In prelims on the final day of the 2014 Santa Clara Grand Prix, Michael Phelps cruised to a 1:00.89 and the top seed in the men’s 200 IM rounds. His NBAC teammates Chase Kalisz (2:01.69) and Conor Dwyer (2:02.05) are chasing him, and in fact after the 400 IM, we might even pick Kalisz to win that final, but Phelps sits in a good position as the top seed.
A deeper look at his splits reveals a lot more about this time than does his final time necessarily, as there’s not a good distinguishable 200 IM time pattern for him when looking back to 2010, 2011, and 2012.
His splits here in Santa Clara: 25.40 – 30.98 – 34.60 – 29.91
In rough terms, the front-half of his IM, when he’s having a good mid-season meet, takes up around 46% of his total time.
So, looking back to 2012 and his last full season, at the Indianapolis Grand Prix, he swam a 1:56.32 in finals, which was his best swim other than during the Olympic Trials and Olympics (where he won gold).
His splits in Indy in 2012: 25.02 – 29.21 – 34.18 – 27.91
At that meet, in finals, the butterfly and backstroke legs took up 46.621% of his final time. This morning in Santa Clara? His butterfly and backstroke legs took up 46.637% of his final time. When tweaked for the final result, that’s a difference of approximately .01 seconds off of pace.
Here in Santa Clara, the back-half varied more significantly. His breaststroke, in relative terms, was much better, and his freestyle, in relative terms, was worse. That, however isn’t worrisome at all, because when he’s swimming well, his breaststroke is on fire, and among the four disciplines, the breaststroke is an improvement most likely to be explained by some technique tweaks. Similarly, the freestyle could have been an intentional conservation at the end of a prelims race, though that wouldn’t jive as much with what we’ve seen from him in the past (he typically finishes his freestyle pretty well in prelims, as a percentage of his whole time).
At any rate, watch again during finals for these ratios, to see where Phelps is at in his pacing and feel for this race where he’s been the best ever throughout his career. Also see if Chase Kalisz can edge Phelps out of his patterns a little bit, given how strong he is on the breaststroke – something that Phelps doesn’t usually have to race in guys like Laszlo Cseh and Ryan Lochte: his traditional IM competitors.