Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Adventures in Swimming...

It seems like more than a week has gone by since I did that little swim meet thing... but really it's only been a week, so I guess still within the window where I can blog about it??

Swim meets are not a big deal here in Hawaii. While there are a ton of really great swimmers on Oahu, most (me included!) prefer ocean racing vs diving off a block and sprinting for dear life. Consequently, we only have a few opportunities each year for this kind of event, and even then, a total of 9 swimmers showed up! That made warm- up pretty nice and relaxed. :)


Anyway, it was fine with me that this was a low key event b/c I had my own fears, mostly about keeping my goggles on when diving off the blocks. The fears were not unfounded as I spent the bulk of the warm-up period trying unsuccessfully to get a decent start without ending up with my goggles around my mouth. I tried 3 different pairs and finally found success with a pair I'd borrowed last month from Nalani. :)

Since it's been a whole week, my memory of how painful these events were to swim has faded, and I'm positive that I could go back and do them all better given another opportunity! :) That's how our brains work, no? Somehow my brain also 'forgot' about the 20 years it had been since I'd last raced a swim event in the pool with swim meet type intensity, which is simply not the same as what we do in training. I swam a couple of 25's fly off the blocks in warm up just to feel it and was like CRAP that was hard how am I going to make it through a whole 100?

First event for me: 100 Fly. The 100 fly was my favorite event in high school and I remember 1:03 as my ability back then. For whatever reason I ASSumed I'd still be able to knock off a decent split for that just like I did when I was 17... I'm laughing right now as I type that b/c it is clearly so naive but whatever. I got through the 100 fly ok... asked the timer gal at the end what it was, thinking maybe she'd say like 1:08 or 1:09... she said 1:13 I had to ask her to repeat that... WHAT?! Yikes. So a week later I look back and think well I only really lost like 1/2 second per year over the last 20+ years so that's not so bad, right? Trying to make myself feel ok about that, and really it's fine. The state record for my age group prior to that was 1:16 which I thought was crazy slow (for a state record?!?) but now I'm thinking that most people, by the time they turn 40, are smart enough to retire from attempting 100's fly. That's how I find success though- not through actual talent but rather through tenacity and being willing to attempt things that maybe others aren't willing to do. :) Next year though I'm going to rest more into this meet, be more aggressive on my start, and knock that record down <1:10.

The other events I didn't care about much at all, but swam the 500Fr, the 50 fly, and the 200Fr. All similar stories~ shockingly slow based on what I remember being able to do 20 years ago~ but clearly my memory is warped a bit. In the end I'd say this meet was super fun and definitely WELL outside my comfort zone which is a legit reason to go back and do it again next year. Next year we'll work harder to recruit more swimmers too! This is the motley crew who showed up this year!

Moving on. I've actually been swimming quite a bit recently, mostly in prep for the Double Roughwater Swim which I do every year. Have been joining in with a group of strong ocean swimmers on the weekends which has been REALLY fun. I actually don't have a lot of confidence that I can swim with the gang I've been swimming with, which I suppose is funny... but another plug for those Roka Sim Shorts- when I wear those they make swimming a bit easier and I go a bit faster which means I can indeed hang with this gang for as long as I want which is confidence boosting... so yay sim shorts! :) Last weekend it was a gorgeous Sunday morning in town and we went shark hunting... found 3!

Then we swam out to the channel marker buoy and climbed up on it which just made us feel goofy. But it was a great day.

This past weekend a similar group got together for a long ocean swim on the east side. Usually wind comes from the east so east side swims are super choppy, but Saturday was another no-wind day so the ocean was as nice and calm as ever... We set out to do a long-ish swim around Kailua Bay but as always the plans were fairly loose and we were sort of making up the route as we went.

Our start point was sort of at the top of this picture (above) and our first goal was to get around that Flat Island and back... But we got to the back side of Flat Island in ~35' and decided that wasn't long enough so we kept going to Lanikai Beach and figured we'd make a call about what to do from there. It was only ~15' more to get to Lanikai. So we were 50' in and "group think" with 8 swimmers made coming to a decision about what to do a bit of a challenge. Lectie and I were ready to head back the way we came which would have given us a respectable ~7K swim, but a few of the more hard core swimmers were enticed by the idea of going out to the Mokes... which would add ~an hour to our already long swim... Um, well... It was true that the conditions were picture perfect and this is where we were looking at going so we kinda shrugged our shoulders and said OK let's go! And off we went.

Swimming out to the island was just as nice as any swimming anywhere could be... we saw several GIANT turtles and once we landed on the island we saw some friends and a monk seal which was cool. Of course then we were facing the daunting task of swimming back to where we started. We didn't have an escort or anything with us and we were starting to get thirsty so we decided rather than swimming straight back, we'd take  break at the boat ramp where we could drink some water.

