This past weekend, my son and I traveled to Gainesville, FL for the annual Gator Swim Club Holiday Classic swim meet. The Gator Classic is a huge meet, with more than 700 age group and senior swimmers. Typically, the meet draws competitors from not only Florida, but also Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina. To say this was a huge meet was an understatement.
Contrary to lots of folks’ opinion, I actually really enjoy going to swim meets. And it’s not because I love the smell of chlorine, either!
I like to go to big meets so I can watch and learn from people who are far better swimmers than I am.
The learning was on full throttle this past weekend, too. I paid particular attention to a couple of distance races – the 500 free and the 1650 free (a/k/a the “swimmer’s mile”). These distances mostly approximate what we do in triathlon, so I wanted to see what these swimmers did to be so fast.
Some of the things I observed:
- Front quadrant swimming– the guys who were among the fastest in both distance races were really good front quadrant swimmers. They almost looked like they were doing catch-up drill the entire way, but had less glide in their stroke.
- Two-beat kicking – most of the guys were doing a two-beat kick for most of the race. The guys who won seemed to kick (pun intended) it up a notch during the last 50, especially if the race was close and they were sprinting to the finish
- High elbows– this was predominant both at the catch and pull. There was one guy who was leading with his elbow and really slapping the water, and he finished with a great overall time (low 17 minutes for the 1650), but by and large, most of the faster swimmers kept their elbows high – even when they were tired
- High-tech suits – yes, swimmers love their high-tech gear almost as much as triathletes do. This weekend, there was a plethora of high tech gear in the pool. Seemed most of the suits were Speedo (there was no lack of Fastskin’s at the pool), but I did spy some Tyr suits as well.
- Breathing – one thing I paid a lot of attention to was how the swimmers were breathing? Every other stroke versus every five? Bilaterally versus unilaterally? There was no silver bullet here – they were doing a little of all of the above.
What I find really interesting is that no matter what swim coach I talk to, what books or websites I read, much of the coaching and feedback is the same – and very similar to what I observed this past weekend. There must actually be something to it!
PS – My son had a spectacular meet this past weekend. 5 PR’s out of 7 races. He took 5th in the 200 back, 9th in the 50 free and 100 free (just missing making the finals for both); the rest of his races were in the mid-teens in terms of placement. And he is thisclose to making a AAA cut for his 50 free.