Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Swimming: Reducing Drag and Increasing Power

Seems like another post on swimming has been brewing in my head recently so I'll take a stab at it and we'll see how this goes!

I think I mentioned in a recent post that my swim sessions have been taken to the next level recently. Not surprised given that Marilyn is an Endurance Corner coach and the swim sessions that come from their website (when they post them) are always some of the most awesome sessions I see posted anywhere... I'm in love with the sets that Gordo's wife "Monsey" comes up with. Every time I see a session written by her I think NICE that's awesome. Awesome in a hard way of course, but awesome nonetheless.

Most of those sets require athletes to think and do math while swimming. I love this. Send-offs that vary so you have to swim faster to make them or can swim easier to recover before having to go faster again... This morning we did a set of 30x100's that were descend 1-5 (x6) and the send-off got 5" shorter through each rounds of 5. So we'd start at 1:50, then 1:45, 1:40, 1:35, 1:30... then straight back into 1:50, which was our recovery since the 1:30's don't allow much rest. Trying to do the math to figure out the send-off for each one was a challenge for sure but I love doing math while I'm swimming so this was no problem. And it makes the set fly by so fast because you're forced to think the whole time. I *much* prefer this type of set over 30x100's @1:40. Or worse, 60x50's @:50. Blah. Ok so I will admit that 60x50's @:50 has it's place and can be a valuable session but it still makes me want to scratch my eyes out when I see it on my schedule.

Anyway, it's been interesting to watch one of my newer local athletes, Sergio, develop as a swimmer. He was a decent swimmer to start with... as far as technique goes, his was good enough to get him across the longcourse pool in <45". So of course there are a few little things about his stroke that we can tweak but fact is, if you're capable of swimming a 50 in 40"(yards) or 45"(meters) then your stroke is going to be decent enough that technique is probably not your biggest limiting factor. If you can't repeat that pace for more than a few 50's then endurance is your issue and this is what I see very commonly! In Sergio's case, this is what we saw. He could swim a very fast 50! But that left him very winded and he couldn't repeat it without a ton of rest. So what we look to develop there is a better sense of pace (ie what is a sustainable effort?) and much deeper endurance. Essentially, he's been joining us for morning swims ~3x/week for the last few months and in the beginning we modified most sets so he could do part of it then get some rest then do more then get some rest, etc. He kept coming back consistently though and this morning I was so impressed- he knocked out ~4K swimming solidly the whole time and had this big AH-HA moment where he said The key is to take the easy ones super easy and save energy for the fast ones. YES. I love it that he got that this morning! Some athletes swim for YEARS and don't ever truly get that concept. Anyway, it's been really fun for me to watch Sergio's improvement these last few months. And it reinforces a lot for me too as far as how we go about improving one's swim. (I.e. suck it up and work your ass off consistently for several months. Or years. In most cases, years.)

I'm also back to teaching 1:1 swim sessions a couple times/week with some other local athletes. I'll tell you here a bit about what I commonly teach during those: Right off the bat, understand that swimming faster is either about 1) Reducing drag or 2) Increasing power.

~Reduce drag by: keeping head neutral; being more streamline off the wall; reduce excess body movement/fishtailing; avoid sinking legs by keeping head neutral and chest down; avoid crossing over with your hands upon entry; avoid a wide scissor kick, etc. Several of these issues (fishtailing through the water, scissor kick) are really a secondary compensation/result based on improper head position or crossing over with arms upon entry. So fix the root of the problem (head position, entry position) and that wide scissor kick that you're using for balance may just fix itself.

~Create more power by positioning your arms/hands upon entry in a way that will allow your lats to get involved and do the work. This one can be a bit more complicated for some but essentially this means pressing the water down and back with strong wrists while keeping an 'open armpit'. I find the open armpit analogy works better for many than 'high elbow' cue b/c you can keep a high elbow while simultaneously shutting off your lat if you're leading your pull with that elbow first. This is probably the most common thing I see when working with a new athlete. Very few swimmers generate the power they could because they are missing opportunity to create power/propulsion because the elbow leads the pull. Instead, focus power through the wrist and you'll find that's how you can get your lats engaged. One last tip I give all the time: the water should feel heavy because you're pulling so much of it. If it feels easy, like your arms are just slipping through the water, it's because your arms are just slipping through the water! Don't do that! PULL the water, every stroke, feeling tension and resistance from your wrist up your forearm and into your armpit. This will probably make you more tired at first, but that's the feeling you want.

Anyway, so there you go. Focus on form for sure, especially if it takes you >2' to swim 100M. But once you're down in the 1:30/100 range, then you're going to get a lot more gain from doing real sets off real send-offs. Sometimes those send-offs should be roomy and allow plenty of rest so you can practice going FAST. Other times those send-offs should be tight so you can practice repeating efforts on very little rest and just holding pace. And finally, KNOW your pace in the pool. I'm constantly astounded by how many swimmers don't pay attention to their pace in the pool.

