Monday, April 26, 2010

7th Gear

I've always been a believer in long steady training swims... descending pace the whole time... Intuitively it just makes sense to me to train this way sometimes because when we race we go long at a sustained pace. Don't get me wrong- I like 50's and 100's and speed stuff too, but if you're going to train for triathlons, you've got to be able to just swim a steady pace for a long time. Typically when I'm training for an Ironman I'll do a timed 4000, descending the 1000's, once a month for the 3-4 months leading up to the race. Just good practice. And it gives me good confidence as well.

Today our swim was 3500 straight, descend the 500's. Do the math on that and yes, that's 7 x 500's in a row, getting faster with each one. Start your watch when you push off the wall, look at it each 200-300M (as you flip at the turn) to check pace, hit lap at each 500, repeat. Faster each time. Simple, but not easy.

I couldn't swim first thing this morning because Scott had to go to work early, so Nalani and I did this separately today. She sent me an email with her splits after she got done this morning... she nailed it, of course. Noon came (Moana's nap time!) and it was my turn to try.

Getting in the pool I noticed that I didn't shiver at all. Hmm. Water feels warm today. Whatever. Start your watch and go.

500 #1. Arms feel kind of heavy. Stretch it out. Nice and easy. Check my watch at the 300 and see that I am quite a bit faster than I was planning on taking this out. Slow it down a bit so I have enough room to descend this 6 more times. At the 500 I hit lap on my watch and see that I'm about 12 seconds faster than I anticipated. Whoops! I guess 1st gear isn't so slow today.

500 #2. Pick it up, but just a little. The water feels waaaarm. Check my watch at the 300 and see that I am 2 seconds faster than I was at the first 300. Keep this pace. Lap at the 500 says I'm 6 seconds faster than the first 500. Definitely faster than I'd planned on being at this point (um, wasn't this speed 4th gear?) but, Ok.

500 #3. 3rd gear now. Steady swimming. Still feeling pretty comfortable... it occurs to me that this is about Ironman pace. And I still have to find 4 more gears after this one. Hmmm. I wonder if I can do that? Is it warm in here or what?? Lap at this 500 says I dropped the pace by 4 more seconds. Nice.

500 #4. 4th gear. Since I took it out too fast, I'm starting to pay the price because in order to keep descending now, I'm gong to have to start working harder now, but yet I still have 3 more to go after this one... This definitely feels harder than IM effort. It is HOT in here. Lap split says I dropped another 2 seconds. Ok.

500 #5. 5th gear. Pick up the pace now. Definitely harder than IM pace. Will someone please dump a bucket of ice in this pool? Start kicking a little harder. Still a two beat kick but definitely using my legs to kick rather than just to balance. Keep your core tight, Michelle. Don't start wiggling. Long strong strokes. Will someone please dump a bucket of ice in here? Lap split says I dropped another 4 seconds. Nailing it. But do I have 2 more gears?

500 #6. Throw in a surge for the first 100 here and then try to hang on to it... I think I might die of suffocation because IT IS SO HOT IN HERE. Complete nausea. I would NEVER work this hard in an IM swim. Use your legs, Michelle. Hallucinate about ice. Lap split says that 6th gear was a whopping ONE SECOND faster than 5th gear. Oh boy. Do I even have a 7th gear?

500 #7. Ice. Will someone please put ice in this pool? It is so hot in here. I'm sprinting as fast as it's possible to sprint after 3000M. All I want to do is slow down and recover for just a 50. No Michelle. Keep pushing. It is so hot in here. Just keep pushing. Final 500. GO! Turns out, I do have a 7th gear and it is 2 seconds faster than 6th gear.

I did it! Descended all 7. Barely. Phew. If that isn't a lesson in pacing I don't know what is?

During my easy easy 100 to finish up, I started to think that anyone who thinks that I'm just a lucky natural born swimmer has really got it all wrong. I think the only thing that is 'lucky' about my swim is that I live 1 mile from a free longcourse pool. That, I admit, is lucky. But the rest of it? Not luck. I work hard (and have worked hard, year-round, for years) for every second of the cushion I earn in my swim. I think a lot of triathletes think the swim is such a short little part of the race that it doesn't deserve the time and effort that they put into the bike and run. I say, while the swim may be the shortest part, a 2 minute cushion is not a bad thing to have getting out of the water. I'm just sayin'. I work for those minutes.

