Wise words and thank you for them. It wouldn't do to get all puffed up about gaining freedom from ego, would it?
As for self-judging vs measurement, the distinction is important. A good topic for discussion, eh?
Here's my take:
Self-Judging. If my time falls short of what I thought it should be I feel sorry for myself.
Measurement. Whatever time the clock may show is simply a data point, a piece of information. It's not terribly useful unless I have at least one other data point -- splits that produced it, SPL, tempo. Mojo too. And I'm grateful for the info because it tells me where my weak point is and I relish working on those.
I think that distinction is critical to being a happy, fulfilled, mentally-energized -- but in no way complacent -- swimmer as we age.
18 months ago I swam the Colonies Zone Masters Championship in Fairfax VA. I had a very good meet. An enduring memory is as I was packing to leave after my final event I overheard a 30-something guy in the bleachers next to me complaining to his wife or girlfriend about what his times 'should have been.' I couldn't help thinking "If elephants could fly . . ."
Deal with what IS. Try to understand how it happened and what you might learn from it. So much less agita.
We do this to be happier, not distressed or disappointed. The choice is ours to make.
Swimming Success Algorithm for Backstroke Excellence
Tues Nov 20 2400scy @ SUNY
Do you recall the TI Swimming Success Algorithm?
It comes from data collected by USA Swimming at the Olympic Swim Trials from 1976 through 2012, then analyzed to discern patterns that improve a swimmers' chances to make the Olympic team.
In most events, while there are 8 fiinalists only 3 to 4 swimmers have a realistic chance to make the Olympic team. And only the top two will make the cut. So the question is, if you're fast, fit and talented enough to race other swimmers of similar caliber for an Olympic berth, what's the best way to swim the race that decides it?
Of the approx 9000 'splashes' (as they refer to individual races) for which USA Swimming has kept data over the last 36 years (9 Olympiads) what race pattern was most often associated with success? The ability to increase Stroke Rate near the end of the race, while minimizing loss of Stroke Length. Consequently, the great majority of my 'empirical' sets (those in which I track SPL, Time and/or Tempo) focus on testing, improving and 'wiring in' that capacity. Todays practice was an example.
I did three rounds of the same 'Pyramid' set
50+100+150+200+150+100+50 on 1:00/50 (I.E. 1:00-2:00-3:00-4:00-3:00-2:00)
In each round, my goals were
1) Hold an unchanged SPL from beginning to end, as distance increased, then decreased.
2) Strive to maintain same pace/50 as distance increased, then increase my pace/50 as distance decreased
I did one round each of:
BK/FR (25BK25FR+50BK50FR+75BK75FR, etc.)
My stroke count goal was 15SPL for BK and 14SPL for FR. I did maintain that with 100% consistency.
My first 50 BK was 57 sec.
My 200 BK was 3:39 (avg. pace of 54.7 sec/50)
My final 50 BK was 49 sec.
My first 50BK/BR was 50 sec
My 200 BK/FR was 3:17 (avg. pace of 49.2 sec/50)
My final 50BK/FR was 47 sec.
My first 50 FR was 42 sec
My 200 FR was 2:42 (avg pace of 40.5 sec/50)
My final 50 FR was 38 sec.
I took no extra rest between rounds, using the easier pace of the initial reps in next round for recovery.
This was a super-successful and thoroughly enjoyable set. While I was swimming at probably 80%+ of max effort on my fastest reps in each round, I still felt silky synchronicity.
Practice in sunny Coral Springs
I'm in Coral Springs FL to conduct our first Different Strokes Weekend Workshop in several years. More will follow. I'm spending several extra days to feed my 'outdoor swimming jones' and hope to make several of these Long Course. This morning though, the main pool at Coral Springs was set up for 25y Short Course swimming. Here's my practice
Nov 23 3200 SCY at Coral Springs
Set #1 Swim 10 x 100 BK
1-6 on 2:10 interval
7-10 on 2:00 interval
Task: Hold constant 15SPL (14 on 1st 25) and descend. Try to maximize difference between slowest and fastest.
