MIMS Memories

Before it becomes stale news, I wanted to note several fascinating, inspiring, “water-level” accounts of the recent Manhattan Island Marathon Swim. The 28.5-mile circumnavigation of Manhattan is one of the generally-accepted crowning achievements of open-water marathon swimming (along with the Catalina and English Channels), and is the only race among the three.

Race Report: USMS 6K Open-Water Champs (Windsor, CO)

Results posted here.

The third USMS Open-Water Championship of the season – this time, for 6K – was held in a man-made lake in Windsor, CO (near Fort Collins). It’s one of only two races on my schedule in which I’m truly “flying solo” – that is, not an excuse to take a semi-vacation with the wife (Charlotte, Noblesville, Madison), to see family (California, Oregon) or friends (Miami), or take a dip in my local lake (Big Shoulders).

So, though it was my first time visiting Colorado (excluding airports), I didn’t stick around to sightsee: I flew in Friday afternoon, raced the next morning, and flew back the Columbus the same evening in time for a late dinner and episode of ‘Mad Men.’

Continue reading “Race Report: USMS 6K Open-Water Champs (Windsor, CO)”

A balancing act

Between May 29 and August 1 this summer, I have 6 races. Actually, 11 if you include events with multiple races – but the point is, I have to be ready to swim fast on 6 occasions in 9 weeks.

These races are, in many cases, quite physically grueling: a 6K this weekend (at 4800′ elevation) in Colorado, a 10K next month in Indiana, and a total of 11K over 5 races (also at elevation) in Oregon at the end of July. So, while I need to be “ready to swim fast” in all instances, I also can’t afford to moderate my training much, or I risk losing conditioning. If anything, my training volume in the past year (~15,000-25,000 yards/week) is actually insufficient to race a 10K (though it’s sufficient to finish a 10K).

In club/age-group swimming, we trained right through mid-season meets, tapering only in January (for short-course championships) and August (for long-course championships). The most we got mid-season (usually for a “travel” meet) was a couple days of below-average volume. During the high school dual meet season, we had meets almost every Friday between late February and early May. Did Coach give us Friday mornings off? Nope.

In mid-season dual meets, though, our competitors were also training hard, so “peak performance” was neither expected nor necessary.┬áThis summer, because I’m doing primarily USMS national championship races, the competition is actually pretty strong. In all cases, I will be racing against at least a few swimmers faster than me – and even more who, if I’m fatigued, won’t hesitate to smoke me.

Another difference is the actual events involved. It’s one thing to race a 100 Back (my high school specialty) at the end of a tough week of training. However terrible you feel, it’s over after a minute or so. It’s another thing entirely to race a 10K fatigued. I wouldn’t call it suicidal, but it’s probably a bad idea.

So, how do I train hard enough to race a 10K, but leave myself sufficiently rested to swim fast in the other races?

Stay tuned…

Ramping up the volume

The week so far:

Monday morning, 4600 SCY at OSU. Monday evening, 2400m OW at the quarry.

Tuesday afternoon, 6000 SCY at OSU.

This morning (Wednesday), 3300 SCY with the Sharks. This evening, 4000 LCM at OSU.

For those keeping score at home, that’s 20,899 yards in 3 days.

Up next: two recovery days before Saturday’s 6K in Windsor, CO.

I was aiming for 40,000 yards this week. I’ll probably come close.

Race Report: USMS 1.5-mile Open-Water Champs (Livermore, CA)

RESULTS: overall / age-group

The 2nd USMS Open-Water Championship – 1.5 miles around Lake Del Valle, south of Livermore, CA – promised to be a competitive one, given all the stacked Masters teams in the Bay Area. And that it was.

Continue reading “Race Report: USMS 1.5-mile Open-Water Champs (Livermore, CA)”

Interviews with Rich Abrahams and Mark Warkentin

As Chris Anderson described in The Long Tail, the internet has made possible a previously unthinkable wealth of content for niche interests – e.g., Masters and open-water swimming.

Here are two great examples from the past week:

First, Rich Abrahams. The consensus “swimmer of the meet” at the recent Masters Nationals in Atlanta, Rich threw down a 49.4 100 Free and 22.1 50 Free. Fast times for anyone, but guess what? He’s 65 years old. In other words, not just fast, but almost-unbelievably fast.

How did Rich do it? Through several candid posts on the USMS forums and a video interview with Swimming World, you can gather hints. The most interesting nuggets, to my mind:

  • his focus in practice on lots of race-pace swimming
  • his approach to dryland training:
    • focus on overall, balanced strength rather than swim-specific strength
    • one long workout Sunday morning, one shorter workout Wednesday (providing several days recovery between each)
    • the importance of long-term consistency (i.e., over several decades)
  • his preference for swimming with 1-3 like-minded training partners, rather than with a team

Second, 2008 open-water 10K Olympian Mark Warkentin. Mark and I grew up together and swam for many years with the Santa Barbara Swim Club. He’s the toughest workout warrior I’ve ever known – and also a smart, wily open-water veteran. So, like ’08 gold medalist Maarten van der Weijden, he routinely beats people in the open-water who are faster than him in a pool.

Two days ago Mark made an appearance on the Simon Gowen Triathlon Show (h/t Daily News of O.W.S.). The interview has some less-meaty parts (it’s a triathlon show, after all), but there are some good tidbits for more advanced swimmers. In particular:

  • a good way to train yourself to breathe on both sides (while still breathing every other stroke): do a long swim, alternating 50m breathing to one side, 50m to the other
  • the importance of repeating sets over time – to gauge progress, but also to hold yourself accountable (you know how fast you should be going)
  • “pool open-water” training – take out the lanelines
  • the importance of being comfortable swimming in a pack – taking advantage of “moving water” and keeping your composure when you get hit or kicked

Back in the saddle

After a day off following the races in North Carolina, I’ve strung together as good a 4-day stretch of training as I’ve had in several months. My volume is up a bit (I’m on pace for ~29,000 yards this week), but especially the intensity.

Monday I pounded out 4,000 SCY (including 1,700 of kicking) right after lifting (session A). Tuesday I combined SCY & LCM for 3,740 yards, again right after lifting (session B). This workout included the following race-pace set (LCM):

  • 4x {200 fast, 100 easy} @ 6:00
    • 2:28, 2:27, 2:27, 2:15 (pull)

Those times don’t appear all that great, but given that I lifted right before, I was pleased. Wednesday I reached 5,000 SCY despite soreness from 2 back-to-back lifting sessions. Main set:

  • 4x {500 @ 10K pace, 10 sec rest, 200 build to fast, 50 easy} @ 10:00
    • I held around 5:55 for the 500s and 2:16 for the 200s.

This morning I managed 3,500 LCM in just over 50 minutes, with just one set:

  • 5×700
    • #1 warm-up @ 11:00
    • #2-4 moderate descend to 10K pace @ 10:00
      • 9:32, 9:27, 9:25 (pace of 1:21.7, 1:21.0, 1:20.7)
    • #5 warm-down

Tomorrow and Saturday I’ll dial it down slightly – a necessary recovery from the past 4 days, but also to hit Sunday’s race (USMS 1.5-mile O.W. Champs in Livermore, CA) ready to swim fast. Sunday morning I’ll visit my old friends at Stanford Masters for a warm-up.

Hello, California!