaced. While it was a very good start, I now had to calm myself down, and stick to my strategy of building over the 50. I did something like a two beat kick, and tried to give a strong pull. Unfortunately, I was watching the ceiling, which technically is a no-no. Come race day, I'll have to rely on the flags and lane markers to keep me going straight, and to know when to turn. I should be practicing it now.

It wasn't until I finished my backstroke that I got to peek at where the competition was. As I turned over to start breaststroke, I peeked to my left. The news wasn't good. They were WAY ahead of me, maybe as much as 30m and 20m. And here I was, starting the slowest of the four strokes. Was I really going that slow today?

My first breakout wasn't very good. I didn't push off the wall well enough, pulled too early, and didn't lift my head, leaving me way too deep for my first kick. Ugh. I tried hard to make breaststroke my strongest segment, kicking hard, focusing on decent sculling. The oxygen went away, and I'm not sure I really built, but I think the segment overall was about as quick as I could have hoped for.

The 50 free at the end is as much a relief as anything else. I reminded myself that my freestyle is much improves this year, and that I probably could reel in the field a bit on this stage, even if they were already mostly done. The change in muscle groups usually works to my advantage here, but I'm usually starting in oxygen deficit. I tried pretty hard to catch up, but my poor turn at the halfway mark hurt me. I just wanted to surface so badly. Ugh.

When I finished, I wasn't in a huge hurry to hear my time, figuring I hadn't had a great swim. As it turns out, I think my two lanemates had awesome swims. I finished in 3:12.3, which I was really pretty happy about. I suspect that they both did their 200 frees in under 3:00, which is mighty impressive, and makes me a tiny bit jealous (my PB is 3:08).

Something tells me that this wasn't as fast as I can go on the 200 IM. My nerves and perceived fatigue probably slowed me down a bit. Still, I'm going to have to deal with killer nerves on race day, so experiencing them in practice is maybe a good thing. A bit more aggression and attention to detail in the turns will probably help me get even faster in the future.

No, Wait...

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Remember yesterday, when I said...

Yesterday's swim was possibly the toughest all year.

Well, scratch that. THIS was the toughest swim. Of my life. (Maybe I'm exaggerating. I doubt it, though.)

Ok, so I'm in the fast half of the pool now. And yes, there's a meet coming up. I expect to be hit hard at swimming these days.

Warmup was 700m choice, followed by 150m of breaststroke drills. The 700m went by like a dream - get in a groove, try to stay there.

Our first set was this:
5x200m on 4:15
-odd: choice, negative split
-even: 25 back kick, 75 back, 25 br kick, 75 br, focus on the back-to-breast turn.

For my 3 choice swims, I chose my 3 upcoming events - freestyle, then breaststroke, then I.M. I was able to finish up 200 free in around 3:20 (can't remember for sure), giving myself nearly a full minute's rest. The back and breast were both slower, giving me virtually no rest. (Uh oh!) I really had a hard time angling for a negative split on the 200 breast. Another 30-45 seconds rest, and I was off again. I finished up with, again, no time to rest. This time I dropped myself to the back of the queue. I really wanted to know my 200 IM time, so I aimed for a reasonable effort. With breast in the second half, it's hard to negative split, so I didn't worry about it too much. I finished up in 3:35 or so.

Next, we did 8x25, alt free kick with the water at chin level, alt fly kick on side, on 1:00. The time allowed was a lot, but the free kick drill was nearly impossible. I found it really hard on the ankles, and really exhausting. Fly kick was very easy and restful in comparison.

Our last set was a killer.

4x200 on 4:30 alt:
-odd: 200 continuous, at the start of every 50 do 10 pulls, heads-up, water between nose and chin, as fast as possible out of the breakout, then easy. Efficiency not required.
-even: 50 fr easy, rest 10 seconds. 50 free pulling hands down to thighs, rest 10 seconds. (so far, easy). 4x25 sprint, with 5 seconds rest between.

The odd repetitions sound easy, but really, the 10 pulls were lung busters. Sure you could go easy afterwars, but you needed to, to save up for the next one. The first half of the even set sounds pretty easy. The catch is that 10 seconds isn't really much rest. Ergo, the 5 seconds between sprints is really not much rest. In fact, it's almost none at all. The first time though, I maybe recovered a bit, but the second time through, there was no recovery; only gasping and dreading the next start.

The first time through the set, I took the challenge on valiantly. On the 4th 200, 10 metres into the first sprint, I thought something like "I'm falling apart". It was the last thing I would think for several long minutes. After that, I might have said something like "my form fell apart", or "my arms felt like lead", but truthfully, there just wasn't enough oxygen getting to my brain to form opinions like that. I didn't want to start the next 25 on time. I didn't want to start it at all. It's possible that I took too long on all the rests, because I just couldn't get my body to start again. I tried keeping my head up (my major technique/form problem at the moment), but with my brain not working, I was reduced to thrashing about, gasping for breath, and pulling madly on the water, hoping it would all end soon.

I hate doing weights, but I'd imagine that my arms feel like they would if I had lifted this morning. My arms feel like I shouldn't be able to lift them over my shoulders.

Two bad thoughts arise. One is that my form fell apart at the end. This is bad. I need to keep my swimming efficient, no matter how hard I'm working or how fatigued I am, or my race will fall apart. Swimming takes more than just strength and effort to succeed. Secondly, I have never, ever pushed myself this hard while running. Not in training, anyways. Not even close. I'm looking forward to starting speed work at the track once the snow melts, but I'm thinking that I shouldn't be. If I can drive myself THIS hard come spring in my running, good things should happen. It won't, however, be anything to look forward to.

Diving In

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The pool was open this morning. We ended up being given Tuesday's planned swim, which focused on dive starts, breakouts (the move off the wall), and finishing (the move to the wall).

My dive starts are pretty bad, but I wasn't alone in this. The work we did today definitely improved my dives. It's going to take some work to look competent, though.

The highlight was a 50 times heat off a dive start. I ended up in an outside lane beside R, who is pretty quick. I considered doing 50 fly, but decided I needed to focus on keeping my free fast. Off the dive R was in my line of sight, and was staying close. I tried to pull hard and turn over quickly, but I had a feeling I was keeping my shoulders too square. Also, I had to keep something back for the final 25. I tried to power off the wall on the turn, usually my strength. When I came up, I could see R a bit behind me. I put my head down (figuratively, hopefully not literally) and pulled hard all the way home. I finished up in 35.2, which I was quite happy with. I beats my previous best of 38.00, and also reestablished my 50m PB (which had previous been set in fly).

I also chatted with the coach after practice about the upcoming meet. He encouraged me to sign up for the 50 breast, in addition to the 200 IM and 100 free that I want to do. He also encouraged me to do a relay, which I'll have to look into.

After the swim, I signed up for the meet. So, it's official. I have a race in my future once again.

Last Swim of the Year

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Ok, that may be a bit of a misnomer. There are swim sessions next week, on a reduced schedule. Still, this was my last regular session swim of the year.

Between masters swimming and triathlon, my mileage this year looks like this:

Not too shabby.

I was expecting a tough swim today, and that's what I got. Our warmup was 1000m, 500 of which was kicking. We then did 900m of drills and swims.

Our main set looked like this:

4x50 fly on 1:30
4x50 back on 1:20
4x50 breast on 1:10
4x50 freestyle on 1:00

The "on X:XX" means that you start every X:XX - the faster you swim, the more rest you get. The slower you swim, the less rest you get. Notice how the rests get shorter as you move through the set?

The idea of the set is to simulate how a 200m Individual Medly (I.M.) would feel. As you move through the four strokes, in that order, you do get more tired. I certainly felt it on Tuesday, when I did a timed 100m IM.

There were a lot of complaints about the fly. At the start of the season, I found 50m of fly to be pretty tough. I'm getting a bit stronger at it, or maybe just better at pacing myself. I found the first three to be very doable. I felt like I was falling apart in the last half of the final 50, but that's not bad.

The rest was surprisingly easy. I didn't go all out on any of the strokes (except maybe the final 50 of the free. My back and breast both came in around 55 seconds apiece (breast maybe slightly faster, maybe not). My freestyles were done in 45 seconds, except the last which was ~43 seconds. Not outstanding, but in a limited rest set, not bad at all.

I don't know if I'll swim or not next week. I might give myself a week off of it, who knows? I'll be running in any case, so it's not like I'll fall apart.

Hopefully, I'll be so busy with awesome family and friends stuff that the opportunity won't even come up. ;)

Merry Christmas, everyone.


I.M. Trial

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I expected a pretty tough week swimming this week. This is our last week before the Christmas break, and after the break we'll likely be ramping up for the club meet in February.

Today we started off with more backstroke work, then we built up to a timed swim. The buildup involved 250m kicking, and 250m of alternating fly and breaststroke. All that got the heartrate elevated.

The timed swim was either a 50 or 100 choice, with a dive start. At first, I was thinking that I might try a 50m butterfly. I raced the distance at the meet last year, and I was curious if I was any faster this year, albeit in a different sized pool. In the heat before me, though, two guys opted for 100m of I.M. (individual medley). Since I'm aiming to swim the 200 IM at the meet, trying a shorter IM today made a lot of sense.

I usually get pretty nervous up on the starting blocks. My dive starts aren't great, plus it always feels like you're on display. At "Go", I dove in, gave a couple of good dolphin kicks, and started my butterfly. I was trying to go hard, but not all out. Butterfly is so demanding, though, that going anything other than full out in it is pretty tough.

I turned onto my side at the end of the pool, and pushed off hard. Backstroke is traditionally my weakest stroke. I tried to give a kick underwater. I came up around the flags, and started pulling. I wasn't kicking too much, because my backstroke kick is pretty bad. This may work out ok, though, as I need to save my legs at this point. I focused on pulling hard on the water, and on rolling my body with each pull. When I passed under the flags, I counted 1--2--3-- and looked for the wall.

I pushed off strong and deep, and did the lungbusting breastroke breakout. It's only one pull followed by a kick, but it's a long time underwater. I came up doing breastroke, kicking very hard, and trying to glide in a streamlined position, head squeezed between my arms. I couldn't see anyone in the other lanes (my lanemates were doing 100 free, I think). I figured to be behind at this point, but I tried to go fast - never an easy propostion in breastroke.

One of the tough things about IM is that the muscle groups keep changing. Breast is very hard on the legs, and halfway down the pool I couldn't even imagine doing 25 free sprint coming home. Still, as much as my legs were burning and the big muscles were using up all my oxygen, I know I need a very fast freestyle to round out my IM. Coming off the wall, I surfaced quickly, and tried to really pick up my cadence.

I have a bad habit of keeping my head down while I swim free. I tried to look up, a little bit, while still keeping a quick turnover. I could tell right away by feel that I didn't have a full sprint in me. I breathed every 4th pull the whole way home, letting my lungs burn as I buried my head (bad habit!) and went for it.

Apparently, I finished in 1:24.4.

I can't be anything but exstatic with the swim. I.M. should be a bit slower than freestyle for me - my fly might be faster, on a good day, but back and breast are much slower. I'm not really a well-rounded swimmer who works on all four strokes yet. I'm still working much more on freestyle than anything else. The dive start helps save a second or two, but this was still one of the fastest swims, period, I've ever done.

