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Swim Camp for Masochists: WCM Intensive Training Camp

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The focus of the camp is intensive training. The stroke schools, lectures, breakfasts, video analysis and other entertainment are just strategically timed distractions from the pain and exhaustion being experienced.

This year there was an extended camp that included Dr G video analysis and lactic clearance test. Since I was flying out to SFO, of course I signed up.

Pre Camp

Before registering for camp I emailed Sid, the camp organizer, and asked her if it was ok to miss the last practice of the camp, I could only just catch the last flight out Sunday night if I left at 3pm with the last practices started. She responded with this and no more "You will probably be thankful for the excuse." Smart ass remark? Appears so. Good to know I will fit in.

Friday

Friday morning I flew out to SFO, rented a car and drove out to Walnut Creek. No major delays and no traffic so I got to the pool around 1pm and my Dr. G testing started at 3pm. After introducing myself to Kerry and hearing what was going on, I decided to see if I could find the hotel, get checked in and be back at the pool around 2:30pm to warm up. All went as planned.

For warm up, I swam about 2000 yards. The video taping was running about 10 minutes behind and it was warmer to swim a 50 every couple minutes rather than get out and stand in the cool spring breeze. The testing is at a hard pace but not all out, and I swam free with bouy, free normal, dolphin kick to flutter kick, backstroke with bouy, backstroke and dolphin kick to flutter kick on my back for the testing. I have the video but have not watched it yet nor have I received Dr. G's commentary yet which should show up in my email sometime.

What I had forgotten about was the lactate test. After being reminded I was hoping it was based on a 100 for time, but as luck would have it, it was a 200 for time. Sigh. This is a good indication of Kerry's mindset, why do a 100 when a 200 will do? On the positive side, I was very warmed up, felt great and expected to go about a 2:02 from the blocks, a couple seconds faster than I went last week. Instead we went from a push to allow two people to easily share a lane and went a 2:03. Very happy with the start to the camp... after the 200 was done.

The test went like this, swim the 200, wait 3 minutes, get blood taken, cool down 10 minutes, get blood taken, cool down 10 minutes, get blood taken. Dr G recommended this format and from it we should learn how long we should spend cooling down after a race and I think we will also get some feedback on our conditioning.

It is a little before 5pm and time to get out, get dry for a while and attend "class".

Swag bags were handed out, introduction of the camp staff was made and Dr. G's began his talk on what elite swimmers are doing right that makes them the best and some of their mistakes as well. I was interested to hear what Dr G had to say, but expected him to be pretty boring. Dr G is actually a great speaker and spent about 15 minutes on each of the four strokes looking at elite level power tests and pointing out the strengths and flaws with each. Interesting stuff like Kitajima bends his legs too much on his dolphin kick actually slowing him down along with not having initiated his stroke so it was technically illegal. A lot of it was talking about generalities between the strokes, minimizing drag and using elite swimmers along with their velocity graphs to make his points. Good information and entertainingly presented, but nothing that I can easily share in a blog.

Dr G was also supposed to give a 30 minute lecture on nutrition, but he used all his time on the strokes. I was a little surprised he wasn't given more time, but the schedule was packed.

Next was backstroke and freestyle class. The backstroke class was 30 minutes of lecture mixed with clips from Go Swim with Misty Hyman. Rotate and kick from the core. There was a lot of detail involved in that, and if my focus was backstroke, I would have retained more, but what I came away from the camp learning about my backstroke? I need to practice more. Nothing earth shattering came from the classroom time. Freestyle on the other hand... The lecture was given by the head coach of Walnut Creek's USAS team, Mike, and like all Mike's, he had something interesting to say with a sarcastic delivery. What he said in the class room that has been stuck in my head since is "wrist below elbow, elbow below shoulder." I just changed this in my stroke after a video review in January thinking was causing too much drag with my initial catch, and thus tried to keep my hand and forearm just under the surface for the last month. I am thankful to now know I was being an idiot and creating future shoulder problems with my attempts to fix my stroke, so I can now go back to my old faster more comfortable entry. Mike's other gem for me was about the catch. The elbow is never locked during the freestyle, and if it is locked on the initial entry, the catch will be much delayed and EVF will be impossible. During the class, I just thought that this trick would help me catch earlier by having my elbow bent and arm at the right angle when it came time to catch, but Mike would come back to haunt me later.

