View RSS Feed

All Blog Entries

  1. Sarasota Y Sharks Masters 5:30 Workout -02/02/10

    by , February 1st, 2010 at 12:26 PM (Sarasota Y Sharks Masters 5:30 a.m. Workout)
    SCY

    WARM UP:
    4 X 100 1:40
    2 X 200 3:00
    4 X 100 1:40
    8 X 50 :45

    2 X 200 kick 4:30
    6 X 50 kick*fast* 1:15

    10 X 50 1:05
    #3-6-9 @ 100%
    Choice.

    1 X 100 IM 1:50
    1 X 100 stroke 2:00
    2 X 50 stroke 1:00
    Three rounds. Break between rounds.
    Round 1: fly 2: back 3: breast

    1 X 200 free 3:00
    4 X 50 free*fast* 1:00
    Three rounds, break between rounds.

    WARM DOWN: 4 X 50 easy 1:00

    5100Y
    Categories
    Swim Workouts
  2. The Sunny Side of 150

    What joy: I'd noticed my clothes were beginning to feel a bit loose, and so weighed myself this weekend: 148 on the nose--a loss of 2.5 pounds since January 8.

    I never had problems with my weight until I moved out to New Hampshire and had to start commuting 4 hours a day (don't ask) to work. Instead of exercising an hour a day six or seven days a week, as had been my habit, I was suddenly exercising maybe one hour a week. Needless to say, my weight ballooned up from a lean 135-140 to nearly 165, more than I'd ever weighed in my life. I found this incredibly depressing and also incredibly frustrating, because I felt like there was nothing I could do about it.

    In the fall of 2006, I started losing some of that weight, mostly by accident--a few inadvertent small changes to diet and a bit more consistent exercise--and when I realized losing weight was much easier than I'd initially believed, I was motivated to shed the rest of those pounds. By the summer of 2007, I was back to 140, and feeling much more like my old self. That fall, I started taking master's swimming classes, challenging myself more physically. I also re-configured my commute, so that it takes much less time, giving me back a precious hour each day.

    This past summer and fall, some of that weight crept back on (it's amazing how quickly this happens with just the smallest changes to diet and exercise), and before I knew it, I was up to almost 155.

    So I started the whole process again, and this past weekend, I hopped on the scale and saw the "sunny side of 150" for the first time since last summer. What a relief.

    I try not to obsess about weight too much, because I think it's just psychologically unhealthy. However, when I lost all that weight in 2007, I had to replace my entire wardrobe--literally from underwear to coats--a not-insignificant investment of money, and if I gain too much weight back, I would have to spend that money all over again. So I have financial incentives to keep the weight off. After all, I need that money to purchase more swimming gear and paraphernalia.
    Categories
    Uncategorized
  3. Monday Feb 1, 2010

    I was late. I actually left my house on time but forgot that my gas gauage was on E. It had been on E and I didn't want to risk the 30+mile drive with almost no gas.

    W/U

    400 Free
    200 Kick
    200 Pull
    4 x 50 drill/build choice 1:00

    (I got all but the 50s in)

    Main-set

    5 x (3 x 50 k on 1:00, 200 free on 3:00, 4 x 25 on :30)

    I joined in on the 25s at the end of the first round and completed 3 rounds. There wasn't enough time for anyone to get five in. I did a 50 ez at the end so I ended up with about 2400 yards.

    I have been having my butt handed to me by my trainer. Lots of plyo. We've been jumping and working the core, the lats, etc. Best dryland I've had. Starting to feel like I'm actually going to be in good shape and have something to taper off of for nats!



    Monday Night:

    Hour of weights, plyos and core work. Stretched a bit after. Pushed hard and felt good. This is the best I've been about dryland ever. Hoping to see the results in the pool!

    Updated February 3rd, 2010 at 01:03 PM by FlyQueen (to add PM workout)

    Categories
    Uncategorized
  4. Not bad but not good either

    by , February 1st, 2010 at 07:24 AM (Mixing it up this year)
    This morning on the first 100 of my set I felt some pull in the muscle on back of my neck. Not enough to make me stop but enough to annoy me the rest of practice. Now it is time to work on loosening the muscle and find all the trigger points.

    10x100@2:00 Free 1/2pull 1/2kick
    500 Free kick w/fins as 200 EZ/100Mod/100EZ/100 Fast
    500 Fly kick w/fins on back every 3rd sprint
    5x100@1:30 Free w/paddles & bouy descend went 1:27, 1:25, 1:21, 1:18, 1:14
    5x100@1:40 w/paddles as 50Free/50Back went 1:29, 1:28, 1:26, 1:24, 1:21
    100 Free kick w/fins & snorkle
    100 Free swim w/fins & snorkle
    100 Free kick w/fins & snorkle
    200 Back w/fins Easy and loose

    Total 3500 yards
    Categories
    Uncategorized
  5. One Hour Swim Day

    Today I did the One-Hour Swim with Team New York Aquatics. I was in the first heat of a whole OHS extravaganza day. I ended up with 4315 yards, which was less than I’d hoped for but plenty to make me tuckered and sore. It’s a tough event, that one-hour swim.

    My strategy with coping for swimming for an hour straight is to give myself permission to do a 50 backstroke at the end of every 500. Today I ended up taking the backstroke option at the 1000, 2000, 2500, 3500, and 4000. Since I’m about as fast a backstroker as I am a distance freestyler, it doesn’t cost me much yardage but feels like such a luxury.

    After my 8am heat, I timed for my amazing friend Hannah (who took out her first 500 about as fast as I swam my 500 in last week’s meet, and then proceeded to just get stronger as the hour went on). Then for the 3rd heat I was on pom-pom duty. That was fun. (Yes, we had actual pom-poms—someone had brought an 8-pack of neon orange ones to the event. Who knew that pom-poms came in 8-packs?). However, appropriate cheers for the OHS are a bit sparse. I suggested a few:

    KEEP—THAT—PACE (clap, clap)
    KEEP—THAT—PACE (clap, clap)

    and

    (at the :40 mark)
    TWO-THIRDS DONE! (clap, clap) TWO-THIRDS DONE! (clap, clap)

    (plus similar cheers at the :45 and :50 minute mark)

    but truthfully, these were not the most compelling of chants. Does anyone have any suggestions for next year?

