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Old 04-20-2011
terry terry is offline
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Default Sharpening for USMS Nationals

I'll post my final week of practices leading up to USMS Nationals here. Coaches have long used the term 'tapering' for the final stretch of workouts prior to a big meet. The term tapering referred to a tapering down of workload.

My preference for some 10 years has been to refer to this period as 'sharpening.' Since my daily/weekly workload is fairly modest to start with, there's not much to taper. Instead I narrow my focus - from a relatively wide range of events to a group of just six that I'll swim in the meet. And with the benefit of a good deal of racing experience (17 races in 3 meets since Mar 12-13) I can also identify particular weak points that I feel can be improved upon.

My races will be
Thurs Apr 28
1000-yd Free I feel a goal of 12:40 is realistic. If I have a great swim I might go 12:30. It will take an even split to a slight progressive split - swimming the second 500 one or two seconds faster than the first. So I'd have to split 6:16 and 6:14 to go 12:30. On Saturday I swam 500 in 6:13, which was my seasonal best by 9 seconds.

Fri Apr 29
400 Individual Medley I'm aiming to improve from the 5:59 I did at Zones (37 seconds under the old Adirondack record) to 5:55 or better. I think my BK split can improve by at least 4 seconds by itself. The key will be to swim the fly with greater ease and avoid feeling short of breath as I begin BK, which was the case at Zones. I spent the 1st 50 recovering from FL.

Sat Apr 30
200 Fly I swam 3:06 at Zones, a 13-second improvement on my seasonal best. Adirondack record is 2:59.06. I'd like to cut the gap at least in half, swimming 3:02+. Could I break 3:00? I'll definitely give it my best shot. The key is to relax more on the first 50 so I can keep the next three 50s closer to it. Splits of 43 - 45 - 45 -45 would give me a shot at 2:59.

200 Free I swam 2:20.3 at Zones. Adirondack record is 2:18.74. I think this is doable. The key is to swim the 2nd 100 within about a second of the 1st. A split of 1:08.8 and 1:09.7 would be perfect. At Zones I did 1:08.9 and 1:11.3. At Nationals I'd need to swim 1st 100 a tenth of a second faster, but feel like cruising.

Sun May 1
500 Free
I swam an Adirondack record 6:13.3 at Zones. I'd like to break 6:10 at Nationals. That's an average of 1:14.0 per 100. Ideal splits would be 1:12.5 - 1:14.8-1:14.6 - 1:14.4 - 1:13.7.
At Zones I split 1:11.2 - 1:15.9 - 1:15.8 - 1:15.3 - 1:14.1
Again the key is to feel very relaxed and controlled during first 200, and to minimize difference between 1st and 2nd 100.

200 Breast I swam 3:00.13 at Zones. I think this can be my most improved swim at Nationals, possibly improving 4 seconds or more. At Zones it was my 4th event in 3+ hours. At Nationals it will only be my 2nd event of the day. And I plan to have my goggles on my face when I start, not sitting on top of my head.
Ideal splits for a 2:56 would be 42.5 - 45.0 - 44.5 - 44.0
At Zones I split 41.7 - 46.5 - 45.9 - 45.8

So a consistent pattern is that I plan to swim the first quarter of my races at Nationals more easily, trying to minimize difference between 1st quarter split and 2nd quarter split.
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Old 04-20-2011
terry terry is offline
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Default Sharpening Practice #1 Apr 20

Set #1
Swim Backstroke 2 x 200 - 2 x 150 - 2 x 100 - 2 x 50
My plan was to swim the first of each pair of swims very controlled and the second of each pair faster, with just a bit more pressure on hands and arms. I held 14 SPL, two strokes less than I plan to swim in 400 IM at Nationals.
I find BK a good warmup stroke. Also BK will be the key to my 400 IM so I'll look for opportunities to get in a bit of extra practice in it. A pace-focused warmup set is perfect.

Set #2
4 x 50 [25FL+25BK] Times: 49-49-48-47
3 x 100 [50FL+50BK] Times: 1:40-1:38-1:36
3 x 150 [50FL+50BK+50BR] Times: Best recollection is that I went 2:32 - 2:30 - 2:28
I held 8SPL for FL, 15SPL for BK and 8 SPL for BR. In this set I was trying to imprint a relaxed fly that allowed me to feel stronger on BK than I had in my 400 IM on the weekend. I'll give a lot of attention to the FL/BK combo in the next week, as I expect it will be the key to improving the 400 IM.

Set #3
10 x 100 FR on 1:40
Descend 1-3, 4-6, 7-10. Hold 13-14SPL
1-3: 1:21-1:20-1:19
4-6 1:20-1:19-1:18
7-10 1:21-1:19-1:18-1:17
This was a sharpening set for the 1000 Free. My plan was to swim 1 to 2SPL lower than I'll swim in the race, use a very controlled effort and descend three times in 10 x 100, aiming to use minimal effort to improve my pace by a second per 100.

