Juxtaposition – Then and Now

After thinking about the last post, I thought it would be interesting to compare my thoughts last year to those now.

Back in February of 2010 I wrote:

I started with a few laps just as a warm up.   About a month ago I could barely do a length, it’s kind of funny now to think that I could knock two laps off just to warm up.  At any rate, I then tried to do my laps.  I just couldn’t pull it together long enough to do more than 2 or 3 in a row.  It was disappointing.  After a while of thrashing it out, I decided that I should go to the bathroom.  Why do I always have to pee within 5 minutes of getting in the pool?

When I got back I felt better and ready to go, and go I did.  I started swimming and didn’t stop.  I pushed past 6 laps and thought “I can do 9.”  Then I got to 9 and thought, sheesh it’s only two more I can do this.  By the time I started lap 10 my arms were like lead.  They were somehow both numb and super-sensitive.  I can’t really explain it other than to say, I felt like they were cutting through the water like it was air, it felt like your mouth feels with novocaine, except that I had a heightened perception of the air bubbles running over my arms.  It was such a strange feeling.  I slugged it out though, and I got all 11 laps, 550 yards.  When I got out my legs were fresh and ready to go.  I think I have may figured this whole swim thing out.

Then yesterday’s post:

About halfway through the main set of freestyle laps I felt like I just couldn’t go on.  Assuming that I had pushed myself like that without a plan–which I wouldn’t–I would have stopped for sure at that point.  But with the plan in hand I did another 550 yards!  That is unheard of for me.

So 1600 yards pushed this to both my highest month and highest week of volume for the year.  I just printed out another set of drills for my next trip to the pool.  Very excited about that!

So not so long ago the accomplishment of doing 550 yards in 20 minutes or so was unreal, and last night I muddle through 1600 yards of my swim plan, it was tough, but doable.  My issues now are more along the line of improving my form, and of course the ever present issue with breathing.  Not too shabby.  We often need to remind ourselves of where we were so that I can see how far we’ve come. take two

So tonight I tried the swim plan again.  This time the whole thing, all 1600 glorious yards of it.  By the end my arms were burning, and I had to work hard to maintain my form, but I held it together and got the whole thing done.

I’ll have to admit, it was the longest swim I have ever done both in terms of yardage and time (nearly an hour).  Following the plan was really great as it gave me something to do other than grind out lap after lap.  Lots of drills, and a tough but doable core freestyle swim.  Usually when I try to do some training laps I end up swimming for a while and moving on.  Tonight I focused on the drills, some more than others, and I also focused on breathing.  I left the specific drills etc. to the plan, and did the best that I could to work on my stroke accordingly.

About halfway through the main set of freestyle laps I felt like I just couldn’t go on.  Assuming that I had pushed myself like that without a plan–which I wouldn’t–I would have stopped for sure at that point.  But with the plan in hand I did another 550 yards!  That is unheard of for me.

So 1600 yards pushed this to both my highest month and highest week of volume for the year.  I just printed out another set of drills for my next trip to the pool.  Very excited about that!


Since I have signed up for the Madison Sprint Tri (and believe me I’m nervous just typing that) I have decided it is probably a good idea to get some swim training in.

I went to and dialed up a one hour workout (1600 yards).  I went to the pool, swam the plan, and finished it surprisingly quickly.  It was WAY TOO EASY for me.  So I swam a couple hundred yards of the cool down just because I could, what a rockstar.

After the swim I hit the hot tub and started talking to a friend who was there.  I told him about the swimplan site, and how great it was.  I pulled out the plan, looked at the yardage and though, something isn’t right.  As I added up the yards it came out way low, like 700 yards or something.  As I read it again I realized that I was supposed to do one of the sets 4 times, and the main set 5 times.  I had only done them once each!  What an idiot.

So I learned an important lesson, read the plan.  Oh, and I’m not a rockstar, though that one was short lived anyway.

I highly recommend, it’s free (though there is a premium version) and, if you read the instructions, it provides a great workout including some drills.  It won’t substitute for a coach, but it certainly helps make the workout much less boring than just punching out laps.

Swim training

Last night we went to my neighbor’s pool for a swim.

I’m thinking of adding that to my training log.

Disclaimer, not actually neighbor's pool

Disclaimer* Not my neighbor's actual pool.