My 'low point' came from ~1:40-2:00 into this swim as we were trying to get to the damn boat ramp and I had that quote from The Albatross in my head Water water everywhere but not a drop to drink... Started to get a bit pissy and couldn't really talk to anyone just get me to the damn water fountain already... Funny how quickly a mood can deteriorate when one becomes FIXATED on needing water. So after ~2 hours of swimming we finally landed at the boat ramp and rushed out to the showers were I just stood with my mouth open letting the fresh water rush down my throat. It was glorious. Of course then we were all quite tired and thinking about just walking the 2 miles back along the beach instead of swimming... by this time a ton of beach goers were out in the park BBQing and the food smelled SO GOOD (cruel, really) and then this guy went walking by with a case of root beer and we all just gazed longingly at that root beer thinking it looked like some sort of nectar of the gods...

Just as we were about to take off we heard our friend Marcy calling out to us "Hey you guys want these donuts?!?" Like an angel from heaven, Marcy showed up with a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts and offered them to us! I think we all just sort of closed our eyes and let that sugar melt in our mouths. A donut has never actually tasted better. Poor Brad was already in Bonktown USA so he ate 3 of those things before he could even take a breath... But as you may know, sugar can be a magic mood booster in a scenario like this and those donuts allowed us to get back in and swim the final stretch across the bay... For many of us this was in the area of longest swim ever but it felt great to finish and then Ryan's wife Bonnie had prepared this absolutely amazing brunch buffet for us all. I would have taken a picture but we chowed it all down too fast!

Anyway, this kind of training is so much fun... Lucky we live Hawaii! And that we can find so many awesome friends who like to do what we do...

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Let Them Be Chickens...

Well I'm happy to report that a week later, Hila and Hae are still alive and seemed to have figured out that my backyard is a pretty good place to live. :)

I'll be honest- I was worried in the first day or two that they would freak out and go hide somewhere and never come back, but it seems that the abundance of food in the yard is enough to keep drawing them back. I've learned a few lessons this past week- mostly that wild chickens are simply wild chickens and they'll pretty much do what they want. In good news, their instincts to survive are quite strong and even though my 3 domesticated chickens tend to chase them around a bit, Hila and Hae have not been deterred by that little nuisance.

Last week I wrote that I was worried about how I was going to train them to go into the coop at night with my other girls. Well, I've given up on that. It's not going to happen. I did see Hila start to check out the coop the other evening... she scoped it out as a potential place to roost but then opted against it. Next she checked out the fig tree... hopping from branch to branch but again opted against it. I think the fig tree doesn't have enough leaves coverage for them to feel safe? And they haven't flown into the neighbor's plumeria tree for a while. Last time they tried that the big dog saw them and barked like mad and that was enough to scare them right back into my yard. So it seems the avocado tree has become the favored place to roost each night and that is fine with me! I actually think it is super cool that they like that tree. Plus, I can easily see them from my bedroom window.

The most interesting thing to me is how one of my pet chickens, White, watches every move Hila and Hae make. It seems clear that she wants to emulate them, so I wasn't surprised the other night when she followed them into the tree at dusk. It was like somehow they sparked a reminder to her that she is a CHICKEN and that chickens are supposed to roost in trees.

So for two nights now White has slept in that tree with Hila and Hae. Elsa is my other white one and she's been watching as well... last night I thought she was going to make the leap... she thought about it and almost did, but in the end chickened out and went into the coop with Ellie.

I posted something to the BackYard Chickens Facebook page about how my girls were opting to roost in the tree at night vs the coop. One guy replied that I should lock them up and clip their wings.. Um, thanks for the suggestion buddy but I think I'll go ahead and let my chickens be chickens. That's why I keep them after all... to (hopefully) give them an opportunity to have a better life than being locked up and unable to fly.

In other news, my cats could care less about the chickens.

But they do have a pretty good life...

Enough about the animals. Things are good with me too. I've given up the pursuit of the Honolulu marathon this year. None of my long runs had been going well, and then I got sick last week which eliminated running altogether, and that seemed like the final straw. I am sure I could get through that marathon ok but not in a way that would actually feel satisfying so it didn't seem worth it. So right now I'm pretty much just doing some off-season type work- spending time in the weight room, addressing quickness and agility issues, etc. My swim volume has gone up a bit though b/c I've still got the Double Roughwater coming up in December. I'm on a little swim bender right now swimming every day recently and I like that. I think I'll end up with ~26K this week and I'm handling it fine.

Lastly, if I play this game tomorrow I think I'll end up quite drunk.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Adventures of Hila & Hae

Chicken update!

Here at home we had 4 chickens… Ellie, my egg layer + 3 little 'whites' who are (were) growing and are (were) maybe a month away from starting to lay eggs. Two of those whites (Goldilocks and Elsa) were Americaunas, which are a breed of chickens who grow up to have beards and lay blue eggs! I had no experience with this breed previously but I could tell by watching them that they just didn't seem as smart and didn't seem as friendly/tame as my other chickens.

This is (was, I'm foreshadowing) Goldilocks. Cute, huh? But like I said, I just sensed she wasn't the smartest chicken in my flock.
The other morning I went out to feed them and everything as fine. That afternoon I went out there and Goldi was missing. Hmmmm. I looked all over for her but didn't see her anywhere. I called for her and cruised all around the neighborhood clucking like the crazy woman I have become (this doesn't even phase me anymore) but to no avail. Finally, I poked my head over my neighbor's fence and saw a pile of white feathers and a big dog looking up at me with his sweet brown eyes and I thought damn. Obviously I was frustrated that this dog ate my chicken, but at the same time, my chicken flew into his yard. The dog was just being a dog. I suppose it would have been one thing had the dog hopped the fence (impossible- it's a really tall fence) and come into my yard and attacked my chickens, but that's not what happened. RIP Goldilocks.

