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  1. Colonies Zones, Day 1

    Hereís how Day 1 of the Colonies Zones meet went for me.

    400 Medley Relay: I swam the 100 Backstroke leg in 1:16.25 (36.87, 39.38) (an 88.2 in Chris Stevenson's age-graded rating system). This is 1.5 seconds faster than I swam two weeks ago, and just misses my best time in the 40-44 age group of 1:16.21. Iím happy with the time, and pretty happy with the swimóI just needed to take an extra stroke at the finish rather than gliiiiiiiiding into the wall. (My breaststroker fussed at me: ďThatís not how you did it in practiceĒóbut managed to stay on the block until I touched).

    200 Breaststroke: My keys here were to watch my hands on the recovery (in order to keep my head position steady) and to accelerate into the walls, and I did a good job on both of these. After the race I thought I saw a 3:15 by my lane number on the scoreboard, and I was really happy, since my previous lifetime best SCM was 3:16. Then when I looked at the posted results I saw that I had actually swum 3:11.34 (43.25, 49.35, 49.22, 49.52) (84.6 rating, a new PR for this event) , and I was thrilled.

    50 BK: 34.91 (88.7 rating), which is three-quarters of a second better than my time 2 weeks ago. Itís off my AG best of 34.45 from 2006, but Iím really happy to get back under 35 again.

    50 BR: 39.97 (85.1 rating). Iím pretty happy with the time, but the swim felt really uncoordinated. I really tried to turn over as quickly as I could, without breathing every stroke. Thatís worked for me in the past, but today it felt awkward. Still, Iím glad to swim under 40, and happy to beat my time from May of this year.

    100 IM: 1:17.90 (36.38, 41.52) (87.5 rating). I felt like I executed my keys pretty well on this, and was pleased to go under 1:18. I still feel like I can go faster.

    200 Free Relay: I swam anchor and my split was 30.35. The swim felt ok; the time was just slow.

    400 IM: I swam a 6:09.99 on this (84.5 rating)ónot a great time, but respectable. Maybe in retrospect making the 400 IM the last of 7 splashes in a day was ambitious. I gave this race what I had left, and was proud of swimming it tough, if not terribly fast. My splits were
    41.85 48.02
    46.27 46.49
    52.79 51.84
    40.72 39.01

    Day 2 Preview
    Tomorrow Iím signed up for the following events; times are estimated from the meet time line.

    11:24 am 100 BR
    11:46 am 50 FR
    12:21 pm 200 IM
    12:43 pm 100 BK
    12:58 pm 50 BR

    When I signed up for this block of events I figured I would drop one or two of them once I saw the timeline; after my swims today, Iím inclined to ditch the 50 FR (my sprinting just isnít that fast right now) and the 100 BK (because I was happy with my relay lead-off split today). That makes for a more manageable scheduleó3 events, plus whatever relays I get put on. Thatís plenty for one day!

    It was a fun meetóthings ran ahead of schedule, there were lots of friendly swimmers there (and lots of truly impressive swims!), and I had a lot of fun. Hereís to another great day of swimming tomorrow!

    Updated December 7th, 2009 at 05:17 AM by swimsuit addict

  2. Seeking pool toy ideas

    I hardly ever use pool toys when I swim. Iím not against them. Itís just that getting to and from pools here involves a fair lot of walking, so I try to carry a minimal amount of stuff in my swim bag. Using fins in the pool is fun; toting them around all day afterward, not so much.

    But over the holidays I will be in Florida, and will actually drive to my pool in a car with a trunk where I can stash my swim equipment between workouts. Yahoo! Iím thinking about what swim equipment I want to take. Iíll almost certainly take my Zura fins

    and a set of strokemaker paddles,

    but Iím not sure what else will make the cut. Does anyone have any suggestions for other pool toys that are fun and helpful, and/or any especially cool sets to do with them? I often swim on my own in Florida (at a LC pool thatís hardly ever crowded, so space or speed is not an issue), so any suggestions that will vary up my workouts will be appreciated.

    This morning I did an easy swim at Riverbank before Zones tomorrow:

    1000 warmup

    4 x 50 build to good speed by mid-pool, then ease off into wall

    2 x 25 BR drill/25 easy swim

    400 warmdown combining dolphins off pool bottom, corkscrew stroke, underwater breaststroke on back, and any other fun things that came to mind

    I didnít worry about intervals on anything.

    Iím looking forward to the meet tomorrow. Today I am packing my meet bag, and am feeling a little envious of swimmers who live in real America and drive to meets. Here in NYC, I have to balance my love for creature comforts at meets with the limits on what I can carry up and down subway stairs. I sometimes feel like those legendary Appalachian Trail through-hikers who cut the handle off their toothbrushes to eliminate excess weight. If I lived in Southern California, Iíd definitely be easy to find at meetsóIíd be the one in a portable hammock under a tent, with a whole wardrobe of meet clothes for every possible weather contingency, and a separate huge fluffy beach towel for drying off after each of my events. Here I have to keep my diva-dom in checkóIíve already wasted way too much thought debating the pros and cons of bringing my stretching mat with me tomorrow.

    Good luck to everyone who is meet-bound this weekend! Let's all have a blast and swim fast!
  3. Colonies Zones--my Day 1 preview

    Colonies Zones is two days away. Hereís what Iím swimming on Saturday, with times estimated from the meet timeline. After my last meet, I decided to simplify my keys for each race to 1 or 2 things, as having too much to think about seemed to make me worried rather than focused.

    200 Breast (10:13 am)
    I remember the walls of this pool being a little slippery at the top when set up for SCM; I think thereís a metal section that makes counting on getting any torque from your hands on open turns a little iffy. Iíve been concentrating on using my momentum into the wall to help with the rotation on my turns, so I want to make sure I have some momentum on my turns to work with, rather than gliding into the wall (which is always a temptation for meógliding is fun, and less work than swimming).
    Race keys: watch hands on recovery; accelerate into walls

    50 Back (10:36 am)
    I went 35.7 at the last meet; Iíd like to beat that here. Sub-35 would be even better.
    Race keys: kick, aggressive turn

    50 Breast (11:56 am)
    I swam 40.2 back in May of this year. Can I beat that?
    Race keys: fast feet, fast hands
    (Fun factoid: The other 9 swimmers in my heat all have identical seed times of 40.0. If I had just rounded my seed time down, we could have matched ten across. Isn't there a prize for that, like at slot machines?)

