After I graphed my best age-graded ratings in each event earlier this week, I started thinking about the time span in which I had swum those best-rated swims. Since this rating system is a way of comparing performances at different ages, graphing the number of best ratings achieved each year provides a snapshot of my masters swimming performance trajectory. Hereís how it looks:
What has kept me back in those years where Iíve recorded zero best performances? Motivation and the other things going on in life both factor in, but flipping the graph gives a pretty good approximation of my degree of injuredness in any given year. Note to self: Stay healthy!
Of course, thatís easier said than done, and handling injuries intelligently is probably just as important a skill as preventing them in the first place. Iím coping this week with a twingy left arm (a familiar bit of tendonitis, and a pretty minor setback in the scheme of things). Iíve had to modify my practice goals this week to reflect thatóinstead of getting in some fast FR and BK plus a few starts in preparation for my meet next Saturday, my first priority is to get my arm feeling good again. Sometimes, when I have meets looming, I struggle to avoid panicking when everything isnít going right with my body. When that happens, I just have to relax, either take a few days off or focus on the things I can do without pain, and trust that Iíve already put in plenty of good training for my upcoming swims. Since I hadnít quite reached that point last night, so I did go to team practice, and modified the workout by not doing fly and doing only BR for my sprints. Today I will take off, and then will probably swim easily by myself on Friday and see how things stand.
This morning I went to practice chanting my new mantra: ďIím a sprinteróI need my rest!Ē My teammates rolled their eyes, but I swam down a lane from my usual one and felt good with the more generous intervals. Here is what I did:
12 x 25, starting & ending mid-pool @ :30 [These were to work on IM-transition turnsówe did 4 of each type. I focused on starting slow and increasing my speed on each one within each set of 4, and on staying calm and smooth while increasing my speed.]
12 x 75: 3 x BK/BR/FR @ 1:15; 3 x FR @ 1:10 @; 3 x FL/BK/BR @ 1:15 [More focus on smooth and efficient turns]
4 x (50 K @ 1:15; 50 K @ 1:05; 50 K @ :55). (One of my lanemates today is a polo player, and did leg work in the deep end of our lane during this set. I high-fived him with my kick board on the slow and medium 50s. No matter how high I put my kickboard, he could always leap up and hit the top of it!)
2 x (200 easy FR @ 3:20, 2 x 100 fast @ 1:25) [I focused on keeping the fast 100s under 1:15, and tried to keep them nearer 1:10. This set actually called for 4 rounds of 200/100/100, but during the 2nd round my left arm started feeling twingy, so I bailed on the last two rounds and warmed down, preparing to get out. It never feels great to stop in the middle of a set, but sometimes when things arenít feeling right with your body itís better to shut things down, and live to swim another day!]
Then I noticed that all the swimmers in lane 5 had left early, so I was able to practice a few BK starts. On these, I focused on curling my thumbs (as well as my fingers) over the bar, rather than gripping it with my thumbs underneath. This helps me think about pushing downward and outward with my hands immediately on the start, rather than using them to pull myself up higher on the wall. When my first motion is a push downward, it helps me get my hands back over my head in time to enter the water with streamlined arms. Pulling myself up on the wall, on the other hand, often results in my hands arriving to their streamline late, plus I think it also increases the chances of my feet slipping down the wall. Itís funny how such a little changeóthumb wrapped over rather than underócan make such a big difference in my starts.
I did 5 practice starts, and the last 3 of them felt goodóit seemed like I was able to preserve a lot of my momentum into the water. On my breakouts I concentrated on keeping the amplitude of my dolphin kick small, and making the kicks really quick. I did these starts on my own, so had plenty of time to set myself and think about what I wanted to do before each start. The next step is being able to do all this on a starterís timing, so Iíll ask one of my coaches to give the starting commands next time I practice BK starts.
Then I did another quick warmdown and left practice happy. I'm coddling my arm for the rest of today in hopes that it will be up to some sprinting tomorrow.
Swimmers new to masters swimming often ask me what events they should do at meets. I generally tell them some version of ďWhatever you think will be fun and challenging for you!Ē Often, though, what I think they are driving at is that age-old question: What am I really good at? What sort of swimmer am I?
One of the great things about masters swimming is that we donít have to pigeon-hole ourselves as simply a backstroker, a distance freestyler, a breaststroker/IMer. Weíre free to swim events that weíre awful at, or that weíve never even tried. Thatís a good thingóit would get awfully boring to swim the same 3 events from now until our 90s. But I also sometimes wonder, what is it that Iím best at? I generally think of myself as a backstroker/IMer/sprinter, and oh, yeah, I like breaststroke too. But thatís a pretty mushy way to self-identify, so this past weekend I decided to turn to Chris Stevensonís nifty ratings calculator at the Virginia LSMC website for some answers.
I put in all my top LCM and SCM performances, along with the age at which I swam them, to determine my best rating for each event. (I combined LCM and SCM in order to have a fuller set of data). I then charted those ratings with the handy graph-making tool at http://nces.ed.gov/nceskids/createagraph/default.aspx, and came up with the following:
The horizontal axis lists the distances; the vertical axis is the ratings (higher is better).
1. Iím definitely a sprinter! The ratings go down as the distances go up across the board. (The one exception is the 100/200 IM, where my rating is 0.1 higher for the 200. I attribute this to not being able to swim a 100 IM LCMómy ratings are generally better in the longer pool).
2. My ratings decline less sharply from 50 to 100 in my long-axis strokes. Is there something I can learn there to make my 100 BR and 100 FL better?
3. Perhaps I'm a better freestyler than I give myself credit for. I generally think of it as being little better than my butterfly.