OK that wasn't really my final point... I still have more to say, and I'm BatShit Serious! Learn to flip turn! And swim more than 2000 at a time! And get in the water at least 3x/week! There. I said it. Now I'm done. :)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lanikai Triathlon

About a week ago I jogged ~20' super easy and since my calf didn't hurt I sent an email to Marilyn telling her that I thought I could likely get through Lanikai Triathlon without injuring myself... until then it was very much up in the air about whether or not I'd even attempt to start. So even though I had no options at this race but to simply jog the run course, I'm REALLY glad I was able to do it!

Lanikai is just a fun little local sprint race but it's done in the town next to mine and the course is good and many of our friends show up and it just feels like the kind of event I want to support going into my Golden Years of triathlon. (Ahem, my first race officially as a MASTER now that I am 40!!)

I haven't yet seen many pics of the swim show up on FB so I found this one from 2011. Fwiw, this is not at all what the water looked like for us this year! It was drizzling rain at the start and there was a high wind advisory so we had some legit chop and water that was moving to play in. Honestly, those were my preferred conditions and I was happy! The swim was fun. Short, but fun!

Anyway, I don't have a ton to say about this race other than I'm just really glad I got to do it! I swam, I biked, I jogged, and I enjoyed it. And I came out of it without hurting myself- that's the biggest reason for my giant smile at the finish line. :)

The bigger story is about my new little flock of local BSC athletes... all 3 racing on Sunday are new to me this year and across the board had great success! Sergio won the whole race OA(!!!), Kelly won her age group and Heidi finished right behind me in ours (We went 1-2!). I left there feeling super proud but also quite confident that we are once again on the right track for success this year. It's funny sometimes when I start with new athletes and they think maybe they know what to expect from me as their coach... But it's not always the same protocol, you know? Some athletes need to be pushed for sure... so I push them well outside of their comfort zone and teach them that they are stronger than they thought. With others, right away I see it's better to strap that HR monitor on and use it as a leash and their calendar is filled with words that I feel I need to scream like EASY, RELAXED, HR CAP, etc. Kelly has been one such athlete and I think she shocked the hell out of herself in actually still being able to race strong/fast yesterday even though a big majority of her training has been, in her view, uncomfortably slow. It's good though as time goes on and athletes see for themselves that the program is working for them then they resist less and that makes my life/job a ton easier. :)

After the race a group of us ignored the small craft advisory conditions and went out for a swim to the Mokes. We may or may not have brought along a cooler with some adult refreshments and hung out at the little island a mile off shore happily celebrating Sergio's win... The ocean was indeed as crazy as ever out there with bigger than normal waves crashing everywhere but for experienced ocean people it was absolutely awesome and really fun. I think the key there though is experienced ocean people. Unfortunately not everyone has the experience to be out there on days like that and Sergio and Vicky ended up spending an hour or so sidestroking some stranded kayakers/kids back to shore. I won't go into the whole story here, but suffice to say they saved the lives of 4 family members before the fire department was able to arrive and I am super happy to call them both friends. They are heroes.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Raising A Wild One

Ok this post is really only for those of you following the chicken stories. If you're here for training/racing stuff, come back in a few days I'll have a story for you about my first sprint 'race' of the year. But for today, we're talking chickens!

Yesterday morning I went out back and opened the coop door for my three girls. They flew out immediately. It's a rare treat to come out in the morning- usually it's late afternoon when they get out. But what the heck, it was Aloha Friday and all! Ozzie was actually out in the yard when they flew out and I sort of wanted to watch what he would do. It was sort of funny when they flew across the yard he  ducked down like he was afraid! Eventually he came out from hiding under a chair and just watched them intently from afar. He might have been slightly conflicted because I would scold him if he started looking too much like a pounce attack was pending... it seemed clear he knew that I was not going to let him get those birds but all of his evolutionary tendencies were saying get those birds... After a few minutes I gathered him up and brought him inside, leaving the chickens to their peaceful search for worms and bugs.

I spent the morning mostly inside finishing up work and doing a bit of cleaning (in this house seriously though WHY bother cleaning on a Friday?? It's all for naught come Saturday at noon when the house is full of neighborhood kids destroying the place.) Every once in a while I would peer over the edge of the lanai to see how the girls were doing and all seemed fine... until it wasn't.

At one point late morning I went to check on the chickens but did not see them. Hmmm. So I went down to the backyard and indeed, no sign of any of them. Oh no! Where did they go? I looked over into the neighbor's yards... nothing. They weren't even peeping?? I got a little more frantic. Eventually I heard some scuffling in the coop and interestingly, Big Red and Ellie were roosting up high in their coop. They had put themselves away all on their own, but Snow, who does not go into the coop on her own, was gone.