    100 IM (12:49 pm)
    I want to swim this with more even splits than I ended up with last time (36.4, 41.9).
    Race keys: Controlled and calm on FL, accelerate into turns

    400 IM (3:05 pm)
    Race key: Swim with joy!

    I might also swim the 400 medley relay right before the 200 BR, and a 200 FR relay between the two IMs. I probably wonít know about relays until meet warmups.

    Looking over the heat sheets, I see lots of familiar names, plus a couple of swimmers who were once area-meet stalwarts but whom I havenít seen for a few years. Iím really excited that theyíre back, and am looking forward to seeing lots of superfast swims during the downtime between my events.

    I skipped swimming today and went to the NY Philís open rehearsal instead (Esa-Pekka Salonen is in town for a guest-conducting gig). Swimming was on my mind, though, because as the orchestra went through their warm-up and tuning routine I was imagining that sweet moment at the beginning of meets when all the chaos and crowdedness of the warmup pool gets transformed into the order and beauty of the meet itself. It would be cool to do a time-lapse video of the beginning of a meet, from course set-up to warmup through the first heats, and set that to a score of an orchestral warmup and tuning and opening of a symphony. Or maybe that would be the swim-geekiest thing in the world, but it makes me happy imagining it!

    Updated December 3rd, 2009 at 03:38 PM by swimsuit addict

  4. Easy LC swim

    I got up early enough for the 6:30-8:25 open LCM swim at Riverbank State Park, and was rewarded with a beautiful view of the moon setting over the Hudson (well, at least over New Jersey, on the other side of the Hudson) as I walked from the train to the pool.

    I swam on my own, and here's what I did:

    1000 warmup

    4 x 50 build, keeping it easy and light, on rest as long as I wanted to make it

    4 x (20 fast, 30 easy), also on long rest

    a few turns and breakouts

    400 dreamy warmdown (200 easy FR/underwater + 200 upside-down IM)

    I don't have tons of experience with tapering--in fact, I probably know less about what I'm supposed to be doing than anyone reading this--but one thing I try to do as I'm approaching the meet is to create a real hunger in my body for going fast. This means I never quite swim any of my complete races--even 50s--at race pace. I'll practice pieces of them at full speed, so that I'm confident that I can do them in competition, but I like postponing the excitement of putting everything together until the actual meet day.

    This is especially true of getting times for race-length swims in the week or two before meets. If I have numbers, I just worry about them. Does a fast time mean that I'll go fast at the meet, or that I'm peaking too soon? Does a slow time mean I need to change things up in the way I'm approaching things, or that I'm at an awkward time in my taper? I guess if I had a long history of taper times to compare things too this might be useful, but I don't, and even if I did if would probably find even more ways to obsess over the numbers. As it is, if I'm swimming a specific distance for time during my taper I'll often ease up on the last stroke or two (I do practice hard finishes--just not on the same swim). Doing that provides an openness for imagining potential swims at the meet--"And if I just add in a fast finish, I might really swim a hot time"--rather than somehow delimiting the possibilities with hard numbers.

    So that is one game I play with myself during taper. Somehow I don't think this is how the pros approach it, though.

    In any case, I'll get to see how this whole adventure turns out this weekend at Colonies Zones. Heat sheets are up!
  5. Goldilocks and the pool

    A while back my home state of Alabama decided to use the slogan ďState of Surprises!Ē to lure more tourists to the state. It was a poorly conceived campaign, which they eventually dropped in favor of something less prone to be parodied.

    Since moving to the city, I have come to think of the John Jay College Pool where my team holds practices as the ďPool of Surprises!Ē This pool definitely brings out my best innovative spiritóIíve constructed makeshift backstroke flags out of Aquajogger vests, fashioned DIY laneline-to-wall attachments, and resorted to rolling over and doing backstroke turns on freestyle swims when the water was too cloudy to see the walls. This fall, the entire building that houses the pool was closed for a bedbug infestation (now resolved, weíre told). This morning, when we showed up for practice, the water temperature was 88 degrees.

    So, what sort of useful stuff can you do in water that hot? Hereís what our coach came up withóit ended up working out pretty well, especially for those of us going to the meet this weekend.

    700 warmup

    3 x (1 x 75 K/S/K @ 1:40; 1 x 75 S/K/S @ 1:30, 2 x 75 Swim @ 1:20), 1st round=FL; 2nd round=BK; 3rd round=BR; 1:00 rest between rounds

    8 x 25 mid-pool 25s @ 1:00 [I worked on my IM transition and BR turns]

    6 x (25 sprint from blocks + 25 easy swim back)

    2 x (50 fast from blocks with relay starts)

    4 x 125 (desc 1-3, 4 easy) [I did this as a 400 warmdown]

    200 upside-down IM warmdown

    I felt good on my starts and was glad to get to practice them. I seemed to be deeper than I thought on my FL breakouts this morning. I would like to attribute that to the warm waterósurely it has a lower density or something that was throwing off my finely attuned sense of how deep I am below the waterís surface?óbut I fear instead itís just a lack of practice thatís to blame. Iíll make sure to practice a few more FL starts before the meet.

    To complete the Goldilocks narrative, the showers this morning were far too coldóperhaps they had shunted all the hot water supply to the pool? Iím hoping that this portends a just-right pool this weekend for Zones!
  6. Quick Saturday morning LC workout

    I got to Riverbank late this morning so just squeezed in some easy swimming and some speed work. Here's what I did:

    1000 warmup

    200 kick with Zura fins, each 25 building easy to fast

    8 x 50 w/ fins, 30 very fast, 20 easy, on big rest (did FR, BK, and FL)

    300 warmdown

    It has been a while since I used my fins, and I enjoyed how fast they made me feel. I tried to work on my streamline position, focusing especially on keeping my back as straight as possible and not arched.