4. Someone definitely needs to work on her fly!
Iím looking forward to plugging in the numbers after my upcoming meets to see how my swims compare with each other, and with these rating-PRs!
Updated November 12th, 2009 at 03:12 PM by swimsuit addict
Practice was surprisingly crowded this morning. I think the wine tasting was so fun last night that lots of us wanted to come to workout to continue conversations that got started there. Itís always fun to see teammates outside the pool, and to have more than the few seconds between swim repeats to catch up on whatís going on in their lives.
Hereís what I did this morning:
600 warmup (400 swim, 200 kick)
16 x 25 @ :30, 4 of each stroke, rev. IM order [I focused on body position on all 4 strokes]
4 times through (2 x 100 FR @ 1:25, 4 x 50 K/S @ :55) [After the first round I swam all the 100ís as 50 FR/50 BK, and set a goal of keeping them all under 1:15. Succeeded on all but 1 of them]
2 times through (200 IM, 100 IM, 50 BR, 100 BK, 200 FR) [These were all on fairly generous intervals. On all but the 200 FR I mentally rehearsed my technique keys for each of these events and focused on hitting them during the swims.]
4 x (25 moderate @ :30, 25 sprint @ :40) These felt fast and good.
A truly wondrous thing happened with about 15 minutes left in practiceósunlight shone into our pool! To comprehend how amazing this is, you have to understand that this pool, like many others in the city, is located in a basement and generally receives no natural light. There is a tiny row of thick glass tiles near the top of one wall that do connect to the outside world, but usuallyómaybe because of that wallís compass orientation, or more likely because it is blocked by nearby tall buildingsóno rays from the sun ever reach those tiles. Today, however, sunlight briefly streamed into them, and the pool was transformed. It was a beautiful sight, and gave me the energy and joy I needed to do those last two sets fast. Iíve been swimming at this pool since 1996, but I think thatís only the second or third time Iíve seen it sunlit.
Saturdays usually find me at ballet class. For the past few weeks, though, while rehabbing some Achilles tendonitis, I have been doing a floor-barre class instead. If youíve never heard of floor-barre, itís a really fiendish set of exercises done lying down that are designed to work most of the major muscles essential for balletóabs, adductors, glutes, and ďoutward rotators,Ē ie those hip muscles responsible for turning your legs outward like ballet dancers do. Itís only an hour class, but pretty intense.
My first meet is two weeks from todayóthe Bearcats Sprint Meet at Baruch College in Manhattan. I will be swimming 50 FR, 100 BK, and 100 BR, and probably two relay 50s. My last meet was in June, so itís been a while. Here are the things I need to do between now and then to feel confident at my meet:
1. Work on my backstroke starts.
2. Do some sprint BR, and continue BR turn work.
3. Do some fast FR from a dive.
4. Practice some FR turns at 50-sprint speed.
5. Scout out Baruch College pool for a quiet place to cocoon during meet. [In addition to sitting with my teammates and/or meet buddies, which I do for most of the meet, I generally like to find a little corner away from the action where I can go when I need some focus time before my races. Since my team practices at the Baruch pool, I can scout this out ahead of time. The diving areas of pools often work for thisóempty plastic hot tubs or spaces under trampolines provide promising spotsóbut Baruch has no diving boards. Iím sure I can find a spot somewhere nearby, though.]
6. Decide on meet suit.
Iím going to my teamís wine tasting tonight, then to our Sunday morning workout tomorrow. Should be an interesting combination!
I swam solo this afternoon, and my swim really felt more like playing than working out. Here's what I did.
10 x 100 IM @ 1:45, odds standard IMs, evens IM variants
[For the IM variants, I did all-breaststroke-kick IM, upside down IM, corkscrew IM, IM-order-arms-with-reverse-IM-order-legs, and feet first IM (just a 50 of this, since it's pretty slow)]
Then a thoughtful 400 IM combining kick and swim, focusing on what body movements were propelling me through the water, what might be impeding that movement, how I was powering various motions in my stroke, whether muscles I wasn't using were staying relaxed, that sort of thing.
Then, since I was feeling in that sort of mood, I did one of my favorite technique sets, which I think of as "wrong way/right way" 50s. Basically, you exagerate a stroke flaw on the first 25 of a 50, then fix it on the 2nd 25. Here's the freestyle stroke flaws I focused on doing, then correcting:
*unstreamlinedness (not just on the push-off, but on hand entry, body position, and kicking amplitude)
*head position--looking ahead rather than down at bottom of pool
*crossover arm entry
I did these 5 flaws twice through, for a total of 2 x (5 x 50). It is amazing how easy and good it feels to your stroke efficiently after swimming it really badly.
Then I did a 50-100-150-200 FR progression on ample rest,focusing on maintaining great form throughout.
Then, since I hadn't done much of anything that felt hard, I did a semifast kick set, 12 x 50 K @ 1:00, odds FR, evens ST. I tried to keep all the kicks under :50, and on the last 3 I replaced the first 25 of the 50 with a sprint 25 swim.
Then easy 200 plus some sculling and dophin jumps to warm down.
I left feeling dreamy and eager for my meets to get here!
Now that I have decided that Iím NOT attempting to swim all the events this season, I need to figure out what I AM going to swim. My two upcoming SCM meets are
*Nov 21: The 1st Annual Bearcat Masters Invitational Meet, Baruch College, Manhattan
*Dec. 5-6: Colonies SCM Zone Championships, Dec. 5-6, Flushing Meadows Corona Park Pool in Queens
Zones is the meet Iíll be tapering for, so Iíll start by looking at its event order and figuring out what Iíll swim there. Iíll use the Baruch Bearcat Meet to swim events that Iím unable to swim at Zones, or want to swim twice this season. One of my criteria for choosing races is my goal of swimming personal 40-44 AG bests; this is my last year in that age group.
