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  1. 5K Postal results

    by , July 26th, 2012 at 05:24 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Short version: 1:37:40 (sigh). Wilson outdoor pool, Milwaukee.

    I wasn't as close to my SCY time as I wanted to be, but I'm not going to complain too much... I'm still learning a lot about pacing in LCM and OW. This is only my third LCM swim of the year.

    Long version:
    My oldest son and I arrived about 8AM, to find half the lanes taken by a youth swim team. Uh-oh. I was a little concerned, so I asked the guard and she said the rest of the lanes would more than likely not fill up. And sure enough the morning lap swim was much sparser than the last two evening swims I've made at this pool. There were never more than 2-3 other swimmers at a time for the remaining 4 lanes; so I never had to worry about exceeding the lane-limit.

    I gave my soon-to-be-college-bound son some basic instructions for filling out the split sheet, gave him my cellphone with the stopwatch function set so he could just push the button when I hit the wall and read the time at his leisure, so I would have a pretty consistent idea of how my splits looked when it was all over. The only thing I didn't do that I wish I had, was tell him how to communicate with me... I can't hear underwater, so he was trying to feed me split times and I wasn't getting anything but "your at...gurgle, gurgle." I finally noticed a digital pace clock set up at an angle for the swim team, but I could only really read it when I was 10-20 meters from the edge of the pool... so sometimes I would see it at 10, sometimes at 15, sometimes at 20; from what I could tell, though, it looked I was swimming under 2:00/100. My son is a really smart kid, and a great conversationalist, I imagine it is hard for him not to speak in complete sentences... bless his heart, what I needed was quick, one word pieces of information: 2000; 38:46. What I was getting instead was "Hi, you're pretty consistent, looks like a ..." [splash].

    Around 3000 I was finally able to communicate that I just needed time and distance, or distance and time... he got the idea toward the end.

    As it turns out my pace probably averaged 1:57-1:58 (I'll find out the exact pace when I enter my splits and total time on-line). So I was pretty consistent... consistently slow. I really wanted to be at 1:55, but it just wasn't happening and I had no way of knowing for sure to make the appropriate adjustments. In 25-yard pools I've done 3-mile swims in under 1:30:00, so I thought I could get it under 1:35 at the very least, but not today. At the 1600 (1-mile split) I was at 30:51; close, but slow. The 2nd and 3rd Ks were my slowest: 3200 (2-mile split) was 1:02:27. I know I can break one hour for two miles, and expected to do so; I'm a little disappointed at not doing it.

    Here are my splits by 1000:
    1K = 19:00
    2K = 38:46
    3K = 58:30
    4K = 1:18:08
    5K = 1:37:40

    I was actually shooting for a 19:00/K pace, but slowed too much in kilometers 2-4 (19:46, 19:44, 19:38)... my last K in 19:32 wasn't much of an improvement. The 100s sure click by a lot faster in SCY.

    Silver lining: my pacing is fairly even, if slow, I made 1:57 and 1:58 a lot. And I can feel it when I slow by even a couple of seconds; I'll lose concentration and the rhythm will suddenly be gone. So when I look at the split sheet I think I can really tell when my good stretches were and when the slow ones set in... need to remember the feel of those faster, more rhythmic laps. I can't be sure because I didn't get the splits on the spot, but I suspect that my slower 100s were also the ones that felt harder too. So I still have a lot of technique work to do.

    More silver lining: it's my first LCM 5K. And 13-14 months ago I was having a hard time holding a 2:00/100 pace in SCY for anything over 2-3000 yards.
  2. Recovery swim in the lake

    by , July 25th, 2012 at 10:07 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Just did a mile after work today, focusing on stroke rate and hip rock. I passed the 350-mile mark for the year! I feel tired, but hope to get to bed soon.

