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Alex's swim journal

It's a journey: musings on art, literature, life... and occasional notes on training.

  1. mile time trial...

    by , May 14th, 2012 at 02:04 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    It's been more than a week since I've been back on the blog. Still swimming, but way too busy with everything else. I put in about 10 miles this last week and am up over 215 miles for the year now.

    Being a step-back week with yardage, I decided to do a mile time trial on Saturday instead of just slogging through a shorter-long swim. I hadn't time-trialed myself since last summer at that distance. Last time I swam a 1750 SCY for time I did 28:20, holding :48/50 pace until it fell apart in the final 200-300 yards. My endurance has gotten much better. I held the :48 pace and had enough left in the tank at 1500 to speed it up for the final 250. I finished in 27:49.

    After a 2:00 rest I swam another mile for time, holding a :50/50 pace and coming in right at 29:00.

    I was very happy with this result; knocking 30 seconds off of my best mile time trial and then turning around and holding my BASE pace for another mile.

    This week: back to the mileage build-up! Though I wonder if my BASE hasn't gotten faster. I probably need to go back and test that again. Am I supposed to be able to hold that pace for a couple of miles?
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  2. 5 de mayo... milestones

    by , May 5th, 2012 at 07:15 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Looking back over my exercise journal from last year (I was still keeping it in paper then) I find that this very week in 2011 I swam only 8000 yards... not even 5 miles... and it was the highest yardage week of the the year at that point. Summer 2011 was the season I became a "full-time" swimmer after years of 2-3-miles a week, some months, interrupted by long periods with no swimming at all.

    This year Cinco de mayo caps off a 12-mile week, I'm up to 12th on GTD in age group, and I've passed 200-miles for the year. Today's 10K in the pool put me over the 200 mark.

    I was a little slower than last week, but maybe the body hadn't fully recovered from the 11K. Last week I hit the 10k mark in 3:20.00 exactly; today I swam 3:25.00. I could have swum more, and I'm still shooting for that 12K continuous swim in the pool, but I ran out of gatorade* and decided to call it a day, having started an hour later than I did last week. Next week will be a step-back week and then I'll have another crack at that 12K mark the following week. Hopefully that will be my last SCY long swim... for now at least... I'm looking forward to the beaches and the LCM outdoor pools opening for the season.

    Also, I'm excited to see announcements for the 5K/10K postal swims already up... something to look forward to; in addition to the OW 10-miler in MN. I'll need a kayak for that one probably. My 16-year-old son has agreed to kayak, but I need to find a kayak for him to use. The long swims in the pool are teaching me how to space my feedings, but they're also teaching me how critical feedings are going to be in open water to maintain energy out past 5K. For the OW 5K in June I'm not going to worry about it... it's a short enough race that the water station at midpoint and a gel should get me through.

    *Gatorade Bandido was there today for the last couple thousand yards or so; but his family was watching him like a hawk. One of the brothers even came and moved my bottles over to the far side of the lane when they slid into the lane next to me. Nice folks, it was good to see them.
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  3. May 1...

    by , May 1st, 2012 at 09:55 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Started off a new month in the FLOG with a "measly" 2000-yard workout and a sea of blank days in front of me. April was a good month, filling the FLOG screen with swim workouts. April was my first 50-mile month (55 actually). Now a new month begins!

    Still a little sluggish from my 11K on Saturday and Sunday's service project, I took the day off yesterday. Today I told myself I had to get in for a short swim at least. After 500 I was feeling slow, so I stopped to adjust my goggles and jumped into a couple of short sets to knock the cobwebs off: 5 x 100 on 1:45 and 10 x 50 on :55. I finished with another 500 in a 1:45/100 pace.

    2000 SCY in 36 minutes total time. And so it begins again...
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  4. Weekend 11K; week in review...

    by , April 30th, 2012 at 01:11 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    I haven't blogged in almost a week, but today is the first swim I've missed in ten days. Things have been super busy, but I've been able to squeeze in the swim time with a little creative scheduling. Highlights since my last blog:

    Had a nice 4000-yard workout on Wednesday, sandwiched by 2000-yarders on Tuesday and Thursday. The 4000-yarder opened with 1000-yards worth of kick work with fins. My kick is feeling stronger after a couple of weeks of long kick sets!

