Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Swimming Milestone!

OK, for all you runners who may have been struggling with swimming as much as I have the past couple years, here's my latest piece of advice: Pull a hamstring!

No, not really. But, seriously, in the past couple weeks I think I've made more progress in my swimming than I have in months!! Thanks also to the new killer group swim workouts.

First off, the hamstring injury took away my ability to do the breaststroke (takes good hammies to do the frog kick!) so I have FINALLY gotten rid of that urge to fall back on doing breaststroke here and there for recovery during workouts on my own, which is good because my tri club coach's favorite recovery is clearly 200 easy freestyle. (Last Monday, Coach: Shirley, what are you doing? Me: (pant, pant) Just got done with the 3x200 set you asked me to do, Coach (pant). Coach: Give me 200 easy!)

Secondly, to do some of the things we've been required to do in the group swim workouts (which reminded Irish Blue of Navy Seal workouts she'd seen and have now got me thinking Coach may have read her comment on my other post, LOL), I've had to really work on generating speed and power via my pull and hip rotation, not kicking a whole lot to keep the hammy happy. And that's exactly what Coach focused on on Monday. After we'd done a bunch of descending, ascending and recovery 200s, he went around holding onto people's ankles so we were having to drag him! And as I was glub-glubbing through this latest form of torture, the whole pull and hip connection thing really clicked for the first time -- WOO HOO!


Which I think led to the third good thing that has happened since my hamstring injury, and the reason for the title of this post ... I can now do the 3x300 Threshold Test in my little Swim Workouts for Triathletes book fast enough to have a time that appears on their T-Pace Chart! A year ago when I bought this book, I was nowhere close and even just a month ago when swimming three sets of 300 yards with 30 seconds rest, each 300 took just over 6 minutes and 6:00 was the slowest time listed on the chart. What, don't turtles deserve to have a T-pace that's on the chart?!

But yesterday I swam the 300s in 5:46.64, 5:40.80 and 5:38.17 for an average of 5:42, which according to the chart (or just divided by 3) means my 100 yard T-pace or Threshold Pace is 1:54 (the book says yards and meters can be used interchangeably).

This means I can now do the other T-pace based swim workouts in my little book that I've been saving for when I'm fast enough. But mostly, it just makes me feel that I'm really a swimmer now! (I know, IT'S ABOUT FREAKING TIME!!!)

For anyone interested in knowing more about my struggles with swimming, I've created a history. Here are my major lessons learned after 2.5 years of serious swimming, 4 1/2-iron tris, 2 olys, 2 sprints and 1 Ironman attempt:

  • If you don't have a swim background, take swim lessons. Learning from a book or DVD does not work well.

  • Do not be content to just survive swim segments of tris. Work on your weakness!

  • Keep looking for a stroke that suits you. There are different ways to swim freestyle and everyone, even good swimmers should always be looking for ways to improve.

  • Do not swim laps mindlessly. Unlike running, swimming is nearly all about technique and if you're not thinking about it and working on it, you're not going to improve by much.

  • Have someone videotape you when swimming, both above water and underwater too, if possible. You'll be amazed at what you can learn from seeing yourself.

  • Join a group swim program. You will never work so hard and see as much improvement on your own.
  • 21 comments:

    Stef said...

    SHIRLEY!!!!

    Don't usually scream at folks on their own blogs but this is FABULOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Congratulations on this HUGE breakthrough!

    Gives me hope . . . .

    Thanks for posting this I will read your swim history -- probably more than once.

    Wendy said...

    Good for you!

    And good tips.

    Interchangeable meaning the chart works for /100 either yards or metres, but your t-pace for each one will be different.

    Tri to Be Funny said...

    OH MY GOD!! That is off the charts awesome!! You are a true inspiration to many!

    Steve Stenzel said...

    I'm glad you're finding the sunny side of the situation!!

    Kevin said...

    Way to go on the breakthrough. Unfortunately, as good as I am at swimming, I lose all the ground I gained when I get on the bike

    Brittany M. said...

    Woohoo!! Nothing like a major breakthrough, and that is some awesome swim breakthrough!! Congratulations!!!

    Petraruns said...

