Tuesday, December 16, 2014

December Ramblings

I'm procrastinating going for a ride... If I blog that'll waste like an hour, right? Lol. I know I should not say this but damn I'm just COLD and the thought of facing that cold wind on my bike right now is not really that appealing... except it's not really that cold. I'm just a complete wimp. It gets worse every year!

I can't believe 2014 is almost over. This fall just completely flew by! Anyway, makes me think I should do a little reflection on 2014... and set some goals for 2015... I've actually done a bit of both already, though maybe not "officially". My goals are mostly in my own head, and if they stay there, they're easier to revamp or reorganize depending on how things are going. Maybe that's a good thing, but maybe it's a cop out? I should probably write them down somewhere even if I don't publish them all on the inter webs... I will write this one down though... I have a goal of getting through an Ironman Marathon without breaking down. A Big Ask, I know, but I think I'm on the right path to breaking that bitch down, so I have some hope that it's possible.

Maybe I'll write all my goals down when my Believe Journal comes? Actually, I think it came already. I made a Christmas wishlist and gave it to Scott so when a package shaped like a book arrives from PickyBars with his name on it, well, I got a little excited. :)

Know what else I'm excited about? I get to be on the Coeur Sports team again for 2015! I really liked that group of gals last year so I'm excited to be a part again this year. Coeur is a company that always seems to be doing the right thing... so having an opportunity to support them, and also be supported by them, is super cool. Plus, Osmo is back as a sponsor of the team and I'm completely convinced that stuff is magic. And at some point my computer will learn that when I type Osmo, I don't mean Oslo.

I feel like I get to associate with a whole bunch of awesome triathlon groups... I've got my group of local friends/training partners here on Oahu, I've got my Coeur Sports team, I've got my own TeamBSC, and I've got the gang over at Endurance Corner. So bases are covered when it comes to surrounding myself with awesome TriGeeks TriPeeps. Feels like I'm having more fun with them now too... we recently started a private Facebook page for TeamBSC athletes. Mostly b/c I made a video last week on a swimming mobility concept I'd been thinking about... then I posted it on FaceBook. It was really just a video I made with one athlete in mind- a concept I wanted to explain to him that I didn't feel I could do in writing- so I made the video and then figured maybe some others would get something out of it too... so I posted it and allowed it to be public. At first I thought it was cool that it got shared a couple of times (cool, people like it!) but then it just seemed like it didn't stop and before I knew it, it had been shared 55x (mostly by people I'd never even heard of) and 5500+ views... and I don't know, that just freaked me out a bit. Like yikes, you know, that wasn't exactly a professional video... I didn't even think very much about it... just set my iPhone up and talked into it for a few minutes and then hit 'post' and once you do that, well, you've lost control of it! (Mamas- teach your teenagers this!) So while I liked the idea and felt like I wanted to make more videos, I didn't want to post them publicly. So now we have a private page and I can quite easily post all my thoughts via video and they only go out to a few, which means I can talk rather freely and not really worry about how 'professional' it appears. Take today, for example, when at the end of my video my chickens came to check the scene... like who is she talking to?! It was pretty funny, I thought. ;) But that's part of the value in those videos I think- knowing they are unscripted, yet from the heart... Just short little lessons about whatever I'm thinking about and because of that maybe more interesting than a professional video made specifically to appeal to the masses? Anyway, enough about that.

I think I may have mentioned once or twice about a 'Steel Challenge' I am participating in- the folks at Endurance Corner came up with this one as a way to encourage us to pick up and put down more heavy things during the month of December... So what the heck, I joined in. I've never exactly added up how much weight I lift in a session but it's been a bit eye opening... so we log all of our sessions and I've been getting ~30,000lbs lifted (total) in each of my strength sessions (2x/week) which is  decent amount. It ranks me sort of in the #3-5 position on the Leader Board... smelling a chance to solidify my position toward the top I sent Marilyn an email asking for a 'Go To The Gym Free' card for the remainder of the month, specifically so I can put more pounds on the board for this silly challenge... I was thinking I KNOW I could lift more if I could go to the gym 3-4x/week vs just 2... Of course she was the voice of reason and immediately said NO (I think she actually called me a 'Silly Goose' for even asking- ha!). Part of me was disappointed but the rest of me understands... and it saves me from spending my New Years Eve in the gym knocking out sets of squats and deadlifts in an attempt to get myself ranked in a competition that means absolutely nothing! Lol. It's been fun bantering back and forth a bit on the EC Forum though- something I've never done before with people I don't really know (yet).

