by, March 7th, 2012 at 01:39 PM (3251 Views)
Preamble: Sorry for how long this is. I wanted to jot down a few thoughts I have had on this season so far, and it has gotten a bit extended, verbiage wise, even for me. To leaven the mood, I will put a few pictures in here and there of me playing with Ciara's pony tail.
Ciara's wonderful father and my father figure/swimming coach, Bill White, perches like a better angel atop my right shoulder.
We last left our cliff hanger on the eve of my 1650 swim at Carnegie Mellon University, Feb. 26th, 2011.
At the time, if memory serves, I suggested that if I swam reasonably well, there would be no need for me to quote extensively from Sartre's Nausea. I am happy to report that this has, indeed, proven the case, and there is no reason whatsoever to ruminate for so much as a split second on :
- "Ma pensée, c'est moi: voilà pourquoi je ne peux pas m'arrêter. J'existe parce que je pense … et je ne peux pas m'empêcher de penser"
- "Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness and dies by chance"
- "I know. I know that I shall never again meet anything or anybody who will inspire me with passion. You know, it's quite a job starting to love somebody. You have to have energy, generosity, blindness. There is even a moment, in the very beginning, when you have to jump across a precipice: if you think about it you don't do it. I know I'll never jump again."
These, and many more existential bon mots just as depressing have absolutely no relevance to today's vlog!
Ciara and I attempt a mind meld of the sort popularized by those bluish people on Avatar.
Instead, I would like to take the opportunity to offer something ever so rare in my episodic entries to date: potentially actionable swimming advice that might help my fellow middle distance freestylers approaching their Twilight years (in the non-vampire old-fashioned sense of the term.)
DataOne reason for the delay in posting my results is that I keep hoping for the Hyteck Meet Manager results to actually make their way a) onto the Internet, and b) into the "event rankings" section of USMS as was promised by my LMSC. But as is the case with many such promises, this hasn't happened yet, and I am slowly bracing myself for the thought that yet another of my swims in recent years won't count for possible TT consideration.
So instead, here is the hand-written sheet from my CMU backup timer, who posted the splits from the electronic scoreboard:
Historical ContextJIM THORNTON 59 1650 Free 19:38.20
JIM THORNTON 58 1650 Free 20:03.90
JIM THORNTON 57 1650Free 19:34.18
JIM THORNTON 56 1650Free 19:54.24
JIM THORNTON 55 1650Free 19:47.91
JIM THORNTON 54 1650Free didn't swim it
JIM THORNTON 53 1650Free didn't swim it
JIM THORNTON 52 1650Free 20:41.65
JIM THORNTON 51 1650Free 18:59.22
JIM THORNTON 50 1650Free 18:53.69
JIM THORNTON 49 1650Free 19:27.75
JIM THORNTON 48 1650Free 20:34.05
JIM THORNTON 47 1650Free 21:10.00
JIM THORNTON 46 1650Free didn't swim it
JIM THORNTON 45 1650Free didn't swim it
JIM THORNTON 44 1650Free 21:40.54
JIM THORNTON 43 to 0 1650Free didn't swim it (though my mother might beg to differ--how many laps in a shared placenta is a 1650?)
As you can see, my times have bounced around a bit over the past 15 years. My lifetime best performance was at age 50, a time when my coach Bill White helped me get into the best distance swimming shape of my life. I remember that year we did the following practice:
10 x 100 on 1:25 warm up
2 min rest
10 x 200 on 2:30
2 min rest
10 x 200 on 2:30
To this day, making this practice remains by far my proudest moment as a practice swimmer!
You will also notice that before age 49, I never broke 20 minutes. I was not swimming particularly hard at this point in my masters career, the body suits had not come out, and these times were all done at practice, not a meet.
Two other conspicuous 20 min+ outliers include the 20:41 done at age 52, which can be explained by broken ribs; and the 20:03 at age 58 (last year), which was the first year the body suits were banned, plus I had suffered a detached retina that January, which put me out of the water for nearly three weeks.
I have always thought I look good with that flouncy pony tail out the ball cap look! Now I can prove it!
Analysis of Recent "Comparables"
For an apples-to-apples comparison, let us look at my recent swim at 59 (19:38.20) and my swim at 57 two years earlier (19:34.18).
On the surface, it appears that I have slowed down by 4.02 seconds over the past two years. My pace per 100 has deteriorated from 1:11.41 to 1:11.16, or a quarter of a second per hundred in two years. On an annual basis, it would seem that I am slowing down by approximately one eighth of a second per hundred.
There are, however, several fudge factors that make this "apples-to-apples" comparison more of a "Granny Smith vs. Red Delicious" situation.
First, suit differences.
At 57, I swam the 1650 in my "floatie" body suit, the B70. At 59, I swam shaved an in a LSR elite jammer given to me a couple years ago. Did the suit change make a huge difference in my times?
It definitely did in some events. At 57, for instance, I swam my lifetime best 200 SCY freestyle in the B70, breaking in the 1:54's for the first and only time in my life. Since then, my fastest 200s have been high 1:57s. My 50s and 100s have also shown clear deterioration thanks to the suit change.