What do you think? 3 laps should be 25 yards, right?

Training Ride

I had planned to do an open water swim today, spent all day psyching myself up to do it, only to get an email from my wife asking if I wanted to do a bike ride instead.  Yay!

So we decided to do the Farmington women’s triathlon route just to see what it was like.  My wife is considering doing the women’s tri, and she is still getting her bike legs, so she wanted to make sure it wasn’t too taxing.

We ended up doing a 16 mile loop, a bit longer than the tri route, but still not too bad.  During the ride I noticed that my brakes weren’t adjusted properly.  I had to really crank on the back brake to get it to slow me down effectively.  I tried to adjust it at a stop and then I took off on route 4.  The wind really picked up, and as I pushed through it I felt like I was going up a really steep incline.  I thought to myself “wow, this is brutal, all that I’ve heard about the wind making rides difficult is so true.”  I couldn’t wait to turn the corner.  I finally took a right, but the wind was still there.  I had geared up as much as I could and I was really pushing hard.  I was sweating profusely.

I looked back and my wife was right with me, I assumed that I was providing a wind break, and that she was really laboring to keep up.  About 5 minutes later I hear “Why are you going so slow?” from my wife.  At that moment I realized that it wasn’t the wind that was causing the problem.

I pulled over and spun the back wheel.  Sure enough the brake was catching.  My rear brake isn’t aligned properly, and I didn’t have a tool to fix it, so tightening the brake caused one side to rub.  I loosened it back up and suddenly the wind was not a factor.  Sheesh, that was brutal.

The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful, but wow, I need to bring my bike tool with me going forward.

Incidentally, the ride was easy, no big hills, pretty much a flat course.

Next on tap, some swim drills.

Open Water Swim Training Brick Adventure

This weekend we did a swim/bike brick. It started with a swim at Brody Pond in New Hartford. We swam to a buoy on the other side of the pond, and back. The swim was…interesting. About half way out I started to think, that, in general, is an issue. I wouldn’t say that I freaked out, but my mind was telling me I was tired and should go back.

I was swimming with a group that included my sister-in-law, and when I go to the halfway point I asked her if she was ready to go back. She said that she wanted to do the whole thing, so, unfortunately, I had to do it too. I’m glad that she pushed me to be honest, I’m glad that I did it. I was swimming slow and easy with my wetsuit. I never got tired (other than my mind playing tricks with me). When we got to the turnaround, I felt thrilled.

On the way back, the swim was “easy.” It just goes to show that the whole thing is mental. I did have some sighting issues. I kept drifting to the right. I would then over-correct, and at one point I was swimming perpendicular to the shore. Odd, but I wasn’t freaking out. The rest of the group spun around and did another half mile while my sister-in-law and I practiced sighting in near the shore.

Once we wrapped up the swim we got on our bikes and did the 24 mile Litchfield Hills triathlon route through New Hartford. The ride was uneventful for me, and I felt ready to run when I finished. Unfortunately I was the only one ready to run, so we just grabbed lunch and headed for home.

Coming off the last tri’s horrible swim, this weekend was a real confidence booster. Lets see how the next one goes.

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Keep the flame alive

Last evening I was tired and actually somewhat disoriented.  I was scheduled to go spin and do a swim, but I really just wanted to lay down.  I ended up going anyway.  I needed to get a good swim in so I figured, if I’m going out, I should just go for it.  By the time I started on the spin bike I felt much better.  We had a substitute instructor, and I would qualify this class as an easy recovery ride.  It hit the spot because I’m not sure I had an all out ride left in the tank.

At any rate, when I finished the spin, I moved to the pool and tried one more time to have a good swim.  I was a bit more organized in my swim.  Ok what I mean to say is that I didn’t feel like I was floundering, but I didn’t follow through with the proper breathing.  As the swim got longer I feel back on my old habits.  The result is that I swam solidly, but slowly, really slowly.  It took 13 minutes and change to swim 11 laps.  That is without a break.  I feel like I’m going backwards in terms of performance.

In hindsight I realize that there were a number of factors that contributed to the slow speed.  The first was that I was deliberately moving more slowly than usual, at least at first, so there’s that.  In addition, my stroke is a mess, I am using energy to push myself up instead of forward.  I need to work on that.  I’m hoping to get one more swim in before this weekend’s YMCA triathlon.  We’ll see how it goes.