The focus come the new year will be stretching out my effort to encompass racing at double the distance.

Progress!

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Back in October, I stated that one of my goals for this swim season was to break 1:20 in the 100m freestyle. Last season, my goal was sub-1:30, which I managed at the Winterlude meet. Since then, I've gone under 1:30 a few more times, including one swim around 1:25. Still, the faster you go, the harder the seconds are to shed.

After the timed 400m on Tuesday, we were told we'd be doing a timed 100m today. I was looking forward to it, as it would be an excellent gauge of how far I've come this year. So far, the workouts have mostly been about stroke improvement. We really haven't done a lot of speed work yet. That said, I needed some technical work, and I think my freestyle is more technically sound than it was last year.

In the warmup, I focused on getting a good quick catch, and on pulling right away rather than lazily gliding for a second or so first. It felt fast. It seemed fast. I felt good.

The first set involved 4x50 free, 4x50 back and 4x50 fly, descending. I focused on both catch and kick during the free, trying to stay within myself. Back was a writeoff. I worked hard on fly, getting down to 40 seconds, but I paid the price for it.

After an easy 100m, we were out of the water, and waiting our turns for the 100m free. I needed the wait, as I'd probably gone a little too hard on my last 50 fly.

When my turn finally came up, I was paired with the fastest guy in the pool. So much for being able to pull myself up to someone just in front of me. I did a dive start, tried to be a bit conservative the first half, but by 25m the guy was way in front of me. I was on my own.

I tried to focus on the feeling I'd had in warmup, but somehow everything is more urgent when it's for real. My kick was quick, and probably not very good. I breathed every third stroke. I tried to keep my cadence quick and my catch strong at the start of the pull. My turns lacked their usual strong push, as I was quickly finding myself rather winded.

Inside my last 25, I tried to breathe every 5th pull, really hammering on the front half of my pull, and keeping my turnover quick. My lungs screamed for air, but I was able to deny them all the way to the wall.

After I finished, I felt pretty beat, which was a good sign. I'd put in a good effort, but had I held my swim together? How fast had I been?

1:21.0

Obviously, I was pretty happy with this. With no string to tie to someone in front of me, with no frame of reference, I'd managed to take several seconds off my old PB. I was also, already, most of the way to my seasonal goal. Thinking about it, I started getting excited about the Winterlude meet in February.

The coach mentioned that we would start doing speed work in December (which starts tomorrow!). He figured that, if I chose to focus on freestyle, I would probably see further improvements in my time.

Needless to say, I'm pretty excited and happy. As with any kind of a race, even an unofficial one like this, I'm also motivated. If all the work I've done is helping that much, I can't wait to work even harder!

How NOT to Swim a Timed 400

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As a reprieve from backstroke work, we did a timed 400m swim today. The buildup involved 5x100 free, aiming to descend to and hold your 400m pace. Next (after a short rest) came the 400m timed swim, where hopefully we would continue with our established pace.

I had swam my 100s fairly conservatively, aware that my 400 times aren't really all that fast. I figured I might be able to do it in 6:40, which requires 1:40/100m.

Off the start, I tried to recapture the feeling of the pace from my 100s. It wasn't quite as easy as I'd hoped. As I was settling in on what might have been my second home turn, I took a peak at the clock. It showed +x:10 seconds. Surely I hadn't just done 100m in 2:10?

Of course, I hadn't been counting laps.

Longer swims can be like that. It's hard to stay mentally focused on counting laps. I usually struggle at the start, where it's always "a long way to go". As if that makes knowing how far less important!

At first, I decided I was at 150m, and that was fine. As I mulled it over, though, I wasn't concentrating on my pace, or on counting laps. I looked at the clock on my open turns, but it wasn't giving away any secrets.

I ended up deciding that, since I wasn't leading anyways, I'd swim until the other lanes were done. Whlie this was an excellent plan, and helped greatly in actually swimming the right distance, it made pacing a real problem. I ended up going too hard on the second last 50, thinking it was the last. I then had to find another gear for the last 50.

In the end, I took 13 seconds off my previous timed 400, and swam very close to an even split. I can't be happy with it, though, because there were some basic things that I flubbed rather badly.

Tested

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I hit the pool this morning, determined to try the full workout, at full speed. Obviously, I would have to adjust my level of effort as I went along, if I started coughing again.

The warmup was pretty easy. 600 metres of freestyle and drills. Then we did 100m breastroke drills, which involved a lot of explaining and demonstrating from the coach. (Catch breath here.)

Then came the main set.

4x100m free on 2:05
1 minute rest
4x100m I.M. on 2:15
1 minute rest
8x100 free on 1:55

It's basically a long interval set. Your rest time between intervals depends on how fast you went. Like track intervals, the idea is you go faster than you usually do, and teach your body to get by on less rest that it would like.

Basically, this was going to be a real test of how I was feeling.

The first 4 100 free were fairly comfortable. The lane was polishing the distance off in 1:30 to 1:40, so we had lots of rest between sets. The IM set was less comfortable, mostly because IM is tougher than freestyle. I seemed to be holding a consistent 1:45 pace (I blame backstroke), leaving me with ~30 seconds rest between sets.

All that got done with very little, if any, coughing. How about that!

I started out very slowly on the 8x100 free - slower even than for the first set. The idea was to pace myself across all 8 - sure, I'd have less rest each time, but I'd have less that urgently needed to be recovered from. I basically broke the set up into 3 parts - 1-3, 4-6, and 7-8. (From a certain perspective, these sets can be seen as roughly equal in size - the last two are a lot tougher than the first two!) The first three were relaxed/slow. The second three, I tried to work a little harder, but figured I wasn't going any faster than the first 3. For the last two, I opened up a bit, and really worked. Number 7 was done in 1:35, and the last one was done in 1:30.

Which is awesome.

I coughed a bit through the set, but it never quite got the best of me. The combination of my increased speed (I only broke 1:30 for the first time back in February - now I seem to be able to do it at will, even at the end of a long set) and improved health made for an awesome swim.

Now if only my arms and chest didn't ache so much.

A Lot Tougher

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"It's going to get a lot tougher."

I heard these words last week, during the impossible butterfly set, from the coach. The one that stole all the oxygen from my body, even though I failed at it.

I can't say that I was surprised. The competetive season is probably in February and March. No matter how tough workouts get now, we're still laying a base for what's to come.

As bad as last week was, today was tougher.

I ended doing about 1000m warmup, with a fairly large variety of strokes and kicks. The coach pulled me aside towards the end, and gave me some technique stuff to try. Basically, he's been trying to get me to correct a problem with the finish on my freestyle pull for weeks now, but despite the fact that my mind wants to learn what he's teaching, I'm proving to be a stubborn student. Today's lesson was instructive, because what he had me do felt wrong, but was apparently very right.

Now, to try to catch and hold that feeling. The trick may be to try to hold it when I'm dead tired, or sprinting, or whatever.

Anyways, back to the set. I missed a 50 free sprint while I was working with him, for which we were supposed to remember our time.

Our first tough set was 600m, with a full 5 minutes of rest in it. Sounds easy, right?

25 fly
50 free
15s rest
50 fly
25 free
60s rest

We did this 4 times. The first and third times though, the fly was fast and the free was easy. The other times, the free was fast (the 50m matching our previous time!!) and the fly was ez.

This is where me not being able to figure out how to not go hard on fly would be a drawback.

We were promised we would need the minute rest. Um, no kidding. It started at 60 seconds of huffing and puffing, and restarting a bit winded still, and went downhill from there. I didn't even give a thought to looking at my free sprint times. By the last iteration, the only part of my stroke that counted as sprinting was my head rushing to the surface for more oxygen.

Bear in mind that, while I'm doing all of this, I'm trying to remember to focus on the technique hints I'd just been given.

After an easy 200m free to rest up, we got another tough set.

6x50 m free, holding the time remembered above.

The pace times are as follows:
50 seconds
50
55
55
55
55

I figured that my time should probably be something like 45 seconds. That meant that, IF I held that time (not likely), I'd begetting 5, 5, 10, 10, and 10 seconds rest. If I slowed down, I'd be getting a whole lot less.

I think my times were something like:
43 seconds
45
48
50
50
43

Again, I'm supposed to be focusing on my technique improvement.

This set wasn't so bad, although you'll notice that I didn't hold 45 seconds. It wasn't that good, either.

I've been a runner for a few years now, and I've never worked as hard as I am working now, in my coached swims. I always figured that I was a pretty motivated guy, but I'm starting to see how being coached can take you out of your comfort zone.

It's a good thing.

Bike Dreams

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It's amazing what our subconscious will do. One casual conversation, in which the fact that I will never bike to work in winter gets mentioned, and I spend the last hour before my alarm goes off dreaming that I'm buying a commuter bike. In October. No, it couldn't be that I just like thinking about owning a second bike....

(I'll readily admit that I do miss cycling. Next fall, I think I'll buy some cold weather cycling gear, and try to ride further into the fall than Labour day.)

I had to leave the pool a little early today, but I still got over 2500 metres in. I didn't feel terribly fast, and it certainly did not feel like an endurance set, but I was on pace for over 3000 metres when I left. Strange.

Of course, given that it's October, and I'm still trying to focus on technique improvements, the fact that I'm polishing off such long swims with ease is pretty amazing. I have a feeling that by the time January rolls around I'm gonig to be polishing off some prety amazing swims.

Float Like a Butterfly

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Yesterday, over thanksgiving dinner (number 3!, but who's counting?), a friend of mine who swims on Mondays told me that the coach had given them a lot of fly. So I wasn't completely surprised, I guess, when we had a lot of butterfly work today.

Butterfly, or fly, is probably the toughest of the competetive strokes to learn. I'm approaching bare minimum competency at it, but it took me well over a year to get that far. Fly evolved out of breaststroke. It has some of the same basic body movements, but is generally much faster.

One of those components is that both strokes share the same "head up, head down" movement for breathing. This means that breathing at any given moment is much harder than for backstroke or even freestyle. (Trust me on this one - I've tried breathing before my head was fully up out of the water - not fun!) Fly also features a huge power surge, even moreso than breast stroke, which can really make the lungs burn.

I'm at the point now where I can do 25m of fly continuously, but 50m is a challenge; doable, but tiring. Part of the problem, I guess, is that I only seem to have one speed for butterfly - all out. The stroke just doesn't seem to be designed for energy conservation.

Anyways, the set featured some of everything - fly kick, one-arm fly, and fly swimming. Whenever the drills isolated one part of my technique, they showed that I have a LOT to learn.

The main set today was only 150m long, but was just brutal. It went like this:
- 25m fly, breathing every 2nd stroke. Rest 10 seconds
- 25m fly, breathing every 3rd stroke. Rest 10 seconds
- 50m fly, breathing every 2nd stroke. Rest 10 seconds
- 50m fly, breathing every 3rd stroke.

Well, I tried. And I failed.

By the end of the first 50, I was beat. Really, really beat, and gasping for breath. I started out again after 10 seconds because hey, that's what training is all about. Almost immediately, though, I found that I couldn't breathe every third stroke anymore. I tried, but after 2, I needed air. Over the whole 50m, I maybe breathed every 3rd stroke 2 or 3 times. Each time was a struggle.

Come February, if I do the 200 I.M. like I'm planning, the race will start with 50m butterfly. When I'm done, I'll still have 150m to go.

