Monday, May 21, 2007

Hyack Festival: Lessons Learned

In the military they have a process called “lessons learned” whereby they study the mistakes and errors which occur in every engagement, often at great cost, so the same mistakes are not repeated in the future. I too made several errors in my races at the Hyack Festival which caused me grief. Here are my lessons learned:
  1. I need better conditioning. It's difficult to race seriously on less than 20k training a week. Especially in order to race anything over 100 meters. The greater the distance raced the more kilometrage you need under your belt, but practically speaking 20,000 meters a week is a reasonable target. Forty is better and sixty best, but most world-class masters have pegged the minimum at somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 meters a week depending on the race distance if you want to compete seriously. There’s a reason why the kids are so good – they have the time to put in all those meters;
  2. The smaller your conditioning base the less time you can stay away from the pool. I had reached a level of 15,000 meters a week by the end of January and had started towards a target of 25,000 meters when work commitments intervened. By the middle of March my average had dipped to a little more than 10,000 and from there continued downward towards the roughly 5,000 a week I’ve managed over recent weeks. Despite the decline I had good results at April’s Provincial Championships which led to a mistaken belief I would see continued improvement a month later at Hyack Festival. I didn’t because I had only just enough conditioning to make it into April and no further. Two months minimal training is simply too little to race on, especially when you’re racing tired and have trained only a few months;
  3. Finding the right pace in a race is critical to achieving your best time, especially in the longer, endurance orientated events, and in order to set the right pace you need to know how fast you’re swimming. Excitement, desire, and competition will cloud your judgment in the crucial opening lap. You go out too fast, or overcompensate and go out too slowly, either of which will guarantee a less than efficient race. The only way to prevent this is to know your speed and this comes from understanding what times varying stroke rates give. I’ve been rather blasé about noting splits or stroke rates during workouts which has meant I’m still nowhere near making a connection between the two. This ignorance resulted in a lot of pain on the weekend. In future I’ll pay close attention to this relationship during practices and so hopefully learn to better read my actual speed and effort;
  4. An inefficient swimming technique will result in a disproportionate expenditure of energy. I blew up in my 200 IM mostly because I didn’t realize how hard I had to work just to swim fly, and I was working hard because my stroke is inefficient. My breaststroke isn’t very good either and together the two of them were more than sufficient to drain my slender reserve of endurance to nothing. My free and back techniques are better and it shows not only in my times for those events but in the fact I can better manage my races when swimming those strokes. A problem I was aware of well before this swim meet but one I clearly underestimated. I must put special emphasis in improving my fly and breast technique before my next individual medley if I want to improve significantly; and finally my last lesson learned was
  5. Swimming long course is harder than swimming short course. Most readers who’ve raced in a long course pool will think I was an idiot, but going into this meet I was anticipating no real impact on my expected times from the change. My misplaced confidence was based in part on the fact there would be fewer turns in a fifty meter pool (turns being a particular vulnerability of mine) and I’d be able to handle the switch from racing short course with relative ease because much of the training I’ve done on my own has been in a fifty meter pool. It turned out neither assumption was correct. I might have poor turns but I underestimated the value of the two or three seconds of physical rest a turn gives even while holding your breath. It’s not a lot but a couple of extra turns are enough to noticeably reduce the minimum effort required to swim the distance. Without the break at twenty five meters muscles start feeling the ‘burn’ sooner and worse yet, if you are really fatigued, the longer distance gives fewer chances to pause that extra second at the wall when absolutely required. The simple answer in dealing effectively with these small differences is better physical conditioning and this observation completes the chain. I know what I need to do; all that remains is to put it into practice.

1 comment:

Peter said...

Scott, you're really putting in that much distance? Wow, I'm in awe. In a good week, I barely come close, and with marathon training set to kick into gear next week, my swimming will be dramatically scaled back through until Thanksgiving.