Wednesday, October 21, 2015

More Gummi Bears

I need to start stretching again.

Like many things physical over the past few years, I'd let that one slide.   After an especially rough session lifting yesterday coming dangerously close to breaking Rule One* in terms of how much I increased the weight, I am noticing a reduction in fluid range of motion.  Yes, I'm sore, but this is more than just delayed-oneset muscle soreness (DOMS).  This is a tightness in my joints that means something else.

It wasn't too bad in the pool, but when I tried to hook my bra on after my shower, reaching behind myself was difficult.  I also had a problem with my calf cramping a little during my workout.  This is unusual for me for anything but a very long (for me) swim.  I also find that the more I swim, the more heel pain I experience on the mornings after.  Yes, you'd think that swimming doesn't exacerbate plantar fascitis. I can only guess tight calves and pushing off a wall and going into a full toe-pointed extension isn't helping.  Ballet again.  When I point my toe, I do it hard.  The pointed toe, floppy feet thing is actually kind of hard for me to do.  Amazing what happens when you train to a movement young and do it for several years.

That's a clear indicator stretching is called for. Besides, I know perfectly well that stretching helps reduce repetitive motion injuries on complex joints.  You know, like... shoulders?

I don't stretch nearly as much as I used to.  I come from a ballet and martial arts background -- both activities where you stretch a LOT.  The only activity I can think of offhand where you do more is yoga.

I'm actually used to being reasonably if not astoundingly flexible.  I'm totally not right now.   That's not something difficult to deal with, though.  Put on a little Marvin Gaye in the evenings and stretch out... this is the opposite of a bad time. I used to have a dance instructor who was inordinately fond of Marvin Gaye for the warmups.   It's a nice way to chill out of an evening, and I'll be able to put my forehead on my shin in no time.

I know this is a swim blog, so talking about the other physical things I do might seem a little off-topic.  But swimming is well known as a whole-body activity, and integration of strength, endurance and flexibility are all important to swimming well.

The swimming itself is going well.  I've limited my breast stroke sets to less than a fifth of the workout.  Since it used to be more like a third, I'm totally okay with this.  I'll probably wind up dropping breast stroke sets alltogether at some point, though I freely admit that I'm not too thrilled at the idea of my entire swimming working being the crawl.  It's not really my favorite stroke.

I also really need to be more strict with myself about flip turns.  I really don't like them much, but I know that for distance, it's better to do them than an open turn.  So, yeah... I need to suck that up, too.  It seems that a lot of this process is sucking up the parts I don't like. :)

I'm pushing to increase distance pretty hard, but trying not to be crazy about it.  An injury that keeps me out of the water is really worse than not training at all, so I'm keeping an eye on Rule One and also keeping an eye on that gummi bear jar.

Ah yes, the jar.  It's filling up nicely, isn't it?   It's an interesting motivator to show up regularly.   And it takes away from the all or nothing approach to which I am often prone.  For me, I want things to be perfect or I don't want to do them.  For this workout tracking method, even if I don't get in my yardage or my time is off or whatever, it doesn't really matter all that much.  The most brilliant training session where I'm on, slicing through the water like an orca, getting personal bests on speed and feeling like Neptune Himself still count the same as the ones where I feel tired, slow, and clumsy, inhale water and have to stop halfway through to cough that out of my lungs, have my goggles and cap fall off and keep getting distracted by the guys I'm sharing a lane with who REALLY needs to cut his toenails.

Both of 'em are still one gummi bear in that jar.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Conquering the Mighty Mascoma Lake

This morning as I was doing my swim, I got to thinking...

I always get to thinking when I am doing a swim. Ever notice how many swimmers are also writers? 


Anyway, I was thinking about what I would need to do, and what kind of training I'd need to put in.

Right now, I'm doing a full body freeweights workout twice a week and am swimming four times a week. I'm sleeping really well, boy howdy, let me tell you what!

Saturdays are my longer swims, as that's when I have the time to do them. I'd like to work up to swimming three or four miles at least one Saturday a month to get myself used to the volume for the six miler.