Clearly, there's a lot of work ahead of me.

Flexibility

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This morning's practice seemed like the first one of the year to include all four strokes. By some coincidence, we also had to write down our goals for the year. Ergo, I actually commited to doing a 200 IM at Winterlude.

Eek!

I also wrote that I'd like to get down to 1:20 for the 100 free. A little while ago, that would have seemed ambitious, but it might just be within reach this year. Who knows?

As it turned out, we even did a 200 IM today. By the end of last season, I was getting comfortable with 100 IMs (which you can't do in a 50m pool). 200 IM is SO much tougher. Basically, recovering from 50 fly off the start is MUCH harder than recovering from 25 fly off the start.

My work is cut out for me.

The main pointer I got today was that I need more vertical flexibility in my flutter and dolphin kicks. This isn't a big surprise - I hear this all the time. Physically, this might be the most difficult part of swimming for me. My ankles are very flexible - horizontally. I can point both feet out to opposite sides, no problem. Having watched overhead video of Leisel Jones, I can probably say that this helps a great deal with my breaststroke. Vertical flexibility, though, is something I just don't have.

Yet.

It's not really realistic to think that I'm going to be able to pull myself to a strong 200 IM. I'm going to need a good kick. That my ankles are the weakest part of my stroke just means that I need to work harder on them than on anything else over the next few weeks.

Constant Striving

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Ugh. Getting up at 5 this morning was tough.

I crawled my way (pun intended) though the 500m warmup. Then we did some fly work, and my crawl turned into a sputter.

Then, we had a short demo. A coach from one of the other sessions, who was swimming in our group, did a demo on open turns. He showed off the basics of the open turn for each of the four strokes, with coach M providing analysis. Watching him turn and swim was instructive. It's always good to take a moment and just watch someone who really knows how to swim. The high body position, the powerful kick, the long smooth pull, the efficiency of it all, remind me of where I should be going. All of this I sort of know, in one sense, but seeing it all laid out in front of me helps keep things in perspective.

It's part of life, I guess, that doing something well requires constant effort and constant learning. There's something lazy in all of us that makes us backslide if we're not working directly and specifically towards a goal. Certainly, I know certain things I should be doing in my freestyle, but when faced with a 200m or 400m set, laziness can set in so easily. If it's all about getting through the distance, and not about focusing on technique, then I probably do more harm than good.

Such was probably true in my warmup. I thought about my freestyle kick a bit, but mostly I was in survival mode. After the demo, we did a 200 free, and I was torn between feeling weak/tired/exhausted, and wanting to focus on a long, powerful, smooth pull. And actually kicking.

So I finished the 200 breathless and out of sorts. While I'm trying to catch my breath, the coach explains that his clipboard disappeared 2 weeks ago, and he lost all our timed 200m times. So we have to redo them. Now.

This is SO not a good time.

Fortunately, I'm in the second (slow) heat. So I haul myself out of the pool, and spend about 4 minutes trying to get my breathing and heartrate under control.

Suddenly, I'm back in the cold water, and we're off.

My lanemate, who is swimming beside me, immediately pulls slightly ahead of me and stays there. Oh, great. If she dropped me, that would be fine. If she was slightly behind me, I'd probably just feel like trying to hold pace. But suddenly, it's a race, and I'm losing. Pull, kick! Pull! Kick! It doesn't help that she's doing open turns, and gaining ground on me on each turn. My open turns are okay, and my pushoff is usually strong enough to gain ground on anyone else doing open turns. In this case, however....

Rather than feeling strong the first 50, and trying to hold power through 150-175 for a sprint, I feel like I'm hanging on the whole way. I feel slow. I'm fighting, but the power just isn't in my arms.

My time ended up surprising me - 3:08.1. Looking up my time from 2 weeks ago, I did 3:10 on September 21st (though, if I recall correctly, I thought I was a second or two faster than that). So, while it felt pretty awful, it really wasn't.

None of which helped me feel any stronger over the rest of the swim. Somehow, I was just getting my butt kicked today, no matter what we did.

Which isn't bad, per se. In fact, it's probably the sign of a good workout. Won't stop me from complaining, though. :)

Freestyle Technique

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Thursday's swim was focused on flutter kicks. Today's drills focused on freestyle pull, especially the entry of the hand into the water, and the finish of the pull.

I'm much stronger on pull than on kick, but there's still lot of room for improvement in my technique there, too. My biggest problem is that I tend to end my pull behind me, rather than straight back. Interestingly, in fly, my pull comes out in the right spot.

We also did a timed 50 free, from a dive start. I can't remember the last time I did one, so I had no idea what my time should be. I thought I'd probably come pretty close to 40 before, so figured to come in somewhere around there. I ended up not breathing for my last 7 strokes, and coming it at 38 flat. Hopefully I can improve on that as the season rolls on.

New Year, New Coach

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Tuesday was the first day of school, so today was really the representative day at swimming. There were more people there than on Tuesday, and more organization and orientation for the coaches to take care of.

One thing that jumped out right away was the population disparity between the two halves of the pool. The new people are generally assigned to coach M in the slow half of the pool. The rare newcomer who is an experienced, strong swimmer goes to coach B.

The coaches talk to each other all the time, and today was no exception. For some reason, though, I was convinced that they were trying to even out the populations. Maybe it was just intuition, or maybe it was seeing coach B standing right at the end of our lane during one of the sets. Sure, the two coaches talked to each other, but they always talk to each other (everyone else is too out of breath to talk, and hangs around at ankle level anyways!)

At the end of the session, 3 or 4 of us were asked if we would move over to work with coach B. I agreed to, but it was kind of sad. Coach M taught me a lot last year, and really helped me improve my technique. That said, I know that coach B will be tough and demanding, and that having lots of fast feet on that side of the pool to chase is going to make me a better swimmer (eventually).

I've run with both fast and slow people, and enjoyed both experiences, but there was no denying that running with faster people is better preparation for racing. Mentally, I thrive in an environment where I'm being challenged. I'm sure with a new set of eyes watching over me, my technique is going to be run through the ringer over the next month or two. So be it.

Preseason Benchmark

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I almost didn't get up for swimming this morning. One of those mornings....

I was one of the first in the pool, and just started ticking off the sets, one after the other. I wasn't really rushing, I think, but I was in a bit of a businesslike mood. 1000m warmup just flew by.

The first part of the main set was 400m easy, alt 50 free, 50 choice, focus on technique. I chose fly, because I figured going easy might help me work on my kick timing/technique, which is awful. I ended up talking to the coach about this after, maybe because chosing fly for a long choice set is pretty "out there". She gave me some desk exercises to work on my ankle flexibility, with the goal of improving the power of my dolphin and flutter kick.

Next came 300 choice kick. As my lanemate R said, there really is no choice. 300 breast kick it is. I tried to focus on keeping the knees together, getting a good back swing, and bringing the feet together. We were only supposed to go 70% effort, so I glided more than maybe is totally proper. Still, whip kick is somewhat anaerobic, and high turnover for 300m would be nasty.

Next came a 200 IM. Since I'm thinking of racing 200 IM next February at the club meet, I decided to time myself. The backstroke work we'd done in warmup helped me through my weakest stroke, and I felt pretty fast throughout. I ran into a bit of traffic, but finished in 3:35. Since my 200m free PB is around 3:20 (I think), I was pretty happy. Obviously, I'll be looking to improve that when the fall session starts in September.

45 seconds of rest later, I had to do 100 free, at 90% effort. Well, ok, maybe 98. Or 99. I wanted to see how fast I was. I stayed under control the whole way, and my :45 second split on 50m told me that I was in good shape. I tried to switch to breathing every 5 in the last 25, but that just wasn't happening. I ended up around 1:30, which is within seconds of my PB. Very encouraging.

After a full 2 minutes (enforced by coach) break, we did 5x100 on 1:55. I haven't done a lot of pace time work lately, so this was arguably tougher than the previous two sets. I did it, but with more huffing and puffing than if I'd been in mid-season form.

The workout ended up at 3100m, which I'm pretty sure is a record for me. It actually felt pretty easy. I remember my first 3000m swim totally destroying me. Something in my training must be working.

Thursday = Hurtsday

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It was nice to be back in the pool in the morning yesterday. It was nice to have some of my old lanemates back. It was also nice to exorcise my swimming demons by having a comfortable, maybe even strong swim, in familiar surroundings.

What wasn't so nice was the "1000m broken freestyle" main set. (The "broken" part was that we got maybe 1 minute rest over the 1000m, which included 200m of pull.)

One lanemate mentioned that it was going to hurt swimming today, as he'd never swum two days in a row before. For that matter, nor had I.

For some reason, summer swimming is now 3 days a week - Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. I'm not sure that I'll be attending all three days, but since I missed Monday (and struggled on Sunday), some extra work was in order.

Well, it happened. And yes, today hurt. Our new coach laid out a nice 3000m workout for us. *faints dead away*

The swim started with another 800m warmup. My arms were still sore from yesterday, but I tried to get through it with as few breaks as possible. After a 400m drill/kick set that is best forgotten, we were on to our main set.

3x400, 60s rest between, pick 3 of:

A. Free
B. Free pull
C. IM (yeah right!)
D. kick (yeah right!!!)
E. alt 50 free/50 not

I went for B, E, A.

The pull reminded me very quickly how little arm strength I had left in me, after yesterday. The free/breast was a nice way to break it up, and made counting the laps very easy (nobody in our lane claims to be good at counting, most sets end with "was that it?" or "did we do too much?")
For the free set, I tried to pace myself. My lanemate was right on my heels, and it wasn't until after 300m that I started to gain time on him. I'd been afraid that I'd been slowing him down, but in the end, maybe my pace was just right.

After that, we did some breast technique work, and a few more drills.

To show how rough the workout was, I took an Advil when I got home. I seldom take Advil/Tylenol (unless under doctor's orders).

On the bright side, it looks like I'll be getting some excellent workouts in the pool this summer!

Swimming on Empty

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What a day. Yesterday, we moved furniture all day. Plus, I did not get to bed early. Thus, it was hardly suprising that it was 7:30 before I could drag myself out of bed this morning.

Between work and chores, there just was not time for dinner before swimming. At 8:30, I sat down with a few chips and some salsa and a big glass of water, and watched the world cup. At 9:00, I was out the door.

The warmup was 600 metres. I remember thinking "Ugh, and I have to do 1000m on Sunday?" The next set was 800m by 200s, which I chose to do all free.

The final set, which the coach called triathlon prep, was 700m, all free. We did 300m with a weak, 2-beat kick, then rested a minute. Next we did 300m more, this time kicking hard for the first 2-3 strokes off the wall, before falling back to a weak 2 beat kick. The last 100m was all out kick. The whole set was built the way you might build a triathlon swim.

So now, it's 11pm, and I'm finally sitting down to dinner. Bon appetit!

8 or 9?

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After Tuesday's "bit of everything" swim, Thursday was all about distance. (Yes!)

We opened with a 4x200 mix. 200 swim on 4:00, no problem. 2x(25 scull, 75 pull) on 4:30? Well, apparently, I don't scull as fast as I should. 200 kick on 6:00? Would 7:00 do? Then another 200 swim to round things off.

