Saturday 27 January 2018

Back to back

After a tough swim last night it might seem mad to have gone for a swim this morning. Feeling tired now, I think it might have been! Today I worked short sets with the paddles after a slightly slow warm-up. It was under, but rather close to, 5:00 minutes.Back to back runs are quoted as being a good way to simulate a long training session so hopefully I can take my general and localised fatigue as indicators of lots of training.

Friday 26 January 2018

CSS set

My first attempt at a CSS (critical swim speed) set wasn't very successful. I couldn't keep with a 48 second length time even over 100m. I rest the timer to 50s (equivalent to 5:00 minute 200m) in a 33m pool and couldn't match that either. I think a combination of factors were at  play. First, I was probably still tired from Wednesday's circuit; my abdominal muscles certainly were. Second, I felt as though I was rushing my stroke to stay on time and this was very likely making me inefficient.

I think I'll start with 50 seconds per length next week as I know that pace is attainable over short sets.

Wednesday 24 January 2018


In a quick after work swim I completed 1000m as a single set. The time was a little slower than last week but I did get held up in my lane twice and swapped lane once. Those few delays easily account for the 14 seconds lost; basically I was at the same pace. Timing of the first 200m was indistinct but appears to be below 5:00 minutes, if only by a couple of seconds but as the set finished my pace was 2:35min/100m.

I'm disappointed with length recording with the 935, I tried to do distinct push-offs at each length although sometimes not as easily as hoped due to people standing at the lane ends. Powerful push-offs save time too!

This evening I received an envelope of CR1620 lithium cells from eBay so I can get going with CSS sets using the Tempo Trainer Pro.

Sunday 21 January 2018

Short pool PB, still making gains

In St Annes YMCA pool this morning I managed another PB without trying all that hard. It's only a 25m length so easy to shave a few seconds but managing 4:40 minutes for 200m is worth noting for me.

I also did a 100m set with bilateral breathing which was OK, a little collapse of leading arm and loss of high elbow, but a fair start. I'm not sure which set it was in my records so not clear on the pace, but that's not important. Across the whole session the pace was fine, although the recorded average pace is incorrectly low due to missed turns (the Garmin 935 isn't as good as the Swim for recording lengths).

I put a fair bit of effort into these short sets and was pleased to see that my pace was better than my estimated CSS suggesting that the CSS may be approximately right.

Thursday 18 January 2018

Trying 1000m

I couldn't stay in 200m sets any longer and so today I went a little against instructions and set out to do 1000m with my new technique. Despite thinking that I was starting slowly the first few lengths were at CSS pace, although I soon settled into a sustainable rhythm. Towards the end of the set I noted that my stroke was becoming scrappy and this is shown in the figures by a progressive increase in SPL from 21 to 26. I refocussed and managed to finish with a final length of 22 strokes.

Over the first 200m (i.e. my usual warm up) I took 4:54min which is clearly below 5:00 minutes although by no means a PB. That makes sense as I had my mind on the longer task. The 1000m took 25:25mins which is a PB pace of 2:32min/100m. Two seconds less will make a great goal!

Some collation of data:

18/01/18 2:32 min/100m (ie 4% better than a year ago)
05/03/17 2:42 min/100m
06/02/17 2:38 min/100m
04/01/16 3:02 min/100m
26/02/15 4:00 min/100m with pauses (moving pace 3:40min/100m)

Looking back over 3 years it is very clear that I've made substantial progress even though week on week gains seem erratic or negligible.

Monday 15 January 2018

High elbow

I seem to be getting the hang of the high elbow approach which @CoachMorg recommended a mere 9 days ago. Once again I set a PB, 4:45min for 200m without the pullbuoy, suggesting that my 5:00 minute 'barrier' is well and truly overcome now.

I'm still working on technique and noted a fade in style and pace over the 6 lengths so then spent another 4 sets doing single lengths with the paddles followed by pairs of lengths without. As usual the current in the pool affected my pace but I was pleased to manage a length at 2:05min/100m (with the flow) as this approaches my previous pace with the pullbuoy. The load on my arms with paddles is moderate and currently one length at a time really does feel to be enough. Naturally even with a slower arm cadence my pace was faster, but not in a sustainable way. At this time I can't image doing a swimrun event with paddles over a 1000m swim.

