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Alex's swim journal

It's a journey: musings on art, literature, life... and occasional notes on training.

  1. 2013 5K postal attempt...

    by , August 31st, 2013 at 02:18 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Do they have a 3.1-mile postal swim?

    We had to stop early because of thunderstorms... darn, with only 1900 to go!

    After a sluggish start I was feeling really good too. I made the drive over to DeKalb, IL, the Hopkins Park Pool, set up for LCM. There were 5 of us swimming the 5k postal and it was a super nice group: Dirk, who organized it, and some of his teammates, Keith and another Alex, along with Debbie from Rockford, IL. What was nice about this group... aside from the congenial conversation while huddled together under a tarp in a torrential rainfall (in Texas we would have called it a "real gully-washer"), we were all pretty evenly paced, I don't think anyone was more than a half length behind anyone else when we were pulled out of the water. Last year I did the 5K solo, so it felt good to have company.

    I didn't warm up beforehand and determined to use the first 500-1000 as a slow building warm-up, but by the time I got to 1500 I felt like I was really cruising. I loosened up, stretched out my stroke and found a nice rhythm. When we were stopped I was at 3100 meters. My 3000-meter split was 55:12, which I just did some number cranking on and find that this is an average 18:24 per K pace... way faster than my 19:30+/k average last summer. Last summer my 100 pace was 1:57-1:58, this year 1:50.5. And again, I might have actually been swimming a little bit faster pace as I loosened up in the second and third kilometers (I'll find out when they e-mail me the splits). I'm pretty sure I was on pace for something like a 1 hour, 30-31 minute 5K, which would have crushed last year's 1:37:40. Here was my wrap-up after that 2012 5K:

    http://forums.usms.org/entry.php?238...Postal-results

    I've made a lot of progress in the 13 months between these two 5K postal attempts... just sorry we didn't get to finish it out this year. We had a good time nonetheless, and I really thought I wouldn't even have a chance at another attempt this season with lack of LCM pools available in the immediate area, so this was just a bonus swim for me! And I'm feeling so much more confident this year than last... a long way to go yet, but happy with the progress.
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  2. August in review...

    by , August 30th, 2013 at 02:44 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    I've just entered into the FLOG my penultimate swim of the month and my bio-data from this morning. I decided to look at my monthly totals, since it is the 30th, to see how it was looking going into tomorrow's postal 5K (what a way to end the month btw!) and do some comparisons with previous months this year.

    MILEAGE: I'm at 48.8 miles for August, which means the 5K postal will put me over 50 miles for the first time since January. I've been averaging 45 miles/month since January, mostly 47-48, but some 43-mile "recovery" months in there too.

    WEIGHT: Average weight this month: 169 lbs. Last month: 175.xx. Before that, I was almost invariably in the 177-178 range for the whole year. For the last couple of weeks my average weight has been closer to 167-168, which means that September's average promises to be even lower. Thing is, I'm not even trying to lose weight. After more than 6 weeks on a purely vegan diet, and avoiding processed, packaged foods wherever possible, I can eat till I'm full at every meal, snack healthfully, and still see the scale flashing numbers I haven't seen this consistently since my first couple of years in college. Bonus: fruits taste way sweeter; the higher calorie refined sugars are way too sweet for me now, so when I do put sugar in the vegan pancake recipe, or have more than 2-3 vegan chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, it tastes too sweet in the moment, and, more importantly, makes me feel rotten a little while later... so I read my body better, it's not numbed by sugar/high-fructose corn syrup addiction, i.e., in constant need of the next high.

    RESTING HEART RATE: average for August was 43.9. Every month before that was averaging 47-48. A difference of 3-4 beats might not seem significant on a daily basis, but for a month-long average I think this is an important indicator. I think it means that my heart is having to work less hard when I'm at rest and that I'm going to recover better as result. I hope it means that my arteries are regaining elasticity and that my blood cholesterol is on the decline.

    I've done 3600 yards over the last two days in the lake; 1800 each day. A little bit of recovery from the hard swimming earlier this week. Yesterday I did 500 fr, 500 bk and then a mix of all 4 strokes for the final 800. Today I did 200 fr relaxed followed by 100 bk and 100 br, and repeated that 2+1+1 pattern three more times; finished with an ez 200 fr. Lake water temp was perfect both days; and early mornings out there have been glorious!
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  3. No, it's all Patrick's fault...

    by , August 28th, 2013 at 10:15 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    He's blaming Jeffrey Archer for keeping him up at night with a page-turner. I have no such excuse for not being able to get to sleep last night, but after tossing and turning until at least midnight (the work stress is starting to creep in big time for the next few weeks), I made the mistake of logging back onto USMS to check blogs and scan the workout threads for some inspiration for today's swim. I noticed Patrick's HVT had a 20 x 100 in there this week and since I haven't done that one in several weeks I thought "sure, I'll work it into tomorrow's practice." I even managed to talk Scotty into it.

    It looks like Stewart's coach had the same idea, and he's already blogged his 20 x 100, so now I look like a copy-cat. That's not Stewart's fault... it must be Patrick's. Oh, and thanks for keeping me up after my bedtime too!

    Here's what we did:

    WU (800):
    400 EZ (fr, bk, fr, bk by 100s)
    4 x 100 IM on 2:09 (don't ask! probably brought these in in mid 1:40s)

    MS1 (2000):
    20 x 100 on 1:40 (1:24-1:27s, probably averaged 1:26)

    MS2 (400):
    8 x 50 on 1:00; 400 IM order (:45, :48, :49, :47, :58, :59?, :46, :44 = 6:37? Yuck!)

    CD(400): EZ swim (100 IM, 100 fr, 100 bk, 100 fr)

    TOTAL: 3600 SCY/70 minutes

    The Racine Y (Mount Pleasant branch) was pretty crazy today, we had to share a lane for the warm-up and I was trying to time my EZ IMs so as not to disrupt other swimmers too much. But then kids were darting in and out of the lanes for a while, even though two of the lanes at least were supposed to be reserved for lap swimming... kind of a mess. An extra lane opened up right before we started into the main set, so didn't have to share a lane for the set, but the arms and flailing legs under the lane lines, and the cannonballs landing three feet away were a tad distracting. It'll be good to get back to Kenosha Y after Labor Day.

