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  1. Lake Michigan, 7-8-12

    by , July 8th, 2012 at 07:56 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    This is the image that greeted me as I stepped out of my car this morning on Simmons Island, Kenosha:



    Very inviting to say the least... and I knew the temps would be warmer than they had been before on this section of shoreline, especially after a couple of weeks of scorching air temps. The wind and surf had me a little concerned, as I got closer...



    And closer...



    I waded out into it and was surprised at how bearable the water was (considering that I was swimming here last July and the water was hovering around 50). It was probably 70. But as I swam out a little bit I found the swells too much (maybe 4-5 feet at one point... the water would surge from my knees to over my head). I swallowed some of that yummy Lake Michigan water as I attempted to breathe at the wrong point. I suspected that the swimming would be much better (though still a roller coaster ride) out a couple of hundred yards, but without a partner I didn't want to take it on (I was about 50 yards in and was getting beat to death).



    Last summer a couple of times I swam from this Light House pier about half mile down the beach and back... even in July then it was bitter cold, so today's water temp felt great; cool, bracing. I tread water for a few minutes and just let myself be carried up and down the swells, enjoying the cool water. The YMCA is about 80 and the inland lakes are close to 90 degrees right now, so I hated not being able to swim this water, but I also wanted to be safe.

    It would be nice if we could swim the harbor, here's what the other side of the Light house pier looks like...


    I'm always so tempted to climb down one of those ladders and swim laps up and down the harbor wall, which you can see is a nice long stretch (no turn required), but I hesitate to do that as well without fellow swimmers to help keep track of all the boat traffic and watch out for fishermen casting from the pier.

    This picture looks across Kenosha Harbor toward Simmons Island:


    The water in the harbor is a lot calmer and would have been perfect today. I need to find some others swimmers willing to challenge these waters with me... on a day like today it just seems a shame that there aren't more swimmers out!

    This afternoon I went back to Lake Andrea, which was pretty choppy too with afternoon winds, but nothing like the big waters of the Great Lake. I did a mile and called it a day. Back to the grind maņana.

    I'm thinking about doing the Crystal Lake, Illinois 2-mile open water swim on Saturday. That's only two counties away, so it's pretty convenient. Anyone else in the area planning on doing that one? I'm trying to get my son Anthony to enter the 1-mile event; he just got back from summer camp and completed the Boy Scout Mile Swim this year! He's the third in our family to complete a BSA Mile Swim... I'm so proud!
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  2. 5K SCY

    by , July 7th, 2012 at 05:58 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Yesterday I went to the Lake and only did a half mile; I was very tired after work and after the long week. The LCM workout the previous day after several straight days in the lake probably didn't help... though I really have no idea how fast I'm swimming in these things. I was very stiff and felt like I was crawling... almost back to my spring 2011 pace (i.e., before I started really paying attention to my swimming and treating it seriously).

    Today, I felt like I needed to test myself and figure out what the last month of mostly open water work has done to my fitness. I went to the YMCA and did 5K SCY in about an hour and 45 minutes; broken like so:

    3 x 1K on 19:00 (1000 free, coming in between 16:44-16:55; 100 breast to finish off each 1K)
    2:00 rest
    5 x 100 on 2:00 (mostly in 1:31-1:33 range)
    2 x 150 on 3:00 (2:20-2:24)
    2 x 200 on 4:00 (3:12-3:20)
    2 x 150 on 3:00 (2:24-2:27)
    5 x 100 on 2:00 (1:30-1:37)
    25 breast
    75 Free in 1:00
    100 breast

    The first 3K felt pretty tough, tougher than I thought a 1:40/100 pace should feel like; but 19:00/K is still more than 2:00 faster than my OW pace of 21+/K. I initially intended to do 5 x 1K, but modified my plans after the 3rd K... I could really feel my pace dropping off (from around 16:40 to almost 17:00 for 1000 free) on the "sprint" 1000s. I wanted to keep my pace up, I just couldn't indulge myself by settling into a slow slog (this is one of the things holding me back in the OW w/o a pace clock keeping me accountable).

