View Full Version : Race strategies: 200 free

Brad Biddle
November 3rd, 2002, 04:22 PM
This topic has come up peripherally in a few different threads recently, but I thought I'd try to revisit it directly. What race strategies are people using in connection with the 200 free (or any 200 for that matter)?

I recently swam in my first meet in 16 years. Historically 200 free was one of my favorite events, and I swam it essentially as a long sprint. That strategy failed miserably in the recent meet, however: my second hundred was six seconds slower than my first (1:03/1:09 SCM) and felt even worse than it sounds -- I was barely able to rotate my arms on the last 25 meters.

The issue for me may simply be conditioning: I've just been back in the water since July, and it's been hard to get as much training in as I'd like. But I'm also wondering if at age 34 my days of treating the 200 like a sprint are over, notwithstanding Henry Clark's experience to the contrary.

It was interesting: after my experience in the 200 I was spooked a bit and ended up taking my 400 out too slow -- unlike in the 200, I had a lot left at the end. My 100 free, an event which historically I wasn't particularly good at, turned out to be my best event (58.3 SCM, felt very good).

The meet was a lot of fun--and, boy, there were some incredibly fast swims--but it did highlight for me how practicing racing is as important as general conditioning.

If anyone is willing to share how they race 200's, I'd be interested.


November 3rd, 2002, 05:30 PM
Brad -

Unlike you, I always treated the 200 like a controlled race for 150 yards. If I sprinted the entire thing, I'd hit the wall at 85-100 yards.

My best 200 Free came at age 42 leading off an 800 Free Relay. The splits were similar to those at the world class level.

By that, I mean, the first 100 should be 2 - 3 seconds off your best 100 Free swim and your 2nd, 3rd, and 4th 50 splits were approximately 2 seconds slower than your 1st 50.

So, I went 26.0, 27.5, 28, 28 - 1:49.+. That was 2 seconds faster than I had ever gone before.

The key I believe to that swim was doing alot of lactate tolerance sets - mostly 6 x broken 200s on 6:00 (rest 10 seconds @ each 50) going as hard as I could from start to finish. These swims taught me how to hold stroke while dead tired and really improved my leg strength.

I also was doing alot of VASA trainer work to build lat and tricep strength.

Good Luck and give yourself another few months to get it down.

Paul Windrath

Paul Smith
November 4th, 2002, 10:03 AM
Hi Brad,
I didn't realize that you we're the same "Brad" that Laura and I swam with at PSC a couple of weeks ago until after the meet! A "face" to one of the forum folks!

The 200 free, or any stroke for that distance is an event I've discussed on this forum in the past and one of my favorite races. In this race I think you really see the separation of true sprinters from us folks who have more of "slow twitch" or endurance based physiology.

I say this because how one "races" this event should be based on their own strengths vs. trying to follow a specific "formula". Although I've often been pegged as a sprinter I've never had "pure" speed, even in my prime I split my 100 free with about 1 second difference between 50s and have almost always swam my best 200s even or negative splitting them.

Seeing how you guys train at PSC and how you swam your 400, my guess is that you would probably have more success going out smooth and strong and bringing it back hard the last 75 (my favorite).

See you soon!

November 4th, 2002, 02:35 PM
Hello Brad and welcome back,

I understand your frustration with the 200 free. After a 13 year retirement, I started swimming again about two and a half years ago. My first 200 free experiences were much the same as you described. In my prime (at age 22) I was a middle distance swimmer ( 200 fly, 200 free & 500 free) and I used to sprint the 200 free from the first stroke---arms and legs going like nobody's business. I could even 6 beat kick the entire 500 free back then too.

But, in my prime I was 10% lighter and 10% stronger than I am now. So being heavier and weaker, I swim more controlled now and my 200s have improved dramatically over the past two years. The advice from both Pauls are right on the mark. Here is specifically how I swim my 200 free:

1) First 50: Fast off the blocks, good glide & fast break-out on the start. Using a 6 beat kick, I use my leg speed to get the first 50 going like I do in my 100, but I breathe every two instead of every four strokes. The idea here being, get it going but don't deplete your oxygen.