So I tend to deal with my grief over losing a chicken by going out and obtaining a new chicken. But I've learned my lesson about bringing in one chicken at a time to an already established flock… It's not a good idea. Chickens need at least one buddy so I knew that if I was going to replace Goldi, I'd need to replace her with a pair. And I knew exactly which pair I wanted.

If you follow me on Facebook you know that every evening I go feed a bunch of wild street chickens. It started b/c I felt so much guilt about leaving Peepers out there so I was just going to feed him, but it's grown and now there are a bunch of chickens who watch for my car to pull up every day and come running and surround me before I even have a chance to open the door.

Anyway, there's a mama hen who I feed (she is now on her 2nd batch of chicks, above) but her first batch of chicks are ones I've been feeding since they hatched and now they're prob like 2+ months old? I can't remember but something like that. They are the lightest ones in this pic. And yes, I fed them chili. They loved it.
Anyway, last night when I was there feeding them, I scooped up two of these gals and put them in a box in my car and drive them home. Peepers saw this happen and hopped up onto the hood of my car like, Um, WTF, mom?!?!

So I'm not sure what I expected would happen when I let these two chicks loose in my backyard? I did find it fascinating though to watch how Ellie and Elsa and White reacted to the newcomers. It wasn't really ugly but there were several stare-downs and some chest bumping and pecking and some feathers were ruffled for sure… But overall it wasn't too bad. My two wild ones are more than used to defending themselves against bigger chickens they don't know (if they can defend themselves on the street surely they can defend themselves against a few tame pets in my backyard?)

I made sure they ate really well but it wasn't too long until the sun was going to go down and by instinct these chickens need to find themselves a safe place to roost for the night. Here at home that place is the coop and my tame girls know this, but on the street that place is high up in a tree somewhere. I managed to catch the little one (I named her Hila which is Hawaiian for 'shy') and held her until I could get her into the coop… but Hae (Hawaiian for 'wild') flew off into my neighbor's tree where she spent the night. I was pretty much sick to my stomach when I saw her do that because what she didn't know was that directly under this tree lives a big dog who ate my last chicken. All I could think was Oh no what if I brought this chicken home trying to give her a better life and she makes it less than a day before being eaten by a dog?!? Argh. And if that happened then Hila would be alone which would be super sad… There was really nothing I could do about it last night though…

This morning at dawn I headed out to the backyard, let the girls out of the coop (including Hila who safely made it through the night in there) and stared into my neighbors tall tree, calling gently to Hae. I could see some branches rustling so I figured she was in there, and sure enough eventually she flew out toward our yard. She missed her intended target (of course) and both of my cats were there sensing a bird in distress… Oh crap… so there I am in my pajamas chasing this chicken and trying to get to her before one of my cats does… She ends up in another neighbors yard clucking her scared to death brains out… I couldn't get through that fence but Ozzie could so he continued the chase until Hae eventually ended up in our front yard where she flew onto the top of my familiar car for safety. I was able to climb up and rescue her from there and bring her back to Hila who seemed incredibly grateful to have her sister back by her side.

So that was the first hour of my day today.

I keep going out back to check on Hila and Hae and for the most part they've been back there and ok today. Hila did wander off into my neighbor's yard earlier today (we have a fence but these young wild things can FLY way better than my bigger tame chickens) and I tried to catch her but she wouldn't let me… Interesting they were so easy to catch on the street b/c out there they were always pretty much starving to death, but here in my backyard (the land of plenty) they are not so hungry so they don't come running to me like they used to… Anyway, I finally gave up knowing it was fruitless to try to catch this bird. Can I just say though how CUTE it was to watch Hae call out a distress signal and listen to Hila call back to her… eventually Hila came back, more likely b/c she wanted to be with Hae than that she wanted to be with me but whatever it takes, right?!

So my dilemma tonight is going to be to try to figure out how to catch them and get them into the coop before they go flying off into that big tree again. I don't want that to become their roosting habit because all it would take is one miss of a branch and they'd be dog food. And really, I think Hila doesn't have flight skills quite as developed as her sister's so if she attempted to follow Hae into that tree it would likely not work in her favor… Somehow I'm going to have to corner them and get them into the coop which is going to be a much more challenging task than I originally anticipated. If I can establish a nightly routine of getting in the coop I think they'll be fine but the next week or so is going to be touch-n-go figuring out how to tame these wild things.

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Detailed Primer on Swim Toys & Tools!

It occurred to me the other day that it might be a good time to revisit the topic of swim toys and tools. I think I've written about some of this stuff in the past but that was a few years ago and I have since found some new toys that I like to play with in the water so here you go...

The basics of course include paddles, buoy, bands, & fins. I've since added sim shorts and a drag suit to my bag of tricks and I'll explain what I've learned using these tools (pros and cons and when/why to use them). These are just my personal thoughts based on my own experience as well as watching/coaching others who use these tools and seeing how it affects their swimming as well. Most of the links below take you to swimoutlet.com and I have no affiliation with them it's just a simple site where I tend to order much of my swim gear. 

