There (should be) no running in swimming

Should swimming events involve running? Unless it’s part of a triathlon, obviously not… right?

Yet often, they do! You won’t see any running at the Olympic 10K open-water event. In Beijing, competitors started by jumping off a floating platform, and finished by slapping a floating touchpad. At sub-elite level events, though, it’s fairly common to both start and finish on a beach.

Of the six open-water events on my summer itinerary, only two – the 2-mile Cable swim in Virginia and the 6K in Colorado – have in-water starts and finishes. The rest will require negotiating a stretch of sand at some point. The Columbus Open-Water Swims start and finish on the beach.

This matters to me because I have a hip replacement and am really not supposed to run, ever. Do the few seconds I lose on a beach-start really matter in a 20, 30, or 60-minute race? Sure, it matters less in a longer race, but actually yes, it does matter.

It’s not just the time lost entering the water, but also the time lost from poor positioning. If I’m near the end of the pack off the start, I may be only 5 seconds behind the leaders right then, but by time I’ve clawed my way through the slower swimmers, I might be 20 seconds behind. It matters.

And my disadvantage is relatively minor. What would Fat Rabbit Racing (organizers of the C.O.W.S. races) say if one-legged Olympian (not just Paralympian, mind you — Olympian) Natalie du Toit showed up at their event? That she’s shit outta luck?

Granted, there are costs – financial and operational – associated with in-water finishes. But in-water starts are actually pretty simple.

One Hour Postal results

The results from the first USMS Long Distance Championship of the year – the 1 Hour Postal Swim – are now up. I placed 9th of 77 among men age 25-29. It was a competitive year – my 5,265 yards would have placed 4th last year.

Somewhat annoyingly, I got beat by 35 yards or less by 3 guys. Even worse, I would have placed 4th among men 30-34 – an age group I joined less than 2 weeks after the swim.

None of that really matters, of course, except for purposes of point calculations.

Swimming Slow vs. Swimming Fast

“You’ve got to swim fast to swim fast.”

That’s Rob Orr, long-time Princeton men’s coach, doing his best Yogi Berra impression.

“Swim slow to swim fast.”

That’s the title of an instructional video that generated some lively discussion on the USMS discussion forum this week.

Who’s right? Well, I guess it depends. How’s your technique? If you’re already relatively “fast” (which usually means efficient), you probably have good technique and would benefit from swimming “fast” (as in hard) to simulate racing.

But if you’re not already an efficient swimmer, you probably should be focusing more on slow, mindful drilling than on sprint sets.

It sounds like a chicken and egg problem, but it’s not. If you can’t swim slow (correctly), you won’t swim fast (period).

Go the Distance

Go the Distance is a nice little motivation hack. Each day (or week, or whatever), you enter how far you’ve swum into your account at The online tool keeps track of your total distance accumulated for the calendar year, and posts that number online each morning – along with ~1,500 other participants.

It’s a reason to get to the pool on days when you might otherwise not. If you’re motivated by numbers, you can pursue “milestones” (50 miles, 100 miles, 500 miles, etc.), which sponsor NIKE rewards with various goodies – a swim cap for 50 miles, a water bottle for 250, up to a $250 gift certificate for 1500.

Or if you’re motivated by sheer competitiveness, you can peruse the list and, oh I don’t know, find someone you want to “beat.”

Such as one Dave Radcliff, a 76-year old member of the 1956 Olympic team, who has swum 107.81 miles this year, to my 95.76

Dave, I’m coming after you!

2010 Goals

Today is my 30th birthday, and in honor of my fourth decade on this mostly-aqueous Earth, here’s what I hope to accomplish in the water this year:

  • Short-Course Nationals:
    • 500 Free – 5:00
    • 1650 Free – 18:00
    • 200 Back – 2:00
    • 200 IM – 2:05
    • 400 IM – 4:30
  • 10K Nationals: 2:05
  • Big Shoulders 5K: Top 10 and/or under 1 hour

One Hour Postal Swim

The objective of the USMS One Hour Postal Championship is to swim as far as you can in 60 minutes, in your home pool, sometime during the month of January. Over 2,000 people are expected to participate in the “Hour of Power” this year. If you swim further than anyone else in your age group, you “win.”

Early Saturday morning, three intrepid Shark teammates and I commandeered a pair of lanes and embarked on a mind-numbing journey: an hour of nonstop swimming.

My final tally: 5,265 yards – just over 210 laps of a 25-yard pool. A teammate was kind enough to record my splits, which were as follows (per 100 yards):

I was pleased with this swim. I was able to sustain well under 1:10 per 100 yards (1:08.4, to be precise). My first 100 was a bit aggressive at 1:05.0, but I never broke above 1:10. I was 5:29 at 500 yards, 11:02 at 1000 yards, and 18:23 at the 1,650. Better still, I swam 145 yards further than 4x the distance of the 15-minute postal swim I did in December.

That pace, if maintained for a 10K, would put me right around 2:10. With a good taper behind me, that seems well within reach.