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  1. Finishing reverse taper... Time Trials

    by , August 23rd, 2013 at 07:14 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Tuesday I swam another 3000 at the lake; nearly a repeat of a workout I did a couple of weeks ago... still loosening up from the 2.4-miler last saturday, so I didn't push it and used longer rests:

    WU (500): fr, bk, fr, br, fr by 100s

    MS (2000):
    (1) 800 = 50 fly--150 fr--50 bk--150 ft--50 br--150 fr--50 fr hard--150 fr recovery
    1:00 rest
    (2) 600 = 50 fly--100 fr--50 bk--100 fr--50 br--100 fr--50 fr hard--100 fr recovery
    1:00 rest
    (3) 400 = 50 fly--50 fr--50 bk--50 fr--50 br--50 fr--50 fr hard--50 fr recovery
    1:00 rest
    (4) 200 IM
    Master's minute

    CD (500): repeat of WU.

    3000 yards in 65 minutes.

    Wednesday (8/21) I got together with Scotty and did even less yardage, but I wanted to time trial myself in the 50s to get a better idea of what my "sprint" speed is (most of my SCY 50 times were from last winter-spring, and I know I've improved a little since then). We only did 2000 but after 1000 in warm-up (which included a 200 IM from push that was within 2 seconds of my best 200 IM meet time off the blocks!) we took turns timing each other for 50s off the blocks... and had the lifeguard time us for a couple of head-to-head 50s. Here's how it went:

    50 Back x 2 (first one was in :38-:39; the second one was racing Scotty, I beat him by a second, but came in a little slower at :40)
    50 Fly x 2 (both in :40--one of these was head to head with Scotty, he was trying to pce me to under :40, but I couldn't hang... couldn't get the rhythm, I think b/c my body is locked into 400 IM and 200 fly pace, since I've been working on that so much. This is disappointing for me because my starts were pretty good, and I thought I would take more than :03-:04 seconds off my "hard" pace from push).
    50 Free = :30-:31 (Scotty and I raced this one, but since we were using the digital pace clock, which the lifeguard was watching for us, we didn't get a very accurate time, I beat Scotty by a hand... but I really wanted to crack that 30-second barrier. Don't get me wrong, I was perfectly happy to beat Scotty in free!).

    Scotty did a breast 50 instead of a second fly 50; I don't think he was all that happy with it. But coming off a couple of months of more middle to long distance training neither of us was crestfallen by the performance either. My 50 back was several seconds faster than my last 50 back SCY in a meet (:43 if I remember correctly, which is now only a couple of seconds away from my goal 200 pace). My 50 meter back at the long course meet was :41 two months ago, and my first 50 of a 100 SCY at the state meet in March was :41, so I really thought I'd be closer to :37. My 50 fly, while still not under :40 officially, was still 3 seconds faster than anything I've done in a meet.

    Today I did a fairly difficult 5000-yard workout; focus on endurance. I'm going to be doing the postal 5k in the next week or so, but I also wanted to get a fix on my 200 fly and back times, hence the set in the middle. Here's what I did:

    WU (1000):
    400 EZ free, build pace, on 7:00
    4 x 100 IM on 2:00 (low 1:40s)
    4 x 50 fr on 1:00 (desc. from :41 to :35)

    MS (3000):
    --1000 fr on 18:00 (15:37?)
    --5 x 200 on 4:00 (or 5:00), swum as follows:
    #1 = 200 fly on 5:00*
    #2 = 200 back on 4:00 (3:19)
    #3 = 200 breast on 5:00 (slow, think turtle w/ broken leg)
    #4-5 = 200 free on 4:00 (both in 2:52-2:53 range, split close to :42, :43, :44-:45, :43)
    --1000 on 18:00 (15:50s)

    CD (1000):
    4 x 50 fr on 1:00 (:43s)
    4 x 100 IM on 2:00 (1:45-1:50, wasn't purposely trying to ascend... I was falling off an energy cliff)
    400 EZ swim (alternated free and back)

    TOTAL: 5000 SCY/100 minutes

    *200 fly = 3:21 (My splits were :48, 1:38, 2:30, 3:21, which means by 50 I swam a fairly even pace--:48, :50, :52, :51. So my 50 fly might not have gone under :40 from the blocks, but my 200 fly from push is very close to evenly paced at :50/50. Speed has gotten slightly better, but endurance has gotten a LOT better over the last 8 months with fly! I felt pretty relaxed and wasn't too exhausted at the end of it.)

    My short term goal for 200 fly, and I really didn't know how feasible it was, was to get down to 3:20... long term I'd still like to get down below 3:00. Maybe a good short-term goal now is 3:12... a :48/50 pace.

    I'm headed into a base-building/endurance phase of my training now; the long OW swim last weekend and maybe sprinkling in the 5K postal and the 3000/6000-yard postal swims on the weekends over the next month and a half give me some fun things to train for... more on that later!
  2. Reverse Taper... reverse carbo-loading?!

    by , August 20th, 2013 at 01:42 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    So coming off the 2.4-mile OW swim (and btw, the official time was 1:16:02, which placed me 58th out of 100 in the non-wetsuit category and would have placed me 77th out of 289 among wet-suited swimmers... I was 4th in age group among non-wetsuite swimmers, but my time would have placed me 8th out of 42 in the wetsuit category; which I feel pretty good about!), anyway... coming off the swim Saturday I decided to impose a reverse taper. I did 2000 in Lake Andrea yesterday. 3000 at the Y today. Here's what I did:

    8/18 Lake Swim:

    400 EZ swim
    4 x (50 fly + 50 fr recovery)
    4 x (50 bk + 50 fr recovery)
    4 x (50 br + 50 fr recovery)
    400 EZ swim

    TOTAL: 2000 y/40 mins

    8/19 YMCA swim:

    WU (1000):
    200 EZ fr on 3:30
    4 x 100 IM on 2:00 (mid 1:40s)
    8 x 50 in 400 IMO on 1:00 (:46, :47, :51, :51, :55, :55, :46, :43 = 6:36)
    1:00 rest

    MS (1000):
    10 x 100 fr on 1:45 (1:28-1:31; first 5 mostly 1:28-1:29, 6-10 mostly 1:30)
    :30 rest

    CD (1000):
    8 x 50 in 400 IMO on 1:00 (:47, :48, :50, :50, :54, :55, :45, :43 = 6:34)
    4 x 100 IM on 2:00 (mid 1:40s)
    200 EZ fr

    TOTAL: 3000 SCY, under 58 mins.

    I'll probably get back to the lake tomorrow morning before heading into work; the days have been a little warmer this week, so the water temps are climbing slightly again.


    I forgot to mention that after the race on Saturday I stopped into Monty's Blue Plate Diner in Madison. I did a search on the internet for restaurants in Madison with Vegan options. I've all but stopped going to restaurants here in Kenosha, because there are not that many vegan options... vegetarian and vegan are not the same thing and you always have to wonder if that vegetarian dish has hidden dairy or eggs. These are things that never would have occurred to me before, but I'm constantly thinking about now. Saturday night after I got back, for example, the family wanted to go out... they chose Italian, which I used to love doing. But, where eating vegetarian in Italian restaurants was always pretty easy, going completely vegan basically limited me to two items on the menu... and even those made me wonder; just because it has garden fresh vegetables, doesn't mean it wasn't swimming in butter just a few seconds before plating. To avoid those possibilities I find it easier just to stay at home and make my own.

    My family is fairly sympathetic to my diet (My wife even apologized for asking for grated cheese on the salad Saturday night... "Oh, I guess I shouldn't have done that if you wanted some"; it was ok, I was having the minestrone soup anyway), though I think they might be annoyed with me at times. They know I'm doing it for my health, which is where I began five weeks ago (today marks 35 days I have been vegan), but I'm trying to explain that it's become something much more than that now... it's coming from a place of compassion and mindfulness that is so much more powerful than mere self-discipline.

    Anyway, this is why I really appreciate places that proudly offer true vegan options on their menu. Here's the sweet potato hash with tofu scrambler with rice toast that I had at Monty's on Saturday...

