I swam 60 minutes continuously today, along the sea cliffs. Same spot as last time, but I began westward this time and it was a more enjoyable route, with less tourist boat traffic. I started at 8:20. Weather was sunny, hot. The sea is getting warm, maybe 29 degrees today. It was a relief to swim through some of the cool-fresh water spreading on the surface from underground rivers that spill into the sea along the cliffs here.
Same pattern today as last time…
10 minute warmup
Then [10x 250 strokes] with Tempo Trainer. Starting on 1.20 and descending .02 per repeart, which brought me down to 1.02 on the last one. Each 250 strokes is roughly 5 minutes or less.
I’m working my way down to .95 tempo which would be a really nice tempo for sprint moments in a distance race, even for a sprint distance race. These long swims with extended, uninterrupted tempo increases really allows my body to adapt to a faster SR much easier than in the pool with flip-turn interruptions every 22 seconds. Where as in the pool I was struggling to feel comfortable at tempos below 1.10, I am swimming quite comfortably at at 1.02 at the end of a 1-hour continuous swim of increasing tempos!
In addition to the uninterrupted lengths, I am doing longer lengths each tempo mark and speeding it up by smaller increments. This gives my neuro-muscular system an easier time making the adaptions so the workout is actually building the pathways for sustaining higher SR rather than just building up lactic acid tolerance. It seems slower and less effective at first than just ‘cranking’ but I understand better now how this will help me excel much further in speed and distance ability in the long run.
At about the 20′ minute mark I began to be concerned about my left shoulder irritation. Is it just a muscle strain, or the beginning of some sort of inner joint inflammation? I am not sure, because I cannot pinpoint the actual ache spot. So I turned back at 26′ so I would be getting closer to my finish point if it should get worse and I needed to breaststroke it back, or if it became ok then I could just swim past awhile and make up the full target time- which is what I ended up doing. I continued to increase tempo per plan and the soreness leveled out then subsided to barely noticable by the end. Either it was covered up by endorphins or I adapted to it somehow.
By holding each tempo repeat over 250 strokes (about 5 minutes) continuously, and increasingly by small increments each repeat (only .02) I was able to keep the smooth, comfortable feeling all the way through the entire 60 minutes, even down to 1.02 tempo. My breathing was comfortable as well- I had more than enough oxygen keeping the 3-stroke breathing pattern. At the end I was really flying but felt like swimming on further. I quit anyway, having to give lessons 15 minutes later and not wanting to overdo it on this shoulder until I figure out what is causing the irritation and work it out. It felt fragile but not inflamed.
So what is my limiting factor to more speed right now?
I still need to expand my comfortable SR range to .95 at least. I can do that by continuing these kind of TT sets.
I would say I also need to work on improving my grab, making it more solid, more inclusive of the entire forearm, which means improving the high elbow vertical arm pull. And this will engage the shoulder muscles more as well, but what I need to develop carefully is the ‘holding’ strength of those muscles, not the ‘cranking-faster’ strength- a subtle but important difference. Change the focus from ‘pulling water back’ to ‘holding water and sliding past’ is a very important distinction and dramatically changes one’s experience in the water.
Any anxiety today?
I also chose a path further off the cliffs so I could avoid the visual distractions of the rocky, precipitous seabed below and remain in deep, featureless blue water. It reduced my anxiety suitably. I’ve also found that after the first time a route does not produce so much anxiety anymore- familiarity alone is a big comfort and I don’t feel surprised- the features below actually become part of the markers by which I chart my course.
I was pleasantly surprised once in a while by a school of fish passing below as well- sometimes they would come under me and then seemingly turn and swim along. Lacking any larger predators by day they don’t seem to regard me as a threat and fortunately the cute little things don’t feel like an irrational threat to me either.
I feel great peace when I am out there alone in the water, immersed in the Big Blue. I wish peace could be achieved so easily in all the other areas of my land-locked life. However, it’s nice to have this water-retreat a few times a week.