The Tides Are Shifting

If the YMCA pool had tides, there would be a shift occurring. My swimming, after four years of struggling and grappling with it, has finally started to come around and the change is noticeable.

This past Monday I was joined by two other folks in our Y Fit Swim group with coach Katie. They were a couple, one who cycles and one who does fitness stuff in general I believe. The woman was a pretty decent swimmer and the man was tall so he had his length to help him. We did our warm ups and eventually I took the lead on the sets. Mind you, this is a position for me as I’ve been swimming by myself or with Mark my fellow Ironman in training.

We had a lot of sprints and recoveries for the workout and knowing that someone was behind me really helped me to stay focused on my stroke and be strong. I felt pretty good during this workout despite the lack of oxygen!

It wasn’t until Wednesday’s after work swim though where I started to see numbers on Garmin that I haven’t seen before and consistently. For the past four seasons, I have been a 2:00-2:10/100 yard swimmer, really no matter the distance. When trying to sprint 50 yards, I often felt I was overexerting and ended up going slower than if I didn’t try so hard. This has been mentally frustrating and has made me not enjoy the swim workouts, even considering giving up triathlon and moving to duathlons so I wouldn’t have to endure the swim.

I'm learning to get my hands here. Before they were way out to the side

I’m learning to get my hands here. Before they were way out to the side

Since swimming under Katie’s guidance, I am now rotating my body properly so my hips point towards the pool bottom, my follow through is in the proper position and I actually feel my body being propelled through the water. Wednesday’s main set of the workout consisted of ascending sets up to 400 yards with 50 yards recovery in between each set. As the workout progressed, you ascended from 100 yards up to 400 with an increase of 100 so you are experiencing fatigue as you get towards the longer set.


Each time I finished one of these main sets, my watch showed that I am moving 10-12 seconds +/- a second faster than I normally do. Add these seconds up over my eventual 2.4 mile swim and it makes a huge difference. Not only that but I was hitting these numbers consistently rather dropping off like I normally do towards the end of the workout. I believe this is due to my consistent training and the use of the paddles in the pool, allowing my shoulders and core to get stronger.

200 yardsWhen I saw the above during my 200 yard set, I couldn’t believe it. Even during my best sprints, I had never seen a 1:46/100 yard time. I saw it again several times as I moved up in distance. My overall time for my 2000 yard workout is the best I have ever had as well especially since it included drills and recovery paces, ultimately affecting my overall pace.

full workout

This is such a huge thing for me and I’m super excited about it as its giving me an added boost mentally going into the Clermont triathlon next weekend knowing I’m capable of producing a good swim time. Now, next week’s swim is with a wet suit (most likely, last year was wet suit legal) and I haven’t been in that thing since Raleigh 70.3 but I’m confident that all will workout just fine for that.

For the non-swimmers or those not comfortable with converting distances here’s what 2000 yards means:

2000 yards = 1.13 miles

The swim leg of Ironman Raleigh 70.3 is 1.2 miles. Last year, the race was wet suit legal and my calf cramped with about 400 yards left in the swim. I swam a time of 45:59 with my pace being 2:22/100 meters. 100 yards per minute is about 10 seconds off of 100 meters so if you swim 1:40/100 yards this translates into 1:50/100 meters. With this in mind, if I can do 1:45-1:50/100 yards, I’m looking at a 1:55-2:00/100 meter pace putting my time for Raleigh between 37:30-40:00.

With a couple of months til race day I believe I can lower my times a little bit more as I get stronger and more comfortable in the water which will ultimately lead me to coming out of the water mentally in a better position. Trust me, being one of the last competitors out of the water and having to play catch up on the bike is not a whole lot of fun.

Next Saturday’s race is an Olympic distance swim of 1.5 km (gotta love all of the conversions!) so its roughly 1640 yards or 1500 meters. I’m going to set a goal right now of swimming under 30 minutes at Clermont as it is an even 2:00/100 meters. Looking at last year’s age group results for the women 30-34 (my new age group!) that still puts me in the middle of the pack which is fine, I’m looking to break any records here! Mind you, swim times ALWAYS vary among races as buoys move and distances are not nearly as easy to maintain in the water as they are on land.


My overall goal for Clermont is to come in under 3:00 hours for the entire race which I think is doable should I stay on pace and the sun isn’t out in full force. Here’s to the start of the 2015 triathlon season!


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