    Today’s swim was the first hard swimming I have done since last Sunday’s meet. I have been having problems with muscle spasms in my upper back. I’ve swum some, but easy and short. I felt lucky that once I got going today, I had no problems. I’m headed back to Florida tomorrow, so I’m hoping that some warmer weather will bring some relief.
    Categories
    Uncategorized
  6. Saturday Jan 30th 2010 hour swim

    by , January 31st, 2010 at 06:29 PM (Ande's Swimming Blog)
    Saturday Jan 30th 2010

    TODAYS SWIM PRACTICE

    scy, main pool (with blocks)
    Whitney coached
    5:30 - 7:00
    had my own lane
    swam beside tyler & brandon
    Wore B70 full

    HOUR SWIM

    Went 5270
    100 yards less than last year
    went out too hard
    didn't warm up
    tyler got 300 on me
    i was ahead of brandon for a while but couldn't hold my pace, wonder how I would have done in just a leg skin

    0050 00:28.9
    0100 01:01.6
    0200 02:07.9

    0500 05:31.6

    1000 11:12.3 5:39.7

    1500 16:53.8 5:41.5

    1650 18:34.5

    2000 22:30.5 5:36.7 11:18.2

    2500 28:10.2 5:39.7

    3000 33:57.7 5:47.5 11:27.20

    3300 37:27.8 18:53.3

    3500 39:47.0 5:49.3

    4000 45:40.8 5:53.8 11:43.1

    4500 51:24.2 5:43.4

    4950 56:31.9 19:04.1

    5000 57:06.0 5:41.8 11:25.2

    5200 59:17.4

    Updated February 1st, 2010 at 04:47 PM by ande

    Categories
    Swim Workouts
  7. POSTAL

    Well I thought I would be able to knock out 100 miles for the month of January, but I missed by a bit, completing only 92.07 with 4 no-swim days. I could have hit 100 if I had done two 3 hour sessions this weekend... instead I took off saturday so that I might have a decent hour postal today.
    My goal was 5000, 125 yds better than my best a couple of years ago. Last year, I swam the hour a couple of weeks post-op and stopped after 4500 with a minute or two left on the clock.

    5000 yds/hr = 1:12/100 yd pace

    Here's my breakdown:
    @100 - 1:06.32
    @200 - 2:17.01
    @500 - 5:48.27
    @1000 -11:40.72
    @1650 -19:16.89
    @2000 -23:25.27
    @3000 -35:21.10
    @4000 -47.22.33
    @5000 -59.27.68
    5047 total
    Categories
    Uncategorized
  8. Yoga w/Jazzy + Swim, Sunday, Jan. 31

    by , January 31st, 2010 at 05:15 PM (The FAF AFAP Digest)
    Bikram Yoga, 90 minutes:

    I hate to make poor Geekity's weekend worse, but it's time for him to PAY UP on his wager. Today, Jazz and I ventured to the Reston/Lameton bikram yoga studio for 90 minutes of exercise. Geek had stated that Jazz could not/would not do 90 minutes of any form of exercising (much less hot yoga). Since he did, and did it very well, Geek will now be forced to ... drum roll ... swim a naked 200 fly.

    Jazzy did much better than I did my first time in this class. He didn't attempt to run from the room after an hour due to heat overexposure. In fact, he said the heat wasn't unduly bothersome. This studio, I will say, is less hot than the Falls Church studio. Probably more like 105 degrees than 110. Hopefully, Jazz will post his thoughts later today. It's hard to love hot yoga the first time, as it's so difficult. (In fact, FlyQueen absolutely hated it.)

    We discussed briefly whether the balancing series would be beneficial for swimming. I thought it would be as balance and core strength seem important for swimming. Jazz wasn't sure. He thought swimmers should naturally be good at the balance postures, and felt he wasn't that good. However, he did vastly better than most people I've seen attempting them for the first time. There were plenty of chicks in yogakinis and a lack of dirty hippies as well.

    See photo below of Jazz sweating with a rack of yogakinis in the background. Too bad that Speedo didn't join us and get a lavander scented towel.

    Later today, my children were all hanging with their friends and Mr. Fort was working, so I headed to the pool and did the following:

    Swim/SCY/Solo:

    Warm up:

    700 various

    Hypoxic Kick Set:

    40 x 25 dolphin kick w/MF @ :30, continuous

    1-10 = left side
    11-20 = twirling
    21-30 = right side
    31-40 = back

    Tried to work both sides of the kick.

    50 EZ

    Main Set:

    4 x (100 easy speed fly w/fins + 50 EZ) @ 3:00
    (7 SDKs off each wall, worked on holding top half of body still, went 1:03ish)

    100 EZ

    2 x (2 x 50 dolphin kick w/board @ 90% @ 1:00 + 50 EZ)

    100 EZ

    4 x (25 fast free + 25 EZ)

    100 EZ

    Drills:

    6 minutes of vertical kicking
    odds = breast kick
    evens = dolphin

    4 x 50 breast pull w/pull buoy

    50 EZ

    Total: 3400 +VK

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Commentary:

    My legs felt strong on the hypoxic set. But after that, and likely as a result of yoga too, they were pretty shot the rest of the workout.

    Looking back at my week, I did yoga 5x (WTH?!), swimming 4x (approx. 15,000), drylands 3x and a quick spin. I haven't had a day off since Jan. 16 when I tooled around Northwestern and Chicago. I'm going to try to train hard the next week and then have a recovery type week before my meet in Richmond on Feb. 13-14.

    My speed felt off on the 25s today. I think I'm going to have a 10 x 25 AFAP day this week.

    Now it's off to dinner with friends. I'll be sleeping in tomorrow as there still is no school (end of semester).

    Updated January 31st, 2010 at 05:35 PM by The Fortress

    Categories
    Swim Workouts , Yoga
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

Name:	IMG_0522.jpg 
Views:	275 
Size:	171.3 KB 
ID:	6331  
  9. Sunday Morning :)

    by , January 31st, 2010 at 04:46 PM (Swimming, Life, and Other Stuff!)
    Swimming with Nasti's this morning!
    I was weary today. I was expecting to feel this way since I swam hard (but short) yesterday. It was an easy workout so I tried to think technique and plodded through.

