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  1. Winter returns to WI

    by , January 13th, 2012 at 07:09 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 08:52 PM by mcnair

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  2. "stretching beyond..."

    by , January 12th, 2012 at 01:31 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:

    Click image for larger version. 

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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!
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  3. 4K yesterday

    by , January 11th, 2012 at 09:42 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.

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

    MAIN SET:
    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.

    COOL-DOWN:
    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.
    http://www.worldofdante.org/pop_up_q...I383&show=more
    I'll have to write my thoughts about that some other time.
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  4. Let's dance!

    by , January 9th, 2012 at 11:00 PM (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:

    WARM-UP:
    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).

    MAIN:
    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

    COOL-DOWN:
    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="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4d7Wp9kKjA"]David Bowie - Let's Dance - YouTube[/nomedia]
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  5. Epiphany swim 2012

    by , January 8th, 2012 at 10:25 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:
    http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/43.98.1

    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.
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  6. "Missed it by that much!"

    by , January 8th, 2012 at 08:13 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!
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  7. January thaw? ...2000 more.

    by , January 6th, 2012 at 08:26 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!
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  8. Take that, GTD!

    by , January 5th, 2012 at 09:10 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
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  9. ...down through deep water.

    by , January 4th, 2012 at 09:50 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:

    http://openwaterchicago.com/

    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)
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  10. Downward facing... doggone my shoulder's tight!

    by , January 4th, 2012 at 12:45 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:

    http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/491

    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.
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  11. "You'll need to pick up the pace..."

    by , January 2nd, 2012 at 09:42 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:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fileonatello,_maria_maddalena_02.JPG


    Would rather feel like Donatello's bronze "David" (but with a speedo).
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  12. One for the road!

    by , January 1st, 2012 at 04:25 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    "You road I enter upon and look around, I believe you are not all that is here,
    I believe that much unseen is also here"
    --Walt Whitman, "Song of the Open Road."

    The New Year opens up before us.

    The FLOG that took a year to fill up with yards and miles is now empty again... A new journey begins:
    ---
    My Go The Distance 2012 Progress
    0.00 miles swum (=0 yards, =0 meters).
    50.00 miles (= 88,000 yards, = 80,467 meters) to next milestone (50 miles milestone).

    My Go The Distance 2012 goal: 417.00 mi. Progress towards goal:
    0%
    You'll need to pick up the pace to achieve your goal this year:
    My goal pace: 1.14 miles required as of today to reach my goal by the end of the event
    My actual current pace: 0.00 miles as of today
    ---

    I'll need to pick up the pace! Haven't seen that in a while. The journey will start again tomorrow--Y is closed today and I'm fighting off a nasty cold anyway.

    The road is there, filled by our journeyings. Walt Whitman--what a way to start 2012, by the way!--says of the road later in the same poem:

    "Here is realization,
    Here is a man tallied--he realizes here what he has in him,
    The past, the future, majesty, love--if they are vacant of you, you are vacant of them"

    So, I look forward to continuing down that road and finding the things that can't be seen, Whitman's "much unseen," but the things that are most important.
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  13. New Year's Eve swim

    by , December 31st, 2011 at 04:07 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    One last, fairly easy 2000-yard swim before they closed the Y. The first mile was 30:30 then I just did a slow cool-down after that. Last swim of 2011, which ended up being a pretty good year for my fitness, despite starting with a running injury. On New Year's Eve 2010 I was limping with IT-Band problems.

    Here's the year in review from GTD:

    My Go The Distance 2011 Progress
    342.65 miles swum (=603,057 yards, =551,435 meters).
    Most recent milestone achievement: 300 miles on 11/26.
    22.60 miles (= 39,783 yards, = 36,378 meters) to next milestone (365.25 miles (average mile a day) milestone).
    My Go The Distance 2011 goal: 300.00 mi. Progress towards goal:

    Congratulations! You have achieved your goal for Go The Distance 2011
    My goal pace: 300.00 miles required as of today to reach my goal by the end of the event
    My actual current pace: 342.65 miles as of today

    So, tomorrow the journey of a new year begins. Happy New Year, folks!

    Updated December 31st, 2011 at 04:16 PM by mcnair

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  14. Long, strange trip... 2011

    by , December 30th, 2011 at 06:50 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    OK, I woke up this morning looking for the truck that ran over me... did anyone catch a license plate? Left knee aching, opposite hip in a knot, right shoulder balled up into a hump practically (call me Igor!). I'd better leave the basketball to the kids from now on. But a good enough excuse for a clip from 1989; The Dead performing "Truckin'":

    [nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmukyU9zTiY"]The Grateful Dead-Shoreline Amphitheatre-Truckin' - YouTube[/nomedia]

    Long strange trip indeed! Bob Weir's shorts are a trip straight back to the late eighties (did we really wear those things?).

