Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Speed Suits and my Final Ironman Swim Preparation

Michael Phelps is an amazing swimmer. There's no doubt in my mind he's the best swimmer (sprinter really, and maybe not breaststroke outside of IM) in the world when he wants to be. Had nobody been allowed to wear the new speed suits they were wearing, likely Phelps would have won all the medals, just not smashed so many records. As we see at races the last two weeks (an supposedly unfit) Phelps wearing a regular suit couldn't even compete against others in high tech suits.

Note that these suits will be banned by ALL nations next year as well as the swimming governing body FINA. The CNN Story doesn't mention this, but the AP news I found does.

I bought a Blueseventy PointZero3 suit about 3 months ago at Nytro in Encinitas. I had swam in it quite a few times, but hadn't tested it against the clock. I certainly FELT faster, but since I couldn't quantify it I adopted the wait and see. I will comment on my performance improvement in a bit....

I had 2 key workouts I performed the last 2 macrocycles when it came to swimming. I also swim 2-3 workouts a week just WU + easy 50s with a form focus and some drill. Occasionally I would do an easy 1K swim after hard workouts as well.

Long Aerobic Workout: I used the timed 100s to tell me when to add another block.

  • 1K WU. Usually 10x100 with the last 25 Back/Breast.
  • 5x500 
    • 2x200 IM Race Pace
    • 100 RP Timed.
  • Easy Cool Down

Race Simulation Workout: Simulate what it feels like to swim at my goal pace after a hectic start, and occasional bunching around buoys.

  • 1K WU. Similarly Flexible.
  • 4x25 All out + 500 RP.
  • 4x25 All out + 400 RP.
  • 4x25 All out + 300 RP.
  • 4x25 All out + 200 RP.
  • 4x25 All out + 100 RP.
  • Easy Cool Down

I felt like these workouts were effective. They made me feel mentally comfortable. I did more threshold work earlier in the season to get comfortable with my top end. At this point I was more concerned with finding the right pace for my first Ironman. I do NOT want to blow up.

I can guarantee that my protocol was not scientific. One thing I can guarantee is that I haven't swam faster in a pool in a LONG time. Today I did a 1000WU, 500 building 100s at goal race pace. This is all based on my perceived effort, but I can say that swimming 1:20 on the 5th building 100 all of a sudden felt easy. I'm 10 days into tapering, and I was wearing the speed suit, but it really seems like swimming got 10 seconds easier. I hadn't swam under 1:20 in years. Today I swam under 1:10 for the first time on an all out (max effort not compromising form) 100. I also did flip turns for this all out TT which is pretty rare for me.

I know that my form continues to evolve, and especially with my injury earlier this year I spent a lot of time focusing on my form, and the feel of my body in the water. I've also realized that I should NEVER swim so "hard" my form breaks down. At that point I don't actually go faster! Still today was also an amazing realization. I can't really separate out taper and the suit but now I KNOW that it makes me faster. My best "comfortable" swims were around 1:25 - 1:30/100. Assuming my RPE was a good gauge I got about 5seconds/100 maximum benefit. Pretty amazing. I recommend highly people check it out.

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