There are lots of types of paddles. I don't own them all but I have 3 different kinds and choose to use them each under different circumstances.


1) These basic/cheap paddles by Sporti. I LOVE THEM. I use them when I'm doing long strength sets. I tend to swim a good 3-5"/100 faster when using these vs not using paddles because they allow me to pull more water than I would when just using my hands alone. I have no fear of doing very long sets using these paddles- next week I'll do 10x400's using them the whole time. And if/when the ocean is calm, I'll sometimes use them in the ocean too for up to an hour at a time. If your technique is decent you're not going to hurt your shoulders. That said, I wouldn't give a new swimmer such long sets using paddles b/c they'd fatigue too quickly, but I've watched the athletes I coach build up to being able to handle using these for longer and longer distances so it's certainly possible to build your volume with these, and as you do, you'll be a more fatigue-resistant swimmer.
Pros: They make you stronger. You might be more likely to understand what it feels like to use your lats when you pull. You get to go faster.
Cons: They tend to slow your turnover down so if you're actively working on increasing your turnover, limit your use of pads. If your technique is shitty or you choose pads too big for your current level of strength, you could hurt your shoulders. If you use them early in a swim set but don't have the strength to back them up, the rest of your swim will be crap. So if you're new to swimming, reserve the pads for toward the end of your swim and focus on power/technique. As you get stronger can challenge yourself with using them earlier on and then trying to swim fast/strong afterward. You've made it when you can do this. :)


2) Finis Agility paddles. I'm a pretty big fan of these too! I use these more for technique oriented pulling. I don't go as fast when using these b/c have to be more careful about hand placement as you enter the water (so I never really try to 'rip it' with these on) BUT since they don't have straps, you get immediate feedback about your stroke. I.e. if you do it wrong, they fall off! How's that for feedback? So I love these for new swimmers.
Pros: They give you immediate feedback about your hand placement upon entry, catch, and pull. Great for technique work. You never have to fuss with straps breaking.
Cons: If you're focusing on increasing turnover, these won't help. Not best used in a group setting b/c you're not going to go as fast with these and the goal is NOT speed so if being around others makes you want to swim FASTER, then save these for when you're alone.


3) PT Paddles. I hate these. Ha! These essentially force the fist drill on you... You cannot feel or pull any water with your hands when using these pads so you are forced to use forearms. If you lead your pull with your elbows, you literally won't go anywhere with these paddles.
Pros: Great technique tool teaching you to involve your arms other than your hands when trying to move through the water.
Cons: Might be frustrating as you will move quite slowly through the water. Personally I don't ever use these for more than a few 50's at a time, though maybe if I sucked at them less, I'd use them more. :) Rarely will I use these in a group setting.


4) Basic buoy. I used to LOVE my buoy. Now I love it a little less (read #5 below to find out why!) The buoy has a lot of great uses- mostly that it will help swimmers pop their hips up more onto the top of the water so you get a better idea of what it feels like to be in the correct position as you're moving through the water (swimming less 'uphill'). Some swimmers swim faster with a buoy (I am faster with a buoy) but others swim slower (Nalani and Lectie are faster without their buoys). This is mostly dependent on how much you use your kick for propulsion and to keep a decent body position, and how tiring that is for you to do.
Pros: Helps many swimmers be more on top of the water, which helps to get into a position to best utilize proper catch/pull b/c swimmers aren't constantly fighting to 'swim uphill'. For triathletes- saves legs for bike/run later in the day. HR will likely be lower when using buoy b/c less energy used when not kicking. For some, you'll swim faster. If you're working on increasing turnover, a buoy will help for sure. Also, if you're into drills, a buoy can help you focus on performing the drill correctly without having to worry about sinking as much.
Cons: If you use a buoy all the time, you'll feel somewhat disconnected from your lower body and possibly missing the coordination to use your kick when it's appropriate to actually use it.


5) Roka Sim Shorts. These are my newest toy and holy cats I am a giant fan! So here you get all the benefits you love about a pull buoy, but while also allowing yourself to continue to develop the neuromuscular coordination to kick. Honestly, this product is simply brilliant and has a ton of benefits. I have tested mine in both the ocean and the pool now. I'm faster with these shorts vs a buoy on short/fast swims (50's and 100's) and about the same speed as with buoy on longer swims, but I'd say I feel better using these vs my buoy because my stroke feels more complete having the option to kick at least a decent 2-beat kick. I have not had the chance to put these shorts on Lectie or Nalani to see how they fare (given that they are faster without a buoy b/c of their kick I am genuinely curious as to how they perceive these shorts? My hypothesis is that they will like them as well but no experience with this yet.)
Pros: They pop you right up into the correct body position so you have access to all your power. Can swim with high turnover but with less accumulated fatigue. You can choose to kick strong if you want the propulsion, or hardly at all if you're focusing on your pull. Because they allow you to swim faster, you can train with athletes who are faster/stronger than you and you're more likely to 'stay in the game' through the middle/end of the session because you'll be able to go off the same intervals and be more motivated to keep pushing because you haven't been 'dropped'. My athlete Sergio has been using these in our sessions and his confidence has skyrocketed over the last month because he knows that wearing these allows him to keep up better so he tries harder, for longer... which directly impacts his swim fitness in a very positive way. If you enjoy swimming more because you can hang with the faster swimmers, you're more likely to actually swim more often, which has a direct positive impact all around.
Cons: If you swim outside in the middle of the day, you'll end up with some ugly tan lines. If the water in your pool is hot, you might suffocate yourself by wearing these too. If you don't tie the drawstring tight enough you end up collecting water inside the shorts when you push off the wall (solved if you tie it tight enough). You can't race with these in non-wetsuit legal races, but I can see myself using them for races where they give a bogus 'wetsuit legal' approval because the benefit is similar to a wetsuit but without any restrictive feeling and no issues with overheating in water that is questionably wetsuit legal.