As I was swimming this morning, I was thinking about the advice a website was giving about attempting a six mile swim, what one's training volume should look like when and what sort of open water experience one should get in before the swim.

One of the suggestions was doing a four or five mile swim early in the season before the Big Swim. As I was thinking about it, I realized that Lake Mascoma is four miles long. As I was thinking more about it, I got to wondering if anyone has ever actually swum its length. I mean, probably someone has. Four miles isn't exactly an epic swim by the standards of people from whom I take advice about stuff like this. So I am sure someone has tried it.

But it isn't Official. Nor is there anything I can find online with people talking about it. So, that's going to be one of my swims for next summer.

I love this lake. It's where I first spread my open water wings, so to speak. It's where I conquered my fear of cold water. Shoot, it's just plain a beautiful place to swim. It's a small lake (about four miles by about a half a mile) and doesn't frighten the new open water swimmer with unrelenting vastness, but kind of cradles you between green hills.

I still need to work out the logistics of swimming the length, as I'll want a kayaker with me, and we'll want to figure out how to handle the car and other things. I have no idea if there is a place at both ends of the lake where one can put in, so it's possible we'll need a larger boat than a kayak to get to the right place.

In the interests of not having any controversy around my not-at-all-epic swim, though, I'll post a GPS report of it. :) Unless there's some sort of Mascoma Lake Swim Association that has an independent observer to verify it or something. (There totally isn't. It makes me want to start one in fun)
*grin* That almost makes me want to turn this into some sort of swim challenge with some locals. There are open water swimmers in my area, and the pool where I train has someone on the Master's team who won the SF Sharkfest one year.

But then it would turn into a race. They're a competitive bunch, which is more or less what keeps me off the Master's team. I swim to complete, and the only person I'm competing against is me yesterday. (Winning so far!)

So, maybe not, as a race would suck the fun out of it.

But barring bad weather, or bad water (Mascoma has been known to have problems with e. coli and algae blooms), probably the second weekend in June is going to be my target day. It'll be a good way to make sure I've been training enough.

I'm feeling a little sad about the close of open water swimming right now. Last summer was such fun and I really had a blast doing these swims. I'll get in the pool to train and the water is too warm, and I feel too confined and it's just not the same.

But that being said, I also love the pool. It's where I can concentrate on getting stronger and faster, it's still swimming (Swimming>NotSwimming. Very important equation), and I can let my mind free to think about things, and no, it's not always thinking about my next swim!

Still, I think it would be cool for swimming the length of Lake Mascoma to be a local Thing. It'd be fun, it's a nice, attainable challenge, and it's a beautiful lake to swim in.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Lunchtime Swim

I don't often do a lunchtime swim these days.  I usually do my swim in the mornings first thing.  Yes, I try to have my butt in the pool by 5:35am.  Increasingly difficult as the dark of the Northern Hemisphere winter approaches.

I didn't have to go in to an office today. Ordinarily on such a day, my husband and I will still hit the gym before we do our thing.   Today, however, he had to go in extra early. This wouldn't have left us enough time to for our workouts, showers and getting to work.  We only own one car and damn'f I'm going to walk to the gym at 0 Dark Thirty.

I could have driven him to work, but I wanted to sleep in (since I could and all).  Lazy, that's me.

So, I decided to do my morning's work, and take a break to do a swim at lunch time.  It's been years since I did that, and it brought back memories of my Adult Onset Swimming.

At the time, I worked for a college and my building was about a block from the gym.  Employees could get a ridiculously discounted membership at the pool, I needed exercise, my joints were hurting, I was prehabbing ACL surgery (middle-aged women who wear plus sizes should not do jumping side kicks in Tang Soo Do, just saying!) and I was feeling insanely homesick in the mountains and yearning for water.

That pool was a match made in Heaven.

I had an hour for lunch.  I had to rush to the gym, rush into my bathing suit, do about a 25 minute swim, rush to shower, dry my (waist-length) hair, get dressed and rush back to my office.

Even though the workout was really SHORT, I enjoyed it and did get much better at swimming.

My boss used to urge me to swim, as apparently I was mellow as a little lamb after I'd gotten out of the water.  I always found that funny.

