Pace Question

BillBill Member
edited April 2012 in Beginner Questions
- Former "mediocre" college swimmer.
- Been back in the water for the past 7 months (after an approx. 10 year hiatus from swimming FT).
- swimming about 35k-40k per week in the pool (still too cold to get in the lake here in Ottawa)
- Could probably muster up an 18:00-18:15 1500 scm if I had to.

3 months ago, I have added a "long" swim day with the goal to get to a 12km straight swim the month before the 10 mi kingdom swim (my goal race). I am currently at 8km and am having pace problems. Around the 4km mark, I start to fall off my pace and end up killing myself to try to limit the ascent. I have been starting off around 1:19s - 1:20s and end up at 1:24s. This week I started off at 1:22s to see if I was just going out too hard, but the same thing happened around the same mark and I ended up struggling to finish at 1:25s. Based on the "Swim Smooth Race Pace Estimator" I should have been fine to hold at the 1:22 pace.

Do people typically see an ascent in their pace in a 10km-20km swim or do most people hold it rock solid? Any suggestions?


  • WaterGirlWaterGirl Scottsdale, AZCharter Member
    Did you start at 8K for your continuous swim, or did you build up to it? If you built up to it, what distance were you at when the pace problems started?

    At the beginning of my training plan, I started out with a 2500 continuous swim and built up by 500 every week. I'll be up to 7500 yards this week. My pace has become very consistent on those. Nowhere near the Swim Smooth Race Pace estimator, though.

    Before I started this gradual build, my pace would have dropped off as you're describing. Continuous swims are harder than it seems like they should be.

    You also might be bonking.
  • caburkecaburke Charter Member
    At 8k, I suggest you pay attention to your nutrition and hydration. If not properly handled, that may be the cause of your struggles.
  • BillBill Member
    Started at 5k, no problems until I hit 7k 8 weeks later. I'm using a 300 ml - 200 kcal / feed mix of malto / gatorade and caffeine every 30 minutes.
  • I do a similar "long" swim day. Sometimes broken at the 1000 or 2000. From a beginning pace that "feels" like I could go for the full 2 hours, to the end pace, I increase about 3 sec/100 (SCY). I'm interested to hear if that's common too.

    On a side note - I read just today that caffeine may increase the chance of cramping during intense exercise. I had been using a gu that had extra caffeine, since I haven't figured out any other reason for my propensity for calf cramps, I plan on removing it from my bag of tricks. I don't want to start rumors about caffeine, but wouldn't mind hearing comments.
  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Member
    I think caffeine only acts as a diuretic (possibly causing cramps) in fairly high doses. Taking caffeine every 30 mins during a fairly normal distance training session might just qualify as that. For a currently average 7km approx day for me, I'll drink about 650 ml water and my pool is always too warm, currently staying at around 29.5C.

  • BillBill Member
    Here's a little bit more info. Normally I don't ingest anything during workouts (no water, no food). Most workout are 1.5 hours 5-6k, 95% free, mixed quality (aerobic and anaerobic) and I'm never for lack of power or endurance by the end (if anything I'm strongest at the end of workout). The only reason I'm "eating" during the long swim is to simulate race conditions.... Because I'm pretty sure I can't survive 4 hours without fueling. As for the caffeine. I'm staring with 200 mg (pill) 1 hour before I swim to get peak concentration at the start and taking 30 mg / 30 min to maintain the concentration. I've got no cramping issues.
  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin
    edited April 2012
    I think it's normal to experience some drop-off in pace after about 2 hours. Why 2 hours? Because that's about how long it takes to deplete your glycogen stores.

    For example... when I did my 25km Pyramid of Death I held a fairly steady pace (1:23-4 per 100 LCM) for the first 10km or so. Then, my pace fell off - gradually, but steadily - for the rest of the set. By the end I was doing 1:28-9s. So, about 5 sec/100m drop-off (90 seconds per mile) - similar to what you describe.

    @ssthomas recently did the Pyramid of Death... perhaps she can report on her experience :)

    When you fall off pace after 4km, does it feel like an energy issue, or a muscle fatigue issue? (Or both?) The former would indicate a nutrition/hydration problem. If it's the latter, then perhaps it's a fitness issue (not surprising if you've only been back in the water 7 months).