At Zones I can swim 5 events per day (not per session). Itís a local meet, so there will probably be enough teammates there to count on some relay swims.
Saturday Dec 5 MorningóSession #1
1. Women 400 FR: I havenít swum this event SCM since 2001, so I would pick up an automatic AG best time. I did swim it LCM in 2008 (5:16) and was pleased with that time, but the experience didnít leave me eager to swim it again any time soon, let alone open a multi-day meet with it. I think Iíll pass.
2. Mixed 400 Medley Relay
3. 200 BR: Iíve only swum this event once before, in 2008, so my AG/Masters/Lifetime best for SCM is a 3:16 (1:36). I would like to swim it again and see if I can better that time. One complicating factor may be the relay right beforehand.
4. 50 BK: One of my fave events. My AG best is 34.45, which I swam as relay leadoff in 2006. I donít know if I can better that, but I definitely want to swim this. A 50 right after a 200 probably wonít be too much of a problem, especially at a biggish meet.
5. 100 FL: I donít have an AG best, so this would be a gimme, but I donít particularly want to swim it, all the more so since I would be swimming events right before, and going into it a bit tired.
6. 100 FR: My very least favorite event. My AG best is 1:09, which is probably beatable, but nope, not swimming this.
7. 50 BR: I really like this event and am always up for seeing what the breaststroke speed gods have in store for me on any given day. My AG bestis 38.98. This is one of several events where my masters PR for LCM (37.8) beats my best SCM time (38.0).
8. 200 BK: I like this event, but have already swum it well once this year (2:45 in May). I think Iíll skip this fatiguing event in the interest of conserving some energy for later swims.
9. 100 IM: This used to be one of my fave events but Iíve struggled with it in recent years. Iíd like to see if I can beat my 1:16 AG best.
10-12. 200 FR Relay: I definitely hope I get to swim this. Swimming leadoff to get a 50 FR time would be really great.
Saturday Dec 6 AfternoonóSession #2
13. Mixed 800 Relay: Please not. 200 FR is my other very least favorite event, although swimming it with relay buddies is better than swimming it as an individual event. Besides, I would like to save my energy for the next event.
14. 400 IM: I swam this event for the first time ever about 10 years ago, when I was trying out a new event every year, and immediately fell in love with it. I love training for it, and love the challenges of swimming it well. My AG PR is 6:02, and it will take a good swim to beat that. I have an outside shot of swimming under 6:00, which would be cool.
15. 800 FR, and
16. 1500 FR: I was willing to swim one of these as part of my every-event project, but now that Iím no longer doing that Iím not inclined to impersonate a distance freestyler this season. Iíve never really engaged fully with the challenges of swimming a distance free race, so maybe that is a project for another season.
So, that gives me for the first day of Zones: 200 BR, 50 BK, 50 BR, 100 IM, and 400 IM.
Sunday, December 6 MorningóSession #3
17. Menís 400 FR: Hurray! Iíll get to sleep in!
18. 400 FR Relay: Will swim if coerced. See comments about 100 FR above.
19. 200 FL: I actually like this event ok. Itís another Iíve never fully engaged with. I have a glide-y fly that is pretty easy to swim, and thatís what I did the last time I swam this (2:57). To go significantly faster Iíd really have to work on maintaining my regular fly strokeówhich is about 10% faster, but about 20% more effortfulóover a 200, and I donít really want to make that a focus this season. So Iíll skip this one.
20. 100 BR: Iíve been doing more breaststroke in recent years, and am eager to swim it again after being sidelined this summer with my knee injury. I donít know if I can beat my AG best of 1:28 (41.8), but Iíll see what happens.
21. 50 FR: I love 50 Frees! But I also like the events before and after it. I'd like to go under :30; oddly enough, my 40-44 best is 29.9 in both LCM and SCM.
22. 200 IM: One of my fave events. My AG best is a tough 2:41. I definitely want to swim it, and will see what I can do.
23. 100 BK: I love 100 BK as well. That puts 4 of my faves right in a row. My AG best is a 1:16; I swam a 1:17 LCM this summer so might have a shot of besting that one.
24. 50 FL: I generally jump at the chance to swim a 50 of anything, but am just not feeling the love for my fly right now. My AG best is 32.9, which is a pretty good time for me.
25. 200 FR: My AG best is . . . um. . . a 2:39. Also, this is another event where my LCM best currently beats my SCM PR. But those are not enough inducements to swim this wretched event, or to do the training it requires.
26-28. 200 Medley Relays: Hope to swim this, and maybe get an extra go at a good 50 BK time!
So, the events I would like to swim on Sunday are the 100 BR, 50 FR, 200 IM, and 100 BK. The trouble is, these are all clumped together, and 4 events back-to-back is probably just too much. Iíll probably sign up for all of these, and decide nearer to the meet (after the timeline is published) which I want to swim and which Iím willing to scratch. Itís possible that I might get a time for the 50 FR from a relay the previous dayóif Iím happy with my relay swim I could skip it as an individual event. I could also swim the 100 BR, 50 FR, and 100 BK at the Baruch meet two weeks before, then skip the ones I was most satisfied with at Zones. I think that is what I will do.
So, now Iíve worked my events. Iíll send in my entries, think about my goals and keys for each event, and figure out what I need to do during my training between now and then to prepare myself for swimming fast!
Swimming pools are beautiful. Sparkly blue water, beckoning lane lines . . . whatís not to appreciate?