I went on swimming and lifting dumbbells for a few months before my surgery.  There was a hiatus while I couldn't get in the water while the incisions healed, and a little longer so that my physical therapist could clear me for swimming. (I was forbidden breast stroke for a bit)

After my ACL surgery, I was so excited to be allowed in the water again.  Didn't even mind having to use crutches to get to the pool, but if want to feel vulnerable, have knee surgery, use crutches on a wet pool deck, take off the brace and try to get in and out of a pool with no ramp!

I didn't have to rush my swim today, and wasn't feeling in any way vulnerable.  (Goodness, the surgery was nearly nine years ago!)  It was just nice to talk a walk at lunchtime, do a swim and enjoy the spectacularly beautiful sunny New Hampshire fall weather.

I will always, however, have a soft spot for that college pool.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Training Jar

I do so love my Saturday morning swims.  I can take longer, I don't have to share a lane as often and I can zone out and let my mind float where it wants to in a way that I can't seem to get into as much when I am rushing to get the workout in before work and still leave myself enough time to dry my hair and put my face on before going out to meet the world.

Yes, a sensible person might say I could cut my hair.

I will point out that the very fact I have the sport I do means I am not entirely a sensible person.  And no.  Not the hair.  Just not.

Part of my pondering this morning was trying to decide what my swims next year are going to be.   What's reasonable?  What's possible?

To be honest, I've thrown out reasonable for at least one of my swims.  It's going to be a serious stretch to train for it in a way that my training last winter to swim two miles was not.

I'm okay with that, as I have a year of training under my belt.  Last year, I had gone pretty much from a couple years of being a couch potato to a two mile open water swim.  The leap is steeper in some ways for next years swims, but the base is considerably stronger.

Next year I'm going to do:

  • Kingdom Swim - 6 mile course.  Unfortunately, six miles is just under 10K, so it won't quite be my first marathon.
  • Alcatraz Sharkfest - 1.5 mile course.  Prepping for the Kingdom Swim will do for that just fine.
  • Boston Sharkfest - 1500 meter course.  Good end to the summer open water season

This is going to mean more rigorous training, as well as more dryland.  For now, I'm not swimming on days I am lifting, but starting in January, that's really going to have to change.  The recommendation is that I'm up to swimming 10,000 yards a week by March and 15,000 by May, and really should be doing a bit more than that.

It's doable, certainly.  Though it is possible the smell of chlorine is going to sink permanently into my skin by then.  I'm hoping the early summer training in lakes will help wash that out.

As part of training for the six mile swim, I may swim the length of Lake Mascoma, just for funsies.  It will be a good opportunity to work out feeds and things, and it's about four miles.  That'd be a good distance to practice a longer swim, check on times, coordinating sighting with my kayaker (me darlin' hoosband), and get in some chilly water training.  Besides, it's a really pretty swim!

I'm less stressed about how I will handle chilly water than I was last year.  That was actually really scaring me until I actually got in the water and realized that once you're over the shock, it's not so bad.  I'm no Lynne Cox and I am hardly a lover of cold water, but summertime New England chilly isn't a horrible stretch.  I'm considering not using my electric blanket this winter, though I wonder if it's even necessary.  I did okay in Lake Memphremagog last year.

On the other hand, there's a tiny part of  my brain yelling, "Fine, do your swim, but don't get cocky!"

This is a wise part of my brain, as I do have a tendency to overconfidence!

I have also decided just as a cute tracking device, I'm putting a gummy bear in a jar each time I do a swimming workout.  There's an expression to keep people too tied up with how good a single workout happened to be versus whether or not a workout happened at all.

Each workout in preparation for an event is another jelly bean for the jar.  If your jar is full, you're prepared.

Being of a somewhat literal turn of mind, and also pondering what I wanted for feeds during the marathon swim, I thought it would be cute to get a jar and put gummy bears in it with the idea that if the jar is full, chances are good I swam enough to be prepared for the event.  I have no real idea if I'm really going to want solid feeds or not, and I figure that even if I don't, a metaphor with a strong visual is always a good way to keep me motivated.

I've got a long way to go.