    My swim total reached 341.51 miles for the year today. I made the 3500 in the pool in spite of the soreness from basketball. I had my doubts at first, but I managed to loosen up enough.

    My friend Scotty did his 3500 in 53 minutes I think. I mentioned before we started that I would just focus on getting in 2500 and see how it felt at that point. I did hard 200s followed by relaxed 50s, all freestyle, no rest; 10 times through. Felt ok, so I went for a few hundred more (alternating hard/easy 100s) and hit 3200 before I stopped to debrief with Scotty, who'd just finished his two-mile. After a couple of minutes I finished off the 3500 yards with some breast stroke to cool down.

    One last swim tomorrow to finish off the short, but still strange, trip that has been 2011.
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  15. 339.52 miles so far...

    by , December 29th, 2011 at 11:39 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    ...I'll probably have two more swims before the New Year. Today felt a little better; got into rhythm sooner. 3000 straight, no breaks, though I did mix in a relaxed (gliding) 50 after every 100.

    Tomorrow I'm going 3500, see if I can bring it in under an hour. 2 more miles! I love watching the mileage rack up in my FLOG.

    I'm starting to get the hang of my higher stroke-rate; bilateral breathing is so much easier. Basketball with the 6th-graders this morning was much more difficult!

    Part of the whole mid-life crisis thing is hearing that voice inside that says "this is probably going to hurt later, dude, you're not 17 anymore" and answering, "whatever, I'm gonna see if I can still get over the rim on a lay-up."

    Still dreaming... but I'm in good company; for "Man of La Mancha" (and Spanish literature) fans, here's a picture of one of my favorite dreamers in an old Mexican restaurant in Austin, TX (El Gallo on South Congress):
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Don Quixote!

    Updated December 30th, 2011 at 06:18 PM by mcnair (image wasn't appearing on Firefox browser)

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  16. Back to circle 5!

    by , December 28th, 2011 at 06:12 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Thrashing about with the wrathful in the Stygian marsh of Inferno, circle 5...

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    That's what the first half of my swim felt like today; there was bound to be something of a letdown and I initially thought I would simply do an easy 2000 or so. I couldn't find a rhythm to save my life. I was trying to find the right stroke rate and pay attention to body roll at the same time and then the roll started falling apart (am I over-thinking it!?). All of a sudden I've forgotten how to breathe too. What the heck is going on?!

    Then, at 1500 yards, it's like a switch was flipped... rhythm is there. I'm alternating hard/easy 50s, no rest... bilateral breathing, core engaged, feeling pretty good. I took it all the way to 3000 for the day.

    Within striking distance of 340 miles for the year.

    Updated December 28th, 2011 at 10:44 PM by mcnair

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  17. Bread of angels...

    by , December 27th, 2011 at 10:01 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    In keeping with the season of heavenly choirs, and warm light on the longest, darkest, coldest nights of the year... sure, why not more Dante?

    In Canto II of the Paradiso, our poet is soaring through the sublunar heavens and challenges his readers, "Turn back to your shores again" he tells them (in Sinclaire's translation)... you won't be able to handle this voyage; not for the ill-prepared. This journey is reserved for those accustomed to craning their necks toward heaven, for whom he has this encouragement:

    "metter potete ben per l'alto sale
    vostro navigio, servando mio solco
    dinanzi all'acqua che ritorna equale."

    Which Longfellow translated:

    "Well may you launch upon the deep salt-sea
    Your vessel, keeping still my wake before you
    Upon the water that grows smooth again."

    It is a moment like the Crispin's day speech of Shakespeare's Henry V: "we few, we happy few."

    This swim is for those few who seek the "bread of angels"--"pan delli angelli" (Par II.11); the bread that, here, always leaves us hungering for more. Will we be sated by it one day? A tantalizing question... a quest. Answers, like the destination, always just out of reach.


    ...one of Gustave Dore's heavenly illustrations for Dante's Paradiso. As Dante nears the end of his quest, ours continues on...

    3000 yards today, a simple workout:

    20 x 50 on 1:00
    20 x 100 on 2:00

    60 minutes and out... like the bread of angels for mere mortals, I'm craving more. Heart pumping, lungs with that familiar "yeah, I've been working for ya" feeling, everything else pleasantly warmed, a little tight, the good fatigue of an invigorating workout.

    I alternated easy and hard on both sets, using my faster stroke rate on the hard 50s (:38-:39) and 100s (1:22-1:26); stretching it out on the easy ones. The churning, wake-making hard reps followed by longer strokes, full breaths, and smooth water.

