OK, let's not beat around the bush - yesterday, tonight and tomorrow morning will be our planned CSS testing session (a 400m and 200m time trial) to get us off to a really good start now the pool has re-opened.
All the excuses under the sun…
I've already heard quite a few excuses and reasons why some of you flatly refuse to be there for this testing, but let's look at the positives:
- a CSS test will let you know exactly where you're at - good or bad - so we can accurately gauge what level you should be training at going forwards and also where to position you within the pecking order of your lane at this point in time
- it is purely a line in the sand, nothing more, nothing less
- no one else really cares what your CSS pace is (seriously, they don't!)
- my comprehensive analysis of the results will show you in an instant three key markers: a) what your pacing was like, b) what your drop-off rate is like between the 400 and 200, and c) what types of sessions (endurance, speed or threshold) I would recommend you focus on to get you back up to speed quickly
- a CSS test of 600m in total is actually easier than a CSS session of 2km so in some ways it's better to kick-start your program like this than simply launching back into a hard session
So try and take the ego and apprehension out of it - as your coach knowing that a) its the winter and b) most of you have taken the two weeks off, I am not expecting anything from you. I'm certainly not expecting lots of improvement from the previous race season. Help me to help you by simply turning up and doing it.
Knowing what it's like to hit rock bottom…With the prospect of selling our house and all the planning for the new winter program I am happy to share that I have let my own swimming slide for the last 5 to 6 weeks. I figured I needed to "move on" at the start of this week and did my CSS test. It has hit absolute rock bottom. You might feel the same way after two weeks with the pool closed, but trust me, six weeks off is shocking. I still did it though - practicing what I preach. Prior to Rotto this year I was down to 1:12/1:13 per 100m for my own CSS…yesterday 1:23 - eek! You might be thinking "pah, I'd love a CSS of 1:23!" but at 10s per 100m that's about a 14% reduction in performance, which would equate to someone normally at 1:45 per 100m dropping to just under 2:00 per 100m. That's big! So yes, I understand and feel your pain and apprehension about taking a test and feeling like you're not ready and that you don't want to "embarrass yourself" but seriously, you're not doing this - putting yourself on the line, taking it on the chin and then using this information to better move forwards is what it's all about.
Don't shy away - here's how to approach it properly tonight / tomorrow:
We will start off with 300 or 400 easy freestyle, followed by some 100s with the fins and pull buoys. After this we will do 3 or 4 x 100m with 20s rest at what you perceive to be your average 400m pace. If you're going to screw up your pacing in the Time Trial (and most historically do), do it now, not during the actual Time Trial(s). Then we'll re-group* and perform the 400m Time Trial followed by 5 to 8 minutes of easy swimming / rest and then do the 200m Time Trial. Break these efforts down into four:
- 1st quarter (i.e. 100m for the 400m or 50m for the 200m) set off at no harder than 80%. EVERYONE always says when they mess up their pacing "but it felt so easy at the start!" and are then bemused that they find it really hard at the end and yet their 1st 100m was miles faster than their average - it wants to feel steady and controlled at this point!
- 2nd quarter aim to settle into your pace. Feel an awareness of effort of course but confidence that you haven't overcooked it yet.
- 3rd quarter aim to lift your effort level by 10% or so - chances are your speed won't actually pick up, but if you have the energy to do this at this point then chances are you'll maintain pace which leads to a good result.
- 4th quarter aim to bring it home strongly and feel like your final effort is a sprint to the finish!
*given that I'm hoping you will read the above and be inspired enough to leave any expectations behind and simply come and give it a go, it will likely be quite busy in the morning. Please bring an extra towel and maybe a sports jacket to stay warm if you wish. The plan will be to split the group into two and have one wave swim whilst the other wave rest / watch / place bets on who will blow up etc! After they've done their swim they will rest whilst wave two does their 400m . The two waves will once again then swap over and each perform their 200m efforts. Depending on numbers we'll either operate with 3 lanes and keep 1 open for easy swimming, or operate with 4 lanes and give you a chance to have a light easy swim pre / post your effort, requesting you hop out and stay warm whilst the other waves completes their respective effort.
Quick tip for the swim geeks amongst you…
If you can't wait for me to work out your new CSS pace, then simply take your 200m time from your 400m time and divide the answer by two - that's your 100m pace and is a great party trick to wow your swim mates with your mathematical genius! For example, you swim 400m in 6:00 and 200m in 2:50, 6:00 take off 2:50 is 3:10, divided by 2 is 1:35/100 et voila! Your CSS time in an instant.
Lastly, please ensure you listen out for your cumulative finishing time and be sure to report you 400m and 200m time back to myself and Cyndy prior to leaving to ensure we have you all recorded, irrespective of how good or bad it is.
Remember, no one really cares what you do tonight / tomorrow, but there is a lot of value in just doing it, just doing your best on the day and then knowing exactly where you're at. Someone mentioned to me "I don't need a stinking Time Trial to know where I'm at - I'm rubbish right now!" they then proceeded to tell me where they thought they were at within a range of 6 to 8s per 100m…but that's simply not useful enough - way too much margin of error for your future training. Get it right now and we can then chip away at it. Chances are it'll come back quite quickly if you are consistent with your efforts at an appropriate starting point.