    Now I'll do my light Pilates routine and stretching, and that's it for today.
  7. Wednesday workout

    I swam up on my own at Riverbank State Park today. Here's what I did:

    1000 warmup

    3 times through: 2 x 50 K @ 1:00, 2 x 100 @ 1:45 (1st=IM, 2nd=FR/BK), 1 x 200 IM @ 3:30 [I did the kick FL on the 1st round, BK on the 2nd round, BR on the 3rd round, and really worked whatever stroke I had just kicked on the IMs]

    3 x 100 easy FR w/ double BR pullouts off each wall [here I focused on keeping my armstroke narrower on my pullouts. At this pool the lights are bright enough so that I can see my shadow on the bottom, so I was getting some feedback about my arm position.]

    400 warmdown

    We have no team workouts tomorrow through Sunday, but Riverbank will be open all 4 days. I'll probably swim there shortly after they open tomorrow (8am). But first I plan to walk up to the Thanksgiving parade send-off area to check out the balloons. I like watching the balloon wranglers get them ready to go even better than seeing the parade (plus camping out curbside for hours is not required!)

    Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
  8. Peaceful Tuesday morning workout

    I swam with my team this morning, and had 3 great lanemates. Since I already reduced my yardage to coddle an injury 2 weeks ago, I'm keeping it steady this week and then will continue this extended taper into next week before Colonies Zones on Dec. 5 and 6. Here's the workout, and what I did with it:

    600 warmup

    8 x 75 K/D/S, 2 of each ST, IM order, @ :15 rest

    8 x 125 IM, with extra 25 cycling through the strokes twice @ 2:00 [I focused on neat turns and well-timed breakouts]

    3 x 100 @ 1:50: 1st was IM done K/S/K/S; 2nd was FR done S/K/K/S; 3rd was IM done S/K/S/K [I liked this little kicking interlude and wanted to do it again, but was voted down by my lanemates and coach]

    4 x (225 FR, 2 x 75 ST, 25 easy) I did the first round, then warmed down.

    After swimming, I went by my gym and stretched really well. Two years ago the gym bought this humongous "stretching station" with adjustible platforms to rest your feet on while stretching your legs, a slant board for your calves, and tons of horizontal and vertical grips at all levels that help with stretching out your lats and shoulders and chest. This contraption takes up a ton of floor space, and is really underused--it's rare I see anyone else on it. I thought it a really silly purchase when I first saw it, especially considering that adequate floor space plus maybe a ballet barre suffices for most stretching routines. Over the last year, though, I have grown to love it. When I have the time after my workouts I spend about half an hour using it. I guess it's a good thing there's not many others at my gym who like it, since it only accomodates 1 person at a time.

    I entered Zones yesterday. Hurray! On Saturday I'll be swimming 200 BR, 50 BK, 50 BR, 100 IM, and 400 IM. On Sunday I'll be swimming some combination of 100 BR, 50 FR, 200 IM, 100 BK, and 50 FL. (I signed up for all those events, but they're clumped right together, so I'll pick and choose once I see the meet timeline and know what relays I'll be swimming.) One cool thing on the online entry form was questions asking whether you'll be available for each relay. I'd never seen that before. I'm guessing (hoping) that this info gets passed onto the coaches? I made myself available for all but the 800 FR relay.
  9. recovery Sunday

    I did an easy swim at team workout today (scm). Here is what I did:

    600 warmup

    8 x 50 IM pieces @ 1:00

    200, 250, 300, 350, 400 on easy intervals, combining free and kick and back

    Practice was crowded today--we had 7 in a scm lane. I took it easy and was able to find some large and stable gaps to swim in on the longer pieces.

    Then there was plenty more to the workout, but I got out early. I mostly just wanted to wiggle around in the water a bit today to loosen up after yesterday's meet, and I had accomplished that.

    Next I went to the video analysis of the taping session I had done yesterday. Most of Steve Munatone's suggestions involved minimizing the profile my body was making as it traveled through the water. Among other things, I need to
    • bend my knees less on my FR and BK kicking
    • hold my hands together longer after my arm entry in FL
    • make my armstrokes on both FL and FR less wide
    • keep my head more aligned with my spine on FR and BK
    • make my BR kick narrower and shallower
    • make my BR armstroke less wide
    There's definately a theme here. I'm looking forward to some serious technique focused work over the winter. I'll be getting my own CD of my stroke synchronized with a graph of the velocity at each point, and I'll look forward to reviewing it.
  10. When things don't go as planned

    Saturday was bound to be a hectic day of swimming, with a video clinic in the morning and a meet in the afternoon. It turned into an object lesson in dealing with the unexpected. Hereís how it went:

    7 am: Wake up, check email to make sure I havenít received any further emails about the videotaping session (my curtain call is at 11). None on that front, but there is an email from the meet director informing me that I am now entered into different events than the ones I thought I was swimming. AARGH! 100 FLY? Iíve done hardly any fly during the past two weeks! This is not how I wanted my day to start!

    (A little background: I had originally entered this meet as part of my grand swim-every-event plan. I planned to knock off a few of my least favorite swims (100FR/100FL) at this short, sprint-only meet. Once the first meet of my season got cancelled and swimming every event was no longer viable, I emailed this meetís director and asked if I could change my events to 50FR/100BK/100BR. He emailed me back that he had changed them, and I happily focused my training on these. So far, so good. But when the meet crew were proofing heat sheets, they discovered that I was entered in different events from the ones on my entry form, and, thinking that was an error, changed me back to my original events. An honest mistake, generated by a desire to get things right.)

    The meet director suggests I show up early to try to late-enter my preferred events, which he says I may be able to swim if there are empty lanes in the first heats. Looking at the online heat sheets, there are empty lanes for 2 of my 3 events. I decide to get to the meet as early as possible, and try to accept the notion that I wonít know exactly what Iím swimming until I show up. Whatever I end up swimming, I want to focus on swimming the best races that I can with the preparation and fitness that I bring to them on this particular day.

    10 am: After breakfast and stretching, I put on a suit and head over to the John Jay College pool for the swimmetrics filming with Steve Munatones. Iíve been advised to show up early to warm up before the filming, since it involves swimming at maximum effort. The Red Tide team is still working out, but they make room for me and another filmee to warm up as Steve is setting up his equipment. I do my regular 1000 warmup, then 6 build 50s and 4 x 25 sprint/25 easy. Then I film 9 fast 20s, doing different strokes, some pull only, some kick only, as Steve directs the whole process. Heís very nice and his excitement about swimming and technique and technology is contagious. Iíll get a fuller analysis on the next day, along with a CD and suggestions for improvements. The taping runs a little late, but I still have time to warmdown and head home before the meet.

