Monday, February 27, 2012

Smelling Blood

You know what's funny? I sort of think of myself as a swimmer... and a I think a lot of other people sort of see me as a swimmer... but in reality, I pretty much always just get my ass handed to me at every swim workout I do. I guess that's because somehow I seem to find/attract people who are a good bit faster than me to train with. So in comparison to my training partners, I'm definitely not the one you should be calling a swimmer.

I've pretty much given up on ever trying to keep up with Nalani in the pool anymore. I think when on every swim of every set of every workout I see how far ahead she always is (um, pretty much can't even see her feet on a 100 anymore) somehow I just fall into my own little world as soon as we push off the wall and don't even bother trying. Not sure that's a good way for me to go about it (maybe I should try a little harder to keep up?) but I recognize that I rationalize in my head when she starts to pull away and I just let it happen because it's just the way of the world or something?

Enter Mark. Mark is actually a really good swimmer but he is currently quite out of shape after having not been in the water for a while. He swam with us a couple years ago and he's fun and funny and likes to joke and have a good time while we are killing ourselves (and each other). He showed up out of the blue last week and Nalani and I were stoked to see him! (And of course we gave him some crap about how he totally disappeared for like 15 months.) He started the 38x200's with us last week but bailed after like 24... which honestly is fairly impressive that he made it that far given it was his second swim back! But then he showed up again this morning right on time ready for more and we got right to it.

So Mark was just crushing me in the beginning of the workout this morning... seriously like 10" on the first fast 100... BUT it was a 2K main set and after about 500 of it I could see that he was starting to come back to me. Hmmm. At the wall before a fast 200 in the middle of the set I asked Mark "Can you smell it?" He didn't know what I was talking about... "I smell blood," I told him with a smile (and a <sniff sniff>) and then immediately we pushed off the wall and I swam right on his shoulder for that whole 200. We were both just killing ourselves full on racing and it was awesome. We did it that way for the rest of the set... jamming into each wall like there was a touchpad and a gold medal at stake... 5" rest then go at it again... It was absolutely awesome! At the end of the set today I told Mark that I was pretty sure he was going to be the best thing to happen to my swimming this year. :)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Saturday Ride Thoughts...

Notes from the ride today...

~Last night Patrick and I were texting to confirm start time for this morning. I mentioned that the weather forecast was calling for rain this weekend. He replied that he would bring his rain jacket.

~I woke up a couple times in the middle of the night and was feeling rather relieved to not be listening to rain pelting our windows. Maybe Guy Hagi was wrong and it would be dry after all? Patrick showed up a few minutes before we were set to start and the rain came pouring down as if on cue.

~We waited like 5' and then just rolled out. I kind of thought maybe we wouldn't be able to do the planned intervals b/c it just didn't seem too smart to risk going hard on wet roads, but we were pleasantly surprised with some dry roads not too long into the ride. Gotta love that about Hawaii. Don't like the weather? Wait a  few minutes and it'll change!

~That's the other thing about expecting the worst.... then when it's not as bad as you thought it would be, you're happy!

~Physically I felt like crap on the first interval and actually had concerns that I might get dropped today. It just felt really hard but my power was not any higher than it was supposed to be which left my head filled with thoughts about how I must still be carrying some fatigue from that long run on Thursday... and then the fact that I totally depleted myself in the pool yesterday probably didn't help. Excuses excuses. I sucked it up and did not get dropped. I will admit though that when I glanced at my watch and saw we were only 3' into that first interval, I was worried.

~The second one felt really hard too. It took a ton of focus and concentration and I was just thinking of nothing other than willing my legs to pedal and staring at Patrick's wheel when all of a sudden he was yelling something like head's up! (Honestly I can't even remember what he said I was so focused on pedaling but it got my attention.) And I looked up to see a car in front of us basically just stopping in the middle of the road. WTF??! I'm guessing the driver was trying to look at the surf (there was a surfboard in his car and his window was down) and didn't realize how fast we were going and that he was indeed blocking us... luckily we were able to sit up and brake and swerve and stay upright but yikes. That was a close call. Take note: It can be dangerous riding next to surf spots on the North Shore in the winter.