    I've got some work to do, but looking back over the last year I have made some progress in both pace and endurance in the water. Last year at this time there is no way I could have done this workout with these times. I have to remind myself of that, but I'm still not swimming as fast as I want to!
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  3. First LCM swim in over a year...

    by , July 6th, 2012 at 01:46 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    I was running an errand in Milwaukee today and decided to stop at one of the only LCM pools in the area. An outdoor pool, Wilson, in the county park/recreation center of the same name. The only 50-meter pool in Kenosha/Racine is at the Recplex and the pools only set up for LCM at certain hours; and if you aren't a member it costs 10 bucks a day. That's a little steep for a starving artist-teacher type. The Wilson outdoor pool costs a dollar after 5:30PM... but it's a bit of a drive from the WI-IL border to do too often, so I took advantage of the opportunity.

    Between 5:30 and 7:30 they have lap swim and aqua Zumba, but they just changed the schedule because of the hot weather to extend open swim to 7:30. So, one skinny lane in the middle of the pool with a large Zumba class on one side and a crowded open swim on the other. It was pretty chaotic for a while. The lifeguards did a good job of keeping the recreational swimmers out of the only lap lane (they had to be on top of their game, because the open swim crowd had very little sense of boundaries). For about 30 minutes we had 4-5 in the lane circle swimming. Once the Zumba class cleared out they opened up the other half for lap swim and we had plenty of room.

    I did 3.3K, a little more than two miles. 3 x 1000 free, with a 100 breast after each 1000. My left shoulder started off a bit stiff, but loosened up over the first K. My pace seemed pretty slow. I don't know for sure because there was no pace clock. I was just happy to be swimming in a 50-meter pool, with blue skies and billowy white clouds above. The shadows were long. The water was very warm, but the weather has been super hot of late so I expected that. All in all, a nice change of venue.

    Tomorrow I'm going to back off a bit from the yardage and see if a short recovery swim doesn't help me bounce back for a long-long swim on Saturday.
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  4. Independence Day swim

    by , July 4th, 2012 at 02:46 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Hit the lake again this morning... bright and early before the throngs started streaming in for the holiday.

    The water has really warmed up a lot on this inland lake over the last week; with our heat wave the surface temps are probably up to about 80 now. Air temp and water temp about the same... made it very easy to slip into the water this morning.

    I alternated fast 50s with relaxed 50s to keep myself from slowing into a hypnotic trance. A little more than 2 miles total.

    Did I mention that the water was darn near perfect? Smooth as glass. Clear. No walls.
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  5. Hard-EZ, lake swim...

    by , July 3rd, 2012 at 10:30 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    After fighting with our campus course-management program for four hours this morning (we just migrated to a new version and it has messed up a whole lot of quizzes and other content that I spent three years developing in the previous version... and I thought I might be able to take the fourth off!), I decided to head to the lake and work off the stress.

    The water was gorgeous... I could see to the bottom even in the deepest sections of the swim area, and even with my tinted goggles. The sun was high over head, the aquatic weeds are starting to grow up a little. The kids were tossing a football.

    I decided to alternate hard laps with easy laps; each lap is about a 100m circuit. In hindsight, this is a sort of Yin-Yang workout (see my Yin-Yang entry of 4-5 days ago). I'm just trying to break out of the same slow pace that I seem to default to when I get into the lake, without the pace clock keeping me accountable. I thought about doing some speed work or up-tempo work last night at the YMCA pool, but ended up just doing some kick work and some relaxed pull and free 100s... (2K total). I thought I would save the hard stuff for the lake... because it's precisely in the lake that I need to learn how to maintain that harder pace.

    I finished with over two miles today (only had to toss the football back once); and then I dried off on the lawn, stretched out on my blanket and read a little Whitman... then back to the grind; I'm still fighting the darn software, argh! But my lungs feel good and my limbs are pleasantly fatigued from the effort... makes it easier to handle the frustrating technology stuff.
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  6. Latest issue of Swimmer; June in review

    by , July 1st, 2012 at 10:33 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    I enjoyed the latest issue of Swimmer magazine, which I just got toward the end of last week. "Are triathletes swimmers too?" It was a nice perspective... of course they swim, they just aren't attached to it in a lunatic fringe kind of way. Pool swimmers might not like the contact sport element of the triathlon swim, and most triathlon swims are too short for the serious OW swimmers; so the poor triathletes have the disdain of pool competitors and OW swimmers alike. Being a convert from running I can sympathize... I did swimming primarily as a cross training activity for a decade. My swimming really didn't improve much until I decided to make it my primary mode of exercise.