    12 noon: I eat lunch, repack my swim bag, put on my meet suit, and hop in a taxi. Warm-ups are at 2; I get there at 1:30 and find the meet director (who immediately guesses who I must be). Itís the first time Iíve met him, and heís extremely nice, and apologetic about the event mix-ups. We come up with a plan to put me into the first heats of the 50 FR and 100 BK; the 100 BR is full, but I can swim 50 BK instead. He tells me to check in with him during warmups to make sure of things.

    2 pm: Teammates and other swimmers start trickling in. One nice surprise when I looked at the heat sheets this morning was how many teammates were coming to the meet. There are about 20 of us, plus our coach. He puts me on a 200 medley relay with an old friend I havenít swum relays with for years, so thatís happy-making. I do the first part of my warmup (1000 plus about 400m worth of build 50s and pieces of sprints) and go look for the met director to check on my events. It turns out theyíre reseeding the 100 Breast, so Iíll get to swim that after all. It takes about 10 minutes to make sure Iím entered into the 3 events I want to swim, and to get my heat and lane numbers for those events (since Iím not in the heat sheet). I record these on my arm, and am ready to go do some starts off the blocks.

    As Iím standing in the line for starts, I notice one of my toes is covered in blood. I remember stubbing it lightly on one of the bleacher legs when I was reaching for my towel, but I had no idea I had actually hurt anything. I go find a lifeguard and ask for some bandaids and waterproof tape. They look at the blood and ask if they should call 911. I assure them thatís not necessary, and they give me a few kleenexes and 4 band-aidsóthey canít find any tape. I tend to my foot (itís just a little scuffed place, and doesnít hurt at all), hope I donít end up fainting from seeing the blood (I donít, but it has happened), and head off to do some starts. It becomes apparent that the toe is still bleeding, so I go sit back down and apply pressure with the tissue for 10 minutes, then paper over the spot with several band-aids. Once I walk on this, though, the toe starts bleeding again through the band-aids. I canít believe so much blood is coming from such a little scrape. I ask my coach if he has any tape. He doesnít, but actually goes out to the nearest drugstore to buy some for me (good coach!). Heís back in 5 minutes. I put on another band-aid, tape it really tightly, and am ready to go for the relay. Some swimmers win high-point awards; between the late entries and the toe, I feel like Iím leading the race for high-maintenance award.

    3 pm: The meet starts. Except it doesnít. There has been a computer crash, and it takes about 20 minutes to fix. I take advantage of the down time and my previous scouting-out of the pool, and head out to the hallway adjacent to the pool area (which is really packed with swimmers at this point). I drag a mat over by the glass door so I can see whatís going on in the pool area while being away from the bustle. I stretch, take some deep breaths, and work on letting go of all the dayís distractions and getting focused on my events. I pull out my sheets with my event keys (yes, I actually print these out and drag them to meets) and review them. I feel calm again as I mentally rehearse each of my races, and happy that things worked out so I can swim them. Eventually I wander back into the pool area. Heats for the opening relay have been posted, and my team is in the 3rd head of 3.

    The meet eventually starts, and I swim 50 BK on our relay. My start is just middlingóI need to arch more so that I am closer to going into one hole in the water. My turn rocks. My stroke feels really good by the 2nd 25, even though Iím tiring. I touch in 35.78. Iíd hoped to go under 35, so I still have some work to do here. Things I can improve for my swim at Zones: a better start, and getting into my best sprint stroke right away. I scoot over into the warmdown lane (we have 5 competition lanes and 1 warmup/warmdown lane at the meet) and do a few laps before my next race, the 50 FR.

    The 50 FR follows right on the relay, and because of the late entries Iím in the 2nd heat. Luckily thereís about 5 minutes of downtime before the event starts, so Iím not literally hopping out of one race just to step up on the blocks for the next one. My start on the FR is decent, and I feel like I hit all my keys except for the turn. Itís kind of a disasteróIím way too far from the wall, and get to test my toe strength since theyíre all Iím using for the push-off. My time is 30.81, so I have some work to do there as well. Iím puzzled as to why I was so off on my turnóIíll definitely need to figure that out and fix it before Zones!

    I have a longer break before my next event, the 100 BK. I swim it in 1:17.74. My goals on this race were to get a good start (it was decent, better than my 50 start, but could probably be a bit more explosive off the wall), swim an aggressive first 50 at 37-low (I actually split 37.6) and see what I had left to finish with on the last 50. I was a little disappointed with my timeóit was better than the last time I swam this (1:18.5) but off my 40-44 PR (1:16.2). I did feel proud of myself for keeping my stroke together and swimming tough on the last 50óI felt I swam about the best 100 BK I had in me today, and thatís always what I ultimately want from each swim. The verdict: Execution: good; expectations: a bit high.

    The final event is 100 BR. On this swim I forget to put on my second cap on top of my goggle straps, and I pay for this: on the first lap my right goggle fills up with water, on my first pullout I can feel the strap rippling on the back of my capóa sign that itís dropped too low on my head and is too loose. On the 2nd 25 the left goggle fills up with water, and I canít see anything. I ponder what to do (toss them off? fix them? swim blind?). I end up stopping at the 2nd turn and fixing them, and finishing in 1:34.59 (42.07, 52.52). This was a silly swim.

    5 pm: The meet is done, and I shower and head home. Although my times today were disappointing, I donít feel as down as I thought I would about that. It has been a weird day full of ups and downs. Maybe it is Thanksgiving getting to me early, but on the bus ride home Iím overcome by gratitude, and I realize how many people have been kind to me over the course of the day: the meet director and computer guy who worked really hard to get me into the events I wanted to swim, my teammates who cheered me on and surrounded me with encouragement and love, my extra-wonderful teammate who baked cookies and shared them at the meet; my coach who arranged relays and went out and bought me tape for my toe; Steve who brimmed with helpful hints and excitement this morning at the taping; my husband, who will greet me at the door with a glass of wine and listen to all my dayís adventures while he cooks me dinner. I also remember how scared I was this summer when I didnít know the extent of tendon damage in my knee, and was uncertain that I would be able to swim breaststroke again. Compared to that, a goggle mishap in a breaststroke race is small potatoes.

