Swimming and longevity

Sure, this is a case of n=1, but damn, I sure hope it is more like n=1000s and 1000s.

(c) Angela Decenzo for the WSJ

From the Wall Street Journal:

At 89, Gail Roper, one of the most decorated Masters swimmers of all time, has stopped competing but can’t stay out of the pool. The former U.S. Olympian has set 325 U.S. individual records.

Great picture by Angela Decenzo!

I’m in!

I’m confirmed for Boston Light! I can’t freaking wait. I have crew too! I sent an email to the pilot, same guy who got Bridget through last year, so hopefully he’s available.

Can’t wait till the water gets up to the 50s at Revere Beach so I can get some open water practice in. August is not too far away!

First failure

Did a USRPT session again on Wednesday morning. 20×100 hitting 1:38 leaving on 2:00. Did a 500 warm up then did the set. Felt pretty good, hit the first few at 1:35 then settled into 1:36-1:37. First failure wasn’t till set #12 which I hit at 1:40.

According to the rules, I sat out the next set, so that’s a lot of rest, then I started set #13. If I had failed that one, then my USRPT workout would have been done. Two failures in a row or three total failures. So I worked really hard to not get my second failure in set #13.

And I didn’t! Kept the sets on time until set #18. Another 1:40. Another wait out, then two more sets. I was so tired by this point I didn’t care if I failed on #19 or #20. But I failed on none of them. w00t!

I’ll stick to this set until my first failure goes more over to the right. I’m still researching on whether I’m supposed to stay at this pace until I do the entire 20 without any failures, or if I can move to 1:37, say, if my first failure pushes all the way to the right to maybe set #17? I also am unsure…if I missed #12, the extra time I spent resting, did that count as #13? Should I have just counted my next one as #14?

So I did a thing

Been reading on the forums about this USRPT stuff. For the uninitiated, as I was only a week ago, this stands for Ultra-Short Race Pace Training. If I understood correctly, the theory is that you do a huge number of reps of short distances, attempting to hit a goal time and with a set period of rest.

In all my readings, it seems a very good training set for those trying to swim pool events, up to and including the 1500. Not sure how it would work for marathon swimming, but thought I’d try it. My 5K sure could use some speed in it.

I read through a webinar’s notes and came up with a workout: 20×100 with a goal time of 1:45, leaving on the 2:05. I based this on my desired 5K finish time of 1:30. What I did was take the number of minutes (90) and divide by 50 (number of 100s in a 5K). This was error #1. (I’ll get back to that.) That math came up with a time of 1:48. I thought that was too slow so settled on 1:45.

Got to the pool. Did a warm up of 300 and then set about to do this USRPT thing. In the literature on this technique, I read that you shouldn’t count any failure in the first 5 sets. This is the time to get your timing down and get in the rhythm. I knew within a couple sets that I had picked too easy a time. I came in at 1:35 for the first two, giving me way too much rest. From set 3 onwards I decided to change the workout to 1:40 on 2:00.

While swimming one of the sets, it dawn on me my math error. I divided the time by 50, to get my per 100 meter time. Problem is, I’m swimming in a yard pool! A 5K swim is way more than 5000 yards. In fact, as I learned later with the help of the Google machine, 5000 meters equals 5468 yards. So my 100 yard race pace for a 1:30 5K finish would have been 1:38. Doh!

The point of USRPT (if I understand correctly) is to not make all the sets. The point is to set a pace that is hard to maintain, and continue this workout till you’ve failed three times or failed twice in a row. The aim after that is to continually move that first failure further to the right. If your first failure the first time you did this set was on #8, then a week later #10, then #12, that means you’re getting fitter. Or so the theory goes. When you do all the sets without a failure, it is time to lower your goal time.

Well, turns out 20×100 on 1:40 was too easy for me. As I got into the zone, I started hitting the wall at 1:37 to 1:39. The occasional 1:36, but never a 1:40. I certainly picked the wrong time. The next time I do this USRPT thing (next week?), I think I’ll try the same workout but goal of 1:38 leaving on 2:00. Not quite sure what to do if I complete that workout with only one or two failures; I might have to check out the USRPT forums for the answer to that. Continue that until I have one or zero failures before changing the time? Unsure.

