And the Training Months Tick By…July and mid-August Recap

Hmm. It’s been an interesting month. I don’t have a lot of time to go into too much detail about what’s been going on, but let’s recap:

 

-I went on a weeklong vacation to Waikiki with Erik. By day we hiked, ran, snorkeled, swam, surfed, boogey boarded, and by night we hopped skipped karaoke bars.
-I acquired two gnarly quarter-sized blisters on the bottom of both of my feet that prevented me from racing in Seafair.
-I rejiggered my tri training schedule (rather unsuccessfully) and my marathon training schedule (successfully).
-I’ve added P90X3 to my training repertoire and have been loving it! It’s been helping me a lot with my cardio output on my runs, and strengthening a lot of weak spots in my legs. Reminds me of when I was training with a personal trainer. I’m looking forward to adding some more Team Beachbody DVDs to my collection. They are intense but great!
-I finished out my first semester of grad school. There were tears and fussy nights, but I did it.
-Things at work are moving along.
-Bought a new mountain bike (taking it to Duthie Hill tomorrow with Alex!)
-Trying to get down to race weight on my old two gigantic salads a day diet (with tons of protein and snacks in between).
-I invested in way too many blender bottles.
-I keep exercising my control muscles. Look at all that candy at the office!
-I’m finalizing plans for my awesome ski trip to Niseko next February. Japow hereeeeee I come!

I’m still training for the Portland Marathon in October. I also have three sprint tris coming up in three consecutive weekends starting next Saturday. And still planning on a HITS triathlon in Palm Springs in December but I’m still majorly undecided as to which distance. I’m pretty sure I can pull a half IM again if I really focus on cycling and running (and I guess swimming too) after the marathon. Regardless, here’s my training plan for the next 1.5 months:

So, essentially life is full of work, grad school(s), training, fundraising, eating, and sleeping. And not much else. Until next time!

Week 0+1 Seafair Sprint Tri Training: Making Time for Priorities

I reached a point of terminal velocity with my schedule where I had somehow managed to wriggle out of all physical activity. (How did it ever come to that?!) Obviously my schedule had run amok and it was time to whip it back into shape. A 40-50-60-70-80 hour work week be damned — if I were going to delay my Ironman dreams yet again for another launch then at the very least I’d better get some mental breaks (and not to mention a few races) on my calendar.

So it started with another challenge again. Guy-that-I’m-dating (we’ll call him E) and I decided that enough was enough and that we needed something to keep ourselves honest to our goals. It’s one thing to say that something is a priority…it’s a completely different thing to make the time for it and to commit to it.

Our bet went something like this:

A: Hey, I’m tired of not going to the gym.

E: Yeah, I’m tired of not getting any time to run.

A: So let’s make a bet. Let’s make it a goal to SHOW UP at our scheduled workouts at least three times a week.

E: (Details are getting fuzzy…)

A: Loser cooks for the other. Deal?

E: Deal!

And so began our challenge. At the beginning of the challenge, I went ahead and purchased a sprint tri training plan. I didn’t have any time or brainpower to come up with a plan myself, or to add it in to TrainingPeaks or Google Calendar. So I found a decent 8-week plan that’ll whip me into shape for a sprint tri somewhere in July and I went for it. So far so good…I’m trying not to miss any workouts but it still happens. (Legitimate excuse: I got sick over the weekend!) And trying to cram in an hour to go to the gym is harder than it looks when you’re jugging a pretty intense workload at your day job and a few grad school classes. (My second one started this week. Eeeeeeeeeeee!)

Week 0 Seafair Sprint Tri Training:

Thursday, May 8: 17 minute/0.5 mile swim, 40 minute/10 mile indoor trainer ride. I’m sucking wind in the pool!

Saturday, May 10: 20 minute/0.5 mile swim, followed by 35 minute/2.47 mile elliptical run

Sunday, May 11: 20 minute/0.5 mile swim

Week 1 Seafair Sprint Tri Training:

Monday, May 12: Rest day

Tuesday, May 13: 40 minute/10 mile indoor trainer ride

Wednesday, May 14: 45 minute/4.1 mile elliptical run

Thursday, May 15: 45 minute/11 mile indoor bike ride, followed by a 15 minute/1.5 mile elliptical run

Friday, May 16: Out sick

Saturday, May 17: Out sick

Sunday, May 18: Reward – 4.29 mile hike at Rattlesnake Ledge

Lessons learned this week:

-Just because I can’t reach my A goals this year (Ironman + Grand Canyon hike) it doesn’t mean that they are forever off my plate. It just means that they are rescheduled.