2) Second 50: I continue to six beat kick, but back off the kick intensity and I work my arms into it. On this 50, I focus on rolling my body and exhaling deeply when my face is in the water. By the 100 mark, my arms and legs are sharing the work equally---I'm in 200 form now.

3) Third 50: Now I increase the intensity of my kick and pull until I'm at full speed when I hit the 150 mark.

4) Fourth 50: Continue at full speed on the 7th 25 with the focus on the last turn. So many swimmers rest on this turn, you can gain a full body length on your competition here. Last 25, head down, kick and pull like mad and reach for the wall!

My best 200 free swims have been when I even or (barely) negative split and where my second 50 is the slowest of the four. My best 100 free swims have been when I positive split by 1 to 1.5 seconds, as a comparison.

This approach takes some getting used to and may feel a bit awkward at first. Your first attempts may even be slower than the "take it out and die" method, but don't give up. Keep practicing and adjusting the intensity levels until you get it right.

If interested, I can share with you the sets I do in practice.


Brad Biddle
November 4th, 2002, 07:43 PM
Great stuff all -- thanks for the very interesting messages!

Paul W.: thanks for the info re your training strategy, in addition to the other info. Henry: I would be interested in getting info re your workouts. I like where I train very much, but it is something of a "one-size-fits-all" training model. I'd be interested in comparing what we do with what people are doing who are focused on the particular events I'm interested in.

Paul S.: yes, I belatedly put together that you are "that Paul Smith" -- although the blazing speed should have tipped me off sooner. I meant to chat with you about this at the AZ SCM meet, but our paths didn't align precisely. I didn't realize you had such a strong AZ connection. I do hope to see you at PSC again sometime soon.

[Ironically, other than Paul, the only other "face" I have to put with a name of a forum contributor is Fast Ion, who I met when I swam a couple of workouts at SDSM this past summer, before I ever visited this board. Although perhaps I know Henry Clark as well: if I remember correctly there was an Olympic trials-level swimmer named Henry Clark who swam in the Philadelphia area in the mid-80's (with the Jersey Wahoos possibly?)--was that you by any chance Henry? And, now that I think of it, I did see Mel Dyck and Michael Collins at the AZ SCM meet -- in fact Michael Collins swam a very smart 200 free in the lane right next to where I swam my somewhat pathetic one... :-)]

Again, thanks to all -- great, useful feedback.


Ion Beza
November 4th, 2002, 09:26 PM
Originally posted by Brad Biddle

[Ironically, other than Paul, the only other "face" I have to put with a name of a forum contributor is Fast Ion, who I met when I swam a couple of workouts at SDSM this past summer, before I ever visited this board.
Yes, I guessed before this post that a Brad from Arizona coming to UCSD Masters mornings workouts, might be Brad Biddle from Arizona posting in the USMS forum.

Unfortunately in one workout there, you saw Caroline Krattli nitpicking on my request to lead a set. That and the lax coach nicknamed 'Sickie', threw me off in tapering for the 2002 Long Course Nationals.

I am now addressing this, so that I am not thrown off again in future workouts and tapers.

Ion Beza
November 4th, 2002, 09:31 PM
Nothing to say in this post: I just clicked unintentionally.

Brad Biddle
November 5th, 2002, 11:10 AM
Originally posted by Ion Beza

I am now addressing this, so that I am not thrown off again in future workouts and tapers.

At the risk of going down the discussion-too-focused-on-individual-swimmers path that has been rightly criticized in the "netiquette" thread, I've been curious: where are you swimming now Ion?

My impression was that Sickie's program at UCSD was really the only game in town for real top-tier masters swimming (I lived in San Diego for 12 years, but didn't swim there, so I certainly could be wrong). I know that the JCC right by UCSD has a fairly large program too, though -- is that where you are now?