    6:20: I arrive home happy and exhausted. I unwrap my toe and see that its a little abrasion smaller than a freckle that caused all the trouble.

    A lot of things didnít go as planned today. I really tried to manage the things I could as calmly as I could, and keep my focus on swimming my races the way I wanted to and learning something from them. Sometimeís thatís not an easy task for a control freak like me! Going forward, Iím glad to have gotten in some races before Zones, but feel a little less confident in my preparation than I did going into this meet. For the last week and a half I have not done a lot of hard swimming. The positive result is that my arm has healedóit gave me no problems at the meet, and thereís no twinginess the morning after either. The negative is that it makes me worry about my aerobic conditioning. It will be tempting to try to improve it (or at least prove it to myself) by banging out some sets of 100s on the 1:20 (the fastest interval I can maintain), but with Zones a couple of weeks away thatís not what I need. Instead I just have to trust that my conditioning is adequate, and work on sharpening up my skills between now and the meet. This means that with injury time plus pre-meet work Iím essentially doing a four-week taper for Zones, which is longer than I would have planned, but is what it will be.

    The other positive from the meet is that I was reminded of how much I love simply getting up on the blocks and racing. Sometimes I get so focused on the results that I lose sight of that. Doing this meet reenergized me for swimming at Zones and for getting the chance to do relays with friends there.
  11. Easy pre-meet swim

    I went up to Riverbank State Park today for an easy swim before my meet tomorrow. I did

    1000 warmup
    "virtual" run-through of meet events (50 BK, 50 FR, 100 BK, 100 BR, 50 FR) [For this, I swam the distances in question easy stroke or free while rehearsing my meet keys and mentally reviewing what I might be feeling at each point in the race. I just did pieces fast that were necessary for reviewing the keys--ie a fast turn, or breakout, or a few strokes to get the feel of pushing the tempo into my head]
    400 warmdown

    I felt good in the water and ready to swim.

    Tomorrow will be a packed day. Mid-morning I am doing some videotaping with swimmetrics; meet warmups start at 2 pm. I plan to come home in between to eat and repack my bag. If everything is on schedule I should have no problem with the timing, but I have packed my back-up meet suit in my morning bag and will bring and some food to the taping session just in case things are running late. (The taping and the meet are at different pools).

    It's been about 6 months since I last competed. I'm looking forward to tomorrow to get some sense of where my meet times are these days!
  12. Meet preview: 100 Back and 100 Breast

    The third and fourth event Iíll swim at Saturdayís meet are the 100 Back and 100 Breast. Hereís my goals and keys for each.

    100 SCM Back
    Masters/Lifetime PR: 1:12.83 (35.6, 37.2) (2001)
    40-44 PR: 1:16.21 (37.5, 38.7) (2006)
    Most recent times: 1:18.52 (38.0, 40.5) (6/08)
    Best age-graded percentage: 90.1; I would need a 1:14.63 to equal that

    That age-group PR seems a bit soft to meóIíve actually done a 1:15 lcm in my current age group. But my LC times are often very close to or even better than my SCM times. Often, the challenge on 100 BK for me is going out fast enoughóI donít like hurting on that last 25, and my natural tendency is to swim the race cautiously and then finish strong. On this race I want risk taking it out a bit too fast, and then finish with whatever I have left.

    A good and powerful start, and a fast first 50 (37-low). I donít have an explicit time goal for this raceóI want to be aggressive pacing it, and then see what results.

    Push with arms on start, tight streamline off starts and turns, drive arms into water, accelerate stroke when I see flags, kick on middle 50, count strokes on final 25.

    Drive arms, flags mean go faster, kick triplets, count.

    100 SCM Breast
    Masters/Lifetime PR 1:23.71 (1998)
    40-44 PR: 1:28.43 (41.8, 46.6) (2005)
    Most recent time: 1:29.64 (5/08) (42.8, 46.8)
    Best age-graded percentage: 87.5; I would need a 1:25.56 to equal that.

    Iíve only swum 100 Breast a few times over the last 5 years or so, and donít have as good a grasp of what sort of times are possible for me as in my other events. So Iíll go with process goals on this one as well. I want to keep my turns unrushed and strong, and I want to remember throughout the race to keep my head in a down position (this is a change Iíve been working on in practice, and it will be good to test whether my altered stroke will hold up in a race).

    calm turns, watch hands on recovery, accelerate turnover on each 25
  13. Fathoming the Mysteries of Dolphin Kick

    For several years the subways and buses here in New York City displayed bits of poetry among the ads in the cars. The project to civilize us transit riders was called ďPoetry in Motion.Ē Thatís been replaced with ďTrain of Thought,Ē which features though-provoking quotes from various authors. Someone had a lot of fun selecting ones suitable for this urban context. Reading the opening lines of ďMetamorphosesĒóďWhen Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous insect"óbecomes even more creepy when youíre bleary-eyed and stuck in an underground tunnel during morning rush hour.

    Today the subway train I took to the pool contained the Miranda quote from The Tempest: ďO wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, that has such people in it!Ē Seeing the quote made me ponder how apt a description that often was of lap swimming in Manhattan, especially if you omitted ďgoodlyĒ and substituted something else for ďbeauteous.Ē

    When I reached the pool today, though, everything was calm and peaceful. There was a steady stream of swimmers, but most everyone had their own lane. The water was too warm to do much aerobic work. Hereís what I did:

    1000 warmup (400 S, 200 K, 200 P, 200 S)

    Then I decided to play with my dolphin kick. I have sometimes heard dolphin kick described as making a sine wave with your body. However, if it were a perfect sine wave, itís not clear how you would go anywhere, or why you would go forward rather than backwards. Clearly, some parts of the curve that your body makesóthose that are facing in the direction you are travelingóare exerting more force on the water than others. To help think about this, I tried the following variations:

    backwards dolphin kick (ie feet-first) on stomach: Itís possible, and the force seemed to come mostly from my arms, which I waved back and forth like fins, and a bit from my feet (I put them in the water pointed, then flexed them to draw water towards my body). I didnít really feel like I was putting any useful force on the water with the rest of my body.

