Change is good

After years of a set weekly routine I have made a pretty big change and as equally important something I have put off for a long time because of work schedules, but I took the plunge. I have moved gyms (swimming pools). I am now swimming out of the Basingstoke Sports Centre.


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Red Misted

I hit the Red Mist set again for this mornings session, after the earlier interval session this week. While I don’t want to make a log of the blog for the sake of completion and interest below is the follow up session from last week see . I moved the Critical Swim Speed (CSS) down to 1’36 (down one second from last week as planned).

The results are:

Set CSS Target Ashley Time
1 CSS + 6 secs 6’48 6’48
2 CSS + 6 secs 6’48 6’44
3 CSS + 6 secs 6’48 6’48
4 CSS + 6 secs 6’48 6’51
5 CSS + 5 secs 6’44 6’43
6 CSS + 5 secs 6’44 6’39
7 CSS + 5 secs 6’44 6’49*
8 CSS + 4 secs 6’40 6’31
9 CSS + 4 secs 6’40 6’40
10 CSS + 3 secs 6’36 6’33

* Lane traffic
As you the reader can see, for the most part within the target times. Perhaps a little fast at times, certainly well within targets. However this did not feel like the 8-out-of-10 session that it ought to. So I will leave the CSS at 1’36 for the next Red Mist session.

Again I highly recommend structuring swim sessions around your own personal CSS and ignoring arbitrary goal times for sets.

Red Mist Set

Today I followed the twist on the tried and tested, bread and butter 10 X 400m session that I normally follow once a week on a Tuesday or Thursday. Alternated with either a 20 X 200m or 40 X 100m session on the other.

For those of you not familiar with SwimSmooth see I wholeheartedly agree with their common sense approach to swimming and ethos. (No mindless kickboard, kicking up and down the lane)

Essentially the swim smooth ‘Red Mist’ set follows your Critical Swim Speed (CSS) with a buffer that is decremented as the session evolves through 400m sets with a 20 or so second rest interval (RI).

While typically I refrain from over manually documenting or logging sessions the output from this mornings efforts are documented below. I worked with a CSS of 1’37 today as below.

Set CSS Target Actual
1 CSS + 6 secs 6’52 6’44
2 CSS + 6 secs 6’52 6’48
3 CSS + 6 secs 6’52 6’50
4 CSS + 6 secs 6’52 6’52
5 CSS + 5 secs 6’48 6’46
6 CSS + 5 secs 6’48 6’54*
7 CSS + 5 secs 6’48 6’36
8 CSS + 4 secs 6’44 6’43
9 CSS + 4 secs 6’44 6’33
10 CSS + 3 secs 6’40 6’40

* Lane traffic

My impressions are this is a great session, the swimsmooth team say this should be an 8 -out-of-10 effort session and not completely wipe you out. Today’s session was certainly very tolerable for me. Although I think I have underestimated my CSS. Initially I planned to resist the temptation to tamper with the CSS, and instead do the same session again next week. But I think I will move the CSS down to 1’36 since there were several sets in this morning’s session that were well below the target time. This is obviously positive, but however counter to the session which is a paced, build-up. This did feel beneficial and more disciplined compared to my normal some hot some not style of pacing sets over the typical 10 X 400m session.

I would like to get the pacing right next time and move towards that ‘Red Mist’ so will probably move down to the 1’36 CSS.

Queensford Lake Relay

Martins Race report.. what a cracking time!

Following Ashley’s enormous enthusiasm to have club representation at the event and numerous iterations of team types and team members the “final” team was confirmed last week:

Ashley Walton, Ian Stewart, Nick Alvis and Martin Harris.

The plan was to take part in both the relay event (consisting of a notional 1km lap completed by each member in turn who hand over a wrist band to the next team member within the allocated change over area) AND the “team pursuit” which was based around the same lap but this time with all team members swimming together with the team time taken as being the time of the last team member to swim under the finish bridge.

In light of the lack of mutual knowledge regarding other members abilities and experience it was agreed that on open water event specific preparation session would be in order, so the team met at Reading lake the Thursday prior to the event to familiarize themselves with the “team time trial” swimming concept and to formulate a plan for the optimal relay order and swim formation in order to achieve the fastest team swim.

Formations tested were: four in line, in the style of track cycling.

A lozenge pattern with a lead swimmer with two flanking swimmers at hip distance and the  “protected” swimmer directly behind the leader and on the hips of the two “flankers”.

But the configuration that proved most successful was a parallelogram shape with a lead swimmer, a second row swimmer at hip level to the leader, the third swimmer on the feet of the leader and hip level to the second row swimmer and the final member on the feet of the second row swimmer and hips of the third. This pattern allowed for easier sighting within the team to keep the shape intact and provide maximum draft for the final swimmer.

The order for the relay swim was roughly agreed at this point in so far as Ian, as the fastest swimmer, would go last and therefore get less recovery time before the team pursuit. Nick agreed to go as first swimmer so Ashley went second with Martin third.

The weather forecast for race day was not optimistic, ironically following a gloriously sunny Saturday! Undeterred the team set off in the team bus (or more accurately Teutonic black saloon) and had motivational conversations until arriving in good time at the venue to be greeted with grey skies, grey water and the feeling that summer was well and truly over. Water temperature a bracing 17 degrees.

The venue had plenty of parking close to the lake, the course was easily navigable and the event HQ (lakeside hut) hosted registration and provision for hot and cold drinks and bacon, sausages and egg sandwiches, cake and confectionary bars for those in need. In addition two changing and toilet cabins provided additional shelter.