[I get over to SD frequently, so knowing about other workout options could be useful. Also, I'm trying to talk my brother into getting in shape for nationals -- he lives out in La Mesa (suburb of SD), was a 49.+ 100 yard backstroker in college but hasn't swum for 7 years.]

In an effort to 'up-level' this to a more generic level: I wonder to what extent different masters programs take on different flavors due to the philosophies of the coaches? I.e., are most programs fundamentally similar, with minor differences around the edges, or are some programs radically different from others based on the interests/outlook/orientation of the coach?


November 5th, 2002, 01:37 PM

Yes, I'm that same Henry Clark but I swam for Foxcatcher back then. Jersey Wahoos trained with us at Dupont's pool in the summers. Your name sounds familiar, did you swim in the mid-atlantic LSC too?

The ability to changes speeds in a race (such as the 200 free) requires strong legs. A great way to improve your leg endurance is to kick a set of 100s, 150s or 200s where you negative split and descend. Do this one or two times each week. Start out easy the first time and as you get stronger start faster each time you attempt the set. Give yourself an accordingly amount of rest between to shake your legs out. When I kick without a board, I do six kicks (on my side) and then a stroke rotating from side to side. This will help your six beat kick and your freestyle roll.

The set that I like for the 200 free is generally this: 100 kick, 150 swim, 50 recovery and doing this 4 to 6 times. The 100 is always a hard kick and the 150 should be negative split or descending 50s. The transitional time between the kick and swim should be short (10-15 seconds) and the recovery 50 should long enough to get your heart rate back down. The kick can be broken down into 25s or 50s and the swim can be broken down into 75s or 50s with short rest. Once you get good at this, you will find yourself descending the 150s as well.

Remember, a good dryland or weight training regiment that builds core body strength is just as important as getting in the pool. Your core is what connects (or transfers the momentum from) your legs to your arms. Oh, and don't forget to stretch!


Ion Beza
November 5th, 2002, 01:47 PM
Originally posted by Brad Biddle

My impression was that Sickie's program at UCSD was really the only game in town for real top-tier masters swimming (I lived in San Diego for 12 years, but didn't swim there, so I certainly could be wrong). I know that the JCC right by UCSD has a fairly large program too, though -- is that where you are now?
Right now I swim at JCC.
It has a very good coach, radiant with racing style workouts.
However, the entire program is again just an 'organized swimming' program, not a program for future racing. The coach told me last week that I might need to taper by myself, since she has an all-purpose -mainly fitness- program to run.

Sickie has indeed "...the only game in town for real top-tier masters...", because of competent coaching staff he assembled, trust from the university which allocates him a very good training facility, and plenty of fast swimmers, who ironically don't even compete and don't have their names in the rankings.

Myself I was using Sickie's trainings only in the summer of 2001 and 2002, because he has monopoly amongst coaches over workouts in the 50 meters pool, not because of his coaching abilities.

A coach who trains the distance UCSD varsity team to NCAAs meets, who is also a former distance swimmer in the NCAAs himself, didn't agree with Sickie's handling of Caroline Krattli's nitpicking on me during my taper for the 2002 Long Course Nationals.
He coached me for short course competitions in 2001 and 2002, and just opened now a Masters program at the La Jolla High School, in a 50 meters pool; it is more race specific than UCSD and JCC Masters are.

I am finishing up my membership at JCC at the end of this month, and will join the La Jolla more competitive program in December.

Getting back to a 200 meters freestyle strategy for you, Brad, addressing the facts that you used to sprint it entirely, and took up swimming again at age 34, with a 58 seconds for 100 meters free, I am thinking about this temporary solution:
.) sprint the first 75 meters, in about 45 seconds;
.) ease off slightly for the next 50 meters; this would bring you at the 100 meters mark, in about 1:02;
.) sprint the last 75 meters, knowing that after the 50 meters easy, you won't die.

It is a temporary solution, until you regain -if you regain- the ability to sprint all of it.