#1 was 1:59; #10 was 1:44. I believe this is the largest differential I've ever managed in a single set of 100s BK, without adding any strokes. It does take high skill to improve pace for 100y without adding strokes, but the average pace/100 was a bit poky. I'll strive to repeat this set in the near future at faster average paces.
Set #2 Swim 5 x 200 (50BK50FR)on 3:30 interval. Descend while holding constant SPL (15BK, 14FR)
I tried to increase speed mainly on the BK laps, while keeping FR pace very relaxed. I did keep SPL constant and descended 3:19-3:11.
Set #3 4 rounds of 4 x 75 [25BK25BR25FR] on 1:30 interval
Descend each round while holding SPL constant. Increase pace, while increasing SPL, on subsequent rounds.
Rounds 1-2 BK @ 14 SPL, BR @ 7SPL FR @ 13 SPL Descend to :47 and :46
Round 3 BK @15SPL, BR @8 SPL, FR @13SPL. Descend to :45
Round 4 BK @16SPL, BR @8SPL, FR @13SPL. Descend to :44
I shared the pool with 10 or 12 other adult/Masters swimmers and 20-odd kids/competitive swimmers. All were doing workouts with the usual equipment and non-fluent form. Lots of equipment use. I was the only one who seemed to be doing a practice composed of tasks such as those described above.
Backstroke - and FR - with Tempo Trainer
Sunday Nov 25 - 2500y at Coral Springs Aquatic Complex
Today's practice was fairly simple in design--just two sets--but difficult to execute. My main focus was to see how much I could advance tempo in BK with out adding strokes to my initial count. I know that adapting to increased tempo is my #1 priority if I wish to swim the 200BK (the main BK event in which I'm interested) and my BK split in 200-400 IM faster. My stroke is pretty efficient -- I can maintain 15-16 SPL (that's with glide pushoff which emphasizes energy savings and streamlining, not kicking) -- but have mainly swum at fairly slow tempos.
Tuneup Set 500 [25FR/25BK] at 13/15 SPL
Main Set 8 x 250 [25FR/25BK] with increasing tempo by .01 on each
I started at a tempo of 1.30 and maintained a constant stroke count of 13SPL for FR and 16SPL for BK as I increased tempo by .01 each 250, to a final tempo of 1.23. I finally added one stroke (to 14FR and 17BK) on the final 50 of my 8th 250. That told me the set was over.
This set gives me several metrics for building on in future sets. I could increase tempo still more, but instead I'll probably make it more backstroke-centric (since this is my Month of Backstroke Improvement).
A simple adjustment would be to swim my next set of 250s as 3 rounds of
25FR/50BK and finish with a 25FR. That would shift the balance from 5 laps of FR and 5 of BK to 4 laps of FR and 6 of BK, but the more significant change would be the challenge of holding 16SPL for 50y, instead of 25.
How I improved my Tempo/SPL combination in Backstroke
Wed Nov 28 3000 SCY at Davie FL
I did this practice on my way to the FLL airport for my flight home to NY. The Davie pool is just 15 minutes from the airport, so quite convenient. And the guest fee for 'seniors' was only $1. I'd hoped the pool might be set up Long Course (50) Meters, but I still had an enormously satisfying Short Course (25) Yards practice
Since the pool was set at 25y I decided to see if I could improve on the Tempo/SPL combination I achieved in Sunday's main set -- the practice posted immediately above -- also done in a 25y pool.
In that one I found my 'discomfort zone' on the last in a set of 8 x 250, where my SPL for backstroke increased from 16 to 17 on the last 50 at a tempo of 1.23.
I mused on the various options I had for building on the elements in that set, which were
Set Distance 2000y
Repeat Distance 250y
Duration for uninterrupted backstroke 25y
I decided that for today's practice I'd reduce repeat distance to 200y while keeping set distance at 2000y.
Also that I'd increase duration for uninterrupted backstroke to 50y (freestyle at that range of tempos is very much in my comfort zone so any freestyle serves as recovery for backstroke.
