Short Course: The bad news

I recently noted an unforeseen benefit of doing long swims in a short-course pool: It’s easy to monitor your stroke count without counting!

That’s the good news.

The bad news?

Swimming for a long time without stopping in a short-course pool can increase the risk of tossing your cookies.

I assume this has something to do with flip turns, and I also assume it depends on what you’ve eaten recently. I didn’t have a problem in the One Hour Postal last year, but I occasionally do get nauseated during these swims.

It goes with the territory. Just ask Dave Barra, who did a memorably gruesome 30,000 SCY workout at about this same time last year.

Rob D. for president!

Or… best swim blogger!

Friend-of-the-blog Rob D., of Rob Aquatics fame, has been rightfully nominated for the Readers’ Choice Awards, in the “Best Swim Blog” category.

This one shouldn’t even be a contest, folks. But go vote for him anyway – he deserves it. He makes a compelling case here, but I’ll add to it: Rob is one-of-a-kind. A true original, and a charismatic ambassador for the sport. He’s got an outsized personality (and beard), yet remains incredibly good-natured and humble.

I’m honored to call him my friend.

Now go vote!

The joys of short course

As I alluded to a couple weeks ago, I won’t have access to long-course water until mid-April. And Lake Michigan won’t be swimmable until probably late May (maybe a bit earlier with a wetsuit). Which means my ramp-up into Tampa will take place exclusively in short-course pools. Yuck.

At least once a week (see last Wednesday’s workout, for example), I try to do some long, aerobic steady-state swimming. 15 or 20 minutes at a time, to mimic my feeding schedule – or, as I build up, a series of such swims.

In doing these long swims, I’ve observed a couple things about short course that, in all my years of swimming, I had never noticed. There’s good news and bad. We’ll start with the good:

In a short-course pool, it’s much easier to monitor stroke count, and therefore swimming efficiency. The reason is, at any given pace my stroke count generally has a range of only 1. (N.B. I define “strokes” as the number of hand entries, counting both arms.)

For me, at a typical workout pace (say, 75% effort) my stroke count is usually 14. If I’m having a good day in the water, it might be 13. If I’m thrashing, it might be 15. But within a given swim, I’ll generally be in either a “13/14 mode” or a “14/15 mode,” depending on how I’m feeling. If I’m focusing on stroke count specifically, it’s not too difficult to hit 14 strokes every time.

The key is, when your stroke count range is only 1, you can actually monitor your stroke count without counting! All you need to know is which arm hits the water right before the turn. Since I always begin each lap with a left-arm stroke, if I end a lap with a right-arm stroke, that means 14 strokes. If I get tired and lose some efficiency, I get immediate feedback because after my 14th stroke I’m not quite there and am forced to take an extra one – with my left arm.

The point is – this is only possible in a short-course pool. In a long-course pool, my stroke counts are in the mid-30’s and subject to wider ranges. Long-course pools are appreciated by distance swimmers for the relative ease of getting into a good “rhythm,” because there aren’t as many walls to interrupt you.

The lesson here is that in some ways, short-course pools facilitate “rhythm” because they give you such regular, insistent feedback about your efficiency (“14, 14, 14, whoops there’s a 15, what did I do wrong?”).

Next up: the bad news.

A good week

I’ll confess, I’m a little behind where I was hoping to be at this point in the season.

Life served up a couple unexpected roadblocks last month, at a time when I’d planned to ramp up for Tampa Bay. First, we lost our car to a snowy grave off the side of the I-45 in Wisconsin (my wife was unhurt, thankfully). Although neither of us use a car for commuting purposes, it was my primary mode of transportation to UIC, where my Masters group works out.

Suddenly, a 30 minute round-trip in the car was a 80-90 minute round-trip on the bus. I don’t always have an extra hour in my day for getting to/from swimming. “Doubles” are almost out of the question.

Then, I managed to tweak my shoulder – and injury incurred while attempting to retrieve my phone from the train tracks after it had fallen out of my pocket and off the platform. Why did it fall out of my pocket? You guessed it – because I was running to catch the train to go to swim practice.

Continue reading “A good week”

Fun Google tricks

Have you ever wondered…

How many [yards] can I swim in [4 hours] if I hold a pace of [1:15] per [100 yards] … and you wanted an answer right now? Perhaps you didn’t have a calculator handy, or didn’t want to fire up Excel… or maybe you just didn’t feel like thinking very hard.


Or, perhaps you have wondered…

If I swim [10K] in [2 hours, 45 minutes], what is my pace per [100m] ?

In conclusion: Bing sucks, people.*

* Full disclosure: I am a former employee of Google.

Polar bears at the Point

Remember Ruth-Anne, star of my previous extreme-swimming documentary from Promontory Point? Here she is again, taking a quick dip last Saturday (1/29/2011) in 33F Lake Michigan (air temp about the same):

Insanely cold, yes, but let’s count our blessings: At least we didn’t have to hack through ice to find open water!