-Always pick alternate goals in lieu of the major ones in case you can’t make them for sure. I will aim for an Olympic-distance tri in Palm Springs in December and couple that with summiting San Jacinto Peak in the same trip. So technically I still get an A-race and a major hike in this year. All in all I feel like I’m winning!

-Grad school and work is not enough of an excuse to not exercise. I’m at my best when I have a training/race goal. I know that. I need to design my lifestyle around my needs too, not just around other people’s needs.

-Finding zen in a shorter race will be difficult. I’ve had my sights set on an Ironman for so long. I need to make do with the time I have. I don’t have a lot of time for training through the rest of the year so I will take any level of triathlon participation I can get.

-Rewards work! I was looking forward to my hike all week and would’ve been bummed if I didn’t get to do it.

Looking forward to a fantastic 2nd week of training!

Resetting Expectations

The thing with injuries is that it allows me ample time to reflect. An injury pretty much grinds all of my training plans to a screeching halt. The Whidbey Island Marathon in April (which was downgraded to a half marathon, which was then downgraded to a 10K) is definitely out of the picture. I think I’ll still be on target for some Olympic tris this summer, but my 70.3 and 140.6 may be a bit at risk. It’s going to take some time to rehab this ankle and get my strength back to where it was last December. To think that so much could’ve gone right and wrong in the last three months…

Resetting expectations isn’t a bad thing. For someone like me who loves going at full throttle, there’s value in slowing down every once in awhile. It’s frustrating, but I think back to my rack of medals hanging in my living room and I remember that it’s all a process — I didn’t get to where I was overnight, and it’ll take a lot more than an annoying ankle injury to keep me away from the activities that I love.

These next few weeks will be a bit crazy with work deadlines, but I’ve given myself a stretch goal: Over the next 16 days I need to log 30 miles in the pool. I think it’s doable. The pool won’t aggravate my ankle. It’ll help me build some much needed conditioning. My long swim days (which are most of them) can be broken up into shorter day and night segments, or a long day/short night, or short day/long night segments. This will probably help cure some of my insomnia woes and will force me to manage my time a little better. What will be difficult will be juggling the long swims during the weekends, which is generally the time I go skiing. I guess if I can go skiing in the mornings I might be able to squeeze the swims in to the evenings. Maybe that’ll be too taxing. Now I’m just speculating…

Regardless, it’ll be nice getting back into training mode.

Here’s my schedule, for those of you who are curious what 30 miles over 16 days looks like:

Looking forward to knocking out this stretch goal…and if I don’t, I’m sure I’ll come close and at least get some swimming in. I’m certainly looking forward to some spring swimming with my tri group and some summer swimming in Lake Union. By the way, that cover image is one of me, swimming into the sunset in Lake Union. Best thing ever!

Open Water Swimming Without a Wetsuit

My heart was pounding in my jaw.

I spent more time being apprehensive about jumping into the water than actually being in the water. I had a fear that somehow, without my wetsuit, I would just sink to the bottom of the lake. Like some giant pair of hands would just come up from the dark, dark surface of the water, grab me by my belly, and pull me towards the bottom.

Well, that theory went out the window today.

As apprehensive as I was — I think I spent about 15 minutes debating whether or not it was a good idea to swim in the lake — I eventually leaned in enough to get up to my knees submerged. I found something to hang on to and then just plunged in, scared as hell.

Once I was in the water, I took a minute to get my wits together. I’ve swam in open water before. It’s not new to me.

Swimming in Lake Union

Apprehension makes me scared. It makes me slow. Overthinking as always. Feeling paranoid. I swam about 10 yards to the small floating log/plank bridge and hung on for a bit. I swam back to the dock. I did that a few times and did a triangle swim to the thingy that was about 25 yards away. I opened my eyes for the first time.

There is a first for everything, but registering for Ironman Louisville meant conquering my fears, one at a time. Swim without a wetsuit? Check. Now to swim 2.4 miles without a wetsuit! I’m hoping to get some more practice with Shant in town, and hopefully with some other swimming buddies. Maybe I can get some of my work friends to come swim with me and make an event out of it. If there’s something else to distract me I am sure I wouldn’t be as apprehensive.