    Friday's 2400 opened with 24 X 50 on :55. This was challenging (mentally) because I normally swim the 50s hard and leave every 1:00. I backed the throttle off a little and I felt pretty comfortable coming in at :40-:42 with 5 secs. less rest. Even though I have been hitting :36-:37 occasionally and holding :38-:40 on most of my 50 sets recently, this was still nice up-tempo work for me... I needed that neuromuscular refresher, so that my 1:45/100 pace for long-distance would seem way too easy.

    Saturday I swam continuously for 3 hours, 42 minutes... 11K total (12,100 SCY). No bathroom breaks this time; I'm guessing because I started so early in the morning (6:30). I still went through 2 bottles of gatorade. I finished 10K in just under 3:20 (a ten minute improvement on the 10K swim I did 3 weeks ago--previously my longest continuous swim)... then I crawled through the final kilometer; I think I still had a little left in the tank, but the shoulders were mighty sore in that last 1-2K.

    I woke up pretty tired this morning, but not too sore from the 11K effort. It didn't help that I then proceeded to put in 7 hours on a service project (shoveling, mixing cement)... now I'm really beat! More ibuprofen please!
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  5. Missing workout...

    by , April 23rd, 2012 at 11:09 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    I wanted to post this workout, because I don't want to forget it and didn't get a chance to blog last week (Friday) after I did it:

    10 x 100 (no rest, alternated hard and easy)
    100 breast
    10 x 100 (no rest, alternated hard and easy)
    100 breast
    10 x 100 (no rest, alt. hard/EZ)
    100 breast
    200 free at Base + 5
    =3500 SCY in 1:02.00

    On these the "hard" was BASE -5; EZ, BASE +10. For me BASE or BPI is 1:40/100. A nice continuous swim, but with enough variety to make it feel like a more structured workout. I like the active recovery (my form probably fell to in the last 1000), but I had to lower my expectations on the times I could hold for those faster 100s (I like to be under 1:30 rather than at 1:35)... which in turn got me swimming at a pace that I hadn't used in a while. The "somewhere between fast (for me) and my BASE" pace? Interesting.
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  6. Weekend swims... search for lakes/kayak

    by , April 23rd, 2012 at 10:53 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Haven't had a chance to blog in a while, but have managed to get my swims in over the last few days: Saturday's was a 7000-yarder; 4 miles of more or less continuous swimming (took a bathroom break at 4K), which took about 2:07.00. I was doing a kilometer every 19 minutes for the first hour or so, but then dropped off pretty steadily after that. Have I mentioned how tired I am of doing these long swims trapped in an SCY box? Anyone swimming in the lakes in southern Wisconsin or North-east Illinois yet? I'm looking for spots that might allow swimmers before the "official" opening of many of the open water venues (Memorial Day weekend).

    Sunday I did another two miles (3500 SCY); a pretty relaxed, recovery swim... well, actually it was more "slow" than "relaxed"; but it was a recovery swim.

    Today I got in during the lunch hour and to give my usual free-style muscles a break I did a lot of kick drill and other strokes (which slows me down quite a bit because I just don't practice breast and back often enough). 3000 SCY: first 1000 warm-up and kick drills, next 1000 alternating breast and back 100s, last 1000 alternating free and pull 100s.

    I'm just a hair short of 180 miles on the year now. This week I'm going to do one really tough workout (probably threshold 200s and "sprint" 50s) and then do a lot of recovery yards, experimenting with different paces, working on form. I hope to get in 12K this coming weekend for a long swim... maybe hit the garage sales looking for a deal on a kayak for my boys to follow me around in! (I keep offering this duty to my wife, but she seems *yawn* unimpressed by the possibility... even though I would totally kayak for her... you know, if she actually swam).
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  7. New GTD goal...

    by , April 19th, 2012 at 01:37 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    Did 4000 today, 2000 yesterday; things are going pretty good right now. So, I decided to adjust my GTD goal upwards: 500 miles.