    Today I had a nice relaxing two-miler at my usual lake. I stopped at a couple of points to talk to other swimmers, all triathletes, to break up the swim and to enjoy the camaraderie of others in the water on a beautiful Sunday morning. Not many of us as it turns out, so I'll revel in the company when I can. I think it's funny that around here I'm known as "the guy who does really long swims, like 5k"; I've competed in exactly one 5K, but around here that is considered ultra-long distance apparently, and doing one makes you an expert (?!)... yes, I'm just a little bit uncomfortable with that. I stand out like a sore thumb because I wear a speedo, rather than a wetsuit; I'm guessing this adds to the perception that I can be treated as an authority... one really nice triathlete, training for an ironman, approached me because he's a little concerned about that 2.4-mile swim. The article came to mind immediately. I tried to be as encouraging as possible; he really was looking for help and/or reassurance. "How do you keep your focus on a swim that long?" I told him it was a lot like the run or the bike in terms of the endurance you have to have, but when someone asks about the swim, I think they're wondering if all the laps they've swum will translate in the open water where the water is deep and the inner-demons and doubts begin to surface. I actually swam the 2.4-mile course in Madison that he's planning to swim for the Ironman there in a couple of months. I told him just to focus on the next buoy, to break it into smaller swims, try not to think about the whole thing at once. I also encouraged him to use the wetsuit, save the legs, have fun.

    Thanks "Swimmer" for the perspective. Maybe a week ago I would have thought less of the triathlete for using a wetsuit (Thursday evening the triathletes were out in force, mostly in wetsuits, and I overheard one saying "of course I'm using the wetsuit, I'd drown without it"--in spite of temps in the 90s). But they also have to save their legs for a grueling bike and run after they survive that short swim... so, I guess I get it.

    I looked back over the month of June today and compared it with May. I actually had more longer swims (5K+) in May than in June, but they were all in the pool; most of the swimming in June was in the lake. I still finished June with more than 50 miles; only my third month with 50+. And I reached the 300-mile mark for the year, which I don't think I did until nearly December last year. I'm up to 8th place in age group on mileage for GTD.
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  7. 4 miles open water...

    by , June 30th, 2012 at 11:37 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    I drove west past the interstate today, leaving the city behind and heading for a particularly nice inland lake: Silver Lake, Kenosha County. The county park there has a well developed beach and swim area, which I hadn't visited in a while. But I was looking for a venue where I might swim for more than 50-100 yards before having to make a turn and Silver Lake has a no-wake ordinance in effect until 10AM every day.
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    I could swim past the roped-in swim area and use the no-wake buoys farther out as my markers, swim in a straight line for about 250 meters (as measured on satellite image from google maps). I did round trips of 500 meters between three buoys out away from the swim area, but still in sight if the beach. My goal was to swim for three hours straight, and without a support craft I had to improvise... this is what I came up with:
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    The kids used this as a sled in the winter when they were younger; it floats. I towed it out and tied it to the no-wake buoy... inside I tied my water/gatorade bottles, extra sunscreen, swim cap and watch. It worked pretty well. I was able to feed and stay hydrated as well as check my elapsed time. I was averaging 10-11 minutes per 500 and so I would take a swig of water or gatorade every other trip back to the "tube."