    I felt pretty good about this 20 x 100--at least I'm not losing fitness--my times were just a second or so off from the last time I did the set, but this time I wasn't wearing a cap... which I feel counts for that extra second, so it's a wash. On the 4IM set, I was very surprised to see the second hand at the :45 mark when I looked up after my first 50 fly... it didn't feel that hard, :45/50 fly usually feels harder. Of course I couldn't follow it up with another :45/50 fly, and I was completely spent by the time I got to the breast reps. Oh well, still a ways to go.

    GTD update: I surpassed the 365-mile mark earlier this week. I'm almost at 370 (369.49 to be precise) and still about 5 miles ahead of my goal pace of 550 miles this year. August looks like it will be a 50-mile month!

    Updated August 28th, 2013 at 10:23 PM by mcnair

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  4. 99 degrees...

    by , August 27th, 2013 at 05:48 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    ...Can that be right? My thermometer at the house is reading 99. After a summer in which we hardly ever got out of the 70s, here we are with September just about on us and we're flirting with triple digits. It's been an interesting summer in Southeast Wisconsin.

    The lake water was still cool, though, which felt great... by cool, I mean probably mid 70s. I can tell when the water temps start creeping into the mid-80s, it doesn't feel comfortable for a hard swim, but today it was very comfortable for the whole workout. Here's what I did:

    WU: 400 EZ swim
    MS:
    24 x 100
    --swum as 50 hard/50 recovery
    --6 hard 50s on each stroke, recoveries were free
    --rests ranged from :05 to :15
    --nice hard current to swim straight into for the hard 50s
    CD: 200 EZ swim

    3000 Yards/60 minutes at Lake Andrea
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  5. Symmetry...

    by , August 27th, 2013 at 01:12 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    Pyramids provide that. I love the symmetry of certain workouts... though while I'm doing them I'm not so fond. There was a certain symmetry today also in the fact that my first really hard workout after Madison was a repeat of my last really hard workout before Madison. Taper and reverse taper are now complete. Ready to move into my endurance and base-building phase.

    We went to the Racine Y; the new branch out on hwy 20. Nice water park, though I wish they would have used more of the space for lap lanes. As it turns out there weren't hardly any other lap swimmers anyway, so we never had to share a lane. Scotty did a longer warm-up than usual and said he regretted it about half way through our main set. I only did an 800 for warm-up (usually do 1000-1200), but I took a couple of short recovery swims between pyramids. Scotty and I swam all the pyramids together. I'm not too far behind him on fly, though I felt like I was losing a little more ground to him than I have been in the last couple of months. I beat him on almost all the back reps, he wiped the floor with me on breast stroke, and then we were close on the frees, really close on a few reps. Here's what I did:

    WU (800): 400 EZ swim (fr and bk); 4 x 100 IM on 2:00 (1:40-1:45)
    master's minute

    MS (2200):
    500 Fly Pyramid*
    100 recovery
    500 BK pyramid*
    100 recovery
    500 BR pyramid*
    master's minute
    500 FR pyramid*

    CD (1000): 200 fr, 200 bk (both EZ); 4 x 100 IM on 2:00 (1:45-1:50); 4 x 50 fr on 1:00

    TOTAL: 4000 SCY/100 minutes

    *The ladders in these sets were 25-50-75-100-100-75-50-25 with the interval set at :45/25... My 100s fly were in the high 1:30s, I was trying to relax as much as possible the first 75 and try to push a little on the last 25. 100s bk were in 1:32 and felt relaxed. 100s br were about 1:50... I was swimming :50 in the 50s, but just couldn't hold form on the 100s. The 100s fr were both in 1:15... an improvement over the last two times we did this workout.
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  6. Recovery days in the lake...

    by , August 25th, 2013 at 04:13 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    My big 5000-yard workout on Friday left me pretty tired, though I have to say that 200 fly doesn't exhaust me as much as it used to now (maybe there's a 500-yard continuous fly in the near future?!). Friday's workout was also the last at the Kenosha YMCA until after the annual maintenance shutdown (Tuesday after Labor Day it re-opens). Scotty and I will head up to the YMCA in Racine County next week for a workout or two, but I'm going to take advantage of the last real week of summer to put in a lot of time in the lake.

    Next Saturday I'm planning to head down to DeKalb, IL, and swim the 5K postal with a group that's hosting at an LCM pool there... here's the announcement for anyone in the area who wants to join in:

    http://forums.usms.org/showthread.ph...527#post290527

    DeKalb is a little under 2 hours from here, so it will be another early morning, but it will be my last chance to get the 5K in... my usual timers have their weekend schedules filled now and there aren't that many LCM pools within easy driving distance... I suppose I could do it at the Pleasant Prairie rec-plex when they have their pool set up for long course on the weekends, but not being a member it will cost me and my timer a little more than I'd like to pay for another indoor swim.

    The lake was wonderful this weekend... water temp was baby-bear "just right" in the high 70s. Lots of sun, really beautiful for a swim. Saturday I did the following:

    400 EZ
    4 x thru
    --400 IM, :10-:20 r
    --400 recovery, :30-:45 r

    TOTAL: 3600 yards/75 minutes

    This was a nice challenge for a recovery swim. It was also a good opportunity to work on really stretching out my fly outside the SCY box. It's right at 50 yards between no wake buoys, and it was taking me about 15 strokes on the way out and 17-19?? on the way back. No wall at the other end, or even shallow area to get the advantage of a dive from standing, made turning around to finish the 100 fly really challenging. Plus there was a nice steady roll of small waves coming to shore from the breeze blowing in. All of this is what I consider good mental toughness training. I wasn't pushing the pace, just trying to be steady.

    Today's lake swim was a little later (yesterday I swam at 8AM), at about 11:30 or noon, so I kept it short so as not to burn myself to a crisp (temps are getting up to 90s today! I think for the first time all summer!). Water was very cool and inviting though. Here's what I did:

    400 EZ fr
    200 IM
    400 EZ fr
    4 x 100 (50 fly + 50 fr recovery)
    4 x 100 (50 bk + 50 fr recovery)
    200 EZ br

    TOTAL: 2000 yards/40-45 minutes
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  7. Finishing reverse taper... Time Trials

    by , August 23rd, 2013 at 06:14 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Tuesday I swam another 3000 at the lake; nearly a repeat of a workout I did a couple of weeks ago... still loosening up from the 2.4-miler last saturday, so I didn't push it and used longer rests:

    WU (500): fr, bk, fr, br, fr by 100s

    MS (2000):
    (1) 800 = 50 fly--150 fr--50 bk--150 ft--50 br--150 fr--50 fr hard--150 fr recovery
    1:00 rest
    (2) 600 = 50 fly--100 fr--50 bk--100 fr--50 br--100 fr--50 fr hard--100 fr recovery
    1:00 rest
    (3) 400 = 50 fly--50 fr--50 bk--50 fr--50 br--50 fr--50 fr hard--50 fr recovery
    1:00 rest
    (4) 200 IM
    Master's minute

    CD (500): repeat of WU.