~I started feeling better on the third one. I sort of assumed my power would be lower b/c it did not feel ridiculously hard like the first two did but indeed power was the same... so apparently it just takes me like 90' to warm up these days.

~Guy Hagi was indeed right when he said that "The atmosphere was juicy" today... Rain came dumping down again just as we were getting started on the final interval. Patrick is a bad ass though and just barreled right through it. I think the fact that we were just nailing this workout was motivation to hit the last one too and I totally remember thinking that there was no way I would be riding that hard in those conditions if I was not just determined to not get dropped. If Patrick was willing to ride hard in that crap, so was I. I love peer pressure! And I am not making this up- I was sitting right on his wheel and my mouth was wide open as I just gasping for air trying to hang on and all that water spraying off his back wheel was hitting me right in the mouth face and it did not even phase me. Pedal on. Don't get dropped. That's all I was thinking about.

~After the hard parts were over were cruising home and talking a bit about what it takes to not get dropped. Of course there is a physical element to it but once you get to a certain level I think a lot of that is in our heads. What do you believe? Do you believe you can hang on? Then you'll hang on. Or do you think you're way out of your league so you'll let that wheel ahead of you go? I will tell you that physically I was on no state to ride like I did today but mentally I was there and that's what it took. Now if I could just hone that skill while I'm running... Need to keep working on that one!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I Touched It!

A while back Lucho and I were talking and he suggested that I 'stay in touch' with the long run this winter... primarily because endurance is harder to gain than it is to maintain... so I didn't need to do a 20 mile run every week or anything but just to make sure it didn't get too far away and let it once again become some big epic training day that scared me. Last year I was afraid of 20 mile runs because they hurt me... but I did enough of them that eventually they became quite common place and not only did I not blink when I saw one on my training schedule, I got to the point where they didn't even really hurt me too much. THAT was cool.

So I went into my Training Peaks calendar and wrote in 'Long 18-20 miles' as a run workout and copied and pasted it rather randomly throughout my winter/spring like every 4th or 5th week just to remind myself that I didn't want to get too far away from those. The thinking behind that of course was that once Ironman training actually started in earnest I would already have this base of some long runs which would allow me to jump right into specific pace work on those 18-20 milers instead of just trying to drag myself through them one foot in front of the other style.

I can't remember why I bailed on the long run written in for last month... I had a reason but don't know what it was now... this month I decided not to skip it though so I headed up with some trepidation this afternoon (I asked my boss if it was cool if I bailed on work to go run and luckily she is cool with that kind of thing- she totally gets it- lol- the beauty of being self employed!) with an extra gel hoping it wouldn't completely shell me to run 18 miles. (See? I was afraid of 20 so opted for just 18. Exactly what I was trying to avoid.)

You know what's cool? My long run endurance didn't go anywhere! Phew. It was actually pretty fun at mile 7 I started looking at my garmin to see what pace I was running... sometimes I play a little game and try to guess my pace... when I'm on I can guess almost to the second now... so each mile when the garmin would beep I would look down and check and see that I was nearly spot on... so then my goal became to hold that exact same pace for the rest of the run... and wouldn't you know it- every.single.mile for the next 9 miles- even as I hit some rolling hills- I was within 3" of that same exact pace. Like a freakin' metronome!! It's the little things on a long run that make one happy I suppose. :) Then the last 3 miles I picked it up a bit just because I knew I could and that was such a cool feeling. I felt like I was floating back to my house and finished feeling completely in love with running.

So I know I'm not like breaking any land speed records or anything but at least I can go pop off an 18 miler at will and call it running vs jogging. That makes me happy! I am positive it was all that consistent work last year on my run that allowed me to do that today which feels cool b/c its like proof that years build on years with endurance sports like these. And having a deep base pays dividends for years to come. It's still ~27 weeks til IM Canada. Is St. George still open?