The next set was a tough timed set - 4x(100m on 2:05, then 50m on :55). I went out way too hard on the first 100m (as I often do). The 50m sets were the tough parts. I think I finished them all in :45, but that only left 10 seconds before I had to swim 100m. Yuck. So the 100s became progressivly easier, as I tried to rest.

At this point, we were halfway through the practice. 1400m - not yet halfway to 3k. Yes, I was thinking about it!

The next set was 2x (200m pull on 3:50, 200m swim on 4:00). Now this was right up my alley. The coach made a note about not doing catchup, and to be sure to start the pull as soon as the hand entered the water. Since I figured I was one of the guilty parties (I like to glide, especially when I fatigue), I made a mental note to try to keep my turnover quick, to prevent me from doing "catchup". Both pull sets felt fantastic, and I consistently got ~20+ seconds rest between the sets.

With just under 20 mintues left, we were given our final set: 10x100m on 2:00, with a goal time of 1:40. The goal time was impossible. The whole set was really tough. The coach offered to count for us. Off we went.

My first 100 was strong and smooth, and came in around 1:38. That wouldn't last, and I knew it. My next couple of sets were around 1:42. I knew I would tire before much longer, but I really wanted to hold on for as long as I could. I started playing with 1:45, making it occasionally, going a bit faster occasionally. I wasn't really counting, but thought I knew how many I'd done. Once the fatigue set in, 50 second 50s were awfully difficult to pull off. I kept plugging away, knowing I had a shot at going over 3k.

I have to say that the 15-20 seconds I was getting between sets were VERY little help. I gasped for air like a dying man. I never came close to catching my breath before the next set started.

when I finished what I was pretty sure was my 9th 100, we were stopped. I looked at the clock, and we had run just past the end of the session. The coach had been convinced by some people that we had only done 8, but my ego felt that we'd done 9. My lanemate who'd done the best job keeping up the pace times agreed.

So, I either swam 3000 or 3100m today. I'm really not sure which. I know which one I'm logging, though.

EDIT: I should point out that my left knee was still pretty sore and stiff this morning. It's funny though, the further I went in the pool, the less it bothered me. Was it the miracle curative powers of water? Or maybe it was the miracle curative powers of chlorine? Or maybe I just got too tired to notice?

No, I suspect that all the turns and kicks represented a low-impact stretching exercise. I can only hope that the effects are permenant.

Girls and Boys

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Our warmup at the pool this morning was 15 minutes of "choice". I opted to see how far I could swim, freestyle, in 15 minutes. I got to 700m before the coach stopped us. Maybe it was 750m - I lost track somewhere in the 300s.

The main set was circuit training. 6 minutes at a station, 1 minute (sometimes, generously, 90 seconds) to transition. Here are the stations I did:

- 300m free, continuous. Fairly easy, considering what I'd just done
- 8x12.5m streamline. This involved pushing off, and staying underwater from one side of the dive tank to the other. This was a lungbuster.
- 4x50 fly. Ok, it was supposed to mix fly and breast, but I'm not doing breast right now.
- 12x 15 second vertical scull, 15 second rest. Ugh.
- 6x25 kick (2 fr, 2 bk, 2 fly). Double Ugh
- 12x 15 second vertical kick, 15 second rest. I heard one of the ladies I was doing the rotation comment "This is so much easier than sculling." Just then, chlorinated water filled my lungs, and I went under, never to be seen again.
- 6x50 pull, build, on 1:00. I have to admit, hearing one of the women grouse "Might as well have been 300 nonstop" felt VERY good. Yes, I got at least 10 seconds rest after each pull. Yes, I was the only one who did.

Which just goes to show. Women are better at kicks. Men are better at pull. I don't know why, but there you have it.

Gauntlet

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I guess the gauntlet was thrown down on Tuesday. The swim coach mentioned that she wanted us doing 3000 metres every practice. Somehow, I can't shy away from a challenge like that. So, this morning, I walked into the pool prepared for big mileage.

3000m in 1:15 amounts to 1km every 25 minutes. Our opening set was 400/300/200/100. I don't remember the details, but it was mostly free, with a bit of variety to give the muscles a break.

Since provincials were last weekend, the fast side of the pool was nearly empty. Rather than the two coaches splitting the lanes 4 and 4, our coach was offered 6 lanes. So, after the first thousand, I was in a lane with R. R is pretty much as fast as I am, and will likely be faster sooner or later. The lane arrangement was welcome - R would push me, and we'd have the lane to ourselves.

The second set was 100/200/300/400. I'd taken it easy for the first 100, but it was occurring to me that I needed to start motoring. I tried to cut my breaks a bit short, and forged ahead whenever I could. The 200 was 4x50 kick, I think, which was tough, but the 300 was pull, which was very, very welcome. The 400 was 2x(50 not, 150 free). I just could not think of what I wanted to do as not free. I ended up doing a wimpy breast for the first 50 (some knee pain, so my kicks were, um, lazy) and back for the second 50. Up until that point, most of the optional stuff had been fly, but I was too tired for fly.

I got finished in right around 50 minutes for the 2000m; on pace, but barely.

Our next set was 5x50m on :55, either pull or swim. I opted for pull - no contest. I really focused on a strong, steady pull. The next set was 3x100m descent on 1:55. I went WAY too hard on the first 100, and came in in 1:35. And that was supposed to be my slow 100. The next one went off in 1:40. The last one was 1:35 again, and I paid the price for it.

The last set was 3x150, 30 seconds rest in between. It was either 50 fast/100 easy or 100 easy/50 fast, our choice. I chose to go hard at the end, as it seems, mentally, the easier choice. Shockingly, I dropped R on the first 150. He'd been right on my the whole way, pushing me. He's just getting over a marathon, though, so maybe he hit his limit. The second 150, the gap stayed the same, perhaps narrowing. Knowing that the last 150 would give me 3k, I enjoyed the easy 100, and really pushed on the 50. I'd say I finished up with about a minute to spare.

I think that, out of the 6 lanes, R and I were the only ones to finish the full 3k. I have to say, what an awesome feeling! (Except, maybe, for my shoulders.)

There's something about being issued a challenge that I just seem to respond well to.

Paying the Price

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I was very pleased with how I felt on Sunday. I didn't bonk or fade late in the long run. I was able to stay awake and active for the rest of the day. All in all, things went well.

I had a hard time getting up early on Monday morning, though. I slept in until 7, when I'd hoped to be up at 5. When our house guests left at 7:30, I found myself headed immediately to bed.

But it wasn't until this morning that I realized that I was paying a price for Sunday. I put in a fairly solid 9+ hours of sleep last night, and I was still a wreck this morning. I could barely function. This did not bode well for swimming.

Our opening set was 2x 5x50, with various drills and such. The first time through I did freestyle, and the second I attempted fly. The free was ok, the fly was yuck. I took lots of breaks, though, on the fly. We then did some build work, followed by some drills.

The main set was 10x100 free on 1:55. I'm pretty sure we did something like this last month, and I breezed through it. That certainly wasn't the case this morning. My first 100 was done in 1:35, but I slowed down almost right away. My arms felt like lead, and I just wasn't transferring any power to the water. I started swimming a whole lot of 1:45s, which would have been ok 6 months ago, but based on last month felt kinda slow. On the 8th set, I barely pulled out a 1:50. Knowing I was close, I pushed hard to try to finish strongly, but all I could manage was 2 more 1:45s.

More important than my times was how I was feeling. No power.

Our next set mixed in a bit of non-free in a mostly free set. Somewhere in the first set (250m free, 50 fly), I rediscovered some form. I was able to get a good catch at the top of the stroke, and had a nice, solid (not fast) pull, combined with better body rotation. I was probably a bit stiff and my form might have been exaggerated, but I opened up small gaps on my lanemates, so something was going better. It felt better, anyways. I struggled to hold that form for the rest of the session.

Since swimming, I've felt like it was Thursday; meaning I've been eating nonstop. I have a feeling that my energy levels may oscillate a bit this week, but I'm determined to ride the waves. The marathon is coming up fast, and my resolve continues to firm up. I'm running it, one way or another!

Unexpected Developments

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Yesterday afternoon, I was sitting at my desk when I felt my right ITB twinge. I was in an odd position at the time, so I moved, but the discomfort didn't go away. Instead, it haunted me for the rest of the day. Suddenly, I was uncomfortable walking around, and in pain going down stairs.

This development was hugely disconcerting. I'd been wondering if my ITBs would give me trouble at some point, but I had expected a more gradual onset. Instead, with basically no warning, here I was.

I'd been pondering for a few weeks whether or not I would taper for Around the Bay. I'd been thinking I wouldn't, after the fiasco with Hypothermic. Hypothermic was technically a B race, but I lost 4 weeks of training to it - 2 weeks of taper, 2 weeks of recovery/apathy. I really couldn't afford another whole month off of my marathon training.

Well, now I probably don't have much of a choice. I woke up this morning, and the first thing I felt when I moved was my ITB. It complained a couple of times during the swim, most notably during back kick sets. It's better than it was yesterday, but I'm still worried. I've definitely cancelled today's run.

Speaking of this morning's swim, with the exception of the occasional ITB discomfort, the swim was excellent. After a 700m warmup, we were essentially given 8x(25m kick, 75m swim). Half of that was done freestyle, 2 sets were backstroke, and 2 were breast or fly. We were encouraged to try fly if we wanted, and take extra breaks after every 25. I did so, using the extra rest to refocus on technique, and to make sure I wasn't so winded that I ended up thrashing. Of course, my technique is pretty awful in fly. I'm usually pretty happy to just get the right number of kicks in in the right places. Still, whatever I was doing earned some praise. Or maybe it was just that I even tried fly in the first place.

The first main set was promised to be a "real" swim set. When she wrote down that it would be 500m, my heart sank. For it to be "real" and short meant "fast", in a bad way.

20x25m on :35, descend in each group of 4.

Now, to be fair, we got longish breaks after 4 and 12, so it wasn't quite as bad as it looked. The idea was to go 25 seconds on the first in the subset, and descend down to under 20s for the last. Then you repeat the descent subset 5 times.

I'll admit, my descends were pretty uneven. Sometimes I started at 25s. Sometimes I started at 22s (oops!). I think one time, my third 25 was 30s (yikes!). Still, I was able to get most of my lasts at or under 20s, which felt good (well, felt good in an achievement sense, not in a physical sense). The two longish breaks were both extra feedback regarding wall starts, but I suspect they were inserted to be merciful.

The final set was 3x100m. She promised 1 minute rest between, then set the pace time at 2:30. (So basically, full minute rest between only if we all swam at around my race PB mark!) The idea was that we'd just swam fast with very little rest, now it was time to put it together. (We were all told we would be expected to swim 1:20, but someone asked what the coach had been smoking.)

The first 100m felt very much like the set of 25s we'd just finished. I started out smooth and strong, and quickly drove my heartrate up as I tried to keep up a torrid pace. I focused on doing quick open turns. At the 50m mark, I could hear, briefly, my coach urging me onward. I managed to finish up in something like 1:25. Amazing! Basically, I'd just beaten the PR (granted, different pool size) that I set at Winterlude.

This was one of those moments where I was so happy to have a coach. I'd struggled and struggled to get below 1:40 earlier in the year, and then one of these workouts comes along and shows me how to get it done. By no means am I a perfect or even a techinically sound swimmer, but I'm "getting" something.