Back in the water... Walnut Creek is now in the low 50s and windy with no sun at 7pm. First was freestyle with coach Cokie. Cokie is great, and it was dark, but as usual I got no criticism of my stroke. I got complimented on my stroke, which I appreciate, but I want a beautiful fast stroke, so I need to hear about the flaws. Cokie kept us moving as much as possible while keeping the comments to just enough to convey meaning. Why? Because it was cold. After 30 minutes and a round of freestyle drills it was time to switch coaches for backstroke. Backstroke was the worst pool session because coach chatty-mac-chatterson recovered everything we went over in the classroom while we froze on the wall. The backstroke drills consisted mainly of drowning while doing chin to shoulder rotation with arms at the side.

After practice I drove to a Yan's China Bistro place in my swim sweats (very stylish) and order beef chow fun, General Tsao's, white rice and a Sapporo. It was a lot of food and excellent. The General Tsao's was one of the best renditions I have had. Straight to bed afterward, around 10pm (very late for me).

Saturday

Woke up around 5am, headed a block down the street to Starbucks for some coffee, guzzled water until 7am when Holiday Inn served breakfast where I proceeded to stuff myself with their frozen cinnamon rolls and instant eggs. Holiday Inn Express coffee is horrible. Undrinkable.

The morning practices are general conditioning, while the evening practices are distance specific with the stroke specialists lumped in with mid-d. Lanes are organized by speed based on what you claimed the fastest interval you could hold 10x100s on. Most of the fast people lied and put down what they could easily make 10x100s on. After warm up we did a quick adjustment and I ended up leading the second fastest lane.

The morning workout was great for me because we had Coach Mike who has a rather dry sarcastic sense of humor that I seemed to understand quite easily. We were going into the main set, and I made some comment about someone crushing me speedwise when Mike pops out "Michael don't worry about that, all you need to worry about is making sure your left elbow is actually bent." For the rest of camp I thought about making sure my left elbow was not locked out. It was awesome, I never get critical feedback from the pool deck, and here I get one side comment that will help with two problems on my left side, impingement and a late catch.

The main set looked more difficult than it was. Everyone in the first 2 lanes were 1:15 or faster swimmers, so our set was
- 1x25 on 35, 1x50 on 35, 1x25 on 35, 1x100 on 1:10
- 2x25 on 35, 2x50 on 35, 2x25 on 35, 2x100 on 1:10
- 3x25 on 35, 3x50 on 35, 3x25 on 35, 3x100 on 1:10
- 4x25 on 35, 4x50 on 35, 4x25 on 35, 4x100 on 1:10

There were several people who were worried about not making the set, but no one seemed to have a problem.

The morning entertainment was when the last main set was assigned 3x200 on 2:45, but I "heard" 3x300 on 3:45 and that is what I did. And everyone let me, coach and lanemates. I make friends everywhere I go incredibly fast.

After a nice 5k morning it was time for a team breakfast and a break until I needed to be back in the water.

My video session was scheduled for 1pm, they were running about 10 minutes behind, so I got in about 40 minutes of warm up before the video session. I did the video session in IM order and the video was taken as 35 with a turn from the side then 20 head on. The video reviews would be done Sunday with one of the coaches, you got a dvd of the videos and needed to take notes during the session.

Cooled down a bit then hopped out to wait for the 1:45 breaststroke school to start.

Breaststroke is my worst stroke. I knew this before the class, but after the class I was really surprised my stroke was considered legal. There was a lecture in the bleachers that lasted about 20 minutes followed by about 30 minutes in the water. The lecture was fine, the techniques were understandable but they really were meant to improve a decent breaststroke. Once in the water it was very apparent that my breaststroke was remedial at best. Luckily, 3 of the 4 swimmers in my group were in a similar boat and we got new drills to help us not suck and we gave up trying to do the improvement drills altogether. My remedial drill that I need to do for the next couple years to learn to kick is the bellybutton to wall kick drill, followed by the pull buoy kick drill. The belly button to wall kick drill is exactly what it sounds like, you press your belly button to the wall and kick, keeping your knees in the same plane as your torso unless you want bruised knees. My other (tragic) breaststroke problem is that while my knees are dropping they are also spreading apart wider than my feet. There are serious problems with my pull as well, but fixing the kick will help my body position and good body position will be critical in fixing my pull.

I left breaststroke school feeling like I had no idea what I was doing, but a good idea where to start, so very worthwhile.

