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  1. It felt like an interval day...

    by , January 31st, 2012 at 12:31 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    ... or as Indiana Jones would say "I don't know. I'm making this up as I go."

    Here's the workout today (any resemblance to something a more competitive swimmer might actually do is purely coincidental... I'm seriously just making this up as I go):

    20 x 50 on 1:00 (slowly walked the times down from :48 to :40 and then around rep 6-7 started swimming under :40; probably had one :37, but most in the :38-:39 range, with a couple of :40s toward the end of the set).

    then w/ only 20 seconds rest I started my main set...

    2 x through
    4 x 200 free on 4:00
    200 breast, recovery swim, :20-:30 rest

    went 3:01, 3:03, 3:03, 3:06 on the first round of 200s and 3:04, 3:06, 3:06, 3:09 on second. The last couple of 200s were tough.

    cool down w/ 4 x 50 on 1:00, relaxed.

    3200 yards in 64 minutes, I accomplished my only real goal for the day going in, which was just to be gasping for air at the end of each rep and leave the pool feeling wiped out.

    The first few 200s I was managing to keep right around a :45-:46 per 50 pace--which felt super relaxed after doing around a dozen 50s in about :38! That is until I hit about the 125 mark on each rep... So maybe I've found my Monday workout. I'll try to add a set or two more of 200s over the next few weeks as I gauge my progress... hoping to see the 200 times drop and my relaxed, all-day pace inching down into the :40s.

    That's the plan for now... subject to change next Monday
  2. Catching my breath...

    by , January 30th, 2012 at 01:14 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    It's ironic that one of the ways I know I'm balancing my life well (family, work, etc.)--dealing with the hectic pace of the everyday and the anxieties of middle (?) age--is by counting the number of times per week I can get to the pool...

    I "catch my breath" from the rat race when I'm pushing my pace down the lane and finish up a nice interval workout completely out of breath...

    Or when I'm swimming nonstop for 1.5-2 hours, never out of breath, but pushing my muscles to exhaustion.

    A lot of people think this is insanity. I think it's what keeps me sane.

    5-6 days a week in the pool is my minimum; I'd prefer not to miss any days at all, but a missed day here and there is inevitable. Beginning of the month was excellent... 20 days straight. But the last ten days I've missed four days of swimming! Sanity suffering... near... breaking... point!

    Yeah, this is starting to look more and more like an unhealthy obsession to the untrained eye (I'm aware of this). But I'm healthiest when I'm indulging these behaviors that others think insane. We're all on a journey; mine is just a really long one that requires lots of endurance! Or, if we're all headed to the same place, I'm cool with getting there a little late to get in a few extra laps.

    I had two miles in the pool on Thursday and then missed Friday and Saturday (two days in a row for the first time in a really long time!). Two miles again today.

    I got into a rhythm right away today, so it felt good--and I've had no real pain for several days now, so the body probably needed the rest anyway. I thought this month would be my first 50-mile month, but, alas, it was not to be... with the busyness of the last week I'm at 42 miles, but only two days left in the month.

    Maybe February will be my 50-mile month!
  3. Back on track...

    by , January 25th, 2012 at 10:31 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Had less time today than I thought I would, but I still managed to get in 3000 yards in an hour. Felt good, too. As much as I hated missing a day in the water yesterday, it probably helped out a lot... no shoulder pain or stiffness at all now.

    Here's the workout:

    10 x 50 on 1:00 (these were all in :40-:43)
    10 x 100 on 2:00 (1:26-1:30)
    5 x 200 on 4:00 (3:04, 3:03, 3:06, 3:04, 2:57)
    5 x 100 on 2:00 (relaxed, 1:36-1:40)

    Tomorrow I'll put in a little more yardage, but with easier paces (for me) and no rest. I like the continuous swims!
  4. Another day, another dollar, another mile

    by , January 25th, 2012 at 02:24 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    Yesterday (Monday) I swam an easy mile (1750 SCY)... pretty stiff at the beginning, probably because I didn't have enough time to cool-down after my postal swim on Sunday... I had to beat feet for the showers and get to my son's basketball tournament game. Toward the end of my mile on Monday I was loosening up and feeling better. Finished in just over 31 minutes, but then had to rush to get back to work.

