Yardage / Mileage:
My basic rule of thumb is that, at the peak of my training, I need to be swimming my target distance (probably more) each week. As an example, I am going to Idaho this summer to swim the 11 mile Dam 2 Dam swim. At the peak of my training, I should be swimming a total of at least 11 miles each week. I typically swim four days a week, so that comes out to at least 4,840 yards each workout. What I will likely do is train for more than 11 miles and average 5,000 - 6,000 yards per workout. The reason for this is that the conditions can change quickly in open water. If the weather turns bad and the water gets choppy during my swim, I want to be prepared for the extra effort it will take. I also want to feel like I'm swimming strong that last mile and not just doggy paddling.
Long Continuous Swims:
It's not always possible for me to swim my target distance continuously before the event. To do an 11 mile training swim, I would have to find someone willing to support me on a kayak for 5+ hours. Then there is the extra time away from family, finding a good day to swim, etc. If my target distance was 10K or less, I would try to swim that distance continuously at least once. For swims over 10K, I would try to do at least one continuous 10K swim before the race/event. The point is you ought to mix in some long, continuous swims into your training to test your endurance. Swimming 5,000 yards in the pool with rest between sets feels a lot different than swimming a straight 5,000 yards. Long continuous swims will also help with your mental training.
I work on pacing a LOT. My typical workout is to swim with the Fairmont Masters group and then follow that up with distance and pacing work. I like to set a goal time for every long distance swim and then figure out what my pace needs to be to get that time. In the pool, I like to work with pace per 100 yards. In open water it's sometimes easier to work with pace per mile if you know the distance of your swimming route. One of the best training tools I ever bought is a Speedo watch. I can set my target pace, say 1:20 per 100 yards for a long distance swim, and it will beep and vibrate every 1:20 until I stop it. Each 100 yards I can tell if I am on pace if I hit the wall before the watch goes off. You can also just use the pace clock on deck, which I use a lot too. In open water, I will often set the pace on my watch to my target 1 mile pace.
Here are a couple of my favorite distance / pacing workouts:
500 pull (large paddles) @ target pace
500 pull (finger paddles) @ target pace
500 pull (no paddles) @ target pace
500 swim (no paddles) @ target pace
This one is fun because as you lose equipment on each 500, it becomes more difficult to keep your target pace.
5 x 100 @ 1:30
4 x 100 @ 1:25
3 x 100 @ 1:20
2 x 100 @ 1:15
1 x 100 @ 1:10
This set is challenging (especially after doing a tough Masters workout), but I think it's a lot of fun. There is no extra rest between sets of 100. This helps me feel how much effort I need to put into swimming at different paces.
At some point you are going to have to start thinking about nutrition and what you will consume to fuel your body during your swim. I would experiment with different things during your training and find out which foods/drinks work best for you and how often you need to take them. You do NOT want to try something new on the day of your big swim. Personally, I am a big fan of Hammer Perpetuem. I'll admit the taste isn't the best, but I can feel a difference after taking a "feed". For longer swims I also like to mix in some squeezable apple sauce and Achiva Native Energy Chews for something more solid. Sometimes I use gels too, but I have found I have to water them down. Depending on the distance and layout of the course, I typically don't eat anything for the first hour (because I have had something before I get in the water) and then take feeds every 30 to 45 minutes after that until I finish.
If your distance swim is in the open water, you need to spend some time training outside. I don't think it's necessary to do all, or even most, of you training in open water. In fact, many elite open water swimmers do the majority of their training in the pool. The point is that you want to be comfortable in different conditions and acclimate your body to the anticipated water temperature of your big swim.
Again, I don't claim to be an expert and these are just things that have worked for me. I would love to hear how others train for long distance swims.
On open water day our coach takes out three lane lines so that we have a 25 yard long by 4 lane wide "open water" pool. Instead of swimming back and forth, we swim laps around perimeter.