The things you find around swimming pools are a different matter. Dented aluminum benches, overstuffed bins filled with mildewed kick boards and water aerobics equipment, sad deflated toys, piles of pull buoys. Lots and lots of pull buoys. All alike and charmless. Definitely an unbeautiful sight.
You can do your part to remedy this situation! Customize your pull buoy in a few easy steps. Not only will you be doing your part to beautify your aquatic environment, youíll also be able to quickly sort out your own personal buoy from the jumble of equipment at the end of your lane.
You will need:
*A pull buoy, the kind with 2 foam cylinders attached by webbing or cord:
(Note: Kiefer makes these in bright colors in various sizes):
*Some beautiful ribbon (about a yard long)
*A safety pin
(Difficulty rating of this project: 50 Backstroke)
Note: Ribbons come in all sorts of beautiful colors in patterns. Pick something colorful that will contrast with the blue or black webbing material found on standard pull buoys. It will work better if your ribbon is the same width as the webbing in your pull buoy.
1. Untie or disconnect the two loose ends of the pull buoyís webbing, and, if there is a plastic spacer, remove it.
2. Next, with the webbing still in the pull buoy, overlap your ribbon with one end of the webbing, and fasten them together with the safety pin. Now you can simultaneously pull the original webbing out of the small slots in the styrofoam cylinders while pulling your ribbon into them. If there is a plastic spacer on the other side of the pull buoy you will need to unpin the ribbon, work the webbing out of the spacer, repin, then complete the threading. You can discard the plastic spacer, or thread your ribbon through it.
3. When the original webbing is completely out of the pullbuoy and your ribbon has been threaded completely through it, unpin the two. Adjust the spacing of the two cylinders to suit you, then tie off the ribbon in a beautiful bow and trim the ends neatly.
Voila! Now you can do those pull sets in style!
Next up in this DIY series:
ďLiven Up Your Kick Sets: Using Spare Mr. Potato Head Parts to Create Kickboard Portraits of Your Coach and Teammates!Ē
This morning, to make up for yesterday's disappointment, I treated myself to wearing a new suit to workout. This is the one I chose:
I accessorized with my blue polka dot cap
and, lest things get too matchy-matchy, my regular orange daisy flipflops.
Although you can't see it so well in the picture, the swirly design on the chest seems embossed--its a bit darker and seems pressed into the fabric--and is lightly covered with something that looks like glitter. With its ombre coloring and subtle yet sparkly decoration, the suit's a little reminiscent of pageant swimsuits, only without the plunging neckline and inner hardware. It was comfortable and fun to wear. It did seem like glittery bits in the design might be prone to migrate to other parts of the suit. I felt fast and happy swimming in it, and give it a four happy-face rating:
I was brave and swam in the fast lane this morning, and enjoyed swimming with my speedster buddies. This was our workout, and what I did with it:
I got in about 400 of the warmup.
5 x 50 FR @ :40
3 x (4 x 50 ST) @ :50, with each set of 4 being FL/BK, BK/BR, BR/FR, and FR/FL
[Note: Wrap-around IMs--I'm against them! Instead, I did the 3 IM pieces medium fast, and substituted an easy FR or Bk for the FR/FL 50]
6 x 100 @ 1:45, with odds 75FR/25K; evens 25FL/25BK/25BR/25K. [The point of this set was to do the 25 kicks fast, and I did.]
The main set was:
4 x 100 @ 1:30
1 x 50 @ :30
3 x 100 @ 1:25
2 x 50 @ :35
2 x 100 @ 1:20
3 x 50 @ :40
1 x 100 @ 1:15
4 x 50 @ :45
1 x 100 @ 1:10
[Our lane added that last 100 to the original set--we wanted to go down to 1:10 on the last 100, but didn't want to speed up the intervals by :05 for all the 100s, so just added one at the end.
This set turned into a bit of a train wreck--in a lane of 4, we had 2 bathroom breaks during the set, a couple of mid-pool turnarounds (but I executed them gracefully!), 3 swimmers who were lost at various times, and 1 swimmer who simply surrendered and swam a straight 1300. But towards the end we all regrouped and finished the set strong. I was able to make the fast swims but struggled on the middle sections of the set, which is how I thought it would go for me. I tend to be good at swimming fast or slow, and not so much at sustaining inbetween speeds.]
8 x 50, odds easy FR @ 1:00, evens brisk BK @ :40
5 x 50 warmdown
All in all, it was a happy morning practice--everyone seemed to be in good spirits, and there was lots of chatting and laughing. I'm grateful to have such great teammates to swim with!
Updated November 3rd, 2009 at 11:08 AM by swimsuit addict
A tramp through the leaves in Central Park has cured me of the temporary insanity that had me contemplating driving 8 hours roundtrip this weekend to find a replacement for my cancelled meet. (In any case, I was it was more like 10 hours). Swimming all the events will simply have to wait for another season--what started as a lark was becoming a burden as I tried to figure out how I could still eke out 17 events. So now I have to figure out a new plan that involves the 2 meets I have left, focusing more on quality swims rather than the quantity of swims. I guess I'll have to rename my blog now that my plans have changed!
I did a short easy workout on my own at the Y pool today:
4 x 400 @ :20 rest
1st=400 FR; 2nd=200 FR/100BR/100FR; 3rd=100FR/100BK/100BR/100FR; 4th=400 IM
(I think of this as my IM-pacman set, with the IM munching up more and more of the evil 400 FR on each successive repeat until it is transformed into a beautiful 400 IM)
400 SKPS warmdown
Then did weights + stretching + rehab exercises
Tomorrow I'm hoping to swim in the fast lane at workout!