    [nomedia=""]Del Reeves Another Day, Another Dollar - YouTube[/nomedia]

    It's been pretty busy the last few days with meetings and administrative deadlines on top of the normal teaching duties... lots of bad news about the budget; only surprise at this point is that it can still be getting worse. Today I even <gasp> missed my swim... sigh; only the second day this month.

    Planning to make up for it with a monster swim tomorrow... swim out some of the stress.
  5. Long way to go... Postal Swim

    by , January 23rd, 2012 at 02:08 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    When Dante and Virgil finally reach the surface after their arduous climb out of the abyss, they still have to climb Mt. Purgatory.

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    I felt like I'd climbed up from the center of the earth, only to see how much higher I need to go. I swam my fastest two-mile time by about 50 seconds en route to postal one-hour swim of 3530. My fastest 3500 before today was at the end of summer when I swam 1:00:21. Today I was at 59:31 when I hit the 3500 mark.

    I told myself I would be happy with anything over 3500, but honestly thought I would do a little better since I hit 3500 in 61 minutes earlier in the week... feeling pretty good. My first mile was in 29:10 and I was right at 1800 when the pace-clock hit 30:00, so I really thought I would hit 3600 at least and was hoping for closer to 3700. Between 2000 and 3000 I slowed down too much. I don't think I necessarily ran out of gas though... my first 500 was in 8:07 and my last 500 was in 8:10, so I had enough left in the tank (even swam the final 100 of my 3500 in 1:30). I think I just slipped into a rhythm that felt good for about a 1000 yards, but was a couple of seconds slower per 50 (no wonder it felt good!).

    So, I know I've got a long way to go, but I've come a long way too! I went back and looked at my exercise log from last winter; if I'd done the postal one-hour then I would have struggled mightily to do 2800-2900.
  6. A couple of easy days...

    by , January 21st, 2012 at 12:15 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    Every journey needs its pauses and rests... yesterday I planned to do more, but it just felt right to get out of the pool after a mile (1750, nothing too hard, 10 x 50 on 1:00 and 10 x 100 on 2:00, with a brief cool-down). It had been a long day at work and I was ready to be home.

    Still at number 8 when I checked GTD this morning (which surprised me after the short day yesterday). Today, I stopped again at the Y on my way home--a little earlier (5:30)--and felt good doing a ladder workout: 1000, 500, 400, 300, 200, 100, 50 with 50 breast stroke after each step (recovery swim instead of rest). I swam an easy 100 cool-down and was finished at about 55-56 minutes.

    Tomorrow I hope to get in one last short swim, just to stay loose, before the postal one-hour.

    Winter hit hard today... lots of snow, really cold temps last night (saw negatives for the first time this winter); it was pretty quiet tonight at the Y as a result. I'll probably break out the snow-blower tomorrow morning for the first time this winter... really could have gone a whole winter without having to do that!
  7. Swimmer's high? ...a pair of two-milers

    by , January 19th, 2012 at 02:33 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    The last couple of days I've been getting my body used to swimming for an hour non-stop; not pushing the pace too hard, though (trying to save that for the one-hour postal this weekend).

    I've found some interesting ways to keep count and keep moving in the process. Yesterday's swim was in three 1K segments, almost exactly 20 minutes each:

    4 x 250 (50 EZ/200 harder, but relaxed)
    100 breast stroke
    [3x through for 3300 yards]

    I took no breaks and finished the 3 Km right at 1 hour, then swam an easy 200 to round out to 2 miles... 64 minutes total.

    Today I did another 3500 continuous swim, but I broke it up mentally into seven 500-yard segments: 100 EZ/400 up-tempo. My first 1000 was about 17 minutes, the next 1000 finished at just under the 35-minute mark. At 52:20 I was at the 3000 mark, and I finished the last 500 right about 61 minutes. I actually felt like I was getting stronger in the last 1500 yards. I was tired and could feel the fatigue, certainly, but it seemed easier to be in rhythm... things were just clicking.

