1/04/03 – 10,300 breaststroke set

Well, many of you will find this post a little tough to swallow, but… here goes.

The group that I swim with has one goal each year, the Bay Swim. This is a 4.4 mile swim across the Chesapeak Bay. Even though I’m not much of an open water swimmer, I’ve decided I’m going to do it with them. They’re a great group of people, and I don’t want to make anybody mad!

Anyway, to remind everyone what the group is about, one of the first practices each year is a LONG set of 100’s. This is very common with teams across the country, so it wasn’t any surprise when I heard about it.

The set was 103 x 100. The 103 to celebrate the 3rd year of this new millenium. The intervals were pretty easy 1:40, 1:50 and 2:00, so I decided I’d start out breaststroke and see how I felt. Take some time to really work on my stroke.

Well… 103 100’s later, I was still doing breaststroke. So, in other words, from the first lap of warm up, to the final lap of swim down, I did 10,300 yards of breaststroke.

Actually, it was interesting to see the things that go wrong with the stroke, and there were so many other little things to think about.

My first goal in this was to limit my push-offs. I have this desire to travel as far as possible off my walls, so I really work my push offs. I knew there were going to be too many of them, and I’d get some pretty bad cramping if I worked them too early in the set. My solution was to turn with almost a straight arm position, making sure my body was farther away from the wall when I did push off, which didn’t allow me to give as much power to the legs. Think of it as a half squat rather than a full squat.

I still wanted to travel as far as possible on each turn, so I wouldn’t have to swim so far, so I really worked the pull-down, and shrugging my shoulders during this phase of the underwater pull. I put more emphasis on the pull, and rode this position longer than I usually do.

Then a small kick to the surface for the first stroke.

During the swimming, I was fairly consistant the entire way. 5 strokes per lap, and the time’s were somewhere around 1:22 to 1:27 depending on who was in front or behind me. I’d need to adjust how wide the pull went actually based on people around me, and the waves being created. There was a great turn out for this even, so I was actually trying to go last in the lane, with 7 people in there. This gave me smooth water on the last lap, and made it easier NOT to kick anybody.

Now, speaking of the kick. The first question I’ve already heard is… how are your knees. No trouble at all. By adjusting how the kick is done, there is very little work done by the legs on this. In fact, my calves still are sore and my knees never hurt at all, and this is two days later.

I focused on almost EVERY kick, since I really didn’t want to hurt myself, on keeping the kick very narrow. I also tried to make sure that I didn’t have too big of a kick, which means not puling the legs up too high in the recovery. This entire set, when thinking legs, was about conservation. Using them as little as possible, and trusting in the movement of the body to draw the legs up, and in a more dolphin movement, flip them back.

Long story short (too late), it was great to finish it. We had a wonderful lunch afterwards, and met more of the group.

I’ll look forward to doing this again next year, and hopefully I’ll be in better shape, and focus on speed!