Next up is 38x200's in the pool tomorrow morning. Nalani is imposing a late fee on the 38x100's we were supposed to do last week for my birthday but didn't get to because I was sick. That's a pretty steep late fee I think but whatever- it'll be epic and fun!

Obviously I do all this long stuff because I love it. Even if there was no Ironman on my schedule at all this year I would still be doing all this type of training... Because I love it. :)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Ironman Athletes

This afternoon I was out riding and the wind was ferocious (again) and it got me thinking. (I do a lot of thinking about my athletes when I am training...) all the local ones have been dealing with this crazy wind for the last few days and writing comments in their notes explaining the 30"/mile difference in pace (with same HR) as "well I was running with that awesome tailwind and THEN I turned around..." Ha! Nice to be able to write back that I totally understood b/c I was running in the same wind, etc. Got a comment this weekend from one who had an ocean swim and the words 'Victory at Sea' were fairly prominent. I know a couple others on the mainland were dealing with cold rain and total crap conditions (literally- crap in the pool in one case- he had a fair pass on that swim workout) but across the board what I read this weekend was Got 'er done.

So I was out there battling the wind this afternoon, getting it done, and just feeling so inspired by these other athletes who were also out there getting it done... and it occurred to me that pretty much across the board these were Ironman Athletes. Ironman Athletes have this never say die attitude that I just love (Honey badger don't give a shit!) It's 50 degrees and pissing rain? She'll do part of her bike workout on the trainer and then get the rest done outside. The winds are blowing at 30mph? He'll plan on it taking an extra 20' to ride home. Pools are closed b/c it's a holiday and there's a Small Craft Advisory in the ocean? He'll wear his wetsuit and stay close to shore. Cast on his wrist so can't ride outside? He'll do wall squats between intervals on the bike trainer. Many athletes would just totally bail on the workouts in those conditions. But Ironman Athletes get it done. And THAT is why I love working with Ironman Athletes.

I have been working with 2 local guys who are doing IMNZ in less than 2 weeks now. They both have quite a bit of IM experience (each having done 6 already) but I sat down with one of them for ~90' this afternoon going over If/Then scenarios and pacing and nutrition planning, etc and I got so excited. I love Ironman. I can't wait to start watching these athletes put their hard work together for some great race performances very soon! I'll be a mess all day- so nervous- watching that race in NZ.

And speaking of race performances, let me brag a little more here... Great Aloha Run this morning... 8.1 miles... Patrick (IM Athlete) ran 47' (do the math that's 5:48 pace!) and was 2nd in his age group, Armando (IM Athlete) ran 51' and was 8th in his age group, Karen (former IM Athlete) ran 57' and was 2nd in her age group, Elizabeth (future IM Athlete) also ran 57' and was 3rd in her age group, and Josh (IM Athlete) ran 59' and was 27th in his age group. Given that there were 1000+ runners in each of those age groups, there's nothing to be but proud of those gals/guys! :)))

OK enough sap. What this post was really going to be about was just how cool I think it when people remove the excuses (and there can be many if a non-IM athlete is creative enough!) and just go figure out a way to get it done.... It's a Shout Out to YOU- you know who you are- if you battled through a bunch of crap this week but got it done anyway without any creative excuses... Well done.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


One good thing about getting older is that (for the most part) we get smarter. I'm 38 today and without a shadow of a doubt I can say I am smarter than when I was 28. :) And comparing myself now to myself at 18... well, let's not even go there.

I pulled the plug on my bike block this week b/c I caught a virus that Scott brought home last week. It started off fairly minor early in the week and I thought maybe I could press on and ignore my way through it (what am I, like 28??) but by Wednesday it became clear that in this battle I was having with the virus, the virus was going to win. I started my ride that day and for the whole first hour I argued with myself b/c my gut was saying You are being an idiot but I can be fairly stubborn when I set my mind out to accomplish something and I just wasn't willing to pull the plug on my bike week... but then I had this epiphany about how I should be smarter now that I am turning 38... and I read some sort of quote on Twitter about how the only time(s) we go wrong are when we ignore our gut feelings... So I pulled the plug on the bike week... turned around and rode home and then spent the next few days curled up in a ball in my pajamas feeling sorry for myself while letting that damn virus run its course.