    Sort of like runner's high (experienced that a bazillion times; completely addicting!), I knew my body was becoming more tired the farther I went, but some kind of endorphins started kicking in... I was feelin' it!

    I pulled myself out of the pool and I could feel the dull ache through my whole body, which says "good job... you can rest now." I almost couldn't walk straight, it was funny. I probably looked like Bernini's St. Teresa in Ecstasy; I was out of it for a while... in a good way.
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  8. getting' ready to go postal...

    by , January 17th, 2012 at 01:29 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    A little less than a week before the Kenosha Y irregulars do our postal one-hour. Sunday at 10AM is the plan now.

    Yesterday I got in 2000 yards, some breast stroke, kick, pull, slide and glide, but nothing very tough... wanted to make sure I was giving my body a break from the 6000 continuous swim Saturday (mostly freestyle).

    Today I got there as my friend Scotty was getting into the pool and he suggested we do a workout together; perfect, I wasn't really set on what I wanted to do today (except that I wanted to do 3000). We ended up pushing each other in ways that we probably wouldn't have pushed if we were swimming solo. I got him to do about 500 more than he originally planned and he got me to swim a lot faster than I planned. After our 500-yard warm-up I hit five 200s between 2:57 and 3:01 (the 3:01 was the only one at 3:00 or slower)... I initially thought I would stick to around 3:12 (:48 pace per 50). He was coming in around 2:45.

    We did some 100s and some 50s (I ended up hitting :36 on the 50 mark during one of my 100s, which is flying by my standards.... but I couldn't hold it; finished in 1:21-1:22). We finished up with a nice hard 500 (I came in at 7:55) I took off on the top and Scotty on the bottom, so I had a :30 head start--he didn't catch me until about the 400 mark--which really pushed us both to swim faster than we otherwise would have. Nothing like a good cat and mouse game.

    I'm so used to training solo ("loneliness of the long distance runner" and all that) and being alone with nothing but my own thoughts, my own discipline, to keep me going... this was a nice change of pace! Someone else pushing me for a change!

    GTD still has me at #8 for men 40-44; I know I can't hold off the mega-mileage monsters all year, so I'm going to bask in it while I can ... yeayuh!

    AND, this is blog entry #30, since I started doing this last month... Wow, time flies when you're havin' fun!
  9. First 6000-yard swim of the year...

    by , January 15th, 2012 at 04:27 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    GTD is telling me I'm back in the top ten for men 40-44 this morning, thanks to the 6000-yard continuous swim I did yesterday. It was my first 6000 since early November. But, there's always a price to pay! The first 4000 felt pretty good (a little under 72 minutes), but the final 1000 was really rough (I had to mix in 300 yards worth of breaststroke over the course of the last K just to keep moving). Finished the entire swim in 1:51:?0.

    The left shoulder started off pretty stiff, but loosened up over the course of the swim. In the last 1000-1500 everything was stiff.

    Drank some "Joint Juice" last night and I woke up this morning actually feeling pretty good (tired and tight, but that's to be expected). I'll do a short recovery swim today to try to loosen up.

    For now, I'm sitting in a sunny window and enjoying the sunlight for the first time in a few days; ok, we've had snow now, I'm ready for spring.
  10. Winter returns to WI

    by , January 13th, 2012 at 08:09 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Nothing like shoveling a few inches of snow--the wet, heavy kind--to loosen up the ol' back and shoulders! [*Sarcasm Alert*]

    Winter returned to Wisconsin yesterday and, man, it doesn't take much to keep the folks away from the gym. The Kenosha Y seemed nearly deserted yesterday. I was, for almost an hour, the only person in the 8-lane pool. "Hello, hello, helloooo... echo, echo, echooo." Of course, it was the last hour of the day and the pace clock was broken. I decided just to alternate gliding 100s with easy swim 100s and finished 3150 yards in about 55 minutes. I was happy to get there at all; the roads were awfully slippery with new snow and ice.

