Thursday, April 24, 2014

Delight, Disappointment and Decisions

This week of swimming was worth a double semi trailer stuffed with happy, positive superlatives. If a car was driving behind it, the driver would have to flip on the windshield wipers to clear the notes --" fantastic" "glorious" "amazing" "fanfreakingtastic" and such.

Swimmers and scooterists are incredibly kind, funny, friendly and, when needed, total badasses. I picked a couple of great hobbies or obsessions depending on who you talk to.

But, despite days of swimming in water about 60 degrees in La Jolla and 56 here in San Francisco, I wasnt able to complete my 6 hour qualifying swim. I made it just shy of 2 hours. On the bright side, thats more than double the 45 minute swims Id been doing to that point. Lynn, my kayaker, was great support.  She kept me going with her gentle cheering (in her own way) but the cold was even meaner. They say that no one ever drowned while shivering but I wasnt willing to take the chance.

I was relieved to get out of the water but in tears that I couldnt make the swim. Yup. Cried like a 3rd grader who spelled "catasrofee" at a spelling bee.

So now I have to figure some things out. I can keep training and swim in Branched Oak constantly until it gets too warm (over 60) and gain a few more pounds and try to nail the qualifying swim in a couple weeks. Or I can organize a relay in place of my solo crossing.

I'm going to keep swimming in the lake and see how my cold tolerance improves before making a final decision. I absolutely love swimming. Unfortunately I hate the cold about as much.

I'll post more details about the trip with photos when I get home. THANK YOU for the well wishes!  You have no idea how much I appreciate the WARM thoughts!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Go Jump in a Lake

Nebraska weather gave us a break this weekend and I was able to get in a few short swims at Branched Oak Lake. I scootered there after work on Friday and met Paul, who rode his new motorcycle. I didn't go far for my first dip. The cold water rattled my brain. The pinprick of 53 degree water on your face feels like what I imagine a facial tattoo session would feel like. I swam around for 20 minutes then sloshed onto shore and shivered for a good 20 minutes. I needed to get the shivers out before I could get on my scooter to ride home. I didn't anticipate the showers being locked. Doh!

Saturday was perfect for swimming - about 70 degrees and sunshine. The water felt even a little colder than it did on Friday or maybe I just conveniently blocked the chill out of my mind. Getting in is the worst. Once I got in and swam for about 5 minutes, the core started doing its lifesaving maneuver, keeping all the warmth around the heart and letting the hands and feet fend for themselves.

I wanted to try to swim the mile lap to the point and back, which I've swum dozens of times, but never in water this cold. I felt a lot more secure having Paul in the kayak. At least he could tell authorities where I went down. 

After about 10 minutes, I didn't notice the cold nearly as much, although I can't say I felt "fine." It was still freaking frigid, just not as shocking.

At the turn-around point, Paul handed me a thermos of warm peppermint tea and CarboPro. It was fantastic! It made a huge difference to get  a warm drink instead of a cold or room temp drink. I'll have to figure out how to arrange for warm feeds during my qualifying swim in San Francisco next week.

The swim back was good, but just as I was getting close to the beach, my hands and feet REALLY started freezing. My left hand became the "claw" and I was sifting water through it every stroke. Just as I made it to the beach I was joined by Alberta, a swimmer from Fremont who connect with me through DYST. I turned around to join her for a little more swimming, but was too cold at that point to swim for much longer.

It took a good 45 minutes of shivering to get over the cold. Alberta went in for another swim while I was shaking in my sweatpants and hoodie. I was amazed at how well she did considering she hasn't had any cold acclimation yet. The girl is one tough cookie.

Paul and I had our sack lunches of pbj's and kettle chips and cocoa. And then it was time to go back in again. I - did - NOT - want - to -go.

This is where it's helpful to have your spouse as your kayaker. I knew there were other things Paul would rather be doing that afternoon, so I felt obligated to make the trip worth his time. I think it's harder getting back in after a short break because your brain knows what to expect. It hasn't had the luxury of "forgetting" after a good night's sleep.

This time, I did breaststroke for a little while and dunked my head a few times before getting down to freestyle. It helped with the face and brain freeze a little bit.

The second mile went faster than the first. We forgot to bring my thermos, so I just turned around at the point and headed back. 

These were short swims but a big victory for me. I feel more confident about getting used to cold water. I just need more practice, which I'll get EVERY DAY next week. Yippy Ki Yay!!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

So Anne Cleveland was right (of course!), it didn't wipe out 14 months of training to sit out of the water for 4 days. I got over my cold and felt great when I did my Friday workout. That's very reassuring :-)

I'm just 2 weeks away from Cali Distance Week training and 6-hour qualifier. It's not really an organized clinic - but, hey, I'm a marketer, so the week must be branded! I haven't been doing as much cold water acclimation as I should. It's oh-so-easy to be "too busy" to fit in a half hour cold bath. I'm making it a written goal to get in 5 cold baths this week and next. 

Actually, I may be able to skip a couple of those baths next weekend. The weather is warming up and is supposed to hit 70 on Saturday. I'm heading to Branched Oak Lake! I'll see if I can get one of those wetsuit-wearing triathletes to join me. I doubt I'll be out there long enough to need kayak support, but I'll see if Paul would be up for that. 

Gotta go. I have weights, a cold bath and a 10K swim to get done today. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Cali Distance Week

The trickiest part of training to swim the English Channel in the middle of the middle of the United States is finding cold water to swim in. Since our lakes are still too cold (upper 40s, I'd guess from my wading above the knees last Thursday), I do a lot of stationary laps in the "hot tub" at one of the pools I use for training. I know this looks creepy, but believe me, I am very fortunate to have access to such a perfect tub for long cold soaks.

