3 Mile Relay by: Coach Charlie McCanless

Set Details

Coach Name: Charlie McCanless

Coach Position: Head Coach/ Director of Competitive Aquatics

Club/School: Blues Aquatics Asheville

Type of Workout: Race Pace. Freestyle focus.

When during season: Mid-Season. We do this this set AFTER we’ve clearly outlined expectations for sprint races, starts, turns and finishes.

Group: High Level age groupers to advanced athletes.

Name: 3 Mile Relay


Warm Up

  • 1×200 Choice loosen, w/BR Pull Outs
  • 12×50 @ 1:05 Drill Progression. We’ve chosen 4 drills that we like a lot and start every practice with about 15min of drill work. We try to prime the brain for an intentional workout from the beginning of every practice.
  • 4×100 IM @ 1:15/1:25 Descend 1-4. Target on #4 :58/1:13. Get the HR up and blood flowing.  Kickout focus on BK. (“Death, Taxes, and 4×100 IMs for warm up”)
  • 1:00 rest
  • 18×25 2 @ :30/35 1@:35/40 K w/sox and snorkel/board. Kick hard.


Prep Set: Mix the Catch

  • 4 rounds:
  • 4×50 @ :50 w/wiffle balls – Catch drill progression (Fist, Pinky only, Texas fingers, ‘Ok’ sign)
  • 6×25 Kickout/Blaster/Body @ :35 Body Driven focus – stroke rate
  • 3×100 @ 1:20 ankle pull, descend 1-3. Use core, connect hip and hand. Hip driven focus.


3 Mile Relay

  • Teams of three, relay style. Athlete A takes off the blocks, Athlete B follows and Athlete C follows athlete B, Athlete A follows athlete C. No breaks, the goal is to finish as fast as possible.
  • Each athlete swims 33x50s all fast off the blocks.
  • Typically, the average time to finish is around 45min.
  • It’s the responsibility of athlete C to keep count. They get access to the whiteboard and a marker.



Why we like this set: 

  1.  It encourages athletes to show competitiveness. We track results and keep records for this set. Often, Athletes will help coach their teammates during this one.
  2. It gets athletes working together.  Athletes work harder when they work together.
  3. Starts – what a way to work on starts! There are 33 starts in there. We focus on rigidity and density when athletes enter the water.
  4. Finishing the second 25 in a 50. This becomes a challenge to do well around #8. We make sure to have athletes focus on racing and implementing fundamentals like breath control, streamlines, and proper race strategies. Again, it’s great because there’s between 45 and 60 seconds to chat with athletes between swims.
  5. Over time, the set morphs. #1-8 are really focused on sprinting. The accumulation of fast 50s, getting out, and diving in adds up. At that point, the set becomes a little different.
    1. Crucial Coaching Point: Technique is paramount! As the set goes on into #15, we really make sure that athletes focus on creating good habits.
    2. Habits to look for:
      1. Start: Kick count – hone in on the Underwater Kick count
      2. Breath on the 1st 25 – where is it?
      3. Turn – How fast is the athlete approaching the wall? What is the kick count off the turn? Where is the breath?
      4. Finish: BODY DRIVEN FINISH. Everyone. Connect Catch to hip to kick. Head down.
  6. It’s a fun challenge and great for team building. Sprinters become Milers, Milers become sprinters and all points in between. Everyone is out of their comfort zone. Everyone is challenged, and everyone competes.


Ways to Mix it Up: 

  • Pair 3 IMers together and make them go IM order on the set. Everyone will get a great mix of FlyBK/BR/FR.  (BK – off the blocks for fun or from a push – coaches choice)
  • Pair athletes that don’t normally work together. Great for team building.
  • If you have a younger or less advanced group, have them go a 2 mile relay – still a great challenge!


We’d love to get a really advanced group give it a shot. Cal? Stanford? Texas? NC State? Give it a go!  In Winter of 2019, we had a crew of 3 college age boys finish in just about 38min. The team averaged between 21.5 and 23.9 the entire way.


Warm Down

  • 5×100 @ 1:40 D/S
  • Over Under Catch-Up or Kickboard Reach – Hip driven rotational focus.


About our Club: We’re a year round club that trains at the wonderful boarding school called the Asheville School in Asheville, NC. The group has Juniors qualifiers, Futures, Sectional athletes and more. BAQ is proud to help athletes from around the globe become leaders in the pool and out! Our team is at www.bluesaquatics.com and @bluesaquaticsasheville.  Info on the Asheville School can be found here: www.ashevilleschool.org

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