After the event Alistair tweeted: Learnt that 68s felt easy at 3k and 69's felt hard at 8k. Can't wait for another go.
Alistair's referring to his lap time per 400m on the running track, where in the early stages of the race 68 seconds per lap felt easy but later in the race 69 seconds per lap felt hard. We call this progressive increase in how hard a well paced effort feels the "gradual crescendo" and it should feel this way in all sports, including swimming.
Approximately 80% of world records are set this way with even pacing or a slight negative split (with the second half quicker than the first). However, most age group swimmers and triathletes pace things out like this in their races and training: http://bit.ly/4e1Hk2
How Training Sets And Races Should Feel
If you swim a hard effort (say a 400m or 1500m timetrial) and you pace it out evenly (with every 50m swum at the same speed) the feeling of effort should rise throughout the swim like this:
Remember, this is all at the same actual speed, you're not speeding up through the swim. The same pace is gradually feeling harder and harder - this is the gradual crescendo.
If I Can, Shouldn't I Work Harder Earlier?
In a word, no. For two reasons:
- It feels easy to do but by going faster in the early stages of a race you will do damage which you cannot recover from. It takes a while for your breathing rate and heart rate to catch up but by starting fast you will slow down in the second half of the race and be much slower overall. This is why nearly all world records are set with an even or slight negative split.
- In a training set, if you start too fast and then blow up and slow down you will not get the training benefit that you would by pacing out your training sets well. If you feel that your swimming fitness is on a plateau this could be where you are going wrong. By pacing things out properly your fitness fill continue again on an upward curve; as a bonus not only are well paced swim sets more beneficial but they are less painful too.
To help get your pacing right, we strongly recommend the use of a Tempo Trainer Pro in mode 1 or 2. This will beep to you when you should be turning at the end of each lap helping you pace out your training sets perfectly. Many swimmers find that it's only when you use a Tempo Trainer for the first time you fully appreciate how bad your pacing skills are!
Pacing Is An Essential Part Of Swimming Technique
At the moment when you think of your swimming technique you might just think of your stroke mechanics but your pacing skills are also a critical part of your technique to swim at your best. Pacing out training sets and races is critical to reach your potential in the water, it's something that elite swimmers and triathletes have developed and honed during thousands of training hours in the water and on the running track.
Get your pacing right and you will experience that gradual crescendo yourself, and you might well set some personal bests right away without any other improvements in technique or fitness.