Big Shoulders Stats: A local race?

More Big Shoulders stats, from my custom-made aggregate file. Here’s the proportion of Big Shoulders participants hailing from Illinois, Indiana, and “other” – i.e., anyplace besides IL and IN.

Clearly, Illinois locals still predominate, but recent years have seen a greater influx of out-of-state swimmers. In 2009, almost 30% came from outside of Illinois and Indiana – an all-time high.

“Race” Report: USMS 5K Postal Championship

See background post below, or here.

  • What: 5,000 long-course meters – for time
  • When: Friday, August 27, 2010. 5:45pm CDT
  • Where: Flames Natatorium, University of Illinois-Chicago
  • Why: Why not?
  • Training context: Monday, 4900 LCM; Tuesday, 5600 LCM; Wednesday, 4100 LCM; Thursday, 2800 SCY; Friday morning, 1 mile open-water
  • Gear (for any doubting Thomases out there – haha): FINIS racing jammer, silicone cap, swedish goggles
  • Goal Time: 1:06:40 (1:20 per 100m)

Final time: 1:05:26 (pace of 1:18.5).

Here’s how I did it:

  • By 500’s: 6:23.9, 6:25.7, 6:28.3, 6:31.2, 6:32.0, 6:32.7, 6:33.9, 6:32.7, 6:31.7
  • By 1000’s: 12:49.7, 12:59.5, 13:04.7, 13:06.1, 13:04.4
  • Through the first 1500m:
    • 100: 1:14.1
    • 200: 2:31.0
    • 400: 5:06.4
    • 800: 10:15.7
    • 1500: 19:18.0

Note: To get a clearer picture of my actual pace through the swim, these splits are adjusted for the 3 Gatorade breaks I took at 1500m, 3000m, and 4000m. I calculated this by taking the 100m split before the break, the 2nd 100m split after the break, and averaging the two to estimate the 100m split directly after the break (which in the raw split sheet includes the break time).

In total, I “adjusted out” 21.9 seconds of break time: 8.0 seconds at 1500m, 8.4 seconds at 3000m, and 5.5 seconds at 4000m.

Obviously, this is for illustrative purposes only, and I will be submitting the raw splits (including break time) to USMS.

Here’s a chart of my 100m splits (again, with breaks adjusted out):


It was a remarkably consistent swim. After a smooth 1:14 to start, I held 1:17’s (with one exception) through my first Gatorade break at 1500m. After that, I basically held 1:18’s for the rest of the swim – with 3 splits slightly above 1:19 and a 1:17 on the final 100m. Excluding the first 100, my fastest split was 1:16.9 and my slowest split was 1:19.3 – a range of only 2.4 seconds over 4900m.

I focused on maintaining a consistent “race” tempo (even though I was alone in the pool), and I think I did this successfully. Over time I’ve learned that when I fatigue, my technique declines before my tempo does. So, I also focused on maintaining a strong catch up front and following through past my hip. What tends to happen is, as I struggle to keep up my tempo, my catch starts to “slide” and I start my recovery before my follow-through is complete.

To put it mildly, I was pleased with this swim. In last year’s 5K Postal, there were 5 faster times overall (out of 266) – and that was before tech suits were banned. We’ll see how it plays out.

5K Postal Swim – some background

As my former Sharks teammates know, I attempted the USMS 5K Postal Championship (5,000 long-course meters for time, in your home pool, between 5/15 and 9/15) back on June 27, two days before my wife and I moved from Columbus to Chicago. For various reasons, it didn’t work out too well. Both mentally and physically, I just didn’t have it that day. I was distracted and anxious about the move; I had been packing and lifting boxes all week;  and for whatever reason (self-sabotage, probably), I thought it’d be good idea to do a “warm-up set” of 5×1000 LCM the day before.

In any case, I ended up with a 1:07:32 that day (pace of 1:21.0 per 100m) – not altogether terrible, but I knew I had a better swim in me. I had been debating letting the time stand, as it will probably place well in my age group anyway. But something else forced my hand: Somehow, during the move, I had lost the split sheet! (You’re required to submit your 100m splits to verify the swim.)

Now I had to do it again. I finally got that chance yesterday evening, at the UIC Natatorium. My goal was to break 1:06:40 (exactly a 1:20/100m pace). I figured, given the paces I had been holding at my open-water swims this summer, that I had a fairly decent chance. Just 4 weeks ago, I held 1:19.5’s (for 1:06:14) in a 5K open-water, wearing a legskin, at 4900′ elevation.

There are, of course, differences between open-water swims and pool-based postal swims, that can complicate the comparison:

  • there are turns in postal swims, but not in open water (favors the postal swims)
  • open-water swims are sometimes imprecisely measured – e.g., Big Shoulders 2009 was most likely short; Madison last weekend was most likely long
  • open water can involve currents, chop, and imprecise navigation (favors the postal swims)
  • you can wear tech suits in open water, but not in the postal swims (favors open water)
  • open water usually involves racing, or at least social facilitation, while postal swims are usually a lonely, solo effort (favors open water)

In the next post, I’ll reveal what happened. Stay tuned.

Big Shoulders Stats: Participation by Age

More fun with Big Shoulders stats. We’ve been looking at participation – so what about age? Masters swimming is traditionally dominated by people in their 40’s and 50’s – is the same true here?

It seems the modal age is actually a bit younger in Big Shoulders – lots of people in their 30’s. But the “50’s” have been mounting a furious comeback (see the blue line) – perhaps a baby boomer effect.

My custom aggregate CSV file, from which I calculated these stats, is available here.

Pan Pacs: The story of the splits

Splits tell the story of a race. It’s perhaps even truer in open-water swimming than in the pool, because the races are more “spread out” over space and time. Splits are rarely kept for O.W. races, though, due to obvious logistical obstacles.