    3000 yards in 65 minutes.


    Wednesday (8/21) I got together with Scotty and did even less yardage, but I wanted to time trial myself in the 50s to get a better idea of what my "sprint" speed is (most of my SCY 50 times were from last winter-spring, and I know I've improved a little since then). We only did 2000 but after 1000 in warm-up (which included a 200 IM from push that was within 2 seconds of my best 200 IM meet time off the blocks!) we took turns timing each other for 50s off the blocks... and had the lifeguard time us for a couple of head-to-head 50s. Here's how it went:

    50 Back x 2 (first one was in :38-:39; the second one was racing Scotty, I beat him by a second, but came in a little slower at :40)
    50 Fly x 2 (both in :40--one of these was head to head with Scotty, he was trying to pce me to under :40, but I couldn't hang... couldn't get the rhythm, I think b/c my body is locked into 400 IM and 200 fly pace, since I've been working on that so much. This is disappointing for me because my starts were pretty good, and I thought I would take more than :03-:04 seconds off my "hard" pace from push).
    50 Free = :30-:31 (Scotty and I raced this one, but since we were using the digital pace clock, which the lifeguard was watching for us, we didn't get a very accurate time, I beat Scotty by a hand... but I really wanted to crack that 30-second barrier. Don't get me wrong, I was perfectly happy to beat Scotty in free!).

    Scotty did a breast 50 instead of a second fly 50; I don't think he was all that happy with it. But coming off a couple of months of more middle to long distance training neither of us was crestfallen by the performance either. My 50 back was several seconds faster than my last 50 back SCY in a meet (:43 if I remember correctly, which is now only a couple of seconds away from my goal 200 pace). My 50 meter back at the long course meet was :41 two months ago, and my first 50 of a 100 SCY at the state meet in March was :41, so I really thought I'd be closer to :37. My 50 fly, while still not under :40 officially, was still 3 seconds faster than anything I've done in a meet.

    Today I did a fairly difficult 5000-yard workout; focus on endurance. I'm going to be doing the postal 5k in the next week or so, but I also wanted to get a fix on my 200 fly and back times, hence the set in the middle. Here's what I did:

    WU (1000):
    400 EZ free, build pace, on 7:00
    4 x 100 IM on 2:00 (low 1:40s)
    4 x 50 fr on 1:00 (desc. from :41 to :35)

    MS (3000):
    --1000 fr on 18:00 (15:37?)
    --5 x 200 on 4:00 (or 5:00), swum as follows:
    #1 = 200 fly on 5:00*
    #2 = 200 back on 4:00 (3:19)
    #3 = 200 breast on 5:00 (slow, think turtle w/ broken leg)
    #4-5 = 200 free on 4:00 (both in 2:52-2:53 range, split close to :42, :43, :44-:45, :43)
    --1000 on 18:00 (15:50s)

    CD (1000):
    4 x 50 fr on 1:00 (:43s)
    4 x 100 IM on 2:00 (1:45-1:50, wasn't purposely trying to ascend... I was falling off an energy cliff)
    400 EZ swim (alternated free and back)

    TOTAL: 5000 SCY/100 minutes

    *200 fly = 3:21 (My splits were :48, 1:38, 2:30, 3:21, which means by 50 I swam a fairly even pace--:48, :50, :52, :51. So my 50 fly might not have gone under :40 from the blocks, but my 200 fly from push is very close to evenly paced at :50/50. Speed has gotten slightly better, but endurance has gotten a LOT better over the last 8 months with fly! I felt pretty relaxed and wasn't too exhausted at the end of it.)

    My short term goal for 200 fly, and I really didn't know how feasible it was, was to get down to 3:20... long term I'd still like to get down below 3:00. Maybe a good short-term goal now is 3:12... a :48/50 pace.

    I'm headed into a base-building/endurance phase of my training now; the long OW swim last weekend and maybe sprinkling in the 5K postal and the 3000/6000-yard postal swims on the weekends over the next month and a half give me some fun things to train for... more on that later!
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  8. Reverse Taper... reverse carbo-loading?!

    by , August 20th, 2013 at 12:42 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    So coming off the 2.4-mile OW swim (and btw, the official time was 1:16:02, which placed me 58th out of 100 in the non-wetsuit category and would have placed me 77th out of 289 among wet-suited swimmers... I was 4th in age group among non-wetsuite swimmers, but my time would have placed me 8th out of 42 in the wetsuit category; which I feel pretty good about!), anyway... coming off the swim Saturday I decided to impose a reverse taper. I did 2000 in Lake Andrea yesterday. 3000 at the Y today. Here's what I did:

    8/18 Lake Swim:

    400 EZ swim
    4 x (50 fly + 50 fr recovery)
    4 x (50 bk + 50 fr recovery)
    4 x (50 br + 50 fr recovery)
    400 EZ swim

    TOTAL: 2000 y/40 mins

    8/19 YMCA swim:

    WU (1000):
    200 EZ fr on 3:30
    4 x 100 IM on 2:00 (mid 1:40s)
    8 x 50 in 400 IMO on 1:00 (:46, :47, :51, :51, :55, :55, :46, :43 = 6:36)
    1:00 rest

    MS (1000):
    10 x 100 fr on 1:45 (1:28-1:31; first 5 mostly 1:28-1:29, 6-10 mostly 1:30)
    :30 rest

    CD (1000):
    8 x 50 in 400 IMO on 1:00 (:47, :48, :50, :50, :54, :55, :45, :43 = 6:34)
    4 x 100 IM on 2:00 (mid 1:40s)
    200 EZ fr

    TOTAL: 3000 SCY, under 58 mins.

    I'll probably get back to the lake tomorrow morning before heading into work; the days have been a little warmer this week, so the water temps are climbing slightly again.