All in all it was a beautiful sunset swim. Shant was with me the entire time. He swam like a champ, and he too was a bit apprehensive. He doesn’t even have contact lenses so he’s just freestyling it without 20/20 vision! It was a good night. Here’s hoping to more minor victories over the next week. Our campground has open water, so I’m planning on taking a few tri suits along with me!

Whatever You Do, Don't Panic

It has been said that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I definitely have this incessant need to plan and re-plan and re-work a plan. (It’s just necessary when things don’t go according to…er…plan!) Well, that’s partially from my parents too (they are expert planners) but I think I just like to plan because without a plan, I get uneasy about the unknowns, and thus just panic.

And I’m not the type to panic on the outside. I think I’ve done it once and it was not about swimming or anything. It was a trauma trigger but I can remember a few physiological changes — my breathing got shallow, my hands started getting clammy, my head was pounding, I had an impending need to remove myself from the situation and get a move on. Once I was en route to my escape I felt a little better but took some time to regroup and reflect.

Well, my panic in the water is a little different. It’s taken me a long time and many, many laps to get comfortable in a pool that’s only 4 feet deep. I can still remember when I tried to swim by myself at the Hollywood 24 Hour Fitness and I’d generally only stay 15-20 minutes at a time. Huffing and puffing, I’d “cheat” by doing the backstroke for half my laps. I remember feeling uneasy if other people were in the pool, so I’d make it a point to head there really really early before the rush of actresses and models made their way to the gym.

I put off swimming for a long while, focusing on my run instead. (The times and deadlines themselves to cross the finish line induced far less panic. And technically I could take my sweet time!) However, when I moved to Seattle, I vowed to do things differently. I wanted to get in the pool more frequently. I wanted to get more open water swimming in. I wanted to get over my fear of the water, and I think I’m part of the way there. I started working with my coach to get myself in the pool more regularly, and have a pair of scrutinizing eyes on my form. It’s helped a lot, and without him I certainly be where I’m at today.

This coming weekend there’s an open water swim that I’ve been eyeing — the Animals Only swim in Puget Sound. 55 degrees sounds freezing but the swim is short (only half a mile) and it says we hug the shore. It also seems like a fairly organized event, since they have a series of outdoor swims throughout the summer. I’m trying to muster up the courage to register but I keep procrastinating. Procrastinating is the opposite of planning. Or somehow I’ve managed to plan to procrastinate this entire week.

Anywho, my main takeaway about open water swimming is — whatever you do, don’t panic. The minute you allow yourself to be engulfed by your irrational emotions, things go sideways. Stay calm, breathe, do what you’ve been trained to do, and push through it. There’s no time for panic when you’re focused on the task at hand and you know what to expect.

To help me conquer these irrational fears that still quell under the surface, I’ve been looking at joining two different open water groups — one meets on Tuesday mornings, the other on Thursday evenings. They also happen to be in different parts of town. It’ll be a bit time consuming and expensive to have to shuttle all over Seattle but I think the trade-off will be worth it. The more you do it, the less scary it seems. Well, if it doesn’t get less scary at least I will just know what to expect.

Fingers crossed! What do you do to get over your irrational fears?

Thanks to Triathlon, My 20-Hour Day Didn't Faze Me

I knew it was going to be a rough day when I rolled over in bed, picked up my phone, and saw that it was 3:30am. For the second or third morning in a row, I’ve slept quite late and woken up very early (before 5am early), and in my sleep I was dreaming about work. I guess you can say that someone turned up the heat and that because I don’t outwardly freak out about anything doesn’t mean that subconsciously it’s not happening. I do admit though that on a day-to-day basis, I don’t think I’m acting out of the ordinary.

Failure is not an option. It is a step.

A few failed attempts at getting sleep later, I decided to go ahead and give up (again) and continue on with my regimen (as usual). The other morning I did some pretty fun hill repeats around my neighborhood. This morning I really wanted to get some biking in, so I hopped on for about 5 miles and then headed out for a short run. The bike still feels a bit uncomfortable — I’m not sure if it’s the fitting or the seat or the placement of the handlebars or what but I just don’t feel like it fits me very well. So, I was only able to manage about 5 miles on it and I figured that my time might be better suited for a quick run before my morning meeting, so off I went.

