Dialing in a 10k pace

anotherduckanotherduck Member
edited March 2012 in Beginner Questions
A little background - I'm 48, male, started swimming again not quite 2 years ago. Joined masters at the beginning of 2011, Did several 1.5 & 3k & a 4k lake swims during 2011, and finished the year doing the 6000 yd postal in just under an hour and 14 minutes. (back-up - I was distance guy in college about 16 min for the mile) Needless to say, I like distance events.
I also did the 10k postal last year, but swam with calf cramps the last 3k or so. Fast forward to now - I've been doing some longer practices (120 min as opposed to 60-75 min) to prep better this year for open water and the 10k postal. Well, the calves are twitching and cramping again. I'm beginning to think marathon swimming just isn't in my future, but I really really want to do a cramp free 10k this year and I have my eye on longer events maybe next year.
I'm playing with my hydrating/fueling approach, but I think I also have a problem with going out too fast.
I need some pace guidance. Fueling advise is appreciated as well.


  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Member
    I tend to only get cramps at the start of pool training season in the autumn, when I have to increase my water intake, this lasts a couple of weeks. I put 95% of cramps down to dehydration rather than electrolyte imbalance. They just don't happen for me in OW. With colder water you'll dehydrate more slowly (and it's cold, relatively, here always).

    For 10k OW, it's a bit of trial and error, (like everything). For your speed it's less than 2.5 hours, fast, which, if it's not too hot, is certainly doable without any hydrating but for most people, you'd probably want one feed or maybe two feed stops, but primarily for the liquid rather than energy. Again, that may depend whether you are racing or just want to get a 10k done.

    As for pacing, it's pretty common to worry about going out too fast. Lots of repeat sets on the same interval is the common way I think to try to get a handle on it.


  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin
    edited March 2012
    @anotherduck do you get calf cramps in OW, or only the pool? Do wall push-offs bring them on, or something else?

    It makes sense that a former pool swimmer of your speed might take a 10K out too hard. You may be unconsciously reverting to the "feel" of taking out your 1650. I've had this experience too.

    To work on your 10K pacing, try a set of long repeats, trying to maintain an even pace throughout. #1 should feel too easy. If you have access to LCM, I like repeat 1000s on 15:00... easy to count laps & reps via pace clock, and easy calculation of pace/100m. Plenty of time to feed between each. You could do 6 in 90 minutes... great practice for a ~2:20 10K.
  • I did get an OW cramp once or twice early last year when I was still acclimating to colder water. I've also had that uncomfortable pre-cramp feeling during other open water events - so it's not just the flip turns. LCM will open up in May, and I do think 1000's will be good for me.

    At the moment, I attribute my cramps to time spent holding a pace that's probably too quick for the longer distance. Other than the miserable experience I had doing the 10k postal last year, I'm really only familiar with 4k and shorter events. With a good year under the belt and this 10k goal in mind, I'm really just looking for a realistic approach. Is there a rule of thumb like if a 5k pace is x per 1000, then a 10k pace is x+30sec per 1000 (3sec/100)? or should I not be looking at a clock at all?
  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin
    edited March 2012
    Don't know what to tell you about the cramps. I don't think you mentioned what you've been using as nutrition? Just wanted to rule out the electrolyte explanation...

    I'm not sure there's a rule of thumb for pace on 5K vs. 10K, but if you want to use me as one data-point: I did both the 5K & 10K postals in 2010. Same pool, same training context, etc. I was 3.2 seconds per 100m faster in the 5K than the 10K.
  • WaterGirlWaterGirl Scottsdale, AZCharter Member
    SwimSmooth has a chart for distance vs. pace. They're estimating 4-6s per 100m. http://www.feelforthewater.com/2011/05/how-fast-can-you-swim-over-longer.html
  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin
    I had forgotten about that, thanks @WaterGirl! CSS is a very useful concept for distance swimming.

    One minor point I'd make about Swim Smooth's estimates is: The difference between 5K and 10K pace in terms of pace per 100m will tend to be greater for slower swimmers, and less for faster swimmers. It's probably more accurate to conceptualize change of pace in percentage terms rather than fixed min:sec per 100m.

    E.g., let's say 5K pace is 10% faster than 10K pace, regardless of whether it's a 2mph swimmer or a 1mph swimmer. Going from 1mph to 1.1mph (10% faster) equates to 20 seconds per 100m. However, going from 2mph to 2.2mph (also 10% faster) equates to only 10 seconds per 100m.

    So, the Swim Smooth rule-of-thumb will probably tend to over-estimate the difference for really fast swimmers (in terms of min:sec per 100m), and underestimate the difference for really slow swimmers.
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