    Last year I did just over 330 if I remember correctly, but that was mostly May through December. My goal for 2012 had been 417 miles, which was like 2000 yards a day (maybe 2200, I'm not sure now), I was already more than 40% there and 50 miles ahead of pace. Now I'm at 33% of my yearly goal again; still about 20 miles ahead of goal pace.

    And, as if to punctuate the decision, my new 50-mile GTD cap was in the mail when I got home today. Pretty cool, though I still hate wearing caps.

    Backstroke felt a little better today too; just have to keep sprinkling that into the work outs.
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  8. 4000 more... how much is enough?

    by , April 16th, 2012 at 04:50 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Had a little bit of extra time today at lunch, so I decided to stretch my swim a bit, work on backstroke, which I don't normally do (I figure I've just got to commit to it).

    4000 SCY in 1:20.00

    1000 in kick sets (see last monday's wk-out)
    1000 alternating pull and free 100s
    1000 breast and back (100 breast / 50 back)
    5 x 100 on 1:45 (these were all around 1:33-1:35)
    500 in BASE + 5 pace (1:45/100)

    I felt really slow on my 100s at the end of the workout, tired; but the 500 at 1:45/100 pace felt pretty good... that's a pace I couldn't maintain for as long as I wanted on Saturday, though I kept it going for 6K on my way to 10K the week before. That's a confidence builder after two miles in the pool.

    I've been reading through some of the marathon swimming webs and looking at what folks are saying about "appropriate" amount of yardage per week leading up to a big open water swim. I feel like I'm on target with my long continuous swim on the weekend (though being in the pool still at this point is driving me nuts)... I need a good lake venue; Lake Michigan is out of the question right now (no wetsuit), but a lot of the smaller in-land lakes have "no swimming" ordinances except in designated swim areas (which won't open up until Memorial Day!). This is a huge drag!

    Anyway, my weekly long swim slowly increases, but my weekly total yardage swings dramatically because of my hectic schedule right now (In the last month I'm swinging between 9 and 15 miles per week). I feel like my downfall is not having a set routine during the week and so if it gets late and I decide to blow off a day it doesn't seem like a big deal... mentally I've anchored my "program" with the weekly long swim. As long as I don't miss that (I tell myself), I'm ok. But, I'm starting to feel like that's not enough. I want to do the 9-mile+ USMS-OW swim in Minnesota this July (it's a 10-mile course), but wonder if I'll be prepared.
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  9. 10,000 yards yesterday

    by , April 15th, 2012 at 08:27 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Today I got in and loosened up with a 27.5-minute swim (I only had half an hour in my schedule): 1500 SCY. Last Sunday I didn't get back in to loosen up after swimming 10-K on Saturday... and I think it makes a difference in recovery. I felt pretty sluggish all week. We'll see if this week's workouts are any crisper.

    Yesterday I did 10,000 yards in 3:15.00. I didn't feel all that great, but just kept churning away. I convinced myself I was just going to do 6K earlier in the day and when I got there I thought, "eh, 9K is just one more hour in the water... why not?"; I got to 9K and it seemed silly not to do an extra 100 to round it up to 10,000 yards.

    With Open Water season approaching and a couple of the USMS championships within driving distance (5K in Indiana; 10-mile in Minnesota), I'm trying to build some mental toughness on these long swims in the pool... it's not the same as open water (it's a little claustrophobic at this point), but my body and mind are getting used to being in the water for 3+ hours. And, now, 5K seems really short. So this is all good for confidence. Nonetheless, I can't wait to get into the lakes.
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  10. 3400 yards

    by , April 10th, 2012 at 10:58 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Today I found my legs to be really tight and sore, which kept me from finding my "sprint" speed on the 50s. Looking back over my FLOG, yesterday's long kick sets were the first I had done in a while, so it shouldn't be a surprise. I wasn't aware of that going in, but figured it out about the time I hit my breast stroke. In my cool down, my legs were sinking big-time, a problem I never have, which means my core was probably starting to feel the effects of tired legs too!