    That's just amazing. What a way to turn your frown upside down honey!

    I'm joining a new swim group in September and am just going to print off your list and keep it in mind.. Thank you so!

    Jenny Davidson said...

    Yes, this is a great post. I wholeheartedly endorse every item on your list of tips - that is exactly how I have gone about it, it takes a lot of attention and resources but it's well worth it. I am a pretty slow swimmer myself, but I am fortunate to have the gift of great enthusiasm for swimming, and I firmly believe that though the swim leg is often shorter in duration than the other two, it makes all the difference in the world to be looking forward to it rather than dreading it...

    mangotriathlete said...

    Shirley! This is awesome! Congrats on the breakthrough! :-) This is particularly inspiring for me, one of those "triathlete-runner-in-a-last-life" types and swimming is the biggest obstacle for me. I'm so excited for you! I'm a, well, what's slower than a turtle? That. Your tips are really something to think about. Your coach sounds like he has some good stuff there. Do you go through a tri group? Swim group?

    Bruce Stewart (施樸樂) (ブルース・スチュワート) said...

    Could you be my swim coach? I know you may think this sounds funny (or even rude), but I have learned so much on swimming from reading your various postings. In a couple of weeks I am planning to have my own "swim camp" (just for me), and I will have some extra sessions to try out some of the things you are writing about.

    Susan said...

    WOW Shirley! Look at you go!

    I am headed over to the history blog now. WOW!

    ShirleyPerly said...

    THANKS EVERYONE!!!

    In many ways, I think my running successes have hampered my swimming. I kept trying to rely on my endurance, strong legs, discipline to train on my own, etc. It really wasn't until I pretty much threw everything away (multiple times) and got help that I began to see some real progress. It's been really tough but soooo worth it to me. I've always sort of subconsciously wanted to be a good swimmer, even before I got into tris. I didn't get to go diving with my husband while we were on our honeymoon in Jamaica, for instance, because I couldn't pass the basic swim test. Next time I have an opportunity to do so, I will and maybe even swim to a neighboring island too, like he did. There's just so many more options now that I can swim. And I know I'm going to have a blast on a cruise to the Caribbean we're going on next year!!

    Runner Leana said...

    Shirley, congratulations on getting the swimming thing down! I've got a tri swim clinic lined up at the Y from September through December and I can't wait to work on things properly. You gave some great tips there that I'll definitely have to remember

    Brent Buckner said...

    Congratulations!
    You sure did work the problem.

    peter said...

    Those are excellent swimming tips! Really. In my next life when I swim, I'm going to put them to use! You've worked hard on your weak parts and are collecting the dividends.

    Thanks for your comment. Her sense of humor was sublime. Her boss at the Selective Service died of a heart attack shortly after he retired. He was a good boss. She would be talking about him years later in some context and just matter of factly say, We killed that man of course. Refering to the the hard times this good man endured in putting up with her and her co-workers. It was hilarious to hear her talk like this. She had a good, and honest, story about anyone.

    jeanne said...

    HOLY CRAP you are fast!!! i just looked up my 300 times..and let's just say 6:00 minutes would be lightning fast for me! great great tips and congrats on the progress!

    Jade Lady said...

    Wow - fantastic! I'm going to have to call u to get the nitty gritty details of this breakthru!

    So, how do I pull my hamstring on purpose?

    Tammy said...

    Way to Go Shirley, great tips on the swimming end. I really need to get my butt in the pool. You rock shirley keep up all the hard work.

    Karen said...

    Wow--I'm totally impressed. I too am nowhere on that book's T-Chart. I now have hope that a pulled hammy somewhere in my future will improve my time!!!

    Sunshine said...

    I absolutely love that advice: Don't try to learn to swim from reading a book.
    Amazing swimming; good job.

    PLANET3RRY said...

    I kinda glossed over most of the swim talk in the post. I mean... I read the "Get a coach" part and that's what I need to do.

    What I did want to comment was on the Hamstring Pull... when I got one in May 2001, I rehabed June and July, got back training in Aug and marathon PRed by 5 minutes in Nov. Pulled Hamstrings suck, but they can make rethink your methodology.