Powerhouse Timing has been working to change this – at least at the elite level. At this past weekend’s Pan Pacific 10K Championship, they captured splits at each 2K for the entire field, both men and women. And what an interesting story they tell. Here are the 2K splits, which I converted to pace-per-100m:


2K 4K 6K 8K 10K total
JENNINGS (USA) 1:11.4 1:11.9 1:11.3 1:13.6 1:13.4 2:00:34
FABIAN (USA) 1:11.3 1:11.8 1:11.4 1:13.6 1:13.6 2:00:36
BRUNEMANN (USA) 1:11.5 1:11.9 1:11.4 1:13.6 1:13.5 2:00:38
ANDERSON (USA) 1:11.7 1:11.9 1:11.3 1:13.6 1:13.6 2:00:41
GORMAN (AUS) 1:11.4 1:12.0 1:11.2 1:13.6 1:14.7 2:00:57
BALAZS (CAN) 1:11.7 1:11.9 1:12.0 1:14.0 1:17.6 2:02:23
DEFRANCESCO (AUS) 1:11.6 1:11.9 1:11.6 1:13.5 1:18.7 2:02:26
BAKER (NZ) 1:11.5 1:11.9 1:11.7 1:14.6 1:21.5 2:03:44
WILLIAMS (CAN) 1:11.7 1:12.0 1:14.7 1:18.2 1:15.7 2:04:07
HOSCHKE-EDWARDS (AUS) 1:11.6 1:11.9 1:12.7 1:17.9 1:18.9 2:04:21
HANSFORD (AUS) 1:12.0 1:12.2 1:16.4 1:18.9 1:21.1 2:06:52
KIDA (JAP) 1:11.8 1:12.4 1:16.1 1:19.2 1:24.5 2:08:00


2K 4K 6K 8K 10K total
PETERSON (USA) 1:12.2 1:09.5 1:09.0 1:09.2 1:08.0 1:56:00
CRIPPEN (USA) 1:12.7 1:09.3 1:09.0 1:09.3 1:07.9 1:56:03
WEINBERGER (CAN) 1:12.0 1:10.5 1:08.0 1:09.2 1:08.4 1:56:03
CARMO (BRA) 1:12.4 1:10.8 1:08.0 1:09.1 1:08.0 1:56:05
FRAYLER (USA) 1:12.5 1:10.5 1:08.2 1:09.2 1:14.8 1:58:23
O’BRIEN (AUS) 1:12.1 1:11.5 1:11.5 1:11.5 1:11.4 1:59:20
ASHWOOD (AUS) 1:12.3 1:11.6 1:11.2 1:11.4 1:11.7 1:59:25
RYAN (USA) 1:12.8 N/A N/A 1:12.2 1:11.5 1:59:26
KLEUH (USA) 1:12.4 N/A N/A 1:11.6 1:11.5 1:59:26
BROWNE (AUS) 1:12.3 1:11.5 1:11.0 1:11.4 1:12.1 1:59:27
KING (CAN) 1:12.2 1:11.3 1:11.3 1:11.8 1:12.0 1:59:32
MAINSTONE (AUS) 1:12.1 1:11.5 1:11.3 1:11.7 1:12.3 1:59:39
ENDERICA (ECU) 1:12.4 1:10.9 1:08.2 1:09.1 1:20.9 2:00:28
CHETRAT (CAN) 1:12.2 1:11.8 1:11.3 1:12.3 1:20.6 2:02:45

Some notes:

  • The women – led as usual by Eva Fabian – took it out fast, and were almost 20 seconds ahead of the men at 2K.
  • Half of the women’s field was able to maintain this pace (1:11+) through 6K, but they slowed on the final two splits to 1:13’s. Was this actually fatigue?
  • While the top 5 women stayed bunched together through the entire race, those who fell off the peloton really fell off. Three of them were splitting above 1:20’s on the final 2K.
  • The men took the opposite approach, taking it out with “easy” 1:12’s, allowing the entire field to stay within 12 seconds of each other at 2K.
  • Between 2K and 4K, six guys put their heads down and separated from the field: 1:09-1:10’s at 4K, then 1:08-1:09’s thereafter.
  • Two of these six (Frayler and Enderica) fell off the pace in the final 2K, splitting 1:15’s and 1:21’s, respectively. That’s what bonking looks like, folks.
  • Unlike at the U.S. Nationals, there was no big push at the end from the top men. Probably they didn’t have much left in the tank after pushing the pace to 1:09’s so early in the race.

Big Shoulders Stats: Come on down, ladies!

How ’bout some more fun with stats? In yesterday’s post we saw Big Shoulders’ explosive growth over the years. How does this break down by gender?

Historically, more men than women have taken the plunge, but the gap has narrowed in recent years. In 2009, women were 43% of the total participants.

Stormy, Husky, Brawling

Less than 3 weeks ’til Big Shoulders! This race has a special place in my heart: It was at Big Shoulders ’09 where I caught the open-water bug. Without which, this summer wouldn’t have been nearly as awesome.

Little did I realize that Big Shoulders would soon be my hometown race. And I’m happy to see it prosper: In its 20th year, it reached the maximum registration of 800 swimmers for the first time. That’s an eightfold increase since 1998, the first year for which results are available on the web.

To facilitate analysis across years, I aggregated these 12 years of results (1998-2009) into a single CSV file. This is what you might call a picture of success:

— Notes —

  • 1999: first year that a 2.5K race was offered
  • 2005: 2.5K race was the USMS 1-3 mile national championship
  • All data-slinging, number-crunching, and picture-making performed with the assistance of R and ggplot2.