    Today the roads were better and I had to go in for an early afternoon swim before my son's basketball practice. Just 2000 yards easy swimming (35:50--pace clock working again!). So, a couple of recovery days; tomorrow I'd like to get in a 6000-yard continuous swim.

    I'm a little concerned that my left shoulder is achy today... yesterday it was not as bad (feeling like I expect it should after three 3000-4000-yard days in a row). I thought an easy swim today might give it enough rest, but I have a feeling it's the accumulation of swimming over the week + the snow-shoveling today; basketball with the sixth-graders doesn't help. I'm going to see how it holds up tomorrow in the first couple of thousand. I hit 20 miles for the year today and was still in GTD top-ten for Men 40-44 (barely!).

    Updated January 13th, 2012 at 09:52 PM by mcnair

  11. "stretching beyond..."

    by , January 12th, 2012 at 02:31 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    "I saw--color of gold as it reflects
    the sun--a ladder gleaming in the sky,
    stretching beyond the reaches of my sight"
    (Paradiso XXI, lines 28-30)

    I love these lines in Mark Musa's translation (Penguin's Portable Dante--not portable enough to fit in the swimsuit btw). Dante, the pilgrim, is so far into the heavens already, yet this ladder extends so much farther above him that he cannot see the top. A couple of nice versions of this can be seen on Hollander's Princeton Dante Project website, such as this painting by Amos Nattini:

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    As we learn from St. Benedict in canto XXII a little later, this is Jacob's ladder:

    "It was the patriarch Jacob who saw
    our ladder stretch to touch the final height,
    the time he dreamed of it so thronged with angels"

    We're always trying to reach that "final height" ("la superna parte" in the original, the "supernal part"). And it often seems beyond reach. Like the beginning of a "ladder" workout. In August I started working in these massive ladder workouts, starting at the top, then working my way to the bottom and back again (1000, 500, 400, 300, 200, 100, 50, 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, 1000), trying to hold the same pace, maybe :10-:15 rests after each rep. It was a lot of yardage. Getting "down" the ladder was a piece of cake, but headed back up again? Phew, took a lot of mental discipline.

    Yesterday's 3Km (3300 SCY) incorporated a ladder of sorts... using different distances and different paces (as most folk's workouts). As my distances got shorter I tried to make my pace faster. So the ladder was working in both directions at once: distances easier (down), but paces harder (up). I did 300 yards in warm-up and cool-down, so the main workout was 3 twenty-minute, 1000-yard segments:

    5 x 200 on 4:00 (3:07-3:10)
    10 x 100 on 2:00 (1:26-1:30)
    20 x 50 on 1:00 (:40-:44)

    My goal at the start was to hold :48/50 on the 200s, :45 on the 100s, and :42 on the 50s. The theory is that I'm tricking my body into swimming faster and faster as the distances add up, rather than slowing the pace as fatigue sets in over the course of the sets. I was pretty close to attaining this "height"--though I had my doubts as I began my "final" 1000 and was staring into the faces of 20 reps!

    My average pace on the 200s was closer to :47 (though, my pace was all over the place over the course of any given 200--one 50 at :41, another at :51--I'm still not a very good judge of my own pacing). I was averaging :44 pace on the 100s... only two reps of the last three were at 1:30. And my 50s probably averaged :43--there were some :41-:42s, but also some :44s.

    As I headed to the sauna afterward, I was thinking about my years of running experience and how this is beginning to translate in my swimming. I guess developing different paces in swimming is similar... my gliding warm-ups with :58 50s are like brisk walks, the :53 all-day pace is like a trot or jog, the :48-:38 range represents my "running" speeds at 70-90%.

    Like Jacob, or eventually Dante, we get to the top of every set. Tomorrow's ladder will reach even higher, though, so we persevere in each workout... even when that ladder is "stretching beyond the reaches" of our sight!
  12. 4K yesterday

    by , January 11th, 2012 at 10:42 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    My 4K (4400 SCY) swim yesterday was enough to catapult me into the GTD top 10 for 40-44 men.

