Wednesday, September 30, 2015

I Love LSD

No, I'm not doing drugs.  Well, not beyond alcohol and caffeine, but that's socially acceptable and legal in my state.

LSD, when discussing athletic events, stands for Long Slow Distance.  Generally, it is considered a running term, but it can apply to swimming as well.

I love me some LSD.  I can just get in the pool and go, zone out on whatever my tiny little mind wants to chew on that day -- be it the nature of the universe or how to fund my next Big Swim.*

However, LSD is not how you get faster, nor is it how you get faster to swim long distances, dammit.

So, I've being much better about throwing in more intervals in my training.  I even do the thing where I go as hard as I can, so I have to rest a few seconds between intervals.  (I know that's really how you're supposed to train, but I totally feel like I'm cheating when I do it.  Don't laugh at me.  I know I'm insane.  I can't help it.)

I've spent the last eight months or so griping out how slow I am.  Okay fine.  I'm totally a turtle.

 But I took a look at this from last year where I was really pushing it and doing my best.  I know this from comments on Facebook discussing how fast I was going and how happy I was and how I was pushing to occasionally keep up with the fastest swimmer in the gym in the lane next to me:

Then I compare it to this morning's workout.  Close to the same distance, but I wasn't really pushing all that hard.  In fact, it was a slacker workout because of a go-live at work that is a bit distracting.

So clearly improvement, significant improvement, is happening.  Astronomical?  Nope. But it's happening.

I need to remember that when I complain about how slow I am.  I'm still getting better.

And I still prefer LSD to intervals..

*You simply would not believe how much it costs to get across the United States in the summertime, you really wouldn't!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


Okay, I'm about to get All the Hate, but I gotta say it.

Swimming doesn't make you very strong.

*covers head and waits for storm*

I'd promised myself that I would start doing some dryland work this fall/winter training season for a lot of reasons.

  • I'm middle-aged and need to think in terms of bone density.  Swimming does bugger all for that.  You want weight bearing exercises and I can't think of anything much more weight bearing than a barbell squat. (I'm nuts.  It's my favorite lift)
  • I had been advised to get some weight training in by a swim coach.
  • Honestly?  For all my cracks about the awfulness of dryland training, I rather like pumping iron.
I did my workout upstairs in the weight room this morning and holy crap, I am much, much weaker than I thought I would be.  I mean, benchpress only the bar, and squatting less than a hundred pounds?  For me, that's weak.

I do meet one of my real-life strength benchmarks* -- can I easily change a five gallon water bottle in the office?  Yes.  It only weighs forty pounds.  (If one of my male co-workers offers, I thank 'em and say yes with a bright smile, but I grew up in the South.  You tend to do that).

Did swimming take me from where that was hard to where that was easy?  Yeppers.

But that's as far as it could take me in a year.  When I was lifting a lot, I was much, much stronger.

I know there's some debate on how much good strength training does for swim speed.  And goodness knows I cannot afford to lose speed!

I'm training anyway for a few months just to see where it goes.  I figure there's no real downside to getting a bit stronger, and if it screws up my swimming, well, I pay the same price at the gym to be in the pool as well as the weight room and can go back to pool only training.

I have a feeling that in my case, though, I'm going to see some speed improvements.

* I wrote it several years ago. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Turtle in Boston Harbor

I was actually kinda scared here

I'm having a hard time with writing this one, as I am not really sure what I want to say about it.

I swam Boston Sharkfest today.  It's a reasonably easy swim as far as open water swims go -- 1500 meters across the Boston Harbor.

Thing is, I wasn't prepared.

I had not been swimming enough and possibly might have been advised not to attempt it if I'd admitted it to the race organizers or had any coaching at all. (Though if I'd had coaching, I doubt I would have been unprepared).

I wasn't last. I was second to last.  Sure, sure, dead last is better than did not finish, and even did not finish is better than never tried!

I was lucky.

The day was perfect, there wasn't much wind, the water was like glass, and was quite warm for mid-September in Boston (68F).

And even being unprepared, I loved it.   I was scared going in, worried that I had lost any cold water conditioning.  I know that sounds goofy for 68F, but a couple of people around me were in wetsuits and congratulating my bravery for swimming skins.  The minimal training I'd done had been in a pool at least ten degrees warmer, and even any minimal open water swimming I'd done had been a month before off the Virginia coast.  Warm. (Didn't do any when I went to Bermuda.  That wasn't lazy, but merely lacking in time because of the ship's schedule.  I need to go back and correct that!)

So, I was pretty nervous before this swim.

But once I got in and realized the water was merely cool rather than cold, all I had to do was swim.
There's a relaxation that comes from finally getting in the water.  All you have to do is swim and do your best.

I also think that the reality is that I'm going to be nervous before most swims I do, and that's okay.  I mean, I'm am experienced teacher and I get stage fright before a class, for pity's sake.  I figure as long as being scared doesn't paralyze me (and it generally doesn't), I can just check that off as a standard emotion I get before an event and just go with it.

I had to do a lot of the event breaststroke.  Yeah, yeah, it was good enough for Captain Webb and all.  I say that all the time.  And goodness knows it got me across the harbor just fine.

That doesn't change the fact I've got to buckle down this winter -- throw in some weight training and even <shudder> some dryland CV work.

Still I did finish!  And what also important?

I had fun.

It wasn't on purpose, but this pose is highly reminiscent
 of the image on the Isshin-Ryu patch - Mizugami