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KaizenSwimmer
September 4th, 2006, 11:02 PM
Following up on my devil's advocate question about kicking sets, I've got another topic that might yield some good discussion. How indispensable is the pace clock?

I'm posing this question because for the 4th summer in a row I haven't done a single timed repeat set from early June through Sept, yet each summer my performance improves steadily over those 3 to 4 months. From 2001 to 2005, I had not swum particularly fast during short course season, but returned to pool training with our local Masters group in Sept, swimming faster than Iíd left it in June. Last year, I separated my shoulder in August and was out of training til Sept so I couldnít test my thesis, but I swam a startlingly fast 45:43 in the 2-Mile Cable Swim just before that injury.

This year, at 55 I did manage to match or beat the times I did as an 18 y.o. college freshman in the 500, 1000,and 1650 free in April and May (and on half the weekly yardage I did then) yet was far slower in the 100 and 200 free than I was back then. I train much "harder" (in HR and force application terms) in the pool with the Masters group, during which every set is clock-based. In June I began swimming on my own, or with a buddy. We divided our time between a few morning LC practices per week and a few afternoon practices in Lake Minnewaska in June and July. Since the beginning of August, we've swum exclusively at the lake. Weíve done virtually no "high effort" swimming and nothing remotely anaerobic.
There was no pace clock at the pool, and naturally there's none at the lake, though there is a marked 200m course on which we swim.

At the pool, we did a bit of Fistglove swimming, to develop feel, a LOT of stroke-count-regulated training, in which we increased our SPL by 1 to 4 strokes when we wanted to swim faster, and a steadily increasing amount of training with the Tempo Trainer, testing our ability to increase stroke frequency (and speed) while controlling increase in SPL.

At the lake, we do a significant amount of Focal Point training, with some Tempo Trainer speedplay or "pace-matching" (we push the pace a bit Ė to 1- or 2-mile race pace -- and try to match each otherís SR while focused on feeling relaxed and controlled.) But our training has all been task-oriented rather than time-oriented.

Here's an example of a task-oriented lake practice from last week:

I swam 3200, pausing only to reverse direction at the end of the 200m course. I broke this into 4 sets of 800, each with a different focal point
#1 - synchronize hand-spear with leg drive of the opposite foot
#2 - spear each hand entry to a memorized "target" - a fingers-down position, at a chosen depth, on "tracks" directly forward of each shoulder.
#3 - pause my hand for a moment in that position, applying light pressure to the water until the water felt "thick" and firm, before stroking.
#4 used an aikido image of my arm as a firehose with a strong stream of water running through it, to lend a greater sense of connected-strength to my stroke.

In each 800 I increased breathing frequency from 1/3 on the first 200, to 2R/2L the 2nd 200, 3R/3L, the 3rd 200 and 4R/4L the 4th 200.

The "training effect" I seek in my practices at the lake is to deepen a particular, highly examined aspect of my stroke for hundreds of almost uninterrupted strokes (itís about 160 strokes per length of the 200m line). Unquestionably there is also an energy system impact, but that's almost always incidental in my mind. What I am distinctly aware of each summer is becoming progressively more ďdialed inĒ to sensations of effectiveness and synchronization/harmony in my stroke. In my races my focus is primarily on replicating those sensations, and secondarily on the strategic side of OW racing Ė pack swimming, drafting/passing, navigating, etc.

I expect that my pool times might be a bit slower than they were when I left the pool three months ago, but my OW swims unquestionably get steadily stronger, over the course of each summer. I wonít return to pool-and-pace-clock training for another few weeks, so I donít know yet how my pool times will compare.

newmastersswimmer
September 5th, 2006, 01:45 PM
I personally find the pace clock to be too valuable to give up......but maybe thats just me?


Newmastersswimmer

p.s. I don't do a lot of open water swimming though.....so maybe thats why I find the pace clock so valuable?

Rob Copeland
September 5th, 2006, 02:10 PM
Originally posted by totalswimm
Is the pace clock indispensable? For me, yes. I use times from my workouts to help assess what shape (or lack thereof) Iím in. Itís difficult to do a set of 5 by 200 descending, without a pace clock.

knelson
September 5th, 2006, 02:21 PM
I posed a similar question a while back. My idea wasn't to "throw out the pace clock," but rather to throw out stopping during workouts. My thinking was that an entire workout could be done without stopping. You'd still vary your pace, strokes, etc. but instead of resting at the wall you'd be doing active rest where you continued to swim easy. Sort of an entire workout of fartlek training.

