|Rinconada pool in Palo Alto during the Masters swim meet on St. Patrick's Day|
Yesterday morning, I swam with a group of local masters swimmers. The workout was 70x50yds broken down by 7x(10x50yds) on the 50s interval. Apparently, someone was turning 70! In the past, Marcia has done a similar workout where on her birthday, her age is the number of pieces we do or the number of seconds we have to do vertical kick or etc. 50yds is not much—think rowing 200m or 250m. 70x50yds, however, is a lot—think rowing 70x200m!
Seventy is a big number and even broken down to 7x10 sets, seven seemed like a far off, impossible number of sets. Usually (in my limited swimming experience), sets are repeated two or three times, at max four times.
Of course, in swimming, it is not just about the yardage or number of sets, but the intervals and amount of recovery for the set. For some, a 50s interval for 50yds was a steady state pace, but for me, it required about an 85% effort, especially to make all 70 pieces.
When we finished the first set of 10x50yds, I was feeling okay. When we finished the second set, I was still okay, but started to wonder how we would ever get to 70x50yds. When we finished the third set, I was coming up with elaborate ways in my head to modify the workout and reasons why I could not do 70x50yds.
I looked for “carry.” Maybe you have your own name for this mental tactic. “Carry” is what is going to help carry you through the workout.
On the erg, sometimes “carry” is closing my eyes and pretending I am rowing on the water with other people, not thinking about the workout, but simply following and executing. Sometimes “carry” is counting the strokes, spelling out words, or repeating a phrase in my head. Sometimes, “carry” is the music that I am listening to.
On the water, sometimes there is a coxswain or a bowman who can “carry” you through the workout. Or sometimes having a coach there who is watching you is enough to “carry” you and make you finish the workout.
For this particular swim workout, I thought about my friend from Cal Triathlon, Daniela, and pictured swimming next to her (which would never actually happen in real life because I would just be chasing her feet the whole time).
I also happened to be sharing a lane with an older woman who tough and could probably kick my butt if she tried. We alternated leading the sets. When I lead, I thought about not letting her down. When she lead, I pretended to be in an open-water race and trying to stay with the person ahead in order to draft.
At some point, I made it easy for myself—I stopped counting, I stopped thinking. I simply hoped the swimmers in the other lanes would “carry” me. When the clock hit the interval and they shot off the wall, I went too—like clockwork.
Somehow, we made it to 70x50yds.