Am I a Swimmer?

My top five Slowtwitch threads tonight:
  • Beer and recovery
  • Hotties
  • Why can't "experts" agree on anything
  • I love Kara Goucher !
  • Why does a swimmer ever want to lead out of the water?
Meanwhile, is it possible I'm becoming a swimmer? No. Well, maybe. Depends on how you define "swimmer." A Slowtwitcher the other day answered a well-meaning request for advice about swimming by telling the poster that her 1:50-1:55 times in 100-yard intervals were "not swimming." Apparently the guy was in possession of the FINA book that lays out the criteria. Unfortunately—or maybe it was fortunate—he did not say what moving too slowly through water is called.

Until this year—until a few weeks ago—I couldn't have told you my 100-yard interval times, because I didn't do intervals. I didn't swim hard. I got in the pool and swam back and forth for 40-60 minutes, damn near every time. This year in the early going I began to mix in a few sets, but not enough to make a difference. Then came Big Swim Week at the start of April: five consecutive days in the water, during which the evolution toward swimming hard began to unfold. Bored enough with all that swimming to try something different, and inspired by the declaration that at my speed I was not swimming, I did a lot of hard intervals. Slowly, by most standards, but as hard as I could do them.

Fast-forward to today. I arrived at the pool late and didn't have much time before I had to pick up The Lad from school. After swimming four easy laps it occurred to me that I should do a 1000-yard time trial. A month or so ago I swam the distance in 19 minutes. Today, I had given up some time by swimming easy the first 200 yards, but then got into a faster, steady groove. I was holding back a bit to make sure I didn't run out of gas—next time I do the 1000, I'll definitely go a little harder. Despite all that, I still dropped my time to 18:05, a 55-second improvement. I'm sure if I had set out to do a TT and had known I had the endurance to go harder I could have been around 17:45. That's getting me under 1:50 per lap. Does that make me a swimmer? I don't know, but I will say this: I'm going to improve a lot more in the next two months.

Also today, on the bike: Hill repeats on Tabor. I was aiming to do 10 on a 0.3-mile, 100-foot vertical-gain hill (that's a 6 percent grade), but apparently lost track and did 11. It was the last day of the outbreak of spring, all sunny and mild. Tomorrow the high falls by about 20 degrees and the rest of the week we're cloudy, possibly drippy, and probably not cracking 60 degrees. Portland. Anyway, here's the data, showing the heart rate bumping up near 165 with each hill, then falling below 100. Each climb was within two or three seconds of 1 minute and 20 seconds.


  1. Your heart rate didn't really go to 240 (left side of the chart), did it? Or did it?

  2. Yeah, sometimes there's some weird data. I'm thinking that peak (and the next two peaks above 180) are not legit. I operate under the assumption my max heart rate on the bike is about 180, maybe a couple of beats less.

  3. Hello Pete - I am a friend/associate of Michael Jordan's...in Sonoma, CA. He forwarded me your blog; good, fun stuff. In short, I'm in the wine biz in Sonoma, consult for a winery in Hood River and also am doing CdA....why? same reason as you. it's there, it's a goal, and I want to go faster. Funnily, I fly in to Portland Friday, to go do a couple winemaker dinners in Cannon Beach. We should chat sometime - first triathlons, then wine...if you're bored, maybe hit a winemaker dinner this weekend...best, Michael Sebastiani

  4. Pete...Michael again...you might begin to notice that I love talking triathlon, so tell me to stop whenever (I guess you do too since you have a blog...I don't yet :)) Anyway, noticed you have a CT - did you get the CdA 3D course yet? I thought it was overrated, but it's great. You may not need it since you've done the race already...but practice makes perfect...?

  5. Michael, hey, good to "meet" you. Funny you should mention the CT CdA 3D course - I was just thinking today that I didn't use it nearly as often as I thought I would. I used the Computrainer A LOT. This is Oregon, after all, and I'm quite wimpy when it comes to riding in rain and/or cold. But I found myself wanting to do more specific workouts than ride the course. I may put in one long day and do the entire 3D course before the race itself - we'll probably get a crappy rainy Saturday sometime in May and that'll be my best option.

    I've got my 9-year-old son this week, through the weekend (and he's sick, no less), so I won't be able to hit the winemaker dinner. I'm sure it would have been fun. Are you on Facebook? If so, let's connect there. I do indeed love to talk triathlon!

  6. Lay low, and rest this weekend - no need to tax your immune system. Maybe a good time to catch up on movies...(and some CT time...). I love the CT too...all interval work; I even do the intervals on the course like it's outside...

    find me on FB - just search my name. see you there -