    Tomorrow is the day for postal 5K; headed up to Milwaukee bright and early in the AM.
  3. SCY, GTD, Postal 5K preps

    by , July 24th, 2012 at 05:00 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    The thunderstorms in the area earlier today forced me back indoors... to the YMCA. We're now sharing the pool with a new high school team in the neighborhood during my normal lunch-hour swim. But there was plenty of room today. No open swim, so they had just about the same number of lanes open for lap swimming. The High School is just down the street and I guess this is their first official year as an athletic program (Indian Trails was a magnet school up until a couple of years ago and before this year their athletes have competed on one of the other two high school teams in town). It was neat to have so many "serious" swimmers in the pool today.

    After missing my workout yesterday because of a cramped schedule and just a tiny bit of sloth on my part, I was feeling like I needed to get a good workout in. Here's what I did:

    500 Free warm-up (8:40)
    10 x 50 on 1:00 (1-4 were :41-:40, 5-8 were :39, 9-10 were :40-:41)
    10 x 100 on 1:45 (these were all at 1:30-1:31)
    5 x 200 on 3:30 (3:06-3:09,mostly 3:09)
    10 x 100 on 1:45 (1:33-1:37; mostly 1:35)
    10 x 50 on 1:00 (:44-:46; mostly :45)
    200 breast

    Took an extra :20-:30 rest between sets. 4700 SCY in 1:28. My rests were a lot shorter, but I was also holding back just a little bit on my reps; trying to focus more on form. If I had checked my mileage to-date in the FLOG before this workout, I might have done a longer cool-down and made it an even 5000 to push me over 350 miles for the year. Now I'm at 349.8?!

    In the last couple of days I've jumped to #6 in age group for GTD! There is a cluster of swimmers in the 6-9 positions, with our mileage pretty close to one another... I've got the advantage now I think because I put in an 8-mile weekend (Fri-Sun).

    I have a little extra time on Thursday morning this week, so I'm going to the Wilson pool in Milwaukee (it's the closest public LCM) for their lap-swim hours and see if I can get in my Postal 5K. I have to take advantage of the free time my 18-year old son has before he goes off to college in a month. He said he wouldn't mind marking off times (and listening to his iPod), so we'll head up early Thursday morning. I'm real close to 1:30-1:32, easily under 1:35 for 5500 in SCY; we'll see how that translates into 5000 LCM, I hope my times are comparable. I think I'll be happy with anything in the 1:35 range, but I just don't know what to expect having so little long course experience.

    Whatever happens, I can look back on the last year with a great deal of pride in my progress. I've now swum more miles in 2012 so far than I did in all of 2011!
  4. EZ lake swim; creaky shoulder

    by , July 22nd, 2012 at 08:20 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    ...2 miles in the lake today (65-70 minutes). I really wanted to take it EZ today after yesterday's 5-miler, which had ended with a pretty sore left shoulder. Today I could feel the shoulder tugging a bit, but only on movements that weren't directly involved in the stroke... oddly; like when I was turning on the buoy, for example. My stroke was unaffected, though my range of motion outside the normal stroke felt restricted on the left. This leads me to the conclusion that my soreness may have to do with one (if not a combination) of the following factors:

    1. my open turns in SCY on my hard day this week;
    2. drills in which I employed eccentric movements (aren't those supposed to help with range of motion?)... in particular, the high-overhead swingers;
    3. couple of hours of guitar on Friday night (I haven't played that long in a while... and a more asymmetrical activity is difficult to imagine);
    4. a twisting of the joint while reaching for the wall on my back during a back-kick drill on Thursday or Friday (my backstroke always causes problems... I'm probably pretty imbalanced, which means I avoid backstroke, which probably exacerbates my imbalance, etc.).

    Anyway, I'm pleased as all get-out that my freestyle feels so good and my rhythm is there the day after doing five miles in the same lake. But I'm thinking that it's probably time to start incorporating some dry land work into my routine, to help with range of motion and strengthen that shoulder joint.

