Thursday, February 9, 2012

Approaching Normal

Date: Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012
Time: 4:30 p.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Short Course Meters
137 days to Olympic Trials

Today's workout with the gold group at Phoenix Swim Club started with about five minutes of race visualization on the pool deck, not a bad way to start, especially in the 77-degree sunshine! I do a lot of race visualization, especially in the four or five weeks leading up to the "big meet." But I've been doing a lot of visualization lately of the environment I'll be facing at the Olympic Trials, and that is what I focused on today. I didn't play the 100 breast race in my head from start to finish, but replayed various parts over and over. The final seconds before stepping up to the blocks are very important, as I tend to hyperventilate at that time and often get those little thoughts that things are not going to go well. Sometimes it helps; sometimes it does not.

The five minutes of visualization led to what was yet another challenging workout for me, but one that, as always, can pay off well in about four months. One of the toughest parts of the 4,000-meter workout was doing 2x100 on about 2:00. Yes, the interval was tough, but this is why: You do two underwater breaststroke pullouts, followed by one stroke on the surface, and repeat that for the entire 100! My legs were burning at the end of each 100 (don't know why), and it was tough to finish the second pullout correctly. I found myself shortening the length of the second pullout to get to the surface for air, which didn't make me happy, but I was willing today to sacrifice technique for life.

The final set today really taxed me. It was only 1,650 meters, but it was almost nonstop for me. You will understand why when you see the intervals:

2x200 on 3:15 -- 100 back/100 breast
#1 pull, #2 swim

3x150 on 2:30 -- 100 pull/25 scull kick/25 swim
#1 back, #2 breast, #3 free

4x100 on 1:30
1&2: 50 back/25 breast/25 free
3&4: 25 back/50 breast/25 free
Pull buoy on 1 and 3

5x50 swim on :45
2 back, 2 breast, 1 free

6x25 on :30 -- half underwater/half swim distance per stroke
2 back, 2 breast, 2 free

What a set! I knew I was going to be in trouble when I realized the whole set was on a 45-second base. That is a tough interval for short course meters! And since I rarely (actually, more like NEVER) use a pull buoy, it wasn't easy keeping up on the pull parts of the set. I was going much slower on the parts with the pull buoy, especially on breaststroke but just as much on backstroke and freestyle.

I never liked using a pull buoy in workout, because it affects my body position badly, and I'm not sure that it really teaches you to swim correctly, i.e. using your arms and legs together. I do understand the mindset of separating arms and legs in workout to isolate parts of the stroke, but I grew up on swim teams that did not use pull buoys often, so I never got attached to them, as the majority of my Masters teammates do. It can be a crutch, and for some reason, a lot of people go faster with a pull buoy. For someone like Roland Schoeman, I don't know why that is true, because he definitely knows how to keep himself balanced and on the surface of the water without a pull buoy. Maybe it does make holding the body position easier for him.

I worked a lot on my pullout, and I'm happy that I'm getting better at moving the dolphin kick to the beginning. It does feel like a smoother pullout now, but I'm trying to keep my body alignment intact when I do the dolphin kick. I think I undulate too much, and it's something I'll work on next!

I think I'm feeling like I'm getting back to normal in terms of feeling my strokes in the pool. Today was the first day since my return from vacation that my breaststroke felt normal. I wasn't trying to go fast, but the timing and the rhythm all felt easier to achieve. Tomorrow there is usually a fast swim at the end of workout, and if so, I might do a fast breaststroke swim for time. I have some fast breaststroke planned for Sunday, so it might be best to wait until then to do some extensive breaststroke sprinting. We'll see how things feel in the morning.

Speaking of which, it is now 9:15 p.m., and workout starts in less than nine hours! Got to get a good night's sleep! Good night!

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