Monday, May 28, 2012

May 21-27: Swimming and Reexamined Race Goals

 Last week’s training plan involved a ton of swimming, mostly because of the three open water races – a 5k, a 2 mile, and a 1 mile – over the weekend. The races were a mixed bag, and I’ll talk about that more on Thursday, but I did come away with a couple of medals…and a certificate.

Now, this race was something that I hadn’t tagged as very important when I put together my schedule for the season. I was mostly on the lookout for opportunities to practice racing in open water, and the idea of joining OTHER people who thought it would be fun to swim a 5k race, a 2 mile race, and a 1 mile race in a little over 24 hours was also appealing. There were no time goals sketched out in January, and there was very little training specifically targeting THIS race, even though, of course, I’m training for open water swimming in general for my real target races.

And still, I was angry and annoyed with how I did. As I stewed about this for most of the drive back from Reston on Saturday, I thought of how something similar had happened during my other recent races – Charleston and Columbia. I took a race that wasn’t a target, raced it for other reasons, and got upset that it wasn’t my best performance ever.

Actually, let’s look at that in a little more detail…

  • Charleston: In January, the stated purpose was to practice executing a half ironman well in advance of IM Louisville to build confidence and help identify any areas I needed to work on over the summer. Additional stated purpose was to eat crabcakes. There was no time goal, thus, there weren’t many training sessions with pace targets to support a specific finish time, instead, just many target effort levels, times, and distances. About a week before the race, I estimated a finish time range of 5:45-6:45. Then, halfway through the bike leg, I decide to shoot for sub-6 hours, miss it by 3 minutes, and complain to anybody who will listen about missing that mark.
  • Columbia: In January, the stated purpose was to have fun at a local race, and race with some colleagues from up in Philadelphia. No time goal. Again, training sessions weren’t focused on hitting a goal time at this race because there really wasn’t one. Ten days before the race, I sketch out a time goal of three hours on a napkin at Starbucks, and also decide that I should try to win the overall Athena title. Finish in 3:05 with a bit of time lost to bike malfunctions, in back of the overall Athena winner but still win the 39&Under Athena and qualify for a free entry to the 5i50 U.S. Championships. Moan about collapsing on the run and continue to be angry about sub-par performance and missing the time goal that wasn’t even two weeks old.
  • Reston Lake Swims: In January, the stated purpose was to practice open water racing. I was also planning on taking the opportunity to hang out with my DCRP teammates, who I’ve been swimming with for almost seven years now. Of course, a few days before, I pull some time goals out of nowhere even though I haven’t had any training swims targeting “5k open water pace” or anything like that. Get off course during the 5k and get furious about a time that is far, far away from the imaginary time goal that I made up Monday night.
If you’re watching at home, the theme is “sign up for a race just for fun, stay focused on training for the more important races on the schedule, invent a time goal about a week before the event, and then get angry when it doesn’t happen.”


I guess that the lesson from this weekend is not that I’m out of swimming shape (though I might  be), the lesson is that if I want to add a race to my schedule beyond the 2-4 target races for the season, I have to hold myself to sticking to the stated race purpose of practicing/having fun/etc. and not get weighed down by time goals.

Anyway, the swim-tastic week in summary:

Monday: 2000 meters of very easy swimming, dedicated to post-race recovery.

Tuesday: 35 minute of glute/core strength work and stretching in the morning and a 2900 meter swim practice with DCRP in the evening.

Wednesday: 40 minutes of easy spinning on the trainer in the morning, then 4 miles of mostly easy running on the track in the evening.

Thursday: Another 35 minute session of  glute/core strength work and stretching in the afternoon, followed by 4100 meters of swimming with DCRP in the evening.

Friday: Rest day, of course partially dedicated to preparing for the three swim races over the weekend. While some people swear by a carbohydrate-heavy pasta dinner the night before an event, I know better.

And oh, was that steak good.

Saturday: A morning 5k open water swim race in 1:32:14

Sunday: This time, two open water races in the morning. First up, a two mile race in 57:02, then a one mile race in 29:47.


  1. Or admit to yourself that you will always have a goal and do workouts in the 2-4 weeks before the race that are race specific and will help you establish realistic times to shoot for. No shame in saying you are too competitive to do these races just for fun!!!

    Also, nobody who swims 3 races totaling 6 miles in 24 hours is out of swimming shape. You are still super awesome!!

  2. So you swam more than 6 miles in one weekend. Do you realize that's more than most people run in their entire life?

  3. Congrats on your races this weekend - not sure I got an actual chance to say hi on Saturday.

    I have struggled a lot with the feelings you describe above. Last season and this season, I made the decision not to race for 'fun' - every race is a race. Admitting to myself that I care has actually taken some pressure OFF in a strange way.

  4. "If you’re watching at home, the theme is “sign up for a race just for fun, stay focused on training for the more important races on the schedule, invent a time goal about a week before the event, and then get angry when it doesn’t happen.'"

    Yup. Been there, done that. It's a very hard trap to get out of. That's part of why I'm racing miles - because they're so different from what I train for, I can't really even set goals.

    1. Whoops - hit publish too soon. But yes, I agree on the importance of being able to focus on non-time goals. I'm learning that it's an important part of developing as an athlete. Eyes on the true prize, not the made up at the last minute time prize.

      And yes, steak is the PERFECT pre-race food.

  5. you are a swimming machine!

    And I complain about my finish times at every race including the "fun" races.

  6. I agree with Beth - 6 miles swimming sounds like you are in swimming shape to me.

  7. You are most definitely in swimming shape! But I'm guessing that all that biking and running you are also doing might take something away from your pure swimming speed.

    I also have a hard time not creating some type of secret time goal for races, even when they are for "fun." And am disappointed when I don't achieve them.

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