Nearest body of water infested with patriotic symbols

A few dear reader(s) know that when I first saw our current rental home, I got terribly excited about the body of water it sat on. I pulled my phone out and immediately did some mensuration with Google maps, to discover that I could easily swim some kilometer loops, then exit in my backyard, rinse off at the spigot, and march into the house, never once getting in a car or paying a pool membership.

We must get this house, was my primary thought.

Sure, landlubbers would of course answer in the negative when I ask if I can swim in the lake. “OMG, no, gross.” Expected. Most of these people can’t imagine swimming in most bodies of water, or what they call swimming is merely dipping. I brushed off those warnings and posed my question to the tried-and-true scientific community that is Google.

Well, not really. I’m lucky that I know a great many people in the swim world, and that includes the swim world that is Boston Open Water community. I posed the question to this wonderful group and immediately got a response from one of my favorite people and incredible marathon swimmers: Bad news. Ell Pond is not clean enough for humans.

But that’s not to say that the Pond isn’t suitable for other living things.

Saturday morning I was out with my geriatric dog doing the slow-march around said Pond when what did I spy with my little eye? Two adolescent bald eagles sitting on the frozen water.

(c) Matt Bourque

What you see above are two adolescent bald eagles on the carcass of a Canadian goose that got frozen in the Pond. The eagles remained on the goose for at least an hour, at least for as long as I was watching.

(c) Matt Bourgue

These eagles were the highlight of my weekend. About a week ago I’d seen a red hawk on a tree in the neighbor’s backyard. But, a symbol of America right there in my hoped-for outdoor swimming pool? Priceless!

(c) Matt Bourque
Thanks to Matt Bourque for his kind permission to use his beautiful photographs!

2019 season

Trying to figure out my 2019 season, while balancing financial and familial responsibilities with swimming desires. Oh to be independently wealthy. I’d do a lot more swim-travel.

Anyway, I’m a shoe in for Boston Light, since I volunteered last year I get to skip the lottery. So that’s in stone. I’m going to sit at my computer on 1 Feb with credit card and everything else needed to register for Swim the Suck, so hopefully I get in there. So there’s two marathon swims on sked. But what else?

I can’t afford, both in time and $$$, any 8 Bridges stages, despite wanting desperately to attempt one or two of them. I’d also love to do the other two of the Tennessee River Triple.

But there are a few other swims here. The two I did in Salem last year I will definitely do again. Those two were pretty well-organized and oh so close. I’m looking forward to swimming them again. Plus this year will be the inaugural Frogman swim on 2 June here in Boston. I’m looking to volunteer in that one. And the Doty Mile is mid-June. Definitely gonna do that one; good opportunity to get used to the water I’ll be swimming in for BLS.

Cedar Island 5K, which I did back in 2012, may be on the radar again this year. The benefit of this swim is it is close to my dad’s house, so can combine that swim with a family visit. Registration for that swim opens 1 March, so we’ll see if I get in to that one. It IS a six-hour drive there, so that sucks. But again, I’d get to see my dad and family, so that makes it worth it.

But besides that, unsure what else. There are some others within a couple hours drive of Boston, so perhaps so other shorter ones? Two miles or 5k?  We’ll see.

How’s your 2019 season shaping up, dear reader(s)?

[Edited to add Doty Mile]

Merry Christmas to all!

Can’t believe the time has flown so quickly. Pictures from past holidays have been popping up on my social media sites. Damn, a lot has happened in only a year.

Here’s wishing my dear reader(s) a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Years. I hope your new year is filled with the swimmingest times and friends, and I hope the New Years Resolutionists crowd your lane for the minimum amount of time in the new year.  Looking forward to getting back in open water soonest!

Swimming with a team is how you get fast

When my dear reader(s) last checked in, I told them how I found a team, the Reading Masters housed in the Burbank YMCA in Reading, Mass. I’ve made every practice this month and must say I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, even the ones that required me to wake up at 6:15 am on a Saturday morning.