But for some reason, distance events of 500 and over don't seem to have shown as much of change. It seems like they should--with the B70 on, I took 1-2 less strokes per length swimming exactly the same way as always; moreover, I regularly gained at least a couple feet further on pushoffs and dives.
You would think such things would prove especially additive over longer distances, but so far that hasn't been the case. Perhaps the inability of body heat to escape the body suit as easily might muddle its impact on my own distance performances.
Conclusion: replacement of the B70 with a jammer probably hurt my time, but I cannot absolutely prove this.
In this corner, Red
In this corner, Granny
Even apples-to-apples comparisons are difficult to make sense of in the post-Body Suit Era!
Second, accumulated yardage leading
up to the 1650.
This year's 1650 was preceded by 423.44 miles in all of 2011; 41.79 miles in January, '12; and 60.60 miles in February, '12.
The B70 1650 two years earlier was preceded by 330.53 miles in all of 2009; 38.76 miles in January, '10; and 28.62 miles in February, '10.
Conclusion: swimming significantly greater distance probably helped my performance, though the suit change variable makes this also difficult to prove.
Is a Jim Clemmons-style mustache the key to time drops in swimming?
Third, a more
strategy for me.
Before this year's swim, I solicited advice from Ande.
Some selected excerpts from my questions and his always great counsel:
Originally Posted by jim thornton
Ande, did you post something on swimming the 1650?
I'd like to do a good time this year, but I am wary of going out too fast and becoming cooked. Once I cross over to that "cooked" stage, it's agonizing to keep on going. But if I go too slow to avoid premature baking, it's hard to make it up on the other end. Any advice?
Swim by feel, assuming you will probably feel too good at the beginning and thus should consciously slow down?
Great to hear from you. So you want to have a great 1650 & you want to split it correctly, swim it "just right" instead of being over cooked by going too hard up front or under cooked by going too easy.
"just right" is the trick and it's tricky.
Your 1st 100 needs to feel EASY.
You need to cruise it, going too hard on your first few 50's is usually way worse than going too easy.
BE VERY WELL CONDITIONED.
Do a great job warming up before your race.
Know your pace.
Do some longer swims in practice, some faster than your 1650 pace, some at & some below. Know what that effort feels like.
Ideally you want to hold the same exact pace the whole way, but diving in and excitement, makes some people rabbit the first few 50's.
You can only do what you can do. Swimming above pace up front is very likely to be detrimental. Settle into a sustainable pace and hold it.
Your pace an differ based on water temp. The warmer the pool is the worse your pace might be.
the best thing to prepare for the 1650 is consistent hard longer training and some speed work.
Originally Posted by jim thornton
Ande, thanks so much for a very detailed and helpful reply.
I was starting to feel pretty confident, but last night we had a practice which started off with 8 x 100 on 1:25 warm up, then some 50s kick, then 2 x 500 on 6:15.
To break 20 on the 1650, I know I have to average around 6:00 per 500. But on the first 500 in practice, I did a 6:01, and the second one I just squeaked in at 6:14.
It was demoralizing.
But I usually try to negative split distance stuff, and I probably swam that first 500 faster than was comfortable. Plus the water was hot, I'd swum a meet the day before, and I was pretty tuckered out from swimming every day, without stop, since Jan. 28th.
I am definitely going to take it out easy because by the end of last night's second 500, I was definitely not feeling ready to do another 650!
Today, I just went in and swam a slow 1650; I will probably take it easy at Wed. and Fri. practices, and just stretch out on the days in between.
I will take your post with me and try to ingrain your advice.
You're welcome for my reply, happy to
don't let your performance in a particular practice crush your spirit
just keep showing up & do the best you can
how many times a week are you training?
how far per practice?
if possible, before you taper, attempt to increase your
x/wk, yds per practice, & pace.
do it by just being determined to swim faster in practice.
so you want to break 20:00 on your 1650
20 x 60 = 1200
1200 / 33 = 36.363
so you need to ave 36.36 per 50
that should be easy and very doable for you
ingrain my advice & come up with a
training plan and a
holding 1:12's should be very easy for you
I bet you can hold under 1:10's
Right before my B70 1650 at age 57, I solicited the advice of an on deck coach, who told me to go out smooth but strong on the first 500, then pick up each 500 thereafter.
