Category: pacing


I made it back to a pool session this week for the first time in a few weeks. Work and illness and a birthday got in the way for a couple of weeks, so it’s the first time in a while I’ve done an endurance set.

I felt as though I was doing pretty well. I got a bit excited when I was moved out of the slow lane after a few laps, that maybe magically I’d been promoted to the fast lane. Til I recognised swimmers the next lane over and realised we had expanded into 3 lanes and I’d been promoted to the medium lane.

Based on my Garmin results (did I mention I’ve upgraded to the 910?) , though my times are pretty dismal at the moment. The whole broken-ankle hiatus, and general slackness in getting back into it on my part have really left me coming into the new season well off my peak form. The geek in me loves the Garmin, but my self-deluding side hates it as there’s no lying to yourself in the face of all that measured data.

There are a couple of things that I think might help get me back there, though, so I’m trying not to get too depressed.

  1. I had my final physio appointment earlier on Tuesday. I have been cleared for all activities, including starting to jog, even on sand. Guess I no longer have any excuse for skipping the hard part of those ramps sessions.
  2. Daylight savings! This changes a lot of things – later opening hours for pools, and opportunities for after-work swims!
  3. Spring training timetable changes. 4SEASons October pool sessions will be on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from next week, instead of just Tuesdays. My chances of getting back to a minimum of 3 swim sessions a week just got a whole lot better.
  4. It’s only a few weeks until the first couple of ocean swims of the season. Nothing motivates like a looming deadline!

Let Operation get-Jacki’s-lazy-butt-back-into-shape begin!

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to this!

Tuesday’s pacing session was a good one. I hadn’t dropped as much as I’d thought (I’ve been focussing on distance, rather than speed lately, for obvious reasons) and it was good to get into that rhythm and focus on pacing. Less than two weeks out to the goal swim, it was nice to stretch out and remind myself what pace feels like,   what going hard feels like, and what tired feels like. I’m pretty damn sure those things are all going to be very important next Sunday.

It’s been a couple of weeks since I had attended a Tuesday session, and it was a pretty busy session, with quite a lot of swimmers. It really highlighted to me the importance of good lane etiquette. Lane etiquette makes things run much more smoothly and everyone can get on and do their thing and get a good workout. With many swimmers in a lane, even if they’re supposedly keeping to a particular pace each, you do get differences in speed and in pace. Some people swim faster or more variably or more consistently, and it really brought home that the etiquette is there for a reason, and that the reason is that it works.

My personal favourite guide to lap swimming etiquette in general is via this link that I’m reasonably certain i’ve put up before. If I haven’t, I should have. It’s an excellent general set of guidelines for if you’re new to pool swimming, particularly lap swimming.

What it does say is spot on. However these were written with straight up lap swimming involved, and I suspect they were based on random strangers making the best of self-regulating in public lap swimming.

 

Pacing sessions, on the other hand, are similar but different. Pretty much all of the general rules apply but there is the added complexity of the “rest” (in inverted commas because most of the time those seconds are the shortest 10-15 seconds of your life)periods at various points in the set.

My additional tips (my personal option only as usual) for these sets are based on the things that I know really work, because the squad I swim with are pretty good at these things, and our coaches believe in enforcing the same principles as they really make things easier and better for everyone.

So Jacki’s extra rules for pacing sessions are….

