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  1. Sitting pretty, 2 fathoms deep

    Today I went over to the Asphalt Green noon workout. I got there a little early so I could work on my bobbing and sinking during warmup (more about that below). By the time we got started, I did feel pretty relaxed and more focused on how I was interacting with the water. Here’s how the workout went:

    500 scy warmup

    400, done as 4 x (75 FR + 25 ST), decreasing SPL by 1 on each 25 of the 75s, and IM order on the ST [I started out my first 25 with 14 strokes, which made the 3rd one pretty difficult, but I kicked a managed to get down to 12. My stroke count was 14-17 on the others.]

    4 x 100 flutter kick, done as 25 on stomach w/ hands by side, focusing on balance, 25 right side, 25 left side, 25 on back

    4 x 75, odds = FR @ 2:10, evens = IM @ 2:20

    4 x 350 @ 5:20 [I did these as (25FR / 25 BK / 50 FR / 50 BK / 75 FR / 75 BK / 50 FR). I had 2 focuses on the FR: (1) putting my face back into the water sooner after each breath, and (2) relaxing my arms on the recovery part of the stroke. I just cranked the BK, and used it as a break from the concentration the FR work was requiring.

    100 warmdown, plus more bobbing and sinking play

    The bobbing and sinking stuff I was doing was a result of the clinic I did with Bill Boomer at the Middlebury meet. We got a ton of information during the clinic, which was held in 4 sessions on Thursday afternoon and evening and Friday morning and afternoon.

    One of his overarching concerns is understanding and dealing with one’s primal responses to being in an aquatic environment. He talked a bit about three layers of human brains—the reptilian part, which is responsible for instinctual survival behaviors, the limbic system, which handles in-the-moment emotions and hormonal responses, and the cortex, which specializes in conscious thought—and emphasized that you have to expose swimmers to new stimuli multiple times in low-stress situations in order to convince the reptilian brain those situations are ok. Otherwise, swimmers go into instinctual survival-mode behaviors that they cannot control or consciously change.

    For me, one of those survival-mode behaviors is holding my breath (or at least holding on to some of it) when I’m in the water. In one of the clinic’s pool sessions we did bobbing drills where we assumed an upright position in the water with our mouths right above the water line, exhaled, then sank to the bottom with our arms by our sides. At first I couldn’t stop myself from inhaling right before I went under the water (which then made me too buoyant to sink without some other motion propelling me downward). When I got beyond that, I couldn’t exhale enough air to actually sink very far. I am finally getting the hang of letting go of all my air and sinking all the way to the bottom of the pool. Once there, I either push off the bottom to bob back up and do it again, or I sit on the bottom for a few moments and look around. The latter feels weirdly calming and euphoric at the same time, and is a totally new experience for me.

    Another breathing exercise we did at the clinic is called “alligator breathing.” You open your mouth wide, immerse your mouth partway into the water while keeping your head upright, and breathe in and out while water remains in your mouth. The rationale behind this is that if you swim, you need to be comfortable breathing with water in your mouth, and doing that behavior when you’re not moving through the water and exerting yourself is a low-stress way of getting your reptile brain to accept it as ok. (I had actually read about this breathing before—it’s described in Natalie Coughlin’s book as something the Cal team did during their rest intervals.) My heart rate skyrocketed when I first did this—I could tell I was getting panicky, and had to stop a few times to take “real” breaths. Now I only feel uncomfortable when I do it. (Also a little grossed out, since it seems terribly unsanitary to have a laneful of folks allowing pool water to slosh in and out of their mouths, but then I’m a big germophobe).

    This evening I went to rowing class. The dismaying news on the rowing front is that my Y is closing our rowing room and eliminating the rowing classes, at least for the summer. They might put some of the rowing machines in a yet-to-be-determined location, but even that is not certain. Everyone was up in arms about this, and there was a meeting after class to discuss a response (the consensus: asking for a meeting with management to discuss the situation, and presenting some ideas to either increase utilization of the present space or move the rowing classes to another locale.)

    Hopefully this will work out in the long term—the rowing room and classes at my Y are a distinctive feature that they should be building up, not eliminating—but in the short term it could well disrupt my cross-training plans for the summer. Meetings like tonight’s do really drain and upset me (although this was actually a pretty calm and well reasoned discussion, with much consensus and limited venting), but I am ultimately glad I went, because it’s something I do care about and want to help fix.

    Finally, I entered the July 11 Wilton Y meet today—I signed up for the 100 FR, 400 FR, 200 IM, 50 BK, and 50 FL. This is always a really fun outdoor meet, with a nice bbq after. I’m looking forward to it!
  2. Middlebury meet days 1 and 2

    I came up to Middlebury on Thursday and swam the first two days of the NE LCM champs on Friday and Saturday. The theme for this meet so far seems to be negative splitting—I managed to do that on 4 of the first 5 events I swam. That was probably a good strategy for the 800 FR, but it’s a bizarre result for the 400 IM. Here’s the rundown on my events so far (The 800 was on Friday, everything else was on Saturday):

    800 FR: 11:30.16 (5:46.89, 5:43.27)
    My splits by 100 were 1:22.8, 1:28.3, 1:28.6, 1:28.1, 1:26.5, 1:26.6, 1:26.6, 1:22.6. My stroke cadence felt really good all the way through this race, and my turns felt strong and coherent. My hope was to go around 12 minutes (I put in a seed time significantly above that), so I was thrilled with my time. I have no idea how I can put a 1:22 on the end of a 800 at a meet when I struggle to do a single 100 at that pace in workout with lots of rest beforehand, but I’m glad it seems to work that way.

    200 FL: 3:11.19 (1:36.09, 1:35.10)
    On the first 50 of this swim I really felt out of breath. I worried that I was going out too fast, and kept trying to go slower, but then I realized I was not exhaling enough. Once I fixed that—about at my first turn—everything felt good. This was actually a pretty comfortable race.

    100 BK: 1:19.79 (39.28, 40.51)
    This was probably my best race so far. My backstroke is feeling good.

    400 IM: 6:22.99 (1:35.67, 1:37.97, 1:49.47, 1:19.92)
    Yep, I had a lot left on that freestyle.

    200 BR: 3:29.55 (1:45.78, 1:43.77)
    My 50 splits were 50.0, 55.8, 53.3, 50.5. I backed off the 2nd 50 too much—I’ve only swum this event once before and was afraid of taking it out too fast. (It was the same story on 200 FL). My stroke actually felt smoother as I increased my cadence on the 3rd and 4th 50s.

    Tomorrow I’m swimming 200 BK, 100 FL, 200 FR, and 100 BR.

    This has been such a fun meet so far. The pool is gorgeous and full of light, and it’s one of the friendliest meets I’ve ever been to. I’ve stayed really happy and blissful all day at the pool, and am excited to get to swim every time I get up behind the blocks. And it’s really a relief to race in a proper length pool—hurray for long course!

    Leading into the meet I did a clinic with Bill Boomer, which was really amazing. Kudos to the Middlebury folks for arranging his clinic! I’ll post more about it in coming days. I also did a personal session with him today, and instead of working on swimming we mostly worked on sinking! It turns out I have breathing issues in the water (I kind of knew that already), and need to work on getting myself to believe that it’s ok to breathe out when I'm in the water, instead of hoarding all my air because I’m scared I won’t get to breathe in any more of it. Breathing out enough to allow myself to sink to the bottom of the pool is a challenge.