In good news I am feeling more like myself today... though not quite all the way there yet. And of course since it's my birthday I wanted to do this big epic workout... I don't know why, exactly, that pull is there... the need to do an epic birthday smashfest... but it is there. Given my physical state I was just not up for anything huge today so I just rode 38 miles then ran 38 minutes. Maybe the most epic thing about that is that I am a 38yo mom and the reality of riding 38 miles and running 38 minutes doesn't even hardly qualify as a real workout in my mind. That struck me as kind of funny today, in a satisfying way. :)

Scott and Moana and I are going camping at a nearby park tonight... It's the Botanical Gardens where I run all the time and where Scott and I got married 3.5 years ago. I think it will be awesome to wake up there tomorrow morning near these mountains... with the two people who mean the most to me in the world... while listening to the birds chirping. And drinking campfire coffee. Perfect!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Bike Week

It's Bike Week! Which means I'll be fairly quiet on the blog this week b/c just about all my 'free' time will be spent riding my bike (read: I'll be neglecting most if not all of my household duties this week in exchange for more time pedaling)... and then maybe won't have my normal energy levels for a while but that is TBD... I'm sort of curious about how I'll respond to an overload block like this so I'll pay attention and maybe write up something on here later about my impressions of riding what I would consider a fairly ridiculous amount of miles in a week...

In the meantime, check out this super cool video I saw on Facebook this afternoon... It was taken by 2 local athletes (and bike mechanics! and super photographers!) Mike Flartey and Colin Cross... It's of a decent I do fairly often (today in fact!)... I actually don't even know the name of the road but cyclists around here call it Snake Rd b/c of the way it twists and turns... It drops ~1000ft over ~5 miles and I think my max speed going down is something like 45 mph if the winds are right. Anyway, just a little view of what riding on Oahu is like in case you're stuck on a trainer right now! Enjoy!

And, um, pass the chamois cream please.

Friday, February 10, 2012


Well there sure has been a lot of buzz about Lance coming back into triathlon, huh? I have to say, when I read one of the articles yesterday morning I yelped out loud when I saw that Honu was on Lance's schedule for this year! I think that is just flat out awesome. We get to race with Lance!

As if I wasn't excited enough about Honu this year. :)

I know there's some controversy about him and the doping thing and all that... And while it might be naive of me, I am glad that there has never been any definitive proof of cheating because it allows me to continue to live in my world where Lance is still a cancer-surviving Super Hero.

I remember very well watching Lance win the prologue of the 1999 Tour de France... I was sitting on the floor of my grandma's living room about 2 feet away from the TV with tears in my eyes... At that time I was 25 and had raced 4 seasons of triathlon and 1-2 seasons of bike racing... and was five days post my first (of 8) chemo treatments for Hodgkin's Disease. I swear to you if the only thing Lance ever won in cycling was that Prologue, he still would have been my hero for life because the hope I felt that day was something I will never forget. Cancer can be cured! There can be life after cancer! And it can be better than before! These are things a 25 year old going through cancer treatments needs to hear/see/know. So the fact that he went on to win the whole damn race... and then 6 more in a row after that... well, I'll just say I was cheering for him whole-heartedly every year.

So now... now... what is it like 13 years later and I've been racing triathlons ever since and now get to start Honu at the same time as Lance? Wow.

I hope he kicks ass. I also hope that some of the top pro men give him hell and make him work. I hope he suffers. I hope the other guys kill themselves to run him down. I hope WTC doesn't gift him a Wildcard spot to Kona. I hope he earns one fair and square. And I hope he wins.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

No Really, It Was *Easy*!

This afternoon I went out for an easy run. It was dumping rain and crazy windy all day but that seemed okay to me. It was just an easy one after all.