    Unfortunately, I got a later start than I would have liked and around 9:00 I could here the motor boats firing up around the lake. I donned my lime-green swim cap at that point to be more visible; I'd already been swimming for about 1:15.00 About 45 minutes later I could here the motor boats already making there way out on the lake and I knew it wasn't safe anymore, so it was time to tow it back into the swim-only area. I swam another 600 meters or so, but it was too shallow and the windsurfers and ski boats were in and out of the no-wake zone picking up passengers from the beach, so I decided to call it a day. About 4 miles in 2:15.00.
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    I took this last photo from the top of the hill looking over half of the beach area... wish the cellphone could get a better panoramic shot... it was a beautiful morning. The water when I started was probably in the upper 70s and it was as smooth as the proverbial glass. My first two hours were incredible. With the water as still as it was and the day as clear I was able to sight really well and breathe with only one goggle out of the water. I was reassured by this swim that I can in fact swim in a straight line without having to sight every six strokes... I really found a good rhythm for long stretches, something that is impossible when swimming in a 25-yard box or even a 60-yard swim area. I really felt like I could swim forever at a certain point. Alas, the motorboats wouldn't wait a minute past 10AM to reclaim the lake for themselves.

    The only thing diminishing the experience, aside from the fact that I had to cut it a little bit short, was the aquatic weeds. The no-wake buoys are in 7-8 feet of water, but in many spots the weeds were growing all the way up to the surface... this was pretty annoying, but in hindsight maybe it confers some sort of advantage (does pulling through weedy water create more thrust?). There were only about 25-35 yards of really weedy water on the 250-meter course I was following, but they were growing everywhere. I hope they don't completely choke the area and make it more difficult to swim in the coming weeks as the weather and water warm. I'd love to come back a few more times this summer!
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  8. Yin-yang... and the pleasure of fish

    by , June 30th, 2012 at 12:12 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    I was preparing for my Humanities summer school class this morning and was going through this essay on Daoism on the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art website:

    "Daoism and Daoist Art"

    I was struck by the association of the Daoist yin and yang with shade and light (among other dualities, such as water-fire, east-west, etc.). The image of shade and light stuck with me as I remembered my swim yesterday in the late afternoon on the lake... The water was pretty cloudy as it has been often this year, but their were moments of clarity. In one such moment I noticed a small fish swimming in and out of the shadow of a buoy. My fish encounters have been few and far between so far this open water season... maybe the water is still too cool for them, or maybe I can't see them as well because the water is not as clear.

    Light plays with shade, and shade with light in that cosmic balance... what the author of the essay wonderfully expresses as "alternating phases of cosmic energy." It reminds me that you can work really hard against the natural order and not get very far... or you can appreciate the flux and flow, take what nature gives you. That's "taking" in the sense of rolling with the punches, not "taking" in the sense of ransacking.

    It was definitely one of those days on the water: adjusting, shortening the stroke to deal with the rolling of the current head on. With water crashing over my head and shoulders, I breathed at odd times, found new ways to sight, then stretched out my stroke after the turn around. I also enjoyed the patches of cooler water being replaced by warmer water as the lake churned, only to bring back another cool patch. I wondered about "my" fish, native to this element, playing with the shade of a buoy. I still marvel at their design... how awkward humans seem in comparison to them in the water. See this remarkable thirteenth-century illustrated scroll, aptly entitled "The Pleasure of Fishes," for a Daoist rendering:

    Zhou Donqing, handscroll

    But we have our pleasure here, in the water, too...
    Just keep swimming!
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  9. 300 miles, 77 degrees... stroke rate 42?

    by , June 28th, 2012 at 11:58 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    The water at the lake today was 77 degrees, which felt really nice with the air temperature in the mid 90s. Even with the wind and a choppy surface for most of the swim, I felt strong today. Yesterday I only managed 2400 yards at the Y before closing time... it took me about 1100 just to warm-up. It was not going well. Today I did 2 miles, and now I'm thinking about the logistics for a little bit longer lake swim this weekend.

    My swim today put me over 300 miles for the year. Which means, if things continue to go well, I might be on a pace to hit 600 by the end of the year. I'm about 50 miles ahead of my 500-mile goal pace to date.

    One thing I've been working on ever so often these last few months of my swimming journey is increasing my stroke rate. As a runner, 85-95 foot-strikes per minute was pretty common even on longer runs. When I was stuck in the SCY box last night I started counting my strokes per 50 and watching the time during my second 1000... when I was consciously trying to increase my stroke rate (or maintain it) I was coming in :50-:53 per 50 with a stroke count of 37-38; granted there is a wall and push off in there, but this looks like I'm at a stroke rate of 42 per minute. That's super low in comparison to my rhythm when running. As I fatigued (and I was feeling pretty worn out yesterday) my SR would actually drop to 33-36 per 50.