I'll save you the drama of the rest of the morning, which I spent wandering around our yard and the neighbor's yards, peeping like a psychiatric ward patient.

Then I sent a sad text to Scott.
I went out several more times over the course of the day but no sign of Snow. I thought maybe it was a good sign that I didn't see a pile of her feathers somewhere though... Was thinking that if a neighborhood cat came by and got her that there would be some evidence of a struggle in the form of white feathers somewhere?

Anyway, later when I was bringing Moana home I told her that Snow went missing. :( She was as sad as I was about that and just as we were lamenting the situation I happened to drive by a mama hen who had like 8 new little chicks on the side of the road. Ah ha! Problem solved. Moana and I drove home, grabbed a net and a shoe box and set off on a mission.

It took me like 10 seconds to catch Choco 2.0. These chicks were all really little and when a mama hen has so many it's not hard to catch the one who gets distracted and doesn't follow the flock into the safety of the woods.

Moana was stoked of course and we came home and eagerly took our shoebox into the backyard to introduce our new little pet to her new home and her new big sisters! Oh happy day! So I put the box down in the grass, opened up the top and BOOM! Little Choco flew right out and darted off into the bushes! GAH!

Once again I found myself on a chicken hunt... Choco 2.0 can peep as loud as any, but she's also smart enough to go radio silent when she is being hunted. She went deep into some thick brush in our side yard (note to husband- we you should clear that out!) and I couldn't see her or hear her but I knew she was there and had no real escape route. Eventually I was smart enough to play her game... I also went silent and just waited patiently... eventually I heard some peeping, then some rustling, and then I saw her making her way out of the brush. Long story short, I caught her again and released her into the safety of the coop.

I was super excited to watch Big Red and Ellie act like protective big sisters or something... I figured maybe they'd sit on her to keep her warm... or something like that. Instead, they got tall, fluffed their feathers and silently stared at her. When they finally went near I figured maybe they were interested in getting to know her a bit but instead they pecked her! Choco 2.0 crouched in the corner of the coop and started shaking. Oh no! Moana was super sad watching this unfold and I was thinking I'd possibly made a big mistake in bringing this itty bitty wild thing home. :(

So then Scott came home and saw our new chick, which he thought was fine... I let Ozzie and Tom out of the house (they'd been locked in all day!). Scott then went on his own search for Snow. Turns out, if there's a chicken on the loose, best thing to do is let the cats out and then follow them. Ozzie and Tom are better hunters than I am... they found Snow in the neighbor's yard pretty much immediately. I was cooking dinner and heard Scott yelling to me outside I FOUND SNOW COME HELP! Of course I was stoked so I went running outside and sure enough we had to swat the cats away as they were both cornering her. She came to us eagerly and I held her close feeling her little heart beating 100mph. PHEW! I put Snow in the coop but thought we needed to move Choco out because while that's a good home for the bigger chickens, I wasn't sure it was the best place for a little one?!

Scott set up the brooder in the garage again and we got Choco settled in there on her own. I did some reading then about introducing a new chick to an established flock (maybe I should have done that before going out and catching the wild one?? I can be impulsive, I admit.) Turns out we are going to need to let her get a little bigger then maybe put her in there at night when the chickens are sleeping and have them all wake up together... then just sort of let the pecking happen because it turns out, The Pecking Order is not just a hypothetical phrase of speech but a real thing that chickens must establish on their own... Did you know the chicken who is highest on the pecking order roosts in the highest spot in the coop? I did not know that either. #FactOfTheDay

Anyway, through my recent reading I've also learned that chicks really don't like to be alone, and that if they don't have any other chicks to bond with, they may bond most with humans... Sure enough, Moana and I went into the garage to play with Choco this morning and she didn't attempt to run away at all! In fact, she just wanted to cuddle up close to us. It was super cute! Moana gave up one of her little stuffed animals to put in Choco's brooder so she has something to cuddle up with when she wants to sleep. It's a little polar bear, which should serve to further confuse Choco as to her identity as a chicken.

So for now, Moana is pretty stoked at having a new little playmate in the garage. I'm hoping Choco lives. I think if we make it through the first week we should be good, and then hopefully I can get her integrated into the coop with the others as soon as possible so she develops some social skillz as an actual chicken.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Breaking Through

Whole bunch of stuff to write about today!

Let's start with a training update... I'd say the biggest take-away I'm getting from my current training plan is the polarization of EASY vs HARD. I think last year a ton of my training fell into the mod/hard category... I went without data a lot and most days just pretty much gave it what I had that day then backed it up again the following day again giving it what I had and then the next day giving it whatever was left. And after ~a year of that you know what was left for race day? Nothing.