    FEED TROUGH NEWS:

    I forgot to mention that after the race on Saturday I stopped into Monty's Blue Plate Diner in Madison. I did a search on the internet for restaurants in Madison with Vegan options. I've all but stopped going to restaurants here in Kenosha, because there are not that many vegan options... vegetarian and vegan are not the same thing and you always have to wonder if that vegetarian dish has hidden dairy or eggs. These are things that never would have occurred to me before, but I'm constantly thinking about now. Saturday night after I got back, for example, the family wanted to go out... they chose Italian, which I used to love doing. But, where eating vegetarian in Italian restaurants was always pretty easy, going completely vegan basically limited me to two items on the menu... and even those made me wonder; just because it has garden fresh vegetables, doesn't mean it wasn't swimming in butter just a few seconds before plating. To avoid those possibilities I find it easier just to stay at home and make my own.

    My family is fairly sympathetic to my diet (My wife even apologized for asking for grated cheese on the salad Saturday night... "Oh, I guess I shouldn't have done that if you wanted some"; it was ok, I was having the minestrone soup anyway), though I think they might be annoyed with me at times. They know I'm doing it for my health, which is where I began five weeks ago (today marks 35 days I have been vegan), but I'm trying to explain that it's become something much more than that now... it's coming from a place of compassion and mindfulness that is so much more powerful than mere self-discipline.

    Anyway, this is why I really appreciate places that proudly offer true vegan options on their menu. Here's the sweet potato hash with tofu scrambler with rice toast that I had at Monty's on Saturday...

    Click image for larger version. 

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    The idea of tofu with spinach hadn't occurred to me before, but it was yummy and I'll try it again here at the house. The sweet potatoes had some yummy spices... think I detected curry.
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  9. 2.4-mile... MOWS 2013

    by , August 17th, 2013 at 04:15 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    YESTERDAY: Final preparations. Got into the Y at midday for a 1000 warm-up... very EZ, hoping to be completely recharged for the open water. I did need to do one last equipment check, too, because I decided to break into a new pair of goggles and use a crisp new jammer (the one I picked up for last season's meets and time trials was already starting to sag). I learned the hard way at last year's USMS 5K swim that an older pair of goggles might fog in unpredictable ways, so I've been saving a new pair I got in March for just this occasion... a pair of blue-tinted Keifer (I think the model is called Conqueror; similar to the Speedo Vanquishers I've been using). I normally like a clear goggle, but if the tint isn't too dark it would be nice in the sun. Trying it out indoors at the Y I found I was not distracted by the tint at all... a good choice! Bonus: I got this pair for free... it was my prize for winning my age group in the Winter Water Warriors fitness challenge sponsored by Wisconsin Masters. And the jammers were free, too... my 500-mile premium from last year's GTD. Mentally, this was just another reminder that I have been putting in the hard work; now it was time to relax and enjoy the experience... Wait! Not too relaxed... we'll see.

    The diet, ahem, life-style change, has been going swimmingly of late too. I carbo loaded toward the end of the week with whole-grain spaghetti and veggie tomato sauce on Thursday night. Last night I had Vegan tacos (used the last zucchini from last weekend's excursion to the farmer's market) and vegan whole-wheat pancakes with cinnamon and berries for desert. Yum. Went to bed and woke up feeling pretty good.

    PRE-RACE: This morning the alarm went off at 4:30. I got up and poured myself a cup of joe and put together my big bowl of grains and berries, almond milk... plenty of slow-burn complex carbs. I sliced an apple and took a banana and a little bit of peanut butter with me as a pre-race snack, just to make sure the batteries were completely charged. I pulled out of the driveway at 5:20 and headed into a pretty thick fog. Driving through Kenosha and Racine counties visibility was very low, the air was cool, but by the time I hit the bypass just south of Milwaukee it was already starting to thin. Sun was rising. Shortly after I turned onto the interstate headed west toward Madison the sun was glowing low on the horizon in my rearview mirror... everything in front of me was cast in a pink or golden glow. I love this time of morning.

    An hour later I was pulling into Madison. I parked at Monona Terrace parking garage and walked over to check in. Back to Monona Terrace to change and use the bathroom. As I headed back out, this was the sight that greeted me... beautiful morning on the far end of the rectangular course...
    Click image for larger version. 

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    I still had about thirty minutes, so I ate my apple slices and peanut butter. At 15 till I would eat the banana. It was still pretty chilly in that last hour before the race, so I decided to forgo the warm-up... I thought, honestly, it might make me more anxious and that the better course would be to remind myself to use the first couple of hundred meters as a warm-up, not get caught up in the fray, find a rhythm and then slowly build. This turned out to be a great strategy for me. Plus, I didn't have to exit the water after warm-up for the mandatory pre-race briefing and then hang around getting cold and stiff for 15 minutes before heading back into the water. Being in the non-wetsuit group (by far the minority at this race) I was happy with this choice... even some of the wetsuit crowd looked to be cooling off in that gap between warm-up and start. Here's the start area at the end of warm-up:
    Click image for larger version. 

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    THE RACE... and really I'm only racing myself... well this is what I tried to tell myself. Alex, version 2013, is in a lot better swim condition than Alex, v. 2011. But how much of a time drop would I see?

    We waded out and then swam to the start, lining up behind the buoy near the ski ramp in the picture. The non-wetsuit wave of the 2.4-mile went first, at 8:30. The wetsuit 2.4 was scheduled to go ten minutes later, and then the 1.2-mile swimmers ten minutes after that. The non-wetsuit wave was fun to chat with while we treaded water in anticipation of the start... I noticed a lot of us were jockeying for last place; nobody likes to get caught up in the scrum. No matter how we tried spreading ourselves out, though, it was crowded. That first 1/8th of a mile or so was all about finding a position and trying to get into a rhythm... but inevitably I would just get going, start feeling pretty good, and then swim up onto someone's legs. Positions seemed to sort themselves out by about the half-mile mark though, just in time for the first turn... I started seeing the same swimsuits over and over, so I knew I had settled into a group that was going at about my pace... this was reassuring... as I sighted the buoys ahead of me I could see a lot of yellow swim caps, and making the second turn (in which I somehow lost inside position and a little bit of momentum) I noticed a nice string of yellow caps still behind me... woohoo, I'm not bringing up the rear! I quickened my pace to catch up to the group that I had been swimming with in that first quarter of the race, even though I somehow fell off their pace at the second turn I worked to get back on track...