Set #4
4 x 50 BR on 1:10. Swim 1 each at 6-7-8-9SPL. Descend by adding strokes. Keep effort level consistent.
I swam these times
6SPL 50 sec
7SPL 48 sec
8SPL 46 sec
9SPL 44 sec
The 44-sec 50 @ 9SPL was the fastest 50 BR I've swum from pushoff in several years but I felt very controlled. Very good indicator for my potential to swim 2:56 (44 sec/50 pace) at Nationals.
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Old 04-21-2011
terry terry is offline
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Default Sharpening Practice #2 Apr 21

Set #1
Swim 10 x 50 FR on :50. Hold 13+14SPL. Effortless Descend
Swim 4 x 75 FR on 1:15 Hold 13+14+14SPL. Effortless Descend.
Swim 2 x 100 FR on 1:40 Average 14SPL. Hold @ 1:20 or better.

Set #2
4 x 200 FR @ 14-15SPL Aim for best average
Alternate with 3 x 200 [25FL25BK] Descend

This was my entire practice today. My main consideration was to allow myself some recovery, while sharpening fine points of several skills I feel will be critical to achieving my race goals for Nationals.

How intensively to train during the final week before a big event like Nationals is far more art than science. I go mainly by feel in deciding how hard to work on any set or during a given practice. I want to work as much as possible on things I hope to do well during the race, but need to be mindful of how easily I can recover from each day's workload. If I work too hard and fatigue too much during one practice I might compromise two or three days of sharpening.

I felt more fatigued today than I had yesterday so I knew I needed to do mainly restorative swimming. All the freestyle I did today was at restorative effort levels. I wanted to swim close to a 1:20/100 pace at a low stroke count, with an effort level of 65% or less. I reasoned that doing that would signal a readiness to hold a 1:15/100 pace next week during the 1000.

In Set #1, my warmup, I started with 50-yd repeats, intending to continue swimming 50s until I hit 40 seconds. That happened on the 10th repeat. (My first 50 was 44 seconds.)
I proceeded to do the same on 75-yd repeats with the same stroke count and effort. I did 1:02 - 1:01 then 1:00 twice. Then I tacked on 2 x 100, the 1st at 1:21 and the 2nd at 1:20.

These were to prepare me for the FR repeats in Set #2.

In Set #2 my main focus was preparing for the 100FL-100BK that opens the 400 IM, which I'd identified as a weak point to be improved for Nationals.
I wanted to swim that distance - 200 yds - but break up the FL and BK by alternating 25s rather than a straight 100 of each. I'd still need to swim a cumulative 100 yds of each, but breaking them up would reduce the fatigue of swimming 100 FL, allowing me to practice better control on the BK laps.

My goal for the 3 x 200 [25FL25BK] was to hold my stroke count constant at 8FL and 16BK, hold even pace within each 200 and swim each 200 faster than the previous -- while maintaining a sustainable effort.

My 3 x 200 were 3:26 - 3:23 - 3:19. How did I go faster? Mainly by swimming FL more cleanly -- less splash and drag -- so I would travel a bit farther in each stroke. And the 4 x 200 FR I alternated with them? I did them in 2:44 - 2:42 -2:42 - 2:42 with the 65% effort I'd aimed for, close enough to my 1:20 goal pace to be encouraged.

A useful takeaway for readers in my race goals for Nationals, and my plans for achieving them, is that the most important thing I've identified to achieve them is actually to swim a bit easier and slightly slower -- in the first 50 or 100 of the race, which I hope will provide the energy to improve my pace in the middle and latter stages. Better pacing more than faster swimming.

Just as discretion is sometimes the better part of valor, swimming slower - or at least easier - may be the best way to get faster.
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  #4  
Old 04-22-2011
AWP AWP is offline
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Terry,
I look forward to continuing this approach because I know it works (my 'best' improvements brought about utilizing this approach) and after an erratic month of scheduling and time in the water it will help me to re-engage my focus.
I hope many others take advantage of the 'tools' you've laid out here to help them, spur them, to challenge their current level of skill which will undoubtedly improve their swimming and approach towards practice. Perhaps they'll share those trials here too.

Luck,
Alan
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  #5  
Old 04-22-2011
terry terry is offline
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Default Sharpening Practice #3 Apr 22

As I get closer to the meet, I'll be a bit more careful every day about the level of fatigue created by any set or practice. As I noted yesterday, it becomes increasingly important to feel recovered each day from the prior day's practice. This is very different from my training prior to the 'sharpening' phase. Then I would swim very intensely twice a week, usually for 30 to 40 minutes. It would usually take me two days of mostly-restorative swimming to be ready to give a similar effort.