    So I'm guessing my stroke length is pretty good and I'm swimming pretty efficiently, but I just can't get my hip, back, torso, shoulders, and arms into the same rhythm in the water that my running legs are able to generate on land. I'm not really sure where to go from here with it; except that I'm thinking I should probably be focusing more on my hips. I already breathe bilaterally (every 3 strokes), so I'm not worried about that, just need my tempo to increase so I can swim faster than 2mph in the pool, or 1.66 mph in the open water.

    Of course, just a few years ago 3500 yards/hour seemed totally out of reach...
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  10. Blog #100...

    by , June 26th, 2012 at 10:32 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    I love nice round numbers like 100; nothing too big to report today, except that this is my 100th blog entry on USMS since I started tracking my "progress" (I use the term loosely) here.

    I did two miles today at the lake... lots of wind, very choppy water. I pulled up alongside another swimmer at one point and did a little sidestroke to chat for a few moments about the challenging water; we both agreed in the end that we rather liked it after all. It was a gorgeous sunny day aside from the wind.

    I'm less than 2 miles away from the 300-mile mark for the year. Cue banana dude:
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  11. 4000 SCY

    by , June 26th, 2012 at 12:01 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    I couldn't get my swim in until late today, so I stopped at the YMCA on my way home from work around 7PM. We don't have any outdoor pools open for lap swim that late and I'm not a fan of swimming indoors at this time of year, but we do what we can. I have lost what little speed I had in the last couple of months with my focus on long continuous swims. I need to get back to interval workouts I think.

    The reps weren't that fast, but I gave myself long rests so I could keep it crisp (well as crisp as I get).

    10 x 50 on 1:00 (mostly :41-:42)
    10 x 100 on 2:00 (mostly 1:28-1:29)
    100 breast
    3 x 300 on 5:30 (mostly in 4:55)
    100 breast
    4 x 200 on 4:00 (mostly in 3:20)
    100 breast
    500 in 8:55

    I was slowing down a lot at the end of this workout. But I feel pleasantly fatigued now.

    Tomorrow I should have a chance to get back out to the lake!
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  12. Sleep... ah, yes!

    by , June 24th, 2012 at 09:39 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    I awoke this morning feeling refreshed after my first full night's sleep in over a week. It was a wonderful feeling. And I had no residual soreness or aches from the USMS OW 5K yesterday. I probably didn't swim hard enough (big Homer Simpson "DOH!" here).

    I went to Lake Andrea and swam two miles. The water was noticeably cooler than Morse Reservoir, probably back around 70 after some clouds and a cooler spell late last week (though air temp was up around 90 this afternoon). But I like the way the cool water feels as I swim... it feels therapeutic on working muscles.

    I decided that I needed to do some up-tempo work in the lake, not just in the pool, so I decided to swim hard in one direction and easy back in the other direction. Water was really calm, so I could feel the difference when I increased effort. The distance between the "no wake" buoys at either end of the swim area is about 55-60 yards; a nice little sprint without wall assist. It's not a straight line either, there's a nice little dogleg that you have to account for, so it's good practice for navigation as well. I alternated 10 sprints with 10 relaxed lengths, did a couple of lengths breast stroke, then repeated the set.

    In my final 10 laps of the day I swam hard out and back (110-120 yards), then swam out and back again with a relaxed pace; 5x through.

    It felt like a pretty good workout; I was working off of perceived effort alone, instead of watching a pace clock. A very different experience; not unlike the fartlek runs I used to do cross-country. In fact I think the difference between this kind of swimming and the pace-clock driven pool workout is a lot like the difference between trail running and running on a track or measured road.

    Temps cooled off this afternoon--felt like maybe a front had come through--and I couldn't resist an evening stroll in the county park next to campus. A glorious summer moment:
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  13. Open Water 5K; Morse Reservoir

    by , June 23rd, 2012 at 10:58 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Click on the thumbnail images to see the photos of our adventure in Indiana...

