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Nancy H.

  1. 3000 Yard Swim--Some Thoughts

    I finished my 3000 yd swim last night with a time of 55:47:44, not exactly world-beater time, but pretty significant for me.

    Last year, I wasn't able to do the 3000 yd swim due to an injured left arm. I lost my balance going down a flight of stairs (one of my feet folded under me and I started to pitch forward) and had to hang on to the railing for dear life with my left hand while I righted myself. The result was a torn biceps muscle and a strained tendon that took the better part of four months of rest and PT to heal completely. I was able to do the hour swim in January, completing 3150 yards, which I felt was pretty good, all things considered.

    But this year, I wanted to do more. My best result in the hour swim was 3220 yards, from 2010. My swimming has improved a lot since then, and it's frustraing that my results in the 2011 and 2012 hour swims didn't show it. This past year, once the left arm healed, I've noticed a definite improvement all the way around--not one huge breakthrough, but definitely improvements in all aspects of my swimming. My strokes feel cleaner and more efficient; I'm swimming further and faster with less effort; I've mastered butterfly well enough to cobble together a decent 100 IM. My flip turns are still touch and go (due in large part to sinus issues that cause a lot of disorientation when I somersault), but I've worked on tightening up my open turns. My feeling there is that if I'm going to get an extra breath at the wall, I damn well should be able to not breathe from the flags to the wall and from the wall to the flags. I've been working on a strong push-off, good streamlining (or as much streamlining as my tight desk-worker's shoulders will allow), at least 3 SDKs, and not breathing at least until the second or third stroke.

    My standard interval on 100 yds of freestyle has been streadily dropping. It was about 1:55-ish when I first began master's swimming in the fall of 2007. At that point, I'd been lap swimming on my own for 20 years, and my technique was **horrible**. It's better now, somewhat, but back then it was really, really bad, and my coach has spent the past 5 years trying to help me undo my bad habits. The work has paid off: my SI dropped from 1:55 to 1:50 to 1:45, and in most classes now, I can hold a 1:40 pace pretty consistently. So my technique is better and my endurnace is better, too (I really feel like learning fly and doing IM sets has helped with the endurance).

    So last night, it was incredibly gratifying to finally see some results in a long swim: not only did I beat my 2010 3000 yd swim time by a full minute, I also set a new personal best 3000 yd time (previous best was a 56:02 that I clocked during my hour swim in 2010)--by about 15 seconds.

    I've discovered that there are other things I need to do to get ready for a long swim. I've learned these things over time via haphazard trial and error, but they do make a big difference. Namely:

    1. Rest. This seems to be more important than anything. I typically have a looong day (2 hour commute, 8 hour workday, 2 hour commute), so taking a day off for the long swim means I'm fully rested, I've had enough sleep, I'm not dealing with job and commute-related stress. I usually try to complete the hour swim on MLK Day. Yesterday I had the day off for a medical appointment. Also, I find it helps not to do any kind of workout in the 24 hours before the swim--no weights, no swimming, nothing more strenuous than a 40-minute walk. The day of the swim, I try to stay off my feet as much as possible.

    2. Eat enough, but not too much. In the past, I've eaten too much before the long swim, or eaten too close to the swim. I've learned that a small meal (one piece of baked chicken, about half a cup of pasta), about two hours before the swim, seems to be optimal. Also, I've found it helps to skip vegetables entirely the day of the swim, in order to avoid painful abdominal gas.

    3. Hydrate. Yesterday, I kept drinking water, stopping about 45 minutes before the swim, limiting water intake to a few sips during the warmup to keep my mouth and throat wet. I brought Gatorade with me to drink AFTER the swim--it seems to coat my throat and make my mouth feel even more dry. This worked out incredibly well: I had much less of a problem with a dry, scratchy throat during the swim, but I also didn't spend the last 15 minutes of the swim desperately needing to pee.

