Swimming: time to get serious

A funny moment at the pool on Friday when Coach Dinah Mistilis told me that the folks at Total Immersion (TI) had noticed a recent mention in one of my posts:

…and had pointed it out to the TI instructor staff …like everywhere…so Coach Dinah, who was enjoying a quiet life, working with local athlete’s in a Huntersville pool, now has a peer group of some of the best swim instructors in the world, watching to see if she can convert a 57-year-old triathlete, that turns in slooow 1:40:00 Ironman swim performances, into something better

…I can feel her pain as she watches me churning up and down the lane lines…her reputation resting on this long shot horse, that came to her swimming like a brick, looking for elegance and speed…trying to remain positive, and not shake her head…the voices in her head wanting to shout out to me with adjustments while watching arms flying in the wrong direction…fighting that sinking feeling that I may just never ‘get it’…and then what to say at the TI Christmas Party when _everybody_ will be there…maybe better to just not go this year…

Actually Coach Dinah is not like that at all 🙂

…she has a deep and fundamental belief in the TI principles, and that if ‘simply’ applied will lead to efficient speed…and she patiently applies them…typically in the water for the entire hour, watching, adjusting, perfecting…with a less than perfect student that when faced with a new stroke thought promptly forgets the last one

Given enough time, I’m sure that I could ‘get it’ all…but it would take time, and in 13 weeks, I have to take whatever stroke I have to the dance at Ironman Florida…and there are no points for pretty in Ironman…just how long you take from the time the starting gun goes off, until you cross the mat at the end of the swim…that’s the evaluation…simply the numbers on the clock

so it’s now time to apply ‘form’ to ‘fast’ to ‘long’

Now of course there are variables in race conditions, and things that happen, like last year when my wetsuit zipper split up the back…I don’t want to do that again anytime soon

But the main elements are controllable…it’s going to come down to this:

  • stroke rate: how fast I take each stroke
  • stroke length: how far each stroke takes me
  • staying on course tightly: no extra distance
  • my race day execution: my willingness to trust the plan, and follow the plan when it matters most…and not wimp out

So on Friday, beyond our usual work on stroke mechanics, to finish up she had me swim 1,000 yards…just swim…with a focus on maintaining my stroke count for the 25 yards at 22 or under…not worried about speed or stroke rate…at an effort level that I thought that I could maintain for 2.4 miles if that’s what I was doing on the day…and just stay efficient for 1,000 yards…40 lengths of the pool.

Here’s how it turned out…our starting point:

1st 25 2nd 25 3rd 25 4th 25 Cum time Time Approx tempo
100 19 21 21 22 2:13 2:13 1.38
200 21 22 21 23 4:34 2:21 1.46
300 21 22 22 22 6:53 2:19 1.44
400 20 21 21 23 9:10 2:17 1.42
500 21 22 22 22 11:23 2:13 1.38
600 22 22 21 22 13:37 2:14 1.39
700 21 23 22 22 15:53 2:16 1.41
800 22 22 21 22 18:04 2:11 1.36
900 22 22 21 22 20:14 2:10 1.35
1000 22 22 20 22 22:20 2:06 1.31

So the good news when you look at the chart is that I did indeed stay at 22 strokes or less for just about all 40 lengths…slow yes…stroke rate slow yes…but didn’t blow up, or ‘lose it’, and start thrashing in at 24, 26, 28 or higher…so that was good!

…and in a 25 yard pool, the stats are a little inexact, since I lose time with slow open turns at every wall, and gentler-than-normal knee friendly push-offs…costs a couple of seconds…and not taking a stroke or 2 during the pushoff…but at least consistent, so comparable from one session to another

Of course, the challenge is that it was slow…with a stroke rate (tempo) that was a lot slower than it really needs to be…although I picked it up a bit at the end…that _very_ conservative I’m-not-sure-how-much-effort-I-can-swim-at-without-blowing-up-so-I-go-slow thing…the average was only 2:14/100 yards…which if I swam a perfectly straight line for 2.4 miles at that pace, I would be finished in 1:35:00…wait a second…that would be a Personal Record (PR) for me in an Ironman swim, beating my current best time of 1:37:33…cool!

…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 = 1:14:00 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 🙂

…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.

…and although there is current, and waves, and 2,500 other thrashing swimmers, and this is 1,000 yards and not 2.4 miles, in Ironman there is a wetsuit and saltwater buoyancy, and no walls

…and we do have 13 weeks…

Coach Dinah…there may be hope after all 🙂

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