    Oh, and Lake Andrea was awesome today... in spite of the late afternoon swim, the waters were calm (no wind) and still fairly cool (doesn't feel like a luke warm bath as it did about a week and a half ago).
  5. 5-mile lake swim

    by , July 21st, 2012 at 06:01 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    OK, it's been a few days since I blogged; so it's time for an update.

    Today: 5-miles in the lake, took me exactly 3 hours. I set a gatorade bottle up on the beach in the shade of a cinder block and tied my stopwatch to it so I would know what my pace was more or less when I came to shore for a feed after 3 miles. My 3-mile time was 1:45. So my final two miles, which felt a lot slower were at about a 37:00/mile pace... This is the first really long continuous swim I've done since May. Everything since then has been 2-4 miles for some reason.

    The lake water felt cooler today after a drop in temps and some much needed rain over the last couple of days. Probably mid-70s I'd guess. Water was very calm... almost perfect. Not many other swimmers either, though I was worried when I first walked up and saw 4 people tarzan swimming--literally, they never put there heads down during freestyle--a couple of breast-strokers and an elementary back-stroker; none of them circle swimming. They didn't stay long and one by one they were all out of the water by about 8AM.

    My left shoulder was really stiff today, especially in the last 2-3 miles. I think my workout on Thursday might have tweaked it a little (I did 4000 yards SCY, the main set of which included 8 x 200 free on 3:30; all around 3:00-3:05). And yesterday I rested a bit (2400 SCY), but was doing a lot of drills and think that didn't help.

    I popped a couple of advil today when I got back to the house and will do that again tonight.

    All in all, a good week... more than 15 miles (almost 10 OW), plus I got in lake, LCM, and SCY workouts. Feeling pretty good about that.
  6. 3.5K LCM

    by , July 18th, 2012 at 12:01 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    I was craving a pool, but didn't feel like being back in the indoor SCY box, so I drove up to Milwaukee again and hit the evening swim at Wilson's olympic-sized outdoor pool.

    The Aqua Zumba class was well-attended, providing quite the spectacle for the 4-6 of us who circle swam in the only lane reserved for lap swim. 4-6 swimmers in the lane would seem really crowded in a 25-yard pool, but I felt like we had plenty of room. There was only once that I had to slow down a little bit toward the end of a length (practicing my "drafting"?)... but passed uneventfully at the wall, and generally had a nice, uninterrupted swim. Not that I was burning up the lane with my speed: I did 3K right on an hour. At the hour mark the Zumba class had cleared out, so I took a break for a couple of minutes and then got back in to one of the free lanes for another 500M before calling it an evening.

    I took a stopwatch with me so I could get an idea of what my pace was like and push myself if I started to drop off (there is no pace clock for the evening lap swim). At first I was a little frustrated with how slow my hundreds were... 1:52-1:56 (I was leaving every 2:00 for the first half of the workout at least). But I had to remind myself that this was 100 meters, not yards. Even so, I felt a little slow... perhaps the last 3 days in the lake (2-3 miles each day) has me more worn down than I thought I should be.

    3K/h is not a blistering pace by any means, but it does put me right at 9K for 3 hours, which means that I might be able to get in my 10K postal this summer. I'm trying to figure out the logistics, and I'll do my 5K postal first as a test run, but Wilson only has a 3-hour lap swim weekday mornings (no lap swim on weekends)... so I either have to finish the 10K in 3 hours or convince them to let me stay in just a little longer to get it in. Obviously, I'm a little worried about not making the 3 hours, something pretty drastic has to change for me to be able to make up that much time... I can do 2 mph, but I don't think I will be able to sustain that pace for three hours. 3:20:00 seems more realistic right now.
  7. Three miles on the lake...

    by , July 15th, 2012 at 04:54 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    The postponement of the Crystal Lake OW swim until early August saw me back at Lake Andrea in Pleasant Prairie, WI, this morning. I got there a little later than usual, but the water was beautiful (warmer sections probably still in the 80s, but I could feel some of that deeper, cooler water cycling in regularly; surface very calm). There was a bigger group of swimmers this morning than the last few Sunday mornings; and I think most of this group was a beginner triathlon class.

