Friday, May 2, 2014

Pushing to Frustration

When I'm flying down the escarpment on my bike, I can guess how fast I'm going and am usually pretty close.

When I'm slugging up a hill on my bike and glance down at my Garmin, I'm never surprised at my speed. It's usually pretty much what I thought it was.

When I run, I'm pretty steady and can predict my pace fairly accurately. In fact, I'm such a metronome that, as long as the wind and the grade do not change, it's not at all unusual for me to have the exact same pace for 5-6 kilometres in a row.

When I'm in the pool, it's apparently an entirely different story.

In the pool, there is no wind in your hair. There are no vibrations in the bike to help you guess how fast you're flying down a hill. The pounding of your feet in time with the music doesn't help you figure out your pace. There is no music and there is no pounding.

There is just water. And tiles at the bottom of the pool. And a black line. And the kickkickkick of my feet.

At the pool on Wednesday morning we were told we were going to do a pace workout. A workout designed to help us get used to setting and keeping a pace.

After a typical warmup, the workout on the board was as follows:

5x100m on 2:15
repeat three times

Looks easy right?

Well, it wasn't.

The idea was this: we had to pick a pace we wanted to keep for the first set of 5x100m. We had to swim each of the 100m at that exact pace.

After a 50m easy swim, we had to do the second 5x100m the same way but this time the pace had to be 1 second faster.

The third 5x100m had to be 1 second faster than the second set and therefore 2 seconds faster than the first set.

Here's how it went.

I picked 1:45 as my first pace time. Fast but not impossible and not ridiculously hard to maintain for all five.

My times for the first 5x100m were:

The second 5x100m should therefore be done at 1:44. My times were:
(so much for consistency and so much for speeding up)

The third set was to be done at 1:43. I did them at:
(the wheels fell right off during this one and I had no idea what I was doing anymore)


One second here or there doesn't sound like a lot and, unless I'm competing to qualify for the Olympics, it's not a big deal. The frustration came from not being able to tell what my time would be. Sometimes I thought I was going fast and found out I swam a 1:46. The next one I would speed up a bit more to bring the time down to 1:44 only to find out I was 1:48. The next one I would feel tired after pushing hard and expect to be slower but find out I was faster.

I would push off the wall and go hard for 50m and then think I went too hard so I'd slow down a titch trying to finish in the right amount of time but end up slowing down too much and messing everything up.

I could not hold a pace consistently but I also could not judge my pace consistently. At times fast felt slow and slow felt fast. Other times, fast felt fast and slow felt slow.

In the pool there is nothing against which to judge my speed other than how I feel. The wind in my hair, the vibration of the bike, the rhythm of a song don't help in the pool. It's just me and the water.

Apparently it takes practice.

Good thing I like that sort of thing. It felt like a puzzle I was trying to solve and I every time I hit the wall and heard my time, I wanted another crack at it.

For any of you swimmers out there it's a fun game to play when you need to get a workout in but don't feel like pushing to exhaustion.

Push yourself to frustration instead :)

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