With our 200 Meet coming just a fortnight after West District Round 2 it puts into focus one of the conundrums of swimming – the difference between short and long course racing.
Our swimmers do almost all their training, and have most of their early racing experience, in 25m pools. When they turn 11, and start collecting the consideration times for West District events, they’ll find themselves competing in 50m length pools.
Swimmers racing at the Portal next weekend may find they’re setting times way faster than they managed in the same events at Tollcross.
Have they made a massive improvement in the space of two weeks?
Unfortunately, it’s not that straightforward, as our Junior Coach, Alan Dickson explains.
“Many of the younger swimmer don’t have a lot of racing history at long course events,” he says, “so you might wonder how they even managed to get onto the start sheet?
“What happens is there’s a process of converting their short course times into estimated long course times. But that’s all they are – they’re estimates.
“Quite often some of the younger swimmers come out and look at their entry time, which is quite often one of these conversions, and are disappointed when they haven’t achieved the drop in time that they expected or believe they’re due.
“Conversions often don’t work too well, particularly when you’re dealing with backstroke and IM.
“Probably the best way to illustrate it is with an example of one of our swimmers at Tollcross the other weekend.
“In Eilidh's 200m freestyle she went 2:29.17 which was just under her entry time by 0.8 second but came out thinking she could have gone faster. But when we compared it to her actual long course PB she actually swam 13 seconds quicker. Her previous long course time was 2:42 so she’s absolutely smashed it.
“So what I say to the kids – and the parents – is that they’ve got to realise these entry times are just guestimates; it’s an algorithm they feed your short course PB into and out pops a time the computer thinks you might be able to swim in long course.
“But you need to remember that computers don’t swim very well!
“Sometimes it’s not very accurate, and I would urge everybody to know what their long course and short course PB’s are because sometimes it’s like a different sport.”
In short course racing there are twice as many turns over a given distance, so a swimmer who is very skilled at their turns, has more power pushing off the wall and is better underwater will be able to extract an advantage.
The flip side of that is that in long course racing you spend twice as long swimming between the turns, so a swimmer with a better top speed has more opportunity to pull away from their rivals.
“Hannah Miley is a great example of that,” says Alan. “Her body type is less suited to short course racing because she’s small and gets disrupted by the wake. When she’s up against larger swimmers they have more explosive power off the turns.”
“Younger swimmers find during the 200m races – particularly in back and breaststroke – that they need to focus much more on all aspects of technique.”
There’s lots to bear in mind when you’re weighing up how well you’ve performed next weekend.
Any of the coaching team will be more than happy to answer any questions you have about conversation times and your different PBs.