    forwards dolphin kick on stomach: I tried to pay attention to which body parts were applying force on the water. Unsurprisingly, it seemed to be primarily the tops of my feet and my shins. I tried kicking harder, and could feel that I was also getting some propulsion from the bottom of my feet and the lower part of my calves on the upkick. I could not feel if my lower back was applying any useful force to the water, so I tried the next two variations to see if anything other than my lower legs was making me go forward.
    • dolphin kick with stiff legs: Here, I tried to keep my legs as stiff as possible while doing the same motions with my torso and arms that I had done of the previous kicking. I went forward, but fairly slowly. Then I tried

    • dolphin kick with stiff legs and arms: I lay face-downward in the water and simply did the same contractions with my abs and back muscles that I use to generate my dolphin kick. I hardly moved forward at all on this oneóafter doing 8 or so contractions I had moved less than a foot. So the minimal propulsion I had generated in the previous exercise had probably come from my arm movements.
    Then I thought about what muscles I was actually using on fly, and where the kick was actually initiated. I have heard people say that you should generate the dolphin motion with your arms or with your chest, and I always assumed that some form of this is what I was doing, since my arms and chest did move when I did fly kick. However, when I did some
    • extra-long streamlined glides off the wall into dolphin kick and some

    • fly kick after stationary float on stomach
      I realized that I was actually beginning the motion by contracting those muscles right below the navel that Pilates instructors are always telling you to pay attention to. I tried beginning the motion with my arms or chest, but could not figure out what muscles I was supposed to be usingóno matter what I tried, I always ended up using my stomach to actually start the kick, and whatever Iíd done before just felt like flailing.
    Then I decided to play with my arm position on my kick. When I did
    • dolphin kick on stomach with a tight streamline I felt like my locked arm position was limiting my range of motion by causing my back to arch. Then I did
    • dolphin kick on stomach with locked thumbs, which is how I usually kick on my stomach (hands are extended over my head and placed side by side, with just my thumbs crossed). This felt more powerful. Next I tried
    • dolphin kick on stomach with arms extended at shoulder width. I felt like I was getting even greater propulsion on each kick with this, but I also felt that my kick amplitude had grown a bit bigger and was causing me to become less streamlined.
    The middle version felt faster, but it would be useful to get someone to time me kicking all three ways. To finish up, I then did some
    • dolphin kick on back with arms in all three positions. Here, the full streamline felt the best. The slight hip pike I have when kicking on my back solved the back arching problem. Also, kicking on my back made me realize that some of the extra spinal range of motion I get from separating my hands in the prone position comes from being able to place them slightly in front of the plane of my body. Gravity keeps me from doing this when supine, since my hands get forced down to water level. To double check that theory, I tried
    • dolphin kick on my back with hands extended overhead and approximately 3 inches above water level. This did indeed feel more like the third version of prone dolphin kick, but was difficult because it made my body sink.
    I didnít end up having any amazing aha moments with all this dolphin kick experimentation, but it was fun and gave me some insight into what Iím actually doing when I kick. I plan to watch some videos of good swimmers dolphining to see if that sparks any ideas about what I can do to improve.

    Then it was time to actually do a swim set:
    4 times through:
    {50 FR Kick @ 1:00
    {50 ST Kick @ 1:10
    {50 ST Sprint, building turnover @ :50
    {100 easy FR @ 1:30
    I did BR for rounds 1-2 and BK for rounds 3-4.

    Then a 400 warmdown, stretching, and a beautiful bus ride home!
  14. easy Monday morning swim with team

    I swam with my team this morning at Baruch College, the venue for Saturday's meet. I was glad to get another opportunity to swim in a SCM pool in order to check my backstroke turns and finishes with the 5M flags. I also scouted out the pool and nearby areas to picture where I might find a quiet place away from the action if I need it during the meet.

    Since I'm still coddling my arm (bicep tendonitis--much better today), I modified the main freestyle set. I replaced some of the moderate FR swims with some fast BK into and out of walls to practice my turns, and some BR turns in a slow/med/fast progression. I also got to practice a few starts at the end of workout--I did 2 backstroke and 2 freestyle. They weren't perfect, but they were pretty good, and I don't think I need to do much more start work before my meet.

    (One thing that I've noticed when watching international meets on tv is that some backstrokers grab onto vertical bars rather than horizontal bars on the starting blocks when they set themselves. International blocks seem to have extra places to place your hands. I would like to try starting with my hands positioned perpendicular to the water rather than horizontally. I played around with the blocks this morning to see if it was possible, but the only vertical parts of the block were positioned too far apart. I'll keep looking when I go to different pools and see if I can find some suitable ones, though.)

    All told, I swam about 3200 meters, with a lot of good quality work on small pieces of races.
  15. Meet preview: 50 BK and 50 FR

    My first swim in next Saturdayís meet will be in the 200 SCM Medley Relay (Iíll swim backstroke). Here are my goals and keys.

    50 SCM Back:

    Masters/lifetime best: 33.80 (2001)
    40-44 best: 34.45 (2006)
    Most recent time: 38.02 (2008)
    My best-ever age-graded rating for this event is 90.9; I would need to swim a 34.06 equal that.

    I want to hit a really good start in this, with fast dolphins and a good breakout. Iíve been working on my BK start this season. I would like to go under 35.

    Push with hands on start and get to streamline quickly; smooth breakout; strong kick, quick turnover; pick up tempo from flag to turn; strong kick and count strokes on way home. Sometimes I try to be too smooth and pretty on my sprint backstrokeóI need to think about power and not worry about it feeling a bit violent.

    Push, kick, churn, flags

    Things I need to focus on this week
    Iíll swim at a SCM pool once more before the meet to check my turn timing with the flags at 5M. I also want to double check the blocks at Baruch (the meet venue) so I know what to expect on meet day.

    The very next event is the 50 SCM Free.

    Masters/lifetime best: 28.70 (2001)
    40-44 best (and most recent time): 29.92 (6/2008)
    My best-ever age-graded rating for this event is 91.0; I would need to swim a 29.37 to equal that.

