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  1. First swim of 2013... new goals!

    by , January 2nd, 2013 at 11:35 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    The YMCA opened back up again for the first time in 2013 today. My workout was as follows:

    Warm-up (1000):
    400 swim (100 back, 100 br, 200 fr)
    4 x 100 on 2:00 (desc. 1:33-1:27), fr
    4 x 50 on 1:00 (desc. :41-:39), fr

    Main sets (3050):
    5 x 200 fr, no rest (150 hard/50 recovery)--total time 16:20
    5 x 100 fr, no rest (75 hard/25 recovery)--total time 8:15
    25 dolphin kick
    5 x 200 on 4:30 (75 back/125 br)
    25 dolphin kick
    5 x 100 IM on 3:00 (all in 1:37-1:39)

    Cool-down (650):
    200 back
    200 br
    250 fr

    4700 SCY, 2 hours*

    *I actually swam through the first 3000-3500 in about 60-70 minutes, even with short rests (in the :45-1:15 range) between the 200 and 100 sets. I stopped to talk to Scotty right before the IM set (he got there when I was in the middle of my back/br set), and we gabbed about what events we might try for the next meet--a big long break, but I didn't have any trouble convincing him to do the IM set with me. I originally planned to do it on 2:30, but he suggested 3:00 and I was glad he did. I had already done 3500 and after 10:00 had managed to tighten up, I was thankful for the added rest. He and the life guard watched my breast, back, and fly and gave me some pointers, especially on the kick (br, fly), arm recovery (br), and pull (back), which were helpful... it's one thing to watch other people do it and try to imitate them, it's another thing to have someone watch you and tell you when you're doing something wrong or inefficiently. I'm hoping that lots of little changes add up to big improvements... we'll see.

    Anyway, I was glad I got a good 3500 hard in to exhaust myself before the epic gabbing, punctuated by short/fast swimming began. Scotty is definitely a sprinter and wants me to focus more on my speed, less on my endurance. I know I need to get speedier to see my distance times come down too, but it's tough to relinquish that long swim, long set, short rest mentality.

    That brings me to my goals for 2013:

    1. Maintain the same mileage (GTD: 550-mile goal).
    2. Increase the amount of yardage in drills, back, breast, fly.
    3. Decrease the percentage of my swimming that is freestyle.*
    4. Complete the check-off challenge.
    5. Swim the postal 5K and 10K.
    6. Improve my 1500/1650 times.
    7. 400 IM (?)
    8. Swim at least two open water events this summer.

    *But increase the quality; in 2012, probably 90% of my yardage was freestyle.

    Sent in my registration for the SCY meet on 1/13 in Oconomowoc, WI. Tomorrow I'll try to remember to blog about what events I've chosen and my seed times.
  2. 2012 In Review

    by , January 1st, 2013 at 04:21 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    2012: Despite all signs to the contrary (Record hot spring in WI, Super-storm Sandy, Notre Dame making the BCS national championship game?!), the four horsemen of the apocalypse did not make an appearance at the end of the 13th Mayan Baktun to terminate the universe as we know it. 2013 is here, and a whole new set of goals, but before looking too far ahead into this, as yet unknown, but hopefully "lucky" 13th year of the 21st century, I would like to mark the the new year by taking one last look back at the old.

    2012 was my first "full" year as a swimmer, as opposed to a runner cross-training in the pool. I ended 2011, having become a swimmer only 6-8 months before, with 335 miles and then set my 2012 goal for 420 miles, hoping to average 2000 yards a day. By April I was so far ahead of my goal pace I decided to make the goal 500 miles. Would there be a new swim suit in the mail come year end? Here's how I did by month:

    Month--Total Distance
    Jan--45.11 miles (=79,400 yards, =72,603 meters)
    Feb--46.42 miles (=81,700 yards, =74,706 meters)
    Mar--45.63 miles (=80,300 yards, =73,426 meters)
    Apr--55.51 miles (=97,700 yards, =89,337 meters)
    May--62.61 miles (=110,200 yards, =100,767 meters)
    Jun--51.89 miles (=91,324 yards, =83,507 meters)
    Jul--56.76 miles (=99,895 yards, =91,344 meters)
    Aug--27.47 miles (=48,355 yards, =44,216 meters)
    Sep--27.51 miles (=48,425 yards, =44,280 meters)
    Oct--31.31 miles (=55,112 yards, =50,394 meters)
    Nov--42.60 miles (=74,983 yards, =68,565 meters)
    Dec--53.88 miles (=94,825 yards, =86,708 meters)
    Total 546.72 miles (=962,218 yards, =879,853 meters)

    Nearly 1,000,000 yards for the year (that certainly would have brought about a world ending cataclysm--phew!). Lots of little goals along the way...
    1. breaking two miles in my first 1-hour postal swim;
    2. my first 50+ mile month;
    3. my first 60+ mile month;
    4. doing a 12K continuous pool swim in my buildup for open water events;
    5. my first USMS Open Water 5K;
    6. my first USMS 5K postal swim;
    7. mastering the flip turn;
    8. first time starting off the blocks;
    9. my first meet EVER;
    10. my first attempts at fly and IM in practice.

    Some goals eluded me:
    1. swim all the postals--just couldn't work out the logistics for the 10K, and I was running out of gas at the end of the summer anyway!
    2. swim my first 10K or 10K+ open water competition--I had one or two opportunities in the area, but there were conflicts on the weekends toward the end of the summer as we prepared to see our oldest off to college for the first time.