  1. Start with the basics. All the general etiquette for lap swimming still applies.
  2. Keep to the plan. The coaches devise a set and if everyone sticks to it, the faster swimmers head off first, if there’s a spread they may end up passing hte back of hte pack, but it shouldn’t happen more than needed.
  3. That includes the rest periods. In my experience, pretty much everyone gets the hang of the swimming part quite easily. the first big challenge is in the rest periods of 10 or 15 seconds. I understand it…you’ve been swimming hard, and if it’s near the end of the set you’ve been doing that for quite some time. It’s really tempting to take a few seconds extra to recover. And a few more, and a few more again. Problem is, if everyone starts doing their own thing here, the order gets all out of whack. Nobody wants to get to the end of their lap, have the person in front still resting when you’re due to take off again, and have them pass you…every. freaking. lap.
  4. On that note, either get a watch you can wear in the water and read, or learn how to read the clock. I get why this is hard. The more tired I get the less capable I am of even counting, let alone calculating lap times. It’s not really that complicated, though, and generally you have somewhere in the vicinity of 50-100m metres to think about it. Even I, at my most stuffed, can work out my start time plus 2 minutes….
  5. Listen to the coach. It’s kind of related to point 4…in that if I have enough of a hard time counting as I get tired, I don’t need to be worrying about trying to figure out what the hell I’m supposed to be doing next. Let alone disrupting the swimmers around me by stopping them to ask them. OK – I admit I’m not always 100% good at this…but I’m trying!
  6. Other than that…common sense is always a good idea. In life, the universe and everything. But especially in swimming.

 

Tuesday training – endurance set as usual. Or not.

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the endurance sets. They’re hard, but really rewarding and deliver results like nothing else I’ve ever done. It’s great that I now have the hang of the, and that I trust them so much that I push myself, knowing that they work.

Seems it’s possible I’ve become complacent, though.

Coaches Kingy and Zoe had something new in store for us…and it wasn’t pretty. particularly for me. Since they chose the one thing I am absolutely the WORST at! I really, really, really suck at this. After 2 and a half years of training, and managing to get my technique a little better and my time trials up to medium, I still do so more strokes per lap than anyone I know. that means I’m outputting way too much effort to get where i’m going…probably due to some still-outstanding issue with my technique that means I’m likely causing more drag than I need to. I have a few theories, but I’ll trust in the Wednesday technique sets to work on things piece by piece and keep chipping away at things like my front-quadrant swimming, my high elbow, my too-high breathing, my bottom-heavy position in the water…the list never ends! Lucky that means I’m unlikely to get bored with this any time soon.

When I’m feeling like this, immediately after I spend some time with my inner monologue getting angry for a bit, I start to calm down and actually think about what’s going on with me at that moment.

So, here are the conclusions I came to:

  1. This was outside of my comfort zone. I’ve been doing these endurance sets for a while, and whilst they’re bloody hard work, I know they work. they really work. So why mess with it? (answer: if you always do what you’ve always done….guess what you get?)
  2. See point one. It’s worth mentioning twice.
  3. It’s ok for things to be hard, and challenging. sometimes they will be emotionally challenging, too. And I have to let that be OK. Everything really tough for me in this sport has been the result of hard work and effort. This is no different
  4. Some day’s, no matter how much you love the sport, you’re just not gonna feel the love. Check the archives, it’s not the first time this has happened. Nobody loves everything all the time. Nobody, nothing.
  5. the last thought is one I come back to time and again, particularly when I hit a hurdle with technique stuff. Even elite athletes do technique training. People are people and nobody does it exactly right all the time. It takes work and practice and you need to make each and every little millimetres of your body and mind about muscle memory and good habits. I may feel like it’s a job that’s never done, but in reality that’s because it’s a job that’s never done.

Comfort-Zone

Medium-Lane

OMG, it’s official! I’m in the medium lane! With the extra squad members picked up this season, many of whom are doing the Coogee Swim Challenge, our Tuesday squad now needs 3 lanes. My times have been improving since August, so I’m now well and truly middle of the pack. I couldn’t be more thrilled!

Just goes to show that if you stick with something long enough and work hard enough at it, you can get the results…in fact they can even sneak up on you!

The session itself was an endurance and pacing set that I’m now very familiar with. I felt pretty comfortable maintaining my time trial average 100m pace the whole way. Given I felt I could have done a bit better with my time trial without my runaway cap issues, I’m even considering taking the drastic step of knocking a second or two off my pace from next week.

I know it’s an outrageous suggestion…so wish me luck!

As the old saying goes…”Be careful what you wish for”.

Remember that post where I was kind of hoping for a time trial? Well I got what I wished for. Of course it was the first swim back after a week on holiday (with a sneaky 1km race for good measure).

