Big Shoulders Stats: Finishing times

Big Shoulders Stats: Finishing times

People say times don’t matter in open water – or at least that you don’t always know what they mean. And perhaps that’s part of its attraction. While in the pool “the clock never lies,” in open water it’s not much more than a ranking device.

Even so, I’ve been surprised by how closely most of my open-water pace times have approximated my pool speed at various distances – from 1:15 at 1 mile (Huntersville), to 1:17 at 1.5 miles (Livermore), to 1:19 at 2 miles (H’ville again) up to 6K (Windsor), and 1:22 at 10K (Noblesville).

When an event has been staged for many years, though – at the same location, on the same course layout – comparing times makes a little more sense. Big Shoulders is one such event.

In that spirit, here are the finish times in Big Shoulders across the 12 years of available data, starting with the 5K race:

5K times

That chart is a little busy, so let’s unpack it:

  • Each black dot represents one swim. The dots are “jiggered” slightly to the left or right of their corresponding year (so more of them are visible).


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“Race” Report: USMS 10K Postal Championship

“Race” Report: USMS 10K Postal Championship

Another Friday, another long-ass postal swim at the UIC Natatorium. This time, for 10K: 200 laps of a 50-meter pool.

The 10K Postal Swim is as much a psychological challenge as physical. Even 5K is a pretty brutal distance to do as a straight pool swim. For the 10K, you do the 5K… and you’re only halfway done. So it may very well be the single toughest USMS-sanctioned event – except perhaps for the biennial open-water 25K.

I was joined by fellow distance freak Amanda Hunt, which made for less lonely laps. Heidi K. from the Smelts and my favorite U-Chicago professor were also on deck, as lap counters – which I’m told on good authority is a similarly mind-numbing experience.

My goal? 2:17:52 – my open-water 10K time from Noblesville in July.…

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2010: the two-thirds review

2010: the two-thirds review

In the first 8 months of 2010 I swam 452.4 miles (796,224 yards). Here’s the mileage by month, with days out of the water: 52.1 (7 days off), 52.8 (2 days off), 63.7 (3 days off), 60.0 (4 days off), 45.7 (8 days off), 64.1 (5 days off), 52.9 (6 days off), and 61.2 (6 days off).

I’m pretty happy with that consistency. The only somewhat anomalous month was May (45 miles), during which I got sick and missed 6 days in a row right before Atlanta Nationals.

This coming month will be an important one in preparing for the 10-mile swim on October 16. Assuming I stay healthy (fingers crossed), I have a soft goal of 75 miles (132,000 yards) for September.…

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Big Shoulders Stats: A local race?

Big Shoulders Stats: A local race?

More Big Shoulders stats, from my custom-made aggregate file. Here’s the proportion of Big Shoulders participants hailing from Illinois, Indiana, and “other” – i.e., anyplace besides IL and IN.

Clearly, Illinois locals still predominate, but recent years have seen a greater influx of out-of-state swimmers. In 2009, almost 30% came from outside of Illinois and Indiana – an all-time high.…

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“Race” Report: USMS 5K Postal Championship

“Race” Report: USMS 5K Postal Championship

See background post below, or here.

  • What: 5,000 long-course meters – for time
  • When: Friday, August 27, 2010. 5:45pm CDT
  • Where: Flames Natatorium, University of Illinois-Chicago
  • Why: Why not?
  • Training context: Monday, 4900 LCM; Tuesday, 5600 LCM; Wednesday, 4100 LCM; Thursday, 2800 SCY; Friday morning, 1 mile open-water
  • Gear (for any doubting Thomases out there – haha): FINIS racing jammer, silicone cap, swedish goggles
  • Goal Time: 1:06:40 (1:20 per 100m)

Final time: 1:05:26 (pace of 1:18.5).

Here’s how I did it:

  • By 500’s: 6:23.9, 6:25.7, 6:28.3, 6:31.2, 6:32.0, 6:32.7, 6:33.9, 6:32.7, 6:31.7
  • By 1000’s: 12:49.7, 12:59.5, 13:04.7, 13:06.1, 13:04.4
  • Through the first 1500m:
    • 100: 1:14.1
    • 200: 2:31.0
    • 400: 5:06.4
    • 800: 10:15.7
    • 1500: 19:18.0

Note: To get a clearer picture of my actual pace through the swim, these splits are adjusted for the 3 Gatorade breaks I took at 1500m, 3000m, and 4000m. I calculated this by taking the 100m split before the break, the 2nd 100m split after the break, and averaging the two to estimate the 100m split directly after the break (which in the raw split sheet includes the break time).…

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5K Postal Swim – some background

5K Postal Swim – some background

As my former Sharks teammates know, I attempted the USMS 5K Postal Championship (5,000 long-course meters for time, in your home pool, between 5/15 and 9/15) back on June 27, two days before my wife and I moved from Columbus to Chicago. For various reasons, it didn’t work out too well. Both mentally and physically, I just didn’t have it that day. I was distracted and anxious about the move; I had been packing and lifting boxes all week;  and for whatever reason (self-sabotage, probably), I thought it’d be good idea to do a “warm-up set” of 5×1000 LCM the day before.

In any case, I ended up with a 1:07:32 that day (pace of 1:21.0 per 100m) – not altogether terrible, but I knew I had a better swim in me. I had been debating letting the time stand, as it will probably place well in my age group anyway. But something else forced my hand: Somehow, during the move, I had lost the split sheet! (You’re required to submit your 100m splits to verify the swim.)

Now I had to do it again.…

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Big Shoulders Stats: Participation by Age

Big Shoulders Stats: Participation by Age

More fun with Big Shoulders stats. We’ve been looking at participation – so what about age? Masters swimming is traditionally dominated by people in their 40’s and 50’s – is the same true here?

It seems the modal age is actually a bit younger in Big Shoulders – lots of people in their 30’s. But the “50’s” have been mounting a furious comeback (see the blue line) – perhaps a baby boomer effect.

My custom aggregate CSV file, from which I calculated these stats, is available here.…

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