New Swim Technique

I’m in the process of transitioning computers, so I haven’t been able to edit the video clips I got from Coach Al into bite sized pieces.  But I will do that over the coming weeks.

Today I tried some new techniques based on that video and Coach Al’s suggestions.  It involves making some pretty wholesale changes to how I move my arms.  I have to say, it feels quite awkward to change the way my arms move, even with only a few months of swim training under my belt.  I showed my wife the new technique, and she took to it quite well.  I, on the other hand, felt like a newly born giraffe.  All arms and joints.  The issue, I believe, is that my arms are moving too rapidly.  I specifically tried to slow them down.  Focus on the catch, focus on a slow and controlled pull.  We were circle swimming in the same lane with someone else.  She was swimming at a decent clip.  I gave her about a quarter length and started my slow controlled, drill-like stroke.   I focused only on moving my arms properly but slowly.  It was effortless and relaxed.  Pretty soon I felt my fingers hit the wall, well, I thought it was the wall.  It turns out that my “slow and controlled” was propelling me through the water more quickly than my old fast and messy.  I had caught up to her and hit her feet.

I was shocked, and the beauty is that it was totally effortless.  I wasn’t out of breath in the least.  This is the winning stroke for sure.  I just have to get out of this awkward learning stage so that I can focus on breathing which is my real nemesis.

Back in the saddle

I had my first spin of the year today. OK, so it was actually the first spin in a very long time. At any rate, at first I thought I was going to die. It took a good 10 or 15 minutes before I settled into a groove. I didn’t slow down, or ease off on the tension even when I was hurting, so I’m proud of myself for that. By the end, however, I was beat. I couldn’t keep the cadence up and I was honestly glad when it was over. It was just about the right amount of pain for the day. Heidi, the spin instructor, is almost uncannily good at taking you right to the edge of exhaustion and then bringing you back. It felt good to get the lungs going again.

After spin I met the wife and kids at the family pool, and got to play with the little ones while my wife got in a few laps in the big boy pool. I had a lot of fun with my little guys, and my oldest son is starting to really hold his own in the pool. The months of swim lessons are really paying off.

After play time we had a quick lunch, and I headed into a swim lecture with triathlon super coach Al Lyman. He is a great guy and had a lot of really good advice for swim training. After the lecture he video taped us and will be doing a swim analysis with video and sending it to us along with some specific drills. I’m looking forward to it.

In the meantime, I have decided to dedicate the next few swim sessions to drilling on breathing. I need to get that down. I think that is the single biggest limiting factor for me. I hold my breath, and Coach Al was very clear that holding your breath is going to make you tired for no good reason. I will scour the web for breathing drills, but I think I have an idea on how to drill on my own. I’ll give that a try and report on my progress.

2011 Off to a…start?

This weekend officially kicked off the training season for me. I have new running shoes which I hope help me kick my IT Band issue in the butt. I plan to run on the dreadmill at work when I can.

My first active training session was Sunday. I hit the pool and did about a dozen or so laps. Man am I out of shape. It was a struggle to do 9 laps and my form broke down almost immediately. But, if I put it into perspective, last year at this time I couldn’t even finish a single length without struggling. So, I think I’m going to be ok.

This weekend I will be attending a swim clinic put on by a local triathlete coach Al Lyman. He will video tape us and provide feedback and drills to help us improve. I’m looking forward to it. I’m also thinking about hiring him to do a gate analysis to see if there is something I can improve in terms of my running form.

I still have some work to do to put together a training plan, and a race schedule, but that should come over the next couple of weeks.

Knee Update

I went to an orthopedic doctor yesterday.  He was very thorough and really seemed to know what he was doing. He also feels that my injury isn’t serious. He said I needed to strengthen my ankles and glutes, and who knows what else. He has me off of running for about a month while I get some therapy to correct what’s wrong. He does say it is ok to compete in the tri this weekend as long as I don’t push it on the run.

He wants me to cross train in the meantime with a focus on biking swimming and even rowing.

Last night I went for a swim, the first in weeks. I did 4×250 at a medium pace with one minute rests. I managed to swim them in 20:42 including several stops to fix my goggles which kept leaking. I was pretty happy with it. During the last set I got so into the groove that I think I could have gone forever. I’m pretty happy with that performance considering how long I’ve been out of the pool. I plan on getting another swim in before the tri and maybe a bike or two on the trainer.