    Tired, but not "satollo" (sated). Dante found his answers, had his fill. We'll just keep swimming in his wake and hope we get there some day. Smooth waters for now!
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  18. Santa ate too many cookies...

    by , December 26th, 2011 at 06:07 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    ...or there's something wrong with the scale at the Y. A pound and a half heavier than Christmas eve! I got a head start on swimming it back off again, though. No need to wait for the New Year.

    On the positive side: I found a new stroke-rate under the tree this year. I was checking out some websites--trying to figure out a way off this plateau--and found one I liked:

    http://www.swimsmooth.com/

    My stroke-rate is super slow, which I chalked up to my long distance running background and over-development of the slow-twitch fibers. And I've been working on having a long smooth stroke for a decade now, so it didn't bother me too much... until I read their notes on stroke-rate and rhythm. So I gave it a shot at today's workout decided to up my stroke-rate and went from averaging probably 30-32 strokes per 50 in :50 to 38-40 strokes per 50 in :40.

    This is still pretty slow for a stroke rate, but I was surprised at how easy it was to come in at :39-:40 or 1:24 for a 100 (I used to kill myself to get under 1:28 while trying to maintain low stroke counts). Convincing my body that it is supposed to be keeping a higher stroke rate is going to take some doing, so for now I'm alternating fast and easy (fast and easy refer to relative stroke rate now).

    10 x 50 (fast in:38-:40; easy in :48-:49)
    10 x 100 (fast 1:24-1:26; easy 1:40-1:45)
    200 recovery (easy)
    50 fast (:40)
    200 recovery (easy)
    50 fast (:40)
    10 x 50 (easy :49-:50; fast :39-:41)
    500 cool down (200 breast, 200 back, 100 free)

    3000 total

    OK, so two things became crystal clear during today's swim:

    1. my plateau is primarily due to the fact that I'm an "overglider" and I need to increase the stroke rate to improve my times.
    2. my back-stroke is truly sucky and probably the origin of my left shoulder issues (it felt a little sore on Xmas, but I thought it was just the 4000 yards on Xmas eve; surprisingly it didn't bother me at all during the freestyle today and when I went to cooldown with backstroke... bingo! There was the pain). So I'll have to figure that one out too!
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  19. Christmas Eve swim

    by , December 24th, 2011 at 05:29 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Google Art Project's image of Madonna and Child in the Uffizi Gallery to celebrate the day:

    http://www.googleartproject.com/muse...nta-trinita-25

    The artist, Cimabue, was a near contemporary of Dante.

    Today the Kenosha YMCA was open early, so I managed to get in one last swim before the holiday. 4000 yards.

    I felt slow today, so I mixed in some interval work to see if I could flip the fast-twitch switch (I may be beyond help!).

    4 x 500 on 9:00 (mostly in 8:40)
    5 x 100 on 2:00 (averaged 1:32)
    500 "recovery" swim (9:00)
    500 mixed stroke (breast, back, 100 free)
    10 x 50 on 1:00 (mostly :46-:47)

    Still feeling a bit worn down, so maybe having Christmas day away from the pool will be good. Back in on Monday when they re-open. But, for now... it's time for a long winter nap!

    Here's to goggles in your stockings!
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  20. 330 miles... closer to Nirvana?

    by , December 24th, 2011 at 03:24 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    Friday afternoon's swim was a recovery swim; just trying to loosen up a bit from the last few days (basketball practice w/ my 6th grader's team... why do I think I can still do these things?).

    2000 yards, mostly freestyle, but mixed in some back and breaststroke (to remind myself why I do mostly free). I even did a few 50s with the kick board... I never do that... how do people do kick sets? I felt like a bathtub toy (churning and churning in the same spot practically--my whole December in microcosm!). Maybe I'll stick to my purist ways and continue shunning the accessories. Did I mention that I miss open water?

    I hit a mini-milestone today, though, passing 330 miles for the year! This time last year I was a runner who liked to swim a couple of times a week for cross training. Now I'm totally hooked on swimming, can't imagine not swimming 5-7 times a week. The journey is full of twists and turns; for Buddhists, the physical journey or pilgrimage to a shrine, for example, represents the spiritual journey toward enlightenment. Every physical mile transforms something within.

    The NY Metropolitan Museum of Art has some great thematic essays with slide shows; here's their "Buddhism and Buddhist Art" link:

    http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/budd/hd_budd.htm

    With every mile in the water I become more and more a "swimmer" . . . less and less a runner. It's an interesting transformation. My body adapts to the changing stresses and conditions, but so does my sense of identity. A rebirth of sorts.

    At the very least, my knees appreciate it.
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