The 8-lane pool at Burbank Y

I’ve not had much luck getting faster in the last few years. I’ve been self-coaching, kidding myself that I could get fast all by myself. Yet, despite my efforts, I would still average 1:45-1:50 per 100, even when I sprinted.

But it is hard to insist on that slow an interval for 10 x 100 when the lane next to you is doing their 100s on 1:30. Alas, I managed the first 100 in 1:23, something I hadn’t seen in years. And then managed to maintain 1:32-1:33 for the remaining nine 100s. Couldn’t believe it.

And then yesterday I was alone with one other swimmer. Our main set was 2 x 300, 2 x 200, 2 x 100, 2 x 50 then back up. All descend. I thought our interval for the 300 was 5:15. Unfortunately, as I breathlessly came to the wall after the first 300, she left on the second, and I realized we were doing them on 4:30. Yikes! After those two were done, I realized that meant that I did each 100 of that 300 in just under 1:30. Yay me!

The speediness continued. All the 100s were on a 1:30 and I got 3-4 seconds rest each time. Unbelievable. Never thought I’d get back to those times.

And this is only because of the team. There’s nothing better to increase your speed than having someone on your toes or to have someone ahead of you to chase. So glad I found Reading Masters!

29 Years Have Flown By

Can’t believe it’s been 29 years since the night The Wall fell.

29 years ago today I was standing at Brandenburg Gate with three of my friends, feeling the history in our bones. Watching the East Berlin police shoot water canons at Germans sitting atop The Wall. Trying to read Tom Brokaw’s teleprompter.

Berlin’s where I first started swimming laps. There was a very nice SCM pool on one of the Army kaserns. I swam with one of my colleagues. Our goal each time was to complete one kilometer. We started out swimming a length, taking 10 to 15 seconds rest, then swimming another length. Before long, we skipped the rest on the “far end” and did laps. Then the rest dropped down in time to 5 to 10 seconds. One day I went by myself and thought, I’ll just swim the whole 20 laps without rest. And I did. It was amazing! Couldn’t believe it.

Great memories!

Found a team!

Swam with a team last night for the first time in a long time (2014?). The team is Reading Masters, hosted by the Burbank YMCA in Reading, Mass.

I’ve been here since July and my dear reader(s) are probably wondering: Why did it take you so long to join a team, Iron Mike? Well, this is Massachusetts. Apparently here masters swimmers can only meet and swim together at 5 am. And I’m not a morning person. I looked around before and after I moved here for a team, and found several, but all of them meet mornings, at either 5 or 6 am. Just too damn early for me. I simply couldn’t find a team that meets nights. Until now.

No idea how I missed Reading Masters. They swim Tuesdays and Thursdays 8:15-9:30 pm. Sure, that’s late. But that’s okay for me. My boss is great: As long as I do my hours, she doesn’t really care when I show up. So last night being the first time I’ve swum with Reading, I came in this morning an hour later than usual. No biggie.

Anyway, besides the weeknight swims, Reading Masters also swims Saturday mornings, 7:00 to 8:30. Wunderbar! That’s four hours of swimming per week with someone else deciding what we’ll do. I can just sit back and do what I’m told.

And with that, last night…holy crap. It’s been a while. The main set was 4 x {4 x 75} on 1:15, 1:10, 1:05, 1:00. So yeah, I kept up through the first set and got 4 or 5 seconds rest. But then after the first 75 of the second set, uh, no. Thankfully, the guy I was sharing a lane with had no problem splitting the lane instead of trying to continue circle swimming. I tried to keep up as best I could; I skipped 50 of one of the 75s just so I wouldn’t be so far behind.

The final was 16 x 25 in IM order on :45, which after the first “IM” turned into :40, then :35 after the second IM. Damn fast. This was followed by 16 x 25 free on :30. More doable. But jeez, what a (great) workout! 3400 total in the end, after the warm-up, pre-set, and cool down.

So nice being back!

All I am is a body adrift in water, salt & sky