    Some interesting discoveries and fun moments along the way:
    1. Speedo Endurance: after burning through swim suits at the rate of roughly one every two months for about a year, I found that Speedo Endurance really does hold up where other fabrics don't. Been using the same two suits (alternating blue and black) since May; that's a lot of miles!
    2. I like working on the "other" strokes... and not just using them as recovery lengths in long distance freestyle interval workouts.
    3. Swimming is like running, in that it keeps me working on my aerobic and my endurance, but it's also like golf--because technique is so important (and often frustrating!); I can always be refining, and focus is extremely important for maintaining good form. (Bonus: swimming is cheaper than golf!)
    4. Anthony, my second son, swam his first mile swim this summer--becoming the third in the family to complete the BSA mile swim.
    5. Anthony and Aaron (my youngest) have both taken to swimming and have set goals for swimming the mile (or swimming it faster) this coming summer. I now have company in the pool from time to time!
    6. I finished the year in GTD just outside the top 10 at #11 in my age group; I thought top 20 would be out of reach until I realized half way through the summer, that there really aren't that many people crazy enough to put in 40-50 miles per month, month in and month out. Go endurance junkies!

    So what will 2013 bring? I'll blog my specific goals for the coming year tomorrow; but I just entered my GTD goal for 2013 a few minutes ago: 550 miles.
  3. New Year's Eve swim...

    by , December 31st, 2012 at 01:50 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    One last swim for the year. Here's what I did (3300 SCY/65 minutes):

    400 free on 8:00 (7:00)
    4 x 100 on 2:00 (1:28-1:30)
    4 x 50 on 1:00 (:39-:40)

    10 x 100 on 1:50 (alt. pull/free: 1:30-1:35/1:25-1:27)
    4 x thru 200 free + 50 back (200s were in 3:05-3:15)

    100 breast on 2:30 (1:50)
    100 IM on 2:30 (1:38)
    100 EZ free

    Yesterday was an easy day after the 7200-yard effort on Saturday, I did 2400... 400 warm-up free, 400 in back stroke drill and practice, 400 in breast stroke drill and practice, 400 pull and free w/ fins, 400 in butterfly practice (200 Dolphin kick drills, 8 x 25 fly), 400 cool-down (75 back, 75 br, 50 kick, 200 free). The dolphin kick is getting easier, but DOMS is definitely becoming more frequent as I approach another calendar year!

    I checked my 14-day totals, counting back from today (12/31) and find that, even with Christmas day off, I managed to get in 51,300 yards... that's over 2000 more than what I did for my two-week WI Water Warrior fitness challenge last year!

    I've finished the year with 546+ miles, which might put me in the top-10 for the 40-44 age group on GTD... we'll see. I'll blog my "2012: Year in Review" tomorrow--since it's a day off anyway.

    Happy New Years everyone!
  4. 7200 SCY

    by , December 29th, 2012 at 11:01 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    I was wondering how my distance freestyle day was going to go, since I've spent the last couple of days working pretty hard on the other strokes. I felt sore and run-down going in, but I stuck to my plan...

    5 x thru
    12 x 100 on 1:45
    200 breast on 4:00

    Cool-down: 200 back

    Each 1400-yard "set" lasted exactly 25 minutes and I finished the cool-down with 200 back in less than 5:00 so the whole swim, more than 4 miles, only took 2 hours and 10 minutes. My first time through the 100s didn't feel so great, some in 1:40, some in 1:30, I was all over the place... but at some point toward the end of the second set I relaxed and started zeroing in on a pace 1:35-1:37 per 100, which left me 7-10 seconds rest after each rep. The third and fifth sets felt the best... even when I was dog tired and my lats were screaming in the middle of my fourth set, questioning why I was still swimming, my 100s were coming in at 1:35-1:37.

    All in all I'm very happy with this. Instead of doing 6000 yards of free continuously in ever slowing pace (starting at 1:40 and falling off to 1:45 like last week, and this week it probably would have fallen off a lot more, given how sore I felt), I was able to hold an average of 1:36 for 60 x 100 on a 1:45 pace. Same distance and about the same total time in the pool, but a lot more quality swimming than I normally get on a distance day. I like it.

    This afternoon we (the family) went into Chicago and enjoyed the holiday lights on Michigan Ave, some exhibits at the Chicago Cultural Center, and then Millennium Park. We thought about ice skating, but that is not my thing and standing in a line for an hour just to get in with temps in the mid-20s didn't seem like the thing to do at the end of a long day, so we packed it up and headed back across the border. Fun family time nonetheless. And, bonus (!), we got home in time to see the fourth quarter of the Alamo Bowl on TV--Texas, our alma mater, in a come from behind win, 31-27, against Oregon State! Hook 'em, Horns!

  5. My first 200 IM

    by , December 28th, 2012 at 09:38 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Today, I really didn't know what to focus on. Honestly, I felt a little sore after yesterday's 4000... even with the longer rests, the pace was a lot faster than I usually do on my own and using all four strokes is working muscles I didn't know I had. I have a distance day tomorrow (goal: 7200), so I didn't want to overdo it with intervals or go too long, but I wanted to do some quality work and also keep my momentum on learning the different strokes. Here's what I finally did:

    100 fr EZ (1:40)
    200 br (3:50)
    200 alt. bk/fr (about 3:40)
    500 kick w/ board and fins (about 350 dolphin)

    10 x 100 alt. pull w/ paddles (mostly 1:50) and free (mostly 1:35)
    6 x 100*
    200 IM

    200 EZ fr

    *reps 1-2 were hard 50 bk then 50 br; reps 3-4 were 100 IM; rep 5, 100 bk; rep 6, 100 br. All these 100s were between 1:37 and 1:50. My IM 100s were the fastest, so my fly must not be too terrible, though having a 25 fr at the end doesn't hurt any.

