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 usms.org. 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.

A blog about swimming

This is a blog about swimming.

I started swimming competitively when I was 7 and continued through my first two years of college.

But then I drifted away from the sport – as many do who make it to the collegiate level. I swam Masters off-and-on through most of my 20s; but I felt no joy in doing so. Burnout leaves scars that can take years to heal.

Something changed last year: I discovered open water. It was a new challenge, and an interesting one. While I might never approach my times in the pool from my youth, the open water offers a blank slate.

Last fall I tried my first 5K – the famous Big Shoulders swim in Chicago. I had a good swim – but more important, I felt a thrill of challenge and purpose that I hadn’t for a long time. I was, in a word, motivated.

It’s early February now, and here in Columbus we’re still shoveling snow. Soon it will be spring, and the local swimming holes will thaw. In the meantime, I have a lot to look forward to this summer, and to motivate my laps:

  • In late May, the USMS Short-Course Nationals in Atlanta.
  • In mid-July, the USMS 10K Championship in Noblesville, Indiana – my first attempt at that distance, the “marathon” of open-water swimming.
  • In mid-September, the Big Shoulders 5K, in what will then be my new hometown of Chicago.

I’m not sure what this blog will turn in to, and I’m not sure it matters. We shall see.

That is all.