Today the Tower 26 group got together to do an informal 1k/100 TT to follow up our last attempt at the distance back in January. For starters this was FUN! I’d never done a swim meet before and although there were no timing mats or formal heats it felt pretty official to me (lap counters and score cards). I have watched many swim meets in the past so it was nice to be on the other side for once.
On Tuesday Gerry told us about his 1 hour record swim where he held 1:03’s while maintaining flawless dynamics over the duration. He mentioned there were periods where form slipped, resulting in a slight decrease in pace, 1:04, etc. When this happened he had to force himself to refocus on what he was doing and once the improvement was made lap pace was regained at 1:03.
This was a story I could relate to because with experience in endurance sports you realize eventually it’s not about racing faster, it’s about racing more efficiently. Technique plays a large role in swimming because the water is so much denser than air but still it is equally as important in the other two disciplines, not just in how your body moves but how you pace yourself. I know when I’m out racing I’m not going to surpass my limitations, so I settle on a HR that will provide the most bang for its buck, pumping just the right amount of blood to supply my muscles to get me to the finish in the fastest time. When I’m running a half, like in my last race, and I hit my threshold HR (177bpm), there’s nothing I can do to work harder, so it’s time to work smarter, preventing heal striking, dialing in cadence, working the arms on the uphill’s, letting go on the downhill’s. This was the goal in today’s swim, use what Gerry has taught us over the last 3 months to get through the 1k/100 faster than before with the same engine. The result –
The important take away is not that I swam faster, I knew I would swim faster from the work put in, it’s what I can improve upon. For the first 10 lengths of the 1k I counted my strokes at 21. Right around 10 I fell off and started doing 23 strokes/length. My time slowed and I couldn’t regain 21 without sacrificing speed. At 30 lengths I dropped the hammer and cadence went out the window, 23 to 25 and higher. My speed increased slightly from the harder effort but I was far from efficient. The goal for next time will be to hold cadence for much longer. In the 100 I went out in 31.8 for my first 50 and closed in 35.7 (a big positive split). Next time I will aim to even split and breath more in the first 25.
Once my swim muscles develop to the point where they are matching my aerobic ability, and technique improves I believe I am capable of some fast times. For now I feel like more like the scrawny kid at the gym, throwing up the weight because it’s the only way he knows how to lift it. Still a big improvement from just 3 months ago and much more to come.
In relation to today’s swim I wanted to point out a very significant improvement in my mental state concerning training, what I would consider an inflection point in my progress. Last year when I started taking this sport seriously I became very concerned about going fast. Going fast to me meaning winning races, turning pro, making heads turn, etc. I listen to people all the time, in training and at races, talking about “going fast” as it relates to them. I’m finally seeing how insignificant and counterproductive this is to progress. First of all “fast” is completely subjective, and I have been told many times over how damaging it can be to compare yourself to others, particularly out here. Secondly, I feel the idea of this “fast you” somewhere in the future takes away from the more important thing which is the present, and what you are doing at this very moment. Therefore I have switched gears up and focused my effort on something much more concrete, that is the simple objective of getting a little faster each day.
When I look over to the lanes next to me where people are swimming 1k close to my 100 pace it’s a distraction. When I look at my numbers from 3 months ago and focus simply on just beating my old self I feel I’m exactly where I need to be. The happy math that I’m seeing is that I’m at a place where I don’t need to smash barriers, I just need to make small but steady improvements each couple months over the next few years in every discipline and the potential is very significant. Fortunately time is on my side. So how do I do this??
#1 and most important – Listen to my coaches. I’m privileged to be at a place where I have full trust in my coaches and what they are having me do. I have questioned things in the past but now I am a believer. Trusting a program means removing the mental component of doubt, which can be your worst enemy.
#2, which if you follow #1 is a non-issue – Don’t do anything crazy!! This seems simple enough but still no one listens to it. I hear all the time “everything was going great until I …” No jumping form a marathon into a 5k, trying a new pair of shoes before a race, or switching something up that can only lead to disaster on a micro (equipment, nutrition) or macro (large volume shifts) level. I feel part of the reason I have been injury free for so long is that I stick to the prescription of my coaches which takes me on steady builds over long periods of time (years), without throwing in back to back Ironmans (believe me I’ve asked).
#3 be a little better in everything. Read this article and then ask yourself the following basic questions –
Am I doing my workouts as prescribed, really, REALLY??
Am I getting enough sleep each night/recovering properly?
Am I eating right, not just the right ingredients but at the right time and enough, especially in but not limited to training?
Seriously, these questions should be your training bible. They’re so simple yet can be so hard at the same time, I struggle with them myself.
In addition I have been really focusing on all I can do simply to be better. Fueling right with EVERY workout, 1 bottle of perform and 1 Gu every 45 minutes with all training, including recovery. Priming every workout with fuel and recovering right after (in the car) with Endurox, Whey, bars, raisons and Fig Newtons, followed by a meal. Never skipping a practice! This might be a little too extreme but in my case if I can’t make it for any significant reason (which has included happy hour before) I’m making sure I account for it by letting my coach know in advance and adjusting. Doing the easy EASY, including 12 minute miles and 10 MPH rides. Reducing stress as much as possible, getting enough sleep (which isn’t easy but necessary), juicing (the legal kind), etc. Very important recently, I have been making a bigger effort to catch up on my friend’s race results and training. When you take an interest in others work they tend to take an interest in yours and in my book it doesn’t matter if you’re first without anyone cheering you on. Support can be crucial through the tough times.
It doesn’t matter so much what you’re improving it’s the process. Never become complacent and never become satisfied.
If I can stick to these themes, listen to my coaches and stay the path ahead I am very excited to see where it will take me!