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After sharing a couple of my most memorable training trip sets, I couldn’t help but think about the legendary Erik Vendt 30×1000’s set. 

A little research found a Slowtwitch triathlete forum providing a detailed version from Josh Stern, the coach of the Ocean State Squids (now Crimson Aquatics), who coached Erik Vendt. Credit to the triathlon forum user “gunsbuns” for shedding light on this legendary 30×1000’s set. 

Don’t know who Erik Vendt is? Time to brush up on some swim history…

  • At Olympic Trials in 2000, he became the first American to break 15 minutes in the 1500. (Side note: 16 years later, Katie Ledecky isn’t too far from break 8 minutes in the 800.)
  • Vendt won Silver in the 4IM in Sydney (2000) and again in Athens (2004). He retired from swimming, came back, and set the US Open record in the 1500 in 2008 (14:47).
  • Last but not least, he won Gold in Beijing (2008) as a part of the 800 Free Relay.
  • He was also the NCAA Swimmer of the Year for Southern Cal in 2002 where he won the 4 IM and 1650 as well as placing 2nd in the 500.

Most people, including myself, were told that Vendt did 30×1000’s on 10:00 and he held them all under 9:30!

But, as you’ll find out, that’s not exactly true.

The real set is far more impressive.

Ha.
The rumours are funny.
I think 10:00 intervals became the story because it averaged out to faster than 10:00 per 1000.
What really happened is this – some Aussie Open water 10/25K swimmer was in Boston during the summer and he did a set at a summer club pool that was 20 x 1000 Free.
We heard about it and Erik wanted to go farther – thought 25 was good but “anybody” could do that so we decided 30.
We knew we needed 5 hours so he came in 3 hours early for practice (which was 3 & 1/2 hours back then).
We started at 1 on 11:00, 1 on 10:00, 1 on 9:50, 1 on 9:40, 1 on 9:30
Then 1 on 10:15 and 3 on 9:45, 1 on 9:30
Then 5 on 10:00 and so on
Around #17-#19 we realised that Erik hadn’t eaten anything (ANYTHING!) before he came in to train.
So we threw a 11:00 1000 around #21 or #22 and shoved a granola bar down his throat with some sports drink or water.
He hung tough through #23 and #24, and blasted through the last 6 where the intervals stayed at 10:00.
He finished well under 5 hours even with the 11:00 food interval (I think he was 3-5 min under) so that’s probably where the whole 10:00 interval came from.
His slowest 1000s were around 18-22 but he was never slower than 10:00 on any of them except the first 1000 he did which was 10:10 or 10:15 on the 1000 #1 on 11:00 – he was under on all the 10:30 as well as the 11:00 food stop.
I wrote all the times down when he did it – as well as the 500 splits – and kept every split during each 1000 to keep count.
He did negative split every 1000 – I don’t think he even remembers that – except towards 18 or 19 when he started to have trouble counting… that’s when we realised he hadn’t eaten anything before training. (ugh) He started to phase out mentally until we got some food in him.
Man, what a great kid Erik was. Just a great, great kid.

In the era of less volume, it’s certainly fun to share experiences of the past. Though race pace training and USRPT are becoming increasingly popular, it’s far from replacing good-old-fashioned volume. It’s a deeply ingrained part of the sport. 99% of teams are still cranking it up, especially during their annual training trip. 

Here’s a bonus read from Casey Barrett. He counts down the Top 5 Hardest Sets he’s ever heard of.

One final thought…

How much does Erik Vendt look like Luke Skywalker?

Erik Vendt Luke Skywalker

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