Swim Review: 5K ePostal

I'm the balding guy heading toward the camera.
I’m the balding guy heading toward the camera.

What the heck is a 5K ePostal?

To start, it is not a TV show, a book, a movie, or any type of food or restaurant. It is a country-wide swim race where you swim 5000 meters in a 50 meter pool and then “mail” in your results.  (Back in the olden days, you mailed your results using the actual postal service, thus the “postal” part of the name.  Nowadays, results are submitted online, thus the “e” part of the name.)

If it isn’t on TV, a kindle/book page, a movie screen, or a plate, then why am I reviewing it?  

I am reviewing it, because like most normal people I spent yesterday swimming 5000 meters for time.  For fun.  My goal was to beat last year’s time of 1 hour 14 minutes and 7 seconds.  This works out to slightly under 1:30 pace per 100 meters.

What was my strategy?

My strategy was to descend by 1000 meters.  For those not initiated in the world of swimming, descend by 1000 means that each 1000 meters should be faster than the last.  My intent: 1:31 pace per 100 meters for the first 1000. 1:30 for the second 1000. 1:29 for the third. 1:28 for the fourth; and 1:27 for the final 1000.  This strategy would result in a time of 1 hour 14 minutes and 00 seconds – 7 seconds faster than last year.

What were my results?

1000M – 15:13 – I start slow as I intend.  It is too slow.  I can see the digital clock on the side of the pool after each 100 so I know that my second 100 is excessively slow.  I am forced to pick it up a bit to stay on target.  By the 500-meter mark, my arms are already sore and I realize this is going to be a long swim.  This was supposed to be the easy part.  I end up three seconds over my goal time for the 1000, entirely on the 2nd 100.

2000M – 30:12 (14:59) – I increase my pace and for the first time I settle into a comfortable rhythm.  I am one second under my goal for the 1000.  I consider this a successful swim.

3000M – 45:03 (14:51) – Another increase in pace, but now I am starting to wonder how I am going to pick it up two more levels.  One second over my goal for the 1000 and I’m satisfied with this.

4000M – 59:51 (14:51) – I tried to pick it up, but I only manage to stay on the same pace as the previous 1000.  I try to add a kick to my stroke at this point, but my lower back is not letting me keep my hips up.  This was 11 seconds over my goal for the 1000.  I am not satisfied with this.

5000M – 1:14:52 (15:01) – The final sprint was less a sprint and more a futile effort to try to maintain pace.  I still have no ability to kick (not that my kick ever gets me very far, very fast, but it is worth something).  I finish a disappointing 52 seconds over target.  (A whopping 40 on this 1000 alone).

Am I happy with the results?

No.  Last year I swam in much more difficult conditions (95 air temperature and the water was not much cooler).  This year the temperature was in the 70s (though the water was still not very cool).  I was in roughly similar shape, yet I was over 40 seconds slower than last year.  My form was pretty good [see the picture above, nice early vertical forearm pulling straight back]; I just swam poorly.  I did manage to pick up my stroke count on every 1000, even if I didn’t drop time.  My stroke count steadily increased throughout the race from 27-28 strokes per minute to over 33 for the final 1000.  The downside was my distance per stroke decreased consistently throughout as well, going from 2.15 meters per stroke to 2.00 meters per stroke by the end.

If I were to change anything, I would start faster.  I think I started too slow.  I should have used some of my adrenaline to start the race, and built up a buffer from my goal.  Maybe next year I’ll start fast and stay fast, or I’ll just do the 10k ePostal instead.

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