    Temporarily, I know.

    I originally started out thinking I would only get in 3500 or so, especially when my warm-up felt more taxing than usual.

    10 x 50 on :50 (mostly :46-:47)

    2 x 500 on 9:00 (8:01, 8:05)
    4 x 100 (50 easy/50 hard)*
    4 x 150 (50 easy/100 hard)*
    4 x 250 (50 easy/200 hard).
    *no rest after the 9:00 on second 500, just "recovery" swimming.

    4 x 150 (50 breast/100 glide)
    3 x 100 (50 breast/50 glide)

    After finishing the first 1500 of the workout at the 26:05 mark (only took :30-:40 rest between my warm-up and the main set), I was feeling off. I thought, oh great, the ladder up is not going to be fun. On my 500s I was trying to hold :48 50s, which was my mile pace last summer, but it felt a lot harder than I wanted. I would love for :48 to be my 1-hour pace, so it was discouraging that it didn't feel relaxed.

    By the time I was through my 150s, though, I was settling into a pretty good rhythm. The hard 200s didn't feel as bad... though my pace had dropped to :51 per 50 by then. I was at about 3325 yards at the 1-hour mark. Rather than just do a couple of easy 100s for a cool down, I decided to work my way back down the ladder (easier swimming this time). My stroke count on the gliding free laps was about 24 per 50. Felt pretty good, though slow.

    Not nearly as slow as I was this time last year!

    The ladder workout reminds me of Jacob's ladder and how Dante wrote about it from its base.
    I'll have to write my thoughts about that some other time.
  13. Let's dance!

    by , January 10th, 2012 at 12:00 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    Chaos at the Y... or, how did I pick this time to swim?

    Usually, we don't worry about lap swim schedules b/c there are always plenty of lanes open regardless of whatever else is going on. Today was an exception.

    Today's workout only 2200 yards (2K), all freestyle:

    20 x 50 on 1:00 (:45, :46; :43, ... second half started with a :39, :40, then were mostly :41, some slow :43s mixed in).

    5 x 100 on 2:00 (1:24, 1:25... then some 1:30s)
    rest for a few
    500 in 8:00 (200 was about 3:05)
    rest for a few

    2 x 100 (around 1:30 ea.)

    Where I "rest for a few," these are probably averaging 3 minute breaks. I was catching up with Scotty in the next lane; we hadn't had a chance to talk in a while. He shared a lane for part of my 5000 on Saturday, but we didn't chat b/c I never stopped. We set a tentative date for doing our postal 1-hour swim together: Saturday, January 21. I'm working on him to re-join USMS!

    I had intended to do a much more extensive workout today, but the pool was really crowded: only 3 lanes open for lap swimming, all the lap swimmers swimming at widely differing paces, three swim lesson groups and a large water aerobics class took up the rest of the pool. I got the lane right in front of the clock (great), but also the side right next to the lessons and water aerobicists (this was a challenge!). Turbulent waters (Instructor on deck: "Come on, move that water, girls!") and stray arms and legs kept sneaking under the lane separaters. I kept telling myself that this was great, though unexpected, preparation for open water! Just not what I felt like dealing with when I wanted to get a nice, crisp interval workout in... see what my times were looking like. So, I'm treating it as an additional recovery day.

    Scotty and I decided that the morning, early afternoon crowds were a lot less "distracting"; in his lane, he had a guy just jump in and start paddling about--weaving in and out of the way of oncoming swimmers on both sides of the lane--during our hard 500 (no "hey, can we circle swim" or anything). Craziness.

    We should probably start a regular workout group.

    Or join the water aerobics class... let's dance!
    [nomedia=""]David Bowie - Let&#39;s Dance - YouTube[/nomedia]
  14. Epiphany swim 2012

    by , January 8th, 2012 at 11:25 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    "...the worst time of the year
    For a journey, and such a long journey:
    The ways deep and the weather sharp,
    The very dead of winter."

