Swimming…getting faster…cool

Taking an almost painfully methodical approach to improving my swimming appears to be producing some results…nice

Over the past month, Coach Dinah Mistilis and I set out a plan to find my particular combination of stroke rate and stroke length that will get me through 2.4 miles of the Ironman swim as fast as possible while still being able to maintain efficient form

…unlike ‘just’ swimming in a swim meet, since the Ironman swim is just a warm-up to a long day, ‘fast as possible’ is not the idea…nor is slow, easy, perfect form…it’s that magical, tricky, most efficient combination of both…so my stated race goal for a few months now has been:

…my ‘exceeds’ Ironman goal at this point is a stroke rate of 1.2 (a stroke every 1.2 seconds) and 22 strokes or less per 25 yards = 26.4 seconds per 25 yards = 1:45/100 yards = 1:14:00 for 2.4 miles (4,224 yards)…add in a few minutes for current, open water conditions and ‘stuff’, and I’d be over the mat in 1:20:00′ish….just like a real swimmer :)

Two weeks ago, I did my first 1,000 yard test at a ‘perceived pace’ that felt I could swim 2.4 miles at…it was a bit ugly, with a stroke rate in the 1.31-1.46 range…slow…and a total time of 22:20…so average pace of 2:14/100 yards…the only good news was that I was generally able to maintain that 20-22 strokes/100 yards for most of it

At the time:

…the first goal is 2 weeks away…that same 1,000 yards at a 1.28 stroke rate, at 22 strokes per 25 yards…this time following the beeps of the Tempo Trainer …Ironman time: 1:19:00…add in a few minutes for ‘stuff’ and 1:25:00′ish all in

So here we are 2 weeks later…today’s results from my Swimsense watch…Coach Dinah on vacation on my normal lesson day, so the data from the watch is not as precise as her counting and stopwatch…the Swimsense ‘senses’ when you make a turn, and therefore records the time and stroke count for each 25 yards…although may not be perfectly precise on when it ‘thinks’ you made that turn, depending on which arm touches first, and if you move the arm with the watch on it a bit, although still pretty slick

…here’s the Swimsense data link for the hardcore numbers junkies: http://bit.ly/pkOIzY

TEST 1: Interval 4:         1,000 yards with TempoTrainer set to 1.23
DISTANCE: 1000y AVG PACE: 2.05/100y AVG STROKE: 11 TOTAL TIME: 20.54

TEST 2: Interval 7:         500 yards with TempoTrainer set to 1.20:
DISTANCE: 500y AVG PACE: 2.02/100y AVG STROKE: 11 TOTAL TIME: 10.13

…threw in Coach Gale Bernhardt Faster 25’s x 2 at the end just to see what I had left …this sequence improves the speed at the neuromuscular level…it’s like this: 4×25, and repeat 2-3 times, with a bit of a rest between if needed…the fast-as-you-can-go part is the most important:

  • 25: 1/2 easy, 1/2 fast-as-you-can-go
  • 25: 1/2 easy, 1/2 fast-as-you-can-go
  • 25: easy
  • 25: fast-as-you-can-go

Fastest 25’s all-out @ Interval 11: 1:31/100Y and Interval 15: 1:35/100Y pace…nice

So what does this mean:

  • I was able to do my 1,000 yard test at a 1.23 stroke rate…that’s quite a bit faster than my 1.28 original goal for today…while still maintaining 22 strokes or less per 25 yards (11 the way Swimsense counts it)
  • I felt good enough after the 1,000 yard test to try a 500 yard test at an even faster 1.20 stroke rate…my goal race stroke rate for Ironman…and was able to complete it while maintaining my form…so cool

In terms of how this translates into my Ironman swim time, I do keep in mind that in a 25 yard pool, I’m taking extra slow turns to save that bum knee of mine from a constant series of hard push-offs, and when I count 22 strokes, you would need to add-on 2 strokes anyway to account for the push-off and glide, where I’m not taking any strokes…so all of that means that my actual recorded lap times are probably slower than the ‘theoretical’ speed without walls, and offsetting that, my stroke count probably a bit higher in open water without the push-off/glide

…and if I’ve lost you there, don’t worry about it…the long and the short of it is, that in the past 2 weeks I’ve actually found that I’m more comfortable and smoother and more efficient at the faster stroke rates, than I am at the slower one…so good news 🙂

The further good news is that when I’m actually swimming between the walls, I’m beginning to get comfortable with a 1.20’ish stroke rate, with reasonably efficient form…and I still have 11 weeks to go before Ironman…where my training and race goals remain:

Swim: 1:20:00 / 1:55/100 yards

Race plan: stroke rate (SR) of 1.2 (seconds) and a stroke length of 22/25 yards = 1.136 yards = 1:14:00 on a perfect, flat water day in a straight line

Training plan: I’m going to move this up from 3 to 4 swims a week…4′ish hours a week…_everything_ at 20-22 strokes per 25 yards…or less…roughly 8-9,000 yards a week ( 5-5.5miles)…and get to a comfortable 1.2 SR before race day

If you want to go back and see the progress in thought and results since July 15, click on the Swimming link in the Categories down the right side column

…500 yards at a 1.20 stroke rate is not 2.4 miles…but it’s not 50 yards either…so I’m starting to see, really for the first time, that I may actually have a shot at pulling it off…cool 🙂


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