Pan Pacs: The story of the splits

Pan Pacs: The story of the splits

Splits tell the story of a race. It’s perhaps even truer in open-water swimming than in the pool, because the races are more “spread out” over space and time. Splits are rarely kept for O.W. races, though, due to obvious logistical obstacles.

Powerhouse Timing has been working to change this – at least at the elite level. At this past weekend’s Pan Pacific 10K Championship, they captured splits at each 2K for the entire field, both men and women. And what an interesting story they tell. Here are the 2K splits, which I converted to pace-per-100m:


2K 4K 6K 8K 10K total
JENNINGS (USA) 1:11.4 1:11.9 1:11.3 1:13.6 1:13.4 2:00:34
FABIAN (USA) 1:11.3 1:11.8 1:11.4 1:13.6 1:13.6 2:00:36
BRUNEMANN (USA) 1:11.5 1:11.9 1:11.4 1:13.6 1:13.5 2:00:38
ANDERSON (USA) 1:11.7 1:11.9 1:11.3 1:13.6 1:13.6 2:00:41
GORMAN (AUS) 1:11.4 1:12.0 1:11.2 1:13.6 1:14.7 2:00:57
BALAZS (CAN) 1:11.7 1:11.9 1:12.0 1:14.0 1:17.6 2:02:23
DEFRANCESCO (AUS) 1:11.6 1:11.9 1:11.6 1:13.5 1:18.7 2:02:26
BAKER (NZ) 1:11.5 1:11.9 1:11.7 1:14.6 1:21.5 2:03:44
WILLIAMS (CAN) 1:11.7 1:12.0 1:14.7 1:18.2 1:15.7 2:04:07
HOSCHKE-EDWARDS (AUS) 1:11.6 1:11.9 1:12.7 1:17.9 1:18.9 2:04:21
HANSFORD (AUS) 1:12.0 1:12.2 1:16.4 1:18.9 1:21.1 2:06:52
KIDA (JAP) 1:11.8 1:12.4 1:16.1 1:19.2 1:24.5 2:08:00


2K 4K 6K 8K 10K total
PETERSON (USA) 1:12.2 1:09.5 1:09.0 1:09.2 1:08.0 1:56:00
CRIPPEN (USA) 1:12.7 1:09.3 1:09.0 1:09.3 1:07.9 1:56:03
WEINBERGER (CAN) 1:12.0 1:10.5 1:08.0 1:09.2 1:08.4 1:56:03
CARMO (BRA) 1:12.4 1:10.8 1:08.0 1:09.1 1:08.0 1:56:05
FRAYLER (USA) 1:12.5 1:10.5 1:08.2 1:09.2 1:14.8 1:58:23
O’BRIEN (AUS) 1:12.1 1:11.5 1:11.5 1:11.5 1:11.4 1:59:20
ASHWOOD (AUS) 1:12.3 1:11.6 1:11.2 1:11.4 1:11.7 1:59:25
RYAN (USA) 1:12.8 N/A N/A 1:12.2 1:11.5 1:59:26
KLEUH (USA) 1:12.4 N/A N/A 1:11.6 1:11.5 1:59:26
BROWNE (AUS) 1:12.3 1:11.5 1:11.0 1:11.4 1:12.1 1:59:27
KING (CAN) 1:12.2 1:11.3 1:11.3 1:11.8 1:12.0 1:59:32
MAINSTONE (AUS) 1:12.1 1:11.5 1:11.3 1:11.7 1:12.3 1:59:39
ENDERICA (ECU) 1:12.4 1:10.9 1:08.2 1:09.1 1:20.9 2:00:28
CHETRAT (CAN) 1:12.2 1:11.8 1:11.3 1:12.3 1:20.6 2:02:45

Some notes:

  • The women – led as usual by Eva Fabian – took it out fast, and were almost 20 seconds ahead of the men at 2K.

Stormy, Husky, Brawling

Stormy, Husky, Brawling

Less than 3 weeks ’til Big Shoulders! This race has a special place in my heart: It was at Big Shoulders ’09 where I caught the open-water bug. Without which, this summer wouldn’t have been nearly as awesome.

Little did I realize that Big Shoulders would soon be my hometown race. And I’m happy to see it prosper: In its 20th year, it reached the maximum registration of 800 swimmers for the first time. That’s an eightfold increase since 1998, the first year for which results are available on the web.

To facilitate analysis across years, I aggregated these 12 years of results (1998-2009) into a single CSV file. This is what you might call a picture of success:

— Notes —

  • 1999: first year that a 2.5K race was offered
  • 2005: 2.5K race was the USMS 1-3 mile national championship
  • All data-slinging, number-crunching, and picture-making performed with the assistance of R and ggplot2.

Elite vs. Masters in the open water

Elite vs. Masters in the open water

What’s the difference between Masters open-water races and elite FINA or USA-S open-water races? I would argue, it’s not so much the absolute swimming speeds (1:10 per 100m for 10K, compared to 1:20 to win almost any Masters 10K), but the variability of swimming speeds.

Masters races have a much wider spread of abilities. In this year’s USMS 10K at Morse Reservoir, the top 10 finishers were separated by 9 seconds per 100m, and the winner was a full 29 seconds per 100m faster than the median finisher. What this means is, most people are swimming most of the race by themselves.

In FINA races, the spread in abilities from top to bottom is (I would guess) less than 5 seconds per 100m. What that means is: lots of pack swimming. In order to successfully break away from an open-water peloton, a swimmer will not only have to swim faster than the others in the pack, but fast enough to break out of the peloton’s draft.

As a result, elite races are characterized by 8-9K of conservative, highly tactical swimming followed by 1-2K of balls-out sprinting.…


What’s your “forever pace”?

What’s your “forever pace”?

What pace can you hold… well, maybe not “forever,” but let’s say… indefinitely. What would your pace be if you intended to swim all day – not racing, just swimming (and given that you’re fully warmed up) ?

Imagine you’re David B. (a.k.a. “chaos” on the USMS forum) swimming across the Catalina Channel. He’s a swimmer fully capable of a sub-10 hour crossing, but because of adverse currents it turns into 15 hours, 37 minutes. What’s that pace?

As I think more and more about true “marathon” swimming – I’m doing my first race over 10K in October – this seems an increasingly fundamental question. Yet it’s a question that, despite my many years in the sport, I had never thought to ask.

Now that I have more regular access to long course water, I’ve had better opportunities to answer this question. And for me, right now, that pace is about 1:24 (+/- 1 second) per 100 meters.

Obviously, since I’ve never done a swim longer than 2.5 hours, it’s difficult to say what 15 hours in the water would do (nothing good, I’d imagine).…


Cycles of work & recovery

Cycles of work & recovery

A few weeks ago I described the “balancing act” I face between (a) doing so many races this summer, and (b) training sufficiently to swim races such as the 10K. I just realized I never followed up on that post!

So, what’s the strategy? As the title implies, I time the intensity of my training around the races. What that means in practice is that I do my most intense workouts (including weight-lifting) near the beginning of the week, and reserve the end of the week (Friday, and possibly Thursday as well) for recovery. Then, come what may on Saturday, I’m ready to perform.

The elegant part of this strategy is that recovery days should already be part of the training plan – whether or not I have a race on the weekend. Work followed by recovery is how the body gets stronger. Training intensity that follows (approximately) a sine curve over time will be more effective than a flat line.

The only adjustment I make is that my recovery days are fixed – always at the end of the week rather than scattered at random.…