This morning I was checking my LMSC's website and noticed that the meet that I had entered this coming Sunday was no longer listed on the events page, and the meeting that been scheduled after it was moved up to midmorning. Hmmm. When I went to the sponsoring teamís website, the meet was no longer there either. I emailed the meet director to ask whether the meet was still happening, and she promptly emailed me back to let me know that she had had to cancel it due to lack of participants. (She was in the midst of drafting an email to send out to everyone who had registered when she got mine).
This really throws a wrench into my plans to swim all the SCM events this season in local meets. The original plan was to spread the 17 events over meets on November 8, November 21, and December 5-6. That was already cutting it a bit tight, with a maximum of 18 opportunities for individual swims, and 17 events I wanted to swim. Now the number of meets is reduced to 2, with the first of thoseóon 11/21óa sprint meet that only offers 50s and 100s, and an entry limit of 3 individual events and 2 relays. I need to regroup, and here are some of my options:
1) I could add in a travel meet. A quick glance at the meet calendars of neighboring websites scares up a SCM meet in New Hampshire this coming Saturday that starts in the afternoon and allows on-deck entries (but itís a 4 hour drive away). Thereís also the NEM Zones meet in Boston the weekend after Colonies Zones. Thatís a well run meet that everyone raves about, and Iíd love to go, but that weekend is incredibly busy for me. However, itís possible I could go up for a day, especially if Amtrak has an early train that would get me there in time for warmups.
2) With relay lead-off swims, it might be possible to cram all 17 events into the two remaining local SCM meets. When originally hatching my scheme, I didnít want to count on relay swims to reach my event total, because I was not sure if I would have sufficient willing teammates at these meets. But now I have a relay team lined up for the 11/21 sprint meet (where both 200 relays are offered), and one of my relay mates has very graciously assured me that I could swim lead-off for both relays if I need to count those swims. With the 3 individual events Iím swimming there, that would get me 5 events on that day. The Colonies Zones meet offers both 400 relays and the 800 FR relay, and I could probably convince my teammates and coach to let me lead off these if need be (I generally swim backstroke on relays anyway). With those three swims plus the 5-per-day individual swims Iím allowed at the meet, I think itís theoretically possible get in all the remaining events (I need to double-check the event order to make sure of this).
But with this option I would have to swim all five 200s (strokes plus IM) plus the two 400s (FR and IM) AND the 1500 FR over the course of a single 2-day meet, since the first meet only offers the sprint events. It also makes for some tough back-to-back-to-back swims, like the 400 FR straight into a 100 BK relay lead-off right into the 200 breaststroke. Going into this every-event plan, I knew I would have to balance the demands of swimming multiple events each day with my goals for swimming fast in each event. I fear that squishing everything into 2 meets might mean sacrificing the latter entirely, making this endeavor more of a stunt than a challenge, and Iím not sure I want that.
3) I could be more flexible about my definition of swimming all the events in 1 season, and count the 3 SCM swims I did back in May (200 BK, 100 IM, 50 BR) as part of this project. However, since that nets me just 1 of the 8 events that are 200 meters or longer, it doesnít help much with the difficulties laid out in option 2. Also, I also wasnít thrilled with the May IM and BR times, and was looking forward to another go at swimming those this year.
4) It might simply be time to let go of this all-events-in-a-season project, at least for this season, and instead focus on some time goals for individual events. Itís my last metric year in the 40-44s, and I think Iím in good enough form to have a shot at some of my PRs for that age group, so I could simply redefine my season and go after more quality swims in fewer events. I still would like to swim all the events in one season, but maybe I need to pick a longer season with more meets, one with more leeway for the unexpected happening.
Right now Iím feeling pretty disappointed that things didnít go the way I had planned them out, and I need to take some time to think over my options and reimagine what I would like my SCM season to look like.
On a related note, some of the best advice I ever got about goal setting was in a masters clinic Jeff Rouse gave out at Rutgers many years ago. He explained that when you get stymied in a goal, itís important not just to start hacking away at that goal again, but to revisit emotionally why that goal was important to you and give yourself the opportunity to become reconnected with whatever excited you about achieving it in the first place. For instance, if you really wanted to swim under a minute for 100 FR, and ended up with a season best of 1:00.1, say, you could simply go into the next season determined to work even harder at your current training in order to reach your goal this time round. A better approach would be to step back a bit, look at your current training regimen, and ask yourself what things you might do differently this season in order to reach your goal. However, what is really is important is to take a step back and remember what made you so excited about swimming under a minute in the first place, and then, if and only if those things are still emotionally compelling to you, consider what lessons youíve learned from last seasonís experiences and map out how you plan to reach your goal. That way your path to achieving your goal is based on excitement and hope and positive emotional attachment, rather than a lingering sense of failure or frustration. (His explanation was much clearer and concise with mine, and I think he used the example of winning an Olympic gold medal rather than breaking a minute).
So, Iíll spend today and tomorrow thinking through my options and possibilities for this SCM season, talking to the teammates who agreed to join me in my crazy all-events project and seeing what theyíre inclined to do, and figuring out what my goals and priorities are now.
My first event at next Sundayís meet is the 100 SCM IM. Here is how I want to swim it and what I want to achieve.
Masters/Lifetime best: 1:13.92 (33.91, 40.01) (2001)
40-44 AG best: 1:16.43 (35.10, 41.33) (6/19/08)
Most recent time: 1:18.30 (36.40, 41.90) (5/3/09)
Relative strength of strokes: Last spring my best 100 yards times for each stroke (in IM order) was 1:09/1:08/1:17/1:01rs
Comments: Thatís a big dropoff in splits for all three of the IM times, especially considering that my BR is decent and my FL not so much. I tend to get myself in trouble on this event by thinking of it as simply 4 x 25 sprints. Wheeeeó25s! Unfortunately, by that last 25 Iím all tuckered out, and tend to demonstrate too well why freestyle is also called the crawl.
