A 10K in the water is swimming’s version of a runner’s marathon. It takes about the same time to swim a 10K as to run a marathon; from a little less than two hours for male swimmers in the Olympics to 3 hours and more for mere mortals..
The biggest complaint I’ve heard about even attempting to swim a 10K is the old bromide, “It’s boring.” I don’t think so. Fatiguing, hard, painful even, but not boring.
The first thing to do is get comfortable swimming longer distances in a pool or lake. This is one time the old “LSD” workout is a positive, i.e. Long Slow Distance. Another way to look at it is to use your “All Day Stroke.” What speed and rhythm in freestyle is most comfortable for you over a long period of time, say, 15 minutes or more?
That’s the body part. Now, how do you get over the head saying, “It’s boring!” I treat the swim as a mind game. I plan my pace long before I attempt the swim. It’s a mental challenge. I figure out what pace I want and practice that in a pool.
Go to http://www.usms.org/longdist/pacechart.pdf, and run off a copy of the USMS “Long Distance Pace Chart.” Now you have to find out what pace is comfortable for you in a long series of intervals.
For example, one workout I’ve used is to go a total of 21 x 100 yards on 1:55 in three different sets, and all of the 100s were 1:34-35. If you look at the “Long Distance Pace Chart,” you will find that is about 1:43 per 100 meters or around 1 hour 25 minutes for a 5K and 2:51.26 for 10K. My best for both are 1:29.30 and 3:07 something. So, I am pacing in practice at what seems to be a slow speed, but it is faster than what I usually swim a 5K or 10K.
This is fine. Next try a set of 5 or more times 200. What are your 100 splits now? Check the “Long Distance Pace Chart” for a corresponding 5 or 10K time. The secret is being able to hold a reasonable pace for a long series of 100s or 200s.
Next, you have to jump up your average workout distance to around 5000 yards once every two weeks or so. Running marathoners do a long run up to half the marathon distance (13 miles plus) regularly every 2-3 weeks. 10K swimmers should follow the same practice.
The 5K (or more) workout does not have to be either LSD or a massive set of the same intervals. I consider either of those “boring,” unless the LSD is in a lake. Mix up your workout as you usually do in a pool; just go at least 5000 yards/meters in the day’s workout.
You can even run splits in a lake. It’s easy enough to look at a wrist watch while swimming. I am lucky in that I have Eel Lake 10 miles away where i can go 5000 yards (or more) safely.
It’s a 5000 yard round trip up the West Arm of Eel Lake and back. We’ve figured out that it’s 1000 meters one way across the base of the lake and 1300 yards up to the Red Cliff on the West Arm. Find a lake you can swim in during the summer and Google Map it out for distances.
You might ask, Why are you talking about swimming a 5 or 10K with the summer half over. Remember that you can still swim an ePostal 5 or 10K until Sept. 15, this year, if you can find a 50 meter pool in Oregon, other than Juniper in Bend, where you can get 3-4 hours of continuous 50 meter time-trial time.
And, in 2016, you can swim two 10Ks in the summer, one for the ePostal events as usual, and the second for the National Championship Open Water 10K at Applegate Lake in July. So plan ahead. Do at least an ePostal 5K this year if you have never done one before. Then start thinking and working to swim 10Ks in 2016.