One Hour Swim

My mission to “swim like a swimmer” took a big step forward yesterday. I competed in my first swimming national championship, the 2012 USMS Speedo One Hour Postal National Championship. Any national championship with that long of a name can’t be a legit national championship. And you are right. Sorta. Let’s break this down.

  • USMS as in US Masters Swimming. Basically if you aren’t competing as a swimmer as an age grouper, high schooler, collegiate or elite, you are probably swimming Masters.
  • Speedo as in the brand, not necessarily the brief-style swimsuit.
  • One Hour as in swim as far as you can in one hour.
  • Postal National Championship as in mail in your results to USMS and see where you and your swim club stack up (hence the “sorta”).

Anyway, like I said, I made my attempt at swimming an hour straight yesterday. While I frequently swim 90 minute workouts, rarely do we do more than a few minutes at a time (and never more than about 15 minutes). From a runner’s perspective, this seems strange, since very little of our training is done in small increments. Since this is how the rest of the swimming world trains, I don’t question and blindly accept it as truth (as every good athlete should).

After a short warm up, I got going at 6:35 am at NAU’s Wall Aquatic Center (which sits at ~7,000 feet and seems to be perpetually set up as Long Course Meters). I was sharing the lane with two other guys that were also doing the one hour swim, and they started just behind me. I knew I could hold 1:30’s, which would come out to 4km, so I thought I should start there and progress. I came through the first couple hundred just under that pace. I felt comfortable so I just let it flow. My first 1km split was 14:20 (1:26 average), which surprised me. I got a little excited and sped up the next 1km with a 14:12 split (1:25.2 average).

The old question “is the glass half full or half empty” rules every endurance athletes psyche during a race or hard effort. I am sure of it. If you are feeling good, the glass is half full; I’m already halfway! If you are feeling bad, or perhaps you are running a 10k on the track (in which case you are doomed before the gun goes off), the glass is almost always half empty; there’s no way I can hang on that much longer! Yesterday was a glass half full kind of day. As I passed the 30 minute mark I pressed a little harder. 3rd split in 14:10 (1:25 average). Right around 2 miles in, ~3200m, I started to feel the burn. My shoulders were getting tired of course, but more than anything, my forearms were hurting. With each length of the pool it was getting harder to keep a good catch going. I was pleasantly surprised to see the 4th split at 13:58 (<1:24 average). From there it was everything I had left. I tried to swim the final 250m in 3:20 (1:20 pace) but came up just a bit short.

I finished up with 4240m which equals 4637 yards. (For my nonswimmer readers: If I had actually swam in a short course yards pool, I probably would have been even further as there would have been more than twice as many turns, which are almost always faster.)

I’m really happy with where I finished up. A one hour Ironman swim is a benchmark for a decent swimmer, and I beat that by almost 400m (3862m). Swimming continues to go in the right direction, which is all I can ask for. I know I won’t be putting the hurt on anyone this season in the swim, but with all the work I have been doing in the pool, I think I will be able to swim well enough that I will be around later in the race to put the hurt on during the run.

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