Iíd like to swim a better paced race this time around. I think I should be able to beat my time from earlier this year, and maybe come close to an AG best if I have a good day, but that 2001 time is probably out of reach.
Goals: I would like to swim this in under 1:18. Iíd also like my 2nd 50 to be < 5 seconds slower than my first 50 (and <4 seconds would be better still).
Keys: I would like to approach the FL leg of this race with the same attitude that I approach the first 25 of my 100 fly, aiming for easy, relaxed strokes. Thinking about going forward on each stroke is one key that has helped me avoid butterthrashing in the past. On the BK Iíd like to focus on establishing my rotation right away and making each stroke powerful by bending my arms more than I usually do on the underwater pullóIím aiming for bending them about 90 degrees at the elbow, and on IMs especially, for some reason, my natural inclination is to do a stroke thatís straighter-armed than that. On breaststroke, I want power on the pullout and first few strokes, then to focus on increasing my turnover as I get nearer and nearer the wall. In my ideal race, the last 25 would then be swum joyfully and speedily, with a strong kick. I like to count my strokes when I am fatigued on freestyleóit makes me focus on making each stroke strong, and distracts me from whatever distress I might be inóso thatís what Iíll do here. (I generally count just to 8, then start over if need be.) Counting also makes it easier for me to keep my head in a good position (I look at my armpulls rather than up towards the wall) and to avoid breathing those last few strokes into the wall.
So, my keys are:
Easy FL, with momentum forward on each stroke; neat and simple turn w/ good dolphins/breakout; rotation and 90 degree elbow bend on backstroke; power then increased turnover on breaststroke; bring freestyle home with zest, while counting strokes
Mantras: I generally have a sheet listing my keys that I look at before each race, then simplify the most important ones down to a few single words that I plan on thinking to myself during the race. So, for my 100 IM, my mantras are: easy, forward, elbows, power, joy, count!
Today was an off day for me, and I needed it, as my knees and legs were feeling a little beat up from the breaststroke and the starts and turns I have been working this week. Tomorrow I plan to swim easy and to do mostly free and back.
This afternoon I went to my team's afternoon workout at Baruch College so that I could practice swimming in a SCM pool before next week's meet. My goals for this workout were (1) practicing my BK approaches to the wall with SCM flags and (2) doing some starts, both off the block and backstroke. Here's the workout, and what I did with it:
1 x 150 K/S by 25
2 x 150 done as 125 swim/25 kick [I swam this FR between the flags and fast BK into and out of walls in order to practice my back turns]
3 x 150 swiim [I did these as 50FR/50BR/50 FR and focused on gauging the distance to the wall both when turning BK-to-BK and on the open BK-to-FR turn after the 1st 100, the latter in order to prepare for my BK-to-BR IM turns and my BK finishes]
Then 3 times through:
1 x 75 K/S/K by 25
2 x 75 S/K/S by 25
3 x 75 swim
with each round done as a different non-free stroke
[I initially wasn't feeling terribly excited about this set, and just wanted to get the part of the workout where I could practice a few starts, but I decided to focus on a technique key for each stroke, and that worked out well for me. I focused on kicking strongly on my backstroke, experimenting a bit with the turn-in of my feet and with ways of making the transition from dophins to flutter on breakouts as smooth and streamlined as possible. On both BR and FL I focused on emphasizing the glide in the stroke--something I'll undoubtedly need when I swim the 400 IM and 200 FL this season. The set went more quickly than I thought and I ended it feeling smooth and ralaxed and happy in the water.]
The we did 8 x (25 easy @ :45 + 25 fast @ :25). I got to do starts from the block for all the fast ones--some FR and some BK. The forward starts felt ok, the BK still need a bit of work.
Then 6 x 50 CH @ 1:00 for warmdown.
I felt good about my BK turns at this workout--not all my turns were perfect, but on most of them I was able to judge the approach to the wall accurately without making any conscious changes from my regular BK turn technique. I don't think it's absolutely necessary to swim at a SCM pool again before my first meet, although it would be nice to practice a few 200s there.
So from my initial list of the things I need to do between now and my first meet in a week, here's the things that remain:
Practice some BK starts
Swim a fast 200 IM or two to practice hitting stroke transition keys while fatigued
In addition, over the next week I need to continue doing some speed work and some basic aerobic work to maintain my base. I will also visualize pieces of my races as opportunities for doing that come up.
So--that's the plan for next week!
Last night I saw the ballet company Morphoses perform at City Center here, and was so impressed by the dancers’ control over their movements (not to mention their strength and power and flexibility—they’re dancers after all!). I’ve also been thinking about turns, and watching the dancers made me realize it’s not necessarily more power or speed I need to add to my turns, it’s simply more control and coordination.
When you watch ballet dancers do really high jumps, it’s not so much the height itself that impresses, it’s that they can jump that high AND land softly and balanced on one foot ready to do their next step, without letting the momentum from their leap dictate their next movements. Moreover, they’re able to do all this while maintaining a beautiful position in the air and timing their movements so they fit perfectly to the music. It’s the same when dancers do those amazing multiple turns, or any other move that requires a lot of athleticism, such as lifts.
How is this like swim turns? Sometimes when I practice fast turns, I try to do each element of the turn as fast as I can, and feel like I’m accomplishing something if I’m moving really fast and making my legs work as hard as they can on the pushoff. But it doesn’t really make sense to get your feet on the wall way before your hands have met up, or to begin your pushoff before your body is ready to hold a good tight streamline off the wall. Sometimes one of my keys for quick turns is thinking of the walls as hot—the goal is to touch them as quickly as possible during each turn. But this thinking can lead to blurring all the turn’s elements, working very hard, but not necessarily going that fast.