I’m not expecting much this Sunday, but I am going to enjoy the race since it is the last one for at least a couple of months. I’m a little sad about having to cut back on races and training, but I am trying to keep the long term in perspective. I will have plenty of time to race, and it’s much more important to get healthy right now before I really mess something up.

More ouchies

I tried running again tonight. I got half way down the block and had to turn around. Even with a brace it hurt to run. It isn’t a horrible pain, but i don’t want to push it and risk a serious injury. I’ve scheduled an appointment with a doctor who us a triathlete, and hopefully he will be able to give me some exercises and parmeters for working with this. I’m going to try another short run tonight.

I did manage to get in a good swim. I did 1/2 mile swim with just one break. I made it in 19:25 after a mad sprint during the last full lap. I had enough gas to knock out one more 50 yard sprint in 45 seconds, and a second slower one. I’m feeling much better with the swim, but I still have some breathing issues to work out.

I’ve also lost that downhill swimming feeling I had one tine a month or so ago. If I can get those two things worked out I should be able to get my swims to sub 18 minute half miles.

Knee Update

I have been icing, Ibuprofening (is that a thing), and foam rollering (I know that isn’t a thing) my knee and it seems to be getting better.

Today there was a fire alarm at work and I had to go down 20 some flights of stairs to evacuate the building. Half way down my knees started feeling really tight. I made it through, but it was a reminder that I need to be really careful. I still plan on waiting until Monday before I have my next run, but I am itching to get out there. I know, I can’t believe I said that either. Excited to go running, who’d a thunk it.

I also had a swim on Tuesday. I didn’t quite get the distance I wanted to get because there were a lot of people there that I knew. That wasn’t a bad thing though. One of the guys who is one of the quicker swimmers really pushed me. We started off doing a 300 yard swim. Then we did 5X50 at the 1:30.

Basically, you have 1:30 to do 50 yards including the break. After 1:30 you start the next 50. So the faster you go the more rest you get. I pushed myself so hard I could actually taste blood in my mouth. I had heard that before, but I thought it was a joke. Nope, it isn’t, yikes.

I actually managed to go all out and get a lap in at around 40 seconds. That is super fast for me, but it certainly kicked my ass. I never really recovered, and by the last 50 I was dead and my arms felt like jelly. It was an incredible workout though, so I’ll have to try it again as I continue my training.

Super Dee Duper Swim

I can’t believe that I did this last night.  I mean, I know this isn’t a big deal for most people.  But I actually swam an entire half mile without stopping yesterday!!!

Considering the fact that I did 9 laps in my first Tri in nearly 18 minutes (2 minutes/lap), 11 laps in my next tri in nearly 15 minutes (1:21/lap) I’m thrilled to have finished 18 laps last night in under 20 minutes (1:06/lap).

I have a new goal now, I want to finish the 1/2 mile in under 18 minutes (sub 1:00/lap) and I want to swim a mile straight!!!  I felt really strong the whole time, and I was able to slow down and catch my breath when I shot off too fast.  That’s huge!!  I also had an issue with my goggle (they leaked *shakes fist*) but was able to stop and tread water while I adjusted them!  That means I’m starting to get a bit more comfortable in the water.  I couldn’t be more excited about my progress.

I was just belly aching a few days ago about how stuck I was with all the swimming nonsense.  I actually was complaining to my wife about how frustrated I was with it all.  Now I am swimming really well.

If I had swum like this in the last triathlon I would have placed 27th in swimming out of 49 people.  That is four positions higher than I placed.  It wouldn’t have made a difference over all (mostly because I sucked on the run and bike for whatever reason).  I may even be ready to do something crazy like sign up for the Lake Waramaug sprint triathlon in June.

Wow, now that I am getting the swimming under control, what am I going to whine about?  I guess running is my new Achilles sport.  I hope my knee holds up this weekend.  Lets keep our fingers crossed.

Swim breakthrough, Run Break

My knee felt like new today.  I’m happy about that.  When I got home from work I helped put the kids to bed and then headed out for a swim/run brick.

I swam 2 warm-up laps and just thought to myself, ok, slow down to go fast.

Then it was time to do it.  I started my swim in earnest.  Nice and slow.  I focused on breathing out under water and keeping my form.  The swim felt good, really good.  I swam and swam.  Once in a while I would speed up a little and start feeling winded.  Then I would slow way down and I would actually be able to catch my breath.  I swam 11 laps straight in slightly over 11 minutes.  I stopped for a minute or two and then kept going.  I did the next 7 laps in about 8 minutes.  I swam half a mile in under 22 minutes with only one break!!!  I could not believe it.  I was psyched.  Now I want to focus on doing the whole half mile in one shot with no breaks.