    The middle portion of the race was a lot more fun than the last time I swam MOWS, I worked to stay even with swimmers around me, if not pull ahead. Around the third turn (at about a mile) the elite swimmers in the wetsuit wave were starting to catch us. As we made the fourth turn at the half-way mark (1.2 miles) two things happened... (1) a nasty chop starting pushing into shore from the middle of the lake, which had everyone rocking and rolling for the next half mile; and (2) more wetsuits appeared. This round of wetsuits was moving at a pretty good pace, not as good as the trickle of wetsuits that had passed us about 200 meters before, but this larger group seemed to be staying together pretty well and so I tried to jump on the back end of the train and keep up. The waves were merciless though and scattered us a bit. As we approached the fifth turn there was quite a crowd jostling for position around the buoy... and out of nowhere, a blue and white swimsuit that I had been keeping pace with for the first 3/4 of a mile, and which I thought I had left behind, appeared again. I sped up. I knew he was behind me at turn six and then I started to pour it on again. I passed some wetsuits, even a couple more pink caps (the 1.2-milers), then I started pulling even with and slowly passing non-wetsuit swimmers who I'd never seen before... this is where my endurance and conditioning was really paying off I think. I felt good going into the last turn and headed to shore.

    The last time I swam MOWS I remember getting passed a lot, and hardly ever doing any passing myself. I still got passed, especially by the wetsuits, but from the time I really found a rhythm, about 2/3 of mile in, till the end I don't remember getting passed by many non-wetsuit swimmers... in fact, I was the one who seemed to be passing... I just felt so much stronger than in 2011. And, when I got back and checked my time, I was ecstatic: I beat my previous time on the same course by 12 minutes, finishing in 1 hour, 16 minutes!

    Here's a pic of the finish I took after drying off...
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    Whereas in 2011 I don't even know if I cracked the top ten in my age group, today I placed 4th... only one place short of medalling; and I'm not that far off, so maybe next year!

    Here's my self-satisfied self-portrait (notice the recent hair-cut!):
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    My lats were pretty stiff in the first few minutes after the race, but have started to loosen up... now I just feel pleasantly fatigued. Next up: Postal 5K toward the end of the week? We'll see how I feel tomorrow!
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  10. Taper continues; Salads rock...

    by , August 15th, 2013 at 03:21 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Today I only did 1500 yards or so in the lake... I was going to do 2000, but an extra recovery day is good now. Tomorrow I'm planning to go into the Y for a quick warm-up and that's it... I had originally planned to do 1000, my standard warm-up... instead I might just do 400-800 in drill work/EZ swimming and call it a day.

    Yesterday was my last "workout" before the 2.4-mile swim; and it was pretty relaxed, a real scaled down version of things I've been doing the last 6 months; where I would have been tempted to push the pace and get the times down I made a conscious effort to count strokes, back off the pace to focus on distance per stroke. Here's what I did:

    WU (1000)
    400 EZ swim on 7:00 (fr, pull, fr w/ short fins, pull by 100s)
    4 x 100 IM on 2:00 (mid 1:40s)
    4 x 50 fr on 1:00 (1st EZ, then desc. the last 3: :46, :42, :40, :38)
    1:00 rest

    MS (1000)
    10 x 100 fr on 1:50
    --first one was 1:28, last one was an ez 1:32, the rest were right at 1:30, so I was able to find a consistent pace; the interval (1:50) gave me what seemed like an eternity of rest between reps, since I've gotten so used to going off 1:40 of late.
    1:00 rest

    CD (1000)
    4 x 50 fr on 1:00 (ascend the first three, ez on the 4th: :36, :37, :38, :46)
    4 x 100 IM on 2:00 (these were actually slightly faster than the 100 IMs in wm-up, but felt relaxed)
    400 EZ swim (fr w/ short fins, pull, fr w/ short fins, fr by 100s)

    3000 SCY/58 minutes

    I'll have to remember this workout in my reverse taper and for recovery or maintenance phases of training... got the blood pumping but kept the focus on form... loosened me up, rather than tightening me up.

    JUST A QUICK NOTE ON FLY: Though I'm not focusing on fly this week, obviously, and just using it for variety and to keep my form on the stroke... taking the time to swim it more carefully and more purposefully has revealed a couple of things to me... (1) without being too conscious of the fact, the second kick has become second nature... this is something I used to struggle with last spring, but I noticed that I was doing it without thinking about it this week... that's cool; and (2) my DPS (distance per stroke) has gotten a lot better... granted, I was purposely trying to reduce my stroke count in the 100 IMs mentioned above, but even still, I went back to look at my fly from the 400 IM at state SCY meet in March and I was doing 9-10 strokes per length. Yesterday I was doing 3-4 underwater dolphins, then 6 full strokes per length from push. That's a huge difference.

    SALAD... YUMMY, YUMMY:

    I know I've mentioned my layering of salads recently; great way to get all those nutrients and eat a large volume of food without going overboard on the calories. I signed up for the MindBodyGreen daily e-newsletter a couple of weeks ago... they send links to articles with recipes and other wellness tips on their website. Anyway, one of the recent articles had a great explanation of the concept of layering salads and a couple of easy recipes... tried both of them last night (with leftovers for lunch today!) and really enjoyed them... I've never been a carrot fan, but I liked this one. I did cut back slightly on the oil; olive oil is obviously healthier than crisco, but I haven't even been using much EVOO lately in my effort to keep the processed oils to a minimum.

    Anyway, here's a link to the recipe:

    http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-10558...rot-salad.html
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  11. Where's the reset button?

    by , August 14th, 2013 at 12:27 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    I hate tapering... wouldn't it be great if we could just hit a reset button and *bam* all the glycogen stores are properly refilled, all the soreness and fatigue have been whisked away... that pace you worked so hard to get to feels automatic, even easy. Not happening. I guess I'll actually have to do a better job of resting over the next few days, not getting overzealous with my swim sessions.