6) Finis Ultimate Drag Suit. Ok so these are pretty much the opposite of the sim shorts above! They will slow you WAY down (for me it's in the range of 10"/100 slower). Regardless, I love them for several reasons. I sometimes swim 800-1000 straight with the drag suit, but should probably start with shorter intervals like 50's and work your way up.
Pros: They FORCE you to figure out how to pull water. Because the big pockets create so much drag, you have to create enough power upfront to overcome all that drag, so these are a great teaching tool with immediate feedback about how strongly you're pulling. They also (immediately!) fix any issue you might have with 'over-gliding' because when wearing these shorts, there is no gliding. So if you're working on increasing your turnover, these will force that. Plus, when you take them off, you feel super fast! Could also use these if you're a fast swimmer and you want to train with a friend who is slower- you genuinely get to work very hard and can go off longer intervals but still get in a some great work. Sometimes we put these on Mark trying to handicap him so we can keep up better but he still gets to work very hard. :)
Cons: Sometimes you're just too flat out tired to swim with this drag suit. It does require you to work really hard, so only use it for parts of sessions and only when you've got adequate energy. Tough to use in a group setting unless everyone has one because you'll simply be too slow to make normal send-offs.

7) Bands. No link to this one because they're easily made with an old tire tube. Just tie these around your ankles and you're good to go. Lots of ways to use bands. If you use them alone, they're similar to the drag suit above but they work in a slightly different way because they create drag by causing your legs to drop. If you're looking for drag, personally I think the suit above is a better option than bands only because you still get to kick when using the drag suit. In my experience using these tools with athletes I coach, I've seen that MOST newbie swimmers are incapable of getting across the pool when they first start to try with bands only... but those same swimmers can swim with the drag suit b/c they can still use their legs to help. So if you're new, start with the drag suit then move on to bands only. That said, if you're a strong swimmer, you might be able to swim long distances just fine with bands only. For me personally, swimming bands only is easier (by a lot!) than drag suit but that is not the case for everyone. The concept is similar anyway. It's also quite common to combine bands with buoy and/or paddles. This is mostly done when you want to completely prevent kicking and focus solely on pulling up front. I also like to use bands when I'm using a buoy b/c it helps me keep the buoy in place as I'm swimming and flip-turning.
Pros: Gives immediate feedback as to the effectiveness of your pull. If you can't get across the pool with your feet tied together, this is telling, and you've got some work to do on creating power upfront.  Forces higher turnover and reduces a swimmers ability to over-glide. Cheap and easily accessible tool for any triathlete. Allows a stronger swimmer to swim with a weaker swimmer at the same speeds/send-offs.
Cons: New/weaker swimmers simply cannot do it.

8) Fins. These probably don't need a lot of explanation but I'll throw out my 2cents anyway. I tend to use fins when I want to focus on overspeed work and/or get the HR up. Fins can also be used as an aid for new swimmers are they are doing drill work or simply want to feel what it feels like to move through the water quickly. Can also be used by swimmers trying to learn other strokes like butterfly as they make swimming fly 100x easier.
Pros: If you're looking to get HR up high, these will do the trick! 10x50's max sprint with fins is one of the hardest sets we ever do! Teaches a swimmer to get comfortable being uncomfortable in the water... in an environment where we are rarely (if ever!) panting breathing, use fins if you want to simulate that and teach yourself to swim through it. They can also be used to help swimmers (who pay attention) learn where they might be creating excess drag (with head or shoulders?). When you're moving really fast, you tend to be able to feel better where you're creating drag and if can fix it, will go even faster.
Cons: I find my turnover starts to slow down when I'm focusing on kicking hard with fins, so it can be challenging to get hands and feet moving quickly at the same time while wearing fins. If you have any issues with achilles, fins can irritate them further. Swimming hard with fins is very fatiguing so if you have another bike/run session later in the day, be careful about doing too much of this (unless that's your intended goal).

So there you go! Plenty of toys to play with to keep you occupied in the water... Can mix and match too for some added fun. Once, on a day when we were just sort of playing, we wondered how hard it would be to add bands to the drag suit? We all managed to make 100M of that but it was ridiculously hard. Then of course the inevitable question...  Is it even possible to swim with the PT paddles + drag suit + bands?!? Nalani was brave enough to try that combo (I was not!). It was hysterical to watch. She did make it a full 100M using all 3 of those torture devices. It took her just under 3' if I recall correctly. Ha! I prefer my new sim shorts, thank you. :)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Kona Spectathlete!