    3400 SCY in 68 minutes:

    500 free warm-up (9:00)
    20 x 50 on 1:00 (mostly :42)
    10 x 100 on 2:00 (first 8 in 1:28-1:29; last 2 in 1:30)
    500 breast in 10:00
    300 EZ free
    100 side-kick drill series
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  11. 10K aftermath...

    by , April 9th, 2012 at 04:27 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    So, apart from feeling really tired and run down yesterday I didn't have any ill side effects or unexpected soreness (just the expected kind), which is good. When I was primarily a runner I would work up to 3- or 3.5-hour long runs before a marathon and can remember limping for most of the rest of the day, sometimes the day after as well. Not so with swimming (so far!)... it is an equivalent level of exertion I think, but it's a lot easier on the joints.

    Following Slow's advice, I was trying to listen to my body, see what it might be telling me... and I think my shoulders/upper back would appreciate it if I engaged my core a little more. When I was purposely thinking about swimming from my hips and not my shoulders I noticed my rhythm was much better during the 10K; my kick was more productive among other things. But all and all, I didn't feel much more sore in my shoulders than I did after 8K or 9K back in March... so the concept of gradual progression is working to help avoid the over-use injuries (so far!).

    Today I got in and did 3000 in a pretty relaxed fashion. First 1000 was mostly kick:
    100 free
    100 free w/ fins
    100 kick w/ fins and board
    100 sidekick w/ fins (12 kicks/stroke)
    50 kick w/ fins and board
    100 sidekick w/ fins (6 kicks/stroke)
    50 kick w/ fins and board
    100 sidekick w/ fins (6 kicks + 3 strokes)
    50 kick w/ fins and board
    100 back kick w/ fins
    50 kick w/ fins and board
    100 free with fins

    The next 1000 I alternated 100 free w/ 100 pull. No rests in all of this. For the last 1000 I decided to pick up the pace a bit:
    4 x 100 on 1:45
    rest 1:30
    2 x 200 (about 3:00 each; 1:30 rest after each)
    200 breast cooldown

    The rests were for some chat time with a swimmer who is moving out of the area this week; who knows when our paths will cross again. Haydn, an Australian emigre who's only been in Kenosha for a few months, is moving on to Newport, RI, with his wife. I suspect he'll find the Y there. He mentioned that I had inspired him to do some open water swimming as well. So maybe you guys in the Northeast will see him this summer!
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  12. 10K (11000 SCY)... oh, the humanity!

    by , April 7th, 2012 at 07:58 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Can't believe I swam the whole thing!

    ...especially since I wasn't feeling particularly good yesterday when I swam only 3K. That experience and the realization that I was going to have to turn around and swim 10K today if I was going to get it in at all this weekend (tomorrow is Easter!) had me dosing myself with ibuprofen, joint juice, vitamins, anything I thought my body might be missing to make me feel better last night.

    This morning I had my bagel with peanut-butter, a couple of cups of coffee, then two packets of instant oatmeal, and headed out the door with 24 ounces of pretty strongly mixed gatorade. I got in the pool just after noon. Such a beautiful day outside, there weren't many folks at the Y (I never had to share a lane all afternoon). I decided to wear my USMS Open Water Championship (2.4-mile) cap from last year as added encouragement. And what a fashion statement that lime-green color makes! At some point in the locker room I remembered that this swim would put me over 150 miles for the year; when I swam that OW 2.4-miler in Madison, WI last August I had just barely gotten to 150 miles on the year... hard to believe!

    The swim started slowly and I had my doubts in the first 2-3K, but I found a rhythm between 3-4K and was able to keep it going through 6K. I finished that first 6K in my fastest time (a little under 1:58:00) swimming the Freestyle portions in 1:45/100 pace, being careful not to overdo it. I mixed in 100 breast every kilometer. After finishing the first 6K non-stop I jumped out quickly to go to the bathroom and then got back in at just over the two-hour mark.