    **600 freestyle swim warm-up build
    **4 X 100 Free on 1:45
    **2 X 200 on 3:30 both free
    **1 X 250 on 4:15, Break and rest :10 sec each 50.
    **2 X 150 on 3:00 Stroke (I did backstroke)
    **1 X 200 Free on 4:00, Break and rest :10 each 50.
    **200 Freestyle Hard (2:55 )
    **6 X 50 Kick on 1:00 with fins.
    **150 cool-down (100 backstroke/50 1 arm fly drill)
    2,800 scy

    Had a good brunch afterwards then retired to the basement to work. I am currently on break with a glass of chard. I am going back down shortly. I'm going to have a cool basement workout area! (It's going to take a while though. My helper (the tech man) is dragging his feet this afternoon!
    Categories
    Uncategorized
  10. 1/31/201 Swim Meet Aftermath

    by , January 31st, 2010 at 02:45 PM (The Labours of SwimStud)
    Well got up and swam at a local meet in a YMCA pool today. Had a couple of good swims, 2 okays, and one complete waste of effort!

    So what went right?
    200 BR and 50 BR. I had a couple of good swims here although not PB's for January it was a fair result.

    200 BR:
    :40.09
    1:25.00 (44.91)
    2:09.83 (44.83)
    2:53.01 (43.18)
    Looks like I got a good set of splits and a not too shabby time for this time of year. YOY is a smidge better from 2:54.5!

    50 BR:

    :33.99
    Going sub :34 in January is good news--closest YOY compare I have is :34.21 from SCY Zones 09! I jammed my damn finger on the finish, but someone said that's how you know you swam hard!

    50 FR:
    :28.37
    YOY I came down from :28.67 and this was 5 heats after my 200 BR. I am OK with this time when I factor that in.

    100 FR:
    1:03.99 (didn't write splits prob :29 & :34)
    Feels like a bad swim when looked at but YOY again down from 1:04.7, I also got spooked on turn #3 and thought I was at the turn but I was a yard shy and so kicked in with arms by my side...probably worth .5-1 sec with momentum loss.

    "THE DISASTER"
    50 FL:33.99
    Well I've been trying to change my stroke and I think I got too hooked on trying to get that going that I left my kick behind. Was told I was using a really short stroke too, and my hips were dragging.
    Add to that I got lost at the wall and should have glided (but I wasn't kicking) and did a half stoke and really ugly turn...I just wanna forget about it.
    See the below thumbnail for the ominous lane designation that I spotted before the 50 FLY!

    So not bad, especially when you consider the event order 200 BR, 50 FR Back to back, 50 BR not more than 5 mins later. Then 50 FL and 100 FR later in the meet when more tired...I guess after 3years I am not going to PB every time but I got a couple of solid swims some really nice comments from spectators on my 2 BR, which from my swimming POV felt really great and probably a tiny bit too easy...so I'm looking forward to next time.

    Updated January 31st, 2010 at 05:35 PM by SwimStud

    Categories
    Uncategorized
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

Name:	FLY Omen.jpg 
Views:	170 
Size:	38.8 KB 
ID:	6332  
  11. Sarasota Y Sharks Masters: 5:30 AM Workout

    by , January 31st, 2010 at 11:09 AM (Sarasota Y Sharks Masters 5:30 a.m. Workout)
    SCY

    WARM UP:
    3 X 200 3:20
    4 X 150 2:30
    5 X 100 1:30

    2 X 200 kick 4:30
    3 X 100 kick 2:15
    6 X 50 kick*fast* 1:15

    1 X 100 easy
    8 X 25 fast :40
    Swim it three times, short break between rounds.
    All choice.

    1 X 200 3:00
    4 X 100
    Three times through.
    100's: Round 1: 1:30 Round 2: 1:25 Round 3: 1:20

    WARM DOWN: 4 X 50 easy 1:00

    5600Y
    Categories
    Swim Workouts
  12. Saturday Run Around Day

    by , January 30th, 2010 at 11:09 PM (Swimming, Life, and Other Stuff!)
    I missed my 7:00 a.m. wake-up call so I didn't swim with my new group at Monon. I ended up going to Nasti's at 10:00 a.m. for a totally delightful swim. The swim was short but I hammered the 100's and felt great! I have been working hard on my Freestyle Catch and I am feeling steady progress. I think my kicking is getting better too. I caught myself accidently kicking hard today without thinking about it. I always assumed my toes were pointed and streamlined; I don't think they were. I've been working on that and its seemed to help the whole kick.

    Yesterday's chiro was a little better than last week. The 5 a.m. workout before work helped a little. I did the stretches in the new "Swimmer" mag throughout the day leading up to the appointment and tried not to get too anxious about it. My chiropractor is amazed at the knots between my shoulders and neck. She advised Grass-teck(???) treatments before my next cracking. My insurance covers it so I said "sure ."

    I hung out with my eldest daughter today. I think she is feeling more "empty nested" than me. Losing her 2 sibs to college out of state has been rough on her!
    We did a little shopping, visited the always amazing Indianapolis Children's Museum, and started cleaning out my basement. My goal is to make the basement a really nice workout area with a big flat screen for a focal point. We already have some great equipment down there; the only problem is it's such a pit I hate the atmosphere!

    Todays workout:

    *400 Free Warm-up Swim
    *5 X 100 Free on 1:55 (Averaged 1:22's)
    *150 recovery swim (backstroke)
    *4 X 100 Free on 1:50 int. (Averaged 1:22's)
    *150 recovery swim (backstroke)
    *3 X 100 Free on 1:45 int (averaged 1:24's)
    *150 recovery swim (backstroke)
    *2 X 100 Free on 1:40 int (averaged 1:25's)
    *150 recovery swim
    *6 X 50 on 1:00
    *300 cool-down swim (3 reverse 100 IM's)
    Categories
    Uncategorized
  13. 18.76 Miles!

    Swam a nice 2600 on my own today, bringing my January total to 18.76 miles. Wow! It's amazing the perspective you get when you keep track of everything with a FLOG.