Here is what our workout looked like this morning:
6 laps - swimming counterclockwise around the perimeter
3 laps - "heads up" freestyle, swimming clockwise around the perimeter
6 open water starts - line up in the deep end of the pool and tread water until we are told to start. We practice getting out fast and hitting peak speed by the time we get to the wall. With each start, we compress into a tighter group to simulate crowded starts.
3 x 5 minute drafting swims - This is one of the funnest things we do on open water day. We practice drafting ("in line" and v formation) by alternating leaders and swimming for 5 minutes at a time. If you are the lead swimmers, your goal is to try to lose the other swimmers. You can do pretty much anything you want to lose them. If you are drafting, your goal is to not be dropped by the lead swimmer. Slower swimmers are allowed to wear fins and faster swimmers are sometimes given a t-shirt to wear to even things out.
5 minute cool down swim
Other things that we practice on open water days are sighting, turns, and pacing. I asked Coach Max to start including some "worst case scenario" training, which should keep things interesting.
If you're in the Salt Lake area on Thursday mornings, come join us for these fun workouts. We also have "regular" workouts Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings at 6am.
Last Saturday was the QUAC Ski-n-Swim meet at Fairmont. It's a really fun meet, and one of my favorites of the year.
We had a pretty good showing of SLOW swimmers: Gordon, Goody, Sue, Todd, Chad, Stacey, Kevin and myself. Since we don't see each other a whole lot during the colder months, this meet was a great way to get caught up and have a good time. I love that pretty much our whole team was at the opposite end of the pool, cheering each other on during our individual swims. Several SLOW swimmers got new "post high school" PR's, which was AWESOME!
For swimmers who don't consider themselves to be "pool swimmers" and don't participate in meets, I would ask you to reconsider. There are all ages, body types and abilities who participate in Masters meets. If you are worried about embarrassing yourself, you have nothing at all to worry about. All of the swimmers I have ever run into at Masters meets are friendly and supportive. Sure there is competition but, for most of us, it's competition against ourselves and our past times. I think Masters meets are also a really great way to check your progress every few months to see how you are improving. Also, you don't have to be a current USMS member to participate in most meets (although it is highly encouraged), you can pay for a one-day membership on top of your meet registration fee.
I'll step off my soapbox now...
Here are the events I swam:
50 Breast - I have never done this event before and wanted to try something different. I had no idea what time I would get, or even what a good 50 breast time is. I ended up at 37:35 which gives me a good place to start.
500 Free - At each meet I pick one event that I really want to focus on and sign up for other events around it. For this meet I focused on the 500. I have gone under 6 minutes in practice, but didn't have an official time from a meet so my goal was to just go under 6 minutes. My arms felt stiff going into the event and I think I started my warmup too early. I had my coach Max from Fairmont and my oldest son counting for me. I knew I needed to keep under 46 second 50's to be under 6 minutes. About 150 yards in, Max started shaking the counting cards. Crap. I tried to pick it up, but he kept shaking the numbers until the last 100 or so yards. It wasn't my best swim (I had some sloppy walls and some other problems), but I did end up under 6 minutes at 5:56.72. This is a new post high school best for me and I was pretty happy with it! Here is a graph of my 50 splits:
200 Free Relay - I swam third on a relay with Chad, Goody, and Gordon. The results have order mixed up, but I went a 25.95. My best since joining Masters is 25.37. I think I could have beat that if I hadn't just done the 500.
100 Breast - I swam this event my first year in high school and haven't swam it since. I finished at 1:20.85. I told Max I didn't even know what a good time for this event is and he told me 1:20 is a good place to start. I think I'd like to swim this event more.
200 Medley Relay - I swam the breaststroke leg of this relay with Goody, Chad and Gordon. I got 36.74, which was faster than my individual 50 breast time. There is an advantage to starting from a relay rather than from a gun, which accounts for the faster time.
100 Free - By this time in the meet, my arms were completely shot and I knew I wasn't going to get anywhere near my best time. I ended up at 59.85. Considering the other events I had swam before, I was just happy to be under a minute. Maybe in an upcoming meet I'll focus on the 100 and see what I can do.
