Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Time to Fix the Swim

Okay, so I wrote about my horrible swim at the last triathlon in Ingonish. Yes, it was my only swim in a race situation this year so one could think it was actually just an anomaly and that my swim isn't that bad. One could think that, but based on how I felt on that swim versus how I felt on the rest of the race, I dare say that it was a lack of proper training that did me in.

See, I went out way too fast. In an attempt to keep as close to the front as possible I wore myself out too quickly and needed a rest part way through the swim. That dropped me right to the back of such a short distance.

While I suspected that I would have dropped off the strong pace I started with, I didn't expect that it would tire me out with little hope of recovery. this meant I had to think about what the heck went on, and searching back I think I understand what I did wrong leading up to the race.

So I am not  great swimmer as I have written about many times. My fear of the water has made learning to swim properly and swim in a pack of people a real struggle, but one I have been slowly over coming. But while I am not a great swimmer right now, neither am I that bad. In a race situation I have been able to make the distance (last season) without issues, just at my pace (about a solid 2 min pace per 100 meters). 

Now on to what I have been doing wrong. I have been stuck at that 2 minute pace for awhile. So over the last few months I have really decide to mix up my training. I have added sets in based on workouts I received during group coaching sessions. I have also watched numerous videos about swimming form and have been working on trying to sort out my faults. But what I didn't notice until I went back over my logs was just how much that affected my overall training.

When I look back I dropped from 3000 meters a week (not a lot I know but what I could do) to well under 2000. Yikes! My issue is really one of endurance.

As a new swimmer I have practically no base level of swim fitness. Yes, I now that swim form is key to getting from A to B as fast as possible without wasting energy, but that really (in my limited experience) does assume you have some base level of fitness. Much like a proper run form will help to achieve new top speeds, without the ability to keep up the speed, you won't get their fast, if at all.

My earlier speed tests showed me that I could swim in the 1:50 pace range, which is a big improvement over my past results. But at the same time my distance pace results from before the racing season showed little to no improvement.

So my new goal at the moment is to get back to endurance swimming. Get my muscles ready for the challenge.  Get to the point where I can get out of the water at an event (even if minutes back) and not be out of breath and woozy.

Sadly I still only have 2 days a week where I can get out swimming. One is the pool and one is open water. The open water swim is with a group of people, and I basically try to keep up. I call that my speed workout / race prep. But the real work has been happening over the last 3 weeks in the pool.

I designed a workout that is based on building my endurance wit a good overall distance and includes one race distance set.

As a Sprint racer I needed to have one set at 750m. So I now do this as a workout: 250m warm up, 500m at race pace, 750m endurance, 500m whatever I can hold, 250m cool down. All is done front crawl. All is done without the aid of pool toys, just straight forward swimming, trying to hold form as best as I can.

So I have gone from maybe 1500m of swimming to 2250m. How has it been working for you, Ian? Well quite well I dare say. The first night was rough. I almost bailed out at the end of the second 500m set as my feet and legs cramped. But I pulled through with a total time of 54 minutes (with a 1-2 minute rest between sets not included). The next session I managed 51 minutes, probably due to fewer cramps. And last night I managed to get 50 minutes 20 seconds. Sure not nearly as big a jump, but wow. Almost 4 minutes off my time from 2 weeks ago. And truthfully my overall pace hasn't increased. I can just hold my pace for that much longer.

I will continue this workout until I plateau, at which time I will likely have attained the base I need to go back and  think about better form again.

Monday, July 2, 2012

2012 Ingonish Sprint Triathlon

First sprint race of the year for me. I didn't do the others that were offered as they conflicted with Duathlons and also were pool swims. I would rather not do pool swims.

So an open water swim in Ingonish. Last year I did this race and the water was a bit cold to get into and I really needed that warm up time offered. This year the water was really quite warm, so I used the warm up time simply to get a little more comfortable in the water in general.

I am not the greatest swimmer, or even a moderate swimmer. I am a weak swimmer, but you all know that. Still I managed to do this race in just shy of 15 minutes last year so I had hoped that I was slightly stronger than during that race and could pull off closer to 14 minutes.