    4. Stretch. Before I left the house, I did some back/hip stretches recommended by my physical therapist. When I got to the pool, I ran through some of the shoulder stretches recommended for swimmers, and I stretched my hamstrings/ calves against the side of the pool. This made a HUGE difference in terms of not cramping up during the swim or swimming the last 15 minutes with my back killing me. I did have some issues midway through the swim with minor heart palpitations and near the end, some foot/calf cramps, but I was able to work through both problems and they didn't impact my time. Both are signs that I need more potassium, so I have a mental note to take an extra potassium supplement before the hour swim in January.

    And last but not least

    5. Count laps. This helps keep my mind focused and (as my coach says) keeps me from drifting out into la-la land. I think of the 3000 yd swim as a 6 x 500, so I count down from ten to one, six times. I must've gotten off count somewhere in there, because my timer yelled to me that I had 100 yds left when I thought I had more like 200 left (let me tell you, that was **awesome**).

    I also found it incredibly useful to practice with some long sets, so in the last couple of months, I've been doing things like 4 x 500 with a minute of rest between each 500. Last weekend, I did 3 x 1000 in my Sunday workout. This gets me in the habit of counting laps, and more importantly, of swimming through discomfort--so that when I'm doing the actual event, I'm better able to deal with my dry mouth and throat, my tired arms and shoulders, my cramping feet, and the need to use the bathroom.

    Hour swim, here I come!

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  2. Hour Swim

    Did the hour swim tonight: 3150 yds. Felt way, way better than last year. Apart from a couple of foot cramps, I completed the event pain-free, which is a first for me. I put in a lot of prep for this event, including a 2500 last week, and I felt like it really paid off. Now it's time to .
  3. Happy Phelpsday

    So, according to the celebrity/ gossip pages of the local paper, Michael Phelps is 26 today.

    This got me thinking, shouldn't his birthday be some kind of national holiday for swimmers?

    Think of what we could do to celebrate. Swim a bunch of laps. Eat a big breakfast. Get really high. The possibilities are endless!
    Tags: humor
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  4. New Year, New GTD

    After hitting 225 miles for 2010, I bumped up my goal to 235 for 2011. With luck, I can bump that up even higher by year's end, but for now, I'm sticking with a number that seems do-able.
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  5. 200 Miles!

    I hit my year GTD goal of 200 miles today and bumped up my goal to 215.

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  6. 100 Miles!

    At last night's workout, I officially hit the 100 mile mark for this year!

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  7. Mile High

    Amazing class last night. We did a broken 1650 as part of our workout, which I did with all flip turns, and my time worked out to an average of 1:55 for each 100 yds, faster split times than what I usually do in an hour swim. I really felt like I was cranking. Finally getting the hang of body roll, arm extension, early catch. Not perfect, but when I do it right, I can feel the subtle differences in stroke power. Ditto backstroke. I still have a long way to go before I do all this consistently, but at least I have a sense of how it should feel.

    Also, my cardio fitness in general feels much better. My flip turns were pretty good, too, and again, I know how they should feel when done right,and I know what I'm doing wrong when they go a little wonky. Not bad, considering I was sharing a lane with a much more powerful swimmer than myself, and there was a lot of turbulence being kicked up--lots of swimmers in a fairly small pool.

    Updated April 27th, 2010 at 11:35 AM by Nancy H. (Verbs are your friend!)

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  8. Almost Seventy!

    Well, I finally got my 50 mile cap in the mail (woot! wearing that on my lunch swim for sure), just in time for me to clock nearly 70 miles for the year. With luck, I'll have hit 100 miles by my birthday (mid-June), halfway to my goal of 200 miles for the year.

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  9. Happy Hour!

    I finally got my t-shirt and cap from the hour swim. Woot!

    I just wrote up a detailed, loving account of my workout last night, and it vanished into cyberspace when the site booted me out. SIGH.

    On the plus side, my flip turns are feeling so secure these days that I'm seriously thinking of entering the Upper Valley meet in Vermont next month. I've never raced before, but I feel like I could handle the 100 and 50 backstroke events, especially now that my turn is good enough so that there's a 95% chance I could finish the races without being disqualified for doing something illegal.
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  10. Twenty!

    As of today's workout, I've logged 20.65 miles for March 2010.