OK enough time has passed and I'm now at the point where if I don't leave the house NOW for my ride, I won't be able to fit it in before I go into Mom-Mode for the rest of the afternoon... So off I go!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

One on One With Coach...

I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed at the moment... not in a bad way but almost like there's so much good going on that my head is spinning a bit!

I just spent the last 5 days with Marilyn here at my home and it really couldn't have gone any better. A while back I threw out the idea to her that I would love to have her here for a weekend and my thought was really so that she could see where I live and train and that we could get to know each other a bit better. I know as a coach that the better a coach knows her athletes, the easier it becomes to coach that athlete, so that's mostly what I was thinking when initiating the idea of this trip. I was really happy when she agreed to come, and we decided this would be the best weekend because it was the weekend of the Double Roughwater Swim so it gave her a goal to target and train for while she was recovering from knee surgery.

We clearly achieved all of our goals (and then some!) while she was here! She got to see me swim in both the pool and ocean. I haven't had anyone give me any stroke correction in YEARS so it was cool when she was able to point out how I was losing my grip on the water with my left arm at a certain point in my pull each stroke. Gave me something to focus on and for the most part it was something fairly easy for me to fix once I knew where to focus. She also took a few short videos of me swimming which was cool- again I hadn't really SEEN myself swim in forever so was good to be able to watch and see what she was seeing.

On the bike we had to figure out the best way for her to get to 'ride' with me- given her recent knee surgery, Marilyn wasn't able to really RIDE again quite yet... we considered renting her a moped but in the end decided an electric bike would be best. So Friday night Scott brought home an electric bike he'd rented... SO classic and we both giggled at how funny our Saturday ride would be with me on my TT bike and her on this machine...
If you're friends with Marilyn on Facebook you can see the video she took/posted while we were out riding. It's hysterical! Anyway, the electric bike was brilliant while I was doing seated big gear intervals up a hill... she could pull the throttle and cruise along right next to me! Good too in that she could cue me to gear down/up depending on the grade of the hill... cue me to push through my heels, etc. Then I got to take her out and show her my standard riding route and where I always go when I have tempo intervals or whatever... was able to do some of those for her as well but unfortunately by then the battery on that electric bike was starting to lose power and we were afraid she wouldn't make it home... Indeed... Turns out those electric bikes are good for ~2.5 hours. We rode for close to 3, so Marilyn got to test her knee out a bit while pedaling that beast of a bike the last few miles (uphill!) to home.

Anyway, over the course of the weekend, Marilyn was able to see me riding easy, doing big gear reps in my aero bars up a hill at 220w/55rpm, riding steady tempo 175w/92rpm, and spinning 110rpm on the rollers... I'm pretty sure that I'll have her voice in my head for the rest of the year when she said "You should have big goals on the bike. You're a good rider." Coming from her, that was probably one of the most motivating and confidence boosting statements I've ever heard.

Yesterday morning the schedule called for the session that scared me the most- A lifting session in the gym with Marilyn. She is a bit of a strength freak so I had some major fears that she might just kill me during that session, but in good news my limbs are all still attached and functioning today. I did lift quite a bit heavier than I had been doing on my own which gave me a nice fat score for the Endurance Corner Steel Challenge (yes I'm playing along!) but overall the session went well and she said she was happy with my squat form so I'm taking that as a giant compliment!

So while all that was awesome, really for me the best part was the coaching I got on my run. That's where the biggest changes need to occur for me and having Marilyn here to really help me fix it was key! We spent a good bit of time doing drills, and of course as you know, drills are only going to be helpful if you're doing them correctly... and I thought I was doing them correctly but of course I was not! So funny- Day 1 running drills she said "show me high knees" and I did like 3 steps of what I'd been doing before she said "Ok stop." Ha! It was like that with pretty much all of them but it's good because I had a very open mind about it all... soaking it up like a sponge- like teach me how you want me to do them and I will do them that way... At one point she resorted to taking her shoe laces out of her shoes and made me run with them to get my hands to do what she wanted them to do (because I could not feel it otherwise). Anyway, lots of form changes to think about on my run but after the last few days I feel like I've got a good grip on what I need to be doing over the next few months to fix it. And I'll get to see Marilyn again in a few months at the Endurance Corner Camp in Tucson so she'll get to see if I've managed to make habit what she was trying to reinforce with me this weekend... It's my goal to make it happen!

And I guess I didn't talk about the Double Roughwater swim here at all yet... Was a good one this year! Conditions were nice- water was mostly glassy until the last maybe 20' or so where we got a bit of chop. We had some currents to contend with as well but that was standard.

Overall I'd say I'm pleased with how I swam and how I kept my mind engaged and focused throughout the whole swim which seemed like a nice step forward. And I finished in 1:57 which is the fastest I've done that course (9' faster than my BLAH swim last year!) so that was cool. The best part though was watching Marilyn come in for the finish- she had never done an event like this one so understandably had some concerns but she had a GIANT smile on her face as she finished which was just awesome. As tradition calls, even though my beloved Nalani wasn't present, we sat on the beach and made our way through a couple bottles of champagne... Pretty fun Sunday morning!

And then of course followed it up with this...

The answer to that question, in case you were curious, is Two.

So there you go! I have to say, if you've never spent time working in person with your coach, it's absolutely worth the time and money and effort to make it happen. There are so many GOODs that came out of the last few days I can't even list them all! But what I know right now is this- my motivation and confidence are both higher than they've ever been, which, given my history with this sport, is amazing. :)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Building

I remember last December...  feeling like I was just completely burnt out. I did next to nothing but EAT a bunch of crap for the bulk of the month. Clearly the long break was necessary even if I took it to a rather extreme. :)

This December feels completely different! Granted, this year wasn't as big of a training/racing year as I've had in the past... so that helps. From 2011-2013 I did 5x Ironman races, so a year away from the distance in 2014 was a good call for sure. And somehow because of that, I feel more mentally fresh and ready to GO right now than I have in years past. Which is good, because Marilyn doesn't kid around with training this time of year! She's got me doing some solidly hard bike sessions, lots of skill work, and I'm in the gym lifting heavy things several times/week. It feels good, like she's building me into a different (more complete) type of athlete. And since we are so far away from any racing, now is a super time to be doing this kind of stuff. I can feel some real changes taking hold too- changes in my strength and changes in my form. One of my 'complaints' about this past year was that my biking was only moderately strong, which made sense because I only rode a moderate amount. I felt like I missed being a super strong rider, so recently we've upped my riding frequency a bit. Today was day 4 in a row of riding for me and it feels great... like I'm on a mission... and even though I completely blew myself to shreds today, my motivation is through the roof!

December is a good time to reflect. To figure out what worked and maybe what didn't work... what you want to keep and what you want to change going forward. I just spent a good bit of time writing all that out for myself and for my coach and it is helpful! I thought about just copying/pasting all those reflections here but in the end decided not all my laundry needs to be public.

The conclusion of what I wrote though was about how much I appreciate Marilyn as a coach. I feel like she has taught me a ton, yet I feel like there is so much more I can learn from her. I like the stuff we are doing right now and I sense success in the future- and that is highly motivating.

I know athletes hire coaches for different reasons. Some just need some accountability. Some seek the knowledge. Some seek a close relationship with someone who understands. I think my reasons spill into all of these categories. While I probably know enough about training methods to coach myself, I am not foolish enough to believe that I could do it successfully all on my own (been there tried that!). The truth is, having someone objectively watching is a giant key to success and knowing that I'm set up in a great situation heading into next year feels awesome. And the better that person knows you, the more specifically he/she will be able to help. With that in mind, I invited Marilyn out here to Hawaii to train with me for a few days... and she's coming this weekend!! I'm excited and nervous all at the same time and the truth is, I need to stop writing this blog and go clean out my car. ;)


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. :)