How To Slice A 1500?

I swam 3000m today at 9:40am. The pool was a very nice 28.5 degrees C.


500m enjoyable cruising, half hand, half fistgloved


1500m timed, with TT set to 1.30. I held 18 SPL. Came in at 26:26 (24:07 for 1500yd). 500m splits worked out to 8:49/8:51/8:46. This gave me a 1:46/100m pace (1:35/100yd).

3x [4×25 tempo’d sprints, 100m tempo’d sprint, 50 recovery- descend tempo on each repeat]

tempo 4x25m times SPL held 100m time SPL held
1.20 :22 17 1:32 17
1.10 :21 17 1:30 17
1.00 :20 18 1:27 18

300m cool down


I wanted to establish a reference point for a tempo’d 1500m to see how it felt being held to a tempo along the whole distance. I picked 1.30 knowing it was faster than my ‘endless’ swimming pace, but not encroaching on my current racing limits either. I want to ease up to that.

The Tempo Trainer objectively levels out the highs and lows during a swim- it does this perfectly over a 100m as well as 1500m, and shows me how many tricks my head plays on my sense of timing as I move from fresh and fast feeling, to the middle lows, to the end-in-sight surge.

During the first 200 it pushed me to swim at a higher tempo than I would typically start out a longer swim on- I like to be conservative until my whole body dials into rhythm- which usually comes after 500m. Because I felt the push at the beginning, I was forced to focus on efficient movement across my whole stroke from the beginning. I could not afford to be sloppy just because I felt fresh. It does not guarantee, but it does encourage me to keep a consistent stroke across the entire distance.

On the second 500 my rear deltoids felt a little tired; obviously they were taking more load than I could endure at higher paces. So that reminded me to focus on hip thrust so power would be coming from core, not shoulders. And I focused on relaxing as much of the muscles in my lead arm as I could. It is these very shoulder muscles that have a tendency to fatigue during my long, open-water swims which then limit my range. But when I work on pulling from the core, although in each stroke I barely notice the difference, the cummulative effect is that I do not feel fatigue so acutely in any one spot. I’ve got a lot of work to do to make this relaxing instinctive, especially since I have been doing so much sprint work lately, where the margin for glide and rest is miniscule.

As is already a habit on long swims, I relaxed on the flip turn push-offs to conserve energy. I came up at the flags rather than past them. Snappy flips and jumps suck a lot of oxygen so I gave up a half-second or so per turn sequence and 1 SPL to gain some fuel for endurance. My SPL stayed consistently at 18.

I always seem to lose focus on lap counting somewhere along the way. In my mind I broke this down into 3x 500m and then counted out 10×50, trying to repeat in my head which one I was on, while giving attention to my stroke focus. My mind still wandered and I had to confirm my lap count at 500 and 1000 by slowing just a bit at the wall to look at my watch and see that the split calculated realistically. [I would like to invent an inexpensive, and portable wall-pad/timer- so when I came to the wall I would see the big LED timer ticking away and when I flipped in front of it it would feel my feet and record the split and lap count. Or better yet, having a pair of swim goggles that showed all this data on the lense (or projected holographically in the water in front of me!), like the lenses the fighter pilot and attack helicopter pilots have.]

On the third 500m I was strong. The 1.30 tempo / 18 SPL was a pace I could have sustained for much longer. I was winded but not struggling in air or stroke at the finish. But I did have to keep focus on holding a solid pull and long glide each stroke. I also felt I was not as tight and narrow around the head and lead shoulder as it could be- I can’t see what it is but I just feel that there is some un-necessary drag in there somewhere.

I see two immediate variations on this that I would like to try:

  1. 1500m where I set #1 500 at 1.30 tempo, then click down to 1.25 for #2, and 1.20 for #3- or even jump by more, like .08. I estimate that it would take 3 extra seconds to stop at the wall and click the TT and push off again. On this I would continue to focus on ‘effortless’ but in tension with ‘solid grab’. Or,
  2. 1500m where I set the tempo at 1.30 or 1.25, then aim for descending SPL per 500. 19 down to 17. This would increase my energy use on push-offs and reaching with the lead arm. The effort involved in constraining one SPL while held to tempo might add a lot of energy consumption (like kicking) so maybe settle into 18 SPL for 1000, then try to reach 17 just on the last 500. Worth an experiment at least.

The last set was to test my ability to hold sprint tempos while tired. I was pleased to see that I could recover enough in each set to keep SPL at 17 and make descending times, even after swimming the 1500 before. But I am not pushing myself too much in these training sets of late- I am still gathering data and learning how to use the Tempo Trainer and experimenting with the stroke, form, and power variables to find a smarter way forward.


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