    At that point in the workout, I decided it was going to be a 3000-yard day, and if I could survive a 50 fly, then a 200 IM was not out of the question. A 200 EZ fr would be my cool-down. I barely survived that 50 fly, but I did survive it... last couple of strokes barely clearing the waterline with my arms. That was tough, but I noticed :45 on the pace clock when I hit the wall at 50. I finished the 200 in 3:39, which means I lost a lot of ground on the back half of the back 50 and a lot more time on the breast... not able to make up much with my 50 fr at that point--I was spent. On the other hand, 3:39 was an ambitious time for my 200 freestyle when I first started swimming seriously in summer 2011.

    My biggest difficulty with fly right now is the fact that I can't seem to get the dolphin kick down... something I'm anxious to work on; but I definitely think I'll try a 100 IM at our next SCY meet in January, just for fun.

    Tomorrow, I'm considering doing something different, instead of my usual continuous swim or 5-6 x 1200 on 21:00, whatever. Rather than swim 6,000 yards of freestyle continually at a slower pace, I thought about doing 5 sets of 12 x 100 on 1:45, where I swim every fourth rep hard, but then have three more relaxed, but still faster, 100s. I think I should be able to hold the interval for the whole workout (60 x 100, essentially) and I'll do 200 breast or back between sets. With a 1:45 interval each set of 12 will last 21:00. I think that's the plan for now.
  6. My first 100 IM

    by , December 27th, 2012 at 11:42 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    So, I've done 7,200 SCY in the last two days. The day after Christmas was not impressive. I felt awkward in the water, things just didn't feel right after only 1-day break, the first day out of the water in two weeks. Maybe it wasn't as bad as I'm making it out to be, maybe I just needed another "rest" day. I don't know. I only did 3200:

    100 fr
    200 br
    200 bk
    500 drills
    1000 in 1:40 pace (16:40)
    5 minute rest
    10 x 50 (25 sprint/25 recovery) on 1:00
    5 x 100 on 2:00*
    200 fr cool-down (3:15)
    *3 fr 1:27-28; 1 br in 1:42, 1 bk (2:12).

    Today's workout was much better. 4000 in about 90 minutes, a lot of good quality speed work. Here's what I did:

    Warm-up (1000):
    400 swim
    4 x 100 on 1:45 (1:27-1:35)
    4 x 50 on 1:00 (:38-:40)

    Main Sets (2800)
    10 x 100 alt. pull w/ paddles and free
    5 x 200 fr on 4:00 (all in the 2:50s; 2:53-2:57)
    4 x 200 on 5:00 (first 2: 150 br/50bk, then next alt bk/br by 50s--all 3:30 range; fourth was fr in 3:15)

    Cool-down (200):
    2 x 100 IM on 3:00 (1:29, 1:32)

    Yes, that is two IM swims in the cool-down (which, btw, doesn't make for a relaxed cool-down). Scotty joined me after my pull/free 100 set and we were swimming in the same lane, so we were pushing each other pretty well on the 200s. We got separate lanes for the stroke work. Scotty mentioned that I was making up ground lost on the breast with my back, he thought maybe because of my kick. It's all relative, I didn't feel as good about my breast stroke today, felt like I was missing a piece somewhere, so the back probably seemed better in comparison.

    So, the IMs... Scotty said he needed to do at least a couple hundred worth in IM order and I said, well, I just need a couple hundred more before I call it a day. Why don't we break it into 2 x 100 IM. I figured I could survive 25 fly at least. I asked him to take a look at a few strokes worth of my fly and see if I was doing anything too terribly wrong... Using some of James' advice and what I've remembered seeing from video, I gave it a shot... and Scotty said, "whoa, where did that come from? You're a ringer!" He told me to try a wider hand entry and away we went on my first 100 IM swim ever. We were pretty close on the 25 fly, I pulled even on the 25 back , he pulled away on the 25 breast , and then I cruised in with whatever I could manage on the last 25 free: 1:28. I was pretty pleased with that time. We went again on 3:00 and I managed a 1:32. In addition to a lot more work on fly and breast, I need to work on the turn for backstroke . But it was fun. No complaints.

    Bonus family time in the pool: so, my middle son Anthony is taking a week break from his Cross-Country/Track training and wanted to do some cross-training in the pool. Before I got in and started I took a look at his freestyle stroke and it is right about where I was a couple of years ago, so I gave him a few pointers and let him get on his way. He swam the whole time I was doing my 4000-yard workout. He would stop and rest (very briefly) every 50-100 yards, but probably got in 2500 yards. I'm proud of him for sticking with it.

    Maybe tomorrow is going to be 100s day, getting ready for another distance day (those seem to come around really fast!)... Saturday might be a 7200-yard continuous swim; I've stocked up on gatorade!
  7. Christmas Eve swim...

    by , December 24th, 2012 at 07:55 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    We're having a White Christmas here in Kenosha, WI. Flurries accompanied me in and out of the Y today; won't add much to the snow already on the ground, but it definitely feels a lot like Christmas.