I took a shower with my head held high.  What an awesome feeling.  Unfortunately that feeling wasn’t going to last.  I got in my running gear and started my 3.5 mile run.  About a mile in my left knee started getting tight.  I must have adjusted my run because a little over halfway through the run my right knee started to hurt.  Where I had worked hard before to keep my heart rate below 152, I was now struggling to keep it above 141.  at the 2 mile mark my knees were really hurting me.  I was visibly limping.  I had to walk.

I walked for a few minutes then sacrificed my knees by running the rest of the way.  It was just taking too long to walk.  When I got home I was really sore.  I iced my knees and went to bed.

I’m not sure what the issue is with my knees.  I’m guess it was one of two things, or maybe a little of both.  Either my knees were still inflamed from the weekend, or my leg muscles were too sore, weak to support my legs thereby adding a large amount of impact onto my knees.  Either way I am going to take off until Saturday to make sure I don’t get hurt.

Despite the knee issues, I’m feeling great about my swim.  W00t!

Slow Down to Speed Up

My oldest son’s favorite movie is Cars.  In that movie there is a scene where Doc Hudson tells Lightning McQueen that in order to turn on a dirt track you need to turn right to go left.  When Lightning McQueen tries the new advice he ends up turning the wheels right and zooming off the right side of the road and down an embankment.  OK, maybe that isn’t the best example, but trust me the directions were right, it was the execution that went wrong.

Today I went to the Y and tried to get a swim in.  It has been a while so I was anxious to figure this swimming thing out.  I went for a warm up lap or two, then it was time to get serious.  I went out, the goal was to get as many laps in as possible without stopping.  I went out, lap one was great.  I turned for my second lap and I worked my way down the lane, I turned back and made the second lap but that was it.  I was winded.  I felt like I had just finished a sprint run.  I couldn’t believe how hard I was breathing.  I repeated this pattern over and over.

I was dejected and sat there catching my breath.  I watched an older man a few lanes over swam away ever so slowly.  He wasn’t making much progress, but he also never stopped.  I had noticed during out last triathlon in February that the people who I thought were swimming really slow ended up with times close to mine.  The reason was that they kept making forward progress while I would speed away and spend a minute at a time on the end of the pool catching my breath.  Constant forward motion was the key, but how was I going to get there?

I thought about my running training.  How I kept my heart rate down very low. and how that allowed me to make some serious distance.  There is no way I could sprint 6 miles.  I had to slow the swim down.  I went for another lap.  This time I was slow and deliberate with my swim stroke.  I would lift my arm and roll it forward nice and easy.  Before I knew it I had finished my 2nd lap and kept going.  Three laps, four laps, and then five.  I finished 5 and I wasn’t breathing hard.  Was this it?

I had to slow down to speed up.  Wow, what a concept.

Where did the strength go?

My how things turn so quickly!  By the time I got home, bathed the kids, and got my swim stuff together I was drained.  I couldn’t even pick up my gym bag forget about the car.

So I dragged my sorry butt to the gym and tried to swim some laps.  Once again I struggled through the laps.  I did discover that I have exactly two speeds for swimming.  Fast and stupid fast.  Don’t misunderstand, I don’t mean I am faster than other people, though in some cases I am, but what I mean is that I am sprinting, and I can’t seem to slow myself down.  This would be awesome if I could sustain it for longer than 10 feet, but before long I am huffing and puffing like I have emphysema.  I know I need to slow it down.  I just can’t figure out how to do that. I did manage to squeak out 700 yards before the gym closed, but I wasn’t happy with it.

After the swim I showered and threw on my running gear.  I drove home and started my run at 10PM.  I ran a new route and tried really hard to keep my heart rate below 150bpm.  The reason for this is something I want to discuss in a separate post, but lets just say it is really hard to run at such a low heart rate, do you see a pattern forming here?  The run was uneventful, however, I struggled with shin pain again.  It feels like a sore tight muscle thing and I hope that over the next few months it will work itself out.

I listened to my surroundings as I ran.  I don’t listen to music as I run because I like to let my mind wander.  As I approached an apartment complex I heard what sounded like a bunch of men laughing.  It put me on guard.  It was night time and I was a little freaked out because I couldn’t see where all these people were.  As I passed a pond in front of the apartments I realized that the laughing was actually just some frogs croaking.  Overactive imagination?  Me?  Nooo!

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