Instead, I am going to try to think of my turns as choreography. There are a certain number of movements that need to be coordinated, but no element should be rushed, and they should be performed in a predictable order and rhythm, just as if they were set to music. Ideally, this order and rhythm shouldn’t vary much as the turn’s speed increases. I hope this will lead to doing turns that are not necessarily quicker on and off the wall (ie, when timed from hand touch to final push-off for open turns), but that better transfer momentum and create more speed, perhaps with less energy expenditure.
Another consideration—especially as I’m preparing to swim 100 IM and 100 BR next week—is that sometimes I think that doing good turns means going all out on them, and I use up too much of my energy on this portion of the race. I know that swimming a good 100 IM doesn’t necessarily mean swimming the first 25 fly absolutely as fast as possible (especially for sprinters like me who can die badly on the last part of a 50), but I have this notion that I should be putting forth maximum effort on each turn in these two races. I attribute this partly to the fact that my turns have never been great, and coaches have always told me I really need to make my turns faster, which I’ve interpreted as putting more effort into them.
But speedy doesn’t have to equal violent and effortful; certainly, when working on stroke mechanics I have been successful in thinking about sprinting as something besides thrashing through the water as quickly as my arms and legs will go. I need to similarly rethink what fast means for turning: for these 2 events, fast might equal smooth and efficient. Maybe “fast enough” is the new fast. I think for breaststroke especially, getting a good glide off the wall is more important than saving 0.1 or 0.2 seconds on the turn. Even one good BR pullout is probably worth more than 0.6 seconds over one that’s merely adequate.
So, there are 2 issues here. One is determining how quickly I can perform my turns while maintaining optimal form, and the second is determining how much energy it makes sense to expend turning, as compared to other parts of my races. Can I swim faster by actually turning slower? That goes against the conventional orthodoxy as I understand it, but I’m willing to experiment with the idea.
So, with these thoughts in mind I headed up to Riverbank State Park to swim on my own. (I got doubly rewarded for the trip today—on the bus there was a lady dressed as a pink fairy who was giving out Halloween candy. I not only got some Hershey’s kisses, I also got to see a procession of New Yorkers deciding whether they should accept candy from a stranger wearing a pink leather fringed jacket, pink miniskirt, and pink fishnet stockings. It was about 50/50).
Since I had gotten in a fair lot of stroke, kicking, and sprinting this week, my only goals for today were to work on my turns and do a bit of maintenance aerobic work. Here is what I did:
1000 usual warmup (200 relaxed free, 200 swim alt. 25stroke/25free, 200 IM Kick, 200 pull w/ bilat breathing, 200 rev. IM, drill/swim by 25)
about 15 minutes of turn work, doing a fair lot of midpool turns (no wall to push off of, just thinking about body positions and how to achieve it) and progressing from slow to faster
12 x 100 @ 1:45 Odds were free/back halfsies, focusing on a very relaxed stroke and carrying over that relaxation into my turns; evens I did all free except for BR into and out of turns. I really tried to time it up so that I had exactly 1 stroke of BR into the wall—that allowed me to carry some speed from the FR into my turns and not stress my knees as much as doing that much hard BR would have. [I got about 15-20 seconds rest on all of these, and they felt pretty leisurely apart from the BR turns, which felt powerful without being frantic. So far, so good.]
400 SKiPS warmdown
Since it was such a pretty day I went out behind the pool to stretch after I’d showered. It was lovely—great views of the Hudson, the GW Bridge, and the changing leaves—and I left feeling pretty blissy. This is probably one of the last days this year that it will be warm enough to stretch outdoors after my swim, so I’m glad I took advantage of it.
One sad swimming note: I’ve just discovered a small rip in the Jack-o-lantern cap that I was planning to wear to practice tomorrow.
NOOOOO! I wonder if caps can be patched? I’ve never tried it before. If not, I might have to dig out my sharpie and go to work on a plain orange cap. Now if only I had the Splish black cat suit to wear with it . . . .
Updated October 30th, 2009 at 06:53 PM by swimsuit addict
If I ran an aquatics supply shop I would definitely have a "swimsuit of the month" club! I love getting new suits, and know I'm not the only swimmer who does.
When I get anxious about upcoming meets, I go online to look at (and inevitably buy) swimsuits. I sent in two meet entry forms last week, and received 3 suits in todayís UPS. Here are my new suits:
That second one is not typical of my swimwear. I generally love bright colors and loud prints that the rest of the world considers gawd-awful. Coincidentally, such suits are often on clearance or included in grab-bag deals.
I usually have about 2 or 3 suits that I rotate through for workouts. This is my current fave:
Alas, itís getting a bit stretched out and will have be dispatched to swimsuit heaven soon. Iíll probably replace it one of the new suits sometime after my meet next weekend. (I often save new suits for a couple of weeks and use them as motivational rewards for finishing an especially hard set, or for adding in an additional practice in any given week.)
I donít usually pay attention to the names swimsuit companies give their suits, but this one caught my eye:
The Finals Shattered Dreams Super V Back
I donít see that one being voted the team suit of some summer-league age group squad. I wouldnít want to send out the order forms for ďshattered dreamsĒ at the club discount price (just indicate your child's size requirement!)
More on actual swimming tomorrow!
I was feeling a little bleary-eyed this morning after staying up to watch the Yankees lose last night, and considered skipping practice, especially since I had swum a bit last night before the game. While procrastinating by reading the paper, I came across this article (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/29/fashion/29FITNESS.html?_r=1&ref=fashion) on how athletes deal with pain when competing. After reading about Kara Goucher's toughness in last year's marathon, I was a bit ashamed that I was considering letting a little sleep loss keep me from swim practice, so I toddled over to the pool and was glad I did.
