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Triathlete Blog

On Purpose

By February 28, 2009July 8th, 2015No Comments

Lately I am like a magnet for workouts straight from that list you keep in the back of your head of “swim workouts I’d never like to see.” Except I keep seeing them. And then I have to do them.

They are better off in the back of my head.

Last week: 12 x 100 IM on the 1:30.

This is a joke. Really? The 1:30? And IM? I just got to where I can finally repeat 12 x 100 on the 1:30 freestyle. And you want me to backstroke in there too? And all of this on the day when Coach Dave said I could swim in his lane? Have you ever been dropped by 25 yards in a 12 x 100 IM on the 1:30 when you are doing free and the guy dropping you is doing IM?

Wait, I’ve got a better one. You walk in to masters in the morning and you see this on the board:

4 x 1000

Just what I was hoping for.

Or how about two days later you walk in to sprint night and the coach tells you it will be mostly IM. Again. 8 x 75, 8 x 150 and at what point should I just turn around and walk right back from where I came from?

Saturday was no better. I left the house feeling like coffee couldn’t even save me that morning. My legs felt like bricks. My arms did not enjoy the overzealous let’s add weight attitude I had this week. Yet the practice itself was very cute. Most of the team was at the annual Florida swim trip while the rest of us had woken to a 19 degree morning to go swimming in our rinky dink gym 25 short course yard pool that we all decided smelled like baby wipes and tasted like chalk.

So in celebration of that (three cheers for gym pools!) the coach put together a workout called F.L.O.R.I.D.A. That would be fins, long axis, oxygen, race pace, intervals, distance and accelerations.

My favorite was fins but that only lasted 200 of the 4000 yards.

My least favorite was oxygen. I like to breathe and so this year I denounced anything in the pool that involved holding my breath.

Thinking about it my least favorite really was race pace. That involved doing a 50, 100, 50 all out race pace in the lane by ourselves. Well, there were two others with me but we had to swim the distance on our own and then take a big rest interval. So in the lane with me is my 5th grade math teacher. Is anyone else freaked out by that as much as I am? I said MY FIFTH GRADE MATH TEACHER. Excuse me, I was in the 5th grade 24 years ago. That teacher is swimming in my lane. With me. And on the 2 x 50 and 1 x 100? She mathematically kicked my ass, cubed.

Eric is also in my lane. Eric weighs something like 100 pounds but he is freaky fast. At the wall he is telling The Droo his 100 strategy and me – the savvy swimmer that really wants to be a fast savvy swimmer – listens in. Eric says they will cruise the first 50 then go BLIZZOW on the 3rd 25. Huh. Blizzow. Now I know the secret. I just need a little more blizzow followed by bunch of whiz bang. And then I will magically come in under 1:03. Guess what – I tried it and it didn’t work. Stupid swimming.

Anyways….I also wasn’t a big fan of the 2x 500 distance. That would be the first 500 where The Doctor dropped me which meant she also dropped the rest of the lane drafting behind me. The next 500 was better because it was pull with paddles which is my favorite thing in the pool. Unlucky for me The Doctor suggested I take the lead. And that led to a 500 as hard as I could go breathing as little as possible and saying to myself don’tscrewthisup… don’tscrewthisup….why? Because you if you do you may never be asked to lead again.

I liked the interval work because we were going fast and I could keep up but I should mention I didn’t like the warm up because it contained 400 reverse IM.

But overall it felt like a good hard swim. There were many moments my arms and legs and breathing did not enjoy much of it but I finished it thinking, 1 – coffee now; 2 – that was good and hard.

At masters there are many moments like that; for example the 3rd of 4 x 1000 or in the middle of anything involving butterfly or kicking no fins. These moments I hate the workout but if I separate myself from the pain, step back and get over myself I can see the purpose of it. 4 x 1000 is a great endurance set. Kicking no fins is really the only way to learn how to properly kick.

But I still haven’t figured out the point of fly just yet.

Writing workouts to please everyone is no easy task. As a coach one of the hardest things to do is writing swim workouts. Because everyone is so different in what they do and do not like. Who has paddles. Who has fins. Who can’t do fly because of a bad shoulder. Intervals. Who likes to swim in the morning. The night. Never on a weekend. Has a 20 yard pool. Has no pool. Hates the pool. Loves the pool. Loves paddles. Hates fins. And prefers not to do anything involving a side kick.

Sound familiar?

Some days I speak in swimspeak and see things only in terms of rest intervals. Distances float around in my head and I do the best to add up the math there too. Not surprisingly, it’s no secret that I have a serious deficiency in adding up swim workouts which is now coming back to bite me in the form of Training Peaks emails that say “I got bit by the bad ELF math here.”

Very funny, people. VERY FUNNY.

But you don’t understand. I write roughly….A LOT of swim workouts each week. How many times do some people swim multiplied by how many people multiplied by sometimes two weeks of schedules at a time and that’s a lot of yards! So I lose a few. A few hundred. Sometimes 500. But I have never miscalculated more than that!


But there is always a point to the swim workout no matter how short it comes up. Some of athletes have 30 x 50 next week. That doesn’t sound like much fun but there is a purpose to that. And the 3 x 900 purposeful yards for some of the IMCDA athletes. Trust me, they’ll be grateful for that.

Yes they will!

Whenever I find myself in the middle of a swim set I really don’t like or looks scary I remind myself there is a purpose to all of it. It’s not just something a coach gave us on purpose but for a purpose. The timed mile serves a purpose as does that one crazy time where we did 10 x 100 on the 3:00.

The 3:00?

Yes, when you are doing a max all out 100 there is purpose to that.

So in the week ahead at masters I will continue to search for the purpose. The purpose makes me smarter and smarter makes me faster. To a certain extent. Smart however does not help you break through to 1:03. But I’ll get there. Work my booty off with each yard and put more blizzow into my stroke. I will find the purpose and become it.

(and if that doesn’t work I will just put paddles on)

One thing is certain: no matter what will be written on the white workout board this coming week, purposeful or not, it cannot get worse than what I have seen in the past week.

But I wouldn’t put money on that.


(I just had to say it)