Race 2 lengths of the pool? Now you're a Masters Swimmer!
2.4 miles has been the norm for my competitive swimming in ironman competitions, but lately I have focused on sprint distances (like 2 lengths!) with the US Masters swim program at the DADS club in Houston.
In April 2022 I raced at the Spring Nationals in San Antonio, competing in the 50 and 100 yard freestyle events, achieving a PR in the 50 and enjoying the camaraderie of all my fellow geezers.
Former Olympians went like sharks in the top seeded races, while regular humans competed for fun and excitement in the lower places.
Which brings me to the coaching insights that are valuable from all this:
1. Focus on one discipline at a time to achieve a breakthrough in performance. My cycling and running have taken a back seat while I trained for nationals, but this has resulted in a step change in my swimming ability.
2. Technique is king in swimming. Distance and repetition will add fitness, but swimming speed is all about achieving a streamline shape and reducing water resistance to forward movement. A brief review with the coaches at Dads club added a few key adjustments in my swim technique.
3. One of the big changes for me was adopting a tight flutter kick, rather than a big wide leg movement that acted as a brake in the water. This is a typical flaw of triathletes who adopt a big circular kick, like a running or cycling action.
4. Adding racing starts from the blocks and a tight, fast tumble turn were race specific adjustments that are not essential for triathletes, but which contributed to significant time gains for me.
My best swimming is still in front of me as my technique improves and I can focus on different distances and strokes. The same can’t be said of biking and running, where an inevitable reduction in power and pace with aging is difficult to reverse with technique alone.