Anyway, I never tried it, but it still seems reasonable. Like someone else said about eliminating kicking with a kickboard, though, it would damage the social aspect of the workout.

Peter Cruise
September 5th, 2006, 02:29 PM
Well, Kirk- if you just keep swimming, you'll finish the workout earlier & get to the serious socializing earlier.

KaizenSwimmer
September 5th, 2006, 02:38 PM
Originally posted by Rob Copeland
I use times from my workouts to help assess what shape (or lack thereof) Iím in. Itís difficult to do a set of 5 by 200 descending, without a pace clock.

That's true for me as well. And I have that assessment tool available eight months a year, and I use it to sharpen the "clock in the head" that's indispensable for distance swimming. I also use it as one measurement tool (along with stroke count and kinesthetic sense) for evaluating the effects of one stroke adjustment or focal point or strategy, compared to another.

But what has piqued my interest is the fact that, for the last five summers, while deprived of that particular tool, my swimming has not suffered at all. Indeed it has prospered. So I began asking myself that original question - is it indispensable? Certainly your post affirms that it's helpful, but not that it's indispensable.

Here are two reasons why I think I have improved while doing months of untimed swims:
1) Removing the element of constant pressure and self-judgement that the pace clock may impose, frees me to be more sensitive to how effectively I'm interacting with the water. And when I do, I get a much keener sense of how I want my races to FEEL. Every time I can connect with that feeling early in the race, I swim exceptionally well. That sensitivity is progressively heightened throughout the summer.
2) I'm also forced to rely entirely on "feel" for whether I'm going fast. And, not being able to see a clock while racing in OW, that feel is all you've got.

Perhaps if you experimented with swimming sans clock for a week, or perhaps even a day, you'd discover something useful. Just a thought.

Paul Smith
September 5th, 2006, 02:45 PM
I've used the clock less & less over the last few years.....focusing more on my recovery/feel for setting send off's. I Especially try and avoid it during the early stages of my taper......no need being depressed at how bad times are during tha phase.

Would I ever give it entirely?.....sounds like an interesting idea and maybe one training cycle worth trying out.....along with the no kick set gig.

KaizenSwimmer
September 5th, 2006, 03:07 PM
Originally posted by Paul Smith
Would I ever give it entirely?.....sounds like an interesting idea and maybe one training cycle worth trying out.....along with the no kick set gig.

I wouldn't suggest giving it up entirely. Our sport is measured by time so one needs to evaluate oneself on time too, even if only to confirm what you've learned to gauge kinesthetically with some degree of accuracy.

On the other hand, I haven't done a single kicking set in over 15 years and am using my legs far more effectively while swimming whole stroke than I ever did while doing kickboard sets as a regular thing. And my legs, which regularly "died" in college while racing, never fatigue now.

The key is that the integrating practice with which I've replaced kicking sets creates a level of self-awareness and coordination that improves constantly -- and which has proven, since age 50, to be even more powerful than the effects of aging.

With Jim McCleery (world champion in the 60-64 age group in the 3K) as my inspiration, I now plan to peak no earlier than age 60.

geochuck
September 5th, 2006, 10:42 PM
Wow Terry give up a pace clock to do drills - no thanks. When I raced in the marathon swims the pools in the winter were the only place to train. My technique was always good but had to swim lots and hard. Lots of 50s, 100s 400s and watched the clocks all the time. Out doors a different thing but also swam the clock. Swim hard 5 min (1 unit work 3 units rest) swam the 3 unit balance at rest pace.

Out doors it was 54 strokes or 56 minutes or 58 or 60 or 70 or 75. My trainer just wrote on a board to pace at which ever stroke pace was needed for 2 to 4 hrs a day.

During the race season 2 days rest after a race and in the pool doing a mix of swimming all distances many repeats with the clock swim 1 unit rest 1 unit. Also swim 1 unit, rest 2 or 3 units at swim pace. I did all my drills when I was 5 years old to 13 years old.