You know what's interesting? I think I have finally actually truly embraced easy running. You probably all thought that I embraced it at some point last year since I did so much of it, huh? But you know what? I didn't actually ever really embrace it. I *did* it, diligently, but not really because I wanted to... I did it because Lucho told me that is what I needed to do to actually build myself a real aerobic base and I trusted him. And he was right. I built an enormous aerobic base.

All that easy/slow aerobic base running did not make me as fast as I wanted to be, but it did make me durable as hell. And it did set me up so now I have the capacity to literally try to rip myself apart in training in a way I would have considered to be suicide several years ago. You don't even want to know what I've done the last couple of days... I wrote it up on my calendar and while I figured I'd probably be able to get through it all, I didn't think I'd rip through it all the way I did. It was awesome. Now I have the capacity to not only do work, but to recover from work... and then to do work again the next day, and the next day, and the next day, which is what will (hopefully!) lead to some big smiles at some finish lines this year. :) Though I will tell you, even if it doesn't, the satisfaction I have gotten out of the training I have done recently is enough for me. I'd easily choose to bag racing and just train if I had to make that choice! I know some of you think that is nuts but that's ok. :)

But that's not what this post is actually about. It's about my ah-ha moment while I was jogging this afternoon... That true realization that what allowed me to do what I did these last 4 days was spending much of last year jogging. Those easy efforts- the ones that are meant to be aerobic- need to actually be easy. I know I've said this before but the goal is not to go (or be) slow. And I will tell you- I know that holding back and going slow when you want to go fast is not an easy ask. It's frustrating and it's not confidence boosting and you have to swallow your ego (a lot). But do it anyway. Build yourself a real base. And once you've got that built you can then go crazy dreaming up all the hardest back to back to back workouts of your dreams... which you are then capable of executing! I think that part is so cool- and it's worth the ego sucking slow-ass jogging you have to do to get there. Trust me. :)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

What A Difference A Draft Makes!

I am loving loving loving riding my bike these days! Part of that is definitely due to the fact that we have had a very dry winter so far... dry roads all through January is definitely something new and while I'm sorry that the Big Island has been declared a Disaster Area due to draught, I am selfishly thrilled about the blue skies. It also didn't hurt that the winds were on the lighter side again today. I am going to be spoiled and soft if these conditions persist!

The other thing that is making riding more fun these days is Oia'i'o. Going out and having power goals to hit with every ride totally makes riding every bit as much fun as swimming! :) This morning I headed out with Patrick which was awesome for several reasons... partly b/c the workout I wrote for him was one I wasn't altogether sure I could do myself (so that made it exciting) and partly because Patrick is a dedicated athlete who has his shit together... which means he shows up on time and completely prepared to execute the workout exactly as planned. I love smart athletes who pay attention to the details.

Anyway, the lesson learned today was mostly about drafting. I think I always knew that drafting provided significant benefit to the rider in the back, but I've never really been able to document concrete proof of that before today. So Patrick and I are about the same size, which theoretically means that we would both have to be putting out about the same wattage to go the same speed... but he is stronger than I am so the wattage goals that were appropriate to him would be impossible for me to hit... But I figured I would just try to hang on to his wheel for as long as I could? Interestingly though as we compared numbers after each interval, I was able to hang on no problem because I was saving average ~50W while sitting on... I never would have guessed that the drafting advantage would be so high! But we proved it over and over on every interval today. For you math/science geeks out there, the equation looked something like this:
(PW = MW+50) Where PW = Patrick's Wattage while pulling and MW = Michelle's Wattage while sitting on.

Some key take-aways in my own brain:

~The drafting advantage is greatest when on a flat road into a headwind.

~The drafting advantage is significantly reduced when riding even a little uphill (like maybe 20W vs 50?) Patrick is a good climber so I felt this for sure on every slight incline today.

~If you are a woman and in training you are constantly drafting off of men who are not significantly stronger than you, you are not working nearly as hard as you could/should be. 