    My son and I drove into the Indianapolis area last night and were able to get a little sleep (we didn't leave Kenosha, WI until about 6PM, and with the time change it was midnight by the time we were tucked in); after a long week at work and without a full night's sleep in at least a week, I was a little groggy. But I was happy to get away, and to be getting ready for my first Open Water 5K.

    The reservoir was beautiful this morning when we got there at around 6:30-6:45. The water was as smooth as glass:
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    Here's a picture I took with the cellphone of Anthony (my son) and me looking into that same sun!
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    Air temperature was perfect and the water was even a little warm. Anthony took this picture of my wave (the third one) waiting for the starting gun.
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    Water was about 78 degrees and still; the scrum at the start was not all that bad either, a little crowded but we soon spread out pretty nicely after a few minutes. I have to say I'm not used to the feeling of swimming almost literally on top of people; and when I'm dodging bodies at home it's usually someone riding a noodle or sidestroking at a pace of 1000-yards/hour. It was a real learning experience to have strong swimmers closing in from both sides and behind, while I'm staring at a pair of feet in front.

    I got into a rhythm (a slow one) after the first couple of buoys; and absolutely loved the feeling of swimming through fresh water in the cool of the early morning without having to make a 180-degree turn every 25 or 50 yards. The anti-fog effect on my goggles has definitely worn off and this pair, which has seen probably 150 miles in the last three months, is ready for retirement... it made sighting a challenge at times, at a few points I had to take two or three breast strokes to get my bearings and locate the next buoy. I'll have to remember that for next time.

    But that was only a minor annoyance. I was thoroughly soaking in the experience; as the t-shirt says "no lanes, no lines, no walls" (see picture of me next to the USMS National Championships sign below with the t); it was exhausting, but exhilarating at the same time.
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    I remember on the home stretch thinking that the last couple of buoys seemed like they couldn't come fast enough, but then, crossing the finish line I was sorry it was over and didn't really want to get out of the water I don't think. My time was 1:49:00, which is about 10 minutes slower than I wanted it to be, a 22 minute per kilometer pace. I was really hoping that my open water time would be closer to my 5K PR in the pool (1:35), especially since I've been averaging 20 minutes per kilometer for up to 6K in my longer pool swims this spring. But I guess the push-offs and streamlines from the wall work to my advantage. Here I am at the finish with one of Anthony's photos:
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    I asked Anthony about my form and he said I needed more power in my kick, which is probably spot on... I've been working to convert my runner's legs into effective swimmer's legs over the last year. My swimming endurance is way better than at last year's 2.4-mile OW swim, but I need to work on power and probably stroke-rate. In my last few half-marathons as a runner I was getting used to finishing in the top 10-20 percent; even took a second in age-group in a 22-mile trail run a few years ago... passing often, not being passed very much. I don't think I passed more than one or two swimmers today, if any at all, but I know I got passed by quite a few! I was seeded 119, but finished 132nd.

    So my first couple of USMS open water swims have been humbling experiences, to say the least, I'm happy just to be out there, finishing 132 in a field of 200-something. My old, competitive runner's soul starts to bubble up to the surface and is prodding me to train harder, make improvements... which I will certainly do, but at the same time... wow, what a cool experience! I wish more people would do it (and not just because 132nd place out of 500 would look better than 132nd place out of 200... no, seriously, it's a blast).

    In addition to some great father-son time, and a fun swim, I think I'll have the sounds, smells, and sights of this morning for a long time... I'll remember that calm scene of the first photo the next time the wind kicks up and chop pounds, or the water is too cold, or the Y's pool is too short

    Updated June 23rd, 2012 at 11:04 PM by mcnair

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  14. Back in the pool for a couple of days

    by , June 21st, 2012 at 10:36 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Yesterday I stopped in at the YMCA again and did a couple of miles (3500 SCY); took about 64 minutes and I was feeling pretty run down the whole time. Today I went back and did a short work out, trying to keep it crisp... I felt slow. Here's what I ended up doing:

    10 x 50 on 1:00 (mostly in :44)
    5 x 100 on 2:00 (mostly in 1:33)
    500 in 8:24
    200 breast
    300 free (1:45/100 pace)
    200 breast


    Tomorrow morning if I have time before work I'll do one last easy swim in the lake, maybe a mile, before heading out to Noblesville.
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  15. Windy day...

    by , June 19th, 2012 at 08:38 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    I got to Lake Andrea today and did 2 miles... it felt like an interval workout with the wind really moving the chop against me in one direction.