    The final 4K was pretty torturous. I finished the 7th K and thought to myself "I still have 3K to go?!"--not what you want to be telling yourself when the fatigue starts to sink in. 8th K: a slog fest, this kilometer took me the longest of all of them (I did stop to chat with another swimmer I know from work also, losing a couple of minutes, but this wasn't going to be my fastest K of the day anyway). 9K went by a little faster because I think I kept telling myself "yeah, if you're not feeling it you can get out at 10,000 yards instead of 11,000; that's only 100 more once you finish this K."

    I got to 10,000 yards and ran out of gatorade; but I kept going. I alternated gliding 100s with normal 100s (my "front crawl" definitely had the emphasis on "crawl"; I tried backstroke for one 50; I did 175 breast, and then the final 25 elementary backstroke while balancing my water bottle with my teeth, waiting for those last precious drops to make their way down.

    My lats were burning with every stroke in that last 1000, but I did it! 10K; 11,000 yards; 6.2 miles... it took me 3:35:00 total time (about 3:30:00 of actual swim time). I'll sleep well tonight!
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  13. T-TH swims

    by , April 6th, 2012 at 10:26 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    Little time to swim this week and seemingly less time to blog, but I wanted to get down in writing a couple of workouts before I forget.

    Tuesday: 3K in about an hour; I was still very stiff and sore, even after going only 1500 on Monday. I was racing a bit to finish up before they closed the Y, so it didn't seem like a very satisfying swim. the 1000 in the middle I did as a 10 x 100 on 2:00 set. These were all coming in at 1:31 and even a couple in the 1:34 range late in the set. I felt like I was getting stiffer and more sore as the set wore on. The last 1000 free I did continuously and was able to build some rhythm... again, I'm just surprised at how slow I've felt for several days now.

    Thursday: 2K in 40 minutes. Soreness gone, this workout felt much better. I did 2000 free at a 1:45/100 pace; stopped for a minute and finished with 4 x 50 on 1:00. Pace was much faster (:38, :40, :40, :40) but felt relaxed, not strained.

    Hopefully I have time to get in at least a couple thousand yards today; two miles would be optimal!
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  14. Ugh...

    by , April 2nd, 2012 at 11:00 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    It's been a while since I've had a chance to write. I missed 4 days last week... ugh! But I was ok with it because I had been putting in so many yards the previous two weeks. Yesterday I got in for a 6K swim (my first swim since Wednesday) and felt really good until about 4K; I did 3450 in one hour and was cruising pretty good, but I think I was cruising too good. I finished the final 2K in just over 40 minutes with a couple of interruptions.

    Today I swam only 1500; I had half an hour this evening and I thought "better half an hour than nothing at all." It was a sore, stiff swim. Apparently, my swim yesterday was a little too ambitious in that first 4K, and my arms, shoulders, and back were feeling it.

    Hopefully tomorrow will feel like normal again. On the up-side, GTD still has me hanging in at #15 in age group with over 140 miles this year so far. My mileage is there, I just need to make sure I get in some quality yardage on a more regular basis and don't spend all of my time alternating between the extremes of long, continuous swims and short, slow recovery swims.
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  15. Zombie 3K

    by , March 28th, 2012 at 11:52 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    I did 3K (3300 SCY) in exactly 60 minutes today, but I felt very stiff after missing yesterday's swim. I think my body is starting to feel the yardage after building for two weeks straight; my heart rate was up around 50 two mornings in a row. Just another reminder that I need to scale it back and spend the week recovering...

    My long swims the last two weekends have been up over 9000 yards, so this weekend I think I'll do an "easy" 6K; then come back in a week and a half to try to get to 10K on my long swim.

    I had planned to do a few quality threshold workouts this week, but am thinking, based on how zombie-like this evening's swim felt, that maybe I should do a little speed, some kick sets, some recovery yardage (garbagio!). Next week will be back to normal... making strides again, but I have to remember these cycles are natural and not try to push it too much (there's a fine line between pushing hard and over-training; a line I've crossed once too many times).
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  16. 9k gives me the munchies!

    by , March 26th, 2012 at 11:29 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Today I managed to squeeze in a quick swim before the Y closed. Didn't feel all that good after yesterday's long swim...