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    The idea of tofu with spinach hadn't occurred to me before, but it was yummy and I'll try it again here at the house. The sweet potatoes had some yummy spices... think I detected curry.
  3. 2.4-mile... MOWS 2013

    by , August 17th, 2013 at 05:15 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    YESTERDAY: Final preparations. Got into the Y at midday for a 1000 warm-up... very EZ, hoping to be completely recharged for the open water. I did need to do one last equipment check, too, because I decided to break into a new pair of goggles and use a crisp new jammer (the one I picked up for last season's meets and time trials was already starting to sag). I learned the hard way at last year's USMS 5K swim that an older pair of goggles might fog in unpredictable ways, so I've been saving a new pair I got in March for just this occasion... a pair of blue-tinted Keifer (I think the model is called Conqueror; similar to the Speedo Vanquishers I've been using). I normally like a clear goggle, but if the tint isn't too dark it would be nice in the sun. Trying it out indoors at the Y I found I was not distracted by the tint at all... a good choice! Bonus: I got this pair for free... it was my prize for winning my age group in the Winter Water Warriors fitness challenge sponsored by Wisconsin Masters. And the jammers were free, too... my 500-mile premium from last year's GTD. Mentally, this was just another reminder that I have been putting in the hard work; now it was time to relax and enjoy the experience... Wait! Not too relaxed... we'll see.

    The diet, ahem, life-style change, has been going swimmingly of late too. I carbo loaded toward the end of the week with whole-grain spaghetti and veggie tomato sauce on Thursday night. Last night I had Vegan tacos (used the last zucchini from last weekend's excursion to the farmer's market) and vegan whole-wheat pancakes with cinnamon and berries for desert. Yum. Went to bed and woke up feeling pretty good.

    PRE-RACE: This morning the alarm went off at 4:30. I got up and poured myself a cup of joe and put together my big bowl of grains and berries, almond milk... plenty of slow-burn complex carbs. I sliced an apple and took a banana and a little bit of peanut butter with me as a pre-race snack, just to make sure the batteries were completely charged. I pulled out of the driveway at 5:20 and headed into a pretty thick fog. Driving through Kenosha and Racine counties visibility was very low, the air was cool, but by the time I hit the bypass just south of Milwaukee it was already starting to thin. Sun was rising. Shortly after I turned onto the interstate headed west toward Madison the sun was glowing low on the horizon in my rearview mirror... everything in front of me was cast in a pink or golden glow. I love this time of morning.

    An hour later I was pulling into Madison. I parked at Monona Terrace parking garage and walked over to check in. Back to Monona Terrace to change and use the bathroom. As I headed back out, this was the sight that greeted me... beautiful morning on the far end of the rectangular course...
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    I still had about thirty minutes, so I ate my apple slices and peanut butter. At 15 till I would eat the banana. It was still pretty chilly in that last hour before the race, so I decided to forgo the warm-up... I thought, honestly, it might make me more anxious and that the better course would be to remind myself to use the first couple of hundred meters as a warm-up, not get caught up in the fray, find a rhythm and then slowly build. This turned out to be a great strategy for me. Plus, I didn't have to exit the water after warm-up for the mandatory pre-race briefing and then hang around getting cold and stiff for 15 minutes before heading back into the water. Being in the non-wetsuit group (by far the minority at this race) I was happy with this choice... even some of the wetsuit crowd looked to be cooling off in that gap between warm-up and start. Here's the start area at the end of warm-up:
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    THE RACE... and really I'm only racing myself... well this is what I tried to tell myself. Alex, version 2013, is in a lot better swim condition than Alex, v. 2011. But how much of a time drop would I see?

    We waded out and then swam to the start, lining up behind the buoy near the ski ramp in the picture. The non-wetsuit wave of the 2.4-mile went first, at 8:30. The wetsuit 2.4 was scheduled to go ten minutes later, and then the 1.2-mile swimmers ten minutes after that. The non-wetsuit wave was fun to chat with while we treaded water in anticipation of the start... I noticed a lot of us were jockeying for last place; nobody likes to get caught up in the scrum. No matter how we tried spreading ourselves out, though, it was crowded. That first 1/8th of a mile or so was all about finding a position and trying to get into a rhythm... but inevitably I would just get going, start feeling pretty good, and then swim up onto someone's legs. Positions seemed to sort themselves out by about the half-mile mark though, just in time for the first turn... I started seeing the same swimsuits over and over, so I knew I had settled into a group that was going at about my pace... this was reassuring... as I sighted the buoys ahead of me I could see a lot of yellow swim caps, and making the second turn (in which I somehow lost inside position and a little bit of momentum) I noticed a nice string of yellow caps still behind me... woohoo, I'm not bringing up the rear! I quickened my pace to catch up to the group that I had been swimming with in that first quarter of the race, even though I somehow fell off their pace at the second turn I worked to get back on track...

    The middle portion of the race was a lot more fun than the last time I swam MOWS, I worked to stay even with swimmers around me, if not pull ahead. Around the third turn (at about a mile) the elite swimmers in the wetsuit wave were starting to catch us. As we made the fourth turn at the half-way mark (1.2 miles) two things happened... (1) a nasty chop starting pushing into shore from the middle of the lake, which had everyone rocking and rolling for the next half mile; and (2) more wetsuits appeared. This round of wetsuits was moving at a pretty good pace, not as good as the trickle of wetsuits that had passed us about 200 meters before, but this larger group seemed to be staying together pretty well and so I tried to jump on the back end of the train and keep up. The waves were merciless though and scattered us a bit. As we approached the fifth turn there was quite a crowd jostling for position around the buoy... and out of nowhere, a blue and white swimsuit that I had been keeping pace with for the first 3/4 of a mile, and which I thought I had left behind, appeared again. I sped up. I knew he was behind me at turn six and then I started to pour it on again. I passed some wetsuits, even a couple more pink caps (the 1.2-milers), then I started pulling even with and slowly passing non-wetsuit swimmers who I'd never seen before... this is where my endurance and conditioning was really paying off I think. I felt good going into the last turn and headed to shore.

    The last time I swam MOWS I remember getting passed a lot, and hardly ever doing any passing myself. I still got passed, especially by the wetsuits, but from the time I really found a rhythm, about 2/3 of mile in, till the end I don't remember getting passed by many non-wetsuit swimmers... in fact, I was the one who seemed to be passing... I just felt so much stronger than in 2011. And, when I got back and checked my time, I was ecstatic: I beat my previous time on the same course by 12 minutes, finishing in 1 hour, 16 minutes!

    Here's a pic of the finish I took after drying off...
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    Whereas in 2011 I don't even know if I cracked the top ten in my age group, today I placed 4th... only one place short of medalling; and I'm not that far off, so maybe next year!

    Here's my self-satisfied self-portrait (notice the recent hair-cut!):
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    My lats were pretty stiff in the first few minutes after the race, but have started to loosen up... now I just feel pleasantly fatigued. Next up: Postal 5K toward the end of the week? We'll see how I feel tomorrow!
  4. Taper continues; Salads rock...

    by , August 15th, 2013 at 04:21 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Today I only did 1500 yards or so in the lake... I was going to do 2000, but an extra recovery day is good now. Tomorrow I'm planning to go into the Y for a quick warm-up and that's it... I had originally planned to do 1000, my standard warm-up... instead I might just do 400-800 in drill work/EZ swimming and call it a day.

    Yesterday was my last "workout" before the 2.4-mile swim; and it was pretty relaxed, a real scaled down version of things I've been doing the last 6 months; where I would have been tempted to push the pace and get the times down I made a conscious effort to count strokes, back off the pace to focus on distance per stroke. Here's what I did:

    WU (1000)
    400 EZ swim on 7:00 (fr, pull, fr w/ short fins, pull by 100s)
    4 x 100 IM on 2:00 (mid 1:40s)
    4 x 50 fr on 1:00 (1st EZ, then desc. the last 3: :46, :42, :40, :38)
    1:00 rest

    MS (1000)
    10 x 100 fr on 1:50
    --first one was 1:28, last one was an ez 1:32, the rest were right at 1:30, so I was able to find a consistent pace; the interval (1:50) gave me what seemed like an eternity of rest between reps, since I've gotten so used to going off 1:40 of late.
    1:00 rest

    CD (1000)
    4 x 50 fr on 1:00 (ascend the first three, ez on the 4th: :36, :37, :38, :46)
    4 x 100 IM on 2:00 (these were actually slightly faster than the 100 IMs in wm-up, but felt relaxed)
    400 EZ swim (fr w/ short fins, pull, fr w/ short fins, fr by 100s)

    3000 SCY/58 minutes

    I'll have to remember this workout in my reverse taper and for recovery or maintenance phases of training... got the blood pumping but kept the focus on form... loosened me up, rather than tightening me up.

