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.
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