Utah Masters State Championship Meet

Saturday was the Utah Masters State Championship Meet at the brand new pool at Olympus High School.   Even though I didn't get the times I was after, it was a fun meet and a beautiful pool.

I finally got to meet Donald Barrus, who is a member of SLOW who lives in Wyoming.  He's a nice guy and I had a lot of fun talking to him.  Other SLOW members who were at the meet were Gordon, Goody, and Kevin Johnson.  Some of my Fairmont teammates were also there: Chris, Steve, Marie and our coach Max.  There were a lot of other swimming buddies there that I had fun catching up with and watching them swim.

Going to a Masters meet is pretty inspiring.  I think a lot of people are turned of by "Masters" thinking that it's all ex-college swimmers or something, and it's really not the case.  There are all types and abilities who participate.  There was even an 80+ year old lady competing!  It was awesome to watch her swim and I hope I am still entering meets at that age.

I had a bunch of other things going on that afternoon, so I was only able to swim two of the four events I had registered for: 50 free and 100 free.  I knew as soon as I got in the pool to warm up that I probably wasn't going to get the times I wanted.  I just felt off.  I probably should have gone to practice on Friday and just warmed up instead of taking the day off.

On the 50 free I was shooting for a qualifying time for short course nationals (even though I'm not planning to go to the meet).  I'm right on the edge of two age groups and the time to get was 25.14 for my current age group and 25.36 for the age group I will soon be in.  I ended up getting 25.57, which isn't bad, but I know I can make both of those qualifying times.

On the 100 free I was also shooting for a qualifying time, although this was much more of a long shot.  The qualifying times are 55.27 (too fast for me right now) and 56.34 (I might be able to get down to this time).  I entered at 57.00, which I have done in practice.  I wanted to hold back a little on the first 50 and go all out on the last 50.  I realized halfway down the pool on the first 50 that I went out WAY too slow.  I tried picking it up on the second 25 and really went all out on the last 50.  Gordon took some video and you can tell how much I had left in the tank because I caught a guy next to me on the last 25 that was pretty far ahead.  I love hearing Gords and Goody cheering for me on the video!  It's awesome to have such great team support.  To show how slow I went out on the first 50, my splits were 28.47 and 29.41.  I should have been at least 1 second faster on the first 50.

Here's the video.

Even though we didn't all get the times we were shooting for, I think the team had a good meet overall.  If nothing else, it was a lot of fun.  It would have been nice to start a little earlier and take fewer breaks, but the Olympus team did a great job organizing the meet.  I hope to swim in their pool again, hopefull a little faster next time :)

Here are the meet results.


First Real Open Water Swim of the Year

Yesterday afternoon I was finally able to meet with the Salt Lake Open Water (SLOW) club for a swim at the Great Salt Lake Marina.  It was my first real open water swim of the year and first time back to the lake since New Year's.

We had a pretty good group consisting of Gordon, Goody, Sarah, Mike, Karl, and myself.  Mike is planning to do the 8 mile Great Salt Lake Open Water Marathon Swim this June and it was his first time swimming in the GSL.

I talked with Gordon and Mike in the parking lot while we waited for everyone else to show up.  I showed them the new brine shrimp medals for this year's race and they were both impressed.  We took the medal into the gift shop and showed it to them and talked about the possibility of selling them as keychains in the gift shop.  The woman running the visitor's center thought they were awesome and Gordon has already made contact with the decision maker about getting them in the shop.

Once everyone was there, we headed down to the boat ramp and got greased up and ready to go.  The water felt pretty chilly when we first got in.  The GSL website was reporting 50 degrees, but I think it was a little warmer than that.

We swam out to the red buoy just outside the marina and regrouped.  Karl and Mike were headed back and Goody went with them.  Gordon, Sarah and I swam out to the next buoy and back.  The water was a little murky, but seemed warmer outside of the marina.  In most places, the first foot or two of the water was pretty warm with much colder water below.  We spent so much time inside the marina during polar bear season, that it was really nice to be out in the open lake.

When we got back to the first buoy, Good was there waiting for us.  Goody had spent the day celebrating being one year cancer free.  At the buoy he swam over and gave me a hug and thanked me for being supportive during that tough time of his life.  He is a great friend and we are really lucky to have him as part of our team.

I swam back to the boat ramp and talked with Mike and Karl until everyone else finished swimming.  We all talked for a while longer and then went our separate ways.

I'm already looking forward to our swim next Wednesday...


Changes to Open Water Events in Utah

We had a meeting with the Salt Lake Open Water (SLOW) board last night to make a tough decision about the future of the Great Salt Lake Open Water Swim and Deer Creek Open Water Marathon Swim.

Basically it boiled down to whether to continue on with United States Master Swimming (USMS) sanctioning or to look for another alternative.  After a lot of discussion, weighing the pros and cons, we decided not to continue with USMS.

The cost to sanction an event through USMS skyrocketed last year.  To their credit, they started offering "rebates" that offset some of that increased cost.  Utah Masters has also been very supportive of these events and helped us get through a tough year in 2013 when these changes were happening.  This year, the cost for Great Salt Lake was about even between USMS (with a rebate) and another insurance provider.

More important than the cost is that we are now able to open up participation to swimmers under 18.  With USMS, that was not an option.  We have been hearing that age group swimmers in Utah are interested in open water and are looking for opportunities.  One of the best parts of the Bear Lake Monster Swim last year was seeing a team of four high school boys win the relay event.  They were so excited and asked for an extra medal to put in their school's trophy case.  That's just awesome!

Also, with the USMS sanction gone, non-USMS swimmers will no longer have to pay an additional $15 for a one-event membership.  I think this may be appealing to recreational swimmers and triathletes who are not involved with Masters swimming.

We chose not to sanction the Bear Lake Monster Swim through USMS last year and the event was a success.  We are optimistic that by making this change for the Great Salt Lake and Deer Creek swims, we can increase participation and continue to grow the sport of open water swimming in Utah.


My Thoughts on Training for a Long Distance Swim

After I finished my workout this morning, Coach Max mentioned that he has had a lot of people asking how to train for distance swims and asked me how I train.  I gave him a basic rule of thumb that I follow but, as I have been thinking about it this morning, there is more to my training than just yardage.  I've put together some of my thoughts on distance training below.  This is how I train and it works for me, but I'm sure there are more effective and scientific methods and programs out there.

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.

Open Water:
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.


Pool Open Water Workouts at Fairmont

Every other Thursday morning at the Fairmont Aquatics Center, we have an open water workout.  It's the funnest workout of the week and a good way for those not familiar with open water swimming to get a taste.

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.


2014 QUAC Ski-n-Swim Meet

Wow, I've really been slacking off on the blog lately...

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.


2014 USMS 1-hour Postal Swim

Last Saturday, Goody picked me up and we drove to the Kearns Oquirrh Park Fitness Center so that we could do our 1-hour postal swims.

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.