Facing the "Red Mist"

I had planned to swim at Jordanelle this morning with Goody, Liz and Lisa, but after the freak weather storm yesterday, I decided to hit the pool rather than freeze my butt off.

I've been wanting to do a workout from Swim Smooth that I read about recently called the "Red Mist" set.  (Just as a side note, the Swim Smooth blog is one of the best sources for swimming related articles on the internet. I was lucky enough to meet Swim Smooth founders Paul Newsome and Adam Young last year and I have been incredibly impressed with their program). "Red Mist" refers to the creeping feeling of frustration, anger, and a desire to give up, that you experience when swimming this set. I've read stories on the blog about swimmers who do this set and feel like they are just flailing their arms at the end. That's exactly what I was looking for this morning, good old fashioned punishment. I haven't felt the "red mist" since my high school swimming days, and wanted to get a taste of it this morning.

The "Red Mist" set is designed to be physically and mentally challenging. It even comes with it's own warning: "You may not like this but it's good for you!" It's basically a 4,000 yard workout at an increasingly faster pace as you progress. The pace is based on Critical Swim Speed (CSS), which is kind of the core of Swim Smooth's training. Critical Swim Speed is a target training pace that is determined by swimming a 400 as fast as possible, followed by a 200 as fast as possible (after recovering from the 400) and entering those times into a calculator. When we did the test at Fairmont a while back, my CSS was 1:18 / 100 yards.

Here's the Red Mist set:

I started with an easy 600 warm-up (in retrospect, I should have done a bit more).

4 x 400 @ CSS + 6 (1:24 / 100 yd)
3 x 400 @ CSS + 5 (1:23 / 100 yd)
2 x 400 @ CSS + 4 (1:22 / 100 yd)
1 x 100 @ CSS + 3 (1:21 / 100 yd)

You get 30 seconds rest between sets of 400, and that's it.

Now that I am done with the swim, I'm a little disappointed that I didn't come face-to-face with the "red mist" that other swimmers talked about. I was able to keep a pretty strong stroke and breathing pattern throughout. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a walk it the park, I was just expecting it to be much more difficult based on what I had read. This may be a sign that my CSS has decreased since the last time I was tested and that I'm getting a little faster.

I like this set a lot and plan to add it to my weekly routine. It went by much faster than I expected (because you are basically swimming the whole thing non-stop). I think it will be a good way to gauge my progress over time. Next time I will try lowering the CSS pace to 1:17 and see if I can get a taste of the "red mist".

Have you felt the "red mist" during a workout? I'd love to hear about it.

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