    Even the flip turns worked better today. I also worked on some open turns, did a lot of kicking, and worked on the timing of my breaststroke. It's not too bad, considering I have twenty years' worth of bad habits to correct.

    Total workout came to about two hours, though 15-20 minutes of that was flip turn drills. The freestyle turn is pretty good... the backstroke turn, not so much. I did realize that if I want to work on any specific skill, I need to make that a priority at the start of the workout and not wait until my legs are dead from kicking. LOL!
    Categories
    Swim Workouts
  14. Saturday, 1/30/10

    by , January 30th, 2010 at 06:33 PM (A comfort swimmer's guide to easy swimming)
    SCY, Solo

    Swim 600 mix strokes
    Kick 200
    8 x 50 on 1:00 alt. drill/build by 25
    (did 3 free, 3 back , and 1 each fly and breast)

    2 minutes rest
    50 fly fast off blocks
    (went ±32,)
    50 easy free

    300 swim back smooth
    kick 6 x 50 w/10 sec. rest, descend 1-3 to 80%, 4-6 to about 85%
    (kicked on back)

    2 minutes rest
    50 back fast off blocks
    (went ±37, calves cramped on push and didn't kick the 1st 25)
    50 easy free

    pull 6 x 100 free, smooth w/paddles & buoy, 1-3 on 1:50, 4-6 on 1:30
    swim 6 x 50 on 1:00 descend 1-3, 4-6 to about 85%
    (did 1-3 free, 4-6 back)

    2 min. rest.
    50 free fast off blocks
    (went ±30)
    50 easy free

    swim down 300 nice and easy
    --
    Total: 3300 yards

    Ran 25 minutes, including walk to warmup and cool down, 2.3 miles.
    Categories
    Uncategorized
  15. Stretch & Core, Sat. Jan. 30

    by , January 30th, 2010 at 04:41 PM (The FAF AFAP Digest)
    We're getting a quasi snow storm here. It's still coming down and everything, including the high school districts swim meet finals, is cancelled. I decided to keep working on my stretching (my only new years resolution) and do some core work at home.

    Power Yoga, Rodney Lee

    I popped in this 60 minute DVD. It was pretty good, perhaps a few too many downward dogs for my taste, but worthwhile. I have a suspicion that the DDs may stretch the shoulders too much, consistent with the recent article in Swimmer magazine.

    I liked the Bryan Kest DVD better. I wish there were more Bryan Kest power yoga DVDs, but he seems to have his more recent advanced routines, which are even less vinyasa focused, on CD. I likewise liked the P90X yoga DVD better than this one. And I still like bikram better than all of them!

    P90X Core Synergistics:

    I popped in this 60 minute DVD later in the day with the following exercises: http://stanford.wellsphere.com/exerc...ergistics/9917. I substituted the power wheel for a few plank-related exercises and skipped the last 10 minutes of stretching.

    Commentary:

    I'm actually enjoying doing the yoga DVDs at home. I feel like I get in a LOT of stretching I wouldn't otherwise do on my own, along with some further core strengthening. If I can keep this up, it will be interesting to see how/if it transfers to the water.

    Now, I'm hoping the Reston/Lameton bikram studio will, in fact, be open tomorrow for my session with Jazzy.

    Updated January 30th, 2010 at 09:13 PM by The Fortress

    Categories
    Strength Training and Dryland Workouts , Yoga
  16. Saturday with the girls

    by , January 30th, 2010 at 02:18 PM (Mixing it up this year)
    The pool opened late, then we found out it will be closed for repairs starting Wednesday. Hopefully it will only be 1 week but just before the kids have championships is not good. Now I am trying to find a place for them to swim for a week.

    We did our usual workout and of course I did a little extra.

    1000 as 200 swim/pull/swim/kick/swim
    500 Free kick every 3rd fast w/fins
    500 easy drills
    40x25 as 10 drills of each stroke

    Total 3000 yards
    Categories
    Uncategorized
  17. OW!!!

    by , January 30th, 2010 at 12:29 PM (The Labours of SwimStud)
    Tight tight tight!

    Did 1800 yesterday that's about it.
    Meet tomorrow
    200 BR
    50 FR
    50 BR
    50 FL
    100 FR
    Categories
    Uncategorized
  18. Manifesto of Rattus Jimicus

    by , January 29th, 2010 at 11:54 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    I spent an hour and a half today summarizing my recent attempts to find some health insurance option that will not cause us to lose our house.

    The result is 4,280 words on the rat trap in which I find myself--4,280 words that I don't think I could have even cajoled my mother into reading, let alone people with no blood bonds. Nevertheless, there was a bit of catharsis in getting my attempts for extrication down on the page.

    Those of you who have been following the healthcare insurance poll that I started on the non-swimming related forum might have a sense of where I come down on this. [ame="http://forums.usms.org/showthread.php?t=15971"]Poll on Health Insurance Cost - U.S. Masters Swimming Discussion Forums[/ame]

    I know I cannot persuade anybody to change his or her mind one way or the other on what I see as a profoundly undemocratic cruelty that comes from pinning health insurance status to the vagaries of employment. Those who already think it is unjust will not think it any more unjust because of what is happening to our family; those who think it's reasonable the way things are now are not going to be moved to change their opinion because of our suffering; and the vast majority, I suspect, don't want to think about it one way or the other.

    In any event, I am posting today's summary, all 4,280 words of it, albeit in the tiniest type size the blogging software will allow.

    If you have any interest in reading it, I recommend you select the whole passage, copy it, and paste it into your word processor, and then increase the font size into something you can actually see.

    But I have no delusions that anyone will, in fact, be interested in reading it!

    If I were not going broke from paying so much for premiums--and having nothing fundamentally wrong with anybody in our family, healthwise--I doubt I would read it.

    But the option, at least, is there.

    Here, in cartoon form, is the condensed version:




    At this point, I shall paste in this year's summary:

    ____________________________________________

    Health care update, Friday, Jan. 29, 2010

    Preamble to most recent chronology

    Every year or two, when the headache from the previous year's healthcare investigations has abated, I once again look for some sort of exit from the rat trap of American Health Insurance for Self-Employed People Who Have Made the Mistake of ever taking any kind of prescription medication or ever receiving treatment for any kind of condition.

