2011 OW Nationals (real nationals, not Masters nationals)

USA Swimming just released the qualifying times for the 2011 open-water national championships in Fort Myers, FL (h/t Adam B.).

And, the standards for the 5K are surprisingly doable! 9:08 for 800m or 17:29 for 1500m? I think even I could do these times with a decent taper behind me…?

In order to compete in the USA Swimming 2011 Open Water Championships, a swimmer must have:

  • Finished in the top 15 at a 2010-11 FINA World Cup Race, or
  • Finished in the top 10 at the 2010 USA Swimming 5K or 10K National Championships, or
  • Attended the 2011 Open Water Developmental Camp (by invitation only), or
  • Achieved the following pool times standard(s) between April 1, 2009 and the entry deadline
                                1500 LCM 800 LCM 1650 SCY 1000 SCY
Women 5K Race Qualifying Times  18:20.89 9:35.99 17:57.39 10:43.19
Men 5K Race Qualifying Times    17:29.89 9:08.99 16:59.39 10:10.99
Women 10K Race Qualifying Times 17:20.49 9:03.49 16:48.49 10:05.99
Men 10K Race Qualifying Times   16:15.49 8:35.59 15:51.49 9:26.09
  • Athletes who meet these times standards will be permitted to enter the Open Water National Championships.
  • Proof of time is required from a USA Swimming sanctioned/approved meet or from a USA Swimming observed
  • performance. Converted times will not be allowed.

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.

Elite vs. Masters in the open water

What’s the difference between Masters open-water races and elite FINA or USA-S open-water races? I would argue, it’s not so much the absolute swimming speeds (1:10 per 100m for 10K, compared to 1:20 to win almost any Masters 10K), but the variability of swimming speeds.

Masters races have a much wider spread of abilities. In this year’s USMS 10K at Morse Reservoir, the top 10 finishers were separated by 9 seconds per 100m, and the winner was a full 29 seconds per 100m faster than the median finisher. What this means is, most people are swimming most of the race by themselves.

In FINA races, the spread in abilities from top to bottom is (I would guess) less than 5 seconds per 100m. What that means is: lots of pack swimming. In order to successfully break away from an open-water peloton, a swimmer will not only have to swim faster than the others in the pack, but fast enough to break out of the peloton’s draft.

As a result, elite races are characterized by 8-9K of conservative, highly tactical swimming followed by 1-2K of balls-out sprinting. In contrast, Masters races – especially those over an hour (for the winner) – more closely resemble “time trials.”

As an exhibit, here are the 2K splits (with 100m paces) from the June 2010 USA-S 10K National Championship, provided by Powerhouse Timing:

A Gemmell (M-3)
J Kinderwater (M-6)
0:23:22.69 0:01:10.13 0:23:21.75 0:01:10.09
0:23:43.88 0:01:11.19 0:23:43.41 0:01:11.17
0:23:52.90 0:01:11.64 0:23:54.31 0:01:11.72
0:23:46.10 0:01:11.31 0:23:46.10 0:01:11.31
0:22:30.27 0:01:07.51 0:22:35.97 0:01:07.80
C Sutton (F-1)
C Jennings (F-2)
0:23:49.27 0:01:11.46 0:23:49.27 0:01:11.46
0:23:59.33 0:01:11.97 0:24:00.26 0:01:12.01
0:24:12.62 0:01:12.63 0:24:13.78 0:01:12.69
0:23:35.20 0:01:10.76 0:23:28.99 0:01:10.45
0:23:42.40 0:01:11.12 0:23:48.06 0:01:11.40

These were the only four swimmers for whom all 5 splits were recorded. For the men, Gemmell and Kinderwater finished 3-6 (negligibly behind the winner), and for the women, Sutton and Jennings finished 1-2. Interestingly, the splits were almost identical through 8K, for both men and women. In the last 2K, the men seemed to find a new gear – almost 4 seconds/100m faster – while the women maintained their previous pace.

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