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  • Marian Cardwell

What do you think about for 100 x 100s?

This weekend was quite the throwback. An iconic swimming workout is 100 x 100s. It’s what it sounds like. You swim 100 yards or meters (ours was yards), 100 times. It’s one of those team and character-building sets that coaches love. Anyway, one of my teammates at Chicago Masters thought it would be fun to do our normal Saturday workout (~4.5 miles) and then drive straight to Munster, IN to do 100 x 100s with the Munster Masters in Munster, IN. Thanks to the enthusiasm of another teammate, that’s just what we did. And oh yeah, thanks to a third teammate, we did 4 bonus 100s so we swam 104 x 100s instead of the classic 100. So, if you think I’m the crazy one, I’ve got company. They know who they are 😉


I wanted to share this throwback workup with you to give a peek inside my head. What do I think about for 104 x 100s? I would sum it up as a lot and nothing. At the beginning it’s a constant swirl along these lines:

  • Pace yourself.

  • Make it feel easy.

  • How’s your stroke? Are you engaging your core? Are you rolling to both sides? Is your left arm limping or working? Are you pulling?

  • What number was that?

  • Keep it up.

From about 40-70, the swirling thoughts look similar, but with more gaps:

  • Think about your stroke. <3 strokes later> You already forgot to think about your stroke. <eye roll at self> Think about your stroke this time! <4 strokes later> You forgot again. <repeat>

  • What number was that? 54. No. 53. It’s 57?? YES.

  • Long and strong. You got this.

#70-90 was the prime time for some self-doubting. Logically, it doesn’t make sense, but I always struggle at that 75-85% mark. Whether it’s the 3rd 50 of a 200, the 1400 of a 1650, or the 88th 100 of 100 x 100s, a voice in my head goes, “Are you sure?” In context of training for this 108-mile swim, asking “Are you sure?” becomes a little heavy. My #70-90 looked like this:

  • How’s it going?

  • Your shoulder is hurting? What do you mean? It can’t. If it hurts this early in, what are you going to do in Lake Michigan?

  • How’s your stroke? Did you let it fall apart? You know your stroke tends to get worse when you’re tired. 108 miles is a lot longer than 104 one-hundreds. What’s your plan? You can keep it together.

  • You need to make this feel easy. Think about how you’ll be feeling when you’re 85% through Lake Michigan. Find your spirit. Get tough. You can do this.

  • Your shoulder still hurts? Breathe through it. You’re still keeping your pace, you know. You can do this and you can do 108 miles.

  • Focus on your stroke.

  • Lose yourself.

  • Be strong.

  • Keep going.

  • You know you’re almost done.

  • Stop that whining.

  • You got this.

#90 – 100 were actually a dream. They were all about visualizing the Michigan finish line in large part, thanks to an amazing teammate. Everyone should be so lucky to have someone like her. After each 100, she would shout these words of encouragement, which gave me some new things to focus on:

  • You can see Michigan now!

  • You can see the sand!

  • You can see the people on the beach!

  • You can hear the people on the beach cheering!

  • Keep it up!

  • You got this!

#100 – 104 were a perfect surprise. Open water swimming is unpredictable and just when you think you might be done, you’re not, and you have to go a little further. Looking back, I really should have swum 108 x 100s since my path is 108 miles! But maybe next time 😉

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