Thursday, December 5, 2013

Group Swim Training & Lessons Learned


This was week one of a three-week pilot program at the Blacksburg Aquatic Center, my local pool, for Swim Training for the Competitive Athlete. This was borne of a chance conversation at the local bike shop, East Coasters, among me, Taylor Jennings (speedy collegiate triathlete), and Anne Jones, head coach for TriAdventure. We agreed there was a need for a fairly rigorous adult coached swim program (whether Master's Swim related or not) at our local pool. And I was ready for an off-season change-up, and to train with others, after a long race season of primarily training solo (by choice).

We met with Lynne Krulich, the Aquatic Supervisor for the town, and Tom Williams, a former swimmer at the University of Tennessee, and past assistant coach for U of T and Virginia Tech. (I did my snooping and Tom has one of the all-time top-10 200m breaststroke times for the school and he was a team captain in 1998.) We settled on a three-week test run, two practices each week, and Tom agreed to coach.

On Tuesday at 6:30 am I showed up at the pool not really knowing what to expect. Tom directed us, and off we went, circle swimming, going through a warm up, then doing a variety of intervals and sets for him to get a sense of our capabilities. We had two lanes going, each with a slightly different focus.

I have some things to learn about group swimming. One would be anticipating approaching swimmers and "trimming my sails" as they pass by (sorry everyone!), and another would be learning if and how and when to pass or be passed.

In addition, I need to work on my listening/comprehension skills. I am accustomed to written, printed workouts, encased in a ziploc bag, that I can refer to over and over in an OCD way. Imagine my surprise when Tom says,
"Now we'll do two ladders: 150, 75, 50, and 25 on the 2:00, 1:30, 1:15, and __ (I forget)" That will be 150 swim, 75 as 50 kick and 25 swim, then a 50 drill, and 25 fast."
I'm like....WHAT?? WHAT?? You lost me at 75! I'm really supposed to remember that?! My brain was not ready for such a long string of instructions, especially not that early in the morning. But I caught on and got it (more or less).

Well, today I was READY when he came at us with instructions for a 9 x 75 with each set of three as a different combo of drill, kick, swim, and build. I listened and after he repeated it one more time (at my request) I had it securely stuffed into my neural network.

Included in today's workout was a 500m benchmark time trial and 6 x 100 that gave Tom a chance to figure out our paces and assess our technique. He showed me how finish my stroke more completely and I received the poolside thumbs-up for making the change. I'd have returned the gesture, but my triceps were burning from their new job.

Despite my tendencies toward solo swim, bike, and run, I really REALLY enjoyed the group swim!! It felt focused, and workmanlike, but still fun. Knowing I was part of a group, and seeing from the others how much faster I could be, was really motivating. I hope this program will continue on.

Eric, Taylor, Jim and Rebecca (who swam for Princeton!)

Yours truly

Coach Tom Williams


Thanks Anne Jones of TriAdventure for the photos,
Lynne and the BAC for hosting, and Tom for coaching!