Pacing in the water is really hard. Particularly if you want to keep moving.
On land, I have a Garmin watch that helps keep me on track. I glance down every so often to make sure I'm not running too quickly or too slowly and, every kilometer, it beeps and tells me how long that kilometer took to run. Very helpful.
In the pool, things are not quite as straightforward. I don't wear a watch at the pool. Some people do but I just can't be bothered to buy it when I have my own personal coach to yell times at me. And even if I did have one, I'm not going to stop in the middle of a 100m sprint to check my pace. With my arms flailing around like a windmill, it would be pretty hard to read the tiny numbers...
I can also use the clock on the wall. You know, those pool clocks with the four hands (all different colours) that go around and around? I never knew how those worked before I started swimming. Now it all makes sense.
Or at least it made sense once I splurged on prescription goggles so I could actually see the clock...
Again though, it's hard to judge pace by the clock because you have to be able to breathe at the correct time and in the correct direction in order to see the clock as you go by. Then you have to be able to remember what the clock said the last time you went by so you can determine how long it took you to get back to that spot. I'm not good at either of those things.
So I'm one of those swimmers who pushes off from the wall, swims the required distance at the required effort level (easy, cruise, build, explosive, fast, pace, pace -5 or pace -10) and finds out at the end of 50m, 100m, 200m or 400m how close I was to the pace I was supposed to go.
Monday we had to do the following:
800m warm up
100m pull - cruise
400 pace minus 5 seconds
400m pace minus 10 seconds
300m scull/swim cool down
Basically, the hard part was the 400m swims and the recovery part were the 100m and 200m cruise sections.
I swam the first 400m at a pace that felt hard but a pace that I could easily maintain for the entire distance. The only problem was that I stopped after 350m accidentally which completely screwed up my time. I thought I had counted 8 trips back and forth but apparently doubled up somewhere along the way and only ended up doing seven. I figured that out when I found myself standing with the fastest swimmers while I watched the slower (but still faster than me) swimmers complete their final 50m.
(see what I mean about keeping too many things in my head while swimming? If I glance at the clock and try to do math, I immediately forget how many 50m I have left)
So it took me 7 minutes and 7 seconds to swim 350m. I guessed I would have taken about 7:50 to swim the entire distance.
That meant that the next 400m would have to be 7:45 if I wanted to do pace minus five seconds.
This time, I was the second person in my lane to start so I immediately knew I had to subtract 5 seconds from whatever time I got. I swam what I thought was the same speed but just a wee bit faster and finished in 7:30 (or 7:25 with the adjustment). In other words I swam pace minus 20 seconds. Which means that either my first swim wasn't actually at pace or my second swim was way too fast.
I did the third 400m but this time ended up leaving about 8 seconds after the first person in my lane. I swam that 400m in the exact same time as the previous one (7:30) but subtracted 8 seconds to get 7:22 which was three seconds faster than the 2nd 400m and 23 seconds faster than the first.
I don't really know what all of this means. I just know that it's hard to get a feel for speed in the water. Sometimes I feel like I'm flying and then find out that I must have been flailing. Other times I feel really slow but actually end up with a really fast (for me) time.
Fast or slow, I swam 2900m on Monday morning and had it all done within an hour and 20 minutes. Compared to last year - I'm flying!