Today I did the MMIC, a 3.8 km open water swimming race in Deep Water Bay around Middle Island. This race last year was my first proper open water swimming race since I started training seriously, in the first week I joined a swim squad, and I completed in 1:25:45, which was my longest swimming race in my life at that time, establishing the starting point for my adventure in open water swimming.
In the year afterwards, I trained a lot in the swim squad and did a lot of races. I pushed my endurance further and further, up to nearly 5 km in April, then even a 13 km marathon swimming in July. I also tried swimming in cold water in Nordic April and current-assisted cross-harbour race in a foreign city in July. However, my race speed did not improve, and I couldn’t even qualify the cross-harbour race in Hong Kong in September time-trial after nearly a year of training, which I did about 31 minutes for 1.5 km. To make the matter worse, The Polson 5 had became my worst race ever, under a hot, calm environment with strong current against us, which I completed as the last person, just barely making the cut off, which was a big contrast to another race of about the same distance in April, the DWB, when it was cool and choppy, which I considered to be my best race. (Good and bad are determined by cross-comparing the results of competitors completing both races) I became very frustrated and started to doubt if I should switch to another squad.
The MMIC is my most important race in the year to judge my progress because the course is the same as last year, and the current inside Deep Water Bay is minimal (unlike the Polson 5 where the current varies a lot in the month), factoring out most environment factors in the race. I originally wanted to swim this race first, and see if I had improved last year to determine if I should really leave my current squad or not. However, on 23 October, Crest Ray offered a Total Immersion promotional class so I tried it, and it gave me immediate improvement in a single hour. In particular I learnt to have a proper 2-beat kick which I didn’t even know how I should kick before, along with balance, body rotation, and catch-up. That translated to 6-second improvement for a 10 x 100 m set on 2’10”, previously returning on average 1’54” 5 days before, and 1’48” 2 days after the lesson. However, I still needed time to practice the technique change to make me get used to it.
According to historical data (i.e. my previous race results in the year), my estimated time in the MMIC should be about 85 – 86 minutes, however after that technique improvement, I considered my target to be 75 – 80 minutes (about 20 – 21 minutes per km). Today’s condition was 25°C air temperature and 26°C sea temperature and relatively calm water, and my official time was 1:20:55 (compared to 1:25:45 last year), which meant I didn’t reach my target time and got a bit disappointed about my improvement rate. I cross-compared the finisher list with last year, and the average times of the common athletes were nearly the same in both years, which meant my improvement over the year was only 6 L% (I was actually hoping for 10 L% improvement every year). The course was about 3.7 km long as measured by Google Maps satellite image and my Garmin watch measured 3837 m, with km split times 0:19:03, 0:20:15, 0:22:40 and 0:18:49 for the final 837 m (i.e. 0:22:29 pace in the last segment). I didn’t know the deterioration was due to fatigue or current because the current prediction said that there was a little bit of current against us in the last segment.
To conclude, I got a little improvement in the year, but the improvement rate was not satisfactory, and I am still very far from a good swimmer. I hope that, in winter, I can have more intense training when overheating is no longer a concern to bring my time down.