KaizenSwimmer
September 6th, 2006, 07:14 AM
George
Perhaps you should go back and read all my posts. I didn't say give up the pace clock to do drills. In fact I haven't done a drill all summer -- but that's another topic altogether: when and for whom are drills appropriate and when and for whom is it more appropriate to work on technique with whole stroke.

What I'm suggesting is to selectively train without the pace clock in order to (1) remove a potential distraction while focused on making your sensitivity to your interaction with the water more acute, and/or (2) sharpen your internal sense of speed.

The question posed is "do we rely too much on the pace clock and can we benefit by training without it at times?"

geochuck
September 6th, 2006, 07:42 AM
Terry

I have read with interest all of your posts on this subject and all of your posts in general and have found them to be informative.


Originally posted by totalswimm
George

What I'm suggesting is to selectively train without the pace clock in order to (1) remove a potential distraction while focused on making your sensitivity to your interaction with the water more acute, and/or (2) sharpen your internal sense of speed.

The question posed is "do we rely too much on the pace clock and can we benefit by training without it at times?"
I do focus on technique when using the pace clock I look at the clock to count down 3 - 2 - 1 go swim my swim focusing on all aspests of my stroke thinking of hand entry then to the catch then to the roll out of the hand at the finish, exiting the hand cleanly, the body roll elbows high, the shoulder brushing the ear then how the hand enters. Make my turns thinking of my streamline off the turns and when I finish look at the clock. Hey if I am slow for my intended pace. What did I do wrong if I am too slow???

Throughout all of my workouts and training I concentrate on the 5WS of investigation.

KaizenSwimmer
September 6th, 2006, 10:21 PM
I had an off-forum exchange with a forum member and it occurred to me that I may not have been clear on my reasons for starting this thread. Our email exchange may shed some light.

>>been following your recent posts on losing the pace clock to concentrate unfettered and undistracted on mechanics hoping some sparks will fly (as you too are probably hoping) but so far its been relatively tame and you've received some support from members of the fast group i.e. Paul Smith...

For my part it would take a good measure of energy to remove focus from a clock, which is entertaining as well as informative/instructive...Not saying your point isn't valid but.....I guess I could see myself doing it for a quarter of each practice rather than a quarter of the year, but I don't know if you'd say the benefit would be the same....>>

I replied:
Indeed I'd like to see some sparks fly, but more light than heat.
Perhaps I should have noted explicitly in my initial post, I didn't enter into this experiment intending to prove that pace clocks were unnecessary. It was a circumstance into which I was forced by the absence of clocks where I swim in the summer -- and I don't own a wristwatch!.

I sought to make the best of the situation and was surprised to discover how engrossing swimming could be without a clock -- I'd never tried it before -- and that I could actually create untimed tasks that had real value and positive impact.

That led me to wonder if untimed tasks should not be given serious consideration as an integral part of a complete training strategy.

geochuck
September 6th, 2006, 10:35 PM
Very few coaches use the pace clock to good advantage.

Michael Heather
September 6th, 2006, 11:07 PM
Yes, the pace clock is indispensible. As a training tool, a guidepost of chronologic order and a touchstone for pace reference.

geochuck
September 6th, 2006, 11:36 PM
Just an after thought the mind is a pace clock. When the trainer put a hand signal pointing up and 4 fingers up I increased my pace by 4 strokes a minute or point down and 4 fingers I decreased the stroke count by four.

KaizenSwimmer
September 7th, 2006, 05:11 AM
Originally posted by Michael Heather
Yes, the pace clock is indispensible. As a training tool, a guidepost of chronologic order and a touchstone for pace reference.

Let me pose a question then. How about a situation in which the coach assigns a set of drills, then puts them on an interval (45 seconds for 50-yard repeats comes to mind) in which many swimmers are forced to rushed, unexamined and plain ugly movement to make the interval. I've seen this more times than I can count. In such an iinstance the drills plainly become pointless, indeed counter-productive.
What does the pace clock represent in this instance? Would it be preferable to make this an untimed set and allow each person to complete the drill set at their own pace, without regard to time but only to how well they execute the movements?
If this is so, is the pace clock still "indispensable?"