~Now I'm going to have a harder time controlling myself and not being even MORE PISSED when I witness draft packs in Ironmans. Gah! Drafting really is a significant and blatant form of cheating. Don't do it during an event that calls for an "Individual Time Trial".

So all in all another Super Saturday of bike/run! I am feeling awesome.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

How To Think Like A Swimmer

OK so I was listening to a triathlon podcast the other day (Dork alert! This is what I do during the day... But wait for the good part! I call it 'work'!) and these guys were talking about how they view swimming and what motivational techniques they use to get through those dreadful swim workouts... I was like What? Dreadful swim workouts? I do not understand. Swim workouts are not dreadful.

Of course I get to swim outside in a longcourse 80 degree pool with a view of mountains and palm trees (and sometimes I get the ocean which is always interesting) so maybe that's part of it... BUT I grew up in Ohio and swam in an indoor natatorium and had to dry my hair before walking outside in the winter so it wouldn't freeze (Yes! Been there, done that! For years!)... I swam double days all through high school and don't remember dreading swim workouts. So don't give me that as your excuse.

Anyway, listening to those guys talk about swimming and how they play these little mental games to get themselves to finish a 2500yd swim workout got me thinking... Is that normal? Do triathletes really think that way? I do not. Ever. And Nalani does not. Ever. Really! I asked her. The conversation went like this:

Me: "Does it ever occur to you to bail out of a swim workout?"

Nalani: "No."

Me. "Do you ever have to play mental tricks on yourself to persuade yourself to finish a swim?"

Nalani: "No."

Me: "Me neither."

Hmm. Maybe that's one of the reasons Nalani was top female amateur out of the water at IMCdA last year? She doesn't bail on swim workouts. Ever.

So it has occurred to me that maybe we think differently about swimming than some other triathletes do, which of course got me to thinking about the specifics of that... So here you go... Maybe you'll find this interesting? This is how my brain works when it comes to swimming. This list may be a bit random and cover all things swimming (or not) so bear with me...

~I don't write boring swim workouts. Even if my swim workouts are long and repetitive (hello 5 x 1000's), they are not boring. How do I achieve this? I check my splits and assign goals every time. Seriously. I think I've said this before but it's true so I'll repeat it... I know the split of just about every 100 I swim. Even if I don't check my watch every time I hit the wall I estimate based on how I feel and check every 200-300M... so during those long swims I have a goal to hit every time which takes away any sense of boredom I might have. And typically I'm trying to negative split so there's that goal too. Unless its a recovery flop, I always have an interval to go off... never that 15" rest BS... I hate that. Having intervals requires you to do math while you're swimming which is HARD so it totally keeps your mind occupied and hence, not bored. Any of you runners ever go to the track and just jog circles without ever looking at your watch? I didn't think so. Don't go to the pool and ignore your watch or the pace clock. That really is rule #1.