I wasn't going to go to Kona to watch this year... but then a few weeks ago my FOMO got the best of me and I found myself a cheap place to stay and booked a plane ticket with miles and just made it happen for a short weekend. And I'm super glad I did! It was so much fun and absolutely worth the trip. :)

I flew over Friday morning and went straight to the expo after I landed... Had fun visiting friends working at some different booths. Networking there for the morning might have been worth the trip all on its own. In the first few hours of landing on the Big Island, I had a chance to catch up with a bunch of old friends, hung with some of the awesome Coeur Sports gals, and formed a new sponsorship relationship for TeamBSC with Roka Sports! My head was spinning!
Friday afternoon the swim course buoys were all set up so some of us swam the course for fun. In all honesty, it wasn't very much fun. :( As it always is in the afternoons, the water was super choppy (which was fine) but the bad part was that jellyfish were out in full force and once we passed the first few buoys we pretty much just got electrocuted for the rest of the swim. We got stung all over (face, neck, arms, chest, etc) for the entire swim. It was about the worst I've ever experienced but I didn't post anything about it Friday night b/c I didn't want to freak anyone out about race morning. I figured maybe by morning the jellies would be gone and indeed they must have been b/c we didn't hear anyone complaining about them on race day. Phew!

This is Gene's arm post swim. We all looked like this...

I found a cheap room in a house up the hill a bit and chose to commute by foot on race day. Running straight down the hill before the sun came up was actually super fun. It was a gorgeous cool morning!

I chose to not watch the swim- for several reasons- but primarily because I was insanely jealous! I mean seriously, look at this... Swimming doesn't get any better.

So instead I parked myself along the bike course and waited for the whiplash trying to watch everyone rip by.  The mood is totally frantic down there in the beginning of the bike with a billion fans and cowbells and all the adrenaline of the world's fastest triathletes all still feeling awesome so early in the day...

Mid-morning I hung out with Nalani and Kurt b/c they and a room right on Ali'i Dr... so nice b/c we chilled out in air-conditioning listening to the live feed about what was happening on the bike and then all of a sudden it was like the guys are coming in to T2 already!?! That's when the fun began. :)

Kurt and I cracked open beer after beer all afternoon and cheered like banshees for everyone we knew (and plenty of athletes we didn't know). If you were watching on Twitter you know how that went so I won't rehash it all here. :)

In good news I didn't wake up in a dumpster so alls well that ends well. I know it may appear that I am a complete lush and like I drink like a fish all the time... In reality I do not but somehow in my mind Ironman is an event where we go outside our own norms... So whether I'm racing or not, I tend to consume a years worth of alcohol around these events. :) The reality is that I had not had any alcohol at all for several months, and likely won't drink again for several more...

I brought my Osmo Pre-load over specifically to combat the activities on Saturday so I could be in a position to swim for a long time on Sunday. That stuff is magic for preventing hangovers! Good thing too b/c I felt great on Sunday! I met Hillary down at the pier Sunday morning and we swam to Keauhou Bay. It's the Ultraman swim course and is a legit 10K. Quite possibly it's the best swim on the planet. We had nice glassy water (for the first ~2 hours anyway then it got a little choppy). It was warm and clear and glorious and I was super happy the whole time. We did have ~20' in the middle where we had some jellyfish stings and sightings- luckily not too bad. I swear after our experience on Friday, getting stung a few times was no big deal, though the water was clear enough to see these GIANT jellyfish right underneath us and I'll admit that was a bit freaky.

Kurt and Nalani escorted us via kayak which was great b/c we had water and fuel... and I got to try out my new Roka Sim Shorts and holy cow I LOVE those things. 1/2 way through the swim I decided I'd rather give up my goggles than those shorts. They just popped me right up into a great position which allowed me to keep my turnover up the whole time and I felt like I had easy access to all my power... damn I'm a giant die hard fan of those shorts! The swim completely flew by and before I knew it, we were done.

After the swim it was ideal scenario b/c I got to head right over to daylight Mind where Coeur Sports was hosting an awesome past-race party... I opted to skip the alcohol in favor of shots of expresso instead. :) Bob Babbitt was there interviewing a few of the Coeur gals who raced on Saturday so that was fun to watch live! Then we spent a few hours gabbing just girl talk and it was just super cool all around. That team is full of strong amazing women and I am super happy to be a part of it.

Straight from Daylight Mind off to the airport... phew! What a super weekend.

 Now back to regularly scheduled programing...

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Training

Seems like (years ago!) people used to blog a lot about their training... And then maybe that got old and boring and nobody wanted to read that shit anymore so everyone stopped blogging about their training... And while ya, reading all the details about somebody's 100 mile ride gets pretty old, I do still find it quite interesting to read about how other athletes are training... Maybe it's the coach in me? And it's not really about the details of every session but more about the over-arching themes and where the focus is that I find interesting. So with that in mind, here's a bit about what I've been up to... and just because I think it makes it more interesting, I'll include some quotes from my Training Peaks post-workout notes. I log a lot of details but most importantly I log what I was thinking and feeling because I think it helps give me clarity on where the stars need to be aligned in order for me to feel good and therefore make improvements.

