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Alex's swim journal

improving long distance pace by training for middle-d?

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I wanted to record a couple of workouts here and mention some problems I'm trying to solve with my training now.

First the workouts. Today's quick 2000 SCY in 42 minutes, after dinner, was a recovery workout. Pretty basic:

400 EZ
4 x 100 IM on 2:00
1:00 rest
8 x 50 on 1:00 (400 IMO)
1:00 rest
4 x 100 IM on 2:00
400 EZ

My splits on the broken 400 IM (the 50s on 1:00) were :46, :52, :53, :51, :58, :58, :45, :44--sub 7:00, but feeling very sluggish. I was really just trying to relax and not hurt myself... also had to dodge lane mates since it was a busy night at the Y; rain had everyone inside for the evening again. And I should emphasize that this was a recovery swim because...

Yesterday I got in 3600 SCY:

400 EZ
4 x 100 IM on 2:00
4 x 50 on 1:00 (:37-:40)

4 x 200 BK on 4:30 (i.e. 4 x thru 4 x 50 in 200 goal pace)*
200 recovery, fr
4 x 200 FR on 4:00*
2:00 rest, then
200 hard fr (2:48)

100 pull
4 x 100 IM on 2:00
100 EZ

*This set idea came from the Backstroke Lane thread and Chris Stevenson's recent suggestion for improving 200 back times; I then applied the same concept to the freestyle set as well. These 200s are swum as 4 x 50 in my goal pace for the 200, I chose :45/50, because I'd like to break 3:00 in the 200 Back at some point (I had a 3:16 SCY at a meet early in the spring), then decrease the rest after each 50 in the 200... 12 seconds, 10 seconds, 8 seconds. So with the rests after each 50 my send-offs were:

first 50 = :00
second 50 = :57
third 50 = 1:52
fourth 50 = 2:45

Each 200 would be complete around 3:30 if I held my :45/50 pace. I ended the set having swum mostly 3:33-3:34. The goal pace was real easy to maintain for the first couple of 50s; in fact, I had a hard time pacing it and not going out too fast (first 50 was usually around :41-:42). This made the last couple of 50s in each 200 challenging; I frequently missed the goal pace by 2-3 seconds on the 3rd and 4th legs. Pacing and endurance are the issues here. More about that in a minute.

My Freestyle 200 goal I chose as a fairly arbitrary 2:32... a :38/50 pace. For the most part I stayed on this pace, my first 50 might be in :36-:37, but my last couple of 50s never fell more than a second or two off the pace (:39-:40). I used the following send-offs:

first 50 = :00
second 50 = :50
third 50 = 1:38
fourth 50 = 2:24

Had I stayed on pace the whole way through I would have finished the 200s on 3:02, but I often started my fourth 50 on 2:25-2:26 to get the full :08 rest, and then was coming in around 3:04-3:05.

My friend Scotty, who swam this one with me, called the workout "legit." He thinks a lot of the stuff I do is mere insanity ("What's the point of a 300 IM or 4 x 200 fly with 50 fr recovery swims between the 200s? That's just crazy!" he'll tell me), but he liked this workout.

Problem/solution: so, going back over the last few months of training, it looks like I've done a lot to improve my endurance and technique on the strokes, a little bit of distance freestyle work (mostly sets of 100s on 1:40-1:50), and a little bit of sprint work to improve my top speed. As a result, I've become more confident with the strokes, my freestyle distance times continue to improve--if only slightly--and my 50-100 times have improved in all strokes. So what's the problem? Why can't I maintain a faster pace for those longer events in freestyle? Well, I think I've been neglecting those intermediate distances... I've been focusing on increasing my sprint speed 25-50 and also doing a lot of 1500 to 5k pace work, but aside from the 200-400 IMs I haven't been doing a lot of work to improve my 200-400 times in freestyle... is that what is holding my pace back in the longer events too? Shouldn't I be trying to improve my anaerobic threshold (the 200 times) if I want my LT pace to get faster for the longer, aerobic events? There's a big difference between swimming 200s at an aerobic pace (the 1500 to 5K range) to help with pacing for those longer events, and actually focusing on bringing those 200 times down.

So the hypothesis I'm going to test out in the next month or so is this: if I shift more of my training consciously toward improving my 200 times (actually training FOR the 200s, rather than using sets of 200s to train for something else), the improvement in lactate threshold that this brings about should result in corresponding drops in my times for longer distances (perhaps dropping even faster than if I just focused on pace work for the distance events). We'll see.

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