Interesting with my training plan now I get power caps for my long/easy rides. I will be honest- at first I resisted this wondering if there was really any benefit to going that easy?? I mean, you know I am a HUGE fan of aerobic training and all but when I cap my power like that, HR is even like 10 beats below what I would consider MAF aerobic. I'm sort of used to it at this point though and will admit there's a sense of relaxed relief when I see long/easy ride on my schedule b/c I know that even if I'm out there all day it will really take nothing out of me... and I don't really have to think at all throughout the ride just cruise easy and look at the ocean. Then the next day inevitably I get to do something quite a bit harder and you know how much energy I have left for that? All of it! It's pretty cool to experience this polarized type of training and I can absolutely see how this would/could/should result in faster racing. I can see it in training already (at least on swim and bike) that when my easy days are not just easy but ridiculously easy, my hard days end up with a bit of a breakthrough in power/speed which is super motivating! Seeing those kinds of breakthroughs gives me confidence to continue to keep my easy days EASY.

Swimming has been LEGIT lately too. Yikes. It's good of course and I really like the sessions I'm getting but there is definitely more suffering involved in the pool than I'm used to (and I'm used to suffering in the pool!) Monday the main set was 8x250's as first 50 fly straight into 200 steady swim... It's been like 20 years since I've really trained much fly so 400M of it was kind of a lot... and when you're swimming fly longcourse you really miss the wall/turn at the 25! That first 50 swim after the 50 fly was nothing short of hypoxic hell every time but was pretty proud of myself for even making that one without giving up and breaking into 1-arm fly... I was thinking I never would have made myself do that set but since Marilyn wrote it there was no backing out! It was definitely some good practice too in swimming strong even when feeling severely uncomfortable. Swimming butterfly brings out a level of discomfort that goes well beyond what I can do to myself with freestyle.

I think my swimming has been big recently as a sort of replacement for my running not being big... BUT, I've finally had a bit of a breakthrough with this lower leg injury thing. In good news I found a local chiropractor who is also a triathlete so he understands what we're doing to ourselves on a daily basis... If you're local here and need some help with whatever ails you, check out Dr Zen at The Zen Center. I was super impressed with how thorough he was in examining my lower legs and the treatment/adjustment he did was excellent. I could tell he was going out of his way to really help me. I walked out of there feeling better than I had in a long time and have been jogging pain free ever since! Marilyn is super conservative when it comes to building back from injury so my run instructions often include the words WALK and SHUFFLE like a little old lady, etc... But whatever I'm happy to go easy for now and build back the smart way which hopefully will keep me on the roads consistently going forward for the rest of the year. 6 weeks of ZERO running was so shitty I do not want to have to endure that again so if that means starting back with just 20' easy walk/jogging, whatever. I'm game!

In other exciting news, TeamBSC is offering up a pretty cool opportunity right now... If you're an athlete who has been considering hiring a coach but just haven't yet made the leap for whatever reason, check out Krista's latest blog. As she is building her coaching group right now she has offered up FREE coaching to one lucky athlete. I've had the opportunity to watch/help Krista get started with her coaching and can tell you that she is totally 'on it' with her athletes. She pays attention, she communicates well, and she has the knowledge/passion to help her athletes reach their triathlon goals. This is really a great chance for someone to see how much having a great coach can benefit your season. Hiring a coach is not magic, of course- YOU still have to do the work as directed... and you have to communicate feedback after you do your sessions... but taking the thinking/guessing out of it is wonderful and quite energy saving. So stop procrastinating and send Krista your story. Maybe you'll be the lucky one she picks?!? Then you too could be a TeamBSC athlete. :)

Finally, I'll leave you with a little story about our backyard chickens...
Every afternoon I gather up the cats and lock them inside then go open up the door to the coop and the chickens all happy fly right out. They get at least an hour to run around the yard, sometimes more. Did you know chickens eat lizards? Truth. I've seen it. Anyway, at some point before dusk I go back outside to help them back into the safety of their coop. It's easy with the two red ones- I just show them the food and they walk right up the ramp no problem. With Snow though we've had some challenges... She has not yet conquered the ramp (won't even go near it!?!) and consequently I've unsuccessfully chased her around the yard for quite some time (looking like a total moron I'm sure!)... We finally resorted to going with a two person attack where we would corner her and then quickly leap to catch her... Recently though she has made it a bit easier. I think she finally understands that I'm trying to help her not hurt her. The last few evenings I've gone out and just sort of squatted down with my hands out and we have this little stare down contest. Two nights ago she begrudgingly hopped into my hand and then squawked bloody murder while I carefully carried her to the coop... Last night though it took her less time... I held out my hand and she jumped right into it like she completely understood the drill. And she didn't squawk as if she was super scared. I know it sounds crazy to be so proud of a little breakthrough like that with a chicken, but I'm pretty proud of that little breakthrough I had with my chicken. :)