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by Linda Shoenberger

November 1, 2007


The other day I was cruising around the USMS website and stumbled on the PACE CHARTS and SPLIT SHEETS.  Yes, they’re full of numbers, but as swimmers who follow numbers everyday at practice, these numbers will make sense to you.

To find the charts and split sheets go to the USMS website at  Click on competition in the top line.  Then click on championships under Open Water.  You’ll see Pace Charts and Split Sheets on the left hand side.  Click on that and you will find 3 easy-to-use documents.

I have to say I have been a member of USMS for 11 years and I never knew that pace charts and split sheets existed.  What a find!  Studying them and comparing the pace I think I can hold now to last year’s postal event results for women my age kept me occupied for an hour or so.  Since then, I have revisited the charts a few times and they have inspired me to participate in the 3,000 yard postal swim that goes on until November 15, 2007.

Ok, so I’ve never been a fan of postal events.  I love open water racing.  Lakes and oceans are great for long swims.  But the postal events have been pretty much torture for me. 

Coach Marie at Tamalpais Aquatic Masters, thinks the one-hour postal swim is the be-all and end-all of the year’s races.  Many of us have quite a different opinion of that event but we do it anyway.  It’s affectionately called “Happy Hour” with many different meanings for the word “happy.”

Somehow, discovering the pace charts and split sheets has given me a new perspective on postal events.  I can actually sit down and see where I want to be and what I can actually accomplish before I get into the pool.  It’s changed my view of these races.

In the past, I’ve donned my suit and goggles (I don’t wear a cap because I get way too hot) and jumped in the water.  Then in my mind the torture begins.  To me, swimming in an hour race outside in a lake or ocean is exhilarating.  Swimming an hour or so in a race in a pool is teeth-grindingly awful.  Seriously, it feels like the clock NEVER moves.  I spend half the time trying to trick myself into not looking at the clock.  Then when I take a peek I try to guess how much time has passed.  Believe me it’s never as much as I think it should be.

But now, after studying the pace charts and spit sheets I can see how the 3,000 yard postal event might be fun.  I feel confident I can stay under 1:30 per hundred to meet my goal.  The visualization of the charts has given me a better understanding of my capabilities.  I feel like a curtain has been lifted in my mind and I can see myself accomplishing a goal I would have avoided before.

Now I have a pace goal that’s broken down into small chunks.  I’m not just going to put my head down, tough it out and see what the end result is.  This really is a mental shift for me due to actually studying the numbers and assimilating them into my own swimming patterns.  These numbers make sense to me because I follow them everyday in practice anyway.

I encourage you to visit the Pace Charts and Split Sheets and see what those numbers mean to you.  It might inspire you to participate in a national championship.  Good luck!

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