I planned a training trip to La Jolla, California, back in January to complete my 6-hour qualifying swim for the Channel. La Jolla is one of the most beautiful and coveted places for open water swimming. The water temps are usually near 60 at the end of April. Usually. This year, however, has been unseasonably warm and the water is already at 64 degrees. I doubt it's going to get any colder by next month.

I emailed my friend Suzie who lives in San Francisco and asked if she knew of a place I could get my qualifying swim done. Suzie, the patron saint of open water swimmers, invited me to come to Aquatic Park and swim with her and her friends with the Dolphin Club and South End Rowing Club. She's going to help me get that 6-hour monkey off my back. How cool is that?! I changed our travel plans so we'll be in La Jolla for 3 days, then go to San Francisco for the rest of the week.

So now I'm getting a full week of ocean swimming in two beautiful places with great friends. Believe me, I know this is an amazing trip and I appreciate it! Paul will have to find something to do when not watching me swim. Hmmm, strolling the beach or site seeing in La Jolla? Or walking over to Ghirardelli Chocolate for samples or for crab cakes at Fisherman's Wharf? Actually - that's what I'D do if I wasn't swimming. Paul will probably find the science and history museums and the local brewpubs.

Until then, I'm following my training plan. This was my longest weekly yardage of swimming all year - 46,650 yards. And I'm feeling it. Next week is a rest week, which doesn't mean I get to take the week off, but the total for the week will be 30 to 35,000 yards.

Speaking of rest - it's time to get to bed.

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Training to swim the English Channel doesn't come with a "Channel Crossing for Dummies" book (although plenty of people I've talked to look at me as though I'm highly qualified as a dummy). There's not a 10K to Cap Gris Nes training plan (yet ... I hope to write one) and if you interviewed 10 people who have successfully swum the Channel, you'll get 10 different approaches to training.

That said, there's some basic training that everyone does - lots of swimming, maybe some focused strength training, cold acclimatization and getting enough rest and eating well (meaning eating everything well within sight). Just like training for any endurance sport, the best way to improve is through progressive overload, where you gradually increase your distance over time. This helps build your cardio fitness while reducing the chances of getting an overuse injury.

Donal Buckley, author of the Loneswimmer blog, provides a template for this type of plan. I used his guide to help develop my own EC training plan last summer, knowing I wanted to build up to several weeks of 50,000 yard weeks leading up to my taper before the swim. It definitely helped me build up endurance and gave me some peace of mind knowing I was following some sort of training protocol based on exercise science.

More recently, I revised the plan on the advice of one of the most successful marathon swimmers in the U.S., Anne Cleveland. Instead of a 4-week cycle, Anne recommended a 3-week cycle. This means there's greater variation in the yardage, but I'm also getting more rest, which I need. I've spent over a year working on my endurance, so I feel pretty good about that. Now, I need to dial in on technique and make sure I get the rest I need to recover from long training swims. Like today's:

Donal Buckley also has a wealth of information about cold water swimming. If you're still with me, you obviously have some interest in this stuff, so go check out his blog. I took a 30-min tub soak in 54 degree water before today's workout. I find it amusing that there's a list of hot tub rules over the ancient horse tank that I sit in after filling it with cold tap water and a bucket of ice.

But better days are ahead! I scootered out to Branched Oak Lake on Saturday with some friends to see if the ice had melted. Look - look!

I waded in up to my knees and I'd guess the water temp to be in the high 40s, maybe even 50. Of course, this IS Nebraska, so yesterday's sunny 70-degree afternoon was followed by 12 degrees and snow this morning. I don't think my OW swimming friends in the coastal areas of England and Ireland get what it's like to try to train for the EC in Nebraska. They say "it's not really that cold" and "you'll get used to it in no time" but they have access to non-frozen water year-round. Eh, I can't really use my landlocked state as an excuse. I hate the cold, but I'm doing what I can to deal with it. I'm hoping Branched Oak Lake will have more than just a weekend at the 55-60 degree range.

You can see my training calendar on the "Training" tab or just click here: Calendar.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Talking about Swimming

A friend of mine invited me to be a guest on her community radio talkshow to talk about my plans to swim the English Channel. Although I've been blogging about this for the past year and most of my family and friends know about it, it still seemed to be crossing a line to take to the public airwaves and declare my intentions.

You can click to hear the podcast on the KZUM website. Look for the title "Lincoln resident Molly Nance joins the program to discuss her decision to swim the English Channel and how she is preparing."

It was fun to share the experience with Sheila, the host, and if it inspires someone to try something they've been thinking about then my day is made.

Meanwhile, my training this week hasn't been the best. I'm still dealing with a cold and trying to get in some easy yardage so I don't get too far behind. I've had a busy schedule at work and no time for weights in the evenings. But, that's life and swimming is a priority, so I'll get it done. The English Channel doesn't care about my snot problems.

I mailed my registration forms to the Channel Swimming Association this week, too. This included contact info, a photo, a medical physical signed by my doctor and, of course, the registration fees. 

This is not only an investment of time and effort, but a substantial financial expense, too. I knew this would be an expensive adventure, but all the more reason I hope folks will click to donate to Madonna. I want the focus of this swim to be about the REAL heroes I see every day -- the patients working hard to regain their abilities after a devastating injury or illness. See that box over to the right? Yeah, click that to learn more about Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital and the patients you can help. Any amount is appreciated!

So now, all that's left is that pesky 6-hour qualifying swim. I'll get there!