“Race” Report: USMS 10K Postal Championship

Another Friday, another long-ass postal swim at the UIC Natatorium. This time, for 10K: 200 laps of a 50-meter pool.

The 10K Postal Swim is as much a psychological challenge as physical. Even 5K is a pretty brutal distance to do as a straight pool swim. For the 10K, you do the 5K… and you’re only halfway done. So it may very well be the single toughest USMS-sanctioned event – except perhaps for the biennial open-water 25K.

I was joined by fellow distance freak Amanda Hunt, which made for less lonely laps. Heidi K. from the Smelts and my favorite U-Chicago professor were also on deck, as lap counters – which I’m told on good authority is a similarly mind-numbing experience.

My goal? 2:17:52 – my open-water 10K time from Noblesville in July.

Continue reading ““Race” Report: USMS 10K Postal Championship”

“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.

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.

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.