Still, I was OK with the idea. It’s been ages since I’ve done a time trial…although I’ve been on the other side of the clipboard with my mentor duties this season and can not attest to the fact that keeping track of multiple swimmers at varying paces can be least (if not more) challenging that actually swimming a time trial yourself!

So off I went. In this sort of thing a 1km time trial in the pool is pretty standard, but for various reasons, we started with a 500m trial and then stuck with it for a while for the sake of comparison. Seems this was the day to return to form…and double the distance!  Not a problem…and probably an advantage for me since I do relatively better with longer distances, but it can still mess with your head when you’re used to doing something and measuring yourself and how you feel a certain way. So that was a challenge, but not enough of one for me to worry.

I was completely certain that my times have improved markedly, so even with a week off, I was ready and raring to go.

And then my cap decided to go a bit weird. I know, I know. The story about the tradesman blaming his tools and all that. But it was seriously weird, man. (even weirder than me starting that last sentence with a preposition and finishing it with “man”). This was my official 4SEASons orange and blue printed silicon cap. It’s a great cap and I’ve worn it a lot over the past months. It’s generally done pretty well at doing the one job it was designed for: keeping my hair out of may face.

Tonight, though, I felt as though my cap had been watching Braveheart and had taken the cry of “Freedoooooom” just a little bit too seriously.

It was trying to escape.

You wouldn’t think that this would be such a big problem, and I guess it wasn’t a huge thing, but it definitely cost me some time. For a start I did have to break my stroke several times to try to tug the stupid thing down. I also skipped tumble turns after the first one as there was no chance that thing was staying on my head through even one single more turn. But mostly, my hair was was struggling out from under the front, but the edge of the cap was actually holding it down in my eyes. I couldn’t see much at all which made it hard to swim straight and impossible to pass.

So, although thwarted by a humble swim cap (you’d think I’d have figure out how to actually use one by now) I did manage to improve my times…quite a bit in fact, but given what I’ve been using for my endurance pace I’d kinda set myself up for a little faster.

Still…it prompted me to look back at the time trials I’ve done in the last couple of months (since August last year). If you don’t worry about the distance, and just look at the average 100m pace, I’ve dropped a whopping 16 seconds per 100m! Clearly the type and amount of training I’ve been doing has been working a treat. I may have started off dismal, and worked my way through plain old slow, but I’m well and truly on my way faster than I could have hoped….the medium lane! With a big thanks to coaches Kingy and Zoe from 4SEASons for running such a great squad that I actually want to train.

Onward and upward (perhaps with a remedial class in swim caps 101!)

I hadn’t been to a Tuesday endurance set since before Christmas. I think I was a bit scared…those sets can be kind of brutal.

Time to put on the big-girl-pants, though. Harden up and get back to it. For me, nothing works better at improving my speed and fitness.

Big Girl Pnats

Big Girl Pants

 

Funny, though, how sometimes you can surprise yourself. I’ve been swimming quite a lot this summer. Not as much as I’d like, and some of it has been kind of focussed on other people’s progress instead of my own (no complaints, mind you…loved every second of it). On the other hand, I’ve been focussing pretty hard on a small change to my stroke, have been staying very active, not drinking too much, and eating well. And it seems, on the balance I’ve come out ahead.

We were doing sets trying to stay consistent, and keep to our lat time-trial 100m average times. Pacing, as it were. Thing is, after the first 100m i looked at my watch and realised there was no way I was going to be able to swim at my time trial pace. I was going way faster!

I did a reasonable job of keeping to a consistent time for my laps. Well, apart from a random one I suspect was more due to my inability to use my watch properly rather than one super-slow The good news is my new 100m time is a good 8 seconds faster than it was in November.

Who’d have thunk it? Apparently all this training actually works!

Would it be wrong for me to be thinking I’d quite like to do a time-trial right now?

As a little aside; as proud of myself as I was, it was incredibly impressive to see Fiona back at training a mere 6 weeks after giving birth to the super-cute Lachlan! She’s always been an inspiration (she’s the one who got me started on this whole swimming thing in the first place) and she outdid herself this time!

