Every year, at the beginning of the triathlon season, the lovely Jen has me do a swim speed test. It's a great way to gauge where I stand with my swim fitness and the progress I've made over the past few years. Granted, I'm not usually thinking these positive thoughts during the swim test itself because I usually feel like my arms might fall off.
Today's swim test was the fourth one I've done since 2010. Swimming has almost always been my weakest of the three sports (except in those instances where I completely implode on the run) and I'm always thrilled with any progress I make, even if it's small. And I know that even now, even with the improvements I've made over the past few years, my times still aren't super fast. But if I keep doing what Dory says from Finding Nemo - just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming - perhaps one day I will be a super fast swimmer. For now, though, I'm just going to celebrate the small victories.
The swim test always consists of 10x100 max effort with exactly ten seconds rest in between each interval. Take the total time, subtract out the rest intervals, and you get your average pace. It's a fine line, that balance between the max effort that is sustainable and the max effort that pushes you over the edge and you fall apart. It's taken me four swim tests to find that balance. I did my first swim test back in January 2010 and I knew I typically swam 100yds in the 1:40-1:45 range, so I was thrilled to figure out that my average speed for my swim test was 1:38/100yds. Ten months later I did another swim test, dropping my average down to 1:31/100yds. In January 2012 I did another swim test, squeaking in at an average of 1:28/100yds. And then during today's swim test, I managed an average of 1:26/100yds. Two seconds doesn't sound like much improvement over a year, but in looking back at my notes for all of my previous swim tests, I recorded that my swim form went to heck by the end and I struggled to finish. Today I didn't have those struggles. I didn't feel great on intervals 2-4, but when I hit the halfway point, I hit my stride, my form didn't fall apart and I didn't lose a ton of speed between my 1st and my 10th interval. I think that is an even bigger victory than the two second improvement over my last swim test. I think that swimming at least 3 times a week has helped, I do drill work and sets that focus on form nearly every practice. I believe that learning how to do the IM strokes has helped too. It doesn't hurt that the swim workouts I do are far from boring and I almost always look forward to getting in the pool.