We've been teaching TI workshops for 17 years and to 10s of thousands of swimmers. For two days we don't use the clock at all, yet the improvement made by those swimmers is striking, and in virtually all cases, they've been training months or years, mostly with the pace clock with little or no progress -- which is precisely why they come to a workshop.

To me, "indispensable" means you can accomplish nothing of value without it. And my intention here is to pose the question of whether one can create untimed tasks that have value and positive impact, and whether it would be worthwhile to more fully explore that idea in training.

Speaking for myself I do the majority of my skill development activities (and those make up the greatest part of my training) with only passing reference to the clock. But I do refer to the clock at a point where the new skill begins to feel semi-automatic and I feel ready to test it with some swim golf repeats or something like that. At that point, for that particular activity the pace clock is indeed indispensable, as it is for any descending set or pace set or a timed effort of any kind.

Rob Copeland
September 7th, 2006, 09:24 AM
Originally posted by totalswimm
To me, "indispensable" means you can accomplish nothing of value without it. So by your definition the only indispensable element of swimming is water? Suits, goggles, coaches, pools, planned workouts and techniques are all dispensable?

Can one have progress without a pace clock? Absolutely.

As for an interval for drills, a good coach will set an appropriate interval (if one is set at all) and also make sure that the swimmers understand the purpose and value of the drill. In addition to setting the intervals too fast, Iíve often seen and been guilty of racing during drill sets. How many of us have opened our hands a wee bit during fist drills? The lack of a clock wonít fix this.

A benefit of a pace clock is to add structure to a workout and for that workout to be part of a seasonal plan. Iíll use my son for an exampleÖ if his lane had a set of 10 100ís 1 fast, 1 easy without any set send off times he would likely swim the fast ones around 49-51 seconds and he could easily swim the slow ones in will over 3 minutes (he has been know to swim in place). This would not only cause problems with the other swimmers in his lane it would cause the workout to run way over.

Is the pace clock indispensable? I guess it depends on the individual, the situation and personís goals. If the personís only goal is to swim a mile 3 times a week then Iíd say the clock is not needed. If the person has set up a training program with a goal of breaking 5:00 in the 500, then I would say the pace clock is indispensable, not for 100% of every swim but for a fair portion of the workout. Also some situations lend themselves to pace clocks; I couldnít imagine 7 people in a lane with the instructions of swimming 10 200ís with each person leaving when they felt ready.

I also believe there are vast difference between the workshops (such as TI) and regularly scheduled workouts. Typically the progress people achieve from a TI workshop is in improved technique and a better understanding of the fluid dynamics of swimming, while a workout is more focused on level of fitness and caloric burn. I would guess that I burn more calories in one 2 hour workout than I would burn in a whole day at most workshops.

geochuck
September 7th, 2006, 09:33 AM
There goes the theory of Max V02 training, no clock, no guage, no heart rate monitor, just piddle around and let the water do it all. Might as well train in the shower and let 2 miles of water pass over my body. Of course the clock is not needed for all of your swimming but to swim fast as Ande says you have to swim fast to be fast - without a clock how can you tell.

TheGoodSmith
September 7th, 2006, 11:01 AM
Quote..... "1) Removing the element of constant pressure and self-judgement ....

2) I'm also forced to rely entirely on "feel" for whether I'm going fast. "

====================================

I'm inclined to agree with your approach..... to an extent.

I've been using the clock less and less during the last 5 years. I started abandoning it when I moved to denver as my pool was short course meters and the altitude made it somehwhat depressing to acknowledge I was having difficulty repeating 100s on the 1:20. So I started doing my sets stopping to rest until I felt recovered.... 20-30 seconds. I don't want to know my times most of the time. They are only getting worse and a reminder of the inevitable... :-) Now I only use the pace clock with sprint work during the end of my season and the final taper. Not using the clock admittedly is mentally freeing. Then again, maybe I'm not facing the hard work and reality that the clock affords.

Note, I don't recommend this for inexperienced swimmers who are somewhat lost as to how fast they are going.


John Smith

ande
September 7th, 2006, 11:38 AM
i must admit, I'm a clock watcher, it helps me track my training performances and compare them, but regardless of what times you swim what distances in, the important thing is effort.