    Sunday I did an easy 2000 in the lake, but may have pushed the pace just a tad, since I felt pretty good (odd considering I had two really tough workouts in a row on Friday and Saturday). Monday, I figured I could do 5000 at the Y... some pace work and just a little bit of IM in the warm-up and cool-down, so I don't lose any of the progress I've made on my strokes this summer. The workout ended up being a lot more difficult than I had intended... or I felt a lot more fatigued than I thought I would; bottom line is I really do need to back off the next couple of days to re-charge for Saturday's open water swim. Here's what I did yesterday:

    Warm-up (1000):
    400 EZ (fr, pull, fr, pull by 100s... these were really slow) on 8:00
    4 x 100 IM on 2:15 (descended these from 1:46 to around 1:40)
    4 x 50 fr on 1:00 (:40-:42... I was not pushing on these at all, just trying to keep the stroke long and strong)
    2:00 rest

    MS (3000):
    6 x 500 fr on 9:00
    --7:45-8:15; these were all over the place... not only between 500s, but I never felt like I got into a consistent rhythm/pace on any given 500... unlike in the 500s I did a week ago. I had hoped my pace would be between this spring's 1650 pace and Saturday's 3500 pace (i.e., between 1:30 and 1:36 per 100--7:30-8:00)... doesn't that seem reasonable for a 500? I couldn't hold it... not exactly a confidence builder. Maybe I was still recovering from last week.
    2:00 rest

    Cool-down (1000):
    8 x 50 in 400 IMO on 1:00 (:48, :48, :50, :50, :56, :56, :45, :43 = 6:36)
    4 x 100 IM on 2:00 (again mid-1:40s)
    4 x 50 fr/pull skate on 1:00

    Total: 5000 SCY/95-100 minutes

    BACK AT THE LAKE TODAY: the air was chilly (still in the 60s and breezy) when I got to the lake; and the sun was playing tag with the clouds. I braced myself for cold water and wondered if I would ever warm up on what I had planned would be only about 1K recovery swim. Thank goodness the breeze was coming into shore and pushing the warmer surface water into the lap swim area. I dove right in and was happier underwater than on the surface where I could feel the cooler air against my arms with every stroke. The surface, while warmer, was also a little choppy and provided a nice current to swim against in one direction. I alternated 200s fr with 100s back (x2) and br (x2) for a total of 1200 yards. We'll see how I feel tomorrow... I hate taking rest days.
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  12. 2-mile time trial

    by , August 10th, 2013 at 07:24 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    We (Scotty and I) tried to do this time trial in the lake today, but were shut out by a junior triathlon that had the beach closed to lap swimmers until 1PM. So, we made the 10-minute drive back over to the Y. At least this time trial would have the benefit of walls and flip turns, but we were sad to leave such a beautiful setting (water was perfectly calm; and there wasn't a cloud in the sky this morning) for the indoor confines of our usual workout venue.

    After a hard week and yesterday's 4K workout I wasn't planning to have an exceptional time, but I did want to simulate a long continuous swim a week before the MOWS... try to find a rhythm and comfortable/hard pace I could maintain for about an hour. I finished the 3500 SCY in 56:18; it felt good (for some perspective, my postal 1-hour in 2012 was 3530 yards, so that two-mile time has come down almost 4:00 in the last 18 months).

    My average pace was between 8:02 and 8:03 per 500... which looks pretty even, but I probably swam my first couple of 500s in the 7:56-7:58 range. The next two 500s were right at 8:00, there was a fall off in pace to around 8:10/500 between yards 2,000 and 3,000; and my final 500 was right at 8:00 again. I knew I could swim a hard, but still comfortable mile in 28:00, but wasn't really sure if I could come back and swim that next mile at the same pace... guess I got my answer: I was at about 27:50 something when I hit the 1-mile mark and felt like I was just hitting my stride (sorry to mix running metaphors into the swimming commentary... old habits die hard). My second mile wouldn't have been slower than 28:30. This pace, 1:36-1:37/100, was my 1650 pace only last fall, so I'm super psyched... good confidence builder going into the 2.4-mile open water swim next week. And maybe with a little tapering this week, I'll have more energy than I was feeling like I had toward the end of this week. Time will tell.
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  13. Thursday-Friday workouts

    by , August 10th, 2013 at 12:30 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    Yesterday was a recovery day... big time. I probably could have taken the day completely off from swimming (haven't done that in over a week), but I decided to put in some time in the lake... another cool day (air and water); I did 1500 just to loosen up.

    Today I was back at the Y because I wanted to get in a little up-tempo work before I start tapering for the 2.4-mile swim in Madison next Saturday. Here's what I did:

    WU (1000):
    400 EZ swim on 7:00 (alt. fr, pull by 100s)
    4 x 100 IM on 2:15 (desc. 1:45-1:37)
    4 x 50 fr on 1:00 (:42, :40, :40, :42--trying to feel my 1650 pace)
    Master's minute

    MS1 (1800):
    12 x 100 fr on 1:40 (reps 1-6 in 1:25-1:26; reps 7-12, 1:23-1:25)
    12 x 50 fr on :50 (:41-:43, mostly :42)
    2:00 rest

    MS2 (1200):
    8 x 50 in 400 IMO on 1:00 (:45, :47, :49, :49, :53, :56, :45, :45 = 6:29)
    8 x 100 IM on 2:00 (1:40-1:43)
    2:00 rest

    CD (400): EZ swim (100 pull, 100 bk pull, 100 bk, 100 fr)

    TOTAL: 4400 SCY/95 minutes

    Hope the weather holds out for another lake swim tomorrow; Scotty and I are planning to meet for a hard 2-miler. Temps were in the 80s today and the sun was out the whole day, so I'm sure the water will be a little warmer.
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  14. Grains, Pyramids, Ziggurats

    by , August 7th, 2013 at 06:44 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Meh. Sometimes you just have days like that. After having a pretty tough workout on Monday, yesterday wasn't going to be that great. I did 2000 at the lake, mostly ez swimming. I managed to work in a couple of 200 IMs, a 200 back, a 200 breast... the rest was freestyle, just trying to stay acclimated to the lake water. With temps dropping over the last week and a few more overcast days than we normally get this time of year, the lake temps are starting to drop too. I wouldn't be surprised if the water was in the low 70s, maybe even 68-69 in places yesterday evening. It felt great after warm-up, but I stood in the shallows a couple of extra minutes to psych myself up. I almost envied the triathletes with wetsuits who showed up toward the end of my swim. Almost.