Sunday 14 January 2018

First CSS estimate

With a new freestyle technique that needs practicing it would also be nice to be able to track progress and plan some longer sessions. So even though I am a little tired I completed a Swimsmooth CSS estimation this morning, albeit in the warm and short Heeley Pool.

The outcome is 2:23min/100m without pullbuoy which sounds fairly fast considering my performace over the last months (although slow in absolute terms). Notably this pace approximates to that of my 200m PB last friday so perhaps it does all make sense?

I tried to do the same series with the pullbuoy but I was tiring and my 200yard set was at a slower pace than my 400yard. Excitingly the 400yard set was at such pace that I would have achieved my ongoing goal to beat 400m in 8:00min with the pullbuoy. I appreciate that shorter pool is always faster than a long pool but I believe I had a few seconds spare (7:52min estimated).

The shortest set today was 100 yards and I was aware of my technique slipping on occasion but I then refocussed and tried to neaten it up. I think the good timings show that I achieved that overall.

For future reference, set Finis Tempo Pro to 47.8 seconds/33.3m length at Goodwin.

Saturday 13 January 2018

Hard work this morning

It should have been so easy. A 'quick' half marathon loop via Blacka Moor which I've run many times before. It was hard work within the first 100m and it didn't get any easier despite walking far more than I should have needed too. Being objective though, I suppose that I can accept that:

  • I did swim quickly yesterday
  • This is the furthest I've tried to run in a some months
  • Circuit class was tiring after a few week's break and so leg muscles will be tired
So now I need to rest and do some stretches and rolling to encourage recovery and get rid of some irritating muscle knots.

Friday 12 January 2018

Making progress again

After work I did a 20 minute or so swim session working on high elbow catch without the pull buoy. As usual I started with a 200m set without aids and focussed on technique throughout. I was thrilled to complete within 5 minutes but couldn't see the exact time. Looking at the data afterwards I'd managed 4:47 minutes which is a clear PB by 4 seconds.

Unfortunately I lost the data for the rest of the session as I was working with my new Finis Agility paddles and found button pressing difficult - so I pressed the wrong buttons! Anyway, the session data isn't all that important as by alternating lengths with and without the paddles I didd sense the paddles lifting off my hand when I over-reached, and a strong catch, even without the paddles, when I was well positioned. I'd been told to only use the paddles in 100m stretches but even that load seemed too much for me at the moment as my technique waned over 2 lengths at 66m.

This is great progress over the last week but of course I can't expect to maintain progress at this rate.

Saturday 6 January 2018

Swim coaching

It's nearly a year since I last went to London for my swimming stroke coaching and I could tell that my technique had fallen below its usual poor standard. I'd become slower and started to develop shoulder pain.

During the year Morgan Williams has opened as a SwimSmooth coach in Doncaster, which is around a 40 minute drive from home and he works some weekends, which is a bonus to me. After a discussion about my goals which are:

  1. Reduce reliance on pull buoy for freestyle
  2. Develop technique to reduce risk of shoulder injury
  3. Improve my pace hopefully as a result of the above

he filmed me without the pull buoy. He felt that most of my problem came from poor arm position and action, especially in the 'reach'. The video revealed that currently I have a typical issue described on the SwimSmooth website.

My hand and elbow position were exactly as described.

Not only does this slow me down, due to my limited flexibility it tends to force my hips down and increase drag.

This was demonstrated quite clearly to me as against a wall I'm unable to have my arms straight above my head against wall, so in the water by forcing my arms forwards my hips drop to  compensate.

So for the rest of the session I had to focus on spearing into the water almost a foot below the surface when fully reaching and then to keep my shoulders 'shrugged' to facilitate elbows forwards. The 'doggy paddle drill' was helpful once I got the rhythm of it. Gradually it became clear that if I could control this movement my arm turnover increased without forcing it and across my shoulders felt more comfortable. Significantly my pace improved to around 2:12min/100m without the pullbuoy. As an aside, my legs worked less hard as my body position improved, giving me more energy to put into my arm stroke.

Part of the the style I'm aiming for is to bring my hand closer to my body, under my shoulder rather than to the side. This did feel to be a way to exert more power.

My plan for the next few weeks is to focus on these points on a length  by length basis, ensuring that technique is good and I don't resort to my (imprinted) habits.