Saturday, May 3, 2008

my first masters swim workout

I finally took the next step in my swimming skills development and joined the PCA Masters Swim Team here in Redwood City. I've got my US Masters Swim number and everything. Yup, I'm legit.

My primary motivation for joining the masters program is to increase my swim endurance as I prepare to do the Swim from Alcatraz in September. I know a side benefit of this training will be that I'll do better in the swim portion of my triathlons (lots of room for improvement on that front). And finally, now that I'm getting into longer distances in my workouts, it's just more convenient to do it with the masters than trying to squeeze it in around the masters workout sessions at the pool.

Still, I've never participated in a grow swim workout, so this morning I was a little anxious about getting in the water and revealing my shaky swim skills.

Lucky for me, my swim coach I've been taking lessons from (Tom) was the guest coach for the masters this morning, and my slow-lane companions (Kathleen, Mark and Dorothy) were very kind and patient in helping me make it through.

The swim session was a 75 minute session with the first fifteen minutes a low-key warm up.

Tom called us all to one end of the pool and revealed the first session of our workout: a combination of 25m kick - 100m stroke - 25m kick across four different strokes (butterfly/free, back, breast, free).

Since I don't know butterfly, I did freestyle the first leg.
The second leg taught me I don't know how to do the backstroke as well as I'd hoped (and was a comedy of me bumping into the sides of the lane).
The third and final legs were actually pretty good and before I knew it, I'd already completed 800m of swimming (including the warm up).

Then Tom turned the whiteboard around to reveal the main workout session, a ladder of freestyle distances up and down with a 30 second break in the middle:
  • focus on flipping your hips: 25m, 50m, 75m, 100m, 125m, 150m, 175m, 200m
  • (30 second rest)
  • focus on increasing your hip flip rate: 200m, 150m, 100m, 50m
Cripes... that's 900m even before the "rest" stop, and another 500m after that. Add on the 800m I'd already done, and I was venturing into swimming endurance territory I'd never even dreamed of.

About half way up the ladder, I was struggling, and Tom saw it. He gave me a tip on improving my form (I was crossing over my body on my arm stroke) and when I applied the tip, I could feel the water moving faster around me. Had I been on a solo workout, I would've kept doing the wrong form. This is a nice benefit to the group thing!

In the weeks leading up to my joining the masters, Tom had warned me not to try to do the whole masters workout the first couple times, as they were pretty rugged.

He didn't have to worry. On the last lap of my 175m leg on the way up, both my calves cramped up something awful and I had to get out of the pool to stretch them out.

I took the cramping as as sign I'd done enough for my first time out and called it a day. Still, I'd swum further than ever before in this workout, a total of 1,500 meters.

Glad I took this step, I can tell it's going to do me worlds of good. (I can't wait to get my US Masters Swim membership card in the mail!)

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