The work day was quite long — I stayed a bit after the sun had set. I was on a design roll from between 4 and 8pm, and I really wanted to take advantage of it. Rarely do I get long stretches of fairly uninterrupted creative time, and since I had some pretty big projects on my plate, I wanted to clear my mind for the other creative work I still have lined up. I sent off my last email sometime after sunset and then headed to the gym, which is only a few blocks away.

The view from my office space in Seattle – The Space Needle

Luckily I had packed all of my gear this morning. After the long day, I was ready to let out some of my aggression in a positive way. What better way to do that than an hour of alternating between the backstroke and freestyle? I ended up having a great workout in the pool. It was nearly empty, with only one or two other people in the pool with me. It was great being able to have the lane to myself. I’m finally starting to see some results from the little bit of swimming that I’m doing. I’m not as out of breath after one length as I’m finally learning how to keep a rhythm with my breathing. I’m also trying to work on a couple of aspects of my swim — the reach, keeping parallel with the water, scooping, etc. The fact that I feel like I’m improving tells me a lot, since swimming is the sport I generally have the least amount of self-confidence in.

A decent training day…given the demands of work today

By the time I got home, it was 10 o’clock or so. I made a quick pasta dinner (for Saturday morning’s half marathon) and some veggie patties (for added protein). I also downed some nuun water to stave off any cramps. Lucky for me I had an awesome shipment — my waterproof running shoes came in the mail, as well as another 24-pack of GU gels. Now I’m stocked up for my long run on Saturday and I can begin breaking in my new shoes before the weather turns.

This is all I buy…workout gear.

Considering how thoroughly exhausted I am, I should hopefully stay asleep for longer than a few hours tonight. This will definitely effect my performance on Saturday morning, but you know what? I’m just going to make do with the resources I have. To stress out about that will just make the event more difficult. If I can’t finish the full 13.1 I always have the option to stop at the 5K, 10K, or 15K distance. No biggie.

Regardless of the situation though, I’m pretty happy with the way I handled myself despite all of the stress today. Without triathlon, I’m not sure how amicable or friendly I’d be in the face of stress! Honestly, if I can’t take the stress of a 20-hour day, I can’t take the stress of a 17-hour Ironman, right?

Olympic Tri (My Way) and Race Recap: Athleta Iron Girl 10K

So sometime last night, when I was tossing and turning because I couldn’t fall asleep, I came up with this plan…

I’ve been really annoyed lately that I can’t find a nearby triathlon that works with my schedule so i decided to do my own thing. (Story of my life.) I decided that since my 10K was going to be timed, I might as well take a stab at doing an Olympic-distance triathlon on my own terms before trying an actual Olympic-distance race. Or perhaps eliminating the need or desire to register for races in general. I wanted to see if I was on to something, so I decided to do a reverse Olympic triathlon.

So, with a few winks of sleep and some terrible GI issues, I showed up to Green Lake Park for the Athleta Iron Girl 10K start line.

photo-31

It was cold (by my standards)! It was also windy! I was sad that I didn’t follow through with my thought to bring my arm warmers. I figured that I I would warm up anyways during the run, so I tried to cozy up to hundreds of other runners to stay warm. By the time I was at mile 1, I was glad I didn’t have my arm warmers.

In terms of the race, there was one big issue right off the bat: It was a 2-loop run for 10k’ers. I hate HATE hate loops. I hate knowing what I’ll have to experience again. That’s one thing that bothers me about a lot of Ironman races is that they end up looping around multiple times. I’m not sure why but I just find it demoralizing. I much prefer a point-to-point course and I’d rather deal with the hassle of shuttles than looping during a race.

The first 5K was fun. We had the road to ourselves. There were a lot of walkers and for the most part, they had studied up on runner’s etiquette and knew to stay to the right of the road. I started out with the 11:00min/mile corral but it proved very slow for me, so I weaved around until I settled in with a pack at the 3 mile mark. The rest of the ladies who were continuing on to round 2 for the 10K all seemed to keep a good pace. I was massively hurting because of stomach distress issues — I didn’t need to stop, but everything felt crampy and tight. Something about this liquid diet just isn’t sitting well with me so I’m trying to re-introduce less mushy foods into my diet as my gums/teeth/pain will allow.