~Play with toys! I don't do all my workouts with toys, sometimes I just swim, but 1-2 times/week I incorporate toys into swim workouts for quite a bit of it. Triathletes sometimes get a bad rap for using toys in the pool but seriously I think it's just because they don't know how to use them so they use them at the wrong time for the wrong purpose. Know why you're using your toys and then they can be valuable tools. Here's a primer:
Buoy- use it to help you obtain the correct body position if you tend to sink otherwise. When you're in this position, pay attention to how it feels to be up on top of the water. Get your stroke rate up a bit and press your chest down and practice swimming downhill. Tighten up your core and feel how you can initiate rotation with your hips. Pay close attention to the feeling of being balanced and focus on your early vertical forearm instead of just trying to stay afloat.
Paddles- use them for strength sets, usually in combination with buoy. As long as you're not crossing over and have decent stroke technique, you're not going to hurt your shoulders by using paddles too much. If your shoulders hurt when you're using paddles, your technique is wrong. Water should feel heavy when you're using paddles. Paddles increase the surface area of water you get to pull, so if the water doesn't feel heavy then your hands and forearms are not in the correct position to really pull it. Use paddles as resistance training for muscular endurance work. Paddles should make swimming harder, not easier.
Bands- if used in combination with a buoy then their only purpose is really just prevent you from 'cheating' by kicking with your buoy. If used without a buoy, it's a whole 'nother ball game. If you want to know if you have a decent efficient stroke, tie your feet together and try to swim. If you can't make it across the pool before your body resembles a horizontal uppercase 'L', you've just found out you have a major inefficiency in your stroke. In all likelihood you're not effective in grabbing and pulling water, probably because you're dropping your elbows and missing that whole Early Vertical Forearm thing swimmers talk about. Strap on paddles and start teaching yourself how to effectively grab and pull yourself over the water and eventually you will make it across the pool. I've also watched swimmers teach themselves to relax most effectively when swimming with bands. It's hard enough just to swim with those things, so you can imagine if you tense your whole body up you just sink like a freakin' rock. Once you teach yourself how to swim with bands, use them when you want to incorporate strength and power into your swim sets. If you're a runner, think of bands like you would think of hill repeats. Sometimes you do short/hard efforts like 25's and 50's... Sometimes you do longer repeats. I've done an entire 2000m+ main set with bands alone. It's possible so don't limit your brain to thinking you can only ever do 25's and 50's with bands. Add paddles and make it more about strength. Remove the paddles and make it more about technique.
Fins- Use them when you want to work REALLY hard. Swear to you you'll never get your HR up as high in the water as you will when doing a set of sprint 50's with fins. Try it! Those leg muscles of yours require some oxygen when they're working hard. Can also use fins if/when you're trying to teach yourself how to swim and you're doing drills- they'll help keep your momentum up which is critical if you're actually trying to swim correctly.
Kickboards- Sorry. Hate those. Never use them. if you're going to kick, multi-task and kick on your side without a board. Isolating your kick is not nearly as functional as kicking on your side. The only purpose I see for using kickboards is if you're swimming with your friend and have an incessant need to chat socially. And if that's the case, go for a run instead.
Snorkel- I'll admit I see some potential with the snorkel but I don't actually use one. Potential there would be to allow yourself to focus on proper stroke technique and front quadrant timing- specifically by removing your need to rotate to breathe, which is when many swimmers very commonly drop their lead arm and miss a huge opportunity to generate power at the top of the pull while they are turning their head to breathe.

~Find someone to swim with. No matter what anyone says, it's possible to achieve steady improvement in your swimming if you swim alone, especially if you've got a coach challenging you with good workouts and appropriate intervals. That said, the ideal scenario is that you have someone (you like) to play with in the water. Ideally your swim partner is around the same speed as you but a little faster/slower is ok. You'll still get motivation by trying to stay ahead of him/her if you're the faster one, or trying to keep up if you're the slower one. Masters programs can be great, though many masters programs tend to focus on only shorter distance sprint sets which is not ideal for triathletes. I think given the choice between a masters program with short sprint sets every night or swimming on your own attempting long challenging sets trying to hit specific splits, I'd go with the latter every time. I should also add here that this is what works for me... partly b/c the closest masters program to me is 2x/week in the evenings from 7-8PM and ~30' drive away... vs a free longcourse pool 1 mile from my house that I can hit mid-day with a motivated swim partner like Nalani... well, that is a no-brainer. And clearly we have made it work. That said, I'd vote for masters over swimming alone in any of the following scenarios: You don't have a coach and don't feel confident about writing good swim workouts... The coach on deck is awesome and takes time to correct your swim stroke... The program is convenient time/location for you and otherwise you would just go flop easy without direction... You like the people in the program and that motivates you to go swim... It's a program geared toward triathletes so the swimmers embrace sets with repeats longer than 75 yards.

