Date: December 10-12th
Location: Boston University, MA, USA
So let’s back up to December 10th, 2010, day one of the New England Masters Short Course Championship Meet in Boston, USA. United States Masters Swimming is open to athletes 18 years and over and this meet is one of the largest masters meets in the country, good competiton. This year is no exception there are just under 600 swimmers racing.
I am curious to see how my times are after one year of training that is geared towards preparation for my 2012 English Channel attempt, my training has shifted to higher mileage in the pool and more time in the Open Water taking me out of the warmth of the pool and it’s firm walls to blast off, along with this little to no time swimming non Freestyle strokes.
At this very same meet in December 2009, I raced in a speed suit, it was cat woman suit tight, zipping up the back, full leg length but bare shoulders, it was so tight it took about 20 minutes to squeeze into and to make it easier I would slide a plastic bag over my foot and lower leg to help get the process of getting into the suit started, it was quite the mission getting suited up let alone racing.
Since being introduced in 2008 speed suits have led to nearly 200 world records, studies have showen them to improve performance, a study of a group of competitve swimmers showed 25 Free, 50 Free, 100 Free, 200 Free, 400 Free and 800 Free distances raced were 2-4% faster in a full body suit, the suits tested were focused on reducing drag loses not adding buoyancy, the researchers measured performance, stroke rate and distance per stroke.
FINA the governing body of swimming issued regulations early in 2010 banning the suits, so I am not swimming in a speed suit this weekend, what will happen to my times? All indicators point to me swimming 2-4 % slower, hmmm let’s see if that is what happens to this little science experiement, first we have one more thing to consider, ” the Taper”,or lack of it in my case….usually before a championship meet I will decrease my mileage as the meet gets closer, I slash my training distance, only swimming fast short bursts at race pace speed with a slow ez swim before and after the race pace blast, I will do this a number of times during a training session along with practicing starts off the blocks and turns, end result is your body is fine tuned for fast swimming and has had lots of rest and ez swimming in the days leading up to the meet, the body is stockpiling excess energy and feels strong and rested by meet day….. the body and mind are just itching to perform, edgy and sharp, the peak performance window is wide open.
BUT this year is different, I am not focusing on the meet, it is not my training goal, I am sticking to my distance training plan and still honkering down to meet this new 1000 miles in 2010 goal, instead of a taper I swim 47,500 meters the week before the meet.
What distance do I usually swim for a taper week? 7,500 meters….., that is about 40,000 meters over the regular taper distance:” she’ll be right mate, it’s only a wee bit off”, as we’d say in New Zealand, and that was my good old Kiwi philosophy going into the competiton ” no worries mate!”
Yes this is clearly going to be a different approach, my own little science experiment so to speak!
The 800 meters is the first event, it is held on Friday evening, Paula, Deb and I set off from Stowe, Vermont at 11:30am, the drive to Boston can take anything from 3.5- 7 hours depending on the weather, fortunately for us the roads are dry, no snow storm today!
We arrive in Boston in good time and check into the meet, the pool opens for warmups at 4:30pm the meet starts at 5pm. I am fairly confident that I am not in the fastest heat, there are 10 lanes and I am seeded 11th fastest out of 76 swimmers, the 10 swimmers seeded ahead of me are all faster, the age of each swimmer is listed alongside their seed time, 22, 25, 28, 26, the list goes on until I reach number 11, Charlotte Brynn 44.
As swimmer 11, I will fall into heat number 3, there will be the fastest heat of women first, followed by a heat with the fastest men, then my heat, cool, I can relax and take my time warming up, hey maybe I’ll throw in a few extra meters to go towards my 1000 mile goal that I have challenged myself to reach before the end of the year. I swim a few 1000 meters and slide on out of the pool at 4:55pm, “better check out the heat sheets before I take a hot shower and change out of my warm up suit and into my race suit”, I think to myself, ” “then I will suck down a snack and kick back and watch the first heat, I like to gulp down a whey protein and gatorade mix before I race.
I get out of the pool and stroll over to the heat and lane assignments posted on the wall behind the starting blocks, to my horror I discover I am in the first and fastest heat of women swimmers, I am in lane 10 the “slow” lane,” aww mate”, I say as I look, not only am I going to be the slow poke in the fastest heat, but I race in 5 minutes and don’t even have my race suit on!. I hastily rinse off in the showers, pull on my suit, cap and googles in hand swiftly make my may to stand behind block number 10, I have had to accept the fact there will be no feed, I will race on an empty stomach, YUCK.
My heart is pounding, I force myself to not look at all the other swimmers, there seed times are much faster than mine, I feel jumpy and unsettled, ” OK just swim your race I tell myself”. I look at Deb at the other end of the pool, she is my lap counter, I know I’ll be OK when Deb is there, she is calming.
The whistle blows signalling me to step up on the block, take your mark, my hands grab the front of the block, beeeep, every muscle in my body responds and I explode off the block and into the water, tight streamline and then I am off for my strong first 75 meters, my heart is pounding and I am excited, I can’t wait to get this show on the road.
First 75 down and I lower my stroke rate swimming fewer longer and stronger strokes, my Channel training has really helped me get a better feel for my stroke rate or tempo, it is like cadence if you are training on a bike. After 200 meters I notice that there are other swimmers who are behind me, what’s up with that, I am in the booby prize slow lane, I can’t fathom why there seem a good part of the field behind me WEIRD, I decide not to think about it and swim on feel and I do. I focus on staying long, relaxed and being as quick as I can in and out of the walls. At 650 meters I feel my intensity level start to creep up, it begins knocking on the door of my anaerobic energy system, this is when my working muscles recruit fuel from stores in the body, there is not a very big store, it does not last for long and the byproducts of this energy conversion make the body feel tired and uncomfortable, end result perfomance drops, you got it…YOU SLOW DOWN. Agghh time to adjust I pull it back slightly to stick in my aerobic zone, at 100 meters I make my move to increase my stroke rate, I do and barely hold on spinning my arms fast as I swim into the touch pad to finish.
My previous personal best time for 800 Free in the speed suit = 10:24.14
This year = 10:20.77
Where did I finish in the heat ? 5th
Where did I finish in my age group? 1st
The ” she’ll be right mate” attitude worked, I am happy.
Saturday and Sunday I swam another 10 events, my times were all slower than 2009 by about 1 %, I felt great during the whole meet and spent as much time as I could warming up and swimming down to clock some extra milleage. All told I swam 4,800 meters each day nudging me closer to me 1000 miles goal.
Next up preparation for the Holiday Swim in Stowe Vermont: 100 repeats of 100 meters, each 100 meters has to be swum in 100 seconds or less, that is 1:40 to swim and rest and I can’t wait.
Do I have some goal times for this swim YOU BET!
What are they? I’ll keep you posted