"ok so this was awesome! LOVED being inside in air-conditioning. did this at ~3PM and felt good right from the start. hope it was ok that I did these faster than 7' pace but part of me was thinking that I just *knew* I could (and not hurt myself in the process)..."

So I'm sort of training for the Honolulu Marathon (Dec) but the type of run training I'm doing right now would not be considered traditional 'marathon training'... So maybe it's more appropriate to say that my focus right now is improving my run... and I will also be running the marathon... but the focus remains simply improving my run. With that in mind we are working A LOT on trying to get my brain to talk to my legs and figure out how to make them turn over faster. Short fast intervals on the treadmill have worked very well for me in this regard. When I'm inside on the TM first of all it's not a boiling inferno so I can actually focus on RUNNING with out worrying about overheating. It's a great way for me to really track improvements b/c I'm choosing the speeds and then I just have to do whatever it takes to not fall off the back of the machine. I've also found it's easier for me to focus on form and I get immediate feedback about how much harder or easier it is to hold pace based on what I am thinking about.

"felt good and focused on stable hips quick feet. running is a whole hell of a lot easier when your hips stay stable! This has been my giant A HA over the last month..."

I get these glimpses where I see real improvement...

"got home in 16:46 which shocked the absolute hell out of me (previous best was ~18:10 and that felt strong!). it's been a while since I've surprised myself on a run so was nice to do so today! I should note- just as I was running home the sky opened up and it started pissing rain which was simply glorious. I LOVE running in the rain. :)"

But then there are those runs where I just want to curl up and die.

"damn the first ~50' through neightborhoods before I got to the track just didn't feel easy even though I would guess I was running fairly slow- was hillier than I remembered and the sun was out and every time the road went even slightly uphill I just felt like I wanted to STOP. I did walk some of the neighborhood uphills... We broke records for heat again today (heard on the news that every day for the last 8 days we've tied or broken heat records) so I'm going to blame that even though in my heart I know my legs were just not there for this one. I feel like I have really suffered A LOT lately while running. Had there been some shade during this today I probably would have happily laid down in it."

I've complained about it enough already so I won't blather on and on again about how hot and humid it's been here this summer/fall... but suffice to say I'm sitting at my computer right now in a sports bra and run shorts and sweat is dripping off me. I really should put a mat under my chair to protect the carpet. It's that bad.

Anyway, I'm still running quite frequently (like 6-8x/week) but I'm not doing many 'long' runs. Most of my runs are 60' or less. I am doing those Marathon Readiness Series runs which pretty much take the place of long run training. The 25K is tomorrow. I won't lie, I'm a bit nervous because that will be my longest run (by several miles!) since IM Cozumel last fall. So while I'll go out on a limb and guess that while I could probably PR a 5K right now, I'm not confident in my ability to run long... Tomorrow might be another ugly one. We'll see.

I'm riding a little... Just a few times/week, mostly on my road bike, and focus is on spinning my brains out. I've never done so much high cadence work ever before in my life, but damn if I'm not getting pretty good at it! I sort of like these bike sessions now because they don't take a lot out of me but still kinda fun to go out and focus on a improving something that has previously been outside of my skill set. For the most part during these high cadence sessions I just go out and do loops around a neighborhood. The people who live there must think I'm crazy... there goes that nutso girl again riding around in circles with one leg or spinning her brains out... Lol.

"this went much better than last time I attempted it, but still can't hold 125rpm for that long... 115 is pretty comfortable at this point though and can do 120 with focus... can get to 125 just can't quite hold it.  on the 15" spin ups though I counted 35 pedal strokes which is 140 which was a giant jump over last time."

Moving on... Swimming is what it is... I've been swimming at a relatively solid level all year and that continues. Most weeks I have at least one 'long' swim which is 5-7K. If a session is only 3K it feels super short! Most of the time I enjoy swimming quite a bit. The water is cooler now because the pump broke earlier this week and half the water somehow got emptied out, which meant they needed to close the pool for a day while they refilled it. Swimming in water that is 80 degrees is completely different than swimming in water that is 90 degrees! While our pool was closed, Lectie and I went up to a different pool (short course but still meters) that was really nice! It felt luxurious with flags and lanes lines and pace clocks...

"did first 2 sets swim and last set pull. descended these well too from 1:27 on the easy ones to 1:22 on the fast ones off 1:30. 3rd round pull so we did them off send-offs 5" faster 1:35 down to 1:25 to make sure it was a good challenge. :) Last 6 of those I held 1:20's for all and felt happy with that. Solid effort for sure."

In fun swimming news, next weekend I get to swim the 10K UltraMan course in Kona with Hillary and I'm stoked about that! It was the highlight of my year last year so I'm seriously looking forward to it! And while I'm on the Big island I'll watch and live tweet about a little race going on there as well... Stay tuned. :)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Melted Crayons & The Bunny Swim

So ya maybe we live in 'Paradise' but it's not all awesome all the time. This summer has been one of the hottest summers I can remember in my 10 years here. Usually we have a nice Tradewind flow keeping our temps and humidity level reasonable. It sounds all great to be less windy but hot damn this place becomes an inferno when you remove the wind.