    I would swim really hard to the buoy on the far end and could feel the resistance all the way out; then I'd turn back and just cruise... rinse, repeat! 32 times!

    It was a good enough day aside from the wind: sunny skies, warm (one thermometer read 96!), water still cool.

    I finished in 75 minutes (which seems really slow), but no walls!
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  16. June in the lake

    by , June 18th, 2012 at 11:56 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    I've spent most of the last two weeks just getting accustomed to swimming in the lake again, after nine months exclusively in the pool.

    Very different without the black line! And I'm realizing that my streamline and push off the wall are helping me a lot every 25 yards. The lake I'm swimming on (Lake Andrea) is owned by the municipality and has an ordinance against open water swimming, so I'm trapped inside the lap swim buoys... 16 laps for a mile... 32 wall-less turns every mile slows things down a bit.

    One thing I've enjoyed is getting used to the chop and churn when the winds kick up on the late afternoon swims. I want to be prepared for as many contingencies as possible and so I'm enjoying the challenges when they present themselves.

    Also have enjoyed the water temps around 70, instead of the 78-80-degree indoor pool setting at the YMCA pool. The triathletes are mostly still wearing wet suits, I think it's probably too warm for that. Water feels perfect to me at 68-72 degrees. I asked one guy and he said he wore the wetsuit more for the extra buoyancy.
    A wet suit would be nice if I were swimming in Lake Michigan right now.

    I've mapped out a few courses on a couple of other lakes farther west, without "no swimming" ordinances. The longer drive makes them much less convenient, but it will be nice to be able to swim continuously without having to turn 180 degrees and lose all that forward momentum.

    I did 3000 yards at the Y today on my way home from work, because I couldn't get to Lake Andrea; I felt like I had "auto-pilot" on... not having to navigate!

    Looking forward to the 5K this coming weekend!

    Click image for larger version. 

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  17. confidence builders...

    by , June 4th, 2012 at 09:11 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    The last couple of days I've decided to do some confidence-building workouts for long distance... looking forward to the USMS OW 5K later this month.

    Saturday's workout was 3 x 1750 on 29:30; I was trying to come in at around 29:00, a 1:40/100 pace. I finished three miles in just under 1:29.00; my first two miles were 29:05, 29:15; and my last mile was 29:50.

    Today I did 3500 in 60:20.00 minutes, broken up as so: 1000 in 16:45, 100 breast in 2:00, 1000 in 17:00, 100 breast in 2:00; 1000 in 17:15; 100 breast in 2:00; 200 free in 3:20.

    Feels good to be swimming "hard" for long stretches and gives me that confidence I'll be able to sustain the pace during the 5K.
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  18. May in review...

    by , June 1st, 2012 at 03:01 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Can't believe I only posted to the blog five times in May... busy month! But I certainly kept up with the swimming. When I opened up the FLOG this morning it had already switched over to June... a full-month's worth of blank days to fill, but I wanted to review May, so I clicked the back button.

    62 miles: this is what I managed to get in at the pool last month, May was my first 60-mile month! I also crossed two milestones: 200 and 250 miles for the year. This has me up to number 9 in my GTD age group.

    Things are moving along!
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  19. 12K... finally.

    by , May 26th, 2012 at 04:13 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    The planets were all aligned properly. Even though I got a late start today, I still managed to finish my first 12K continuous swim (SCY--I'm still stuck in the box at the YMCA: motor-boat races on my usual lake venue. After this weekend I should be able to get out on the open water a few days a week).