    Very quickly, I find myself ensnared in the mind-numbing "head's I win; tail's you lose" bureaucratic minutiae rigged for the endless benefit of those who profit from our system.

    Writing about this, I know, is a lost cause--in large part because it is hard to conceive of a more boring topic, nor one less likely to attract the attention let alone empathy of the vast majority of my fellow citizens who are not yet being so overtly screwed.

    Nevertheless, I cannot help myself from jotting down this year's exercise in head-bashing. The rat trap, alas, for the most part holds; I have found some possible crannies that represent possible exit points, provided I gnaw away feverishly and indefatigably enough. However, even if I do manage to get out, it is almost impossible to spy from inside what lies on the other side.

    I am expiring slowly within the trap, but are these possible exits--if they are, indeed, real and not an illusion--booby-trapped with guillotines? The question from the start remains the same: which is better--death by the installment plan, or a more sudden and catastrophic demise?

    1. BCBS of Minnesota

    On Monday, I decided to look for other options because we are running out of money with the status quo. Insurance premiums last year: $20,500, add in out of pocket costs and it goes up to nearly $24,000. My gross writing income was less than $65,000 before expenses. We also pay $25,000 on property taxes. Bottom line: unsustainable.

    My first step was to call BC/BS of MN to find out what we have and if any of the terms can be altered in any way to make it more affordable. For $1711.50 a month, the four of us have $500 deductible each, with a total family deductible of $1500 after which the company pays 80 percent up to $5000, then a lifetime cap of $5 million, no annual cap.

    Ben and Jack can stay on the plan till they are 25 unless they get married.

    At the outset, I was told that I was on a recorded line. I told the customer service rep I was recording the call, too; she said that was okay.

    She said that because we no longer live in MN, we can't change anything, but that we can do an interplan transfer to Western PA's BCBS affiliate, Highmark, and get something vaguely similar to what we have now, and then change the terms once we are in with the new company.

    She said they could initiate the interplan transfer from MN.
    ŸTo do this, we would need to send a request in writing with our address, id #, date when the new policy is effective, and our request to cancel the MN plan; sign and date and mail to BCBS of MN PO Box 64024, attn: Interplan Transfer, St. Paul, MN 55164. Or we could fax the letter to 651 662 6606.

    At this point, I asked if BCBS of MN has any kind of in-house charitable foundation that might be able to help us. No.

    At this point, I asked how they calculate our $1711.50 monthly payment. On insurance wallet cards the company sends out yearly, we do have a "group" number, but it turns out this is not the same kind of "group" enjoyed by those receiving "group insurance" and its manifold legal protections. The lady rep was not able to articulate in a way I could understand answers to my questions about the nature of this odd non-group "group" we are in, or whether we are, in fact, caught in a death spiral.

    I then asked her about something I'd read someplace that insurance companies are regulated by law to give out in benefits some fixed minimum percentage of what they take in in premiums. I thought that for our plan, this percentage was somewhere around 74 percent. She maintained it was closer to 92 percent. I said that we paid $20,500 in premiums last year, and I was certain we did not get back 92 percent of this in benefits ($18,860) or even 74 percent ($15,170). She said that this is not how insurance works, that our risk is spread out over a bunch of people.

    This, of course, made me return to my earlier question about who my fellow "group" members are, that is to say, who else is sharing this risk with me.

    She didn't know and offered to give me the number of the State of Minnesota Insurance Commissioner: 651 296 6025.

    I was, at this point, becoming testy.

    I asked to speak to her supervisor.

    She said no. I reminded her again that just as they were taping me, I was taping her. I reiterated my question more forcefully. "You are saying that I am legally prohibited from talking to your supervisor?"

    She said that's not how it works, that the supervisor would not know the answers to my questions either, and that she wouldn't switch me to the supervisor to just ask the same questions.

    I told her that I paid her company $20,500 last year and that I felt I had a right to know where the money went. I reiterated my point--"So you are saying I have no legal right to talk to your supervisor? You don't know what I am going to ask her. I might ask her different questions than I have asked you."


    The customer service lady, who by now had been on the phone with me for 27 minutes, was getting testy herself. She put me on hold.

    The supervisor answered several minutes later and was actually very kind. It crossed my mind that perhaps the company has hired soothing female psychologists with affable voices to calm down irascible hot heads like me. It crossed my mind that I am becoming increasingly paranoid about the machinations of AHIP. The supervisor reiterated that she did not know how my family's individual rate was calculated, but that it was true that I could not change any of the terms of the policy, that it was, indeed, a "take it or leave it" proposition because we are no longer residents of MN.

    Note: I took out the policy in 1984 in St. Paul, where we lived for the next 11 years. Then we moved to PA in 1995, where a Highmark employee told us, in error in retrospect, that we could not do an interplan transfer and would have to apply for the prohibitively expensive high risk pool. We kept our MN insurance because, thanks to this false advice, we thought we had no other option.

    I told the supervisor now that if we had to let our BCBS of MN policy lapse, we would not be able to be medically underwritten for a new policy because of preexisting conditions, i.e., the use of statin drugs and antidepressants by both my wife and me. She expressed her sympathy and thought that interplan transfer might at least provide some more options. In her soothing voice, she wished me well. Then gently slammed the rat trap shut.

    2. Dan Williams, Minnesota Health Insurance Broker

    My next call was to a Minneapolis-based broker recommended by my Minnesota friends, Eric Hanson and Faith Adams. They are both self-employed--he's an artist, she's a writer--and have two children. Both Eric and his son have a pernicious form of genetic arthritis that makes it impossible for them to get coverage through private insurance. Faith and their daughter have no such preexisting black marks on their health resumes. Their broker, Dan Williams, was able to get the males covered by an affordable (though far from ideal) state-subsidized program; and the females an affordable policy through BCBS of MN.

    Dan answered my call on the first ring. I identified myself, outlined my predicament, and he immediately said that he thought that we could, in fact, alter the terms of our plan, even though we were out of state. He offered to call BCBS of MN for me, using a special broker line, and get back to me. Five minutes later, he called back with the bad news: I was right--we can't change the terms.