    BARLEY AND RED BEAN DISASTER:

    Last night I got home and planned to have a salad with three different varieties of lettuce I picked up at the farmer's market; just add some chopped tomatoes (our first of the season from the backyard garden!), a little cilantro, avocado, sprinkle over it some ground flaxseed and pepper. To give the salad a little more heft I was going to add some red beans and barley... unfortunately we didn't have any canned red beans... I forgot I had gotten dry beans the last time I went to the store to economize a little. No problem... just put them in a pot with water and boil away, right? Well, I read the directions wrong and since I've been cooking lentils lately (which are pretty well done after 25-30 minutes) I thought this was a thirty minute thing. Turns out the directions on the package were boil on low for thirty minutes, then add a bunch of pork products, then simmer for another 30 minutes. It only donned on me that something might have gone wrong after I drained and rinsed my little red rocks! Crap. Had to put them back in the pot with some fresh water and bring the whole thing to a boil (no added pork, thank you). Meanwhile the barley was coming along pretty slowly too... I thought it would cook more like oatmeal, was not prepared for it to be so crunchy after 30 minutes (the last time I made barley was in the split pea soup so I wasn't really aware of the actual cooking time of the barley on its own. Yeah, the salad was OK, but there was a lot of chewing... and it took me a lot longer than a salad should take to make. Next time I'll have the red beans and barley cooked ahead of time. Yeah, gotta have those days every now and again to appreciate it when things go off without a hitch. Live and learn!

    THE BRUTALITY OF PYRAMIDS

    In going from paleolithic to neolithic with my diet (no meat, more grains and greens) I recall the great civilizations that were made possible by the agricultural revolution six or seven millennia ago. Pyramids and Ziggurats dotted the ceremonial centers and graveyards of the great grain producing centers of Egypt, Mesopotamia. I contemplated this as I crunched through my big bowl of mixed whole grains this morning... I wondered if the Egyptians or Sumerians ever swam pyramids/ziggurats inspired by their monumental architecture.

    The workout that Scotty and I met for this morning/afternoon (11:15-12:45... a real power lunch!) was brutalizing... think whips and chains from the old sword and sandal epics of the late fifties... Yul Brenner as Pharaoh (Scotty actually has his hairdo). We call it a pyramid, but I think technically it's a ziggurat because it has a platform top, rather than a point. If pyramids commemorate the dead and perhaps act as conduits to the afterlife, ziggurats were for the living, well at least the living of the priestly class that used their high plateaus to lift themselves above the alluvial plain and give them access to the gods in heaven. What does this have to do with our workout? (1) It was killer, which almost gave me direct access to the afterlife... and I didn't even have my Book of the Dead with me. And (2) at the top of each ziggurat we had quasi-mystical experiences, leaving us gasping for air, before returning us to reality. Here's what we did:

    WU (1000): 200 fr, 200 pull, 100 bk pull, 100 bk, 100 br pull, 100 single-arm fly, 2 x 100 IM on 2:00 (mid 1:30s).

    MS:
    500 Fly Pyramid*
    100 recovery
    500 BK pyramid*
    master's minute
    500 BR pyramid*
    master's minute
    500 FR pyramid*

    CD (500): 100 pull, 100 bk pull, 100 bk, 100 fr, 100 pull

    TOTAL: 3600 SCY

    *The ladders in these sets were 25-50-75-100-100-75-50-25 with the interval set at :45/25... My 100s fly were 1:34 and 1:37. 100s bk were in 1:34 and 1:29. 100s br were about 5-6 seconds faster than last week at 1:40-1:41, but the 100s fr came in a second slower at 1:18...

    The fly seemed less brutal this week, I was not pushing it, admittedly. But the BK and BR had my thighs screaming for mercy by the end (I could feel Anubis hot on my tail), where my times improved slightly over the last time I did this workout. I don't feel great about the FR, but I also wasn't pushing it really hard by that point (just "sort of hard" or "hard enough to save my pride, but not enough to launch myself into a celestial revery").

    Updated August 7th, 2013 at 06:50 PM by mcnair

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  15. Improvements come slowly at times...

    by , August 5th, 2013 at 11:58 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    ...almost imperceptibly slow, but they are there nonetheless. I'm speaking here not about my more dramatic time drops in the 1650 over the last 6-7 months... going from a 1:36/100 pace to a 1:31/100 and now working out at 1:25/100 on my 20 x 100 on 1:40 set... in less than a year, I've definitely come off the plateau... I think. But, the improvements in pace are much smaller for the shorter races... seems like it takes a lot more work to drop my pace per 50 a single second in the 100s or 200s. But after about a month of focusing at least one hard workout a week on the middle distance paces I'm seeing slight, ever so slight, signs of encouragement... especially in the fly. On my 50s fly today, for example, I used a 1:00 interval and my pace never dropped back to :50... my average pace over 400 yards of fly today was closer to my goal of :48/50.

    In the Back set, I was able to hold the goal pace a little longer this week than last... just a little longer; same thing with free. And I have to keep reminding myself that the first time I did a version of this workout (it was on July 1st) I only did 32 50s over the course of the workout. Today I did 48 50s. So, I'm in better shape even if the times don't look like they've moved a lot. Here's what I did today:

    WU (1000):
    400 EZ swim on 7:00 (held 1:40 or better pace; did fr, pull, fr, pull by 100)
    4 x 100 on 2:00, reverse 400 IMO (1:27, 1:50, 1:46, 1:39*)
    *This 100 fly was split :49/:50; almost an even split on 100 fly?!
    4 x 50 fr on 1:00 (:40, :39, :38, :38)
    Master's minute

    MS1 (1000)
    4 x broken 200 BK on 4:30
    --:10r after each 50; <1:00r btwn 200s
    --went 3:37, 3:38, 3:38, 3:40, probably a decent reflection of where my current 200 pace is on back (3:07-3:10).
    200 recovery (fr, bk, fr, bk by 50)

    MS2 (1000)
    4 x broken 200 FR on 4:00
    --:10r after each 50; <1:00r btwn 200s
    --went 3:06, 3:07, 3:08, 3:08 (I was actually shooting for a :39/50 pace instead of goal-pace (:38/50), since I was just not feeling it at this point in the workout; again, this is probably a decent reflection of what I could do in a 200 free right now (2:36-2:38).
    200 recovery (pull, fr, pull, fr, pull by 50)