Time for the Sprint workout! It seemed like all the fast people who swam with me in the morning were doing the mid distance or distance workouts, so I was back to not knowing anyone. The sprint workout was not crowded at the fast end of the pool and I ended up splitting a lane with a older guy who I didn't expect much competition with, and I only invited into my lane because it didn't look like any one else was willing to be in the "fastest" lane. Turned out he was quite the sprinter and had no problem keeping up with me into the turn and was the closest to me in speed.

The main set went like this
- repeat 4 time
-- 4x25 on 45 half sprint half easy. Can use blocks on block end (did 4 of 8 possible starts)
-- 3x50 on 1:00 (#1 ez, #2 200 pace, #3 descend 1-4 across repeats)
-- 2x100 on 1:45 37.5 sprint 62.5 easy.

My descends were great: 34, 29, 28, 27.5. My 200 pace not so much: 29, 28, 31, 30. It was as if my 200 pace got me setup for the descends.

After the workout we were done for the day, so I headed by to the hotel, put dry clothes on and walked down to an Italian place to refuel and made an early night of it. There was an optional camp dinner, but it didn't start until 6:30, 8:30 my time, and I wasn't sure I could stay awake for dinner.

Between two practices, stroke school, video taping with warm up and cool down it was a 10k day.

Sunday

Butterfly school started at 7:30am and Holiday Inn didn't start serving breakfast until 7, so my breakfast was a Venti latte and cinnamon swirl cake at 5am from Starbucks.

Butterfly school was a broken up into two groups, beginners and intermediates. After breaststroke school, I knew just because I was faster than half the group didn't mean I had a clue what I was doing, so I stayed in the beginner group, wisely. Kerry was giving the lecture that basically covered body position throughout the stroke and even had a template laid out on the floor for us to lay on. I got the highest grade with a B+! Kerry doesn't give As, but he does make a lot of jokes.

Out in the pool, we worked on drills to help with body position, hands on buoys, repeat the drill without the buoys, 3/3/3 drill were the ones I remembered. Eric Carlson was also in my lane right behind me, but I didn't yet know he was a fairly new usms blogger (until after camp actually). I have a sneaking suspicion that he is a better flyer than I am, and that I would not have gotten a B+ on the actual drills if they had been graded.

Immediately following school was my last practice, long course.

The main set was a racing set, so the first 3 lanes were supposed to have people of comparable speed in waves, so the 3 fastest people at camp should each be leading one of the lanes, then the next 3, etc. I took it upon myself to shuffle some people since the lane I was in at the time had 3 of the 5 fastest people in it and in typical qbrain fashion didn't ask anyone, just told one person in the lane I was leaving he was leading, and popped up in another lane that I announced I was leading while the coaches were kinda "uh... ok!". I was lane dictator over 3 lanes for about 30 seconds, I have never held so much power for so long.

Today's main set appears easy, or at least not too painful. It qualifies as both.

10x100s LCM on 2:10 (that is the fast interval)
#1 90 ez/10 sprint
#2 80 ez/20 sprint
...
#5 100 ez
#6 50ez/50 sprint
...
#10 10ez/90 sprint

Around #4 or #6 I went 1:16 and after that it was 1:17s. Increased sprinting distance didn't decrease time as my body slowly ground to a halt. The ez part was supposed to be the same speed across all 3 lanes so the sprint was raced from an even start.

That finished the water work for me. There was another sprint/mid distance/distance practice in the evening, and I really wonder how most people did that. I was dead after the morning practice.

Immediately following practice was pancakes. They were awesome. I hate pancakes. I think most people ate three of, I had nine. I think 4,600M of long course makes everything taste better.

After breakfast was video review. The reviews were one on one with one of the camp coaches, 10-15 minutes covering all 4 strokes. Some good stuff came out of the video reviews. I have some very tangible and probably easy things to work on with my backstroke that should help it quite a bit. I have a fair bit to change on my fly that I doubt will be easy to accomplish unless I start swimming more fly.

We had an interesting conversation about my breaststroke. We watched my pull out
Coach Mike: No dolphin kick?
I laugh at him
Coach Mike: what is that?
Me: I was in the remedial breaststroke school yesterday and today you are asking me about the dolphin kick on the breaststroke?
Coach Mike: You can dolphin kick right? You should should focus on minimizing the amount of breaststroke you actually do.
Me: Good point I will add a dolphin kick. (abashed)

Other than that, we agreed that I needed to work on the things we talked about for breaststroke in the school and work on improving my left side of my free.