    They hadn't been briefed on the concept of circle swimming in the swim area and so I never knew where they were going to be. Three of them seemed to be swimming abreast at one point (a sort of side stroke-breast stroke combo I couldn't figure out exactly). I heard the instructor, who was standing in shallow water about 20 feet away, yell to a doggy-paddler "You are going to waste a lot of energy doing that" (apparently she had asked if this was acceptable for Tri swim). I saw one swimmer doing elementary backstroke... the survival stroke!

    I was getting a little frustrated after my first few laps, but I told myself they can't be in here too much longer. I was wrong. They had been given the task of swimming a quarter mile (eight lengths). I was on my second mile before the last of them cleared out. My two-mile split was two minutes off of my two-mile swim time from yesterday... not bad, considering all the dodging and weaving I had to do to avoid stray torpedoes.

    After mile two I got out for a 2-minute bathroom and gatorade-swig break... then back in for another mile. A solo swimmer again. The water was beautiful, as I mentioned before, so this was a truly blessed experience. Then as I was coming in to the last half mile of that third mile I was joined by a young age-group swimmer. She swam behind me for several lengths and I noticed here gaining on me (doing fly and breast!); I stopped at the turn and told her to go ahead... I was worried she might not want to pass me out of politeness. She switched to free and was pretty quickly ten yards ahead of me; totally smoked me. After a couple more lengths she was stopped at the start of the course and I asked here if she was doing a 400 IM; she said "No, I have zones coming up, and my coach wants me to swim a mile in this lake." She emphasized the "this lake" part in such a way that I understood she would much rather have gotten her laps in at the pool.

    I chuckled and swam on; she had to be maybe 12-13, good kid. I think she passed me one more time before I got out. So I started off the swim annoyed by the middle-age crisis traffic in the swim area and ended the day humbled by a talented tween. I'm laughing (inside) as I write this... humanity is fantastic isn't it?!
  8. Between thunderstorms...

    by , July 14th, 2012 at 05:11 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    So today I left town at 5AM in time to get registered for the Crystal Lake (IL) OW 2-mile race... and after a rain delay of half an hour they finally decided to postpone the whole thing until Sunday. Boohoo. At least I'm already registered and I can sleep in a little later now that I know exactly where I'm headed. It's a beautiful setting; nice changing and shower facilities. The triathletes are out in force, and with the rain it might just be cool enough for them to wear wetsuits.

    I drove home and after not being able to take a nap decided to hit my local lake for a late morning swim. My stroke adjustments earlier this week are starting to pay dividends as I begin to feel more power coming from my hips, and slight changes in my hand exit/entry are really helping me speed-up my turnover. I did 2 miles in 66 minutes... with 60+ wall-less turns and a couple hundred breast stroke to mix things up it usually takes 70-75 minutes. So I must be doing something right.

    We'll see if I can transfer that skill to the race tomorrow!
  9. Blowing out the cobwebs...

    by , July 12th, 2012 at 10:36 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Every once in a while I have to do this kind of workout; it's always daunting, but I always feel great afterward (3500 SCY/70 mins):

    Warm-up (4 mins):
    2 x 50 on 1:00 (:45)
    1 x 50 fist drill
    1 x 50 on 1:00 (:43)

    Main set (60 mins):
    10 x 100 on 2:00 (started off at 1:29-1:28, then settled in at 1:26-1:27)
    5 x 200 on 4:00 (3:03, 3:01, 3:00, 3:05, 3:01)
    10 x 100 on 2:00 (mostly at 1:28, some 1:27s, a couple of 1:29s)

    Cool-down (6 mins):
    200 breast (3:45)
    100 free (1:45)