    JUST A QUICK NOTE ON FLY: Though I'm not focusing on fly this week, obviously, and just using it for variety and to keep my form on the stroke... taking the time to swim it more carefully and more purposefully has revealed a couple of things to me... (1) without being too conscious of the fact, the second kick has become second nature... this is something I used to struggle with last spring, but I noticed that I was doing it without thinking about it this week... that's cool; and (2) my DPS (distance per stroke) has gotten a lot better... granted, I was purposely trying to reduce my stroke count in the 100 IMs mentioned above, but even still, I went back to look at my fly from the 400 IM at state SCY meet in March and I was doing 9-10 strokes per length. Yesterday I was doing 3-4 underwater dolphins, then 6 full strokes per length from push. That's a huge difference.


    I know I've mentioned my layering of salads recently; great way to get all those nutrients and eat a large volume of food without going overboard on the calories. I signed up for the MindBodyGreen daily e-newsletter a couple of weeks ago... they send links to articles with recipes and other wellness tips on their website. Anyway, one of the recent articles had a great explanation of the concept of layering salads and a couple of easy recipes... tried both of them last night (with leftovers for lunch today!) and really enjoyed them... I've never been a carrot fan, but I liked this one. I did cut back slightly on the oil; olive oil is obviously healthier than crisco, but I haven't even been using much EVOO lately in my effort to keep the processed oils to a minimum.

    Anyway, here's a link to the recipe:
  5. Where's the reset button?

    by , August 14th, 2013 at 01:27 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    I hate tapering... wouldn't it be great if we could just hit a reset button and *bam* all the glycogen stores are properly refilled, all the soreness and fatigue have been whisked away... that pace you worked so hard to get to feels automatic, even easy. Not happening. I guess I'll actually have to do a better job of resting over the next few days, not getting overzealous with my swim sessions.

    Sunday I did an easy 2000 in the lake, but may have pushed the pace just a tad, since I felt pretty good (odd considering I had two really tough workouts in a row on Friday and Saturday). Monday, I figured I could do 5000 at the Y... some pace work and just a little bit of IM in the warm-up and cool-down, so I don't lose any of the progress I've made on my strokes this summer. The workout ended up being a lot more difficult than I had intended... or I felt a lot more fatigued than I thought I would; bottom line is I really do need to back off the next couple of days to re-charge for Saturday's open water swim. Here's what I did yesterday:

    Warm-up (1000):
    400 EZ (fr, pull, fr, pull by 100s... these were really slow) on 8:00
    4 x 100 IM on 2:15 (descended these from 1:46 to around 1:40)
    4 x 50 fr on 1:00 (:40-:42... I was not pushing on these at all, just trying to keep the stroke long and strong)
    2:00 rest

    MS (3000):
    6 x 500 fr on 9:00
    --7:45-8:15; these were all over the place... not only between 500s, but I never felt like I got into a consistent rhythm/pace on any given 500... unlike in the 500s I did a week ago. I had hoped my pace would be between this spring's 1650 pace and Saturday's 3500 pace (i.e., between 1:30 and 1:36 per 100--7:30-8:00)... doesn't that seem reasonable for a 500? I couldn't hold it... not exactly a confidence builder. Maybe I was still recovering from last week.
    2:00 rest

    Cool-down (1000):
    8 x 50 in 400 IMO on 1:00 (:48, :48, :50, :50, :56, :56, :45, :43 = 6:36)
    4 x 100 IM on 2:00 (again mid-1:40s)
    4 x 50 fr/pull skate on 1:00

    Total: 5000 SCY/95-100 minutes

    BACK AT THE LAKE TODAY: the air was chilly (still in the 60s and breezy) when I got to the lake; and the sun was playing tag with the clouds. I braced myself for cold water and wondered if I would ever warm up on what I had planned would be only about 1K recovery swim. Thank goodness the breeze was coming into shore and pushing the warmer surface water into the lap swim area. I dove right in and was happier underwater than on the surface where I could feel the cooler air against my arms with every stroke. The surface, while warmer, was also a little choppy and provided a nice current to swim against in one direction. I alternated 200s fr with 100s back (x2) and br (x2) for a total of 1200 yards. We'll see how I feel tomorrow... I hate taking rest days.
  6. 2-mile time trial

    by , August 10th, 2013 at 08:24 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    We (Scotty and I) tried to do this time trial in the lake today, but were shut out by a junior triathlon that had the beach closed to lap swimmers until 1PM. So, we made the 10-minute drive back over to the Y. At least this time trial would have the benefit of walls and flip turns, but we were sad to leave such a beautiful setting (water was perfectly calm; and there wasn't a cloud in the sky this morning) for the indoor confines of our usual workout venue.

    After a hard week and yesterday's 4K workout I wasn't planning to have an exceptional time, but I did want to simulate a long continuous swim a week before the MOWS... try to find a rhythm and comfortable/hard pace I could maintain for about an hour. I finished the 3500 SCY in 56:18; it felt good (for some perspective, my postal 1-hour in 2012 was 3530 yards, so that two-mile time has come down almost 4:00 in the last 18 months).

    My average pace was between 8:02 and 8:03 per 500... which looks pretty even, but I probably swam my first couple of 500s in the 7:56-7:58 range. The next two 500s were right at 8:00, there was a fall off in pace to around 8:10/500 between yards 2,000 and 3,000; and my final 500 was right at 8:00 again. I knew I could swim a hard, but still comfortable mile in 28:00, but wasn't really sure if I could come back and swim that next mile at the same pace... guess I got my answer: I was at about 27:50 something when I hit the 1-mile mark and felt like I was just hitting my stride (sorry to mix running metaphors into the swimming commentary... old habits die hard). My second mile wouldn't have been slower than 28:30. This pace, 1:36-1:37/100, was my 1650 pace only last fall, so I'm super psyched... good confidence builder going into the 2.4-mile open water swim next week. And maybe with a little tapering this week, I'll have more energy than I was feeling like I had toward the end of this week. Time will tell.
  7. Thursday-Friday workouts

    by , August 10th, 2013 at 01:30 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    Yesterday was a recovery day... big time. I probably could have taken the day completely off from swimming (haven't done that in over a week), but I decided to put in some time in the lake... another cool day (air and water); I did 1500 just to loosen up.

    Today I was back at the Y because I wanted to get in a little up-tempo work before I start tapering for the 2.4-mile swim in Madison next Saturday. Here's what I did:

    WU (1000):
    400 EZ swim on 7:00 (alt. fr, pull by 100s)
    4 x 100 IM on 2:15 (desc. 1:45-1:37)
    4 x 50 fr on 1:00 (:42, :40, :40, :42--trying to feel my 1650 pace)
    Master's minute

    MS1 (1800):
    12 x 100 fr on 1:40 (reps 1-6 in 1:25-1:26; reps 7-12, 1:23-1:25)
    12 x 50 fr on :50 (:41-:43, mostly :42)
    2:00 rest

    MS2 (1200):
    8 x 50 in 400 IMO on 1:00 (:45, :47, :49, :49, :53, :56, :45, :45 = 6:29)
    8 x 100 IM on 2:00 (1:40-1:43)
    2:00 rest

    CD (400): EZ swim (100 pull, 100 bk pull, 100 bk, 100 fr)

    TOTAL: 4400 SCY/95 minutes

    Hope the weather holds out for another lake swim tomorrow; Scotty and I are planning to meet for a hard 2-miler. Temps were in the 80s today and the sun was out the whole day, so I'm sure the water will be a little warmer.
  8. Grains, Pyramids, Ziggurats

    by , August 7th, 2013 at 07:44 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Meh. Sometimes you just have days like that. After having a pretty tough workout on Monday, yesterday wasn't going to be that great. I did 2000 at the lake, mostly ez swimming. I managed to work in a couple of 200 IMs, a 200 back, a 200 breast... the rest was freestyle, just trying to stay acclimated to the lake water. With temps dropping over the last week and a few more overcast days than we normally get this time of year, the lake temps are starting to drop too. I wouldn't be surprised if the water was in the low 70s, maybe even 68-69 in places yesterday evening. It felt great after warm-up, but I stood in the shallows a couple of extra minutes to psych myself up. I almost envied the triathletes with wetsuits who showed up toward the end of my swim. Almost.