    Today I wrapped up my 14th straight day in the pool. I was really tired and probably should've just taken the day off , but tomorrow the pool's closed, so I wanted to squeeze in in few more yards before the stuffing begins. I only did 2000 today:

    1000 free in 17:00
    200 br/bk
    2 x 50 fr on 1:00 (:40-:41)
    4 x 100 fr on 2:00 (1:27-1:28)
    300 free cool-down

    Yesterday, even though I had done a 6000-yard swim the day before, I managed to get in 4000:

    20 x 50 alt. kick w/ fins/free w/o (20:00)
    10 x 100 alt. pull w/ paddles/free (20:00)
    20 x 50 alt. back/free (20:00)
    8 x 100 br (16:00)
    200 fr (4:00)

    In my 14 consecutive days of swimming I logged 47,600 yards (I'm over 40 miles again already for the month). This will be my Wisconsin Water Warriors fitness challenge figure for 2012. I hoped to break last year's 48,000 (logged in the first two weeks of November), but I had too many days with only 2-2.5K swimming this year. And now that I'm hitting my stride again, there are too many forced days off. August through October this year were "off-season" or recovery months for me (27-31 miles/month swum instead of 45-55), so my build up only really started in November.

    I re-registered for USMS for 2013 on 12/22 (as it turns out, the same day I re-registered last year too!). It's not too early to start planning 2013, I ran into Scotty today at the Y and we're both planning to do the first WI masters SCY meet in mid-January, so we'll send in registration in a few days. I'm considering even doing something other than freestyle *gasp*. Maybe a 100 breast or 50 back. Definitely, one of my goals for 2013 will be to compete in a couple of other events besides distance free. I'm going to see if I can bring my 100-200-yard times down a little this spring. And, of course, my big goals are to knock time off my 1500-1650 and take big chunks off of my 5-10K times.

    I'm also going to learn Fly in 2013... there, I said it... so now I have to do it. Hope my fellow bloggers will hold me to that one. 2012 was all about building an aerobic base and endurance, and learning the flip-turn. 2013 will be about technique, gaining speed, learning (or improving) the other strokes. Who knows, maybe there's an IM in my future?
  8. 1200s on 22:00 for 12/22...

    by , December 22nd, 2012 at 05:08 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Today was a distance day and I wanted to get in about 6000 at a low aerobic pace, so I thought why not go with another numerologically significant workout for 12/22/2012. I decided on 1200s. This was the plan:

    5 x 1200 (1000 fr + 200 br) on 22:00.

    As it turns out, I came in on my first three 1200s around 20:30 or 20:40 and felt good, so I went on 21:00 instead of 22. After the fourth "rep," which came in at 20:47, I decided to start the last 1200 on 21:20 and finished it in about 21:10.

    My total time for the whole 6000 was 1:45:30. Considering the fact that 1000 of it was breaststroke, I'm pretty excited about this workout. I'm way ahead of where I was last spring when I was doing my build up to 10K and could only manage to hold a 20:00/1K (1100 SCY) pace for 5-6K... w/ my freestyle pace at 1:45-1:55 per 100; now that freestyle pace is at 1:40 falling off to 1:45 per 100 toward the end!

    I'm definitely ready for a nap
  9. Mayan Aquapocalypse: 12/21/2012

    by , December 22nd, 2012 at 12:25 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    Apologies to Slow for stealing/adapting his term Aquapocalypse for the end of the Mayan calendar. The theme today for my workout was lots of 12s, 20s, and even some 21s. I needed a short one, so I got to the Y a little after noon and decided to wait until 12:21 PM (why not?) to start my 12/21/2012 workout. Here's what I did:

    20 x 50 on 1:20 free/kick*
    12 x 25 on :21** free
    12 x 100 on 2:00 (1:24-1:27) free
    100 breast
    100 back

    *This interval, 1:20, seemed ridiculously long, but had to get that "12" in there somehow... and I was glad later in the workout that I hadn't done a more aggressive interval. The freestyle 50s came in at :38-40 and the kick (I had plenty of time to change into fins and grab the board) came in at :48-:50. What can I say? It was supposed to be an easy day.
    **couldn't hold :21 for more than 4 in a row, so I split into 3 sets of 4 x 25 on :21 (starting new set on every 3:00), basically this ended up as 3 broken 100s which each finished in 1:23; my 25s were between :17 and :20.

    My set of 12 x 100 on 2:00 was great (for me), started off swimming 1:27s and then 1:24s, finished with 1:25-1:26s. I knew I was going to be able to sustain those Mayan Aquapocalypse appropriate 1:20s about half way through the set and was pretty psyched. Since I've been doing my 100 sets on an interval of 1:45 recently, the extra 15 seconds seemed like a nice long rest. My cool-down 200, breast and back, was the only time I did those strokes... still sore from yesterday's hard breast and back day My 100 back came in at a leisurely 2:22--perfect for a day full of 2s.

    The Mayan rain god Xoc passed through yesterday to usher in Draco, so there was a lot of ice. We lost power for a couple of hours last night in the run up to 12:00 AM 12/21/2012... the power came back on shortly after midnight: Apocalypse averted!

    The total today was 2700 yards, which is actually a nice multiple of 3s and 9s, which reminds me I haven't blogged about Dante in a while... right now I'm working my way through the middle cantos of Paradiso again, so I'll have to blog about that later.
  10. Draco's wetness... my stroke progress

    by , December 20th, 2012 at 09:35 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    So, they're naming winter storms now too... when did they start doing that? "Draco" is passing through SE WI as we speak. We were on the rainy side of the snow/ice line (and we got a lot of rain!), so I won't have to shovel as much tomorrow morning. It didn't start snowing here until about 5PM; we'll be lucky to get 2" of snow, but the folks north of Milwaukee and over in the Madison area got pounded w/ a foot of snow.

    Yesterday I managed to get in another 5000-yard workout, took me 98 minutes and had some threshold work for about 2000-3000 yards in the middle.

