I am an open water swimmer. Given the choice I’d choose it over the pool every single time. Winter swims are great…but its too cold to do any significant distance. This caused me a huge problem last year as I didn’t really do much in the pool until it was too late; a few weeks out from Guildford 12 I realised I hadn’t done any mileage and shortly needed to swim 12miles! Needless to say it didn’t go particularly well! This year is going to be different; as well as the Channel I have I’ve signed up for 50k for Swimathon in March and the 24hour Guildford swim in April…and there’s no way that will get done with no training! The 12 was really difficult and the thought of the 24 has been plaguing my thoughts for some time; keen to learn from all my mistakes in the past and ensure this year goes as smoothly as it can. After Christmas my focus shifted from the cold to increasing pool swims, so I would be ready.
So pool regime; Ive always swum the tri club session, an hour a week focusing mainly on drills and freestyle based around CSS training. CSS being ‘critical swim speed’ or your threshold pace. Similar to running, once calculated from a 200 and 400 time trial, this gives you different zones to train in, based on your pace per hundred and designed to maximise the bang for your buck from pool training.
Back in the autumn when the temperature started to drop, I joined a master’s session. Several reasons for this, primarily because it’s a regular swim; three times a week. Secondly it’s a lot of different sets, intervals and strokes, most of which I would not do by myself. Which is great for using different muscles and mixing things up; something I am usually really guilty of if left to my own devices. Short sessions…but all good quality stuff!
This session pushes very hard on short intervals with little rest and I found it a struggle to start; all of last summer spent swimming long and slow had left my cardio not quite as sharp as it used to be and my top end a little flat! I’ll be honest, I nearly quit in the first few week’s but good things happen outside your comfort zone right?! Cardio has come back a little bit, top end has sharpened up a little bit (although ill never be a sprinter!). My backstroke is still awful but I am seeing that, the butterfly and the breastroke more as cross training than anything, using muscles I don’t usually and stretching things out.
Has it been of benefit? Well, I was working on a CSS of 1.34 at the end of last year. A test before Christmas dropped it to an eye opening 1.28, and I really feel the need to go again because I think its lower again. Is that useful for distance? Undecided. Leaning towards yes as I’ve knocked out a few big swims in the last few weeks, 100×100’s on the ‘abacus of doom’, an 8×1600 set and yesterday a 15k pool swim at a pace that has surprised me a little.
The plan now is to continue with masters and tri club during the week, aim for some huge pools swims at the weekends to build in the distance for Swimathon and G24…and try and keep getting in the sea where I can to maintain my acclimatisation ready for the spring and the warmer weather! Roll on the warmth!