SWIM TEST: My Fastest Times Yet (and what that means for my training)

>> Monday, December 11, 2017

I had a solid swim last Thursday where I retested my CSS pace. You hear me talk about CSS a few times a year here. Fast swimming buddy Robby B mentioned it to me about 3 years ago. In this post from 2014, I wrote about it:

[Robby B] turned me on to Swim Smooth and some of their ideas of swim training:

To improve your lactate threshold you want to do your quality swim sets at your current threshold pace or just below it. Many athletes make the mistake of training above lactate threshold in short sharp swim sets - that isn't nearly as effective.

Well, that's what I've been doing for the last 5 weeks: hard interval swims. So what's your "best" pace to train at? Your "CSS" pace. They go on to explain what that is:

CSS is an acronym for Critical Swim Speed. It's an approximation of your lactate threshold speed and you can find it by doing a couple of swimming tests (no blood involved - just a stopwatch!). It's not precisely the same as lactate threshold but it will be within a couple of seconds per 100m, which is plenty accurate enough to guide your training.

They say to swim an all-out 400, rest and swim easy a bit after that, and then do an all-out 200. Find the difference between your time in the 400 and 200, and then divide that by 2 to get your CSS pace / 100.

For example, in Nov of 2014, I did this: I swam my 400 in 6:10. Then I did my 200 in 3:00. The difference between those is 2 times is 3:10. Divide that by 2, and my CSS training pace should be 1:35/100.

In January of 2015, I "retested" my CSS pace and did this: 400 in 5:55, the 200 in 2:55, difference of 3:00, which means my CSS training pace should be 1:30/100.

In November of 2016, I tested it again, and it was the same as the last time: 5:55 and 2:55 for a CSS training pace of 1:30/100.

On Thursday, I had the fastest CSS swim test of my life: I was totally out of oxygen by 150 yards, but my times were sweet. I did the 400 in 5:45 (or 10 seconds faster than my previous best) and my 200 in 2:41 (14 seconds faster than my previous best)!! I tweeted this to Robby:



Oh, and Adam who likes to tease me about not doing flip turns tweeted me this:



Later that day, I realized I was WRONG about needing to "up my training pace for the winter." In my head, I calculated my CSS pace to be nearly 0:02 faster than 1:30, or 1:28/100. But I went the wrong way. My CSS pace is 5:45.84 - 2:41.12 = 3:03.72 / 2 = 1:31.86/100 training pace! It was nearly 0:02 SLOWER than 1:30!

THIS TELLS ME WHAT I'VE BEEN TRYING TO TELL MYSELF FOR THE LAST YEAR: I need to SLOW DOWN a bit and SHORTEN my rest to get a better ENDURANCE workout. I've been slowly stretching my rest times out so that I can swim FASTER. I proved that here (with a hearty PR workout), but now I need to slow up a bit and suffer more with less rest as Robby stated in his tweet. TIME TO GET ON THAT!


In unrelated news from my professional life: last week I was asked to speak at a career day at White Bear Lake High School. The head of the "College and Career Center" has been a blog follower for a number of years, and she first asked me to come speak 2 years ago. If you're interested, head over to this post on my Photo Blog to see the final advice I left these students who were interested in becoming professors someday. It boils down to "you make your own luck."

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