This sort of sums up how swimming has gone recently.
So you can imagine how the running has been going... Yesterday I had a longish run that included 4x10' hard. I started at 7AM which was too early for my body but not early enough to avoid the heat and am too embarrassed to admit how many times I sat down in the shade during that run. Ok not really too embarrassed- 3x. Hi my name is Michelle and I sat down in the shade 3x during a 10 mile run. That was in addition to the 2x I stood directly under a cold shower at a beach park (fully clothed- shoes too yes- but I should have removed my ipod). Just trying to survive.

I then got home and wrote the following in my Training Peaks notes: (This is what Marilyn has to endure from me. I don't think I pay her enough.)

"I am *creaky* in the mornings (ankles, mostly) these days but it's so f'ing HOT that there's no other time to attempt a run like this. did some eccentric calf dips and banded ankle mobility stuff before I left and that helped a ton. Drove 3/4 mile down the hill to the pool to start this so I wouldn't have to run/walk up the hill to my house at the end (so lazy?! But given how I felt at the end was a great call) Felt awful to start and Did not feel ready to start going harder after 20'... plus had to go to the bathroom (again) so extended the w/u until I got to a beach park where there were bathrooms. So started the faster pieces at 28' (it's obvious on the graph/file where I did those). Felt better than I anticipated on the 10' pieces and managed to run 8:15-8:20 pace for the most part (not quite flat but sections weren't really hilly until #4 which was slower than the others but every bit as hard). Wore HR separately so it's not on this graph/file but it was mostly upper 160's for these 10' pieces up to 171 I think at the end of each. I took longer than 2' recovery after each (except the first one) b/c I ended #2 and #3 at the beach park and just went and stood under the cold shower for a minute or two trying to cool off. I'm having a hard time getting my brain to be anything but pissy in this weather- like all I think the whole time I'm running is "it's so fucking hot it's so fucking stupid hot..." My 'cool down' was a pathetic walk/jog/slog up the hill to my car and then I laid down in the shade on the sidewalk and made a sweat angel on the concrete. I drank 2 bottles before I started (1 water, 1 osmo pre-load) then 1 bottle osmo + 2 bottles water during the run. Stomach actually felt sloshy toward the end like that was too much fluid but I still lost a pound during this run so thinking it's prob just impossible to get the fluid balance right when I sweat like I do (a TON) and it's this humid."

Then of course I started to wonder if I'm just being a whiny loser for complaining about the heat so much?? You know maybe if I just get over myself and ignore it I'd be able to still pull off some decent training sessions? Then Moana brought me her crayons and I decided that I wasn't just imagining it.

So what to do when winds still aren't back the following day? Take advantage of some abnormally calm ocean water and organize an epic swim, of course! It was Marcy's idea, actually, but once she put it out there I latched on and gathered the troops... texts flying all day yesterday... Most of us had never swam out to Rabbit Island before. It's officially named something else but apparently at one time it was inhabited by a couple of rabbits, who multiplied as rabbits are known to do, and the population exploded... they proceeded to eat everything green on the island until it was no longer green and then they all died off. Anyway, we call it Rabbit Island and Moana is sure that the Easer Bunny lives there. So if course she was stoked to go too!

We had a group of 8 cool swimmers plus Scott escorting on a paddle board, Nalani in a kayak, and Ted on his SUP. Then we also had Marcy's husband Bo driving an escort boat (Moana rode the boat!) just in case we ran into sharks or whatever and all had to immediately flee to safety. I guess that's the issue with this water more so than some other places we frequently swim... Everyone says it's 'sharky'. Mark brought his Shark Shield though which is this electronic thing that apparently emits some sort of signal that makes us uninteresting to sharks so Scott dragged that along behind his board as some insurance or something. It worked!


Anyway, was an awesome swim/paddle/boat ride out to the island (not allowed to land on it as it's been designated a sanctuary- birds and monk seals- we saw both from the water!) The whole way out I was just so happy and thinking This is why I train... so I can go do awesome stuff like this on the weekends... at the drop of a hat... wanna go swim to that island? Why yes I would thank you... This, to me, is living.

Feet up!


 Our kids watch us...

Mark had swam this area once before and said the cliffs off to the side were worth swimming around to see, so we did that... and indeed... so cool. We hung out here for quite some time just treading water and talking and smiling and just generally enjoying our surroundings.

Then the best thing happened... Moana was yelling to me from the boat MOMMY CAN I JUMP IN?? Um YES of course I thought the fact that she wanted to was just awesome... so she fearlessly cannon-balled her way into this deep blue water and hung with us all and I was just so proud. And it made me realize once again that our kids are just products of their surroundings. They watch us and they see what we do and they adopt our values. Moana has grown up watching her daddy surf big waves and her mommy swim long distances and I'm sure she sensed the jovial mood of our gang in the water so if we are not afraid, why should she be afraid?

So anyway, this swim today made up for the run yesterday. Hawaii really is paradise, even when our crayons are melting.