Because of this, the second 5K was particularly difficult. I kept wanting to aim for negative splits. I wanted to outdo myself at run the 10K at an hour, or at least under my fastest 10K time. It wasn’t in the books this time but I’ll know what to do differently next time. (The biggest thing will be NOT scheduling major dental surgeries in the middle of training seasons!) I finished with a surge, something that I don’t remember doing since the Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon in Las Vegas last year. It felt great to finish strong.

As I waited in line with my complimentary meal kit for a free cowbell, the oldest runner made her way past the finish chute — she was 82. Amazing.

Now that I have another medal, I really want to figure out a nice way to hang all of them in my apartment. I’d also like to start a bib collage. I think it’d add a bit more personality to my space.

photo-22

I was pretty exhausted after the 10K, especially with all of the digestive issues. I just also felt a bit tired, but I chalked that up to nutrition issues. I fueled up as much as I could so that I could continue with my diabolical plan of 25 more miles on the bike and 1500m in the pool. I set up my bike trainer, put on a movie, and got to work.

The longest ride I’ve ever done was probably a little over 15 miles, so 25 was a bit of a stretch. I gave myself permission to take stretch breaks, to grab water, and to have a GU when it was necessary. The movie ended about 40 minutes before I reached 25 miles, so I relied on my iPod to keep me company. A part of me wanted to hop on a video call but I had no clue who would actually want to chat with me in the middle of a workout. Plus, if I were able to chat, one could argue that I probably not working hard enough anyways.

In the same fashion as the 10K I surged my final mile and a half and felt good…exhausted, but good. I hopped in the shower for the third time of the day (once before the 10K to wake me up, one after the 10K to clean myself off, and now to clean myself off from the ride).

I tried to set my expectations for my swim. I was insanely exhausted and very stiff. I downed a shake (my general sustenance of choice these days) and took a nice long shower. I stretched and sat down for a bit, tried to bring my heart rate down and just relax. What I really wanted to do was lay down, but I knew that if I did, I would fall asleep.

And then I just said to myself, F it! It’s MY tri and I’ll do it in whatever way suits me. So I took a nap and it was glorious. The only contingency with this nap was that I could NOT skip my swim, no matter what. As insurance against this I wore my swimsuit underneath all of my clothes.

I woke up on my own and felt refreshed. I was still a bit groggy, but I combed my hair back, grabbed my swim bag, and headed out to the bus to get to the gym.

The pool was completely empty when I first started. It was also freezing. On Sundays, apparently they shut off the heat since they clean the pool late at night. I guess perhaps they also don’t get too many guests either, so it makes sense from an energy perspective. I had prepared for the cold with a nice cold shower beforehand. I began to do a few laps (backstroke to start) and eventually people started to fill up the pool.

It seems like the evening dynamic is much different than the morning. In the morning you get a mix of 50% women and 50% men. This evening, I was the only female. There were probably about 20 men in the pool area in general — about 7 or so swimming (one shared a lane with me) and the others were in the hot tub, sauna, and steam room. I got a few gross looky-loos from creepy old men but kept pushing forward anyways. If anything it gave me an incentive to swim faster and harder.

A guy had jumped into my lane and began sharing it with me (without asking!) but I found him to be a nice companion. He wasn’t too fast or too slow. He was right around my speed, so we were able to alternate laps around the pool. At any given time we would pass each other in the lane, so it really kept me swimming freestyle rather than resting with the backstroke. Whenever I share a lane and backstroke, I usually end up with a nose full of water. At least this way I could be incentivized to freestyle and finish my distance at a good pace.

photo-13

The last 800 meters was the hardest, but again in similar fashion I tried to surge in my last 200 meters. After I finished I was so elated that I didn’t even feel tired. I rinsed off, pulled on my clothes, grabbed the next bus and headed home. I ate a bit and treated myself to some Thai food delivery. (It was decent-to-awful, but it’s the thought that counts.)

All in all, a good day. I’ve quite literally never did this before, so I’m happy to check this off of my to-do list, even if I didn’t technically race. I know what it feels like (albeit with a nap in between sports) but now, for sure, I know exactly how hard the 70.3 can be.