    I would like to swim under :30 this season; getting that extra .09 to beat my 40-44 best would be even better.

    Smooth breakout after dive; fast turnover; quick and easy turn w/great streamline; keep head down and turnover up on 2nd 25. I love this race and am looking forward to swimming it. I need to not overthink things as Iím waiting behind the blocksójust go!

    Mantras: Head down; GOGOGO

    What I need to focus on this week: doing flip turns without lifting my head up to look at wall before I turn; smooth breakouts after starts and turns; balance some sprint work with getting my arm completely well

    This past week I had the opportunity to sign up for videotaping and analysis clinic with swimmetrics. Hurray! Iím overdue for a videotaping sessionómy last one was several years ago. The bad news is that the only opportunity to do it will be on the same day as this upcoming meet. Thatís not ideal (the taping seems to involve several sprint 25s of each stroke, which is way more sprinting than I generally do during meet warmups), but I decided to go ahead and do it anyway. Now I have a 15-minute videotaping session scheduled for 11 am, the meet has warmups at 2 pm and starts at 3. It will be an interesting day full of swimming, at 2 different pools. I am imagining that doing the videotaping plus the meet might feel like swimming two or three events in a single day at a big meet like nationals, where each event involves a separate trip to the pool and its own warmup and warmdown.

    Updated November 15th, 2009 at 04:19 PM by swimsuit addict

  16. and the winner is . . .

    Over the years Iíve amassed a something of a collection of meet suits, so today I held auditions to see which would be my meet suit for next Saturdayís meet. Here are the contenders:

    The Magic Suit: Ah, my B70. Itís fast, and itís by far the latest and greatest I own in technical swimwear. It even makes butterfly feel easy. By all rights this one should win hands down, but Iím not so sure it will. For starters, itís really a pain to get on. (The donning gloves pictured below help.)

    Once on, itís, well, not pretty. This isnít a problem just with B70s, but with most of the latest generation of tech suits. We were headed in the right direction with the introduction of pink and turquoise suits (and even the LZRs that the 2008 US Olympic team wore, hideous though they were, were a nod towards the need to create something better than a vast expanse of black rubber). But FINA has stopped the evolution of full-body suit aesthetics right in its tracks. Iím sure that, given a few more years, swimming would have caught up with some other sports where athletes wear variations of unitards, like downhill skiing

    or figure skating :

    In addition to the tech-suit ugliness factor, I donít love wearing my B70 outside of the water. Itís hot, it makes me fidgety, and thereís always that nagging worry that a seam will come undone at an inopportune moment, a la Ricky Berens. In short, I tend to fret when Iím wearing this suit, and fretful is the opposite of how I want to feel at meets. Thatís why my B70 is feeling some stiff competition this season from

    The Amazing Technicolor Dream Suit:

    This Japanese Asics suit combines a bit of everythingóbright floral patterns over the breasts, black and grey pinstripes in much of the body, brilliant purple panels on the waist, all highlighted by neon pink straps and stitching. Given that I donít attend awards shows involving red carpets, where else will I get to wear a garment with all that? I used this suit in a couple of meets last spring and swam well in it. It does dip a little lower in the back than I like, and could be a bit tighter in the chest, but overall I feel comfortable and happy wearing it.

    Tyr Aquapel knee suit:

    I picked up a couple of these at a steep discount during the summer. Iíve not yet used one in a meet, but I did wear one in August at the Lake Placid 2-mile cable swim and found it very comfortable. The navy-with-orange-piping version matches my team swim cap perfectly. The suit is tight enough to get some compression advantage out of it, though not as much as with the B70 or my fastskin. The band at the bottom of the leg doesnít seem too constricting. When I try this suit on I like the way it looksóI feel tall and streamlined in it, like the Chrysler building.

    The Old Standbys: I have a Japanese Speedo knee suit that is black with orange and yellow flames along the sides. It has been a good and faithful meet suit, but has gotten pretty stretched out and should probably be retired. I also have an original Fastskin full-body suit that is in fairly good shape. I like wearing it, but dislike squeezing into it.

    So, what to wear? Iíve never swum a SCM meet in my B70, and itís probably now or never for that. However, the goals Iím most focused on this season involve bettering my own times that Iíve swum in my current age group, so maybe itís better to stick to a knee suit or the Fastskin, and compare apples to apples. Also, the process as well as the results is important for me at meets, so how happy and comfortable I will feel wearing my suit, both between events and while swimming in it, matters.

    Taking all this into account, here are the winners:

    Second runner-up: B70
    First runner-up: Asics purple kneesuit
    Meet suit: Tyr Aquapel kneesuit

    (Iím also awarding Miss Congeniality to my beloved Speedo flames suit.)
  17. Fragility, and more fun with graphs

    After I graphed my best age-graded ratings in each event earlier this week, I started thinking about the time span in which I had swum those best-rated swims. Since this rating system is a way of comparing performances at different ages, graphing the number of best ratings achieved each year provides a snapshot of my masters swimming performance trajectory. Hereís how it looks:

    What has kept me back in those years where Iíve recorded zero best performances? Motivation and the other things going on in life both factor in, but flipping the graph gives a pretty good approximation of my degree of injuredness in any given year. Note to self: Stay healthy!

    Of course, thatís easier said than done, and handling injuries intelligently is probably just as important a skill as preventing them in the first place. Iím coping this week with a twingy left arm (a familiar bit of tendonitis, and a pretty minor setback in the scheme of things). Iíve had to modify my practice goals this week to reflect thatóinstead of getting in some fast FR and BK plus a few starts in preparation for my meet next Saturday, my first priority is to get my arm feeling good again. Sometimes, when I have meets looming, I struggle to avoid panicking when everything isnít going right with my body. When that happens, I just have to relax, either take a few days off or focus on the things I can do without pain, and trust that Iíve already put in plenty of good training for my upcoming swims. Since I hadnít quite reached that point last night, so I did go to team practice, and modified the workout by not doing fly and doing only BR for my sprints. Today I will take off, and then will probably swim easily by myself on Friday and see how things stand.
  18. Tuesday morning workout with team

    This morning I went to practice chanting my new mantra: ďIím a sprinteróI need my rest!Ē My teammates rolled their eyes, but I swam down a lane from my usual one and felt good with the more generous intervals. Here is what I did:

    600 warmup

    12 x 25, starting & ending mid-pool @ :30 [These were to work on IM-transition turnsówe did 4 of each type. I focused on starting slow and increasing my speed on each one within each set of 4, and on staying calm and smooth while increasing my speed.]