My usual lane was fairly crowded today (6 in a SCY pool), so I again moved over to a lane where there were only 2 swimmers and adjusted my swims to fit their more generous intervals. My favorite part of today's workout was
1 x 50 BR K @ 1:20
2 x 50 BR Drill @ 1:05
3 x 50 BR Swim @ 1:00 [50, 45, 41]
6 x 150 @ 2:40 [I did the odds BK/BR/BK by 50, really working the BR along with the turns into and out of it, and the evens FR/K/FR moderate pace]
This summer I injured a knee ligament (right MCL) and was unable to swim breaststroke for nearly 3 months. Since then, I've modified my BR kick, keeping my legs a little further behind my body (nearer the surface) on the outward part of the kick, and feeling my glutes and adductors working a bit more when bringing my legs back together. My knee started feeling a bit twingy this morning during this set. I focused on my kick modification and the knee immediatly felt better, plus my kick felt more powerful. I'll be interested to see how the new kick affects my breaststroke times this fall.
At the end of workout I was able to practice some dives off the block (Thank you coach Brad!). Afterwards, I went to my Y to do arm weights, stretch, and do my PT exercises. On the way home I resisted getting cookies or coffeecake at the farmers market. All in all, a good morning.
Should be better weather for Game 2 tonight--go Yankees!
My first meet in this season's every-event madness is a week from Sunday--the SCM Fall Classic at the Nassau County Aquatic Center on Long Island. I'm swimming 5 events: 100 IM, 100 BR., 100 BK, 200 IM, and 200 BK. These are all familiar events that I would be likely to swim even in a regular season. I'd like to swim good times in the first four; as for the 200 BK, I've already swum a SCM time that I'm pleased with this year (2:45 in May). It's unlikely that I'll improve upon that swimming it as the 5th event in a 1-day meet, so I'm doing it at this meet simply for the sake of my every-event-in-a-month adventure.
Here's the things I need to work on during my next week-and-a-half of training in order to feel confident at my upcoming meet:
BR turn--focus on tucking tight and rotating backwards initially (do back-flip to turn progression to get feel for this)
BK starts--do some
Block starts--do some of these too, focusing on keeping core engaged and streamline strong as I'm entering water
200 IM--do a couple of these all-out at workouts to practice stroke transition keys while fatigued
Meters vs. yards--I usually workout SCY, so I should get myself to a SCM pool a time or two before the meet to get used to swimming meters. I especially need to do some BK turns at speed with the flags set to meters rather than yards.
So, that's my check-off list for the next week-and-a-half. I will probably need to ask my coaches if I can do some starts at the end of practices. The rest of these skills I can practice on my own if they don't fit easily into workouts. And since some of my team's workouts are in a SCM pool, I'll make it a priority to go to a practice or two there.
(Added bonus--if I go to the Saturday afternoon SCM workout this week, I can wear my Halloween cap!)
To prepare for swimming so much stroke at my upcoming meets, I've been trying to do more stroke in workouts. Today I moved down several lanes and converted the entire main set to stroke and IM--it was originally all free. So, I did
4 x 100 @ 1:45 (100 FL, 100 BK, 100 BR, 100 IM)
2 x 200 IM @ 3:30
1 x 400 IM @ 7:00
1 x 200 IM @ 3:15
2 x 100 IM @ 1:45
Since I didn't have anyone swimming super close in front or in back of me for most of the set, I focused on looking down towards the bottom of the pool on my FL and BR breathing (rather than looking ahead to see the swimmer in front of me) and on flipping quickly on BK and FR turns and pushing straight off the wall in a good streamline. I should also work on dolphining off the wall a bit more.
Another focus for preparing to swim so many events at these meets is doing more hard kicking in workouts. I'm hoping that if I get accustomed to using my legs more, my legs will feel a little less dead after my 3rd or 4th event of the day. So I stayed in the same lane at today's workout and did kick during the stroke set, and that worked out well.
Last week I sent out the following note to some teammates:
Hey fellow meet swimmers,
There are 3 SCM meets happening soon in the New York City areaó11/8 at Eisenhower Park, 11/21 at Baruch , and 12/5-6 at the Flushing Meadows Pool (Colonies Zones), all accessible by public transportation. I was looking over the entry forms this weekend and decided that I wanted to try something a little crazyóswimming every pool event over the course of these three meets. I also thought it would be fun to get some teammates to join me. Interested? Read on.
The math works like this. There are 18 short-course pool events: 50s, 100s, and 200s of fly, back, breast, and free, the 100, 200, and 400 IMs, and the 400, 800, and 1500 frees. You can enter 5 events at the 11/8 meet, 3 events at the Baruch meet, and 5 events each day at Zonesóthat makes a total of 18 individual swims. However, the 800 and 1500 frees are offered only at Zones, and the rules allow you to swim only one of them. You can, though, swim the 1500 and request that your 800 split be officially recorded, and thatís what I plan to do.
So, are you in? If youíre at all tempted, go for itówe will suffer and have fun together (and isnít that the essence of masters swimming?)
Please come join me in doing something a little crazy and challenging this fall! And forward this to any other swimmers you know who might be tempted.
I've gotten back some responses--two teammates are joining me in this challenge as a relay (9 events each), a few are still considering, and several are doing the asterisked version (no 200 fly). I think I've committed myself to the 17-event plan at this point, and I intend to write about my progress towards that goal here. If anyone is doing anything similar for your SCM season, let me know how things are going for you.
Thanks for reading!