    The poet T.S. Eliot used these lines from a seventeenth-century sermon to begin his poem "Journey of the Magi" (c. 1927). Eliot's poem is about Birth and Death; a birth that provides light and hope, but that reveals the rat-race of this world to be a kind of death. The wise man of the poem reflects on that Birth and the journey he took to witness it so many years before.

    Here's a really nice "Journey of the Magi" painting from 15th-century Italy:

    Seems silly to compare our journey each year to the journey of the Magi, but it is a long one. New Year's day reveals a total of 0 yards, 0 miles to date in the FLOG. 400+ miles of swimming in 2012 has to start somewhere. I added 2000 more yards today; felt stiff from the long swim yesterday and the long first week of the year, which I ended today with more than 11.5 miles... 2% of my yearly goal? Still a long way to go.

    But, I suppose the real magic of the journey--and hopefully we have these epiphanic moments throughout the year--is that every step reveals something about us, about who we are: travelers on a road, exiles, strangers in a strange land. The journey and the destination are one in the same. The Magi of Eliot's poem return to their worldly kingdoms at journey's end and find that they are "no longer at ease here." On the road, in the dead of winter, they were on a mission... it's in the journey that they make a deeper spiritual connection.

    And so we may crave summer swims now, but "the very dead of winter" is part of the journey too... I'll try to relish each step along the path.
  15. "Missed it by that much!"

    by , January 8th, 2012 at 09:13 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    Just missed the top ten this week in my age group (40-44) for GTD with 10.45 miles for the first week of January: #11 so far. I have to enjoy it while I can b/c I probably won't be that high up the rankings for long!

    Yesterday I only had time for 5000 (instead of the 5k I wanted to get in)... and that was really pushing it (well, as much as I felt comfortable on a distance day); I think I swam continuously for 90 minutes. I was right at 9:00 for every 500 yards. Busy day yesterday with two basketball games: the boys won one and lost the other. It felt rushed because one game was in Kenosha and then we had to grab a quick lunch and head up to Racine for the second--so, lots of driving around!

    Still feel pretty good this morning--all things considered--so I'll probably get in an easy swim this afternoon.

    Today is Epiphany, so all the Christmas decorations in our house came down last night. Hard to believe another Holiday season has come and gone!
  16. January thaw? ...2000 more.

    by , January 6th, 2012 at 09:26 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    I've been reading the posts from folks down on the gulf coast dealing with morning temps in the 20s and 30s. This afternoon we were at 58... in Wisconsin! In January! What is up?! Not that I'm complaining--just wish we had a few outdoor pools to take advantage. This is what it looked like last year at this time:

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    The photo was actually taken on the 5th of February, 2011, a couple of days after our worst blizzard in a decade (two feet of snow in less than 24 hours). I went for an hour-long snowshoe hike on a bike trail south into Illinois... probably only three or four miles, but it was a real workout! Now I could cover the same route in half the time; or on an actual bike in about 10 minutes.

    Recovery day for me today, did 2000 yards easy, mixed in some drill. Basketball this afternoon with the boys. Hope to do 5K continuous swim tomorrow at the Y; I'm gonna have to get up early, though, to have enough time to get it in.

    But I just wrote it down, so now I have to do it!
  17. Take that, GTD!

    by , January 5th, 2012 at 10:10 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    So, yesterday I got in two miles at the YMCA (3500 SCY) and today I put in another 3700 yards. Congratulations, I am now on pace to meet my GTD goal!

    Yesterday's swim was not all that impressive; similar to one I did last week (10 x 100; 10 x 200; 500 mixed stroke/drill cool-down)... just keeping it simple. The 100s I did on a 1:50 interval and the 200s on 3:45, so I was coming in with a good :15-:25 rest on most reps. Trying not to overdo it.

    For today, I tried something different:

    Warm-up (10 minutes):

    5 x 50 on 1:00 (:45, :44, :41, :46, :43)
    5 x 50 on :50 (:39, :40, :41, :42, :43--this :43 felt much more difficult than the one that ended the first set); followed by :50 rest, then straight into main set...