I also have this notion, that if you are swimming something really fast, and the coach or a friend is timing you, you have their attention, since you're being watched, you need to step it up and swim as fast and smart as you can.

I also need to add I'm very near sighted and sometimes have a hard time seeing the clock while I'm swimming and when I finish. It's even more difficult over distances and through foggy goggles, fortunately the swim center has big bright digital pace clocks.

when I swam in NY I had a hard time seeing the pace clocks, they were the standard electric clock with the the red second hand and the black minute hand and I could barely see when to leave.

Pace clocks also help me keep count on longer swims.

Ande

KaizenSwimmer
September 7th, 2006, 03:29 PM
Originally posted by Rob Copeland
So by your definition the only indispensable element of swimming is water? Suits, goggles, coaches, pools, planned workouts and techniques are all dispensable?

I apologize if I left you with that impression. I certainly never intended anything of the kind I tried to be clear in my initial post that meticulously planned practices (in my lexicon a "workout" is an activity primarily intended to make me sweat) and technique are integral to my idea of training content.

However I will absolutely stipulate that in many group-training situations the pace clock is essential to keep order in the typical diet of interval repeats.

>>I also believe there are vast difference between the workshops (such as TI) and regularly scheduled workouts. Typically the progress people achieve from a TI workshop is in improved technique and a better understanding of the fluid dynamics of swimming, while a workout is more focused on level of fitness and caloric burn. I would guess that I burn more calories in one 2 hour workout than I would burn in a whole day at most workshops.>>

Your definition of workout here, agrees completely with mine. Those who come to Masters primarily to burn calories may have little concern with their technique. One concern they might have would be that if unexamined technique leads to injury they'll be unable to work out - at least in the pool - until they recover.

The question of comparative calorie consumption between training and technique is worth examining. Calories burned are a factor of distance covered, not speed. At slower speed it simply takes longer to burn them.
My typical speed while practicing drills is probably 1:45 per 100, about 1:20-1:25 per 100 while practicing skill-intensive whole stroke (perfect form very low SPL), and 1:12-1:15 per 100 when practicing at threshold intensity.
So it would take me about 67 minutes at skill-intensive speed and about 90 minutes at drill pace to burn the calories I'd burn in 60 minutes at threshold speed. Factor in instruction/feedback time in a workshop and it might take 4 hours to burn the calories you burn in 2 hours of training.
Of course their goal on that day is not to burn calories, but to create a situation where future calories burned lead to more swimming output - distance covered and speed generated.
Greatere "fuel efficiency" in other words.

geochuck
September 7th, 2006, 03:49 PM
Terry are the times yards or meters? What is your resting heart rate? Do you have a goal time for 1 mile or 1500m in a pool?

Rob Copeland
September 7th, 2006, 04:00 PM
Originally posted by totalswimm
I apologize if I left you with that impression. Terry thanks for clearing this upÖ I had planned on leaving my dispensable suit at home and swimming in the buff at Dearborn.

And I have to disagree with your characterization of calories burned are a factor of distance not speed. Calories burned are a function of work over time not distance. And while Iím sure a few of our posters can delve into the physics better then I, since the resistive forces of water relative to speed are not linear increasing speed requires increasing force/work. Like a car there is an optimum speed at which we have peak "fuel efficiency". Driving 120 uses more fuel per mile as well as per minute.

KaizenSwimmer
September 7th, 2006, 04:05 PM
Originally posted by geochuck
Terry are the times yards or meters? What is your resting heart rate? Do you have a goal time for 1 mile or 1500m in a pool?

Those are yards time. My resting HR is 42-45.

My 1650yd time at USMS Nats was 19:52, which was a major improvement on the previous best I'd done since age 50 of 21:30. My goal for next May is sub-19.

At the beginning of the year, I set three goals for the OW season.
1) to win a USMS LD championship. I won two.
2) to break a USMS LD record. I broke two.
3) to medal at the World Championships. I did.