Swim Progress

I have been continuing to work on my swim breathing.  I can do fairly well with breathing when I am just focusing on that.  Unfortunately, when I do that I can’t get my swim stroke going.  Once I start working on my swim stroke the breathing breaks down.  It’s a vicious cycle and I don’t know what to do about it other than continue working hard at one of them until I get it down.

Last night I did some swimming after spin class, and I have to say, things felt much better.  It didn’t feel like controlled drowning, but it wasn’t my most graceful effort to date.  I knocked out 7 laps in no time.  I wasn’t planning on doing laps, it kind of just happened, so I didn’t bother timing it when I started.  By the time I got 4 laps in I regretted it not timing myself.  I felt like I was really moving.  I was able to complete the laps without stopping to catch my breath, and I think it all relates to me slowing the strokes down, and to the new breathing.

Having said that, I do still hold my breath at times, especially when I something goes wrong, like I take in a little water, or I don’t get much air.  But I manage to recover while swimming, and then spend some time focused on breathing.  All in all I do have to say I feel like last night’s swim was a good start in the right direction.

My next goal is to start swimming for distance.  I’d like to get to the point where I can swim for 30 minutes straight with no stopping and see how many laps that works out to.  I am also considering buying a lap counter just because it gets hard to figure out where you are after a while.  Next swim is probably going to be Sunday.  I also have my first ever cross counter skiing adventure this Saturday, I’m looking forward to that!

Controlled Drowning

I have slowly begun the training process.  It hasn’t been easy, I was getting used to slacking off.  The last couple of weeks I have mange to get some spin classes and swimming in.

In terms of swimming I am working on my breathing technique by doing superman style drills.  I lay on my stomach floating in the water with my hands out over my head and overlapping.  The whole time my face is in the water I am exhaling with my nose and mouth.  When I need to breath I take a stroke and take a breath.  I do this a length at a time, and it works well.

Last night I tried to incorporate the breathing into my new swim stroke.  It was awkward to say the least.  If I had to sum up the event, I would say that it resembled controlled drowning.  It is really hard to get everything synced up, and there was more than one time where I got a mouth full of water instead of air.  The good news is that I was able to recover and get a good breath on the next stroke.  So it seems that as long as I don’t panic I should be ok even if I get a little water in my mouth when I go for air.

Later on I tried to slow everything down.  Slow my arms, slow my pace, and then things seemed to feel much better.  Look at that, slow down to go faster, it almost makes sense.  At any rate, now that I am getting better at breathing, I don’t have to breath every other stroke, so I can be a bit more efficient.  The next step is to get my stroke straightened out.  Lots of work to do there, but I’m optimistic.

Incidentally, I had the first triathlon of the year a couple of weeks ago.  It went ok, and I’ll dedicate a post to it when I get a little time.

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Coach Al’s Run Clinic

Tonight I attended a running clinic put on by the Farmington Valley Runner’s Group with Coach Al Lyman.  I just wanted to jot down a few notes from what he said for future reference.  Just a brain dump really.

  • One big issue that he identified was similar to what my physical therapist mentioned previously about muscles firing in the correct order.  He mentioned that the glutes often aren’t firing during the run which leads to compensation by other muscles and eventually to injury.
    • One thing he mentioned was doing proper bridges to get your glutes to fire more effectively.
    • Doing these exercises 3 times a week or more will help get the glutes going, focus on keeping your core steady and not curling your hips when you lift.
  • He also mentioned training purposefully.  Don’t just slog out the miles, understand what the goal is for the run and attack it, could be speed training or endurance training, it doesn’t matter focus on that
  • Slow down the endurance runs, should have maybe a couple miles at the end at a faster pace, the rest really easy
  • Train for the race, match the conditions, i.e. same hills in the same places, in order to prepare for the race
  • A hard training run will make your normal pace seem easier, it is all about managing perception
  • Your glutes should work the hardest when running, and the downward and backward pressure, i.e. the pushoff on the back of your run stride is the key to increasing propulsion.
    • As an aside, this makes sense, use your arms to swim, your quads to bike, and your glutes to run
  • I need to focus on keeping the cadence up 100+ steps per minute, while keeping my feet under my body for higher propulsion

That’s it for now.

  • The Narcissist Section (a.k.a. Me Me Me)

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