    My Feb total was 16.82.

    My January total (including my hour swim) was 18.76.

    My goal for the year is to swim 200 miles, so I'm right on target for that, and might actually go even higher.

    Oh yeah, and the flip turns are coming along really well, and I'm comfortable doing them both backstroke and freestyle, and in two very different pools. So: happy time!

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    Swim Workouts
  11. Fabulous Fifty!

    Woot! As of today's workout, I have officially logged in 50 miles for 2010!
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    Swim Workouts
  12. Stress Relief

    Well, we were VERY lucky not to lose electricity over the rainy weekend. We also were very lucky not to have trees or tree limbs or utility poles land on anyone or anything, and we had only a moderate amount of water in the cellar (at its worst, about three on a scale of one to Mother's Day 2007). Our sump pump was going off almost continually, though.

    I missed last night's class because I didn't want to risk driving across town with so much high water in the streets, so I went tonight instead. Had an amazing workout of mostly freestyle and backstroke (YAY), and managed flip turns on pretty much everything except the drills and breaststroke--and this was sharing a lane.

    So the extra work I've been doing weekends practicing flip turns while swimming along lane lines and circle swimming has definitely paid off. I think what was giving me trouble before was that I could do the flip turns no problem with a lane to myself, but then everything would fall apart when I had to also watch out for someone else. Now, by George, I think I finally got it!



    The best stress relief in the world! Now it's time to

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  13. Deja Vu Part II

    Finished a 3300 yd workout today, including lots of flip turns on both backstroke and freestyle. The flips feel more comfortable than they've felt since before Christmas, and my strokes overall feel much stronger. Of course it helps to have had two days off and to be fully rested.

    We're right in the middle of another howling rainstorm. It'd be nice if we didn't lose power, like we did two weeks ago. Of course, it'd be nice to have a pony, too. : )

    Goodnight, everyone!
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    Swim Workouts
  14. deja vu all over again

    Friday night, we here in New Hampshire had a very unwelcome flashback to the ice storm of Dec 2008 when a near-hurricane force storm blew through New England, toppling trees, power wires, flooding roads, and generally creating a damn nuisance.

    I'd just gotten home from my Thursday night workout, driving through town at 9:00 PM in wind and driving rain so fierce I thought my car would blow off the road. Scurried around the house taking care of business as long as we had electricity--which wasn't for long.

    At about 11 PM, in the height of the gale, the power went out. My sister and brother-in-law struggled to get the new generator up and running (thanks, Mom!) in order to keep our basement pumps running. We were taking on water so quickly it was making a high-pitched, cricket-like chirping as the water forced its way through the foundation. With the generator running, we could at least keep our pumps going. My sister had the unenviable task of trying to find a way out of our neighborhood at about 3 AM to find a working gas station and get our gas canisters refilled.

    By about 6 AM, the cellar was nearly dry and the sun was coming out. Glory be! I drove around to scope out the situation, finding that blessedly, some parts of town still had power. Amazing, the utility crews were on the scene almost right away, and by later that afternoon, we had power back. The club where I swim was not so lucky, and they were shut down all day Friday and all day yesterday, with some fairly massive trees down in the road.

    Incredibly, they were back in business today, and I was able to get 2300 yds in before general exhaustion took its toll. Still, we're doing better here than in many other parts of the state, where power has yet to be restored.

    My swimming total for February is 16.82 miles. Woo-hoo! Not a bad total for the dead of winter.
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  15. Sleep Deprivation

    Class last night: 3000 yds total. Lots of backstroke (yay!) and some big distance freestyle sets. Just my kind of workout.

    Topped it all off by staying up till midnight to watch Olympic ice dancing. Congrats to Canada for its first ever ice-dancing gold medal! Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were just phenomenal, and it was so great to see them get that much-deserved gold.



    Taking second were their training partners, Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who capped a fairly amazing season with the silver medal. Both teams are coached by the incredible Maria Zueva, who looked like she was the happiest person in the building last night. What an absolute triumph, to have choreographed such wonderful routines for two talented young teams, and to take both gold and silver in an Olympic competition. My hat is off to this amazing woman!