For someone who was a slow, ugly thrasher in his teens -- no threat to any team record on my undistinguished HS and college teams (I did 59.6 in the 100 yd free and 2:13 in the 200 free as a HS senior in 1968) -- to be able to aspire to and achieve goals of this sort at age 55 feels indescribable.
Immediately after seeing I'd placed 8th (in the 3K) -- and inspired by Jim McCleery who improved from being an "average" swimmer (by his description) at 50, to being world champion in 3K at 60 -- I set a new goal of winning the world championship myself in the next two to six years.
I may or may not achieve it, but a goal of this magnitude will keep me acutely focused every minute I'm in the water.

geochuck
September 7th, 2006, 04:16 PM
Very important to set goals.

Thanks for the info. I am going to send a personal email later today. I do apologize for the sales pitch thing.

letsrace
September 7th, 2006, 04:23 PM
I won't be baited into the pace clock question, but I will say that I have found outdoor swimming to be wonderfully liberating. I wonder if anyone else finds themselves better able to focus on stroke technique, lower heart rate and greater relaxation when swimming outside. I suffer from what I would call an unusual amount of soreness in my warmups in a pool and I don't have this in a lake.

Perhaps it is the lack of reference or some Thoreaubian nonsense at play, but I have been truly surprised by how good I feel swimming outside.

I experienced this only once in a pool and it was outdoors as well. Of course, that was when I swam with the Stanford women once and I think there might have been something else at work.

I think this fits in with the point about the pace clock, now that I think of it (no not the Stanford women comment). Perhaps it is removing the external factors from swimming that is truly important. I have already acknowledged that I am a much better and happier swimmer now that I don't train with a team, primarily because I don't try racing when I should be focusing. Getting rid of the pace clock...?

Okay, correction, I have been baited.

KaizenSwimmer
September 7th, 2006, 04:45 PM
Originally posted by Rob Copeland
And I have to disagree with your characterization of calories burned are a factor of distance not speed.
I based this on research related to running. I have not seen any research based on swimming, so I interpolated. If you know otherwise, I stand corrected. But the point remains the same.

KaizenSwimmer
September 7th, 2006, 04:50 PM
Originally posted by letsrace
Perhaps it is removing the external factors from swimming that is truly important.

That's exactly how I feel about it. There's an essential experience or sensation I can link with when I'm swimming as well as I can -- call it a "flow state."

I find it easiest to achieve that when unencumbered by any equipment -- nothing interposed between me and the water -- and undistracted by "externals" - walls, clock, numbers of laps, reps, strokes.

When I achieve it, I do all I can to memorize it and to create associations. Then when I'm subjected to distractions or externals, I try to recapture it as best I can.

The most extreme form of distraction is a race. In order to be able to come close to the flow state I achieved when swimming in the lake, for instance, I subject myself to externals/distractions in a gradual, incremental, selective way. The pace clock is just one of those.

Steve Ruiter
September 7th, 2006, 04:53 PM
I swim pretty hard workouts in the pool (100 yds on 1:15 sendoffs, 5,000 yds at times when in decent shape) and sometimes swim in Lake Washington in the summers. I had never felt what people refer to as "runners high" until I swam hard for 30-45 minutes in the lake. I think it is endorphins that make you feel that way. For some reason the continuous swimming without turns makes a big difference for me. I find those swims are a great boost to my pool swimming, but its not feasable for me to switch to them entirely as it requires summertime and someone to swim with to get a good lake swim in.

As for being able to swim as fast as an adult as in HS, I am relieved to hear confirming data that people that can make that claim were not very good swimmers in HS (I'll admit that there may be a very select few noticeable exceptions).

I need a paceclock to do a decent workout. Without one, I don't get enough feedback on how fast I am swimming, and I'll slack off.

knelson
September 7th, 2006, 07:02 PM
Originally posted by Steve Ruiter
As for being able to swim as fast as an adult as in HS, I am relieved to hear confirming data that people that can make that claim were not very good swimmers in HS (I'll admit that there may be a very select few noticeable exceptions).

I actually went faster last year in the 200 free than I ever went in HS. I was pretty good in high school, but I will admit I was somewhat pathetic at anything under a 500 then. But, still, I think it's a decent achievement :)

letsrace
September 8th, 2006, 07:10 AM
Steve,

You should start a forum discussion on this topic. "Are you faster now?" or the like. I suspect that you would get a lot of interesting reports. I suspect that many swimmers are faster now than in high school and I suspect that some are faster than in college.