    Main set:

    1000 in 16:30; took :05 break (sip of water) and then straight into...
    4 x 250 (50 recovery/200 hard)*
    4 x 150 (50 recovery/100 hard)*
    4 x 100 (50 recovery/50 hard)*

    *no breaks... using active rest/recovery with easy 50s

    1-2 minutes rest after main set, followed by

    Cool-down (4 minutes):

    4 x 50 on 1:00 (:44, :43, :47, :50)

    3700 yards; total time = 69:00

    I wanted to do the closest thing to swimming a 3000 hard, without actually swimming a full 3000 all out. The main set is 3000 of continuous swimming, but broken up after the first 1000--pretty hard (for me)--and a quick goggle adjustment, sip of water. I never stopped swimming, just broke up the remaining 2000 with 50-yard easy gliding at given intervals. Active recovery. Even though the distances between recovery 50s decreased as I moved through the set, it didn't seem like it was getting any easier. The active rest, versus completely stopping for a particular interval, I think this is going to help me in the open water next summer and with the long distance postal swims. One wrinkle on this that I'm going to try (maybe sometime in the next few weeks) is to progressively increase the distances between rest 50s instead of decrease it (4 x 100, 4 x 150, 4 x 250). I'm hoping this will help me maintain pace in the later stages of a long distance swim. That's my theory, at least.

    I'm an amateur in the etymological sense first and foremost; i.e., I'm a "lover" of sport, of the challenge... the adventure. So even though I've never really swum "competitively" I still love to challenge every fiber of my physical being.

    Just started reading Mallory Mead's OW workout thread on the forum and may start incorporating some of that in my routine. I've already done the side kick series drill once this week and thought it was pretty cool (and, man, do I hate kick sets, so that's saying something!).

    One thing that I'm figuring out how to do as I get better is change gears... I'm beginning to feel like I have more gears than just slow and stall-speed
  18. ...down through deep water.

    by , January 4th, 2012 at 10:50 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Last summer I did a couple of swims in Lake Michigan, here on the Kenosha shoreline. The water around the Illinois-Wisconsin border always seems to be in the mid-40s to mid-50s even in July, because the winds push the warm water south and east... to Chicago, Indiana, and Michigan... as the warm surface water heads over there, the cold water from the bottom of this great lake cycles up, yep, you guessed it, almost always between Waukegan, IL and Racine, WI.

    In July I thought I would swim along the shoreline: from the Kenosha harbor lighthouse pier up past Simmons island beach, along Kennedy drive to the Pennoyer Park beach and back. A two mile round trip. On both outings I made it only half way... too cold, despite the warm air temps, the water temps hovered around fifty; my face never stopped hurting. Of course, I didn't have really good gear either. I was swimming in jammer and goggles (didn't even bother with a swim cap)--don't have a wet suit, and the thought of using one in July seemed strange anyway. I confined my open water swimming to the inland lakes for the rest of the summer. Next year I'll try to brave L. Michigan again with wet suit (if I can find one).

    The guys down in Chicago (about 55 miles south of here) find a way to get in Lake Michigan year-round; one of these days I'll head down there and join them for a weekend swim. Check out OW Chicago's website for some great visuals:

    One of the things I do love about swimming in the great lake is that the water, once you get out away from the shore, is exceeding clear at times. I recall swimming in 16-20 feet of water and seeing things on the bottom so clearly that I thought I might be able to reach out and grab them... then a fish would swim by and give you your sense of depth back. Dante: "...per acque nitide e tranquille, non sė profonde che i fondi sien persi" (PAR, III, 11-12), or "through waters clear and still, not so deep that the bottom is lost." Actually, I would use objects on the bottom to judge my progress. Especially when the waves would swell and roll and it didn't feel like I was making any progress at all, I would look down and see a rock and watch it pass by... then find another and watch it recede behind me.

    So what does this have to do with a nineteenth-century fresco inspired by Dante's Paradiso III?

    Click image for larger version. 