    Last night I got home and planned to have a salad with three different varieties of lettuce I picked up at the farmer's market; just add some chopped tomatoes (our first of the season from the backyard garden!), a little cilantro, avocado, sprinkle over it some ground flaxseed and pepper. To give the salad a little more heft I was going to add some red beans and barley... unfortunately we didn't have any canned red beans... I forgot I had gotten dry beans the last time I went to the store to economize a little. No problem... just put them in a pot with water and boil away, right? Well, I read the directions wrong and since I've been cooking lentils lately (which are pretty well done after 25-30 minutes) I thought this was a thirty minute thing. Turns out the directions on the package were boil on low for thirty minutes, then add a bunch of pork products, then simmer for another 30 minutes. It only donned on me that something might have gone wrong after I drained and rinsed my little red rocks! Crap. Had to put them back in the pot with some fresh water and bring the whole thing to a boil (no added pork, thank you). Meanwhile the barley was coming along pretty slowly too... I thought it would cook more like oatmeal, was not prepared for it to be so crunchy after 30 minutes (the last time I made barley was in the split pea soup so I wasn't really aware of the actual cooking time of the barley on its own. Yeah, the salad was OK, but there was a lot of chewing... and it took me a lot longer than a salad should take to make. Next time I'll have the red beans and barley cooked ahead of time. Yeah, gotta have those days every now and again to appreciate it when things go off without a hitch. Live and learn!


    In going from paleolithic to neolithic with my diet (no meat, more grains and greens) I recall the great civilizations that were made possible by the agricultural revolution six or seven millennia ago. Pyramids and Ziggurats dotted the ceremonial centers and graveyards of the great grain producing centers of Egypt, Mesopotamia. I contemplated this as I crunched through my big bowl of mixed whole grains this morning... I wondered if the Egyptians or Sumerians ever swam pyramids/ziggurats inspired by their monumental architecture.

    The workout that Scotty and I met for this morning/afternoon (11:15-12:45... a real power lunch!) was brutalizing... think whips and chains from the old sword and sandal epics of the late fifties... Yul Brenner as Pharaoh (Scotty actually has his hairdo). We call it a pyramid, but I think technically it's a ziggurat because it has a platform top, rather than a point. If pyramids commemorate the dead and perhaps act as conduits to the afterlife, ziggurats were for the living, well at least the living of the priestly class that used their high plateaus to lift themselves above the alluvial plain and give them access to the gods in heaven. What does this have to do with our workout? (1) It was killer, which almost gave me direct access to the afterlife... and I didn't even have my Book of the Dead with me. And (2) at the top of each ziggurat we had quasi-mystical experiences, leaving us gasping for air, before returning us to reality. Here's what we did:

    WU (1000): 200 fr, 200 pull, 100 bk pull, 100 bk, 100 br pull, 100 single-arm fly, 2 x 100 IM on 2:00 (mid 1:30s).

    500 Fly Pyramid*
    100 recovery
    500 BK pyramid*
    master's minute
    500 BR pyramid*
    master's minute
    500 FR pyramid*

    CD (500): 100 pull, 100 bk pull, 100 bk, 100 fr, 100 pull

    TOTAL: 3600 SCY

    *The ladders in these sets were 25-50-75-100-100-75-50-25 with the interval set at :45/25... My 100s fly were 1:34 and 1:37. 100s bk were in 1:34 and 1:29. 100s br were about 5-6 seconds faster than last week at 1:40-1:41, but the 100s fr came in a second slower at 1:18...

    The fly seemed less brutal this week, I was not pushing it, admittedly. But the BK and BR had my thighs screaming for mercy by the end (I could feel Anubis hot on my tail), where my times improved slightly over the last time I did this workout. I don't feel great about the FR, but I also wasn't pushing it really hard by that point (just "sort of hard" or "hard enough to save my pride, but not enough to launch myself into a celestial revery").

    Updated August 7th, 2013 at 07:50 PM by mcnair

  9. Improvements come slowly at times...

    by , August 6th, 2013 at 12:58 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    ...almost imperceptibly slow, but they are there nonetheless. I'm speaking here not about my more dramatic time drops in the 1650 over the last 6-7 months... going from a 1:36/100 pace to a 1:31/100 and now working out at 1:25/100 on my 20 x 100 on 1:40 set... in less than a year, I've definitely come off the plateau... I think. But, the improvements in pace are much smaller for the shorter races... seems like it takes a lot more work to drop my pace per 50 a single second in the 100s or 200s. But after about a month of focusing at least one hard workout a week on the middle distance paces I'm seeing slight, ever so slight, signs of encouragement... especially in the fly. On my 50s fly today, for example, I used a 1:00 interval and my pace never dropped back to :50... my average pace over 400 yards of fly today was closer to my goal of :48/50.

    In the Back set, I was able to hold the goal pace a little longer this week than last... just a little longer; same thing with free. And I have to keep reminding myself that the first time I did a version of this workout (it was on July 1st) I only did 32 50s over the course of the workout. Today I did 48 50s. So, I'm in better shape even if the times don't look like they've moved a lot. Here's what I did today:

    WU (1000):
    400 EZ swim on 7:00 (held 1:40 or better pace; did fr, pull, fr, pull by 100)
    4 x 100 on 2:00, reverse 400 IMO (1:27, 1:50, 1:46, 1:39*)
    *This 100 fly was split :49/:50; almost an even split on 100 fly?!
    4 x 50 fr on 1:00 (:40, :39, :38, :38)
    Master's minute

    MS1 (1000)
    4 x broken 200 BK on 4:30
    --:10r after each 50; <1:00r btwn 200s
    --went 3:37, 3:38, 3:38, 3:40, probably a decent reflection of where my current 200 pace is on back (3:07-3:10).
    200 recovery (fr, bk, fr, bk by 50)

    MS2 (1000)
    4 x broken 200 FR on 4:00
    --:10r after each 50; <1:00r btwn 200s
    --went 3:06, 3:07, 3:08, 3:08 (I was actually shooting for a :39/50 pace instead of goal-pace (:38/50), since I was just not feeling it at this point in the workout; again, this is probably a decent reflection of what I could do in a 200 free right now (2:36-2:38).
    200 recovery (pull, fr, pull, fr, pull by 50)

    MS3 (1000)
    4 x broken 200 FLY/BR on 5:00/6:00
    --:12-:15 rest after each 50; 1:10-2:00 rest after each 200
    --Fly 50s went on 1:00, first and third 200s in the set (splits: :46, :47, :47, :49, then :44, :47, :48, :48... got faster as I went along?!)
    --Breast 50s held 1:00 interval (barely) on second 200; went on 1:10 for the fourth 200... 50s were in :53-:57 range.
    200 recovery swim (100 pull/100 fr)

    CD (1000):
    4 x 50 kick w/ fins in 200 IMO*
    16 x 25 kick w/fins on :30 in 400 IMO*
    *Took the fins (short) off for br in these sets; used streamline for dolphins and back, board for br and fr.
    400 EZ swim (pull, fr, pull, fr by 100)

    TOTAL: 5000 SCY/115 minutes

    I got in at least a 1000 yards of back work today; 500 of good, hard fly work (without ever sacrificing too much in form I don't think... it's getting easier to hold); same with breast. Hadn't put on the fins for a while so it was good to keep that burn going through much of the cool-down.

    Updated August 6th, 2013 at 02:20 PM by mcnair

  10. Open Water update...

    by , August 5th, 2013 at 01:01 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    Just a quick note on the weekend's lake swims. I signed up for the Madison Open Water Swim (MOWS) that is going to be on Saturday, August 17th. I'm looking forward to it. I signed up for the 2.4-mile non-wetsuit wave again. But all this got me to thinking I really need to increase my time in lake water over the next couple of weeks.... just to be ready for whatever Lake Mendota (or was it Lake Monona? I always get the two mixed up... since I don't get over to Madison that much)... whatever the lake has to throw at us.