    Then he suggested that what we could do is take our sons off the policy. Neither has any pre-existing conditions and thus could qualify for their own much cheaper policies. He then suggested that my wife and I consider whether either or both of us should make the interplan transfer. I told him that I didn't think we were allowed to change who was on the policy, that BCBS of MN had made it clear over the years that no changes whatsoever are allowed. Dan said that he was sure we could drop individuals from the policy and said he would call back on the agent line to make sure.

    Five minutes later, he called to say that we could, indeed, remove any of us from the policy and that whoever remained on it would still get his or her current coverage for their share of the premium amount. This is the first time anyone had ever explained that the $1711.50 per month is actually being broken down into individual amounts per person. Dan said that we are currently paying this:

    Jim, age 57, nonsmoker: $689 per month
    Debbie, age 52, nonsmoker: $548.50 per month
    Ben, age 21, nonsmoker: $237 per month
    Jack, age 21, nonsmoker: $237 per month
    Total: $1711.50 a month

    Just learning this fact, which no one at BCBS of MN had even hinted at over the years, was highly eye-opening. My kids almost never go to the doctor except for sports physicals, and have been this way for years. I almost never go the doctor either unless a visit is required to get a prescription refill (I went nine years getting refills by phone till my doctor finally insisted I have to come in and see him). Debbie goes to doctors more often, but usually just for Pap smears, mammograms, and the like that are so often recommended. Our coverage, of course, doesn't include dental or vision. So we have been paying $5,688 a year for our sons, who basically don't use any of it.

    Dan recommended looking at our interplan transfer options in PA and see if the entire family should switch, or that we might be better off with some sort of mix-and-match strategy of some of us transferring and some of us not. He said that since both sons are healthy with no preexisting conditions, we should at the very least get them their own policies.

    Again, I can't tell you how irksome it is to discover that we have always had the legal right to peel the boys off our family policy and save money this way. After being on the phone earlier with BCBS of MN for nearly an hour, neither the first customer service rep nor her supervisor every mentioned this possibility. It was only through a recommended broker's assistance that I know of this option now.

    I thanked Dan and asked him if he could become our "agent of record." He said he would do this to help with the interplan transfer, should we elect to do this, but once transferred, he would not be able to represent us in the PA.

    3. Miscellaneous advice gleaned from miscellaneous parties

    I started a poll/thread on health insurance costs at the United States Masters Swimming web site. No doubt in large part because of my own frustrations, this eventually devolved into a bit of a political shouting match, with the Ayn Rand free marketeers taking the Republican "kill this abomination" approach to Obama's reform, and those who have been injured by the system siding with me--i.e., the system has to be fixed.

    Based on 65 or so respondents to my poll, less than 5 percent of us pay over $1500 a month. About 86 percent pay less than $1,000; 70 percent pay less than $500; and 19 percent pay less than $100. Very few of my swimming peers, in other words, are getting screwed in the kind of obvious way that imperils their ability to, say, hold onto their house. I can definitely understand how some of those in a better position might feel some lip service sympathy for my plight, perhaps even genuine compassion for those much worse off (i.e., unable to get insurance at all), but would rather not spend as much time on the subject as I have been spending of late!


    Some of the more obnoxious bits of advice I have received are: to move to another state with better insurance laws; get a job at Starbuck or similar corporate setting that provides health insurance benefits (this in the middle of the worst recession in our lifetimes, when there is one job opening for every six people looking); and to try to get an association policy--as if this latter had never occurred to me. (What most people don't seem to understand is that associations are not companies.

    The way our system is based, group coverage is dependent on working for a company that chooses to provide insurance to its workforce. It is illegal to form any other kind of group "for the purposes of obtaining group health insurance." What associations usually offer are HSA plans with huge deductibles, but which nevertheless still require medical underwriting. Because of the huge deductible, the underwriting requirements may be looser, but they are still there. And even with this, you still pay huge amounts for, at best, uncertain coverage.

    When I talked to one company, for instance, that insures free lance writers, I learned that for $864 a month, my family might qualify for a $10,000 deductible policy with all sorts of limitations. It's a big might, however, because my wife and I both take statin drugs and antidepressants prophylactically--that is to say, to reduce the risk of heart problems and to keep emotional problems at bay.


    Why preventive medicine should be held against us, I can't pretend to understand. And even though this association policy seemed to me far from ideal (and far from certain we could qualify), I was set to apply anyhow. This is when yet another broker told me she stopped recommending this company after they approved one of her clients and then rescinded him a year later when he got cancer.

    Sometimes you just want to scream to people who have not had to do this: There is no simple solution to this mess. If there was, people would know about it, and everyone in this boat would not have to spend half their lives researching options.

    My swimming friend Loren H. has an insurance agency in Hollidaysburg, PA, which is in a different BCBS zone of Pennsylvania from us (it is like the Balkan states here). Nevertheless, at a recent meet he told me a couple things of note. First, as long as you pay $10 a month towards a hospital bill, no matter how gargantuan this may be, they are legally barred from siccing the credit agencies and debt collectors on you. Once you die, the debt goes away. They cannot go after your house, and they cannot go after you retirement money. He didn't know if they could go after other assets such as other rental or commercial real estate. I will have to look into incorporation to protect this. To be honest, Jim Thornton the "person" is pretty much at the end of his useful life. Jim Thornton, Inc., on the other hand, can't wait to begin enjoying whatever new advantages our Supreme Court has decreed we deserve.

    Loren also advised adding a $1 million hospitalization rider on our auto insurance. This would help pay in the event we were injured in a car wreck. This sounds like health insurance, but it's actually a form of accident insurance. One of the most likely ways any of us are to suffer catastrophic health problems, he says, is through vehicular misadventure of one sort or another.

    So I called up my car insurance agent, and she told me that to add this would cost $140 extra a year for all four of us. She was pretty sure it also would cover us in the event that we were injured as pedestrians. I said, "What if I am driving along and have a heart attack that causes me to crash?" She said she didn't know. I suggested that I could try to claim later that I had the heart attack as a result of crashing, not vice versa. It would be hard to disprove, I'd imagine. Then again, that's why insurance companies have young lawyers that can delay things till you're dead.

    (It turns out, alas, that my trips on my beloved Honda Metropolitan gas-sipping motor scooter are not covered. I will have to drive more carefully in the future. Risk homeostasis: factor this newly discovered factoid into long term memory.)

