Entries with no category
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!
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!
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.
I hit my year GTD goal of 200 miles today and bumped up my goal to 215.
At last night's workout, I officially hit the 100 mile mark for this year!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Clocked 2200 yds in class tonight. Workout was a good mix of strokes. Got some decent flip turns in there, but laid off them when fatigue started setting in. Coach said my backstroke looks really smooth, and that my breaststroke is "getting there." Woot!
I've worked my way through the current issue of Swimmer, and the article on swimming's effect on mental health really struck a chord. I'm one of the only people I know (outside my class, naturally) who exercises on a regular basis. And I'm one of the only ones who a) doesn't have serious medical problems, b) isn't on multiple prescription drugs, c) isn't overweight or obese, and d) hasn't had issues with depression or anxiety. Generally speaking, I'm one of the happiest people I know.
Or, as I like to say, swimming is the cure for everything.
Lots of kicking in class tonight. Ugh. Feel like I'm getting sick, which doesn't help. Still, I was amazed the yardage added up to 2400. It seemed like it should have been closer to 2000. I'm still doing that weird bobbing thing with my head. Anyone know any good drills for keeping the head steady during freestyle? In backstroke it's no problem: you can just do ducky drills (and I seem to have a knack for going backwards anyway, which surprises nobody who knows me well). But you can't do ducky drills in freestyle, unless you have a snorkel, which I don't.
What joy: I'd noticed my clothes were beginning to feel a bit loose, and so weighed myself this weekend: 148 on the nose--a loss of 2.5 pounds since January 8.
I never had problems with my weight until I moved out to New Hampshire and had to start commuting 4 hours a day (don't ask) to work. Instead of exercising an hour a day six or seven days a week, as had been my habit, I was suddenly exercising maybe one hour a week. Needless to say, my weight ballooned up from a lean 135-140 to nearly 165, more than I'd ever weighed in my life. I found this incredibly depressing and also incredibly frustrating, because I felt like there was nothing I could do about it.
In the fall of 2006, I started losing some of that weight, mostly by accident--a few inadvertent small changes to diet and a bit more consistent exercise--and when I realized losing weight was much easier than I'd initially believed, I was motivated to shed the rest of those pounds. By the summer of 2007, I was back to 140, and feeling much more like my old self. That fall, I started taking master's swimming classes, challenging myself more physically. I also re-configured my commute, so that it takes much less time, giving me back a precious hour each day.
This past summer and fall, some of that weight crept back on (it's amazing how quickly this happens with just the smallest changes to diet and exercise), and before I knew it, I was up to almost 155.
So I started the whole process again, and this past weekend, I hopped on the scale and saw the "sunny side of 150" for the first time since last summer. What a relief.
I try not to obsess about weight too much, because I think it's just psychologically unhealthy. However, when I lost all that weight in 2007, I had to replace my entire wardrobe--literally from underwear to coats--a not-insignificant investment of money, and if I gain too much weight back, I would have to spend that money all over again. So I have financial incentives to keep the weight off. After all, I need that money to purchase more swimming gear and paraphernalia.
My first blog... it had to happen, eventually!