    Saturday morning's 2K recovery swim in Lake Andrea was in gorgeous conditions (one could only hope for such weather, water--calm, glass-like waters, cool temps for both air and water 60s/70s).

    This morning's swim in the same venue could not have been more different... cloudy skies made the cool air seem, well, cool... and a nice little chop was coming in from the east... this was a lot more challenging, had me experimenting with shorter, quicker strokes against the current. To make it even tougher I sprinkled in 3 x 400 IM over the two miles... 100 fly is considerably more challenging without a wall and working against the waves in one direction. Here's what I did:

    400 EZ free
    :30 rest
    400 IM
    :30 rest
    400 free
    1:00 rest
    400 IM
    <:30 rest
    400 free
    1:00 rest
    400 IM
    <:30 rest
    1000 fr, cruise w/ waves, up-tempo against
    100 bk/br

    3500 yards/70 minutes
    Saturday afternoon we said goodbye to our "little" boy again. He's headed off for his sophomore year in college. Here's a picture we took just before the drive down to Chicago O'Hare... I joked with the family afterward that, of course, it couldn't be a family picture unless we were all squinting into the sun... why do we do that? Also took a picture of Andrew with his two brothers... they grow up fast!

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  11. Shout out to USMS bloggers...

    by , August 3rd, 2013 at 02:32 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    One of the reasons I love perusing the blogs on USMS is that, in addition to some great sets and workout ideas, there's always a juicy little nugget or link that can come in handy.

    Yesterday's lake swim was an adaptation of a set from one of ekw's blogs this week (who in turn took the set from Swimsuit Addict). I couldn't keep track of times because I was in the lake, but at least had the 50-yard swim lane to keep track of distance. I used perceived effort as my guide, treating the swims between 2IM segments as recovery swims:

    WU: 200 EZ swim

    MS (2500):
    50 fly--150 fr--50 bk--150 ft--50 br--150 fr--50 fr hard--150 fr recovery
    :20 rest
    50 fly--100 fr--50 bk--100 fr--50 br--100 fr--50 fr hard--100 fr recovery
    :30-:45 rest
    50 fly--50 fr--50 bk--50 fr--50 br--50 fr--50 fr hard--50 fr recovery
    :30-:45 rest
    200 IM
    :30 rest
    500 fr cruising speed

    CD (300): 100 bk, 100 br, 100 fr

    3000 yards/60 minuutes

    It was a beautiful day--water like glass, crisp, cool air, blue skies, water temps probably around mid-70s--and I had the lap swim area all to myself... except for a water jogger who I've seen there before and who watches out for me... during the rests today I talked with her briefly and, though wondered if my swimming might be interrupting the solitude of the beautiful day for her, she mentioned that she liked it when I was swimming b/c it helped the time pass faster for her; she was there well after I left.


    I got this one from the Jul/Aug 2013 volume of Splash magazine. I got to it via a comment from PWB on ekw's blog about why swimming makes us so hungry. PWB linked the page from Splash with a short article about the effect of swimming on appetite. Of course that caught my interest, but it also led me to this great recipe on the same page... for a seasonal Quinoa salad, including cucumbers, tomatoes, kalamatta olives, a little lemon juice and EVOO. I adapted it for vegan by leaving out the feta cheese. I've been looking for an excuse to use quinoa... We tried it out tonight on some non-vegan dinner guests and they weren't completely turned off by it. Yay. But there's still enough left over for the next couple of days! I liked it. Anyway, as I said, surprising and useful little nuggets of information abound among my fellow bloggers... thanks guys!


    In the excitement of a couple of new recipes and a fun dinner party, I almost forgot about the most exciting thing that happened today... I did a repeat of my 20 x 100 on 1:40 at 1650 goal-pace workout with surprising improvements. Last week I had a hard time holding the 1:25/100 goal pace, lots of 1:27-28, even a couple of 1:30-31 at the end. This week, only three reps over 1:25, all at 1:26. Here's how the workout went:

    WU (1000):
    4 x 100 on 1:40 EZ (1:36-1:38 fr, pull, fr, pull); :20 rest, then...
    4 x 100 IM on 2:15 (desc from 1:40 to 1:36)
    4 x 50 fr on 1:00 (:39, :38, :36, :38)

    MS (2000):
    20 x 100 on 1:40 (mostly 1:24-1:25; reps 14, 15, and 20 were 1:26)

    CD (1000):
    200 recovery swim (pull)
    4 x 100 IM on 2:00 (1:39-1:46)
    400 EZ swim (pull, bk pull, bk, fr)

    4000 SCY/75 minutes
  12. 500s day; time in the kitchen...

    by , July 31st, 2013 at 10:57 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    I'm waiting for the split-pea and barley soup to cool a bit, so I've got some time to blog after spending a good hour and a half in meal prep (more on that presently). Today I did a distance workout that totally kicked my butt, BUT made me feel pretty good about my progress. Here's what I did:

    4000 SCY in 75 minutes

    WU (1000)
    400 EZ swim (200 fr, 100 bk, 100 br)
    4 x 100 IM on 2:15 (1:39, 1:35, 1:37, 1:38)
    4 x 50 fr on 1:00 (:40, :39, :38, :39)

    MS1 (2500)
    5 x 500 on 8/9:00 (7:35, 7:36, 7:46, 7:50, 7:56)
    --Went on 8:00 for the first 3 and then 9:00 for the last two; I felt like I was swimming through quickly hardening concrete in the last couple of 500s

    CD (500)
    10 x 50 on :55
    --these were all around :45-:47... wasn't pushing it, just trying to bring the heart rate down a bit

    PROGRESS: There was a time, a few years back, when I was straining to do 500 yards in 10:00. In January I probably could have counted on one hand the number of times I'd swum a 500 in under 8:00. In fact, my time in the only 500 I've done in a meet setting was 7:38, last January. My split at the 1650 in March was faster than that. I feel pretty good about this set, the first of its kind I've done... something to extend the speed work and pace work I've been doing at shorter distances and help bridge the confidence gap for holding faster paces for longer distances.

    TIME IN THE KITCHEN: One of the things about a plant-based, whole foods diet is the amount of time it takes to prepare food... washing and chopping veggies, taking time to cook my own meal even when the rest of the family is just pulling pork out of the crock pot and depositing it on buns. I could save a lot of time with microwave dinners or canned one-dish wonders, but it's definitely worth it to prepare everything myself. I mentioned in a previous blog that I've been cooking in big batches on Sunday nights the last couple of weeks... so I have a nice assortment of combined grains, legumes, kale, nuts and dried fruits to mix and match during the week. A dinner salad on other nights (mixed greens, chopped tomatoes and beans is a good combo) or throwing together some vegan tacos generally doesn't take that much time, though it does involve more chopping. I'm also trying out new recipes for hot meals... Here are some tofu migas I made (had enough left over to reheat for lunch the next day... and tofu migas keep a lot better than their egg counterparts):

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    Served with a side of vegetarian refried beans (from the can) and my own guacamole (mash half an avocado and add in some finely diced onions, tomato and cilantro) on a bed of mixed greens. I adapted the "Migas Especiales" recipe from Rip Essylstyn's Engine 2 Diet website.

    But what about soups and stews?

    I've got this one figured out too... it does take some time, but I'm organizing my time differently to adjust. Today, for example, I made that split-pea and barley soup (from Nava Atlas' "The 5-Ingredient Vegetarian Gourmet"... the book has lots of recipes that are "uncomplicated"; thank goodness!). Putting the ingredients together was a piece of cake (ooo, bad analogy!), it took 5 minutes to get everything in the pot and headed toward a boil... but the recipe calls for the soup to simmer on low for an hour, then add two more cups of water and simmer for another 30 minutes... yikes, that's a long wait. But, hey, I'm not just going to sit there and watch the pot boil. I prepared and ate a dinner salad while I waited. Here's a picture:

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    We picked up three different varieties of lettuce at the farmer's market and have been using that for salads all week... I also chopped in some spinach, some cilantro, a tomato and an avocado. Sprinkled in chopped walnuts and sliced almonds, then drizzled on some balsamic vinaigrette. After I took the picture I even remembered to sprinkle on some ground flax seed. Yummy. I had plenty of time to prepare it and eat it (actually went back for a second plate!) while the split-pea/barley soup was working on the stove top.