Also since it would take me 10 repeats (of 200y) instead of 8 repeats (of 250y) to complete a 2000y set, my tempo would also descend by an additional .02sec.
Here's how I did:
Tuneup Set 400 [25FR25BK] @ 13/15SPL
This prepares me for main set by setting the bar higher on efficiency than I plan for the main set. I held 1 SPL less on each stroke than I will on the main set.
Main Set10 x 200 [50BK+25FR+50BK+25FR+50BK] on 3:40 interval
My goal was to maintain 14SPL for FR and 16 SPL for BK while increasing tempo by .01 each 200. I started set at 1.30 tempo and finished at 1.21. I did manage to maintain SPL at my target. This resulted in improving 200 time from 3:21 on #1 to 3:09 on #9. I did #10 all backstroke and was pleased to stay @ 16SPL with a time of 3:13.
This was a nice progression from Sunday's main set -- more backstroke-intensive and with a slightly faster range of tempos. AND I swam the final 200 all backstroke and 17 seconds faster than in my baseline set less than two weeks and only 4 pool practices (I've also done several Endless Pool sessions) ago. So targeted focus, with 'measured' practice, really does produce significant results.
Secondary Set 6 x 100 FR on 1:40 interval.
My goal was to maintain 14SPL while advancing tempo from 1.20 to 1.15 (i.e. continuing tempo progression from final backstroke 200. I succeeded at this, which meant my time improved from 1:26 to 1:22.
How I Swam Like Sun Yang
PS: You can also see the intervening practice I did Monday morning at this thread
I swam in the 50m pool at the Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, and by using my Tempo Trainer managed to 'swim like Sun Yang.'
Final Practice of Month of Backstroke Excellence
I began my month of extra focus on backstroke on Nov. 14. I was just resuming pool swimming after a long hiatus. I swam in open water from May through Oct, but usually delay my return to indoor swimming as long as possible in the fall.
I came up with the idea of giving myself a mission for my first month, as a way of sharpening my appetite and excitement. I chose backstroke improvement as my focus, because I think of it as my least developed stroke, and so improvement opportunities in it should be 'low hanging fruit' so to speak. Plus, a focus on improving weak points is a principle of Excellence and Mastery.
In my first practice I did the following backstroke Baseline Set, with the intention to repeat it after a month and see how much I could improve.
I swam 50+100+200 BK, holding 15-16SPL
My times were :51-1:41-3:30.
Today, I swam a modified version of that set, also at 15-16 SPL. Here's the set
4 x 50 BK on 1:00 Times: :49-:48-:48-:47 (200 total 3:12)
50 EZ FR
2 x 100 BK on 2:00 Times 1:37 - 1:36 (200 total 3:13)
100 EZ FR
1 x 200 BK Time 3:08
150 EZ FR
I was really thrilled (or chuffed as TI-UK swimmers would say) at this result. First, because I improved my 200 time by 22 seconds in five weeks. I doubt I could improve by that much in any other stroke.
Second, because I swam the continuous 200 significantly faster than the cumulative times of my 4x50 or 2x100 -- and I didn't take it easy on them.
Third, because this was just 4 seconds slower than my time for 200BK in a Masters meet two weeks ago -- even after swimming a 90%+ effort on the 50s and 100s.
It's been a great Month of Focus. In January--after returning from two weeks of open water swimming at Maho Bay--I'll take up Breaststroke.
Next Project will be Breaststroke
I finished my Month of Backstroke Improvement about a week ago. I won't swim in a lap pool until late Jan -- I'll swim in my Endless plus 2 weeks in open water at Maho Bay until then. When I resume pool swimming I'll begin a Month of Breaststroke Improvement. I'll start with a similar baseline set 50 + 100 + 200 recording SPL and time/pace for each, with a goal to see how much I can improve on them in the following month. It will probably be quite a challenge to match the rate of improvement I achieved in Backstroke, but whatever improvement I do achieve will provide a measure of the relative strength of the two strokes for me.
Follow my updates on the Breaststroke conference, starting on about Jan 22.
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