    1000 warm-up (21:00):
    -100 fr
    -200 br
    -200 bk
    -500 in drills w/ fins

    2 x 1200 on 21:00*

    11 x 100 on 2:00 (22:00)
    -alternated 100 fr w/ 100 pull w/ paddles/buoy

    500 cool-down (11:00):
    -200 br
    -100 bk
    -50 fr
    -100 bk
    -50 fr

    *The two 1200-yard segments were continuous swims but were essentially 4 x 200 w/ 50 recovery (all free) followed by a 200 breast (at a somewhat challenging pace). Last year at this time a 1200-yard segment like that would have taken me 22 minutes rather than 21. My 200s in the first set averaged 3:07.5 and 3:14.5 in the last set.

    Today, I had a breakthrough on my backstroke after watching some video tutorial and it really paid off (I had the wrong impression about what the pull underwater was supposed to look like; I was doing straight arm perpendicular to my body--windmill style!)... I immediately dropped :10 per 50 off my backstroke time. Now I don't hate it anymore!

    Here's what I did today, basically giving myself a rest from free-style (I had done more than 10,000 in free in the last three days) to work on breast, back, and drills:

    100 fr
    50 kick w/ board and fins
    200 br
    50 kick w/ board and fins
    200 bk
    50 kick w/ board and fins
    300 drills w/ fins
    50 kick w/ board and fins

    Main sets (2000 yards):
    -10 x 100 [alternated 100 pull w/ buoy + paddles and 100 free]

    -5 x thru (150 breast + 50 back)**

    **first 3 on 5:00, came in at 3:30 (or faster); last 2x thru were continuous and EZ for cool-down.

    I was shocked by my mixed 200 times in the last set. My friend Scotty showed up and got to where he had 1000 left and didn't know how to break it up, so I suggested the 150br+50bk x 5, which he thought was a good idea. I told him my breast times were coming down and so he gave me some tips on the pull-out from the wall and away we went. I was actually able to stay with him through the breast portion; he would pull away in the back, but it was a good workout (first time I've been able to get my heart-rate going that fast on a stroke other than freestyle). I was averaging :50/50 on breast. I think a couple of my 100 breast splits were in the 1:35 range, which would have seemed unfathomable 1 month ago. I joked with Scotty that only about 18-20 months ago I couldn't have made that many 200s in 3:25-3:30 freestyle, much less breast and back.

    It's always fun to look back at my old training journals... my last running journal became a swim journal in spring of 2011. That May I managed to bring my mile time down from 34:15 to 33:56. The week before I did my 33:56 mile time trial (5/21/2011), I had decided to start incorporating interval training--I did 12 x 200 free on 4:00 and here is what I wrote: "first 5 were 3:40-3:50 then it was difficult to hold 4:00 after a while."

    Sometimes I feel like my progress is soooo sloooow; but I have to remind myself I've come a long way in a relatively short time... 1.5 years. Makes me feel pretty good about where I am now.
  11. Spoiler alert: world does not end...

    by , December 18th, 2012 at 04:06 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    ...with blog entry #150!

    A couple of big milestones today... I couldn't wait for the end of the Mayan calendar cycle for my big entry #150 extravaganza. Apart from the 150th installment of this swim journal I also wanted to report swimming over the 520-mile marker (y.t.d.) today, with a solo 3000 SCY workout that has me really jacked:

    100 fr (1:33)
    200 br (3:40)
    200 bk
    rest 2:00

    1000 fr in 16:09
    rest 2:00
    200 br (3:42)
    rest 1:00
    1000 fr in 16:45
    rest 1:00+

    200 bk
    100 fr

    Just focused on the hip drive and coordinating that with the hand entry for as much of the 2 x 1000 free that I could. That first 1000 felt tough, but I finished right around the same time I was at the 900M mark in the 1500 for the 12/9 SCM meet. A good hard effort... but not completely exhausting, it felt more like a 1:40/100 pace, but was actually closer to 1:36-1:37. The next 1000 was a semi-relaxed effort; 2 weeks ago this would have meant a 17:30; today, well under 17 again. Also, just paying attention to technique a little more is really helping those "easy" breaststroke lengths; I've been at 2:00/100 pace in breast for so long, it's neat to see that start to come down too.

    I wasn't sure what kind of day I was going to have in the pool after the 5000-yard workout yesterday... I'm pretty pleased with this.

    One last thing to celebrate, sort of... as I was swimming in the pool at the Y, it started snowing! first time this season... and it's a lot of fun to be able to look out the windows (we have a beautiful 4-year old facility with lots of natural light from those big scenic windows) and feel like I'm swimming in a snow storm... without feeling the least bit cold! Of course, all I do this time of year is try to warm up and pray for sun: no break in the clouds forecast until at least Friday and I really haven't seen the sun since last Thursday--better start taking the vitamin D.
  12. Approaching Blog Entry milestone...

    by , December 17th, 2012 at 05:13 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Blog entry #149 (t-72 hours to Mayan Apocalypse):

    My next blog entry will mark my 150th since I began blogging almost a year ago. I'm thinking of having it correspond with 12-21-12... round numbers like to hang out with each other.

    Speaking of nice round numbers, I did a 5000 SCY work out today, similar to the one I did last week:

    Warm-up 1000 (20 minutes):
    100 fr
    200 br (3:40)
    200 bk
    100 bk kick
    400 drills w/ fins

    1:00 rest

    Pull/Free set (1000 in 18:00)
    --100s pull w/ buoy and paddles (1:50s)
    --100s free (1:30-1:40)
    2:00 rest

    20 x 100 on 1:45 (1:27-1:37; mostly 1:32)
    2:00 rest

    400 fr on 7:00 (6:30)
    200 br
    200 bk
    200 EZ fr

    97 minutes total time (not exactly a round number). The 400 I did for time after I hit the 4000-yard mark was just a test, to see if I could hold my 1:36-1:40 pace and form without falling apart after 4000 yards. It felt pretty good. Also the 100s were all over the map, but there were a lot of 1:28-1:32s, which is good for me and an improvement on last week. I did have a few slower 100s in the last half of the set... another swimmer joined me in the lane and he was pretty good so it pushed me to come in under 1:30 when we started together, but then my next 100 would come in at 1:35!