    I next emailed Alan Katz, a health insurance broker in California and author of the Alan Katz Health Care Reform Blog: Reform From One Agent's Perspective. I made Alan's acquaintance while researching an article on health insurance for the self-employed and quickly became a great fan of his blog. Many if not most of his readers are fellow brokers who appear rabidly against any form of reform that reduce their own professional role as Cumaen Sybils who understand how to navigate through our broken system. I have nothing but respect for these navigators; on the other hand, I find their generally anti-reform stance at times self-serving. If the system were fixed, their navigational prowess will not be so useful anymore. This doesn't seem to me, at least, a good reason to keep the system broken. I am sure the Buggy Whip Manufacturers Guild was not all that eager to see cars invented. But enough. Here is the recent correspondence with Alan:

    Hi, Alan,

    Jim Thornton here, your great admirer who happens to be also a victim of the current healthcare insurance status quo.

    First of all, I apologize if some of my recent postings on your always excellent blog have been a bit heated lately. I just find myself so steamed by the slavish allegiance of certain right wingers to “the market can do no wrong” ideology. Many of your readers, I suspect, are Republican brokers who face a double whammy if any meaningful reform ever passes. I suspect they fear the potential for losing income if the current system ever becomes understandable by the average person.

    I have two masters degrees, and I have spent much of the past three days doing little more than researching my options. I know my situation is complicated, but it seems odd that you have to be on the phone for 45 minutes with a health insurance representative before they tell you info that is actually usable.

    I could go on ad nauseam regarding the details here, but with the held of a broker in MN, I began to discover some of my options that my current insurer never mentioned, let alone explained.

    Anyhow, we are looking to do an interplan transfer to PA, where we now live. Alas, the very helpful MN broker can’t help us in PA. I am wondering if you know anybody who you trust in the Pittsburgh area that would be able to help us weigh our bewilderingly complex array of options.

    Thanks so much, and keep up the great, great blog. You might not enjoy this comparison, but your unflappability in discussing this topic does remind me a little of President Obama, who seems to be able to keep a cool head despite whatever criticism is heaped upon him. Some Democrats don’t like this. I think that civility is the only chance we have, even if I am unable to muster it myself.

    --Jim

    James:

    First, I enjoy your posts to the blog, even when they’re heated. You bring a refreshing honesty and passion to the blog along with an absolutely critical perspective: someone who is getting screwed by the status quo. So thank you.

    Second, thanks for the kind words about the blog – and I’m delighted it reminds you of the president’s style. I think he blundered, but I’m still a supporter and glad that he’s there. So I take your words as high praise.

    Third, I unfortunately don’t know any brokers in Pittsburg (sic) very well. My advice is to check out the NAHU membership list and search for a member in your area (I don’t even know the names of the suburbs of Pittsburg (sic), so I can’t narrow the search down below the Pennsylvania level. You’ll have an easy time of it).

    Then check their web sites and see how you feel about them.

    The other way to find an agent is to ask friends if they know a broker they trust.

    A third way is to call eHealth – they have brokers who should know both MN and PA. The operative word being “should.”

    Local, independent brokers are usually far superior than those in a call center.

    Sorry I can’t be of more help with this one. Now, if it was someone in California ….

    Good luck, and again, thanks,

    --Alan

    4. Highmark BCBS of Western PA

    At this point, I would like to find a reputable broker in our area to provide advice on what to do. The MN plan is set to change rates in April. It is possible our rates won't go up; it is even possible they will go down. However, neither such scenario has occurred since I first bought that policy in 1984. From the beginning of 2006 to today, it has gone up from about $950 per month to over $1,700. I would not be surprised if the next rate increase takes it to $1,800 per month or more by April. If not this year, soon, we absolutely will not be able to pay.

    I called up Highmark to see my options through the guaranteed interplan transfer, where we would not be subject to underwriting. The choices are bewildering, but the bottom line here is something called PPO Blue. For $1200 deductible, Debbie and I could get this for $582.15 each per month. (Note: this is less than the $689 I currently pay MN, but more than the $548.50 Debbie currently pays MN. The new deductible goes up from $500 to $1200--a terrible deal for Debbie, and a debatable deal for me. Our kids would probably be able to qualify for their own separate high deductible policies at around $68 each, much better than their current $237 if they don't need to use it--which, so far, they haven't.) Debbie and I could further reduce our monthly rate by increasing the deductible to a maximum of $3500 per person. This would cut our monthly premiums to $494.45 per person. (Note: our current policy lets each individual exhaust his or her own deductible, then the 80/20 coverage kicks in for that person up to $5,000, at which point the insurer pays for everything. Looking at the fine print of the "comparable" Highmark plan, however, I see that the whole family deductible must be met before any individual starts getting the 80/20 coverage. This is one of the many hard-to-understand and not-immediately-obvious fine print aspects that make an apples-to-apples comparison very difficult for us laymen to undertake. Moreover, it just seems sneaky and underhanded to bury this significant difference in the fine print.)

    On the positive side, the above Highmark plans are HSA-eligible, which allows you to contribute pre-tax dollars. The problem with this is there is only so much blood you can squeeze from a turnip. We are living, in part, off a home equity loan now; to borrow more money to contribute to an HSA seems of dubious value somehow. Moreover, we can deduct our premiums now; reducing the premiums (albeit slightly) would mean less deductions, since we cannot deduct out of pocket costs. All this seems of marginal benefit to someone who is not terribly well-heeled at this stage of life, and trying to put two kids through college and save for retirement.

    The Highmark agent then mentioned a state-subsidized plan based on income and called AdultBasic. The problems with this are: you must be without health insurance for 90 days (I was imagining myself spending the next three months in bubble wrap); your income has to pretty low; the waiting list is over two years long. However, if you qualify, you can pay the full cost of this insurance while on the waiting list. For a family of 3 (my older son is now 21 and can't qualify), the cost is about $380 or so per month. If you ever actually get on it, it's $37 per month. I asked how much income we could make and still qualify. He said for a family of three, the limit is now $36,620. I asked how they determine income--is it gross adjusted, or something else? He didn't know.

    I called the state office for AdultBasic in Harrisburg, PA and learned that income is what appears on line 37 of your tax statement.