~Last point here (and then I'll stop I promise). I had a question about bilateral breathing vs breathing only to one side. My take on that is that while it would be nice if we could all bilaterally breathe perfectly, it does not come naturally to most of us. Many very accomplished swimmers breathe solely to one side and this is fine. Remember your big picture goal as a triathlete/swimmer... get through the swim as fast as you can without it trashing you so you can bike and run to your best ability. In order to accomplish that you're going to need oxygen! So get oxygen by breathing as often as you need and to whichever side is most efficient for you to do so. Most of us don't spend enough time in the water as it is, so to spend your limited time throwing yourself off balance by trying to force yourself to breathe to both sides is not a smart use of your pool time. Like I said in my last post, build your fitness, tweak your stroke to make it more efficient, then keep building fitness so you can maintain your form. You could have perfect form but without fitness it'll all fall apart fairly quickly so I'm in the camp that you can't just work solely on form. I can't tell you how many times I've worked with swimmers who can totally swim with great form for a 50... then send them off on a 400 and it all goes to hell. So pay attention to technique and play with different hand/head positions some, but your main goal is to increase your fitness in the water. I promise you it is easier to perfect form once you are fit.

Holy cow this post got long! Are you still reading? I'm impressed. But really, you should stop reading and go SWIM.  I'll just finish up by saying that you really need to have some fun cute suits to swim in- and plenty of them. If you only have one swimsuit (and it's ugly!), you are missing out! Think like a swimmer and go buy a fun suit.

And on that note, I'm off to the pool!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

On Rocket Science And Swimming...

I'm sitting here once again feeling fairly trashed and somewhat nauseous after swimming... I haven't really been swimming all that much volume lately so when I do get to the pool I'm in this mindset of make the most out of it so I'm working my tail off. Not really going very fast (relatively) and I'd say that's just b/c I haven't been putting enough time in the water to have the fitness level required to swim as fast as I used to swim... It'll come so I'm not particularly worried, but for now, yikes. I'm tired!

This set will look pretty familiar to many of my athletes... here's what we did today (main set):

2 x 100's FAST, 1 x 100 easy. Repeat 4-6x through depending on your fitness level. Intervals should give you ~10-15" rest on the fast ones and plenty on the easy ones to go really easy and get recovered. So for example maybe you go 2 x 100's @ 1:30 then the easy one on 2:30... the key to the set is to make the fast ones as fast as you can go. Not pacing them per say, racing them. It's brutal if you do it right... and like most workouts, way harder when you're actually doing it vs when you're reading about it on a computer screen. :)

Seems like there's been much written about swimming lately... I definitely find myself agreeing with a lot of it. Want to be a good swimmer? Swim more. Get yourself to the point where your form is not atrocious and then build your fitness level and then tweak your form a little more and then build your fitness level more so you can maintain your good form throughout the whole workout. Doesn't really seem like rocket science though it is quite interesting to read the stuff on these days... I don't actually frequent that site too often... I'd typically prefer to read triathlon related stuff that you guys write vs some anonymous person on a forum... but one of my athletes suggested I take a look at a thread about swimming with bands and I have to say, I just read through that with my jaw dropped open. I guess my main take away was that a lot of the information I take for granted as being totally commonly known is, well, not as commonly known as I would have guessed. Just interesting, that's all. I guess maybe I could have chimed in on that thread but honestly I just didn't want to get involved.

It's February! One of my athletes sent me a text after adding up his total swim volume for the month of January... and after comparing it to his January of 2011 (when he was on his own) and noted that he swam 30K+ more this January vs last January! Ta Dah! And take a wild guess at how much faster he's swimming this year as a result? I have not added mine up but I would guess I'm down this January as compared to last January... probably 10-20K less this month vs Jan last year... and consequently not swimming as fast. Like I said before, not rocket science. The information is out there and for the most part, people who know swimming agree that in order to be a faster swimmer you have to swim more. I think whether or not you actually choose to do it is simply a function of how much it matters to you. And no judgement attached there... just a fact. If it matters, if it really matters, you'll figure out a way to get to the freakin' pool. If it's not super high on your priority list right now, then you won't.

My personal goals for February don't actually involve increasing my swimming all that much... maybe I'll bump it up closer to 10K/week but that would be about max for now. I'm considering a big bike week coming up soon and that is gripping me to some degree so seems like something I'll probably do. Biking is higher on my priority list right now. :)