    [Unfortunately, because We Must Have a European Pair on the ice dancing podium, the Russian team (Dom & Shabby) took the bronze, even though Americans Belbin & Agosto had the far superior free skate (his Elvis-meets-Jesus costume notwithstanding). This and the men's results have convinced me that athletes get extra points for Skating While Russian. Poor B&A--they got hosed. ]

    Alas, reveling in such splendor comes with a price: the alarm clock goes off five hours later. Gaaaaahhhhh! There is not enough coffee in the world to keep me awake right now.



    Oh, well. It's the Olympics. It's worth it.
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  16. Sharing a Lane

    Weekend workout: 2800 yds total.

    Worked a lot of flip turns yesterday. I've been taking AZTimm's advice and adding yardage-with-flips gradually, 25 yds at a time, hopefully building up to longer freestyle sets, where I can flip continually without becoming exhausted and having my form completely break down. This definitely seems to be working.

    The backstroke turns are slower to come, because of timing issues--figuring out exactly when to turn from back to front, do that last freestyle pull, and somersault. Coming off the wall is easier, but finding that sweet spot going into the wall can be fiendishly tricky.

    Also I'm working on freestyle flip turns when I'm swimming along the lane line and circle swimming. That way, if I have to share a lane in class, I can still do the flips. What I was finding is that I can flip fine so long as I have the lane to myself, but that so rarely happens in class. Although I had a lane to myself yesterday, I practiced the turns as though there were someone else with me. We'll see how well things go in class tonight.

    More hour swim goodness: last year, my average 50 split was 56.74, and this year it improved to 55.915. My split deviation improved from 1.325 to 1.040. So not only was I faster, I was more consistent. One goal for next year's hour swim is to get the standard deviation down below 1.00.
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    Swim Workouts
  17. Thursday Class

    Thursday class, 2500 yds total.

    Kind of a 'generic' workout--we worked on streamlining and endurance, and mixed in some IM sets with all the freestyle. I started out feeling tight and grumpy (too many late nights watching the Olympics, LOL), but got looser and stronger as I went along. One thing I love about swimming is that I always feel better when I get out of the pool than I did when I got into it.

    My total yardage for 2010 is 29.75 miles, and it's only halfway through February. What an awesome feeling!

    Also in happy-making news, I can get a $150 rebate on my club membership through my health insurance. Woo and hoo! That's almost three months' worth of fees!
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  18. I'M Feeling Kinda Tired

    Monday class: 1750 yds of mostly IM drills. Loads of kicking. Yowza.

    In grumpy-making news, the fly workshop scheduled for Wednesday has been cancelled due to lack of interest. Phooey. I may have to sign up for another round of adult lessons this summer if I'm ever going to get the rudiments of fly down.

    In better news, I managed 3-4 strokes of breaststroke before dropping the tennis ball. Very jealous of my classmate, who managed a whole 25 without dropping the ball once!

    Also, I got the final calculations on my hour swim: my average 50 split was 55.915 seconds, and my standard deviation over the hour (3200 yds) was 1.04, so I was rarely more than a second off pace. This is better than I did last year, so woot! Not bad for a desk worker with an aching lower back.
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  19. The Grownup in the Room

    Sunday workout: 3000 yards. First time I've hit 3000 in about 3 weeks.

    Also had to yell at a couple of kids who were rough housing in the pool area. God, I always feel so old when I do things like that.

    The flip turns are definitely improving. I did really well with the freestyle turns and started working on the backstroke turns again, with decent results. I didn't push it, though--ended on a strong note, then started working on something else.

    My breaststroke is getting better, too. Happiness!
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    Swim Workouts
  20. Easy Thursday

    Class workout tonight was a short & sweet 2000 yards. Coach spent a lot of time going over the results of our hour swims. Then we spent seemingly 20 minutes fighting with cameras.

    Very psyched that the Winter Olympics start tonight. Okay, maybe there's no swimming, but there's tons of other neat sports, including one of my longtime favorites, figure skating.

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