Martini Relay - Goody and Gordon had to leave early and Chad and I decided to just swim this relay as a two-person team. This is a fun relay where they give you a martini glass with a rubber duck inside and you have to swim while keeping the duck in the glass. Chad and I worked out a great strategy for keeping it in, which we found out later was against the rules...oops. We had fun anyway and still managed to beat the other SLOW team.
It was a really fun meet. Apart for getting the 500 time I wanted, I also won a pretty sweet messenger bag. After the meet, I went to lunch with Todd, Sue and Stacey, which was icing on the cake. The next local meet, for anyone interested, is in April at the new Olympus High School pool. Check www.olympusaquatics.com for details.
For those not familiar with a postal swim, you basically get a month (or more) to swim a certain time or distance and submit the results via mail (hence "postal") or online. These swims can be done in any pool as long as it meet the length requirement of the event. The USMS 1-hour postal National Championship, the first of five National Championship postal events, must be swum during January and results submitted by February 10, 2014. Details on the event can be found here.
Goody did a very brief warm-up and started his hour swim. He didn't tell me a specific goal that he was shooting for ahead of time, just that he wanted to swim it and get over 3,000 (which he easily did). He looked good throughout the swim, although I could tell he was getting tired towards the end. He ended up at 3,610 yards in an hour.
I jumped in next and did about 100 yards warm-up. In retrospect, this was way too little warm-up and I should have done at least 1,000 yards. I really wanted to hit 4,500 yards. I knew I could do 4,000 without any trouble, but I really wanted to push to a 1:20 per 100 pace.
I felt pretty good throughout the swim. The pool was getting crowded and I started circle swimming about halfway through because I was sure someone was going to share my lane. Little did I know that Goody was keeping people out! In retrospect, I would either take half a lane or swim straight down the line for the whole hour. I thought about stopping to grab a drink at one point near the end, but decided to just tough it out. I sprinted the last 500 yards or so and pushed it pretty hard. You can see in my splits below that I sped up quite a bit.
My fastest 50 split was 37.91 and my slowest was 42.2. I averaged 40.8 seconds per 50.
My fastest 100 split was 1:16.38 (which was the last 100!) and my slowest was 1:23.64. My average 100 split was 1:21.57, just over my goal pace of 1:20.
I didn't make a chart of my 500 splits, but my last 500 was actually faster than my first at 6:30.66. I'm really happy that I had enough in the tank to swim faster at the end, but that also means that I probably could have pushed harder throughout the swim. At the 1,650 mark, I was only about 1 minute behind my most recent time from the South Davis meet.
In the end I finished at 4,420 yards, just shy of my goal. I'm generally happy with that number, although I know with a few tweaks (longer warm-up and no circle swimming) I could hit 4,500.
Tomorrow morning I get to count for Gordon and I'm excited to see how far he goes. He has been getting really fast lately and he should easily get over 4,500 yards.
The banquet was at Buca di Beppo downtown. Gords was able to get us a nice space that worked really well for the our group. There were about 20 people in attendance, and I know there were several more who wanted to be able to come.
After a welcome by SLOW President, Gordon Gridley, I presented a brief overview of the year. When we formed the club, we were hoping to get 15 people to sign up. We ended up with nearly 30 and have already added a couple new swimmers for next year.
In the last year we had quite a few visitors from out of state, and out of country. We also had a good amount of publicity on KSL, Fox13, Deseret News, NPR, High Country News and H2Open Magazine.
This year we saw several swimmers make huge improvements in their swimming. We saw several big accomplishments including four Utah Triple Crown swimmers, two Catalina channel swims, and once ice mile swim. We also welcomed new swimmers to the sport of open water swimming.
Thanks to Rachel Wagner, we have put out five issues of what I think is a pretty awesome newsletter.
We watched a great year-in-review slideshow that Gordon put together. You can watch the whole thing below:
Goody gave an emotional talk about overcoming cancer and how SLOW members supported him and helped him get through it. Joelle gave a brief talk about her Catalina Channel swim and her future plans.