KaizenSwimmer
September 8th, 2006, 09:04 AM
I'll adopt another tack in examining the pace clock topic, by describing how I DO use the clock.

A good example would be a standard set our Masters group does every Tuesday - 5 x 500, usually descending but sometimes in other ways. My lane does them on an interval between 6:45 and 7:15. Looking in my log, I see that on March 7, I descended that set 6:28-6:24-6:21-6:18-6:15 on a 6:45 interval.

When I do such sets I plan in advance what times I'll do on each 500 and exactly how I'll descend. HOW is a combination of:
a) stroke count - how much of each 500 at 13spl, 14spl, or 15spl
b) how energetically I'll arm-spear/leg-drive, and
c) amount of forearm pressure I'll feel

While I'm swimming I know - with a high degree of accuracy - what the clock will read when I finish and when I look at it, it's to check my estimate. In the 20 to 30 seconds before starting the next, I'll mentally rehearse the changes I'll make to subtract another 3 seconds on the next - or 2 or 4 seconds if I missed my plan/estimate on the previous. I've learned this approach to training is essential to how well I do in distance swimming.

Many of my teammates, by contrast, are rather erratic, often starting the set too fast and fading significantly as it goes on. I've observed that to be predominantly so virtually everywhere I've swum as a "guest swimmer."

All of us have the pace clock at our disposal, but not everyone uses it in the same way. For me, in any case, the pace clock simply reports how fast I've swum, but can do nothing to help me increase my speed or maximize my potential. It does not help me develop the strategies or techniques or awareness that allow me to plan a set, then execute my plan with consistent accuracy. That comes from a high degree of self-awareness and adaptability (different ways to swim) that has been developed mainly while doing untimed tasks -- solving self-designed "puzzles" as I put it in the kickboard thread.

geochuck
September 8th, 2006, 09:14 AM
I use the Pace clock on swims of up to 100m and really do not check my time I check when to start my repeat. For longer swims I use the regular clock. I check the Pace clock during the longer swims to see on occassion if I am on my 25 or 50 goal time for the 400m or 500m swim. The pool I swim at has 2 pace clocks one at each end and they are in sync.

KaizenSwimmer
September 15th, 2006, 10:26 PM
I'm spending a few days in Dearborn MI at the USMS Convention. Skip Thompson,a frequent participant on this forum was kind enough to arrange for a local outdoor 50M pool to remain open beyond its normal Labor Day closing for our use each morning. Since we are swimming between 0530 and 0700, it's still dark as we swim, except for a couple of work lights illuminating our coaches.

I haven't even been aware if there's a pace clock or not, in the dark, but have still been able to make the repeats interesting. This morning as 7 am approached the coach gave us a 200 swimdown. As I finished it I realized a group in the next lane, led by the aforementioned Skip, was still swimming a series of 100m repeats. So I joined in, swimming alongside Skip for 4 or 5 x 100.

On each repeat I just focused on matching my pace to Skip's, not conscious of my time or even curious about it. As a 400/500 to 1500/1650 pool swimmer, I focus on 2nd-half swimming, so I tried to hold back a bit on the 1st 50, swimming with a slightly lower stroke count and letting Skip gain a bit of ground on me, then match his pace or gain back what I'd given up on the 2nd 50. I also focused on staying as relaxed and controlled as possible while doing so.

Finally I realized there was a clock at the end of the lane and checked it on the final repeat - 1:21, which was a pleasant surprise.

Nonetheless, the 4 repeats on which I didn't know my time were just as valuable because they exactly mimicked conditions as I race -- I don't know exactly how fast I'm swimming. I only know how I feel and the relative position of other swimmers.

So here's a different tack on this thread. Instead of asking for discussion of whether a pace clock is indispensable, I'd like to ask forum members to post a set or task or activity they've done lately that was untimed, but still useful.

And thanks to Skip for providing an opportunity to swim in fresh air a long pool and before sunrise. Perfect. Thanks also for setting a solid pace this morning.