One Mile Victory In The Pool

Yesterday, I woke up at around 5am or so, thanks to my cat. He has a bit of an irregular sleeping schedule and at around 5am every morning, he’ll get quite rambunctious. On Wednesday, it was no exception, and I was wide awake listening to him play with all of his toys, all at the same time. I had this weird desire to get back in to the pool. After getting my new training swimsuit over the weekend, and having been away from the pool for a week and a half, I was really missing it.

As usual, I dragged while getting ready for the pool. In all, it took me an hour and a half to even get to the gym. I packed slowly. I moved slowly. I wanted to swim but the hardest part of it was actually getting to the gym. The second hardest thing about getting to the gym is forgetting a bunch of stuff at home and foregoing things like deodorant at work. (Not cool!)

By the time I made it into the pool, it was 6:55am. Not late, not early. I had plenty of time to stay as long as I wanted, especially since I only planned to swim. I set my intention before I started swimming: I would get the distance in, no matter what stroke I used. I would rest as much as I needed, but not overdo it. I wouldn’t compare myself to others. I would also finish when I was done, not when the clock hit a certain time. Most importantly, the mileage wouldn’t really matter, as long as I stayed longer than usual.

I started off with a backstroke, and after my first lap, another woman jumped into my lane. Turned out she was much, much faster than I was! That was fine. It was awesome watching her zoom up and down the pool. In the lane next to me was the older woman who I’ve been running into lately. The slowish guy was also in the pool as well. It was kind of cool to be able to spot regulars, but nonetheless I tried to focus on myself for the time being.

I would practice a few things:

1) backstroke, all the way down the pool and back, without rest
2) backstroke one length of the pool, freestyle one length back
3) backstroke half a length of the pool and switch to freestyle (for when I have to alternate during open water swims)
4) freestyle one lap at a time (with plenty of rest in between if needed)

It’d be really nice to find a swim instructor, or a personal trainer for swimming. It might be time to pony up the cost of one. I stayed in the pool for an hour and fifteen minutes and felt great! I wasn’t winded but I felt like I got a good workout. Later in the day, though, I found that my left shoulder was a bit tender. It felt a bit overextended. Maybe it was upping my distance drastically. It was probably also poor technique. Either way, I felt great about the workout and look forward to getting into the pool even more.

Tips for Swimming In A Crowded Pool

There are many mornings where I arrive at the gym hoping to the stars above that the pool is absolutely empty. The water will be crystal clear and still. No pointless chatter. No gawkers. Just me and the lane and no one to bother me.

Well, that’s absolute BS. It rarely happens, and it doesn’t actually serve me. Today, I finally got my very own version of swimmer’s Murphy’s law. I arrived about 20 minutes later than I usually do and there were about 9 people in the pool already. (It’s only 4 lanes, 25 yards long, and pretty narrow.) There were about five or six people who were lounging around, waiting for a lane to open up…and there was lots of chatting.

I camped out on the side of one lane where an older woman was speeding up and down the lanes with flippers on. You generally try to pick a lane where you can maintain the same speed as the swimmer that’s currently in, but I had no such luck. It would seem like everyone here, including this probable grandmother, was probably faster than me. I asked her if I could share the lane and she said okay…so I hopped in. I completed my warm up lap — which is not much of a warmup, really, since it’s 50 yards. Per usual I hung on the side for a bit to catch my breath and she looked puzzled. She kept going and we split the lane evenly. (I generally like to circle around.)

Sometime during the swim, I was pretty winded. It really doesn’t take much to wind me, but of course I’m new to swimming. She pokes her head out of the water and says to me, “You haven’t even gotten started yet!” She was mostly right.

With all of the people in the pool, as well as the people waiting to swim, I felt some sort of social pressure to hurry up. I shortened my rests and tried to be as efficient with my stroke as possible. People were watching…but mostly waiting. I didn’t want to disappoint nor did I want to waste the use of a perfectly good half-lane so I did the best I could. Proudly enough I did the entire 500 yards freestyle — finally, my first swim without any backstroke. (I kind of consider backstroke cheating, at least for the purposes of triathlon training.) I was so jazzed that I survived and when I looked up at the clock, I was also surprised. I had finished much sooner than I usually do, which gave me plenty of time to bike and then run errands before work.