    This weekend I didn't do any really hard workouts. I only had time for a couple of short swims (2000 on Saturday and 2200 on Sunday), but I was swimming my 1000s under 17:00, 16:30 on Sunday in fact. I decided that I needed to focus on some aspects of my technique; hip roll and rhythm being primary. I think I've fallen into the habit of a shoulder-driven stroke, but realized that my turn over wasn't going to get any faster just trying to muscle through with the arms and shoulders... they have to relax more and my hip needs to drive the stroke. I tried focusing on the rocking movement and relaxing the upper body as much as possible. This helped me to swim that 1:40/100 pace with much less fatigue than I normally feel... indeed, my 1:40 pace felt more like my 1:45 pace. So this is a positive development that I'm trying to transfer over to my interval training (w/ mixed results as my inconsistent times in the 100s show). A 4-5 second drop in my all-day pace is a big deal, though, if that's what is really happening here.

    Finally moving off the plateau!? Just in time for the end of the world? Stay tuned for the 150th installment of... Alex's swim journal!
  13. 1500M splits, thoughts on improvement...

    by , December 14th, 2012 at 04:24 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    So the competition is infectious... it's only been a few days since the SCM meet that Scotty and I did, but already I'm hearing buzz about the Kenosha Y lifeguards putting together a relay and checking out USMS. Scotty and I have been talking it up (separately it turns out, I haven't seen him since the meet because our schedules don't coincide this week). I'm hoping we can eventually get a masters team together to swim regular workouts.

    My splits on the 1500 looked fairly even... slow, but even, about 3:30-3:40 per 200M. It felt like an even effort:


    I was inspired by older competitors at the meet; men and women in their 50s swimming the 1500 in 19:00-22:00. I thought to myself that in 10-15 years I could be doing that too... what do I need to do to get there? Well, first of all I have to swim faster more often probably, and do my interval workouts more consistently, progressively speed up the reps (or decrease the intervals). I'm not sure what a realistic goal for the short term is, though. Long term, I want to bring that Metric/Davis Mile time down another 6:00-8:00. But what should my paces look like now? Can I expect to bring the times down 1:00, 2:00, or more over the next year? My 1750 time has been stalled at around 28:00 for more than a year--though during that time I managed to increase my swimming endurance a lot. My problem, I think, is that I was content with just ramping up the distance and not concerned with improving my speed over that distance... at least not enough to be real consistent about my interval training.

    Yesterday I did the following 5000 SCY:

    - 1000 mixed stroke warm-up and drills w/ fins (20:00)
    - 1000 free in 18:00, alternated:
    --100s w/ pull-buoy and paddles (around 1:50)
    --100s free (1:30-1:40)
    2:00 rest
    - 20 x 100 on 1:45 (mostly 1:32-1:34)
    - 1000 mixed stroke cool down (in addition to free I probably did 400 breast and 250 back)
    [97 minutes total time]

    Today I did 3000 SCY in just under an hour

    Warm-up (700):
    100 EZ fr
    200 br
    200 bk
    100 EZ fr
    2 x 50 fr up-tempo

    2:00 rest

    Main set (2000/33:30):
    5 x thru:
    150 hard + 50 EZ free*
    1:00 rest
    10 x thru:
    75 hard + 50 EZ free*

    *no rest, the EZ free portion was my recovery; the 200s in the first 1000 were right around 3:12, the 100s in the second 1000 were between 1:33 and 1:40.

    100 br
    100 bk
    100 fr

    I've tried incorporating some of the tips from the new USMS web article on breaststroke (btw, I think the website's new look is pretty cool) and my times are dropping in that stroke! ... 3:50 for 200 in my warm-up instead of 4:00-4:10. If I could learn fly I might even consider doing the check-off challenge next year.
  14. back in the groove...

    by , December 12th, 2012 at 03:33 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    I took Monday off of swimming because the schedule was pretty crowded and I figured I'd have more time on Tuesday to get in a good workout. It didn't bother me much at the time--missing Monday, I mean--I had not missed a day of swimming in almost two weeks, but yesterday I didn't have as much time as I thought (it's finals week after all and the grading has been piling up) and what I did swim felt very sluggish: 2K at glacial pace.

    Today, I also ran out of time and had to abbreviate my swim, only 2500 in 47 minutes, but I felt better about the quality of the swimming. Here's what I did:

    500 mixed stroke warm-up (fr,br,bk,br,fr)
    10 x 50 on 1:00 (25s hard, cruise after the turn; :41-:44)
    100 breast (2:00, followed by :45 rest)
    1000 in 16:17*
    300 fr cool-down in 5:00

    *4 x thru: 200 hard/50 EZ (200s in 3:03, 3:03, 3:08, 3:07)
    [revision, 12/18: re-reading this now and thinking about a similar workout for tomorrow, but notice this is only 2400 SCY in 44:00, I think I'm missing an extra 100 bk in the cool-down... that usually adds another 2.5 minutes to the workout]

    In addition to the hard 200s, a lactate threshold workout, I was happy to get in a little sprint work with the hard 25s. I paused at the wall to peek at the pace clock at 25 yards for my last two reps in that set and noticed :17. That's just absolutely smoking' for this slow twitch guy. But I think I'm so slow-mo that I really should be doing more of this kind of stuff to improve my pace for those longer distances I like to swim. At the very least it made the faster 200s seem more in control.