So into the water we went. Last year I was caught up in swimmers that were slower than myself, so I thought I would wade out with the stronger swimmers then fall into my proper pace (that's me in the gold coloured cap).

Well the start of the swim went well. I was tucked behind another swimmer. I received a few bumps but nothing too hard or worrisome.

But as I rounded that first buoy I realized I had gone too fast. Well if this were the bike or run, letting up means relaxing a bit but this is hard for me to do in the water. I let up the pace a bit to rest and was promptly paced by a number of swimmers. Still, I just had to finish this thing to get to the bike. So off I went.

Just because you have a bad leg of a triathlon doesn't mean you give up for the rest. So I picked up the pace to finish the swim hard then tore out of the water and across the timing mat.  I was 42nd at this point out of 53 people with a swim time of 16:45. Ugh. Now I will say that this year the swim was a bit longer than last year, but I don't know if it was long or correct. Regardless it was the swim everyone else did. But man did it hurt.

So off to T1 I went. For Ingonish that means a 500 meter run on a gravel path. Many people stop and put on shoes before the run. I don't. That means I do get to pass a couple of people at this point. Then a quick change out of my wetsuit and into my cycling gear and off I went.

This is a great ride, rolling hills, 23 kms and this day, cool air. I had stuffed some arm warmers into my tri suit front in case it happened to be too cold on the ride, but never needed them.

I quickly tucked and took off. Here is where I make up most of the time I lost on the swim. I know that I can't make up the 6 minutes or more on the fastest swimmers who are probably darn fast cyclist as well. But I pushed anyway.

In the end I made up a few spots and posted the 8th fastest bike split of the day. This included the run from the water as well (T1). It took me 45:57 to cover the 23 kms of this hilly course. So my 30 km/hr average was good enough to pass 27 people. Phew.

I am now getting more comfortable with the flying dismount. though I will admit to having a close call getting my foot out of one of my shoes and almost took a spill. But I survived and dismounted. Soon I will be more comfortable getting up to the line before dismounting. Wow, from this picture it looks like I am 500 meters away. Oh well.

I zoomed into T2 and luckily only saw a handful of bikes. That made me happy.

A quick change into my shoes and I was off. This was my second race in the New Balance 890v2. But this was my first race in them sockless. I had socks in the TZ but opted to go without to save those few valuable seconds. It turned out to be fine as these shoes are very smooth inside.

I didn't even spare the seconds to don my Garmin 305, but I did take it with me (I had turned it on before the race started). I am sure I can run without it, as I did for years. But I wanted that extra little bit of hurry up from the numbers on the screen.

I quickly caught a runner in front of me. Then I caught a hill. Ouch. It wasn't a big hill, but still, it hurt. My speed dropped from 3:50 to 4:15. Not good. So I kicked it up a notch and took off again.

The run course is nice. A 5km loop, so no laps and it is uphill out and downhill back.

I soon saw another runner in the distance and fought hard to catch him. By the turn around I was there and past. At this point I saw no one else ahead of me but kept my pace as high as I dared to salvage a good time from this event.

But then with 1 km to go I found one more runner. He was doing well enough but I could see the gap closing. I didn't care about saving anything at this point, so I picked  up the pace and passed him at the corner with less than 500 meters to go. I pushed harder and when the finish line was in sight I pushed once again.
I crossed the line at a nice 2:37 km/min pace for a grand total run time of 19:52. A sub 20 min 5 km to end a sprint is rather nice. My official time includes T2 and is 20:33, which was the 5th fastest run of the day. And that makes me happy as I have more speed int he run and made a few bobbles in T2.

So it seems I need to work on that swim again. I see part of my mistake as deciding recently to work more on form rather than endurance. And I just don't have the base in me yet to ignore endurance. So to the pool and lake I go before my next event, which will likely be the Bridgetown Tri this August.

Oh and I beat the rain. Whew. For those in the Olympic Distance event I feel for you as the sky opened up.

And thanks to the Sportwheels gang for getting that new chain all nicely setup on my bike. I love Shimano chains for riding, but I hate installing those blasted things.
Posted by Picasa