The course consisted of a start line and finish line separated by 20 or 30 metres and this area would be the in water change over area during the relay. A first turn buoy was at about 50m from the start and was approximately a 90 degree left turn, then about 200m to the next left turn buoy, a “back straight” of about 500m before the final left turn and about 250 metres to the finish bridge which was equipped with transducers to log the passing of timing chips which were attached to each swimmer’s cap.

Nick took the lead leg and posted a very creditable 12:17 to arrive back at the finish bridge and searched for Ashley in the change-over area and handed the band in 5th place to Ashley who posted 14:19 (including changeover) and passed the band to Martin in 8thposition. Martin (ensured his stopwatch had started before commencing his swim!) managed to claw back 2 places posting 13:15 including changeover and passed the band to Ian who stormed a 12:40 including changeover and almost managed to catch 5th and 4thplaced swimmers, another 50 metres and he would probably have claimed the 4th place.

As the weather conditions turning more autumnal the organisers very sensibly decided that it was not desirable to have wet athletes standing around getting colder by the minute they would start the team pursuit event earlier than scheduled. Basingstoke Tri squad were the first team name out of the hat some were first to set off on the 4 man team loop, followed at 30 second intervals by the rest of the pursuit teams. The team started steadily with Ian leading, Martin swimming to the left of Ian’s hip, Nick directly behind Ian and to the right of Martin’s hip and Ashley directly behind Martin and to the left of Nick’s hip. The held formation well around the first two buoys and the pace was increased along the back straight and around the third buoy with a further increase in pace as the finish came closer and a shout from Martin for a sprint for the last hundred metres or so. All four team members finished within a few metres of each other having successfully held off any challenge of overtaking from faster teams behind. The team time of 14.01 put them in fifth place which by consensus was a very creditable performance considering this was only the second time the team had swum as a unit.

Despite the autumnal conditions spirits were high amongst the assembled athletes and there seemed to be widespread approval of the event in general.

This event could be a fun end of season team event and the team pursuit in particular brings a different dynamic to what is ostensibly an individual sport (swimming).

Martin Harris.


Super Swim Series Race 2

A little belatedly I decided to enter this past Saturday’s SSS race 2. It is an event I have always enjoyed in the past, being a race with a relaxed feel. Added to that this year the race was for national UK rankings. Considering my recent strength in the open water and improving times I decided to enter.

Ofcourse I realised the event was now likely to attract fast swimmers, as proved to be the case. With my busy race calendar this was unfortunately a key focus so I will wonder how much more I can improve my times with taper resting etc.

The race day itself was perfect, with us arriving a little earlier than we would normally at Bray lake. Because of Olympic events being held at nearby Dorney lake.

For the swim start I broke with tradition and placed myself on the near right towards the front of pack. Taking advantage of the treading start I even warmed up a little. No nervousness anymore it seems.

The pace after setting off was aggressive and remained that way throughout the race. The first corner was an intense melee though thankfully the numbers had thinned by then. A very definte difference to the lax pace I normally encounter. These people meant business, and so did the bozo that crossed across my path from nowhere and connected me hard on the left side of my face. No matter I burnt him off after the first lap but still have a clue next time bozo!

I laid down good pace during the swim, I could tell this from the way the laps ticked down very quickly. Four laps were up on no time, but was lap three too slow? Anyways at the finish I swam past the swim exit. I was crestfallen when I saw what I had done. An extra 20 metres swam and now I floundered on the lake bank stunning one of my toes that later was to turn a magnificent swollen purple.

At any rate I recaptured the actual swim finish and emerged after loosing I would estimate 3 (4?) places taking me out of the top twenty to twenty fourth! I was self-incensed although my daughter’s mirth at my expense did lighten my mood somewhat.

Although my loyal supporters were wanting a win or top finish considering the level of competition I am fairly pleased with myself. In fact I may look into the next race in the SSS. But I have a niggly feeling that I am fully booked 🙂

Big Fish 3800m Race Report

Where: Reading Lake
When: 27 May 2012 – 8.00am Start
Organiser: Tri20
Distance: 3800m swim
Technical: some guy on the jetty shouts your time (online publication)
Freebies: Finishers medal bling

In brief: A very well organised event, friendly experienced staff. Good open water, no complaints at all.

I have been in two minds as to write a race report for Sundays, Big Fish 3800m, that I took part in at the Reading Lake. For two reasons the effort I put in feels below my best and secondly my preparation was zero. Thankfully the friendly atmosphere of the Reading Lake makes this a none-issue.

My participation was decided over beer(s) on the hot Saturday night before, and my anticipation confined to the minutes leading up to the siren start only. I was certainly blaise, but the 3800m distance was a bit less than the training distance I would normally aspire for on a Sunday morning. I had already been looking forward to swimming in the lake all week (not necessarily racing) as the mercury soared to welcome heights keeping the water temperature a very pleasant 19.7.C.

Lining up at start I had hoped to see one or two known faces sadly none in sight (did see tri member later). Additionally I had decided to give my clan of loyal supporters (wife Susan, and the girls) the morning off since I was just there to enjoy the swim. To this my plan evolved, keep away from the energetic serious swimmy looking lot in my wave and enjoy a training swim. The £20 entry allowed for this indolent attitude.

After the siren blared and the white water had settled down, and my usual insufferable navigation skills were warmed up to their best I found myself trailing a pack of my wave by a 100 meters or so after three laps of five, luckily a fair number of the remainder of the wave was still behind me. At this point I thought well, why not? And put some more concerted effort into the swim. Unfortunately I had left it far too late and came in seventh on 1h05 which was far from stellar!

But a lesson to be drawn, if I were taking things more seriously I would have been more agressive at the beginning of the race which perhaps would have made me more competitive. An important fact to bear in mind on real race days don’t blow out at the start, but don’t sit back too long either. Also keep up practising navigation and make straight lines between those buoys!