    Later on, maybe tonight if I get a chance, I'll have to write about some of the things I learned from the SCM meet last weekend. I checked my splits for the 1500M and looked at some video Scotty's daughter took of my 200... and there are definitely some things I'd like to do to improve!

    Last night I was distracted by TCM's screening of "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly"... what a classic! I'm going to have to get that soundtrack.

    "Blondie" (Eastwood's character) to Tuco (Eli Wallach): "There a two kinds of people in the world... those with loaded guns, and those who dig."

    Updated December 18th, 2012 at 03:36 PM by mcnair

  15. WI masters SCM meet

    by , December 9th, 2012 at 10:53 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    Wow... I'm stiff today. Yesterday we had the only SCM meet of the season for Wisconsin Masters... and it was my first meet ever; a lot of fun. Folks were super supportive and I was shocked at the strong turnout. Even with the strong attendance, though, there were few enough people in my age group that I had a chance to place in each of the events I entered; this is nice considering I'm a late-comer to swimming and my times still look pretty slow! I was pretty happy with my personal results; all freestyle events:

    100M = 3rd 40-44M (1:24.30)
    200M = 2nd " " (3:03.98)
    1500M = 2nd " " (26:53.29)

    I didn't know if I would get into the 1500 until Thursday this week (they had a limit of 12), so I signed up for some of the shorter events just to give it a try. I was happy I did, because I was able to get those starts and pre-race jitters under control by the time I finally got to my goal event. And I'm happy also to know, more or less, what my SCM times look like for the 100 and 200. Initially I was a little disappointed based on my SCY practice times, until someone pointed out there should be about a 10% difference... makes sense. That would put me in the mid to upper 1:10s for 100 SCY and upper 2:40s for 200 SCY, which is where I thought I might be.

    I really didn't know where I was going to be for that 1500, but based on my broken 1650 a few weeks ago (about 26:30) I was going to be happy with anything between 26 and 27 minutes. I felt pretty relaxed the whole time and was able to push it in the last couple hundred. Now I have a time set at that distance, so I can start working to improve!

    My friend Scotty swam the 200 and 1500 free also; he placed 1st in the 1500 for our age group. Since we're in the same age group we probably shouldn't be swimming too many of the same events together b/c we limit our chances at placing, but it was good to be swimming next to him in an event like the 200, where I really had no idea what to expect... helped reduce the anxiety level.

    Actually, I did expect the lactic acid burn in the 200M (it's comparable to the 800M run in track) and probably shouldn't have tried to do it and the 1500 on the same day, but I signed up for it not knowing I was going to get into the 1500. I swam the first 100 of the 200 in 1:25 and then just tried to relax and bring it in hard for the last half... then I made sure to get a long cool down in after that. It would be a couple of hours before the 1500, so I was able to take in the rest of the meet at that point, which was a lot of fun.

    I'll have to stop now, but I could go on and on. Two years ago I couldn't have imagined myself lining up on the blocks getting ready to sprint a 100 in a swim meet... now I wonder why I haven't been doing it all along!
  16. 500 miles!

    by , December 4th, 2012 at 09:24 PM (Alex's swim journal)

    This was the message that greeted me on the screen after I entered my yardage for today:

    "Congratulations! You have achieved your goal for Go The Distance 2012
    My goal pace: 464.38 miles required as of today to reach my goal by the end of the event
    My actual current pace: 500.39 miles as of today"

    And I got to claim my prize... I ordered the Nike jammer--haven't used a jammer in a while, since I converted to Speedo Endurance last spring. I figure the compression on the legs will be nice for the winter short course meets I'm planning to do.

    Yesterday I had a 3000-yard workout, late in the day in a crowded pool (lots of lessons and water aerobics classes going on). This is what I did:

    300 fr/br/bk
    30 x 50 on :58 (:40-:43?)
    200 br/bk
    5 x 100 on 2:00 (1:32-1:34)
    100 br
    400 EZ fr (7:00)

    Today I did 3600, like so:

    1000 warm-up/drills
    Main Sets:
    10 x 100 on 1:45 (evens: pull)
    200 br/bk
    20 x 50 on 1:00 (hard 25, followed by cruise 25*)
    200 br/bk
    200 fr in 3:30

    *My times on these 50s were in the :42-:43 range, but the first 25s were at about :18 (as far as I could tell).

    I'm focusing on speed and technique this week, and not overdoing it before the meet Saturday. The 1500 is already closed (they limit to 12 swimmers), so I signed up for the other freestyle events... can't hurt to establish a baseline in the shorter events, and it's giving me excuse to go easy on the lactate threshold stuff and focus on speed. I'm planning to have fun no matter what.
  17. PRs, 50 and 100 SCY... GTD update

    by , December 2nd, 2012 at 11:31 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    So, I'm much more of an endurance junkie, but I also know that I have to mix in sprint work every now and again to be able to hold faster times for longer distances. Friday I had intended to do an easy 2-3,000 yards. I did a bunch of drills and some easy freestyle, then my friend Scotty showed up. He was doing some interval 200s and was starting to struggle, so I decided to pace him a bit. I did the last 100 with him (that's about how far I can keep up with him when he's doing his fast 200s. We finished right about the same time and he said "whoa, you're flying... what's up?" I didn't really think anything of it, but he said our split for that 100 was about 1:20. That's really fast for me. On his next 200 I told him I would swim the first 100 and the last 50 with him. I came in at 1:18, a new PR for me. Anyway, I managed to help motivate him through the rest of his set and get some unexpected speed work in; it was fun. I finished the day with 3000 yards.