I was pretty beat up after the first swim. My heartrate, I'm pretty sure, didn't come all the way down in the minute rest I had. I felt it almost right away, too - I wasn't as smooth, relaxed or strong in my stroke. I stove valiantly, but in swimming striving valiantly counts for much less that swimming sound technique. I finished up in 1:30, still very fast, but the coach pointed out right away that my form was off. All I could do was acknowledge the truth in her words.

I wanted a return to form for the third 100m, but it just wasn't there. My arms were starting to really feel it, and a consistent power transfer to the water was beyond my ability. I finished up in around 1:31-1:32, but again, I knew that it hadn't been my best stuff.

So it's kinda been a weird last 24 hours. Some pretty bad news from my knee, but suddenly my huge "out of the blue" swims at Winterlude aren't looking so startling. The masters season is going to be winding down soon, but already in the back of my mind, I'm thinking that with next year's (tentative) schedule, there may be room starting this fall to transition myself from fit hack to a swimmer with some decent, basic technique.

Coached Out of Comfort

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Our swim coach this morning reiterated that the rest of the season would be focused on endurance. What she didn't make immediately clear was that the focus would be on speed over endurance type distances.

After a 1000m warmup that was a healthy mix of everything (free, breast, fly drill, kick, scull, pull), we got our main set. I'll admit that lately, pace times don't give me a whole lot of pause. Sometimes, I'll be unhappy at how little rest the pace time gives me, but it's been a while since I looked at a pace time and knew I might not get a rest.

8x125m @ 2:20

This sounded pretty tough. It might be doable, but 8 is a large number of repeats. Plus, I don't think I've ever done 125m repeats before. So, off I went into the unknown.

My first rest break, I got a full 20 seconds. After that, it was generally 10-15 seconds. This isn't a lot of time to recover from a not so slow swim. Once or twice, I'm pretty sure I had less than 10 seconds. Towards the end, I seemed to catch a second wind, and things became easier. It probably had a lot to do with the fact that after the 6th set I knew I was going to make it. Until then, there had been doubt.

I should point out that our lane had 4 fast people today, and at least 2 couldn't finish the set. That's not a brag or a knock, just an indication of how tough the set was.

After the set (as we all stood around gasping), she put the set into perspective. We'd just done around 15:15 for the first 800m. A week or two ago, when we did the timed 30 minute swim, I swam the first 800m in something like 14:05. Do I feel like a wimp? Do I feel emboldened that I'm actually able to do that swim, more or less, without the breaks? I think I need to think about it a bit more.

We were next instructed to do 200 easy pull. As I usually do on pull, I tried to focus on a strong, smooth pull, and body roll. At the end of the set, the coach asked us admonishingly if we'd taken it "easy". I avoided the burning gaze of accusation. Still, I'd gotten something good out of the pull, and I hadn't taken it too hard.

The final set was 2x200 free. First swim, she wanted us at or under 3:20. The second swim we were to hold, or go faster.

I'm pretty sure 3:20 is my 200 free PB, by the way.

The coach pointed out that people quite often DO go faster on the second set. The problem, she explained, is that people relax on the second set. They're less worried about getting tired, and their stroke smooths itself out. We all know that the key to endurance sports is relaxation - that effortless exertion that seems so paradoxical, and is so beautiful to watch. We all also know that it's never as easy as it looks.

I set out in the first 200 trying for a relaxed, minimal kick, and trying to replicate my arm motion from my pull. I wasn't interested in having a fast turnover, but I pulled hard with each pull, and tried to keep a semblance of body rotation. 3:20 requires an average of :50 for each 50m lap. I was encouraged to see that I was keeping up that pace, and even more encouraged when I didn't start to fade in the third 50. After the last turn, I tried to pick up the cadence without "thrashing". The goal is to still pull just as much water, just as hard, but recover over the water a little quicker. I think I managed to succeed, and was rewarded by finishing up in 3:14. I found myself breathing fairly hard at the end, but not as hard as I'd expected. There was something left in the tank.

What followed was a long rest. The coach's words? "We have 10 minutes left to do 200m, so rest up!" No problem!

When the second set finally started, I focused again on the pull, and on relaxing. My first 50m was a blistering :45. Could I keep that up? How fantastic would that be? The second 50m came in in :50, though, which while disappointing was more realistic. The third 50m was done in :50 as well. Time to start pushing. After the last turn, I aimed to pick up the cadence again. This time, I felt myself thrashing almost right away, and had to back off, and try to keep my pull strong and smooth. It was clunky, but I guess doing this kind of thing under duress is what training is all about. I finsihed up in around 3:12, which was fantastic.

Afterwards, the coach talked a bit with the two ironladies in our part of the pool. The coach figures we should all be capable of sub-20 minute 1000m swims in the pool. It turns out their iron ladies' swims are all faster than that, pace-wise. The difference? Wetsuits. But what large advantage do wetsuits offer, asked the coach? Body position. Right.

The practice ended with a pretty good discusssion about mental toughness, technique, pool vs open water, and what we should all be capable of. It was nice to not be pushing for distance for the last 5 or 10 minutes, and instead to get some insight into things. It certainly didn't feel like wasted time.

30 minutes

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Unexpectedly, this morning we were all scheduled to take the 30 minute challenge. I did it last year, and managed to swim 1500 metres in that time. This year, the stakes were a tiny bit higher.

First of all, there would be no stopping this year. Secondly, the coach wanted timed 200m, 400m, 800m, and if possible 1500m intervals for us. So, rather than swim conservatively, trying to measure ourselves over the full half an hour, we were supposed to go fairly hard up front, and keep on going.

Wheeeeee!

We started with a self-directed warmup. I did 4 sets of 100 free + 50 breast. After a short break, I did 250m freestyle. We rested for a few minutes, then we were off.

There were four of us in our lane, and I was suprised to find myself lapping people after 200 metres. That wouldn't last, though. I felt pretty strong at 400m (and was clocked at 6:46), but around 600m I felt myself weakening a bit. I tried to stay strong until the 800m mark (though, of course, I'd lost track long before that). Eventually, I settled into survival mode, and just tried to keep moving. I started noticing my 50m splits when I turned. I saw one or two that looked like 60s splits, so I got motivated to pick things up a bit. After 800m, I went through a long spell when I didn't pass anyone. It was nice, but I also realized that it meant that I'd slowed down. It motivated me to pick things up. I started focusing more on my split times, too. I got a couple of passes in, and was closing in on a third when I heard the coach say "three minutes!. 100 metres later I was right on someone's feet, but traffic had somehow congested up, so there would be no passing. I coasted home at whatever pace open water gave me.

The coach had me at 1725m for 30 minutes. That's 15% more than last year, which is awesome. It's also an encouraging sign for this summer's triathlon season. Sure, there's a huge difference between open water and a 25m pool, but at least I was capable of doing the distance. The 1500m for olympic triathlons seemed well within my abilities, and even the ~1900m for half iron doesn't seem too far out. I certainly could have kept going at the end.

Of course, my left shoulder was pretty sore when I was done. Actually, both were (are!) sore, but I think my left was sore enough to change my stroke. I wasn't really able to fully stretch it out in free, so I did mostly breast and back for cooldown.

It felt good to do an encurance set for a change.

1 Week, 2 PBs

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I'm slowly recovering from Sunday's race. Swimming, though, isn't pausing to wait for me. Winterlude is in just over a week, and the workouts are definitely geared to working on our speed.

Today featured a lot of pace times, a lot of the word "fast", and a lot of repetitions where the goal was to get faster each time. With so many pace times, I more or less abandoned the other strokes, and focused on freestyle.

I got to play with a few different things, trying to see what worked and what didn't. One timely reminder that I got is that speeding up the whole stroke doesn't necessarily make you go any faster. No, effort and power aren't enough to make you go faster in the water. Efficiency and power is where it's at.

At the end, we were given one, single 100m set, fast. I hadn't been able to go under 1:40 all day, but I was determined to get back to the 1:35 I did before Christmas. So off I went, with 2100 metres already under my belt. Right from the start, I focused on 3/4 breathing, and on getting good power to the water, and on keeping my head low normally, and breathing by moving my head as little as possible. 100m is a long way in swimming, at least at this point, and my arms were protesting by the second 25. Still, in the second half, I felt like I was still getting good power to the water, which was a good sign. I tried to make my turns fast, too. My problem on free turns seems to be getting too deep; it's something I need to work on. Anyways, I came in at 1:33, which I was very pleased with. My seasonal goal of 1:30 seems to be feasible, all of a sudden.

Rested, But Tired

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I ran last night. Moderate snowfall, and stiff winds from the west. The kind of weather that makes for snowdrifts. I wasn't too happy about starting with the wind at my back. I wasn't too happy about how cold it was. But, I wasn't out to keep pace with Bekele, so I put in my 5km, stretched a bit, and called it a day.

The swim this morning was interesting. It was definitely focused on getting us ready for Winterlude, but not exactly in the way I was expecting.

The warmup was a tough 1000 metres. We started with 400 choice, for which I chose freestyle. 400 metres is a long way to go right at the start. Then we did 300 IM, with each discipline broken up into 25 kick, 25 drilll, 25 swim. If we had to do 300 IM all swim, we'd probably all drown. Then 200 non-free, which default to breaststroke for me, then 100 free.

Then things got tough. We were assigned a freestyle pacework set. 200m free on 3:50. 100m free on 1:55. 50 free HARD on 2:00. 300 choice. How that worked out is that we went fairly hard for 200m, then maybe a bit harder for 100m. I know after the 100m, I had 15 seconds to catch my breath before I sprinted 50m. I *think* I came in around 45 seconds. Not super great, but the first 25 I felt like I wasn't quite going all out. Small wonder. The 2:00 pace time for the 50m wasn't a mistake - it was to give us a measured rest before our active recovery 300 choice. Which, naturally, was more freestyle.

I took it easy on the 300 free, but was still feeling a bit tired when it was done. We didn't get that much rest, though, before our next set. 200 non-free (oh, who am I kidding - if I just say breast, you'll know what I mean) on 4:15. 100 breast on 2:10. 50 breast HARD on 2:00. Then 200 choice (freestyle). Breaststroke is an interesting stroke to do over distance. It's statistically the slowest of the strokes. In my experience, it's the most anaerobic. All the power comes in the kick. Kick/glide, kick/glide is a lot more tiring than the steady power application of freestyle, in my experience. Anyways, by the time 100 was done I had 20 seconds to catch my breath before I was off to the races. I tried to really go hard on the 50, but putting that much power into the kick is tiring. I pulled off a 49s, which isn't bad, but isn't really all that great, either. We got a bit of extra rest, then did our 200m. I have to say that after all that breaststroke, the 200 free felt powerful and strong. The change of motion had given my arms a good rest, and they were ready to go again.

Next game a decent breather, then we were given 4x50m on 2:00. Again, lots of rest between sprints, but by now we were over 2km total distance, so we would hardly be "fresh". I did the first 50 free in :45, again a slight disappointment. I have hopes of swimming a 1:30 100m free this year, but my 50 times seem to hint that that time is beyond me right now. The coach was encouraging of everyone, saying that she woudl equate a 45 second 50 with a 39 second race time. After all, we were at the end of practice, and we weren't diving in. (Oh, if only dive starts were a big advantage for me!) The next 50 free I did in :43, which felt good. I tried to up my kick rate for the third, but ended up with 45 seconds. Flutter kick is just not for me, and I think it took too much energy. For the last one, we got an extra 30 seconds rest. I tried to focus on power in my pull, and was rewarded with another :43. Nice to end on a positive note, I guess.