In the final week, I'll limit how intensely I swim and the duration of any intense effort. I'll pay close attention to any sense of momentary fatigue and adjust my effort to avoid increasing beyond a certain level. As I said a few posts above, I do it all by feel. I'm aided in that by a good deal of experience in pointing toward meets like this.

Set #1
3 rounds of [4 x 50 BK]
Round 1 25 Single Finger 25 Swim
Round 2 25 Fist 25 Swim
Round 3 Swim
In each round I held a consistent stroke count and gradually descended my time, aiming to swim faster by feeling more integrated, not by increasing effort.
50-yd stroke totals were 29 on Rounds 1&2 and 28 on Round 3.

Set #2
Swim 200-150-100-50 FR on interval of 50 sec/50. Hold 13-14 SPL.
The idea in this set is that the pace gets slightly faster as repeats get shorter -- without increasing SPL or effort.

Set #3
3 x 100 [25FL25BK] SPL = 7FL-14BK-8FL-16BK
Hold stroke count and descend without effort.

Repeat Set #2 - slightly faster, same SPL

Set #4
3 x 100 [25BK25BR] SPL = 14BK-7BR-16BK-8BR
Hold stroke count and descend without effort.

Repeat Set #2 - slightly faster, same SPL.

Set #5
3 x 100 [25Br25FR] SPL = 7BR-14FR-8BR-14FR
Hold stroke count and descend without effort.

I had planned to repeat Set #2 again, but felt I'd done enough at this point so I called it a day.
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Terry Laughlin
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Last edited by terry : 04-23-2011 at 12:37 PM.
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  #6  
Old 04-24-2011
terry terry is offline
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Default Empowering Practice #4 April 23

I'm fairly certain today was my final practice including effortful swimming prior to the start of Nationals in five days.

When I say effortful I mean that it produces at least a mild sense of fatigue while I'm swimming. At this point I sustain that feeling for 5 minutes or less. I also do a minute or so of very easy swimming to aid in restoration after any repeat or set that exposed me to a bit of fatigue.

The most encouraging aspect of my preparation for Nationals is how consistently I can do exactly what I intend, as several set examples below will illustrate. I've reflected quite a bit about why I felt so satisfied with my meet performance last weekend. My times were good, yet still a good deal slower than I swam 5 years ago in freetyle events (though my 200 Fly was a lifetime best and my 200 Breast my fastest since 1997). I realize the most satisfying aspect was the same as my practices since. I set a goal or intention, then achieve it. It's a highly empowering experience. Here's today's practice

Set #1
Swim 5 x 100 FR @ 13-14SPL on 1:40 interval. Hold SPL and Descend
I descended from 1:32 to 1:25.
My plan in this set was to change Focal Points each 100 and see how each impacted my time. I progressed from Balance to Streamline to Propelling thoughts. Each time my thought was more dynamic and my time improved by 1-2 seconds.

Set #2
Swim 5 x 50 [25BK25BR] Hold 14+7SPL Descend
I descended from 51 to 49 sec without changing stroke count. I did this as a pre-set for the broken 400 IM that followed.
Set #3 Broken 400 IM. Rest 10 seconds between each swim
50FL
100 [50FL50BK]
100 [50BK50BR"
150 [50BR100FR]
I hold SPLs of 8 for FL, 15-16 for BK, 8 for BR and 15 for FR. With the 10-second rest intervals subtracted I swam 6:10. My main goal was to avoid any sense of fatigue on Fly so I could swim a solid pace on BK.

Repeat Set #1
This time, with the same stroke count, my times were 1:22-1:21-1:20-1:19-1:17.
I did this as recovery, maintaining a minimal effort but descended simply by changing Stroke Thoughts, from Balance to Streamline to Propel.
It's also worth noting that my 5th 100 in this set was 15 seconds faster than my 1st 100 in Set #1, swum with the same number of strokes. The ability to swim as much as 15 seconds faster for 100 yds at the same stroke count was noteworthy -- and took a lot of intensely-focused effort - when I did it for the first time in December. Today it happened easily, and I didn't even notice I'd done it until I logged my practice here.
That, of course, is precisely the definition George Leonard gave for Mastery -- the little-understood process by which that which was very difficult becomes easy. This is an illustration of how many ways there are to pursue Mastery. Nearly every form of practice I've done since December contributed to the ease with which I knocked off 15 seconds from a same-SPL 100 today -- though little of it was done with this as an explicit goal.
This set was a good confidence-builder for the 1000 FR at Nationals. My goal there will be to hold a pace of 1:15/100 with an SPL of 15-16. Swimming 1:17 with so little effort, at an SPL of 13-14, is among the actions that will allow me to mount the blocks next Thursday for the 1000 with a sense of calm purpose.

