Sunday, August 7, 2016

Workout Journal: August 8, 2016

Man, watching all this swimming in the Olympics makes me want to compete again.  I just watched Katie Ledecky destroy the field in the 400M freestyle, and it felt like it triggered something.  I always wanted to be a better mid-distance freestyler, but I never quite found the time to dial it in.  I was always stuck doing butterfly because that was my best event.  As a high school swimmer, I spent my time chasing Junior National cuts.  At the Academy, the team needed me to score points in my best events.  I got so focus on stroke work that my freestyle lagged as we got into the mid-season form, and for whatever reason, I never managed to put both butterfly and freestyle together at the same time.  It’s one of the issues that came up in my memoir, and watching the Olympics makes me wonder a bit what could have been.

That said, it’s been a tough couple of weeks in the pool.  More more like months, really.  I time last summer and into the fall thinking about trying to do a solo Swim Across the Sound, but I started having shoulder problems as I added yardage.  I got to the point of doing 7,000+ yard workouts, but I felt like my body was breaking down under the strain.  I was trying to do three long workouts per week, and I needed to be doing more like five workouts per week, with more a more consistent approach.  I couldn’t find the time, though, and trying to squeeze more yardage into fewer workouts hurt.  Hannah came to me later in the fall for help in the weight room--she wanted to make it to the next level at gymnastics and did--and I confess that I was extremely happy to have a reason to back down in the water.  Since then, my stroke has really suffered.
I hit the water today for what felt like it was going to be another crappy workout, and somewhere along the way, I realized that I’ve been thinking about this all wrong.  I’m getting slower, and it feels like a struggle, but I keep trying to deal with that by working harder.  Meanwhile, the one discipline I feel like I’ve improved lately is running, and that’s the only one where I haven’t put any pressure on myself.  The problem, then, isn’t that I’m slow (or slow-er), it’s that I’m being stubborn.  I’m trying to regain my form instantly.  What I need--obviously--is slow down, take the pressure off, rebuild basic fitness, and then tune my pace back up once I’m actually comfortable swimming again.
I tell people all the time: Slow down.  Stay consistent.
I need to take my own advice.
Let’s assume I put some time into this swimming thing.  Relevant national cut times for Men (40-44) are as follows:
 -- 100 Fly: 1:03.4
 -- 200 Fly: 2:22.9
 -- 500 Free: 5:39.9[1]
--1000 Free: 12:04.0
None of that seems too overly intimidating, and in fact, I’m pretty sure I could go that 100 Fly cut at practice tomorrow if I did the right warm-up.  My buddy Ben and I did 100’s Fly for time about a year ago, and I put down a 1:05 from a push.  1:03 from a dive seems entirely manageable, even now.  The Top 16 cut time for the 100 Fly is :55.9.  That’s a little more intimidating, and the national best time of :51.3 is flat-out unbelievable.  Who the Hell has time for four hours of swimming every day that they can still go :51.3 at the age of 40?
That way lies madness.  To say that I was once obsessed is an understatement of epic proportions.  I’ve resisted the urge to compete as a swimmer for decades based mostly on the fact that I doubt I have either the time or the energy to train the way I know that I need to train to be as good as I can be, and that’s still true.  Which is a good argument against this whole endeavor, even if setting a personal goal of 5:40 in the 500 free seems like something that might be worth doing.  Goals focus the mind, but insanity is insanity.  

It’s a tricky balance.
Today’s workout:
 -- Warm-up: 200 SKIPS[2]
 -- Main Set: 10 x 200 free @ 2:55 (aerobic pace)
 -- 200 kick
 -- 300 pull
 -- 100 warm-down
I put in about 1400 yards this morning before I finally started feeling like myself out there.  It was frustrating, but again, if it was anybody else, I would tell them to hang in there and keep swimming, and eventually it’ll come together.  Taking my own advice, I actually started getting faster and swimming easier after a little less than a mile in the water, and that made the entire experience worthwhile.  I don’t quite have the endurance that I’d like, but it’ll come if I stick with it.  Now I just need to be consistent.  

I should maybe mention, too, that I've got a pulled calf and a very sore right ankle.  I need to take some time off from running one way or another, which is part of why I'm looking for a swimming- or cycling-related goal.  This 500 free thing might take me through the New Year, after which time I'll hopefully be able to run again.

[1] Note: One of my former teammates at Army, Paul Reader, is the current Master’s National Champion in the 500 free with a 4:56.7.  That’s badass.  I’d have to go under 5:15 to make the Top 16 nationally.
[2] 200 Swim, 200 Kick, 200 IM, 200 Pull, 200 Swim.  Total = 1000 yards.

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