    The first 10K was in 3:24.00, which may be my fastest 10K time yet... I'll have to go back and check. I had one short bathroom break at 4K, so it was probably closer to 3:22.00. I'm still mixing in 100 breast after every 1000 free, so I'm pretty happy with this time... it means I can plan on breaking 3:20:00 this summer in the 10K. After 10K I put it into low gear and churned away on the last 2200 yards... trying to maintain a nice, slow rhythm (I was hurting pretty bad at this point). I finished the final 2K in 44 minutes, which brought me in for a total time of 4 hours and 8 minutes. That's a long time in the chlorine!

    For the month I'm over 55 miles now; second month in a row with 55+ miles. Also had my second 16+ mile week in a row (another first for me). All this mileage had me briefly back in the top 10 for GTD age group. I think I'm back to 11th place now, but might sneak back into the top 10 with today's 7.5-mile swim!

    On another note, I managed to sign up for the USMS OW 5K last weekend... just in time to get the early-registration rate. I'm looking forward to that. Thursday I did 5K continuously in the pool, playing with different paces, to see what might feel comfortable at that distance (obviously, I'll be able to swim a lot harder than for 10K or 10 miles). I did 1000 Easy (17:40), 100 breast, 1000 a little harder (17:20), 100 breast, 1000 at my BASE pace (16:40), 100 breast, 1000 a little easier (17:30), 100 breast, and finished off with a relaxed 1000 (17:50?), and one last 100 breast. It felt pretty good; I'm not sure if I could maintain the BASE pace for the full 5K, but something around 17:00-17:20 per 1000 might be doable. We'll see. I'm looking forward to it!
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  20. Progress

    by , May 20th, 2012 at 07:26 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    I decided to take the day off from swimming today. I'm still pretty wiped out from yesterday morning's 11K (12,100 SCY). It was slower than the last time out for a long continuous swim. As I blogged here a couple of weeks ago, my goal was to hit 12K, but the last 3-4K yesterday had me really slowing and I could feel the shoulders burning like I hadn't in a while. I got out of the water after 3 hours, 49 minutes; I had only allotted myself 4 hours for the 12K (until 11AM) because I needed to be somewhere at noon. I might have gutted out the full 12K, but I just ran out of clock.

    My 3:49.00 included two bathroom breaks (which I hadn't needed the last time around; one too many cups of coffee!). Actual swim time was about 3:45. My 10K split wasn't as fast as the last couple of long swims either. Last night, I felt like a train wreck.

    So why "Progress" in the title of this entry?

    I decided to take a look back over my FLOG and did an inventory of weekly mileage stats. Going all the way back to mid-march, this week was the highest mileage week by more than a third of a mile. I think maybe I just ran out of gas. Here are the last ten weeks and their mileage totals, starting with week of 3/11/2012:

    13.24
    14.09
    8.64
    15.85
    10.68
    12.50
    16.48
    12.10
    9.43
    16.82

    There is sort of a pattern here, a rhyme-scheme if you will, not unlike the terza-rima of Dante's Divine Comedy. I wish I could say I planned it that way, but I originally thought to execute a quite different pattern. Sometimes life gets in the way, though, and our body imposes its own rhythms. I wanted to be building up my mileage (and my long-swim distances) by increasing the mileage two weeks, backing off on week three, then repeating the process... that's what the first three weeks look like: 13, 14, then back to 8 miles. But for the pattern to continue like that it would have to be 15, 16, then back to 9-10. That isn't what I ended up with at all. Instead I got UP then down, then slightly up, then WAY UP, then down just a tad, then way down, then WAY UP again. Like so:

    UP
    down
    slightly up
    WAY UP
    down a tad
    way down
    WAY UP

    Rather than building two weeks and then stepping back a week, my weekly totals look to be spiking one week, then spending two weeks down, then spiking again. Maybe my body was doing this naturally as a response to the long swims getting out past 10K, perhaps my body sensed it needed to back off just a bit for two weeks after those long swims. The UP week included my first 10K if I remember correctly; and the two highest weeks, the WAY UP weeks, ended with 11K swims.


    OK, enough of the mystery of my body's reaction to mileage! Looking at this, I think that if I plan my workouts more than a day or two in advance I won't be letting my body decide for me how far it needs to go... the climbing of mount purgatory is a series of divine revelations in Dante, but also a series of self-realizations... The soul charts its own progress; always upward. Don't look down!
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