ISL-ing the Not-Quite-Nationals Virtual Pool Challenge

Multiple days in November and December

City of Barrie's Holly and East Bayfield Community Centres


Masters Swimming Ontario has been doing a great job of putting together a few, simple, but motivational and fun virtual events this year. Their Virtual Open Water Challenge this summer was one of the two virtual events (the other being Intrepid Water's Build to Marathon event) that actually got me to do a solo 10K lake swim.


Recently, MSO launched their "Not-Quite-Virtual Pool Challenge," an event that challenges us to incorporate ALL events (and some fun additions) as timed efforts in our workouts:

  • 50, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1500 Freestyle

  • 50, 100, 200 Backstroke

  • 50, 100, 200 Breaststroke

  • 50, 100, 200 Butterfly

  • 100, 200, 400, 800 Individual Medley

  • 25 Double-armed backstroke

  • 25 Kick, no flippers

  • 25 kick with flippers

  • 25 Dolphin dives

Thanks to me planning this while watching the International Swim League and the 45 minute lap swim time allotments at our community pools ...

Holly Community Centre (left) with only 5 lanes, but excellent flowover gutter

East Bayfield Community Center (right) with 8 lanes, flat walls and me in the green cap :)


... I decided to incorporate two elements from the ISL to aim to accomplish this challenge over a three week period:

  • Race a lot, some times back-to-back days

  • Solo "skins" - unlike the pros who raced 3 x 50s in their "Skins Races" with only 3 minutes rest between them, I need a little more rest! I went my 4 x 50s every 5:00, taking an easy 100 in the rest period. On the 100s, I would go every 6:00, incorporating 4 x 50 active recovery in the rest period. Thus far, I've only done one 200 (IM), but I'll attempt the more this coming week, aiming to go every 8:00 and probably doing 6 x 50 active recovery during the rest period.

In each of these 'race workouts,' I've done a 1200-1300 meter warmup, usually in about 25-27 minutes and then raced the following, going all efforts from a push and self-timing using my Garmin Swim 2 watch:

  • November 23rd - Holly - 4 x 50s IM order

  • November 26th - Holly - 100 fly, 100 breast, 100 free, 25 dolphin dive

  • November 27th - Bayfield - 100 IM, 100 back, 200 IM, 25 kick without flippers

There's no way these times should be close to my Masters Swimming best times, but it is interesting to compare. Here's what I expected and what I've seen thus far:

  • My backstroke times to be closest to my best, since I both have a crappy backstroke start on a good day and pushing off the wall is not much different, whereas diving off the blocks on the rest of the strokes and IMs adds a significant time advantage. Sure enough, I was only 16.6% slower than my best on my 50 back (vs other strokes averaging 19.4% slower) and only 7.2% slower on my 100 (vs other strokes and IM averaging 16.9% slower)

  • Me to get closer, on a percentage basis, to my best times as the events got longer. So far, this is true as my 50s averaged 18.7% slower, my 100s average 15.0% slower and, though I've only swum the 200 IM, it was only 13.4% off my best.

Coming up this week, I've got two sessions planned at Holly and am ambitiously aiming to tackle the 400 & 800 IM, and hopefully both the 200 back and 200 breast. Happy racing!

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