    2000 in about 36:45; this is a pace that I have decided to call my "trying-not-to-cramp-up-and-drown-but-still-get-in-2000-yards-before-they-kick-me-out-of-the-pool" pace.

    And I didn't bother weighing myself after such a short swim; not after I've spent the last 36 hours trying to replace in triple every calorie I burned on the 9k. Never go grocery shopping after a long swim!
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  17. 9K

    by , March 25th, 2012 at 03:29 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Wow, I'm exhausted. Finished my 9K continuous swim in 3 hours, 3 minutes, 25 seconds.

    My first 5-6K was right at about 1:45/100 pace; but that last hour or so was really killer. Slowed a lot. My last three kilometers averaged about 21 minutes each and my lats felt like they were turning to stone.

    Mentally I broke it up into 1K segments as I usually do (it's much easier to think about just finishing the next kilometer--or next 100--than to think, ok, only 5K to go!), but my first 6K were especially crisp, the 1000s coming right in at 17:30, followed by a relaxed 100 (usually about 1:50). At 5K I jumped out to go to the bathroom, little more than a minute break. The 1:45/100 pace started to fall apart right after 6k; I also switched over to breast stroke for my easy 100s between 1000s in that last 3k... trying to give my body short breaks from freestyle.

    If my backstroke weren't so pitiful I might try that stroke for my breaks. As it is, I did my final 25 yards one-armed elementary backstroke while nursing the final drops out of my gatorade bottle.

    Time... [yawn] for a... [yawn] na... [yawn] ah... [yawn] p.

    Updated March 25th, 2012 at 06:16 PM by mcnair

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  18. A couple more swims...

    by , March 25th, 2012 at 10:31 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    Haven't blogged yet about my Friday and Saturday swims.

    Yesterday I did two miles (3500 SCY) continuously; with the exception of 100 breast at the end of each 1000, the whole swim was on my BASE+5 pace and took 62 minutes. I'd like to be able to maintain that for 3 hours today.

    Friday's swim was pretty simple:
    30 x 100 on 2:00.

    I wanted to see if I really could keep that BASE-10 pace going forever with a longer rest. The first ten or so reps were around 1:30-1:33 as I was warming up. Then my next ten were in the 1:22-1:28 range, with about half of them in the 1:22-1:24 range (another swimmer, Haydn, joined me for 4-5 of these and that encouraged me to pick up the pace). The last ten were 1:28-1:34, mostly in the 1:31-32 range as I relaxed and tried to cool down.

    Alright, big swim this morning... I'm trying to hit 9K, will leave for the Y in a few.
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  19. Quickie...

    by , March 22nd, 2012 at 08:28 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Only time for a quick swim today. I had less than a half hour, so I just swam what I could... ended up with 1500 straight free in 25:20 before hitting the showers.

    At least I didn't miss a day completely!

    Celebrating my wife's birthday today... She's spent more than half of her life now putting up with me; God bless her!
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  20. 4500 SCY, pushing the lactate threshold

    by , March 21st, 2012 at 10:10 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    4500 SCY today:

    500 free warm-up (8:30)
    20 x 50 on 1:00 (first 6 in :40-:42, next 10 in :38-:39, last 4 backed off the throttle to :42)
    1:00 rest
    3 x 300 on 5:00 (4:34, 4:42, 4:38*)
    100 breast recovery
    3 x 300 on 5:00 (4:40, 4:52; 5:00)
    100 breast recovery
    1000 Free at BASE + 5 (1:45/100) pace.

    *I actually did this last 300 of the first set after an extra minute rest--I was talking (btwn deep breaths) with a swimmer in the next lane, who volunteered to swim this last 300 with me.

    The last 1000 felt surprisingly good, but the 300s were painful; obviously BASE+5 feels a lot better than BASE-5 or BASE-10 for anything over a couple hundred yards... at least today.

    Total time: 1:23:30.
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