I mentioned in a previous post how everything in my training was going well until I was out sick for 3 weeks in December. Getting back to the level I needed to be was a challenge in January.
Getting back into it
Due to work I could still only make 6 swims a week, with the odd 7th swim here and there. So, I continued with roughly the same plan as before Christmas and made 1 or 2 sessions longer than normal. Once again, I had some personal training sessions in the gym with a college student as part of their training program. While this did result in some changes to my gym routine, I still didn’t get to the gym more than once per week.
I have to admit I struggled initially to get good mileage into my sessions, so much so that I avoided swimming repeats of more that 200m, except for the odd session of 400s. I knew this wouldn’t be a problem for the Irish Open. The schedule for the competition meant that I wouldn’t be able to do the 400m free and recover before the 200m free, so I happily dropped it. I did enter it for the European Masters, so I will have to get used to swimming that distance before then. My repeat times did eventually start to come down and my number of repeats went up.
Build & Taper
As build up cycles go, the whole thing was different to past ones. Despite obviously feeling tired from all of the training, I still felt good during my sessions and didn’t feel the kind of crushing fatigue I did before Slovenia despite hitting better times. I planned the final two weeks of the build and the three weeks of taper with our club’s head coach Ger McDonald of Kingdom SC. This made a big difference compared to my previous builds and tapers and I really enjoyed the taper, if such a thing is possible. The only snag was the final week of taper. My wife was ill with a cold and I spent the week trying to keep a sore throat & cold at bay. Even to the point of taking lemsip and strepsils. So, I didn’t feel as good as I would have expected for the final week of taper or even on the morning of the competition. Worryingly I was also still tinkering with my pacing for the 200m in my final week of taper, but I was making my target times. On the day of the competition I knew things were either going to go great or terrible.
My first race was the 200 free and I decided to wear my brand new Arena Carbon Air for it. The fastest qualifier and a few others were missing from my heat (all of my heats were the final & fastest heat), this is something that would happen for almost all of the races that day. It’s hard to figure out how a race is going when you are in it. Two swimmers went out faster than me, but I held my set pace as best I could. One of them should have been slower than me on paper, but I just told myself they are either going for a big PB or I’m slower than I think. On the third 50 they began to fade and I realised they must have gone out too fast. I upped the pace and drove home for the final 50m hitting the wall first. I eased off on the last stroke into the wall and despite finally getting a solid PB in the 200m again with a 2:10.17 bringing me under 2:11.00, the fact that I came so close to breaking into the 2:09 category was very annoying. I’ve been trying to think of where I could have improved, apart from the finishing stroke, and I think I was so worried about pace in the race that my turns were not as sharp as they could have been. They weren’t bad, and I did have really great streamlines and breakouts. It’s just that the flip wasn’t as snappy as it could have been. I picked up a gold and a lifetime PB for this event.
The 100m was…… strange. For some reason I felt a bit sluggish on the first 50m, even felt a hint of lactate near the end of it. I don’t really remember the turn if it was snappy enough, it probably wasn’t, but I do remember once again having a great streamline and breakout off the wall. The second length was tough as expected, but I think I handled it better than I had in previous years. I hit the wall to see that I had gotten a new PB, shaving 0.20 off my previous time from Slovenia. My splits looked ok, but I’m sure on another day I could get that first 50m faster. Admittedly not too much faster as I think I’m hitting my limit for speed in that event. I picked up gold and a lifetime PB for this event.
My final race was the 50m free. Way back in 2017 at the world masters in Budapest I hoped to break the 27 second mark in this event. It didn’t happen and I figured I had simply hit my limit in terms of speed unless I dedicated myself to sprinting and hit the gym hard. This year with the change in my training and the improvements I’ve made in my dives I started contemplating doing it again. I came very close to breaking it last year at a short course gala and only missed it because I mistimed a breakout. In the Celtic Masters gala in December I broke it short course, so I made breaking it long course one of my goals for the year. The race itself went well, I got a great start, I was aiming for 2 breaths in the 50, but felt a little caught up on the second breath so sneaked in a third. I thought that would have cost me, but I was delighted to look up at the board and see that I had just slipped under the 27 seconds. I honestly can’t remember what I used to do for the 50 free back in my age group days, all I know is that I never raced it long course because we didn’t have a long course pool in Ireland back then. So, I’m taking this as a lifetime long course PB and I picked up gold in this event too.
I had planned to take a few days off from training before starting another build cycle followed by a 3-week taper which would have taken me into the Europeans. However, the best laid plans of mice and men…..