Test day: Going ALL OUT

I logged in to my Training Peaks account, looked at my training schedule for the day. The title read: “Swim, Field Test.”

I felt the nerves almost immediately, as my (too many) years of schooling produce a almost automatic response to the word TEST.

Will I pass?!

Since I started training with Vince in October, I’ve noticed improvements with my swim. But, now we were going to make it official with a formal test.

Oh, the pressure!

The workout included a warmup, followed by two time trial efforts of differing lengths. In the description for the workout, Vince had written, “If it doesn’t hurt, you’re not going hard enough. Go as fast as you can! Be strong, it will be over soon!”

I giggled nervously. I was getting the sense that I should prepare for some pain.

Yeah, I had NO IDEA how much as I squiggled into the pool that morning.

With the warmup complete it was time to start the 400 yard time trial, which is 8 laps in my gym’s 25-yard pool. I collected my thoughts and visualized smooth, fluid strokes. At this point, I was nervous. I wanted to do well. I wanted to pace it correctly. I wanted to go fast–or at least fast for me.

I hit the lap timer and plunged into the test. Vince had directed me to hit the lap timer for each 100-yard segment, in addition to the overall time.

After the first two laps, I hit the lap timer on my watch and sneaked a peak: 1:35.

Holy sh!t, I thought. My fastest 100 ever. Then, it occurred to me that I still had 300 yards to go. I brushed the negative talk away quickly.

No problem, I thought. I got this. It hurts, but it is temporary.

After the third lap, I worried that I may have started out just a tad too hard. I settled my pace, and I managed a 1:39 for the second 100-yard segment. Slower, yes, but still a more-than-respectable time for me.

But by the time I got to the 5th lap, my lungs clomid were protesting, and my arms felt like they were not really a part of my body. Thank goodness I could see them because if I couldn’t, I might have wondered if they had flung off my body.

Time for the third 100-yard segment: 1:42.

Uh-oh. I was falling off the rails.

It hurt. So I was going hard enough. But I was afraid I was going to lose it. I wanted to finish strong, but I wasn’t sure if I could.

Just. Have. To. Hold. On.

As I hit the wall and turned to start my 7th lap, I remembered some advice triathlon coach Bobby McGee offered during a presentation John and I attended: “When my athletes are hurting, I tell them to objectively describe the pain. No emotion. Emotion is deceptive.”

So that’s what I did. My lungs were tight but the air was still coming in and out; the lactic acid created a burning sensation in my shoulders, which made my arms felt weary. All of these effects had logical, physiological sources.

I told myself these are all normal and temporary sensations. I was NOT dying, and I had less than 2 minutes to go to finish this test.

I screwed on my resolve and thought: I can do ANYTHING for two minutes.

Having removed the distraction of emotional thinking, I hushed those voices that always try to talk you into quitting. And, my thoughts cleared. I realized I could help with the oxygen deficit caused by the anaerobic effort by switching to single stroke breathing instead of bilateral breathing.

At the close of the 7th lap, I was back on the rails and firing. My head was in the game, and so was my body.

One more lap.

I dug in and found the strength that keeps me addicted to this sport. I found that I had more to give. I found myself completing the fourth 100-yard segment in 1:38.

That’s it girl! My fastest 400 ever in 6:35. Just five seconds shy of my secret goal of 6:30. I’ll hit that next time.

After a short break, and some easy swimming, it was time for the second part: 100 yards ALL OUT.

I remembered Vince’s words: “Be strong. It’ll be over soon.”

I whispered to myself, “You got this. Let’s hit 1:30.” I closed my eyes, visualized the 1:30, and took a breath.

I hit the lap timer and went all out. I have never swum so hard as I did during this 100 yard test. It was the longest one minute and thirty-one seconds of my life.

As I hit the wall, I was on the verge of puking. I also had to hold on to the side of the pool (even though it was shallow enough to stand). I was disoriented and a touch fearful I might drown.

Oh, yeah baby! I went ALL OUT!

As my heart rate came down, and my breathing evened out, I could feel the deep satisfaction of knowing I swam as HARD.AS.I.COULD.

Then, came the twinge from missing my goal of 1:30 by one second.

Despite my disappointment, I was comforted by knowing I did the best I could. John reminded me, ” You are swimming the fastest you’ve ever swum and it’s only December. You’ve got time.”

While I missed the mark for this training test, it has still given me the confidence that I will be able to knock some major time off of my Ironman swim time this year.

I wrote in my training log, “I’m starting to believe a 1 hour 15 minute swim at Mont Tremblant is a realistic goal for me.”

Vince’s response? “Let’s train for 1:10 then.”

I’m getting the sense I should prepare for some pain.


  1. This could not have come at a better time. I am going to be getting on the trainer shortly and after a warm-up I have 3 sets of 12min 3:13:10 AM (145-155bpm) and 3min AC (155-160bpm) with only 1min recovery in between sets. I was thinking no way but after reading this I am thinking no doubt I can.

    Thank you.

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