    I called my accountant to find out what our line 37 was last year: $41,463. This year, my gross writing income is down by a little over $30,000, so it looks almost certain we will qualify. However, even if we didn't, it is clearly in my self interest to earn less to qualify for state assistance.

    I called back Highmark and they told me about another state-assisted plan through Highmark itself. This one is called SpecialCare. The new rep told me that he thought we would be able to qualify for it, and that he thought (but was not absolutely certain) we would neither need to be uninsured for 90 days first, nor have a year where no preexisting conditions would be covered (despite the fact that Highmark's promotional literature lists both these as likely.) The rep explained that we would have to do the interplan transfer first, then switch to SpecialCare once underneath the Highmark umbrella.

    The good news here is that my wife, younger son, and I would have to pay only $368.50 a month (I think this is for the three of us; Jack might be more). Our other son, who is over 19, would not qualify, so we'd still have to get him his own policy. Once Jack turns 19, he too would have to get his own policy.

    The bad news is the policy doesn't cover very much. We get 4 doctor visits a year max, but only if we are injured or sick. We can go to the ER. Debbie gets a pap smear and mammogram once a year. We get a vision exam once every two years. No other preventive visits are included. We get up to $1000 for diagnostic services per year. We get 21 days of hospital coverage. After 90 days, this resets and we can go in for another 21 days. Nothing else is covered, so we would have to go on all generics and/or make occasional trips to Canada.

    As of now, this seems like the best of a bad situation. I do, however, have a number of questions, and the Highmark reps and their literature seem to be saying different things. Do we have to go 90 days without coverage to qualify? If we get on SpecialCare and later our income goes up above the maximum allowed, can we switch to some plan within Highmark that does not require underwriting? Could we, in other words, go to the PPO Blue described above? If one of us did need to be hospitalized, say because of a coma, what happens after 21 days? Can the hospital administrators legally force us to stay in till we have been bled dry financially? Or could I put in writing somewhere right now that the nanosecond my 21 days are up, I demand to be taken to the curb and deposited thereupon to die with dignity and not one more cent being siphoned out of my brain-dead (though still arguably animated) corpus?

    Ah, American healthcare! Legal to charge your estate for $10 aspirin; illegal to commit suicide (or have someone aid you in this direction if you are no longer able to accomplish it on your own)!

    Assuming we do qualify for SpecialCare, as spotty as the coverage may be, and assuming the hospital and doctors of the world cannot keep us incarcerated once coverage runs out, what should we do?

    Updated February 2nd, 2010 at 11:44 PM by jim thornton

    Categories
    Uncategorized
  19. One Day To Go

    by , January 29th, 2010 at 11:31 PM (Meet Director's Path to Tranquility)
    Problem #1
    A record number of swimmers have entered the meet. The deadline was Monday, but 14 entires arrived Tuesday and Wednesday. Five other swimmers tried to enter late. Some got in, some are pre-registered as deck entries since entries were received after the seeding and meet program were printed. Did I state that late entries were not a problem? In total, 19 swimmers entered after the deadline, bringing the total to 189 swimmers.

    In addition, two swimmers were left out because their entries were never received. I am trying to get them in. Since there are always no-shows, I am hoping these two will be able to swim the events they want (along with using deck entries for some of their choices). This means real time juggling things around during the meet.

    Problem #2
    The weather is another problem this year. 2-4 inches of snow are predicted for Saturday ending Saturday night. Deja vu all over again. Fortunately, this storm is bringing cold dry fluffy snow (no ice), and should easily be removed.

    We received a note that one swimmer is staying home. The storm could drop up to 12-inches of snow and some ice south of our area, where he was coming from. There are another 6-12 swimmers coming from points south, and I expect many will not make it.

    The weather issue and forecast was posted on our web site meet page and updated for the past two days.

    Problem #3
    We received a note that one of the 4 officials is not going to make it - he is flying home tomorrow from somewhere, and believes the snow will delay his arrival. We are putting the call out in several places for a replacement.

    Problem #4
    Too many people means a bad experience for swimmers. Last year seemed crowded on deck. With an additional 24 swimmers, we need to think about restricting attendance or find a new pool next year.

    I sent out instructions to everyone on where to park, complete with an overhead Google image. The pool lot and adjacent school lot were identified. Hopefully the lots will be plowed out by Sunday. Television states the snow will be fluffy and easily removed, with heaviest snow Saturday afternoon. Our tropics will be appreciated. Right now, there is no plan to cancel the meet. Stay tuned.

    Problem #5
    With the additional heat of 500 freestyle this year, and with more swimmers, the projected timeline ends us at 2:01 PM. We need to be out of the pool at 2:00.

    In past years, we have ended about 10 minutes before the projected timeline. We have also made arrangements to start Heat 2 before one swimmer in Heat 1 is finished. The swimmer entered a seed time about 6 minutes slower than anyone else. We hope Heat 2 seed times are somewhat accurate.
    Categories
    Uncategorized
  20. Ventilation issues

    by , January 29th, 2010 at 08:08 PM (Elise's Fitness Fun)
    Well, took off today because of breathing issues. The last two weeks, I've noticed that the air quality at the pool has been horrible. Usually doors are opened to deal with the old building, the hot pool temps, and the nonexistent ventilation system. Noodlers have raised such cane, that doors are not being opened as much. It is so bad that the other day during swim practice, I started wheezing within ten minutes of the coach shutting the doors.

    My asthma medicine is great, but the only problem is that it aggravates my POTS. So, I have to use the medicine very sparingly. The ideal situation is not to have to use it at all. So, until Auburn, I'm going to drive 30 minutes to another pool to avoid ventilation issues. The Y pool is only 10 minutes away from where I live, but it is worth it to drive the extra 20 minutes to a modern facility with much better ventilation.

    Kind of curious to hear how other folks with asthma manage their asthma in light of poor pool ventilation. How much does poor ventilation affect asthmatics?

    I have a flow meter, but am kind of lazy about using it. I can pretty much tell by feel when it is a no-swim kind of day. I remember hearing that Amy van Dyken was a big believer in using a flow meter. On days, she was below a certain percentage, she simply did not swim.
    Categories
    Uncategorized