    Saturday, I swam a slow 5000... my distance day. I probably came in at 90 minutes.

    Today, feeling a little stiff from the last few days, I went in to swim some EZ freestyle just to loosen up. I met Scotty again and since we're doing the WI Masters SCM meet next Saturday he agreed to help me with my starts. Now that I have the flip turns down it is time to add the final piece so that I don't embarrass myself too badly at my first meet. I've never gone off the blocks before at the pool (and I haven't started from any blocks whatsoever since my high school track days--25 years ago this spring!). Scotty was really good about giving me pointers, so now I'm not as intimidated by going off the blocks. I decided I wanted to know what the difference in time might be between going off the blocks and a push start, so we timed a 50 free. I came off the blocks OK, nothing spectacular (but no belly flop either) and nailed the flip turn at the other end... other than that I just tried to relax and keep my turn over high. I hit the wall and Scotty said :31. That's five seconds faster than my fastest 50 free (that I can remember), so I was pretty stoked about that. I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do in the meet with a racing start off the blocks.

    GTD: I'm at more than 496 miles for the year now. Still in the top 20 for age group and closing in on the 500-mile goal!
  18. Post Turkey, poop in the pool

    by , November 30th, 2012 at 10:28 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    Getting back into the normal routine this week after a refreshing break (not from swimming, but from my usual venue and workouts). Monday I decided to focus on just swimming smoothly, with a little bit of up-tempo pace work at shorter distances, so here's what I did:

    100 fr
    100 br
    100 bk
    500 fr on 9:00
    10 x 50 on :55 (mostly :44-:45)
    100 br
    500 fr on 9:00
    10 x 50 on :55 (Mostly: 45-:46)
    100 br
    500 fr on 9:00
    10 x 50 on :55 (mostly :47)
    100 br
    100 bk
    100 fr

    3800 SCY in 70 minutes.

    Tuesday's workout consisted of about 2000 in drills, kick, and pull before I did a 1000 continuous swim in which I had 4 hard 200s each followed by a recovery 50--all freestyle. My 200s were between 3:10 and 3:15, which is in my 1500/1650 pace range... yes, I know, pretty slow; but I've been on something of a plateau this year.

    Wednesday was a total bust because I waited until after work to try to get to the Y (lately I've been stopping on my way in or during the lunch hour). I made it to the Y about 6:45P, but by the time I got changed and spent twenty minutes in the steam and sauna rooms (I've been drinking tons of water and trying to sweat out the toxins to avoid the cold I felt coming on at the beginning of the week... it seems to have worked) the pool was CLOSED DOWN... 1 hour, 45 minutes earlier than normal! Some kid took a dump in the pool.... grrrr! Darn you, pooping kid!

    Yesterday's workout is one I've gone back to several times this fall and I felt like I was swimming it a little stronger: 4000 SCY in 80 minutes, 3000 of which was hard swimming (faster than LT pace).

    500 warm-up (mix of fr, br, and bk)--10 minutes
    20 x 50 on 1:00 (mostly :39-:41)
    no rest
    10 x 100 on 2:00 (mostly 1:29-1:30)
    no rest
    5 x 200 on 4:00 (3:10, 3:09, 3:08, 3:10, 3:11)
    500 cool-down (mix of fr, br, and bk)--10 minutes

    My goal here was to be swimming faster than 1500 pace, but stay relaxed; the last 100 of those 200s at the end of the workout was tough though; falling off from :45-:46/50y pace to :49-:50/50.

    EZ day today... we'll see what I manage to get in. Tomorrow I'll do a distance day.
  19. Swimming it off...

    by , November 25th, 2012 at 07:18 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    After the nearly week-long food binge I stepped on the scale at the Kenosha Y this afternoon (we flew into O'Hare this morning and pulled into town just after noon)... And I somehow lost two pounds this week!

    I did one last swim, 3K continuous, at Deep Eddy yesterday morning. Air temps in the 50s, water 70, sunny and bright... felt wonderful. The last outdoor swim for a while for me. I decided to go to the Y this afternoon (after the Bears game) to decompress. The long flight left me feeling tight; I thought about skipping today, but thought better of it. By the time I got in the water I had exactly 44 minutes before they closed the pool. So I just did a lot of drill work: 2400 yards total.

    100 free
    100 breast
    100 back
    100 free w/ fins
    100 kick w/ fins/board

    Drills (w/ fins):
    100 spear
    100 shark tail
    100 sail
    100 corkscrew
    100 back kick
    200 side kick series
    100 kick w/ board

    5 x through:
    100 pull
    100 free (hard)

    100 br

    The scale, post-swim, was very generous to me. I think I did a lot more walking in Austin on top of my swimming regimen... maybe that helped reduce the "bottom" line. But I'm encouraged.
  20. Thanksgiving swims...

    by , November 23rd, 2012 at 04:21 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Back in Austin with the extended family for a few days and able to swim outside again for the last time until late next spring probably, barring another unforeseen trip south. I took advantage of the spring-fed waters of Deep Eddy pool again. Two miles on Wednesday and another two today. water temp at around 70 and air temps between 65 (today) and 75 (Wednesday). It couldn't be a more perfect break from the indoor pool at the Kenosha Y.

    Here are a couple of pics of the pool from Eiler's Park next door:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Click image for larger version. 

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    I just passed the 480-mile mark for the year and my weekly mileage is creeping back up as I get ready for another long-distance build-up; not too early to start mentally prepping for next summer's open water season.
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