    The dinner salad is an awesome thing. As I mentioned you can give it a little more "meat" by putting on some beans or hominy... Didn't do that tonight since I'm going to have plenty of legumes in the soup. Speaking of the soup... it smells really good. I'm going in!
  13. 4K workout and a protein hiccup...

    by , July 31st, 2013 at 03:29 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    So, yesterday (Monday) I did a reprise of the 200-pace workout that I did last week... I was still worn out from back-to-back hard days on Thursday and Friday, and maybe a little gastro-intestinal issue that I'll explain in a bit. First, the workout... warm-up was really slow and creaky. I don't like doing the harder workouts in the late afternoon or evening, so timing was an issue. I did have my rabbit Scotty with me for a while, but he couldn't do the whole workout with me... he was still beat from last Friday's pyramid too. Here's what I did:

    WU (1200):
    400 fr/pull on 7:00 (held 1:40/100 pace)
    4 x 100 IM on 2:00 (desc. from 1:52 to 1:41... started much slower than last week)
    4 x 50 fr on 1:00 (desc. from :42 to :39... last week I started at :39 and swam :38s)
    200 pull, trying to build rhythm

    MS1 (1000):
    4 x thru--
    4 x 50 bk at 200 goal-pace on :10 rest
    -- <1:00 rest after each 200 (the 200s were coming in 3:38-3:41, 3:08 to 3:11 when you subtract the rests... about :05 slower than last week )
    200 recovery swim (fr, bk, fr, bk)

    MS2 (1000):
    4 x thru--
    4 x 50 fr at 200 goal-pace on :10 rest
    -- <1:00 rest after each 200 (the 200s were coming in 3:08 to 3:11 I think, 2:38-2:41 when you subtract the rests... a little slower, but not by much, like last time it was more like my current 200 pace than what my goal should be)
    200 recovery swim (fr, pull, fr, pull)

    MS3 (1000):
    4 x 50 fly on 1:00 (:45, :48, :49, :50)
    2:00 rest
    4 x 50 fly on 1:00 (:47, :49, :49, :52)--this set was a little faster than last week, but I did a couple on 1:05-1:10 instead of 1:00... fading fast at this point
    1:00 rest
    200 recovery swim (pull, fr)
    3:00 rest
    400 IM... wanted to push (6:58--a decent effort considering the day I was having... my splits by 100 were: 1:36 fly, 1:54 bk, 1:56 br, 1:32 fr... bk felt really slow, but I was at about 1000 yards of bk already at that point)

    CD (200)
    200 pull

    PROTEIN HICCUP: my sister, another cardio/endurance addict, called when she found out I had gone plant-based, whole-foods diet. She's very supportive, but suggested I get a protein supplement, especially for right after hard workouts to jump-start the recovery. She pointed me in the direction of a vegan protein powder... sounded like a good idea. I chose one with probiotics... that sounded like a good idea too since I have been live-culture yogurt-free for two weeks. My first round of this left me feeling terribly bloated and just generally icky, though. That is apparently a side effect of a hefty dose of probiotics for some people. And the thing that upset me more than anything was that, really, I don't need all that much extra protein... what I've been able to find out about plant-based diets is that if you are eating the right amount of whole grains, nuts, legumes, even greens, you'll have plenty of protein in your diet. The protein supplement wasn't going to give me anything I couldn't have gotten from a couple of teaspoons of peanut butter and a piece of fruit right after the workout, and then a salad of mixed greens and spinach topped with beans, nuts, ground flaxseed and a little balsamic vinaigrette after I got home. Supplements are convenient, but as with everything else I'm finding that a natural, whole-food solution is always best.

    I did take the protein again after yesterday's workout just as an experiment and because it is convenient... I cut back to about a third of the serving size. No adverse effects... so I'm guessing that the good bacteria levels are starting to balance out in my body. Next time I'll try 2/3 the serving size and see what happens. I am concerned about getting enough protein right after the workout... and quickly absorbed for recovery; but I'm going to use the whole foods when I can.

    THE BINGE: No, not a food binge (at least the bad-for-you kind), a binge of documentaries about food and its effects on our health, about big corporate agribusiness and its effects on our diets and our environment... that has been the inspiration (along with the underlying interest in improving my health) for my choice to adopt a strictly vegan lifestyle... swearing off all animal sources... their fats are solid at body temperature, whereas unsaturated fats from vegetable sources are liquid at that temperature... this has to help my blood flow better and my heart pump more efficiently, right?

    I have Netflix and have been scrutinizing documentaries such as "Vegucated," "Food Matters," "Forks over Knives," "Hungry for Change" and others which all have a similar message... we need to start paying more attention to the stuff we put into our bodies and start paying attention to what the science is saying about nutrition and human health rather than letting the marketers for processed foods, fast foods, and meat and dairy industries tell us what we ought to be eating. Dr. Klaper's lecture and slide-show, "Foods that Kill," though it's already dated (1993 I think), is a nice, common sense, starting point... and it's on YouTube.

    The "Forks over Knives" website has a lot of great material, even recipes, and also led me to the Engine2Diet website, which has some great recipes and support materials as well. This is something that world-class athletes are doing, so as an enthusiastic amateur I feel like going plant-based is not going to put me at any kind of disadvantage.

    Updated July 31st, 2013 at 03:35 AM by mcnair

  14. Eating healthy in WI...

    by , July 28th, 2013 at 08:27 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    My oldest son, Andrew, follows the comedian Jim Gaffigan's feed. Apparently, just this afternoon he tweeted "Eating healthy in Wisconsin is like going to rehab in Amsterdam."

    Pretty funny! And, oh, how true on a summer weekend... it's festival season, beer and brats freely flowing at any given parish on any given weekend; Milwaukee's summer fest is fading into history, but state and county fair dates are approaching quickly. Just this weekend we had "Taste of Kenosha" competing with the usual farmer's market down at the Harbor... this is, I think, where all of the restaurants in town come out and set up a stand with their version of festival/fair food. Why have a nice combo plate at the Mexican restaurant when you could go down to the harbor and have a plate of greasy tacos on your way to the funnel cakes and cream puffs?! Yeah, I can see where Gaffigan wouldn't be mistaking the Dairy State for an organic, whole foods commune.

    I enjoyed the smells--and nothing but the smells--as I strolled with my wife and Andrew through the Harbor Market yesterday. I dipped into all the produce stalls and picked out some nice locally grown kale and zucchini, tasted green beans right from the garden, ate a totally vegan cranberry-walnut roll made with unbleached and unbromated flour. I admit that the smells of the brats and sausages, tacos and egg rolls were awesome... but I really had no desire for them beyond their smells. I couldn't wait to get home and make my own vegan versions. What has happened to me?!

    Two weeks ago I finally took the plunge, kicked the packaged, processed foods to the curb, and decided I would do everything in my power to avoid anything from animal sources... yes, that means dairy too... in the Dairy State! No more cheesy Chicago-style pizzas, not even a yogurt. I'd been mulling this over for a few days and once I started it was surprisingly easy... much easier than I thought it would be. The kids had pizza last night for an impromptu "Dr. Who" viewing party... I had vegan tacos...
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    ...and didn't miss the pizza at all. I keep thinking about all the good things I'm putting into my body, instead of the highly processed, overly sweetened or salted, high-fat stuff I was filling my pie-hole with before all this. And my body loves it. I'm not a slave to the refined sugar highs and lows; I'm not wondering about the digestive (or cardiovascular) payback from beef and cheese enchiladas. In future blog entries I'll write about some of my inspirations for this new lifestyle (I can't just call it a "dietary" change any more). But for now, some background would probably help...