    Your question reminded me of an interesting passage in Tim Johnson's book History of Open Water Marathon Swimming. Capt. Johnson was the guru of the Manhattan Island swims in the 1980s & '90s, and a pioneer of computer-aided tide modeling for swimmers. For the 1983 MIMS, he calculated swimmers' paces by subtracting out the observed river currents. Here's what he found (from pg. 188):
    Plotting the swimmers' paces revealed interesting facts about initial speed of swimmers in relationship to the constant pace they'd normally hold during a swim. Fast swimmers drop 2 to 3 minutes per mile; say from 17 or 18 minutes per mile pace at the start to 20 or 21 minutes per mile for the rest of the race. Average swimmers showed more consistency at the start but tailed off near the end depending on their training. Slow swimmers had large variations in their pace and as a rule their pace started slow and got slower.
  • ssthomasssthomas DenverCharter Mem​ber
    Bill- are your pace times in SCM, LCM, or SCY? I'm surprised that at 35-40km a week you're having trouble at 8000. I can swim a straight 12k without much nutritional intake (though I'm happier when I do), so while nutrition might be part of your issues, seems to me like something else might be going on.

    What I might suggest is to see what happens when you don't watch the clock/your pace. Just swim comfortably, and don't worry about how fast you're swimming. You could be swimming too hard at the front end of the swim, without realizing it. And be aware- there is a difference between swimmming hard and swimming fast. You could be swimming a slower pace, but still swimming too hard. The key is staying relaxed at the beginning, so you can push yourself harder at the end when it starts to hurt. Once you make it to 8k or 12k, you'll have a feel for what your body can handle and you can start working on pace from there.
  • ssthomasssthomas DenverCharter Mem​ber
    @Evmo-I'm still trying to forget the Pyramid of Death- I'd rather not relive it. :-)

    Though, in reading your above quotes, I'm in that "average" swimmer category. Never have been fast- but I can train well and pace the same thing all day long. I held 1:27s-1:28s for the entire 25k. This was much harder at the end than the start, but I've done enough long swims to know my limits. My guess is that Bill just needs more experience swimming long sets, so he can learn to pace more effciently.
  • BillBill Member
    @ssthomas - times are in SCM.

    I'm actually leaning towards Evmo's glycogen depletion idea... after a 1500 W/U and 4k-5k of the straight swim I'm at the 1:30-1:45 timeframe. I've always heard the 3 hour mark is when this happens... could it possibly be happening this early? I am still carrying some serious excess weight (205 lbs)... I wonder if this leads to higher glycogen consumption?

    Assuming I am running out of glycogen... should I see a steadying of my pace further along as I get to the 10..12 k marks?
  • SharkoSharko Tomales BayGuest
    A couple of thoughts...1) Steel Cut Oats 1.5 hours before a long a continuous flow of energy...2) 16 oz or so carb drink before getting in 3) feed regularly everyone is a bit different say every 30 minutes unless very cold water...I have always felt that if you were peeing between feedings you were getting hydrated....the other is have someone look at your stroke may be dropping off and you are not aware of it....I normally don't get warmed and loosened up for an hour or so and then I build up to a point/speed which I can maintain...not racing...just going with what I know I can do and then leaving some in case it is needed...

    "I never met a shark I didn't like"

  • bobswimsbobswims Santa Barbara CACharter Member
    Sharko wrote:
    A couple of thoughts...1) Steel Cut Oats 1.5 hours before a long a continuous flow of energy....

    I swear by a huge bowl of oatmeal (made with milk) and raisins & sugar before my long swims. Sustained energy and a solid base for all the liquid I will be consuming during the day.
  • jendutjendut Charter Member
    You also might try a bit of protein- usually at about 3 hrs I get a bit cranky (glycogen gone) and try to get in protein (I use "lite muscle milk", but depends on your taste) at that feed and then every 3 hrs thereafter.
  • BillBill Member
    8k straight was significantly better today... Went with Sharko's pre swim breakfast + slowed the pace slightly to 1:23s. Rock solid low effort 1:23s and 1:24s. Could have went at least another 2km+.
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