    MS3 (1000)
    4 x broken 200 FLY/BR on 5:00/6:00
    --:12-:15 rest after each 50; 1:10-2:00 rest after each 200
    --Fly 50s went on 1:00, first and third 200s in the set (splits: :46, :47, :47, :49, then :44, :47, :48, :48... got faster as I went along?!)
    --Breast 50s held 1:00 interval (barely) on second 200; went on 1:10 for the fourth 200... 50s were in :53-:57 range.
    200 recovery swim (100 pull/100 fr)

    CD (1000):
    4 x 50 kick w/ fins in 200 IMO*
    16 x 25 kick w/fins on :30 in 400 IMO*
    *Took the fins (short) off for br in these sets; used streamline for dolphins and back, board for br and fr.
    400 EZ swim (pull, fr, pull, fr by 100)

    TOTAL: 5000 SCY/115 minutes

    I got in at least a 1000 yards of back work today; 500 of good, hard fly work (without ever sacrificing too much in form I don't think... it's getting easier to hold); same with breast. Hadn't put on the fins for a while so it was good to keep that burn going through much of the cool-down.

    Updated August 6th, 2013 at 01:20 PM by mcnair

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  16. Open Water update...

    by , August 5th, 2013 at 12:01 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    Just a quick note on the weekend's lake swims. I signed up for the Madison Open Water Swim (MOWS) that is going to be on Saturday, August 17th. I'm looking forward to it. I signed up for the 2.4-mile non-wetsuit wave again. But all this got me to thinking I really need to increase my time in lake water over the next couple of weeks.... just to be ready for whatever Lake Mendota (or was it Lake Monona? I always get the two mixed up... since I don't get over to Madison that much)... whatever the lake has to throw at us.

    Saturday morning's 2K recovery swim in Lake Andrea was in gorgeous conditions (one could only hope for such weather, water--calm, glass-like waters, cool temps for both air and water 60s/70s).

    This morning's swim in the same venue could not have been more different... cloudy skies made the cool air seem, well, cool... and a nice little chop was coming in from the east... this was a lot more challenging, had me experimenting with shorter, quicker strokes against the current. To make it even tougher I sprinkled in 3 x 400 IM over the two miles... 100 fly is considerably more challenging without a wall and working against the waves in one direction. Here's what I did:

    400 EZ free
    :30 rest
    400 IM
    :30 rest
    400 free
    1:00 rest
    400 IM
    <:30 rest
    400 free
    1:00 rest
    400 IM
    <:30 rest
    1000 fr, cruise w/ waves, up-tempo against
    100 bk/br

    3500 yards/70 minutes
    ---
    Saturday afternoon we said goodbye to our "little" boy again. He's headed off for his sophomore year in college. Here's a picture we took just before the drive down to Chicago O'Hare... I joked with the family afterward that, of course, it couldn't be a family picture unless we were all squinting into the sun... why do we do that? Also took a picture of Andrew with his two brothers... they grow up fast!

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  17. Shout out to USMS bloggers...

    by , August 3rd, 2013 at 01:32 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    One of the reasons I love perusing the blogs on USMS is that, in addition to some great sets and workout ideas, there's always a juicy little nugget or link that can come in handy.

    Yesterday's lake swim was an adaptation of a set from one of ekw's blogs this week (who in turn took the set from Swimsuit Addict). I couldn't keep track of times because I was in the lake, but at least had the 50-yard swim lane to keep track of distance. I used perceived effort as my guide, treating the swims between 2IM segments as recovery swims:

    WU: 200 EZ swim

    MS (2500):
    50 fly--150 fr--50 bk--150 ft--50 br--150 fr--50 fr hard--150 fr recovery
    :20 rest
    50 fly--100 fr--50 bk--100 fr--50 br--100 fr--50 fr hard--100 fr recovery
    :30-:45 rest
    50 fly--50 fr--50 bk--50 fr--50 br--50 fr--50 fr hard--50 fr recovery
    :30-:45 rest
    200 IM
    :30 rest
    500 fr cruising speed

    CD (300): 100 bk, 100 br, 100 fr

    3000 yards/60 minuutes

    It was a beautiful day--water like glass, crisp, cool air, blue skies, water temps probably around mid-70s--and I had the lap swim area all to myself... except for a water jogger who I've seen there before and who watches out for me... during the rests today I talked with her briefly and, though wondered if my swimming might be interrupting the solitude of the beautiful day for her, she mentioned that she liked it when I was swimming b/c it helped the time pass faster for her; she was there well after I left.

    MEDITERRANEAN QUINOA SALAD:

    I got this one from the Jul/Aug 2013 volume of Splash magazine. I got to it via a comment from PWB on ekw's blog about why swimming makes us so hungry. PWB linked the page from Splash with a short article about the effect of swimming on appetite. Of course that caught my interest, but it also led me to this great recipe on the same page... for a seasonal Quinoa salad, including cucumbers, tomatoes, kalamatta olives, a little lemon juice and EVOO. I adapted it for vegan by leaving out the feta cheese. I've been looking for an excuse to use quinoa... We tried it out tonight on some non-vegan dinner guests and they weren't completely turned off by it. Yay. But there's still enough left over for the next couple of days! I liked it. Anyway, as I said, surprising and useful little nuggets of information abound among my fellow bloggers... thanks guys!

    IMPROVEMENT--1650 PACE:

    In the excitement of a couple of new recipes and a fun dinner party, I almost forgot about the most exciting thing that happened today... I did a repeat of my 20 x 100 on 1:40 at 1650 goal-pace workout with surprising improvements. Last week I had a hard time holding the 1:25/100 goal pace, lots of 1:27-28, even a couple of 1:30-31 at the end. This week, only three reps over 1:25, all at 1:26. Here's how the workout went:

    WU (1000):
    4 x 100 on 1:40 EZ (1:36-1:38 fr, pull, fr, pull); :20 rest, then...
    4 x 100 IM on 2:15 (desc from 1:40 to 1:36)
    4 x 50 fr on 1:00 (:39, :38, :36, :38)

    MS (2000):
    20 x 100 on 1:40 (mostly 1:24-1:25; reps 14, 15, and 20 were 1:26)

    CD (1000):
    200 recovery swim (pull)
    4 x 100 IM on 2:00 (1:39-1:46)
    400 EZ swim (pull, bk pull, bk, fr)

    4000 SCY/75 minutes
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