Set # 4
Swim 16 x 50
Even 50s were all BK @ recovery pace
On even 50s I descended 3 x 50 FL, then descended 3 x 50 BR, then 2 x 50 FR.
On the 3 x 50 FL I increased stroke count, while keeping effort fairly constant
I swam 7+8SPL in 47 sec, then 8+8SPL in 46 sec, then 8+9SPL in 45 sec.
On the 3 x 50 BR I wanted to swim identical times, but descend without changing stroke count. And I did, swimming 47-46-45 sec @ 7+8SPL.

The confidence-builder in this practice was being able to swim exactly what I planned in SPL and time throughout. I feel that cultivating that sort of confidence is at least equal in importance to any physical effect of my sharpening practices.
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Terry Laughlin
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Last edited by terry : 04-24-2011 at 12:30 PM.
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Old 04-25-2011
terry terry is offline
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Default Sharpening/Empowering Practice #5 April 25

With only two more days before my first race - the 1000 Free on Thursday - I'll avoid any real exertion. However that doesn't mean I'll swim slowly. Instead I'll do my best to swim at a strong pace with an exquisite sense of control.

Set #1
I swam a Freestyle Pyramid [50-100-150-200-150-100-50] on an interval of 50 sec/50 yds. My goal was to hold 13-14SPL throughout and improve my pace on every repeat. Pace per 50 is in parentheses below.
50 :43 sec (43)
100 1:25 (42.5)
150 2:06 (42)
200 2:45 (41.2)
150 2:02 (40.6)
100 1:19 (39.5)
50 :37 (37)
I was pleased with executing my intention so well, and without any prior warmup. This set was another good confidence-builder for my prospects of swimming 12:30 (pace of 1:15/100) in the 1000 on Thursday.

Set #2
I swam an Individual Medley Ladder (50-100-150-200) with an easy 25 BK between repeats.
My purpose here was to rehearse and imprint a sense of being very relaxed on the Fly, with the result of being able to swim a strong pace, without feeling fatigue, on the strokes that follow, aiming to keep my pace on the BK and BR under 50 sec with a very controlled effort.
I kept SPL consistent @ 7-8 for Fly, 15-16 for BK, 8 for BR, and 15 for FR.
Here's the set and my times
50 FL 47 sec
100 [50FL50BK] 1:38
150 [50FL50BK50BR] 2:27
200 IM 3:06 This is exactly the pace I'd aimed for from the beginning of the set.

100 EZ BK then
Set #3
4 x 50 [25BK25BR] on 1:10. Hold 14+7SPL Descend by 1 sec each on #1-3, then cruise #4
I went 51-50-49-50 sec. I was pleased with the descend, then how easily I swam the final 50 in 50 sec.
4 x 50 [25BR25FR] as above. Descend by 1 sec each while holding SPL [7+14] constant.
I went 45-44-43-42 sec.
Felt very relaxed, very effective, highly controlled.
Since I feel my main improvement opportunity at Nationals is better paced races, I've really focused on pace-prediction and control. I.E. Decide to swim each series in a certain pace and count, then do exactly what I intended.
All these sets are great confidence builders.
And I really think confidence building is the key factor when preparing for a high-level performance.
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  #8  
Old 04-26-2011
terry terry is offline
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Default Sharpening/Empowering/Resting Practice April 26

Today was my final practice at home before going to AZ for Nationals. I spent a playful hour in the pool. A good deal of the time I devoted to introducing a young lady who swims at the college, and is graduating next month - planning to give Grand Prix open water swimming a shot - to practice with the Tempo Trainer. She was excited about the world of possibility it suggests.

I found time to do a few short descending sets of freestyle, swum most cautiously at 13-14 SPL. Then I got semi serious and did the following
3 x 50 BK (14+15 SPL) on 1:00 I did them in 48-47-46 sec.
3 x 100 IM on 2:00. My intent was to hold stroke count steady at 7 strokes for short axis (FL and BR) and 14 strokes for long axis while descending.
I swam them in 1:38-1:37-1:34. That last one surprised me. I was only aiming to do 1:36.
3 x 50 BR (7+8 SPL) on 1:00. Like the 3 x 50 BK I wanted to hold stroke count steady while descending 48-47-46. I did.
3 x 100 IM, as before, but faster times. I did them in 1:36-1:34-1:32.

Those were the most controlled and efficient 100 IM's I've swum in many years. About two months ago, it took much more effort and many more strokes to swim under 1:40. A great indicator of how much progress I've made.
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