Freestyle was pretty much watching my left elbow lockout and discussing how it negatively affected my stroke. I knew I had a late catch on the left side, but until the camp I didn't realize the problem originated with my entry. The other thing we talked about was my kick being too splashy.

While watching the Dr. G video this morning (Friday) and pausing my kick on valleys of the velocity meter, a few things became obvious that I didn't notice before. My velocity is the slowest at the top of my recovering kick (this should be the power phase of the down kick), my knee is bent almost 90 degrees at the top of my recovery kick and my foot is out of the water to the base of my calf. This results in a really draggy kick and my kick might not actually be helpful when I really kick hard since the harder I kick the bigger it probably gets. The same is true with my dolphin kick, too much bend in the knee causes drag on the upkick.

After the video were two lectures. The Restwise lecture was a lecture on getting enough rest and some examples of adequate resting for elite athletes compared to inadequate rest. This lecture was very good and the service is something that might be really useful. The service tracks a couple objective measures and several subjective measures and uses the information to judge how rested you are, if you are green you are good to train, if you drop out of green resting should be a strong consideration. The service was $179/year with 25% off with code ITC2012.

The second lecture was on TRX and the lecturer could best be described as a TRX fanboy. Some of you might have noticed that I am pretty critical of unsubstantiated data, but the problem with this lecture was more the lack of any data at all. It was very much a "look shiny" approach which didn't engage me mentally and at this point I was barely awake physically. I didn't come away with any negatives about TRX but I am also not going to buy one either. It was nice to see the TRX demoed in person, so it wasn't a total waste.

That was it for me. As everyone headed back into the locker rooms to get ready for the 3pm practice or off to take a break until the 4:45 practice as I headed back to the airport.

Something I didn't grasp when I signed up for the camp that was critical. The camp is about training, so while I didn't miss too much information by missing the last practice, the camp really wasn't about the information. If I were to repeat the camp, I would make more of an effort to stay through all the workouts. That last workout must have been an interesting one trying to hold it all together.

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Updated March 9th, 2012 at 03:54 PM by qbrain

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Comments

  1. Water Rat's Avatar
    Awesome report. That camp sounds awful but in a fantastic way. How many campers? What was the fastest 10x100 freestyle interval? What was the age range?
  2. qbrain's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Water Rat
    Awesome report. That camp sounds awful but in a fantastic way. How many campers? What was the fastest 10x100 freestyle interval? What was the age range?
    The camp is limited to 50 and always sells out iirc.

    The fastest 10x100 person put down 1:12, he swam behind me the entire camp, so... The fastest interval was 1:10 and as far as I know it was only used on that one set. There was a lot of fast swimming, so the intervals were less important. The age range was 20s to 70s. I met a guy who came to the camp because had only been swimming for 4 years and was looking to improve... he was 74.

    Thanks.
  3. aztimm's Avatar
    That's a great report, thanks for putting it together. I know I asked you about the camp, but all I remember was you saying how there was a ton of swimming. I didn't really know what questions to even ask.

    Funny, when I hear about camps like this my initial reaction is that it is for super fast people who compete all the time, and I move on. It seems that anyone can benefit from it...just improving stroke enough to avoid injury seems to be reason enough.

    I would have liked to see you in the breaststroke clinic. Sounds about as amusing as me in a fly clinic.
  4. The Fortress's Avatar
    Good report!

    I would have liked only 3 things: the sarcasm, the video-taping and the sprint workout. Oh, I wouldn't mind meeting Cokie either.

    Do you think Dr. G would have let sprinters do a 50/100 before lactate testing? Otherwise, that would be of little value for my ilk.
  5. slow's Avatar
    Thank you for typing everything up...it is good information and a great read!
  6. qbrain's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by aztimm
    I would have liked to see you in the breaststroke clinic. Sounds about as amusing as me in a fly clinic.
    Nah, my breaststroke isn't amusing, I just wasn't starting with the stroke they expected, so the drills were beyond my ability.

    Also the speeds ranged from 1:12 to 2:00 for the 10x100 with a pretty even distribution.
    Updated March 9th, 2012 at 06:02 PM by qbrain
  7. qbrain's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by The Fortress
    Good report!

    I would have liked only 3 things: the sarcasm, the video-taping and the sprint workout. Oh, I wouldn't mind meeting Cokie either.