As I was getting out, an older gentleman was getting in. He was probably in his sixties and we chatted a bit about swim training. I had mentioned that I was trying to work on endurance, and he had mentioned that he was doing the same. He asked which event I was working towards — the Olympic distance triathlon — and explained that the swim was quite short, only 0.9 miles (or 1500 yards, 3 times what I’m currently training at now). He empathized and then said that he was trying to get some endurance and distance in as well. When I asked him what distance he was training at, I was flabbergasted…he said he was doing something like a 3 mile swim. Insane! A full-length triathlon is 2.4 miles. Well, I guess it’s not all that uncommon since I saw an open water swim email newsletter yesterday with a 6.1 mile swim. Okay, maybe not insane, but definitely intense.

Regardless, swimming in that controlled-intense environment is really good for triathletes. If you’ve never been to an open water start, it’s quite the experience — there are bodies, arms, feet, and water flying EVERYWHERE. It’s not uncommon to get kicked in the face. (I think it happened to me in my first tri.) Getting used to lots of bodies flailing around you is important — you have to learn to keep your cool and swim in incredibly choppy water. By letting go of control in your environment, you get to reign in some sort of internal control — the most important kind, in my opinion — that will let you be successful in any endeavor.

Some tips for dealing with crowded swimming environments:

1) Don’t let anyone else dictate your speed except for you. Sure, there may be a ton of people in the pool but if you can’t go any faster without compromising your form, stick to your own speed. I personally feed off of pressure and stress so it helps me perform better and therefore, swim faster.

2) Focus on form. With arms and hands and feet all around you it’s really easy to get overwhelmed and claustrophobic. Return to your zen state and focus on one thing — breathing, form, the lane markers, the color of the water, or your hand/arm positioning. Don’t think about anything outside of your experience at that very moment. It’s just you and the water.

3) Establish a pattern so you know what to expect. Swim in circles in the lane, or split the lane in half. Don’t switch it up halfway. Stay consistent with your pattern. Knowing what to expect is usually half the battle in managing fear or doubt.

4) Realize that it’s just temporary. Chaos is temporary and things will eventually return to normal — either internally or externally. Get your swim in and do the best job you can. You won’t be swimming all day long!

5) Take some time to observe others. Can you learn something about their form? Can you learn how to manage your body and breath better in choppy water? See how others do it and try something new.

6am Gym Date, Got My New Bike Trainer

I fell asleep really early last night — 10pm or so — and ended up waking up at 4am with nothing to do! I was still a bit sore from the day before, so I tried to get some more shuteye and then I opened up my inbox to see an email from SparkPeople…

With a message like that, who can stay in bed? I decided to get up. Thanks for the motivation, SparkPeople! I skipped my first cold shower of the day but changed into my swimsuit and packed for a bike ride at the gym afterwards. (Another brick workout was on the schedule!) I took the cold shower and the gym and let it chill my bones for a good 3-4 minutes. I hopped into the pool immediately afterwards and PRESTO! It felt like the pool was heated.

Last night, before I fell asleep, I watched this really great 3 minute swim lesson on YouTube. I tried to remember all of the points to improve on, but couldn’t remember them all this morning. I mainly focused on 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock arm placement, and that actually helped out my swimming a lot! I tried not to sprint in the pool, which causes me to get winded quite easily…by moving at a relaxed pace down the length of the pool, I was able to maintain my form and breathing.

I headed to work and the day went pretty well. When I got home I decided that it was time to set up my bike trainer! It took me less than 5 minutes to unbox, get the new axle on, and get everything in place. Good thing I watched a few YouTube videos the other night on it, otherwise I’d probably get lost. It was really easy though. No tools necessary, at least not for the trainer I purchased. I also got a small thing for the front wheel to rest on…that way, the bike stays level while I’m riding (and not just wobbling on the ground). A part of me wishes I got the mat underneath it, but maybe I can get that later. Or I can use an old yoga mat.

Then, to top it off, I bought myself a nifty (and cheapie) bike computer so that I can get the best measurements for when I do more indoor training at home. That way, when I’m getting 3-4-5+ hours on the bike, I can figure out how far I’m actually going. (Olympic triathlon = 24.8 miles, Half triathlon = 58 miles, Full triathlon = 112 miles)

I feel like I’m getting back to my old self again. Feeling focused and motivated. Next up, I need a new training swimsuit…I’ll have to earn it first. Onwards!