Next, we gave out four Utah Triple Crown awards to: Sue Frehse, Will Reeves, Tammy Taylor and Michell Poole.
We asked for nominations for four other awards. The winners were as follows:
Volunteer of the Year - Chad Starks
Most Improved Swimmer - Tanya Harris
Best Sportsman - Josh Green
Good Will Ambassador - Goody Tyler
Special recognition was given to Michelle Poole, who we officially "adopted" into the SLOW family. Michelle lives in Colorado but travels to all of our events and made a special trip to be with us at the awards banquet.
The highlight of the evening was the Lifetime Achievement Award which was given to Jim Hubbard. The board took turns talking about Jim and thanking him for all he has done for open water swimming in Utah.
Chad donated a kayak that was raffled off (and won by Sue).
It was a really fun evening and I really love our team. We have some big ideas for next year and I can't wait to see what we can accomplish before next year's banquet.
This afternoon I met Gordon, the rest of his support crew, family, friends, SLOW teammates and others at the Great Salt Lake Marina. Today was the day he would do his ice mile swim to raise money for the Utah Food Bank.
It was snowing lightly as the crowd started to gather. I dropped in my thermometer along with three or four others. Mine came out the highest by far at 37 degrees. All the others, including the official Utah State Parks temperature, ranged from about 33 to 35 degrees. This was much colder than I think Gordon was planning on. Just a few days earlier when we were there, it was 41 degrees on the dot. It's been really cold, but I didn't expect the water temp to drop so far, so fast.
After a briefing by Goody and a prayer by Cathi, Gordon got in his van and got changed and ready to go. He came out quickly and I'm afraid I missed the start of his swim because I didn't have my camera ready to go when he dove in. He took off extremely fast. His stroke rate was around 84 spm on the first lap.
I knew he would do two laps no problem, but wondered how he would hold up at such a cold temperature for the last two laps. His stoke rate dropped to the mid 70's on the second and third laps. At one point he had to stop to fix his goggles, which I'm sure was frustrating. The last thing you want to do is stop.
On the third lap he seemed to be slowing down a bit. He still looked strong on the last lap, but I could tell it was getting tough. His stroke rate dropped to around 70 (which is still higher than he normal rate).
The plan once he finished was to go immediately into the van and turn things over to Chad, an EMT, to take care of him and help him recover. He had some trouble getting out of the water (which is to be expected at such cold temperatures). Chad was awesome! He took control and knew exactly what he was doing and what Gordon needed. He was in incredibly good hand throughout his recovery.
People keep asking me if I'll ever do an ice mile. The answer is absolutely NO! The reason is I have seen two people, Goody and Gordon, go through the recovery and it honestly scares me. Both of them have said that the recovery is harder than the actual swim. I have a huge amount of respect for anyone who gives it a try, but it's not for me.
It took about an hour for Gordon to recover. That included being bundled up in a heated van with hot water bottles and, later, a shower.
It was an incredible swim and I am glad to have had a small part in it. He had a great support crew and family support. Someone from Fox13 was there shooting video and I hope to see the story soon.
Click here for Gordon's own account.
I met Gordon at the GSL Marina this afternoon for a WFPBC swim. The water temp on my thermometer read 51 degrees before we got in. At the end of the swim, Gordon's thermometer said 49.
Gordon was going for 4 laps (1 mile) in anticipation of his ice mile coming up. I was just going fo time, with a goal of 30 minutes.
It took me a minute and a half to get over the cold shock and get my breathing under control. After about 6 minutes, I was feeling "comfortable". After about 10 minutes my hands and feet stopped hurting and felt warm.
I puttered around, keeping an eye on Gords until he finished his last lap. I was starting to shiver after about 20 minutes and decided to get out at 27 minutes instead of push it any further. It's only my second cold water swim of the season after all.
The shivering was pretty bad and took me about 20 minutes to stop. I really hate the recovery.
I'm hoping to meet Goody out there again tomorrow. I've got to get acclimated for the New Year's Swim.