Macro vs. Micro vs. Nano Time In Preparing For The Olympic 10K Marathon Swim

Macro vs. Micro vs. Nano Time In Preparing For The Olympic 10K Marathon Swim

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Steven Munatones explains, “It may be a specific idiosyncrasy of open water swimmers and their coaches, but I find swimmers and open water coaches often think of time in macro terms, micro terms and nano terms.”

Macro Time

For those deeply passionate about open water swimming, there is never enough time in the day to do all the training, planning, logistical organizing, acclimatizing, traveling, social media following and posting, blog reading and writing, and website design and updating for all the solo swims, relays and competitions that swimmers want to do, especially if they are also balancing family, friends and work between their swimming activities.

Swimmers and coaches often think of large blocks of time in order to plan their swims: in periods of weeks, months and years. For example, swimmers consider, “How many more months to my swim?” or “How many hours to train today?”

These macro units time seems to move slowly and are manageable because so many things (solo swims and races) are often planned out in the future.

Micro Time

In contrast, training on a daily basis seems to be packaged in smaller units.

A swimmer’s world, especially those who train in a pool, is usually dictated by micro time. They ask themselves, “How fast can I swim this set [my pace]?” or “How fast can I do this set [my interval]?”

It is amazing how a swimmer’s life can be dictated by this micro time, measured in seconds. The difference of 5 seconds or 3 seconds or even 1 second can seem like an impossibility to many swimmers. Think of a set of 100s on 1 minute 30 seconds versus 1:25 versus 1:20 versus 1:15 versus 1:14 or 1:13. Every little second of micro time seems to count for so much in the water during training.

Micro time certainly does not move similarly when comparing macro time at work, in school or at home. Five seconds – or even minutes at a time – can easily pass by on the commute to work or while sitting in the office or learning to a teacher in a classroom. Even lunch or your next vacation or the weekend can seem so far away. Five seconds is simply a sliver of time on land or outside of training; most times, swimmers do not even realize that sliver of time has passed.

But those same five seconds in a swimming set can be a killer – or an impossibility.

Analog and digital pace clocks

Measuring Micro Time

How swimmers measure and discuss micro time is also significantly different than consideration of macro time during on land-based lifestyles.

Swimmers and coaches look at an analog pace clock and say things like:

Let’s go on the top.
Start on the bottom.
Next set on the side.

Swimmers and coaches look at a digital pace clock and say things like:

Go on the next 30.
Lane one on the next 60.
I can’t make that interval.

At the same time, even if their training lives are dictated by a pace clock, swimmers often ask questions about time like:

What time is it?
How much longer [in the workout]?
How long will this [set] take?

Nano Time

This can be the difference between an Olympic gold medal and a silver medal. Thinking in nano time (or tenths or hundredths of a second) comes into play often at the end of elite competitive races. Over the last two Olympic 10K Marathon Swims, Haley Anderson lost to Éva Risztov in the Serpentine at the 2012 London Olympics, 1:57:38.2 to
1:57:38.6. Similarly, Ferry Weertman touched out Spyridon Gianniotis, 1:52:59.8 to an officially identical time of 1:52:59.8.

Time will tell how you think of it in micro or macro terms.

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Steven Munatones