This is a picture of a couple of my Friday night regular “Red Mist’ers” hammering out a 5k swim at the last Red Mist session of the winter term. Collectively, these two have easily covered over 125,000m in the pool since January.
Week after week at 6pm on Friday nights swimmers showed up for the Red Mist sessions saying “bring it on”. A few of the Red Mist session participants are doing the 11.8k Skaha Lake Ultra Swim this August while others are racing 140.6 and 70.3 distance Triathlon events.
These “Red Mist” sessions were the longest and hardest pool sessions of the week and they tapped into a variety of energy systems from endurance up to threshold pace. Distance covered usually ranged from 4,000-5,300m. The term “Red Mist” describes the feeling you get when doing one of these sessions because it’s easy to see “red” when working consistently hard over a long period of time!
These 90-120 minute swims are the cornerstone of the Ironman and 70.3 crew as well as the growing pod of ultra swimmers given how good they are at preparing swimmers for these distances. As the coach at these sessions, I provided very specific pacing targets via Tempo Trainers to each swimmer based on their unique CSS pace. I monitored their stroke and urged them on when the “red mist” started to descend and they struggled to hold pace and form.
These pool sessions ended last week but they can be swum in open water as well! With a Garmin on your wrist indicating distance, and a tempo trainer in your cap providing pace feedback, you can still do these purposeful and challenging endurance sets outdoors.
Now, these sessions are not for everyone but if you race distances greater than 1,500m, you should give them a go! I’ve been swimming my whole life and although I am a huge proponent of this type of training session, I have never done one…until this week! I like shorter interval sets with lots of variety and a good chuck of drills in my swim sessions. The Red Mist session I did this week was none of these things. But, I often tell my athletes that they should do the type of training they don’t like because that is what they need in order to improve. So, I thought it was time to ‘walk the walk’.
For anyone who wants to give one of these sessions a try, here is the one I did this past Monday. (Note, there intentionally is not a warm-up. Just like in a race, you get in and GO!)
Sample Red Mist Set: 5,000m
Part 1: 1,000 swim @ CSS + 6, staying on the beep per 25m.
If you aren’t using a tempo trainer, swim at a pace that is 6 seconds slower per 100m than the 100m pace you can sustain for 1,500m. Example – if you can hold 1:45s for 1,500m then you should be swimming at pace of 1:51 per 1000) This pace should feel pretty good and effectively is a warm-up.
Part 2: 10 x 100 on RMC5. Beat the beep for rest.
If you aren’t using a tempo trainer, swim each 100 at the pace you could hold for 1,500m (i.e. threshold pace) and take 10 seconds rest after each 100.
Part 3: 1,000 @ CSS +4 , staying on the beep per 25m.
If you aren’t using a tempo trainer, swim at a pace that is 4 seconds slower per 100m than the pace y0u can sustain for 1,500m. If you can hold 1:45s for 1500m you are now being asked to swim at a pace of 1:49 per 100.
Part 4: 4 x 250 on RMC3. Beat the beeper for the first 50m then stay on the beep for the remaining 200m. Take 30 seconds rest after each 250m.
If you aren’t using a tempo trainer, swim hard for the first 50m then slow down to the same pace you were holding during the first 1,000 in part 1. Take 30 seconds rest after each 250.
Part 5: 1,000 choice swim. By this point, if you are new to these sessions you will just want to swim this last 1,000 comfortably and maybe mix in some backstroke and breaststroke.
How did it go for me? Well…
Part 1: No problem although my arms were heavy for the first 500 and I questioned if I would make it all the way through the workout.
Part 2: It got kinda hard kinda fast!
Part 3: I failed on the CSS +4 and tweaked my pace to CSS +5 and still had to work pretty hard to stay on the beep.
This is when the red mist descended on me..I got angry that I couldn’t hold a slower than threshold pace after only swimming 2,000m. Noted to self, I need to do these types of sessions more often.
Part 4: I didn’t have the energy to “beat the beeper” for the first 50m. I had to fight to stay on the beep for only 250m at a time and then savoured my 30 seconds rest!
Part 5: I had fun with this and played around with my stroke rate and practiced some sighting and did some backstroke to finish off my 5k.
What did I learn? Red Mist sessions deliver all that is promised and they are hard!! And, even if you fail, you are getting in a solid workout.
Give it a go and let me know what you think!