With the marathon training running (no pun intended) in parallel with the triathlon training, I've decided that I'll swim twice a week rather than three times, and allow for more run-specific training for the next few months. Today I tried to stick with that, taking my first "in season" swim at the University of Ottawa.
Morning lane swims are in the shallow end only as the synchro or diving teams use the deep end. I was very interested to see just how busy it would be - at $4.25 for a drop-in rate, it's probably the cheapest place in town. But it's by no means short on quality. While older, the pool size is very large, very clean and very well stocked. There was 8 full lanes available, each cut in half to offer 16 swim lanes in total (the other 2 lane swims in the day use the full pool, offering 32 lanes). The lanes were well used, but not so busy that it was hard to swim - I hate having to slow-up in the middle of a set.
Large signs behind the lanes identified the lane speeds. I decided to try the so-called "Fast" lane - the sign estimated 25-30sec per 25m pace, which I can do most days. I watched the swimmers in that lane and the next, and dropped into the water.
That was my first indication that I may have been in the wrong lane. The water was c-o-l-d! It's only that cold when people can really tear-up the lanes and belt out fast laps. Two women flip-turned in front of me, I let them get 5-10m ahead, and I started out. They lapped me in less than 75m. I returned the 25m back to the start of the lane and slipped into the next-slower lane. Much better (but still cold).
The intermediate lane was a bit more of a match, with me and a couple others at the higher-end of the pacing. But it worked out very well, and I decided to pound out a series of 100m sets to work on swim base. I gave myself anywhere from 10sec to 30sec rest between each set and focused strongly on form. It took a long time to hit it right, as I was feeling fatigue from yesterday's cardio kickboxing, but I eventually found my position and stroke.
The whole thing worked out very well for me. My 45min bus ride this morning got me right to campus with time to spare, and it was a simple 7min walk from there to my office. I think these swims will stay as base-builders and leave the harder, faster stuff with the weekly masters swim (at least until the marathon is done).