Here are my splits from that race: 1 1-5 Thornton, Jim 57 TPIT-AM 19:50.00 19:34.18
30.96 1:05.54 (34.58) 1:40.03 (34.49) 2:14.52 (34.49)
2:49.55 (35.03) 3:24.78 (35.23) 3:59.96 (35.18) 4:34.94 (34.98)
5:10.07 (35.13) 5:45.07 (35.00) 6:20.07 (35.00) 6:55.36 (35.29)
7:30.52 (35.16) 8:06.58 (36.06) 8:42.46 (35.88) 9:18.37 (35.91)
9:54.37 (36.00) 10:30.72 (36.35) 11:07.09 (36.37) 11:43.09 (36.00)
12:20.04 (36.95) 12:57.12 (37.08) 13:33.82 (36.70) 14:10.80 (36.98)
14:47.27 (36.47) 15:24.20 (36.93) 16:00.74 (36.54) 16:37.19 (36.45)
17:13.84 (36.65) 17:50.36 (36.52) 18:26.61 (36.25) 19:02.29 (35.68)
I started out following the coach's advice, and I did feel strong and smooth--for a while. My first 500 was a 5:45.07. By the 1000 mark, I was starting to hurt, realizing too late that what feels good early on is not necessarily as easy as you think. My 1000 split was 11:43.09. The final 500 of the race was 6:00.36.
Compare this "start strong and decay" approach with the strategy I adopted, thanks to Ande's advice, this year. The second strategy is perhaps better described as "baby and coddle yourself beyond belief, and pick it up as you start to feel more comfortable."
I took the first 500 out in 6:10.38, more than 25 seconds slower than the previous race. The guy on my left and the guy on my right quickly disappeared into the gloaming in front of me, but I reminded myself of Ande's wisdom to ignore the rabbits and realize going out too fast is usually a much bigger mistake than going out too slow.
At the 1000 mark, I was at 12:10.91, now 27 seconds slower than my time in 2010. To an outside observer, it no doubt looked like I was setting myself up for total disaster. Note: to break 20 minutes, you have hold just a smidge over a 1:12 pace, and I was far from doing this.
But somewhere around this point, I caught up with both rabbits. I felt good, I felt strong--precisely the opposite of how I had felt two years earlier after going out much more quickly.
My final 500 was a 5:40.27, which was (at that point of the year) my fastest 500 of the season.
My final 200 was 2:10.11; my final 100 1:02.91; and my final 50 a 30.01.
Granted, overall I was still 4 seconds slower than when I swam it the "hurty" way, but when I got out of the pool at the conclusion of this year's race, I didn't feel the need to glance around to make sure the facility had an AED on hand. I felt pretty good, actually--and extremely happy that I had broken 20 minutes.
Conclusion: each swimmer must know his or her body and design a race strategy that works best for the energy systems and musculature therein. My friend and coach Bill has been a long time advocate of the "go out fast and try to hang on" approach.
For me, however, I have found that husbanding my energies, especially in longer races, seems to be the way to go. Not only does it hurt less, but I have come to believe that I just do better this way. Don't get me wrong: I am a big believer in pain and suffering. But I am not a believer of stupid pain and suffering, the kind that comes from misplaced Calvinism. If I tip over into what we used to call the lactic acid bath too soon in a distance race, I just tie up and can't finish strong.
What I am trying to do now is to figure out exactly where the line is (and the line shifts over the course of a race), swim as close as possible to this line without crossing it, and at the end, when I know I can cross the line and still finish the race, only then do I give it my all.
to Other Events
This past weekend, there was the last regular season AMYMSA meet before our championships. This meet, held at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, was again supposed to count for USMS purposes. The first event was the 500, and given that I did my season's best time in this event at the end of the 1650, I was hoping to match last year's best mid-season time of 5:33.
I used the same basic strategy of the 1650, but because the distance is so much shorter, I didn't coddle myself quite so much at the beginning, I did, however, remind myself to keep things smooth and under control.
Here are my splits:
AGE GROUP: 55-59
1 JIM THORNTON 59 M SEWY 5:28.81
Later, I did a pathetic 50 freestyle, thrashing impotently like a maniac. My time here, 25.69, was so dispiriting that I figured I would never be able to do a decent 100 again and should concentrate from now on only on 200s and longer.
The last event of the 3 and a half hour mudhole meet was the 100, and Bill told me he thought I should scratch because my time would likely be demoralizing. I didn't want to do this because the Albatross SCM meet is coming up soon, and I signed up for a bunch of events and wanted to gauge how my current conditioning would allow me to perform in multiple freestyle races in close proximity.
Bill said that he thought I would be lucky to swim in the 56s, and that I should brace myself for doing a 57 in the 100.
So I decided to just swim the 100, not worry about my time, and try the "out easy" strategy here, too.
Here's how I typically judge the best possible time you can do for a 100:
take your 50 time (25.69) and add 1 second to it (26.69)to determine how fast you should take out your first 50 in the 100. Then take this time (26.69) and add 1.5 seconds to it to get the time you can do on the second 50, which doesn't include a dive (28.19).
Thus my fastest theoretical 100 would be 26.69 plus 28.19 = 54.88.
Here are my actual splits from the 100 on Sunday:
AGE GROUP: 55-59
1 JIM THORNTON 59 M SEWY 55.11
What makes this even more unusual from my perspective is that I misjudged the flip turn at the 50 mark, and had one of those foot-only push offs that gives you virtually no momentum off the wall. If I had had a decent push off, it's possible I could have had my first negative split 100 ever!
The strategy, it would appear, even works on 100s!
I will have to try it out on the 50 next!
Note to self: No matter how much it itches, do not forget to shave!