Back in week 4 we did a time trial, for a bunch of good reasons. The first one on my list is that doing regular time-trials gives you a benchmark so you know how you’re doing and can check your progress.

In week 9, after 5 weeks of training (plus hopefully a few swims over the Christmas break) we did a second time trial to give us that second point of comparison.

So how do you think we went?

Well, amazingly of course. Our ABC swimmers have put in the hard work, trained hard, (not to mention raised funds for a great cause and had a great time along the way) and the results speak for themselves.

Everyone improved on their first times. Everyone. 100% of the sample! There were some spectacular successes…up to 10% improvements, and a few people who did the shorter 500m trial last time who felt strong enough to do the 1km trial this time instead.

Words cannot possibly express how proud I am at how far everyone has come. Great coaches and a great program definitely work, but consistent hard work, that’s the real key, and our ABC group have been doing plenty of that!

What a bunch of superstars!

DSCN0231

Well, I guess it had to happen some time. My utterly divine holiday to Western Australia has come to an end and I’m back East with a case of the post-holiday blues.

On Wednesday it was a return to training at ABC pool for Can Too training. It was my last day of holidays. Plus it’s always a concern coming back to training after a break as you don’t really know how much fitness you may or may not have lost until you actually get back into a session and see how it all feels.

I was pretty active this holiday. Both my sister and my sister-in-law who I was staying with are currently training for their own challenges, and with the heat-wave there it just made sense to be in the water as much as possible…particularly when there are options like learning to wake-board and going diving on a Navy Island! Then there was the running around after my gorgeous nieces and nephew…a labour of love no question, but hard work nonetheless. so the upshot is that I did a lot of exercise while i was away. I knew that, but you just never know how that might actually translate to swim-fitness.

Luckily, I found that the answer for me in this particular situation was “Not too badly”. I felt OK in the pool, and did the set feeling like I was challenged, but not that I felt like I might implode.

We did a good solid set, focussing on fast distances, alternating with equal distances of way swimming. This was to do two things; first, it gives you a good sense of the difference between your fast and easy swim pace, and this is key to mastering the art of pacing that I’ve written about here before (maybe quite a lot!). Secondly, we’re getting to the pointy end of the swim program here, where the technique should be improved a lot, where the beach skills are learned and now being practiced and revised, but there’s still work that can be done on general fitness. Interval training is great for this, and the easy sets are great as an active recovery.

So, after the initial (standard) nerves about the first session back after a break, it was nice to be back in the pool after all! Can’t wait for the flurry of activity coming up. Races! Training! Sunshine and beach weather! Let the games begin!

Yup, that's actually me. Upright and everything!

Yup, that’s actually me. Upright and everything!

I didn’t make Monday night at Clovelly (again!) due to a Can Too mentor meeting. Next week it will take wild horses to keep me away!

Instead I went to the endurance session at Victoria park. It was kind of funny as I’ve been swimming in salt water for the last couple of weeks and being back in chlorine was kind of weird. Still, it was good to be stretching out and having a good distance swim. Definitely what I need if I’m planning on trying to step up to the Coogee to Bondi 5km in April.It’s always such a balance between technique, beach skills, fitness, interval training, and keeping the sense of joy in swimming.

Coach Kingy introduced this set as a “pyramid” set. I’ve written about pyramid sets before, and they’re usually pretty standard, varying only in how far it is to the top of the pyramid. Tuesday, however, Coach Kingy mixed it up a bit, and may have invented swimming’s first “Mayan Pyramid” drill.

mayan pyramid

mayan pyramid

See the similarity?

Sunday was the Bondi To Bronte 2.3km event. I had my new camera and was keen to take it for a bit of a swim before and after the event, so I thought what I might do here is a bit of a run-through of how an event like this actually works for a competitor. If you’ve never swum in an ocean swim race, I’m hoping this might give you a bit of an idea of how it all works. Obviously, all events are different and they all have their own special way of doing things, but this is the story of how it went on Sunday…..

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