KaizenSwimmer
September 16th, 2006, 12:01 PM
This morning at the Masters workout at the 50m pool in Dearborn. after the "official" workout was over I swam for an additional 20 minutes. I did the following untimed set

Swim 6 x 50 1 Fly, 1 Free, 1 Back, 1 Free, 1 Breast 1 Free, resting for 3 breaths between 50s
Swim 1 x 300: 50 Fly, 50 Free, 50 Back, 50 Free, 50 Breast 50 Free

I did this twice through. I counted strokes on the 50s with a goal of trying to stay as close as possible to the same stroke counts on the straight 300.
My counts on the 50s were 22 for Fly, 38 for Back, 24 for Breast and 35 for Free. I stayed within one SPL of each count on the 300s.

LindsayNB
September 17th, 2006, 10:36 AM
Tangent:
A while ago I bought a tempo trainer to try and work on my incredibly slow turnover when swimming butterfly. I quickly realized that having yet another thing to concentrate on wasn't what my butterfly needed just then and put it away.

The last few weeks I have been frustrated that my freestyle speed during sets has been very inconsistant day to day and puzzled as to why. Last night I decided to try using the tempo trainer to see if the variance in speed was a result of a variance in tempo or due perhaps to inconsistant technique issues. I discovered that if I kept a consistant tempo my total time was also consistant but that it took a greater increase in perceived effort than I expected. The impression that I was left with is that my slower times were the result of not "building" the perceived effort enough over each length to maintain a constant tempo. Of course since my problem was inconsistancy day to day I need to continue to experiment.

Back in August I did something along the same lines with my watch, setting the timer for my goal pace per 50m in a 1500 so I had feedback each lap on how close I was to my goal pace. That allowed me to shave a few seconds off my 1500 PB which was a little surprising in a regular workout swimming by myself.

Anyway, as I said, this is a bit tangential, and using the watch is basically same as using a pace clock but more convenient. The tempo trainer can be used in open water, the watch could be used on Terry's 200m open water course. What are other people's experiences with using timing devices other than a pace clock?

geochuck
September 17th, 2006, 11:02 AM
Timing devices

Open water my trainer who accompanied me training and during races had a club and would hit on a board attached to the seat of an aluminum boat the sound travelled very well in the water. If he wanted to pick up my pace he would beat at the pace he wanted me to swim, 30 beats a minute I did 60 strokes a minute. That was Max Hurley,he had been a six day bicycle rider, could not swim a stroke.

Coahes have beat on ladders to keep swimmers on pace.

Herb Jones built a pulley system that was run with a small electric motor. It went from one end of the pool and back. He could set it at any speed for the swim. There was a little flag on the 50 yards of rope and we had to keep pace with it. with the flag.

KaizenSwimmer
September 19th, 2006, 04:36 AM
Originally posted by LindsayNB
The tempo trainer can be used in open water, the watch could be used on Terry's 200m open water course. What are other people's experiences with using timing devices other than a pace clock?

This isn't a tangent at all. I did exactly this during August. I began using a Tempo Trainer in a few pool sessions and on the 200m course in OW. I gained several exciting insights, which I think I should probably post in a thread devoted exclusively to that, so it gets the attention of those who might be interested.

chaos
September 22nd, 2006, 08:48 PM
been back in the pool for a week now (scy) and my times are as good as they have ever been in practice. i have spent the last three months lake swimming (long continuous swims), some early summer long course sessions sans clock but occasionally with a tempo trainer, and have raced open water just about every weekend since mid-june.

the "great indicator set" we did tonight:
5 x 100 free on 1:25
5 x 100 free on 1:20
5 x 100 free on 1:15

nothing lost by not using a pace clock all summer!

Sabretooth Tiger
September 22nd, 2006, 10:35 PM
Ah, but you only know that because you're using a pace clock to mark your sets now.

chaos
September 23rd, 2006, 09:16 AM
sabretooth,
yes this is true.

what i found most interesting about this set is that i would have predicted that with such an extended layoff from the pace clock; a good perfomance would have required more "clock conditioning" .............doesn't seem to be the case!

TomBrooklyn
October 20th, 2007, 03:02 PM
I began using a Tempo Trainer in a few pool sessions and on the 200m course in OW. I gained several exciting insights, which I think I should probably post in a thread devoted exclusively to that, so it gets the attention of those who might be interested.
Hi KS,
I searched and couldn't find it. Did you get around to doing that?