Reply To: for those that have distance swimmers
I think the same thing can be said for endurance in the 100. To swim a faster back half of the 100 sometimes the answer isn’t more endurance, it’s more speed. A while ago, I tried to figure out a generic formula of what you should be holding in your 25 100 pace stuff based on your top speed. For example if my sprint time in a 25 meter free was 12.2, I wanted to know what pace I should be holding doing 25’s on 15-25 rest. I figured there had to be some kind of a range with more primary 200 swimmers would hold a pace closer to their top speed than a drop dead 50 guy. I can’t remember exactly what the range was, plus it was kind of hard to calculate, but I believe I hypothesized that the range was 1.0-1.5 slower than your best rested all out 25 from a push is what you should be able to hold. That could be off a little. But to illustrate a point, whether you are Katie Ledecky or an average age group swimmer you are going to reach a point where it is unreasonable to expect to hold a pace that is close to your top speed. Even if you have the best endurance in the world you are not going to be able to hold something like .5 off of you top speed with 15 seconds rest for any significant amount of reps. Eventually there comes a point where you have to improve your top speed in order to improve your end of race speed. When I was doing 25’s, I hit the wall at 13.5 on freestyle but I just kept going thinking my endurance would improve but I stayed stuck for a while. I thought that in order to go below 13.5, I would have to bring my 12.2 sprint time down.
I do 50’s on 2:00 now and I have been looking at back half splits in relation to top speed 50 times to figure out where I should be. I am not setting my pace based on this, I am using current back 50 tt as my pace. My back half of my 100’s are not where they should be based on my 50 times. For example my back 50 of my 100 breast is 6 seconds off of my top 50 breast time. It should be in the 3.5-4.5 range. In my case, the answer is more endurance but for someone who is 3.5 or less off of their 50 time, they have to improve their top speed in order to swim a faster 100. They could improve technique and turns but from a physical standpoint, all the aerobic training in the world is not going to make you go below 3-3.5 off of your 50 time.
It pays to have as much speed in the tank as possible. Look at Sarah Sjostrom. She had the fastest back half in the 100 fly in the field. She went 29.47 and was the only person under 30 except for the Chinese girl that tested positive. Beating the field by over a half second on the second 50 is total domination. But if you look at the 100 free, she had a good back half, not the best though. Why is that? She was the best 200 swimmer in the field. She even had a slightly better second 100 of the 200 than Ledecky. So Sjostrom definitely has endurance. She is great at both fly and free, but clearly better at fry. At the same time it would make sense for her to be a little faster on the second 50 of a 100 free based on her crazy back 50 on fly and the endurance to swim a great 200 free. The difference is that she has so much more power and top speed in fly relative to the competition than free. On fly, she was +5 on her back 50 over her top 50 time. Oleksiak was about +4.6. So even though Sjostrom blew away the field, does that really mean she has the best endurance?
Another thing that stuck out to me looking at the splits at the Olympics was Kyle Chalmers 100 free. Going 24.4 on the back half when your top 50 free time is 22 low is just absurd. He didn’t swim the 50 at the Olympics but maybe he could have gone 21.9 at best. But if you take away the benefit of the block and adjust for turn time he is not that far off top speed throughout the second half. That’s endurance if I have ever seen it. It is impressive for a muscular guy who split time between sports. He doesn’t have as much yardage under his belt as other swimmers who have been swimming year round their whole lives. So much for the aerobic base. But for Chalmers moving forward if his 22 low 50 doesn’t come down, I don’t see any way his going to go better than 47.5. Even though the 50 and end of a 100 are using completely different energy systems, top speed makes a difference. Your gap is only going to be but so much. So the only way Chalmers can drop his 100 is to get more top end speed.
In yards the gap for 100 free is around 2-3.5 with most people around the 3 second range. Dressel was +3.0 on his ncaa record and everyone else was around the same gap. So even though Dressel blew everyone away on both the first and second half, it doesn’t really mean he has better endurance. Endurance should be measured by the gap between top 50 speed and back 50 speed not the difference between first and second 50’s. I hope that makes sense, I’m kind of rambling on at this point. Your second 50 is only going to be but so slow. Vlad Morozov had probably the worst race plan ever at 2013 Worlds going out in 21.9 but he was still able to make it back in 26.0. That won’t win you any races but that’s still not that bad considering how fast he took it out. Even with no aerobic training your gap is only going to be 5.0 at the worst. Erik Risolovato focuses mostly on the 50 and has done mostly speed work over the past couple of years. I don’t know all the details about his training but I know he does very little aerobic or back half 100 pace work and he was still able to go +4.5 on a 100 yard free and go a really fast time.
I think different swimmers are somewhat predetermined to fall on different places on the endurance scale. For example, if you could go back in time and change Anthony Ervin’s training, he was never going to be a monster back half guy in any program. On the other hand, Phelps was never going to be a speed demon, lead a 100 wire to wire type of guy like Schooling. The goal for training for 100’s should be to improve your top speed as much as possible while not sacrificing any time on your top 50 time/back 50 of 100 gap. And I don’t think it takes a huge amount of yardage to maintain the gap.