    BRIEF HISTORY OF MY DIET (2003-2013)

    If you're looking for the unabridged version you'll have to wait for the book (it should be a full chapter in my sequel to Augustine's "Confessions" and Dante's Divine Comedy, which might also be a pre-prequel to Star Wars). The brief account is this...
    --Prehistory: I've always eaten my fruits and veggies, actually liked a lot of them as a kid, so I never really stopped eating them. But I have my weaknesses too... how often did that extra cookie crowd out a piece of fruit?! More than I'd like to admit. And I have, like most, been a slave to convenience... it's easier to throw a pot-pie into the microwave than chop veggies... didn't I see a pea or two and some carrots in the picture on the package? I knew what a balanced diet was, however, and tried (when convenient) to pack in the plants. But those conveniently processed foods could provide a balanced diet too... so I thought. I didn't read the labels too carefully. Plus, as long as I "intended" to have a balanced diet and got my cardio it was ok, in my mind, to have extra chocolate too. This was my starting point.
    --Circa 2003: As a runner I thought I was immune to things such as high cholesterol and the issues that came with it; as long as I ran enough to burn everything off and control the weight I was good, right? Well, not so much so. As I entered my early thirties, working on the cardio and maintaining the weight, I was surprised that my cholesterol still came back borderline high... HDL high (good), but LDL high as well, blood pressure creeping up... as Dante might text, WTH? I started reading labels... and found to my horror that some of my favorites were high in trans fats. Actually, my horror was at finding out what a trans fat is in the first place... we do this to our arteries on purpose?! Thus began the era of trans-fat elimination.
    --After paying much more attention to the fat-with-a-shelf-life, avoiding the trans fats like the plague, my cholesterol went down to the high normal range. It stayed there for almost a decade, my HDLs were high and LDLs normal, which meant that my ratio was good... no worries; I could still have that bowl of ice cream every night, or maybe a midnight plate of waffles... high sugar, "low" fat, right? I was burning enough calories... I was bullet proof. What's more, while I was still running I naturally gravitated toward the higher calorie refined stuff and away from the heavy red meats and dairy products because they were to heavy in my stomach, left me feeling weighed-down. But I was riding the high fructose corn-syrup roller-coaster without realizing it.
    --Circa 2010: As we began the second decade of the new century I began looking back on my diet; I had given up sodas on all but "special" occasions about the year 2000 to help with weight control (I never did take to the diet sodas). Why was I still feeling those chemical imbalances then? The headaches late in the day, the difficulty rolling out of bed? High fructose emerged as a likely candidate and I started reading labels again, not just looking for the trans-fats, but looking for and finding high fructose EVERYWHERE in my favorite packaged foods, cereals, even in the "healthy" whole wheat bread and bagels. Augustine's ghost perched over my shoulder in the grocery store and whispered "WTF?" (no... I really don't know what he whispered... it was in Latin... like the freaking ingredients lists!). "That's it!" I thought to myself, "bread... I'm sick of you; you're outta here!" I went paleo... ok, except for the midnight waffles... "ice cream? That's a healthy dairy product" I rationalized, "with antioxidants from cocoa if it's chocolate!"
    --2011: My running self begins its slow metamorphosis into a swimming self. As my swimming endurance gets better, my workouts longer, muscles I never used (or used differently) while running were in serious need of help. "Protein-man to the rescue" was the battle-cry... if I was going to build new muscles and repair damaged old ones I needed more meat and dairy to help out. I used skim milk to help me hydrate (didn't realize how much added sugar was in the skim... why would I have to read the skim milk label?!); I ate lots of yogurt (and more ice cream); cheese was now good (no trans fat, right?); and meat, lots more meat. In my running days I rarely ate red meat more than once a week; a hamburger, maybe once a month. As a swimmer I pretty much doubled that amount of red meat... and added lots of fish (mostly tuna; thank you, mayo... not!). It's "paleo" right? Paleo with a side of frozen waffles and maple-flavored high fructose corn syrup, topped with chocolate chips... maybe some microwave popcorn... our ancestors on the savannah had the miracle of pizza to help them escape leopards and run down antelope, didn't they?
    --June 2013: It'd been a couple of years since I last had my numbers checked... but what did I have to worry about? I strode into the doctor's office with confidence. I'm a swimmer now with excellent cardio, plus I know so much more about eating healthy now than I did back in 2003. I knew, for example, that I probably shouldn't have the midnight waffle or the extra cup of ice cream... OK, bad example. I knew to avoid trans fats... check. I knew to avoid refined flours and sugars... ok, I did that most of the day. I knew to eat lots of whole foods, veggies and fruits, which I did... most days. Alright, the diet could use some work... I knew that, but hey, the extra exercise could make up for the occasional (i.e., daily) dietary lapses... right? right? Wrong. Cholesterol came back 241, way too high... LDL was only borderline high and HDL was super high, which makes for a good ratio, but it was still a wake-up call. Saturated fats... I started seeing them everywhere... mostly in the dairy (cheese) and, of course, in the meat.
    --July 2013: I needed to take charge of the situation... I looked at all the foods we had in the house... there were a lot of good healthy choices there, but there were a lot of labels to scrutinze... why are there so many labels? And this milk, this packaged meat, where do these things come from? I began to look for answers... next time I'll write about what I found.

    [Training note: an easy weekend after a hard week. Swam 2000 at the Y yesterday to recover from Thurs-Fri workouts: 100 fr, 100 pull, 100 bk, 100 pull, 100 fr, 400 IM ez (did single-arm fly), 100 pull, 400 IM ez (single-arm fly drill again), 100 pull, 200 fr, 100 pull, 200 fr... 2000 scy/38 minutes. The swim area of the lake was closed yesterday, I believe b/c of the threat of thunder storms. Today it was open again... it was a chilly mid-summer swim though with air temps in the 60s even at 1PM. It's been a cooler-than-average few days now, so the water temps are dipping as well... that part is nice... getting out of the water into a cool breeze, not so much. It's just about perfect for running though... here's my son Anthony (black shorts, grey shirt smiling for dad!) at the start of the Parkside Cross Country summer classic race yesterday at 5:30 PM...
    Click image for larger version. 

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    ... he had a good race, was happy with his time; and they haven't even had two-a-days yet!]
  15. Updates on 1650 pace

    by , July 26th, 2013 at 07:15 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Have just finished the week with a couple of good days. This is always encouraging. Yesterday I focused on my 1650 pace with a long set of 100s on 1:40. It was a good test set because I had done this just a couple of weeks before the SCY state meet in March, so I had both my performance in that workout and my meet time to compare with. Here's how yesterday went:

    WU (1000):
    400 EZ on 7:00
    4 x 100 IM on 2:00 (walked times down from 1:43 to 1:39)
    4 x 50 fr on 1:00, relaxed, focus on form at pace (:41-:42)

    MS (2000):
    20 x 100 fr on 1:40 (1:24-1:31)
    --I averaged 1:25 in first 5, 1:26-1:27 in the middle, then some 1:28, a couple of 1:29s and finally 1:30 and 1:31 to end the set. When I did this test in March most of my reps were in the 1:29-1:31 range (see that entry here) and my pace at the state meet ended up being about 1:31/100 for a time of 25:04... my goal being to be in the neighborhood of 25 minutes. Today, only my last rep was in 1:31 and only in the last 500 did I fall to 1:28-1:29 regularly. My short term goal of 1:30/100, a 24:45 1650, is probably already a reality and 1:25/100 is looking like a definite possibility as a realistic medium term goal.

    CD (500):
    5 x 100 EZ swim (fr, bk, fr, br, fr)

    TOTAL: 3500 SCY/65 minutes

    Today, Scotty and I were finally able to get together for a good sprint to middle D pyramid scheme. I was also glad to have company for a much-needed hard day working the strokes. Here's what we did:

    WU (1000):
    4 x 100 relaxed on 1:40 (fr, pull, fr, pull)
    4 x 100 fr on 2:00, negative split (was splitting :44-:45/:39-:41)*
    *the last one of these I actually took a quick bathroom break and used the extra rest as an excuse to get up on the blocks and swim a hard, but in-control 100... went 1:16. Start felt good and I nailed at least the first turn... it felt hard, but I kept my stroke long and controlled.
    4 x 50 on 1:00 (alt. fr and pull, :38-:41)

    MS (2100):
    500 fly ladder**
    5:00 rest
    500 bk ladder**
    5:00 rest w/ 100 recovery swim
    500 br ladder**
    5:00 rest
    500 fr ladder**
    master's minute

    CD (500)
    5 x 100 EZ (pull, bk, fr, br, pull)

    TOTAL: 3600 SCY/1h40m (??)