In the end, we did 6 50m sprints. Each one we got lots of rest before it, but each one came after lots of swimming. Realistically, we should be able to go a bit faster than this on race day. I hope. If nothing else, today was an excellent exercise in teaching to body to go hard on less than complete rest.

Dropping Swims

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Well, I've officially missed 2 of my last 3 runs. Still, I think my reasons are fair and valid.

Last week, we had a house full of kids visiting, and I figured that if I woke any one of them up in an effort to sneak out of the house, my name would be Mudd. Last night, my youngest was sick, and kept waking me up, so I finally decided to turn off the alarm and sleep on the couch. I slept in until 8am. I'd complain more about it, but I think my wife got a worse deal than I did.

C'est la vie. Training when I shouldn't is as bad a sin as skipping when I shouldn't.

Big Distance

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So, on Tuesday, our coach promised us big distance this morning. Big distance? I "only" did 2400 metres on Tuesday. That's a mile and a half, in 75 minutes. If that wasn't big distance, what was?

Needless to say, I wasn't about to miss today's swim for anything!

When I got to the pool, the following was already up on the coach's chalkboard:

20x25m on :40

And we were off.

I'm pretty sure I did all of this set freestyle. The first few, I ripped off fairly quickly, going about 20 seconds, and giving myself a solid 20 seconds rest in between. Knowing that there was a lot more coming, though, I started easing off, and trying to maintain decent form without going crazy speed-wise.

The next set was up as soon as we finished:

10x50m alt pull/swim on 1:10.

We were told we had a choice of stroke. I chose freestyle for all the pulls, and mixed it up for the swims. Something like free/breast/fly/breast/free. Here again, there was plenty of rest between the sets. The next set wasn't so much fun, though.

10x75 (25 kick, 50 swim), any stroke, on 2:00.

The 2 minutes was generous, which was to the advantage of a guy like me who can't kick very well. Since I was leading the lane, I chose breast stroke fairly often, so as to not slow my lane down. I did both free and back as well, but those left me very little rest. Yes, my kick really is that slow. Breaststroke was used as a buffer to give me rest between my flutter kick strokes.

The next set read:

8x100

I was a bit disappointed. This was only going to get us to 2550m. Where was the distance? Then my heart sank, as she filled the rest in:

8x100 alt I.M./Free on 2:10

2:10 was reasonable for 100 Free. Even in the middle of a distance set, I can live with 2:10. Individual Medley, as I've said a few times in the past, is nasty. It's exhausting. And I had no idea how fast I could do a 100 I.M.

The first 100m was probably the turning point of the swim. I finished in around 1:45, but I was huffing and puffing. The work wasn't aerobic anymore. On the ensuing 100m freestyle, I could feel that my arms were starting to get tired. My pull wasn't strong and efficient, and my breathing was more ragged. I suspect that I was doing 2/3 breathing at this point. This would persist for pretty much all of the rest of my freestyle.

On the second 100m I.M., I decided that I wasn't having fun anymore. The thought of 2 more I.M.s was intimidating. I crawled into a survival mentality, and took each 25 metre lap as it came. I was still getting maybe 20 seconds rest between the sets, but I wasn't catching my breath.

I tried hard to conserve energy on the 100m freestyle sets, using them as active rest. Nothing was coming easy, though. On the third 100 I.M., I flubbed my breaststroke breakout. I was just too tired to stay underwater as long as I should have. Ditto on the fourth. The power was gone from my kick and my pull. How I even maintained 1:50s I'll never know.

Finishing that set felt good. It was an accomplishment. But what time was it? Was that all we had time for? After a long (?) breather....

9x50 alt pull/swim on :55

Choice, but yeah, at this point, and with that pace time, it would be all free. Off I went. At least we were getting lots of pull, arguably the easiest thing for me to do, even with dead arms. After the second 50, I realized that the pace times weren't going to be doable. Taking the pull buoy off and putting it on every 50 was part of it, but part of it was that my speed was gone. The third, fourth and fifth 50 all took around 1:00. Yuck. After a bit, I decided that I should be trying to kick harder on my swims, since my legs would get rest on my pull sets. For me, with my kicking, it was a desperation move, but it seemed to help. I started going sub-minute again. And I counted down the distances.

When I finished, about 15 seconds after I should have, I was happy. Totally, truly beat, but happy. I'd set a new high water mark for distance, and it was one that I wasn't anxious to challenge anytime soon.

Cloudy Water

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We got to the pool today to find a note on the pool door. Main pool closed.

Yup. They'd been cleaning the pool overnight, and it was all cloudy. They said it would be open at 6:30. We were offered to either go home, or do our warmup in either the dive tank or the kiddie pool. To our credit, I guess, nobody left. So we crowded into the two smaller pools, and tried to carve out little straight lines for ourselves to warm up in.

Eventually, a maintenance guy showed up, did something, and proclaimed the pool safe for swimming. It was still cloudy, though. Nonetheless, after a quick vote, in we went.

Main set:
200m free pull on 4:00
50m back. Wait for lane to catch up
200 free swim on 4:00
100 breast. Wait for lane.
200 free pull on 4:00
150 alt 25 back/25 breast. Wait for lane.
200 free swim on 4:00
200 choice (free swim). Wait for lane.
200 free swim. Coach interjected to aim for 3:30.

I'm pleased to report that I completed the final 200 free in 3:25. I'm also pleased to report that my first 100m free pull was done in 1:30. 100m free SWIM in 1:30 is one of my goals for the year. Is this a good sign? Who knows. I should be faster on pull than on swim.

I was also asked by the coach if I would be participating in any swim meets this year. I answered honestly, stating that I didn't know. The main club meet falls on the single worst weekend of the winter. It's just too soon to tell if I'll even be in town for it.

Still, the next month or two will likely focus on preparing for a swim meet. This is probably a good thing, because I have one or two bad habits I could use to clean up.

21 easy, 2 hard

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Today's swim session was built around a very specific purpose. A very small amount of full-out speed.

The agenda was:
- 1000m warmup
- 50m free sprint
- 100m recovery swim
- 50m free sprint
- 600m free swim
- 50m non-free sprint (breast, for me)
- 100m recovery swim
- 50m non-free sprint (as before)
- 300m cooldown

That Old Familiar Feeling

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This morning's warmup was a short 400m (although I did 500m). Always a bad sign when the warmup is short. Our first set was 500m. Then the coach wrote "10x" on the chalkboard, turned to us, and told us that since we did speed on Thursday, today was an endurance freestyle set. I immediately predicted that the "100 free" would appear on the chalkboard in the near future.

I was nearly correct.

The main set was 10x100m, alternating 25 not/75 free and 100 free. Our pace time was 2:05, and we got an extra minute's rest after the 5th 100m. (So basically, swim a kilomter, 875m of which is freestyle, in under 22 minutes.) Of course, while we were doing all of this, we were to focus on having the correct arm position in our pull.

For the first time this year, I had that feeling. This set was going to be a real challenge. I was going to get exhausted, be gasping for breath, and be forced to start swimming again while still winded. I don't think I've felt that level of apprehension since last year. I felt like I could do it, but I knew I was going to be pushed.

All in all, the set went better than I might have hoped. I'd say that I averaged 1:45 for my 100m, with a best of 1:40 and a worst of 1:50 (the last one).

I got called on at one point for my arm position, but in my mind at least, it came and went as I got tired. It's hard enough nailing down any part of a technique. To do so under heavy exertion is an incredible challenge, and my hat goes off to anyone who can manage it. Being a "technician" in swimming is a very tough skill.

I still don't think that I feel as strong as I did in October, but I'm not unhappy with today's swim. As my runs start to get longer and more intense, it will be interesting to see how they affect my swims.

Frustration and Frost

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This morning's swim started with a tough, 900 metre timed warmup, and got worse from there.

We did some flipper work. Unfortunately, the club didn't seem to have flippers in my size. I chose the nearest I could find, but after 200m of kicking it felt like I'd lost all the skin on top of one of my toes. After 250m, I stopped and checked. Guess what? I'd lost all the skin on the top of one of my toes.

/sigh

Using the flippers had been really good. It cleaned up my kicks, especially my dolphin kick. I've known for a while my fly kick is all wrong, but using the flippers, I could feel my abs working. That's how it should be. Unfortunately, the pain was just not worth the learning, and I threw the flippers off in frustration. So for the rest of the flipper set, I found myself chasing the rest of the pool.

The main set was a mix of drill, kick and speed word. First time through the list in stroke, second time through in freestyle. It must have taken me two minutes to decide what I wanted to do. Backstroke was out. I was tempted to take the easy route and work on breast stroke, trying to develop speed for racing season. Two things stopped me. For one, I'm not even sure I'm going to race this year. Secondly, I'm in masters swimming to learn, not to go fast and pad my ego. I added up the distance. 350 metres. I wasn't sure that I could even DO 350m of butterfly work (all timed), but since I'd had a mini-revelation with the kick, I decided I'd rather try (and possibly fail) than make the comfortable, safe choice.

This would be a great place to tell you how great I was, and how glad I was that I chose butterfly, and how it all worked out in the end. But this is real life, not story time. I huffed, and puffed, and struggled. I overran the pace times, got moved to a slower lane, and failed on my attempt at 100 fly build (I stopped for a long breather after 75m). The little bit that I'd learned about the kick faded pretty quickly as I got tired. I couldn't figure out how to kick while breathing, either, though I tried (when I could).

I'm not unhappy with my choice of butterfly over breast stroke, but there was just no Frost-like eureka as a result. Just hardship and struggle.

Enjoyment-wise, this morning's swim really sucked. Training-wise, it probably wasn't all that bad.

It's All Uphill From Here

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"It's all uphill from here" was what our coach said. She meant that we would only get faster, and that 400m sets would get easier. Maybe she meant downhill. Maybe she didn't. =|

We started with 100 free, 100 choice, 100 free, 100 choice. By the time we were done that, it was 100 kick, 100 pull, 100 kick, 100 pull. My first 100 kick was free, but for the second kick I mixed in breast kick in order to keep in touch with my lanemates.

The first set was 50 swim/50 scull/50 pull/50 swim, first as breaststroke, then as backstroke, then as freestyle. All with pull paddles. (They're flat boards about twice the size of your hand - they're designed to do for your pull what flippers do for your kick.)

The second set was 200 pull, 200 swim with paddles, 200 swim, which I think was choice but I did freestyle. We were really focusing on pull technique, but towards the end fatigue was making me sloppy. It's hard to pull solidly and well for all that time, especially when you've been using pull paddles (which tend to make the shoulders ache).

So, having done 2000m already, we were then given a self-timed 400m. 400 metres is long enough that it's hard to keep track of the laps. In the end, someone ahead of me did one too many, which threw the whole lane off. No biggie. I ended up doing 400m in 7:15 - nothing amazing. This is when the coach timed in that it was all uphill from here. She was making a point that that should be as slow as we'll ever go for 400m freestyle. When we do it again in the future, we should be better rested and stronger. Which makes sense to me. I wasn't exactly destroyed by this swim, but I'd say that I felt fatigued for most of it.