    It probably doesn't look very fast, and the interval looks long, but I needed the longer rest to keep up the crisper pace. I've gotten so used to swimming at a 1:40-1:45 pace on my long continuous swims over the last few months that I've "forgotten" what 1:28 feels like, or a 3:00/200. I concentrated a lot on my hips and hand entry... trying to get rhythm and thrust from the leverage created by hip movement plus efficient catch... I have a long way to go, but I think I was doing better today than in the past b/c I had something to focus on rather than just trying to "muscle" through as I tired in the final reps.
  10. Evening lake swim... fighting the chop.

    by , July 11th, 2012 at 10:21 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Got to Lake Andrea after work this evening and was happy to put in a couple of miles. The chop was brutal in one direction... a nice stiff current to swim against.

    I had gone in thinking I would maybe do a ladder-interval workout, but the conditions dictated a hard 50 in one direction for every recovery 50 in the other. The hard swimming felt good, more efficient than on previous days. I was really working from my hips and felt like I was making good progress. Maybe the fist-swimming drills in the calm pool water helped more than I thought they had at the time... I really needed to use the whole arm in my pull and find some forward thrust from the lower body.
  11. Pool work... time trial

    by , July 11th, 2012 at 12:24 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    So, I decided to do this workout that caught my attention while I was surfing around looking for drills:

    I did a modified version of the first set as part of my main set... a "Lactate threshold test set."

    It was modified in two ways. One, I couldn't get to a LCM pool so it had to be yards rather than meters. And two, I ran into my friend and fellow swimmer, Scotty, at the Y and convinced him to do it with me so we could push each other... this was a rare treat because our schedules hardly ever coincide lately, but his pace is a bit faster than mine and he likes to take longer rests. So we agreed to stop after the first 800 TT + 200 EZ, regroup and then start the final 500 (200 TT + 200 EZ + 100 TT) of the set together.

    100 EZ Free
    100 side-back kick series
    300 Free alternating fist drill and normal 50s
    100 free

    Main set:
    800 TT (12:32; went out pretty fast (:37, 1:26, 2:58, etc.)
    200 EZ
    200 TT (2:51; went out in :38, 1:21, avg. :45/50 in last 100)
    200 EZ
    100 Hard (I think this last 100 came in at 1:24-1:26)
    500 in 8:20
    500 in 8:40

    4 x 50 on 1:00 (:38-:40)
    100 breast
    200 free in 3:30

    Scotty left after the penultimate 500 in the main set, and I stayed on to put in the final 1000 solo. It was a tiring, but invigorating workout. I'm surprised that when I have someone swimming right next to me I can swim 100 yards in the 1:20-1:25 range. I was shocked on my first 50 of the 800 to see :37 as came to the wall (I do open turns, so it's pretty easy for me to sneak a peek at the clock).

    I guess I'm pleased with the "test" and will probably use it again to gauge my progress. I've come a long way since last year, when hitting that kind of pace for 200 yards and then holding on to finish out the 800 strong would have seemed impossible. Now I feel like I really should be shooting for 1:30/100 as my goal pace for something like a 1500 or mile swim (my mile pace/100 is closer to 1:36 now, SCY)... eventually my pace for 5K or 10K? Sometimes I get impatient with myself and want the times to start dropping faster... one thing that would definitely help me to improve would be to swim with people who are faster than me (like Scotty) on a more regular basis. We don't have a Masters team at the Y, though, so I guess I need to look into some other options.

    After OW season, Scotty and I have talked about doing the WI Masters SCM state meet (it's in December)... if we could get in even just a couple of workouts together each week that would help a lot. September I plan to start working on flip turns and incorporating some sort of drylands routine for strength and power (stuff that seems like work for an endurance junkie like me... I much prefer just to jump in a go for as long as I can, but if it helps improve the times... I should find time to work it in).
  12. 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!
  13. 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!
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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!
  19. 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!
  20. 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...