Between May 29 and August 1 this summer, I have 6 races. Actually, 11 if you include events with multiple races – but the point is, I have to be ready to swim fast on 6 occasions in 9 weeks.
These races are, in many cases, quite physically grueling: a 6K this weekend (at 4800′ elevation) in Colorado, a 10K next month in Indiana, and a total of 11K over 5 races (also at elevation) in Oregon at the end of July. So, while I need to be “ready to swim fast” in all instances, I also can’t afford to moderate my training much, or I risk losing conditioning. If anything, my training volume in the past year (~15,000-25,000 yards/week) is actually insufficient to race a 10K (though it’s sufficient to finish a 10K).
In club/age-group swimming, we trained right through mid-season meets, tapering only in January (for short-course championships) and August (for long-course championships). The most we got mid-season (usually for a “travel” meet) was a couple days of below-average volume. During the high school dual meet season, we had meets almost every Friday between late February and early May. Did Coach give us Friday mornings off? Nope.
In mid-season dual meets, though, our competitors were also training hard, so “peak performance” was neither expected nor necessary. This summer, because I’m doing primarily USMS national championship races, the competition is actually pretty strong. In all cases, I will be racing against at least a few swimmers faster than me – and even more who, if I’m fatigued, won’t hesitate to smoke me.
Another difference is the actual events involved. It’s one thing to race a 100 Back (my high school specialty) at the end of a tough week of training. However terrible you feel, it’s over after a minute or so. It’s another thing entirely to race a 10K fatigued. I wouldn’t call it suicidal, but it’s probably a bad idea.
So, how do I train hard enough to race a 10K, but leave myself sufficiently rested to swim fast in the other races?