According to the BreakingTheTape.com graphs, November is now my new high water mark for distance swam in a month. The scary part is that I have two more swims to go this month!

Flutter Kick

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A short but tough swim yesterday. Only 1900 metres, but lots and lots of flutter kick work. 450m in total kicking, of which 400m was either freestyle or back. All of it timed.

As would be expected, I struggled mightily. We were given 45 seconds to kick 25m. At the start, I found that I was consistenly taking 53-55 seconds, which left me behind, and with little rest. Eventually, I got my back kick down to 43 seconds, which gave me more rest, which I needed.

I also did 200m breaststroke pull. That was hard. Breaststroke is really all about the kick, and trying to pull yourself along with it is an exercise in inefficiency. Or maybe that was just me. I found it more exhausting than butterfly.

Speaking of which, I did sneak in 50m fly, by choice. I'm getting comfortable with what I'm doing, but I'm still doing it wrong. Now that I'm gaining confidence with it, this would be a good time to try to correct my more obvious mistakes.

Stroke is NOT Choice

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This morning's swim focused on IM work - drills, kicks and sculling for all four strokes. We also did some diving.

Afterwards, we did 3x200 stroke. Once I'd decided that I was going to do free/breast/free, I was informed that stroke means anything but free, while choice means anything. Yuck.

So what to do? 3x200 breast is an obvious choice, but a bit of a cop-out. Back? Doable, but I'm didn't want to do back today. Most people were doing at least 1 I.M. set. But again, I didnt' want to do back. Butterfly?

Hmm....

I decided to do 200 breast/fly/breast. I got a few looks when that was announced.

I took the first 200 breast pretty easy, wary of what lay ahead. It still ended up being at a decent speed, but it stayed aerobic the whole way. I took a long rest when I was done, mentally preparing myself for what lay ahead while I waited for the rest of the lane to finish.

"Still doing 200 fly?" I was asked. "We'll see after the first 50," I answered, knowing that I could just turn it into an I.M. (200 I.M. starts with 50 fly) if I wanted to wimp out.

So off I went. I tried to take it easy, but that's like trying to take it easy while moving furniture. While holding your breath. I finished my first 50, took a deep breath, and continued on with the fly.

All in all, it wasn't quite as bad as I'd expected. I was very worried that my shoulders would give out, and that I'd have to give up before I finished. My shoulders and arms held out surprisingly well, though they lost a lot of power before the end. For the last 50-100, I was shortening my pull on any stroke in which I breathed. Once I noticed, I tried to breathe every second pull (what I usually do for fly), which allowed me to get a good pull for my underwater stroke at least. Sadly, while I felt strong when I did that, I always had to breathe three or four pulls in a row after one underwater pull. Obviously, I need a lot more fly work. Still, it was an encouraging start. It's easily the furthest I've ever gone with fly.

Unexpectedly, I even got a compliment on how fast my butterfly was. I ended up further ahead of my lanemates on my fly set than I had been on my breaststroke set, though whether that was me, them, or a bit of both I'll never know.

Of course, I think my shoulders are going to hurt all day, now.

Simple Circuit

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Yet another mileage record in the pool this morning. After a 600m warmup and a 300m set, our main set involved a simple circuit. 50 metres freestyle in the main pool, lift yourself out (tricep press), dive into the dive tank, swim across, lift yourself out, dive in, swim back, lift yourself out, dive back into the main pool, swim 50m. The grand total for the loop was 125m. As soon as your lane was almost done, you started it all over again. We didn't have a fixed number of repetitions to do, just do as many as possible in the time allowed. Which, in our case, was 10. After that, all that was left was a 350m choice/cooldown. Total distance: 2500m.

Considering that it was at least 200m further than I've swum in an hour and a quarter session, the set wasn't that tough. Sure, for the last few circuit repetitions, I was breathing heavily on deck and between sets. Still, I could have kept going. It makes me wonder what I could do on a real endurance set.

That's not to say that my shoulders and sides won't be sore today....

Scoop

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I went to bed quite early last night. However, instead of guaranteeing me some extra sleep, all I got for my troubles was waking up and being restless in the early hours of the morning.

The pool was busy this morning, with 7 people in my lane and 7 in the lane beside me. Because I'd arrived a bit late, I kept being inserted towards the back of the pack. I tried to take advantage of this to slow up and focus on my technique. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it did not.

After warmup, we did a 500m freestyle endurance set, alternating with pullbuoys and paddles. This part felt really good. For the last 100, I hit 18 strokes/length on the first and last 25. I can't quite keep my form together for a full 100 yet, but the results are still encouraging.

Less encouraging was the IM prep set. It was 6x75 focusing on IM turns. My very first 25, I was cruising along doing fly when I realized that part of the reason it was so easy is that I was "cheating", and keeping my body flat. I reminded myself to kick from the core. Chest press. Hip press. Chest press. Deciding I wanted to breathe, I stuck my head up and opened my mouth, having forgotten that I'd just pressed my upper body deeper than the last time I'd breathed. The reward was a sudden rush of pool water down my throat. Yuck. I felt like a water bomber dropping my scoop to pick up water. All that momentum let me pick up water very quickly. =(

I probably should have stopped there, but I was almost at the turn into backstroke. I turned, surfaced, and coughed out 50 back. I tried to continue the set, but ended up abandoning it. The whole set just got harder and harder, and my coughing wasn't done.

Even now, a few hours later, my stomach is still sort of unhappy with me. This was definitely a mistake I'll be looking to avoid in the future.

Kick Set and Endurance

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With cycling relegated to dreamland, and running slowly ramping up towards a tough spring, swimming remains the lone invariant in my weekly training schedule. Twice a week, with far more consistency and dedication than I show the other, more enjoyable, sports, I find myself in the pool.

Today included 2x225 kick sets, using different strokes. Knowing how awful my flutter kick is, I was tempted to do back then free (to really focus on my weakness), but decided that wouldn't be fair to my lanemates. In the end, I opted for breast, then free. The breast was doable, not easy, but not overly tough. The free kick was madness. I was slow, and I worked.

The main set was 8x100m, the first 4x 25 choice/75free steady, the last 4x 100 free descend. All of this was on 2:10 pace time, which seemed generous to me. The first four I found myself following someone else, which made it easy to relax, stay aerobic, and concentrate on form. My freestyle form actually felt really good on these, plus I seemed to be getting 20-25 seconds rest between the sets (which meant I was doing 1:45-1:50 100s, which would have thrilled me last spring). Once the second half started, I led the lane out, and worked harder and harder as the set progressed on pulling with power, and speeding up my turnover. The set got hard, no doubt about it. My final 100 came in around 1:35, which I think is a PB for me. (This, despite the fact that my form fell apart at least a little bit in the last 100.) I know I felt wrecked for a good minute or two when it was over.

The best part was that my left knee did not seem to be bothering me. Backing up a bit, my knee bothered me most of the day yesterday, including during sections of my 5+km run. I was careful to stretch well after running last night, and before swimming this morning. Let's hope it was a fleeting problem.

Short Swim

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I was up at 5, as usual. At 6am, though, the pool door was locked, and it remained so until 6:10. Apparently, the lifeguard was late. Oh well.

By the time we were in the pool and warmed up, the planned workouts had to be scuttled.

The main set consisted of 8x25 on :40, alternating back and breast, followed by 8x50 on 1:05, alternating free and choice (aka breast). I chose to go last in the lane for the 25. It turned out to be a wise choice, as my backstroke was awful today. My body roll was ok, my kick was weak, but my arms were awful - uncoordinated, weak and out of synch.

On the other hand, I chose to go first in the lane for the 50s. Since the coach likes having all the lanes start at once, I ended up with a clear view of the guy in lane 3 beside me for the entire 50. When we finished the first 50 (freestyle), the coach pointed out to him that the reason he had finished a few metres behind me was that he wasn't finishing his pull.

What? When did this become a race?

Immediately, apparently. Though she hadn't meant it that way at all, suddenly all my mind wanted to do was go hard. /sigh I stayed clear of him for the even (choice) iterations, but freestyle was more problematic. I was well ahead of him for the second freestyle, using my strong turn to break away from him. By the start of the third freestyle 50, though, I was breathing hard. All my iterations seemed to come in around :45-:50, which meant that I was sucking air for the 15-20 seconds between each iteration. Yuck. Anyways, the third freestyle we were even until the turn, when I pulled ahead. For the last freestyle iteration, he was ahead of the turn, and might have still been ahead of me after the turn. That's when pride kicked in. I straightened up my kick, started pulling hard, and went into oxygen debt. I got up maybe half a body length, and held it until the wall.

At which point I spent some time feeling awful. Why do I do this to myself?

The rest of the set involved pulling and swimming with paddles. The freestyle part was ok, but when I opted to try backstroke all the problems with my backstroke pull became obvious. Yuck.

I'm sure the coach won't let me, but I think I'll stick to free and breast as much as possible, for now.

Fooled

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I'm starting to feel my strength returning. After a rough week at swimming last week, yesterday was...ok.

We did some vertical kicking and sculling yesterday, which is always tough. 1:45 of continuous vertical kicking (30s flutter, 45s breast, 30s dolphin) definitely had me "feeling it". After the kicking, we were given an endurance set. We had the choice of doing free or back, but my back is so weak I spent as much time doing free as I could.

I'm trying hard to focus on technique at the moment. I've accepted that I don't have the right body type to be an amazing swimmer, but I'd like to get to the point where I'm a decent technician. The problem, of course, is that using proper technique when you're tired is tough, both physically and mentally.

When I'm in a cynical mood, I sometimes think that swimming has fooled me. I very much prefer endurance over strength, aerobic over anaerobic. A huge aerobic capacity will get you a long way in running (and presumably in cycling, too), but swimming needs power. And power is never something I ever had, or especially wanted to have. So how did I get roped into this swimming thing, anyways?

Back to Basics

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We're into the fall session at master's swimming. That means less distance, more emphasis on technique and form, and lots of people in the pool.

This morning, we ended up with 7 people in lane 3, and 7 people in lane 4. Fortunately, most people were returning from last year, so by and large people knew how to space themselves out, and what pace times meant. So things went fairly smoothly.

18 and I like it

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Having finally rediscovered my speed last week, it occurred to me that maybe I was barking up the wrong tree. In my discussion with Mark (a strong swimmer) earlier in the summer, he was stressing technique over effort, and at the time I found myself agreeing with him. I would do well, I figured, to slow down a bit, and focus on technique and form.

Backstroke Blues

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I was back at swimming this morning, after a two week hiatus. The sets were a mix of freestyle and backstroke. The freestyle was fine, but the backstroke was a write-off. I've never had good body position for my backstroke, and the drills today really highlighted that weakness.

The main set involved 100m freestyle repeats. We did 3 on 2:15, then 100 choice (active rest, I guess), then 2 more, harder, on 2:20. We were reminded to focus on having a powerful finish to the pull, really pushing when our hands got to our hips. It was a timely reminder for me, as I think I've been overpulling. As a guideline for effort, we were supposed to go about 10 seconds slower than our fastest 100 free. For me, this would have been about 1:50. Yikes!