    12 x 75: 3 x BK/BR/FR @ 1:15; 3 x FR @ 1:10 @; 3 x FL/BK/BR @ 1:15 [More focus on smooth and efficient turns]

    4 x (50 K @ 1:15; 50 K @ 1:05; 50 K @ :55). (One of my lanemates today is a polo player, and did leg work in the deep end of our lane during this set. I high-fived him with my kick board on the slow and medium 50s. No matter how high I put my kickboard, he could always leap up and hit the top of it!)

    2 x (200 easy FR @ 3:20, 2 x 100 fast @ 1:25) [I focused on keeping the fast 100s under 1:15, and tried to keep them nearer 1:10. This set actually called for 4 rounds of 200/100/100, but during the 2nd round my left arm started feeling twingy, so I bailed on the last two rounds and warmed down, preparing to get out. It never feels great to stop in the middle of a set, but sometimes when things arenít feeling right with your body itís better to shut things down, and live to swim another day!]

    Then I noticed that all the swimmers in lane 5 had left early, so I was able to practice a few BK starts. On these, I focused on curling my thumbs (as well as my fingers) over the bar, rather than gripping it with my thumbs underneath. This helps me think about pushing downward and outward with my hands immediately on the start, rather than using them to pull myself up higher on the wall. When my first motion is a push downward, it helps me get my hands back over my head in time to enter the water with streamlined arms. Pulling myself up on the wall, on the other hand, often results in my hands arriving to their streamline late, plus I think it also increases the chances of my feet slipping down the wall. Itís funny how such a little changeóthumb wrapped over rather than underócan make such a big difference in my starts.

    I did 5 practice starts, and the last 3 of them felt goodóit seemed like I was able to preserve a lot of my momentum into the water. On my breakouts I concentrated on keeping the amplitude of my dolphin kick small, and making the kicks really quick. I did these starts on my own, so had plenty of time to set myself and think about what I wanted to do before each start. The next step is being able to do all this on a starterís timing, so Iíll ask one of my coaches to give the starting commands next time I practice BK starts.

    Then I did another quick warmdown and left practice happy. I'm coddling my arm for the rest of today in hopes that it will be up to some sprinting tomorrow.
  19. Is this what being a sprinter looks like?

    Swimmers new to masters swimming often ask me what events they should do at meets. I generally tell them some version of ďWhatever you think will be fun and challenging for you!Ē Often, though, what I think they are driving at is that age-old question: What am I really good at? What sort of swimmer am I?

    One of the great things about masters swimming is that we donít have to pigeon-hole ourselves as simply a backstroker, a distance freestyler, a breaststroker/IMer. Weíre free to swim events that weíre awful at, or that weíve never even tried. Thatís a good thingóit would get awfully boring to swim the same 3 events from now until our 90s. But I also sometimes wonder, what is it that Iím best at? I generally think of myself as a backstroker/IMer/sprinter, and oh, yeah, I like breaststroke too. But thatís a pretty mushy way to self-identify, so this past weekend I decided to turn to Chris Stevensonís nifty ratings calculator at the Virginia LSMC website for some answers.

    I put in all my top LCM and SCM performances, along with the age at which I swam them, to determine my best rating for each event. (I combined LCM and SCM in order to have a fuller set of data). I then charted those ratings with the handy graph-making tool at, and came up with the following:

    The horizontal axis lists the distances; the vertical axis is the ratings (higher is better).

    Some observations:

    1. Iím definitely a sprinter! The ratings go down as the distances go up across the board. (The one exception is the 100/200 IM, where my rating is 0.1 higher for the 200. I attribute this to not being able to swim a 100 IM LCMómy ratings are generally better in the longer pool).

    2. My ratings decline less sharply from 50 to 100 in my long-axis strokes. Is there something I can learn there to make my 100 BR and 100 FL better?

    3. Perhaps I'm a better freestyler than I give myself credit for. I generally think of it as being little better than my butterfly.

    4. Someone definitely needs to work on her fly!

    Iím looking forward to plugging in the numbers after my upcoming meets to see how my swims compare with each other, and with these rating-PRs!

    Updated November 12th, 2009 at 02:12 PM by swimsuit addict

  20. A Sunny Sunday Swim

    Practice was surprisingly crowded this morning. I think the wine tasting was so fun last night that lots of us wanted to come to workout to continue conversations that got started there. Itís always fun to see teammates outside the pool, and to have more than the few seconds between swim repeats to catch up on whatís going on in their lives.

    Hereís what I did this morning:

    600 warmup (400 swim, 200 kick)

    16 x 25 @ :30, 4 of each stroke, rev. IM order [I focused on body position on all 4 strokes]

    4 times through (2 x 100 FR @ 1:25, 4 x 50 K/S @ :55) [After the first round I swam all the 100ís as 50 FR/50 BK, and set a goal of keeping them all under 1:15. Succeeded on all but 1 of them]

    2 times through (200 IM, 100 IM, 50 BR, 100 BK, 200 FR) [These were all on fairly generous intervals. On all but the 200 FR I mentally rehearsed my technique keys for each of these events and focused on hitting them during the swims.]

    4 x (25 moderate @ :30, 25 sprint @ :40) These felt fast and good.


    A truly wondrous thing happened with about 15 minutes left in practiceósunlight shone into our pool! To comprehend how amazing this is, you have to understand that this pool, like many others in the city, is located in a basement and generally receives no natural light. There is a tiny row of thick glass tiles near the top of one wall that do connect to the outside world, but usuallyómaybe because of that wallís compass orientation, or more likely because it is blocked by nearby tall buildingsóno rays from the sun ever reach those tiles. Today, however, sunlight briefly streamed into them, and the pool was transformed. It was a beautiful sight, and gave me the energy and joy I needed to do those last two sets fast. Iíve been swimming at this pool since 1996, but I think thatís only the second or third time Iíve seen it sunlit.