Anyway, I checked the pool thermometer as I was getting out of the water. 88 degrees? Are you kidding me? No wonder I felt nauseous the whole second half of that swim. I turned the shower water onto COLD and just stood under that shower head and let the cold water evaporate the steam coming off of my body. I was radiating heat. Then, at 1:00 in the afternoon in the full sun, I ran home. Heat? What heat?


Beth said...

Great swim Michelle!! Way to find that 7th gear!! :) And I totally agree with you on the importance of the swim. I have worked so hard to improve my swim and so many people have been like "why care when it's only going to be one minute difference AT MOST?" but can I tell you how many times I've lost places by less than a minute? And I think it totally changes the dynamic of the race if you are out of the water and IN the race rather than playing catch up the whole time. Anyway - great workout in some hot, hot water! And here I thought my 85 degree YMCA water was hot! ;)

The Chapples said...

I am definitely one of those who poo-pooed the importance of having a strong swim in triathlons. I focused on the bike and run (the sports I am good at and love) and figured I could at least get through the swim. Looking back, I wish I had really worked the swim training - I have to think that I wasted a lot of energy I could have used on the bike and run being inefficient during the swim. Live and learn. When I pick up triathlon again (and I plan day!), I need to revisit this post of yours.

Jennifer Harrison said...

OH AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
IF only athletes took their swim as seriously as the bike and run.
I am just like you Michelle...I am not a natural swimmer. sure, I swam a bit as a kid and such...but I was not a superstar...I did not love swimming as I got into HS...AND people always say, "you are just lucky b/c you swam as a kid."

I had to teach myself how to swim when i started triathlon - not kidding!

OH MY! Not really the case at you, I work my ass off..I swam 25k per week when I raced short course b/c (like beth said) I knew that 1 min off the swim for short course high end races (like nats and worlds) would MAKE THE DIFFERENCE....

and learning how to pace like you did today is something sooo important...same with the track, how to pace the track, etc!

WAY TO NAIL THAT swim - well done! :))

I got all excited and fired up reading it - can you tell. LOL

Running and living said...

Amazing! Do you check your watch at all, or you go by feel?

Kati said...

Wow, this is so true!! I was a marginal swimmer growing up and worked my butt off to become a decent adult swimmer. Now I've gotta do the same for my run!! I love the idea of the gears, I will use that when I have to do my shorter 2000 descending straight swim later today!!

H said...

Wow, amazing swimming Michelle! While my legs are marathon mashed I've really enjoyed getting back in the pool, something I need to keep doing, I Love it!

Regina said...

Sweet! You had me in suspense. I hate when the pool water is too warm. Can you sweat while swimming? To address Jen's comment, I take the swim very seriously 1) cuz I am not a great swimmer 2) cuz I actually like swim training. ha!

Clare said...

i'm really curious what some of your times i've said, i have no reference point for where i am in regards to speed (other than i know i am not fast!). care to share??

Jamie said...

You are so motivating to me!!! Just wanted you to know I enjoy reading your blog. I'm 3 weeks postpartum and have slowly started my return to running program (I've never done a tri!). Knowing other moms have picked back up on their programs keeps me going!!! Keep it up.

Molly said...

OMG that's a warm pool!! No wonder you were hot! Great job on the swim!

Angela and David Kidd said...

Nice work! Hitting times in a hot pool is not easy, and I know the times you are hitting are insane so it's even harder. I actually had the opposite scenario last night. The heater on the high school pool was broken so temps were in the high 50s. I was okay once we really started going but I was shivering all night. It honestly wasn't until after running this morning that I finally felt warm.

And I totally agree that you work incredibly hard for your swim and aren't just lucky but I do think that those of you that swam as kids have a distinct advantage. I have been working hard to get faster but no matter how much I work I am just not going to get as fast as those people who developed an efficient stroke, feel for the water and love for being in the water as a child. That's my whole rant on life not being fair.

Charisa said...

Nice swimming! And oh those are hard to do when the water is so warm too!

Aimee (I Tri To Be Me) said...

Wow..great job on your swim! I wish I could do that..hopefully someday!