Monday Masters: “Descend” & “Build”

Many triathletes do not have a swim background, and some of the nomenclature between the lane lines can be confusing. Today’s question is one of terms that are seemingly at odds: “descend” and “build.”

Consider these two sets:
FR 3X100yds descend, :10RI
FR 3X(100yds build), :10RI

What the heck does that mean? Coach Mike O’Toole, of Longmont Masters Swimming, points out that a “build” happens within an individual effort, while “descend” refers to an entire set, or sub-set. In this example, you are swimming three, 100-yard freestyle efforts, with ten seconds rest between each 100.

In the first example, 3X100yds descend, the total time of each 100 should “descend,” meaning the overall time for the second 100 should be faster than the first, and the overall time of the third 100 should be the fastest of all.

In the second example, each 100-yard freestyle effort should “build” in terms of effort, from when you push off the wall until you finish. So your first 25 should be the easiest, the second 25 faster, etc., with the last 25 the hardest/fastest. The total time for each 100 may be the same, but the pace within each 100 is what changes.

It’s helpful to think of “building” in terms of effort, and “descending/ascending” in terms of time.

According to

“Descending” and “ascending” refer to swimming increasingly fast through a set (descending) or starting fast and then getting slower through a set (ascending).

And now for this week’s DBTS (“Don’t Be That Swimmer”): During a masters swim workout, be sure to leave a full five seconds between you and the swimmer in front of you. If you leave the wall early, you are benefiting from the draft of the person in front of you, and you will likely catch them. This does not mean you are faster. It just means you are drafting. And they will silently hate you for being right on their feet the whole workout. If you leave a full five seconds between send-offs, and then you are consistently catching them, it is appropriate to ask to move ahead of them. This, by the way, is #2 on SwimSwam’s list of “Swimming Etiquette Don’ts”:

Monday Masters is a weekly feature of 303Triathlon. Have a swim tip, suggested topic, or question? Please send us an email.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *