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 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


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.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

On Motivation...

I've had like 100 ideas for blog posts floating around my head recently and realized a common theme among a lot of it has to do with motivation... So I'm just going to start typing and will see what comes out. :)

I find myself highly motivated to run right now. Like, even more than last month when I wrote about how motivated I was to run. :) I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that I'm seeing more and more glimpses of progress. Of course not every run is awesome, but every time I run I have this strong gut feeling that I am chip chip chipping away... And then I'll have a little breakthrough type of run and think WOW maybe I actually am not doomed to just be a shitty runner my whole life?!

So of course I'm paying close attention to it all and how Marilyn is structuring it for me and it's been interesting. One thing I can say is that she is working on making sure I have more than just one speed. Every week I hit all paces from sub 7 to 10+ for differing amounts of time... I'm running frequently vs long. I'm not paying attention at all to weekly mileage (seriously have not added it up in my head or looked at totals in Training Peaks) but frequency of runs is 5-8x/week and that's been good. I run short hills, long hills, uphill reps, downhill reps, treadmill reps, easy jogs, tempo effort, threshold effort... I'm even doing drills a few times/week which I think have been hugely helpful.

What I find interesting though really is how much I am just shutting my brain off and trusting the process right now. Like not micro-managing my weekly mileage... That is new for me! I've NEVER not added up those numbers... Also, my HR monitor is separate from my Garmin at the moment... mostly b/c my Garmin HR monitor crapped out on me (again) and I have not been motivated to buy yet another one... but then my neighbor had this super basic Timex one that literally does nothing but show you current HR and she gave that to me... So I'm loving that b/c on my easy days I can just go out and run by HR and time and not have any idea about pace (so therefore I cannot judge myself about that) but rather instead I'm just putting in the time at the right effort level... Then on my more specific/hard days I can use my garmin and watch pace and try to hit whatever I'm supposed to hit and not let HR numbers screw with my head. This has been a real game changer for me- to separate HR from pace yet still use them both as tools when appropriate.

Back to motivation! So I think that for me (and I'm guessing I am not alone here!), when I sense that I am doing it... that my goals are within reach... motivation sky rockets. It's a very positive spiral because I start doing all the little things that also help along that path.

Related: I have been carrying an extra 8-10lbs all year. I willfully gained that weight last December after my disappointing race in Cozumel by spending the month not training and indulging in all things sugar and chocolate. I ASSumed (no worries!!) that it would all drop right off when I started training again in January but shocker- it did not!?! Apparently now that I am 40 I do not have the metabolism I once did and weight does not just fall off without a seriously conscious effort. Interestingly though I have tried all sorts of things this year trying to get that weight off but it never happened.

Now I should note: I know I am not 'overweight' in the sense of being healthy, but as far as achieving my best running? I have not been at a weight that is conducive to that. There is a difference and I am well aware of it... So my efforts at the moment to drop these pounds is not about being healthy as much as it is about running faster... and having written and re-read that, it sounds like I'm starving myself and on my way to an eating disorder (never gonna happen I love food!) so don't take it like that! But hopefully you get my point. I believe I can drop a few more pounds and still be considered 'healthy' (and also not look like a stick figure).

But if I 'tried' for 8 months to lose weight but never did it, why/how is it happening now? Have I cut out half the food groups? Or stopped eating food altogether in favor of juicing all the time? Ha! No. I'll tell you what I have done. I got on the scale (brave!). Then I ate less that day. Then I got on the scale again the next day. I stopped mindless snacking when I wasn't hungry and I didn't go back for seconds after dinner. And I kept doing that... every day. So for me, it's not about eliminating sugar or bread or meat or dairy. It's about being moderate. It's also about paying attention... What gets measured, gets managed. So I break that dumb rule about not weighing yourself more than once a week or whatever... I weigh myself often and find it interesting to see how my weight fluctuates through the day based on hydration levels. I don't judge myself based on whether that glass of water I drank caused the number on the scale to go up 1/2lb (duh of course it did!). Anyway, back to motivation...

So as I see the number on the scale go down, I feel my running getting better! I feel less like an elephant and more like a gal who can run. That is motivating! So when my husband brings home a bar of dark chocolate (true story I am not kidding it just happened as I was typing this) I was able to take a small bite of it, savor it, and then give the rest of it back. I am more motivated to feel good while running than I am to get the temporary satisfaction of eating more of that chocolate. So that's it... I am motivated to continue what I'm doing because I feel it working. It's not an overnight process and I don't know how long it will take to reach my goals... shoot, I don't even know exactly what my goals are?? Interesting, no? What's my goal for the marathon? I don't know. I guess it would be to run it and to feel stronger than I usually do... and maybe not want to flick Nalani off if she's trying to take a picture of me while I'm out there... Funny though I have not put a number on what the clock should say at the finish... same way I have not put a number on what the scale needs to say before I'll feel like I've reached my 'goal'. I feel like I'll just know when I get there. And right now I just feel like I'm on the right road and have an awesome map! It's motivating! :)

Anyway, I had (have) a ton more things (some related and some not) that I could write about, but I am going to go spend some time rolling this old body out so I can run again tomorrow and not have super stiff tissues that are all pissed and rebelling...

Monday, September 8, 2014

A 5K/20K Weekend

This past weekend we got to go up to the North Shore and race a new ocean swim race... the 5K that went from Sunset Beach to Waimea Bay...

Athletes could choose to do it solo OR as a relay, which made for a fun team event and opened it up to more people than maybe would have been interested otherwise... I've done this swim several times in training with friends. In fact, my friend/athlete Kevin and I did it on the 4th of July just for fun. :) The water up there in the summer is seriously gorgeous and it's one of my favorite places in the world to swim.

Unfortunately, I came down with a bit of a virus last week... one that made its way into my chest and left me coughing up some ugly sticky stuff. It's always a bummer going into a race you're excited about when you don't feel healthy but the idea of staying home and missing this was worse than the idea of doing it while sick so it was an easy decision to go ahead and swim. Maybe my subconscious was trying to tell me something, given that the night before the race I had a dream that I did this swim while wearing a fleece jacket and towing my purse...

The turn out for this first year race was really good- 200+ athletes brave enough to challenge themselves over the distance. Pretty cool I thought! That said, the mass start was easy... I heard the horn and started swimming and never got touched. Given that I didn't feel like myself, I kept a pretty relaxed conservative effort/pace and just cruised along. So weird I didn't see ANYONE around me... no one to the left or right as far as I could see (which was pretty far b/c water clarity up there is as good as it gets). I wasn't leading or anything- I knew there were a bunch of swimmers up ahead- but these types of races there are not buoys every 150M like there are in triathlons so most everyone just spreads out and does his/her own thing heading in the general direction down the coast. That said, I did feel some tapping on my feet off/on for the first ~45' of the swim and turns out while I wasn't towing my purse, I was towing Sergio, which I actually didn't mind doing at all. I was proud of him for sticking on my feet and perfecting the art of the draft!

I've said it before and I'll say it again- I think the ocean is healing and is a good place to go when you're not feeling well... Maybe 1/2 way through this swim I actually started to feel a bit better and kind of picked up the pace. (Sorry Sergio!) I then spent the rest of the swim finding swimmers up ahead of me and picking them off one by one. So that was a fun way to finish the event. I actually had a bit of a race right to the finish line and managed to out sprint an 18yo through Waimea Bay which has probably never happened to me. Ever. Turns out, the only way I can out-sprint an 18yo is if she swims 4500M first. Then I can get her in the last 500. Lol.
Waimea Bay is amazing. I stole this picture off Facebook.

Anyway, this is now easily my most favorite ocean swim race ever. The atmosphere after the race was fun... full of friends and a good local community vibe. They gave out these awesome cookies as awards (made by the wife of the swimmer who placed 3rdOA in the race!) This pic is actually of someone else's cookie... Mine got devoured by a little blonde 5yo as soon as she saw it. I bet they tasted really good though?

So that swim took just about all the energy my body had that day and I was pretty useless the rest of the afternoon/evening (sorry, Moana!). That said, I was signed up for a 20K run race the following day and decided that since I was capable of doing the swim race, I should also then be capable of doing the run race, no?

Turns out, for me, swimming a 5K while sick is 100x easier (and a good bit faster!) than running a 20K while sick. I really tried to keep an open mind and told myself that I came around and felt better 1/2 way through the long swim race, so maybe the same would happen in this 20k run?? Ha! No. I seriously considered dropping out around mile 8 when we ran right by the finish line... but then decided that jogging it in was preferable to a DNF so that's what I did. Nalani was there with her camera taking pictures and I kind of wanted to slit her throat every time I saw her pointing that thing at me... but instead I just shook my head and laughed and flicked her off for trying to capture this failure of mine on film. There may or may not be a picture of my middle finger surfacing later in the week.

I got home yesterday and spent most of the rest of the day online 'watching' Ironman Wisconsin... Apparently the "live" coverage in Mt Tremblant was non-existant... I would have missed it anyway b/c I was sleeping and then at the 20K... I may or may not have skipped most of my run warm-up though in favor of checking my twitter feed trying to see the updates on who was winning that race... good thing for Twitter, eh?

Anyway, now I rest and try to give my body the time it needs to get back to healthy. In good news, my two week stint as single mom ends tomorrow as Scott finally returns from his two week surf trip to Indonesia...

Monday, September 1, 2014

On Being Proactive

I might not be the most talented runner it the world, but I really love running! The more often I run, the better it feels, which allows me to enjoy it even more... And then I am motivated to run MORE... and so goes the cycle.

For the most part, this is all be good. The only issue, really, is that I am not 25 anymore! I am running almost every day (often quite hard!) and consequently I have a few body parts that are starting to whisper to me that they might not be 100% happy with my recent running intensity. Of course the best way to improve your running is to run consistently and I know this... Must.Avoid.Injury... With that in mind I find myself going way out of my way to proactively keep myself healthy.

The tissues on the bottom of my right foot were feeling uncomfortably tight last week. It wasn't a sharp pain at the heel so I wasn't super stressed about plantar fasciitis, but it didn't seem like a stretch to understand that if I ignored that stiffness and just kept running, I'd end up hobbling every morning and eventually would be unable to run! So instead of ignoring it, I took a couple of proactive steps...

~Put a lacrosse ball under my desk and rolled my foot out on it a few times/day while I was working (doing it right now in fact!).

~Use my trusty Supernova ball all up and down my calves. That supernova ball gets used daily- I seriously don't think I'd be healthy without that thing. Hands down my favorite tool for body work! I use it on my glutes, adductors, psoas, and calves.

~Started doing some foot strengthening exercises... standard stuff just squeezing my toes super hard, moving towels around with my toes, etc.

That stuff seemed to keep it from getting worse and allowed me to keep running, but I still felt the stiff tissues so didn't have complete confidence that I was in the clear. In good news, for the last ~4-5 months I've had a standing weekly appointment with Dr Zen at The Zen Center so I had him take a look at it. Dr Zen pretty much works magic... He used his electric stim thing on my calves/feet and then adjusted my ankles to his liking and wouldn't you know it? Completely pain free walking out of his office! So it seems maybe I dodged a bullet with that one, but I know I have to keep up the rehab stuff so it doesn't come back.

Yesterday, I got to run twice! Hill reps in the morning then hill reps again in the afternoon! Woohoo!

Fitting all this training in while acting as a single mom while my husband is out of town has been no easy feat, but with the help of awesome friends, I've managed. However, it does mean I am at the mercy of anyone who is willing to watch Moana. Yesterday that meant doing repeats up/over Diamond Head for an hour at 2PM on one of the hottest days of the year while my kiddo played in the ocean. Moana had a blast while I got my hurt on. (Thanks to Kelly!)

Speaking of getting your hurt on, you can imagine how hill repeats twice in one day made my achilles tendons feel... Once again I spent some quality time with my Supernova Ball digging into my calves last night... and my next appt with Zen is tomorrow! My confidence is high that I'll be just fine, but in the meantime, I'm doing a sets of eccentric calf dips whenever I get to a step.

So that's the thing- to achieve your running goals, you have to push some limits. But while you're pushing those limits, understand that your injury risk is going to be higher so you have to go out of your way to keep yourself healthy. Be proactive and listen when body parts start whispering to you. Don't skip those PT exercises, roll yourself out often, and find talented professionals to help!

See you on the roads!