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    From Wikimedia Commons, Philipp Veit's (c. 1830) version of the meeting between Dante and Piccarda Donati's soul in the heaven of the moon. With the exception of the feet of Dante and Beatrice hovering slightly above the clouds, it looks like a meeting that could take place on the street... such are the limits of art tending toward realism. Dante's description in words of this ethereal, immaterial, spiritual moment is worth a thousand pictures: still not fully understanding whether or not he is in his own body, or, if he is, how that body can penetrate the seemingly solid mass of the moon (a "ray of light through a drop of water" is the closest he can come to understanding the "material" physics of this spiritual experience), a group of souls appears to him. But they are as faint as "the outlines of our faces are returned" from the surface of those clear waters mentioned above. They seem more like reflections, ghostly reflections, so much so that Dante looks behind him to find the source, but finds nothing. Where Dante describes Piccarda and the other souls here as faint reflections off the water, a bodiless appearance, the painter gives us concrete images. Dante, from the fourteenth century, allows us to visualize with his words a spiritual experience that the visual artist can only reproduce with physical bodies.

    I think it took me the full physical experience of a few Lake Michigan swims to get to the point where I could more fully experience Dante's wonderful description. Something the Veit painting, as wonderful as it is in its own way, could never do.

    As the spirits of Piccarda and her companions vanish from Dante's view, he compares this disappearance to that of a weight sinking out of sight in deep water. In the Hollanders' translation:

    "Like a heavy weight down through deep water" (PAR III, 123)
  19. Downward facing... doggone my shoulder's tight!

    by , January 4th, 2012 at 01:45 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    Beware of canine motif in today's entry. This was a day for the dogs! Opened the day with a visit to the vet with Sparky, who has had all sorts of issues lately, but was given a clean bill of health (wish I could say the vet's bill was as clean--ouch!). That's the good news. Closed the day with a yoga pose that many are familiar with and that I have used in the past to simultaneously loosen up shoulders, hams, and calves: the Downward Facing Dog pose. Here it is if you're not familiar:

    I used to think it was called that because every time I put my body into this position Sparky would appear--upside down and face to face. No sense of personal space, but it's all cool, we love him anyway. Today the pose was not comfortable; left shoulder still cranky, and basketball with the sixth graders today after school was not helping.

    Cold is pretty much gone, but my swim came very late in the day... time enough to cool down and tighten up after basketball; so it wasn't that great. 2K (2200 SCY) in 40 minutes:

    4 x 250 (200 hard/50 easy)
    5 x 150 (100 hard/50 easy)
    250 recovery (breast, easy free)
    4 x 50 on :50

    Really didn't have a warm-up, probably not good, I know, but that's why we have ibuprofen, right?

    I was under some time constraints as I didn't get into the pool until about 45 minutes to close. 200s in 3:15-3:17; 100s really slow (1:32-1:37), but I was feelin' tight and uncomfortable at that point.

    I'm callin' it a night! I'll have to save my musings on Dante's Paradiso 3, nineteenth-century painting, and swimming in Lake Michigan for tomorrow.
  20. "You'll need to pick up the pace..."

    by , January 2nd, 2012 at 10:42 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    0.26% of my goal for 2012 complete!

    2000 yards at 2PM on the 2nd day of 2012. But I felt like . The cold I ended 2011 with is already on its way out, but in its wake has left me feeling like a shell of my normal self: low energy, cloudy/swollen head. The world seems like a really bad pirated version of itself recorded by someone's cell phone and uploaded to youtube!

    Needless to say the 2000 yards was not impressive:

    1. 10 x 50 on :50 for a warm-up.
    2. 10 x 100 on 2:00 (I would have liked to keep a shorter interval on this main set, but just wasn't feelin' it).
    3. 10 x 50 no rest (alternated hard/easy).
    4. Crawl out of the pool and slither over to the steam room.

    Hope to be back to normal tomorrow. Tired of feeling like Donatello's "Magdalene"; see this haunting photo of the sculpture on Wikipedia Commons:,_maria_maddalena_02.JPG

    Would rather feel like Donatello's bronze "David" (but with a speedo).