    **The ladders in this set were 25-50-75-100-100-75-50-25 with the interval set at :45/25... this is a lot more rest than I'm used to now, but I was glad to have it. My 100s fly were 1:34 and 1:35. 100s bk were both in 1:34. 100s br were slow at 1:46-1:47, but the 100s fr came in at 1:17 and 1:16... everything was between my current 200 pace and my goal 200 pace. The fly is actually ahead of my 3:20 goal, but the back was closer to my current 200 pace (3:1?) than my goal (3:00); adding up the two fr 100s brings me within a second of my goal (2:32).

    Later this weekend I'll have to blog about my latest adventure: the plant-based, whole foods diet... I've lost at least 5 lbs in the last week and a half (the scale said 172 this afternoon!); resting heart rates are also down, and I feel more energetic... honestly didn't know I could feel this healthy (or how badly pre-packaged, processed foods were treating my body). More on that later...
  16. 3000-yard wave ride?

    by , July 24th, 2013 at 03:45 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    I intended to do a nice and easy recovery swim at the lake today, maybe get in a little work on breast stroke since I focused more heavily on the other three strokes yesterday.

    The air temps were cool (upper 50s, lower 60s) and the water is cooling off a bit too--probably back in the 70s. The morning was bright with crisp blue sky and puffy white clouds scattered low on the horizon... and a nice cooling breeze, which unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your take), was kicking up some nice waves and driving them across the lake in regular intervals. This created a nice rolling surface constantly pushing me shoreward from the lap swim area. In one direction it would give me a little extra forward momentum, but coming back I would pay for it.

    Would I rather swim through calm and crystal clear waters? Sure. But I "rolled" with it... thankful for an unexpected opportunity to become stronger and better acclimated to the unpredictable conditions of the open water.

    Here's what I did:

    5 x thru
    200 fr
    100 breast

    4 x thru
    200 fr
    100 drill/recovery (swum as 50 3r/3l one-arm fly, 50 back recovery)

    300 cool-down (fr, br, fr by 100)
  17. 4400 SCY; 200-pace workout

    by , July 23rd, 2013 at 02:21 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    My rabbit (Scotty) couldn't make it today, so it was more difficult than last week even to hit the target paces for this middle-d workout. I added 200 to my back and free sets, subtracted one from the fly... net gain of 200 at goal paces. Here's how it went down:

    WU (1000):
    400 fr/pull on 7:00 (held 1:40/100 pace)
    4 x 100 IM on 2:00 (1:41-1:45)
    4 x 50 fr on 1:00 (:38-:39)

    MS1 (1000):
    4 x thru--
    4 x 50 bk at 200 goal-pace on :10 rest
    -- <1:00 rest after each 200 (the 200s were coming in 3:33-3:40, 3:03 to 3:10 when you subtract the rests)
    200 recovery swim (fr, bk, fr, bk)

    MS2 (1000):
    4 x thru--
    4 x 50 fr at 200 goal-pace on :10 rest
    -- <1:00 rest after each 200 (the 200s were coming in 3:07 to 3:11 I think, 2:37-2:41 when you subtract the rests... not that great, more like my current 200 pace than what my goal should be)
    200 recovery swim (fr, pull, fr, pull)

    MS3 (1000):
    4 x 50 fly on 1:00 (:45, :48, :49, :50)
    2:00 rest
    4 x 50 fly on 1:00 (:46, :49, :50, :53)--much slower than last week!
    1:00 rest
    200 recovery swim (pull, fr)
    1:00 rest
    400 IM... wanted to push this, but decided maybe the cool-down should start here! (7:35ish--yuck)

    CD (400)
    200 pull
    200 EZ fr

    4400 SCY/90 minutes

    I think I wasn't fully recovered from Sunday's sprint work... when I've done this workout over the last few weeks it is usually after at least 2 recovery days.
  18. 3000-yards in the lake

    by , July 22nd, 2013 at 02:31 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Click image for larger version. 

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    This was the scene Friday morning at the boy's camp, just north of Rhinelander in far north-central Wisconsin. My youngest son Aaron is on the dock in the last session of his Emergency Preparedness merit badge. The scenery was gorgeous, weather perfect. Later that afternoon I got a chance to take a dip in the lake and chase fish under the dock with the kids. Great time.

    The water in the lake back here in Pleasant Prairie, 5.5-hour south by car, was a little bit warmer than Clear Lake at Camp Tesomas, but yesterday's rain and the relatively cooler air temps of the last couple of days meant that the water temp was much more comfortable than it was at the end of last week... not at all like the bath water temps of last Thursday morning's swim at Lake Andrea.

    Here's what I did this morning:

    WU (1000):
    400 EZ
    4 x 100 fr on :10-:15r (build pace)
    200 IM

    MS (1000):
    Descending ladder, fr, :10-:15r between steps:
    400-300-200-100 (build from moderate to hard pace with each step)

    CD (1000):
    200 IM; :15r
    4 x 100 fr on :10-:15r
    400 EZ swim (br, fr, bk, fr)

    TOTAL: 3000 yards/<60 minutes

    Wish I could say I felt great today... I felt "meh." I didn't feel as beat up as I thought I would feel, however, after yesterday's sprint fest. I took 2 advil about an hour or two after the swim yesterday and I think that helped a lot. I woke up this morning with only the slightest of residual soreness, but didn't push it on this planned recovery day.
  19. Sprint Sunday...

    by , July 22nd, 2013 at 01:09 AM (Alex's swim journal)
    After a couple of rest days... actually it was far from rest--a lot of hiking at the boy's camp--but a break from serious swimming... I was chomping at the bit to get back to training though and arranged to meet Scotty at the Y for a sprint workout at noon today. I was stiff from 6 hours on the road yesterday and from sleeping on the ground Thursday and Friday nights, so it took me a while to warm up and loosen up, but I felt pretty good.

    Here's what we did:

    WU (950):
    400 EZ swim
    4 x 100 IM on 2:00
    3 x 50 free on 1:00 (felt 80-85%; all in :39)

    MS (2000):
    20 x 25 fly on :45 (:18-:23; managed to hold mostly :21-:22s)
    2:00 rest
    20 x 25 BK on :45 (:19-:22, mostly :20-:21)
    3:00 rest
    20 x 25 br on :45 (:22-:25; mostly :23-:24)
    Master's minute (i.e., 5:00 to chew the fat with our pool mates)
    20 x 25 fr on :45 (:15?-:18; these were mostly in the :16-:17 range)
    Masters minute

    CD (550):
    400 IM relaxed, 7:15
    150 pull EZ

    TOTAL: 3500 SCY

    The workout was challenging, but fun. Scotty's teenage daughter joined us for most of the workout (skipping the last set of 20 x 25 for an early cool-down), she swam the fly and br sets as freestyle, but her back is getting really good and she kept up with us on that portion. She'll be 18 in the not so distant future, so we're already working on her as a nice addition to Master's swimming. Another swimmer, one of the lifeguards off-duty, joined us for the breast set. It was fun to have four lanes all going on :45, swimming hard. We're building a decent community of swimmers. Pretty soon we might have to start scheduling regular workouts!
  20. Calm, clear, warm lake water...

    by , July 18th, 2013 at 12:23 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    Back at Lake Andrea early this morning; even as early as it was the air was pretty warm and moist. But the still, humid air has some advantages. It also meant the waters were incredibly calm and clear. Hardly as much as a ripple at points. Which is a lot of fun to swim in... like taking the snowshoes through fresh powder in the winter... breaking a new path.

    Water on the surface was probably in the mid 80s after the heat wave we've had, but I could feel the cooler water beneath as my hand and arm went through the stroke. After the tough day yesterday I was a little stiff and cooler water would have been more welcome, but it was a really enjoyable swim nonetheless.

    EZ 2000 (1500 fr and 250 ea of bk and br).

    Here's the scene:
    Click image for larger version. 

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