As it turned out, my repeats were all in the 1:43-1:48 range. It was tough, but by focusing on applying the power at the end of the pull, I seemed to get more speed and efficiency than I'd been getting for most of the summer.

At least something went well for me this morning. =)

Freestyle Work

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I'm starting to get that familiar ache in my shoulders on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It's a sure sign that I'm getting what I want to be getting out of swimming.

Today's main set was 6x100m freestyle, on 2:15 (first 3) and 2:25 (last 3). I have a feeling that my pace was somewhat consistent around 1:50, giving me lots of rest between sets. My technique came and went as I got fatigued, but that's to be expected.

We also did pool-wide sprints of the 4 I.M. disciplines. I was pleased at how strong my butterfly was; I think I only breathed three times in 25m and was rewarded with beating a few of the faster lanes. My breaststroke was pretty quick, too, but any ego inflation was lost in the backstroke. I don't think I'll ever wrap my mind around racing that stroke.

I still feel as though I'm recovering my strength after a month's layoff, but despite my perception my times were pretty decent, today. I just need to do a better job staying relaxed and anaerobic, and the ability to improve my form and technique should follow pretty quickly.

Back In The Swim Of Things

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After a month's hiatus (brought on by equal parts pool cleaning and desire to sleep in), I was back at master's swimming this morning. The summer session runs for July and August, and unfortunately features one coach for a very full pool.

Most of the people who returned for the summer are serious swimmers, so I found myself in the second-slowest lane. Which was fine, because I was slow. We did 50m repeats, and by the second 25 my arms were rubber. There was just no strength in my pulls at all. I still managed to do do 50s in the 45-55 range (depending on how far into the session we were, and how much rest I'd had), and one of the guys I knew from the winter commented that I hadn't lost my speed. Nonetheless, the feeling of power in the water is gone.

The good news is that I'll be in the pool twice a week from now on, fixing that little problem. The bad news is that, with one coach for 30-40 swimmers, I'll likely be fixing my problems largely on my own.

Last Swim

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This morning was the last swim of the year. Kinda sad. Masters swimming was a big experiment, something to catapult me into trying triathlons this summer. It ended up being so much more than that.

I was an indifferent and frankly weak swimmer as a child. I ended up taking years of swimming, so I suppose I was moderately proficient at it. This year, I started out as one of the weakest swimmers in the pool. By the end, I could keep up with almost anyone in the beginnner's half of the pool. Weird.

Competetive Spirit

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I've often heard that one of the best things to do to recover from a race is to go for a swim. I went to my usual Tuesday morning swim, hoping for the nirvana of recovery workouts. Having tried it, I can truthfully say that I don't buy into the concept.

Not that the swim was bad. It was decent, though my kick was moderately horrendous. It was like an hour's worth of pull work. Which is fun, but not necessarily the purest and most technically correct swim workout.

The main set was a 200m "wheel of death" - alternating kicks sets (yeah, right!) with either IM or freestyle. Needless to say, I had very little intention to complete the full workout.

I made it as far as the second 200 I.M., then decided I was done. The coach came by, saw me waiting around in the pool, and asked me if I was "on" the 200 I.M. I replied that I was thinking about it, but I was more thinking that I was done. Her response?

"You can do the 200 I.M. Here, I'll time you. Readysetgo!"

A less competetive or more intelligent person would have laughed, and gotten out of the pool. Me? I did a 3:50 200 I.M. Then got out of the pool.

I think the coach knows me too well.

I hurt all day.

Thursday Blahs

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Decent swim this morning. The top of my left foot cramped up again, probably from all the kick sets we did. Which was too bad, as the main set was sprint 25/easy 25 repeats. Looked challenging/fun.

It occurred to me today that I've run once in the last 10 days. What's up with that? Oh well, I plan on running three times in the next four days, so that should make up for it.

200s

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I've been swimming for a while now. I go every week, and am comfortable with the routine. What I forget when I'm not actually there is that swimming isn't especially comfortable. Swimming isn't the smooth flow of effort that running is. It's a lot of hard effort, muscle exertion, and mounting oxygen debt. Plus, I usually end up a lot more sore after a swim than after a run. (Like, say, right now!)

Motoring Along

I did 5 hills at work yesterday, on my lunch hour. I probably could have done more, but killing myself is not the point of hills. I planned for 5, I was gasping for breath on the 5th, so 5 it was.

Swim today focused on freestyle body roll again. I felt neither particularly good nor bad, until we did 300m IM near the end, where I was inexplicably flying. Inexplicably because I pulled away from people on the front 150, which is wrong. Neither butterfly (aka drowning) nor backstroke (aka watching the clouds roll gently by) are terribly strong or fast, but I seemed to hold it together not too badly today. Weird. But good.

Tough Swim

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Different swim coach this morning. Had us working on rolling, and on arm and hand position during the pull. Definitely some of my weaker points, as she rightly pointed out. I have a tendency to outsweep my arms, especially when I'm tired. Still, she was generally complimentary, which was encouraging. I am still fairly new to all of this.

Halfway through, Passan asked me how I was doing, and remarked that I seemed a little off. I had to concede that I probably was. I don't know if it's that I was focusing on my form, or if it was something else, but today was not my best day.

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Tuesday's swim didn't seem too hard, but I ended up being pretty sore afterwards. Granted, we did freestyle pulling, but I didn't think it was all THAT much.

Yesterday, I did 4 hills at work on my lunch hour. There's a pretty good hill about a mile away from work. I might have been able to do more, but I didn't want to overdo it. Good thing, as on the way back I noticed my right tricep was pretty sore. (I have a tendency to tighten up my arms and over-exert them in speed/hill work. I really need to work on relaxing in these disciplines.)

Today, there was a lot of choice strokes, and I chose freestyle. Not my favorite, but I need to start thinking like a triathlete (which I hope to one day be). Again, there was some pulling involved. Yes, I'm going to be sore today.

Overall, though, I'm very pleased with my consistency recently. I haven't really felt like skipping a workout, or dropping back on my intensity, for a week or two now. That has to be a good thing.

Beat

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This morning's swim was mostly kick work. Yuck. Double yuck.

I'm feeling pretty beat up this morning. Yucky, sore, and almost lethargic. I've pushed myself this week. I feel like eating 5 Whoppers, and taking a huge nap.

Zzzzzzzzzzzz....

Freestyle Sprints

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It was "get ready for triathlon season" day at the pool. Usually, the coaches focus on IM, but today was nothing but freestyle.

Hardest Swim EVAR (+ knee pain)

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I spent a few hours working on my PC last night before I went to bed. When I stood up, I noticed that my left knee was feeling funny. More discomfort than pain, but it was still with me when I woke up this morning.

Five days to go until the big race. Not good.

Sprints and Pulls

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The swim this morning featured some breakout work (dives, turns) and sprint work. Between the sprints were long stretches of free (and some back) pulls. Small surprise, my shoulders are sore.

Taking a Beating

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My shoulders are really sore today. I couldn't even finish the full 75 minutes of swimming. It was another great workout, just over 2.5 km, but I'm paying for it now.

A bunch of people were doing Swim for Heart today. I wasn't, but had my distance measured for the 30 minutes nonetheless - 1500 metres. 900 of that was breaststroke. Not bad - better that I'd have thought. Of course, I took breaks - I'm not up to 30 minutes continuous swimming - yet.

Sleep

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My generally glum and grumpy disposition persisted yesterday. I reflected on my weekend, and concluded that I'd been remiss in getting enough sleep. (To be fair, I had an actual, real-live, honest-to-goodness date with my wife Friday night, so THAT didn't count). I figured the best way to shake the blues was to hit the sack early last night, which I did (before 9pm).

This morning's swim seemed to involve a lot of shoulder work. Lots of sculling, pulling, and working with paddles. Then, as we finished up our 2200m of shoulder-wrenching joy, we got to do 100m IM sets. I only had time for two - which I finished in 1:50 and 2:00. The 1:50 I was pretty pleased with, considering it'll probably be months before I can do a 100 IM at anything near full effort.

Something Right

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Speed work in the pool this morning. 600m choice warmup, followed by 400m of each stroke, sets of 50m (or 2x25m), alternating fast with either kick, scull or drill. Wheee!

Endurance Swim

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Good news! I've once again failed to drown myself!

We did an endurance set today. 800m reverse IM warmup (yuck), then 1500m miscellaneous IM work. I'm pretty happy with the agenda, since February and March are endurance months for me.

In the middle of the main set, the top of my left foot started to hurt. I did 200m of freestyle pull (i.e. not kicking), and it seemed to help. It may be that something in my foot or ankle is cramping for some reason. I have a certified AT and a swim coach on my email list, so I'm thinking maybe I'll ask them if what I'm going through is common, and treatable. Maybe there's a stretch or something out there that I don't know yet.

Mini-meet?

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I was 750 metres into the 900 metre warmup, when the coach stopped us all for an announcement. There's a mini-meet today over there, if anyone is interested. You know, over there. Where the crazy good swimmers are.

Distance is Relative

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It's funny how distance is relative.

Run a half marathon, and 21km is far. Do marathon training, and 21km is an easy, short Sunday run.

Back on November 30th, I thought swimming 1850 metres in an hour and fifteen minutes was a huge distance. Today I swam over 2500 metres in the same amount of time. Phew!

Individual Medley Day

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Today seemed to be I.M day at swimming. It was a very tough workout. The problem with I.M. is that it starts with butterfly, or as I like to call it, thrashing around in the pool with your head underwater. After that, you have to do equal distances of backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle. These three strokes I can do, basically. Doing them while still exhausted from butterfly is challenging.

I survived it, though, and was pleased with how well I was able to keep up. The lane kept making me go first, and I was worried that I'd hold people up. Ironlady was right behind me the whole time, but I don't think I was holding her up (for a change!). I did manage to lap some people when we did breaststroke drills. (I like breaststroke.)

My glutes are fairly sore, and I can feel my shoulders. I'm looking forward to a nice relaxed 3km run tonight at the first half-marathon clinic session.

Alarms and Reminders

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I could not set the alarm on my watch last night, so I had to set the alarm on my cell phone. Gee, do I need an alarm clock?

Today was freestyle report card day, so we opened with 1.2 km of freestyle. I don't know if she just set the bar high or if I was flat today, but I could not do her 50m and 100m pace times. It's not that the rest times were too short, it's that my calculated rest times were coming up negative!

Back in the Swim of Things

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My wife asked me last night, "Are you sure you're up for swimming tomorrow?" "I'll be fine," was my reply.

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  • jank: Warren, it's too bad to hear about your season getting read more
  • jank: Man, was it great seeing you out on the run read more
  • jank: Epic it was. (My secret motivation, too) read more
  • jank: Did you ever find the pedal? read more
  • Dave (Memphis MOJO): Congrats on finishing. Sounds like you did great! read more
  • Wendy: Well Done Warren! Finishing upright is an achievement, for sure. read more
  • jank: I remember kind of semi strolling/jogging through T1 too, with read more
  • warren: I have no idea how I lost my pedal either. read more
  • Jon (was) in Michigan: I'm glad you made it, Warren. It sounds like it read more
  • Jon (was) in Michigan: I just can't imagine what it feels like to swim read more

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Swim Report category.

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