    Do you think Dr. G would have let sprinters do a 50/100 before lactate testing? Otherwise, that would be of little value for my ilk.
    I thought about writing a summary. #1 Fort would not like this camp. You would like several of the coaches, but Cokie was not one of the sarcastic ones, at least not to me.

    Kerry was the one who set the 200. If you did the lactate testing at Nationals, I be he would have no problem with you doing a 50.
  8. qbrain's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by slow
    Thank you for typing everything up...it is good information and a great read!
    Glad you enjoyed it.
  9. quicksilver's Avatar
    Very nice narrative of the camp experience. This could have been a good article for the magazine which seems to stray from pool swimming from time to time.

    I kind of flipped through the open water stuff in the most recent issue...and there's not much to read after that. An article about the life in the day of a swimmer would be kind of neat.

    Beef mei fun is the best. Happy weekend.
  10. qbrain's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by quicksilver
    Very nice narrative of the camp experience. This could have been a good article for the magazine which seems to stray from pool swimming from time to time.

    I kind of flipped through the open water stuff in the most recent issue...and there's not much to read after that. An article about the life in the day of a swimmer would be kind of neat.

    Beef mei fun is the best. Happy weekend.
    Hi quick, hope things have calmed down for you. My experience with such a magazine might have been similar, lasting about 2 minutes. I read fast, but usually not that fast.

    This will be a restful weekend for me. Happy restful weekend to you.
  11. The Fortress's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by qbrain
    My experience with such a magazine might have been similar, lasting about 2 minutes. I read fast, but usually not that fast.
    I had considered looking at the pictures. But haven't gotten to that yet.

    Enjoy your lazy weekend. Consider a slow little recovery swim after all that. And pinot of course.
  12. quicksilver's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by qbrain
    Hi quick, hope things have calmed down for you. My experience with such a magazine might have been similar, lasting about 2 minutes. I read fast, but usually not that fast.

    This will be a restful weekend for me. Happy restful weekend to you.
    You're welcome. It should be interesting to see your improvements at the next meet.

    I'm still swimming every morning on my own and have made some freestyle breakthrough(s) in the past few months.
    If I get around to blogging once again, I'll give you an update. The limbo bar is set @ 1:10.
  13. qbrain's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by quicksilver
    You're welcome. It should be interesting to see your improvements at the next meet.

    I'm still swimming every morning on my own and have made some freestyle breakthrough(s) in the past few months.
    If I get around to blogging once again, I'll give you an update. The limbo bar is set @ 1:10.
    I have to say the big improvements next meet (3 weeks from now) will be seen in rest. I flew back from London Sunday afternoon short of sleep, and raced Saturday the last meet without total control of my sleep schedule between (wife and bosses). The changes I need to make from camp will take more time than that.

    Solo freestyle breakthroughs? That is impressive. You know what I like about free over back that makes such breakthroughs possible? You can actually see parts of your stroke.

    If you don't get around to blogging the details, I can always hunt you down. Long Island is not that big compared to Texas
  14. quicksilver's Avatar
    Maybe there's a something to be said about solo practices in that you can place more focus on what you're doing rather than paying attention to your lane mates in avoiding a collision. It can be harder to get motivated, but that's what the pace clocks are for!

    Yep Texas is like it's own country compared to a 20 x 100 mile island. I still don't know how people manage with the 90 & 100 degree heat for three months straight. Maybe that's why there's so much swim talent?
  15. knelson's Avatar
    How much total yardage/meterage were you swimming per day? Looks fun!
  16. qbrain's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by knelson
    How much total yardage/meterage were you swimming per day? Looks fun!
    It was fun. Yardage was dependent on what you did. My two video analysises were over 2k each. The stroke schools were between 500 and 1k.

    Sat morning: 4,600 yards
    Sat afternoon Sprint: 3000 yards
    Sat afternoon mid-d: 3000 yards
    Sat afternoon distance: 4000 yards

    Sun morning: 4100 LCM
    Sun afternoon Sprint: 2950 yards
    Sun afternoon mid-d: 3300 yards
    Sun afternoon distance: 3000 yards

    Doing a Friday morning practice local before flying out, I did about 8k Friday, 10k Saturday and 5k Sunday (yards). If I would have taken an earlier flight, their was a WCM practice Friday at noon the campers were invited to do but I was about 30 minutes too late for that and not too upset about missing it.