Thursday, May 03, 2012

On (to) Wisconsin -- Pool Time

Swimming can be frustrating for me. In the big picture, I've got no problem with swimming. I don't suffer from the anxiety of open-water swimming that bothers many less experienced triathletes, and I can put in some pretty respectable yardage in my workouts (for an age-grouper triathlete that is. Real swimmers are a whole different breed...).

So what's the problem? Simple -- I can't seem to get any faster. Some years ago I made the leap from plodding along at 1:50 to 2:00 per 100 yards down to 1:30 to 1:40, depending on the distance. And there I've stayed. Occasionally I'll feel like I'm ready to make a leap forward, but I eventually settle back down into the same old rut.

Now for a little self-analysis. It has to be technique. I'm pretty strong in the water, but as Coach Don Easterling once told me, "If strength were everything, a bull could catch a butterfly." It's telling that my speed decreases the further I get into a workout.Fatigue can play a factor in that, but I can feel my stroke falling apart as I do sets of intervals or longer distance sets. What was pretty smooth and relaxed at the beginning devolves into a choppy mess at the end. I fight to stay smooth, but there's some missing key that I can't grasp hold of to get me on the right track.

But you might wonder why I'm worried about it. Generally my swim times in races are respectable -- top 1/3 or so in my age group, and I don't come out of the water excessively tired.

It's because I like to compete. Giving away 3-4 minutes in an Olympic-distance race to my competitors sticks in my craw. Sure, the fastest swimmer doesn't always win, but I'm tired of starting from behind the guys I want to compete with. And any efficiency I can pick up along the way is sure to pay dividends in Wisconsin. It'll be a long day, and energy saved in the water is energy I can use later on.

So, only one solution. Laps alone aren't going to get the job done. Time to get professional help. I'm meeting with Val Oswald, local swim coach and former University of Texas swimmer, on Friday to let her take a look at what I'm doing wrong (and right). I'll let you all know how it goes.

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