Thursday, April 25, 2013

Reality Check

I swam with Karen for a half hour this morning, then with the full group for an hour around noon. I quickly discovered I am at the back of the bus with this group. There is one guy who is about my speed and he just got into swimming last year as a way to lose weight, so this has been a humbling sort of day.

Ocean swimming is monsterously exhausting. It makes swimming in a pool seem like gliding along on roller skates. Instead of swimming, I feel like I'm in combat with the waves, each stroke a punch through the water that's crashing over me.

The cold is a challenge, but I find the effort to swim in the waves and the nauseating discomfort of swallowing seawater to be the worst. And, being at the tail end --  way behind the pack is disheartening.

We had a nice lunch after the noon swim, then had another swim. I just didn't feel up to getting back into the cold water, but I did it. I swam about 20 minutes and did some breaststroke to see where everyone was. I was way out from the beach and couldn't see anyone near me. I felt pretty gross with food and saltwater in my gut and decided to swim to shore. It took for freaking ever. I was glad to see my slow buddy Gregg also came to shore. I didn't see him in the water, but we must have been close together. I have no idea where Anne was. She was probably nearby, but when I couldn't see anyone, it made me nervous.

With such a crazy ambitious goal, I should be in the water swimming every minute I can. I feel a little discouraged for bailing out of the last swim after a half hour, but it IS my first day of ever really swimming in the ocean. I'll push it more tomorrow.

First cold water, ocean swim!

I can't believe it's warmer in Lincoln, Nebraska, than Manhattan Beach, California, right now. When I arrived yesterday, the skies were overcast and it was about 63 degrees. Still, that's better than the frosty morning I left, just not quite the sunny 75 I was hopoing for.

After taking every wrong turn possible and adding a good 2 miles to my walk, I made it to Manhattan Beach. The waves were pounding, there was NO ONE in the water - no even those die hard, psycho surfers who'll board in anything - and the cold wind was wailing. I figured I would at least get my toes in the water and test the temperature, so I ditched my shoes and walked against the seabreeze to the shore. Imagine my surprise to see a woman walking casually into the surf in her swimsuit. Damn girl. Turns out this was Karen, one of the other channel swimming clinic participants.

So, of course, I'm not going to just stand there gawking in total dismay, I had to get in. I went to the changing room got into my suit and strode into the water with nervous determination.

The water stole my breath and my courage. I thought there was no way I was going to be able to swim in such freezing cold water. The people who do this must have some sort of chromosomal adaptation. But I dove under to avoid a huge wave and then started swimming and just concentrated on getting each arm up and over, up and over, and pretty soon, I wasn't freaking out over the freezing cold water anymore. I was just swimming. And get this ... it was FUN! I felt like a seal dodging the waves and pulling through clots of kelp. There were a couple of huge tankers off the coast and I was swimming next to the long Manhattan Beach Pier. I had a moment where the awesomeness was overwhelming - I was really swimming in 62 degree sea and it was beautiful!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Busy week

It's been a busy week with lots of extracurricular activities, making it harder than usual (which is pretty hard on its own) to fit in planned workouts. But that's probably OK, since open water swims rarely go as planned. I did manage to swim every day since Tuesday, so that's good.

We had a swim meet yesterday and my goggles dropped down to my neck at the start of both of my races. I was blind as a mole digging for daylight. It was ridiculous. I guess Dara Torres won't worry about me breaking her records until the next meet.

I did some weight work this week, too. It takes an act of God to get me to the gym to lift weights, so somebody must have been praying for me. Thanks Mom. I survived kettlebell class (Paul calls it cripplebell class) and did some free weights and sit-ups and whatnot, too. I'm sure it will help increase my strength and I need every bit of strength and endurance I can muster.

We had a wonderful engagement party on Friday night for my friend Jen and her fiance Alan. I don't think my daily workouts covered the brie, salami, smoked salmon and chocolate cookies with mint chips. Don't care. Totally worth it!

Today, I swam 5000 this morning and then biked 13 miles with a friend from the Great Plains Bicycle Club. It was an event I agreed to lead, but only Tony showed up. I can see my popularity with that group could use some improvement. We braved hurricane force wind gusts and lots of hills. Extra credit.

On Wednesday, I fly to Los Angeles for ocean swim camp with Anne Cleveland. This will be a preview to channel swimming -- brisk 60 degree water, waves, salt and sea creatures. Bring it on!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

One long swim on the way to longer swims

Well, that was pretty daunting: 22,200 yards of pool swimming. I was at the Y all day. Lifeguards came and went. A few people swam, but for the most part, I had the pool to myself for the 7 hours I was in it.

Instead of making it a straight slog, I broke it up into 4 sets:

Y Masters Workout = 4600 yards
300S, 100K, 300P, 100K, 200D (1000)
4 x 200 @ 3:15 (800)
6 x 175 @ 3:00 (1050)
4 x 150 @ 2:30 (600)
6 x 125 @ 2:10 (750)
4 x 100 @ 1:45 (400)

Set 2 = 5500
Ladder: 100-200-300-400-500-600-700-800-900-1000

Set 3 = 8000
4 x 2000

Set 4 = 4000
2 x (1 x 400, 2 x 300, 3 x 200, 4 x 100) all at 1:35/100 
Progress the pace for each segment. 

Somehow, I snuck an extra 100 in there, bringing the total to 22,200 yards. It helped to have intervals to do, but that's still a whole lotta staring at a black line. I'll be so glad when I can get outside and enjoy some changing scenery. Of course, that also comes with waves, wind and icy cold water. Hey, every silver lining needs its grey cloud. You just deal with what you're given.

I also tried some different foods. In addition to Perpetuem, I noshed on some Clif Shot Blocks, a Honey Stinger Waffle thing and a couple of gu's. I also downed enough children's Ibuprofen to keep a daycare feeling good. I just took big gulps of the stuff on 2 occasions and figured since it was kiddy Ibuprofen, I was getting a low dose. Turns out guzzling half the bottle is equivalent to downing 8 adult pills. Hope my liver recovers. It was worth it. Both shoulders and my upper back were screaming at me and the ibuprofen really took the edge off.

Let's see, what else did I do? I varied the speed on one of the 2000s, alternating fast and steady 100s. It shaved a good 30 seconds off my time, which isn't all that dramatic, but if I did that consistently through a long swim event, it would add up.

I've done nothing but eat since I got home. I made a delicious soup with kale and shrimp, then sat down to a huge bowl of popcorn and some raisinettes. I watched a little over half of Life of Pi, then was even too pooped to pay attention.

So now it's off to bed. I think I'll bike some tomorrow.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Pondering the long pool swim

According to Ned Denison, one of the great open water swimming champions, it takes long swim practices to prepare for long swim events. Duh. So, I'm following his advice, scheduling long swims each weekend with two of those being really, no-I'm-not-kidding, seriously long swims.

Sunday, I'll spend the day swimming 22,000 yards at the Y. That's about 17,600 strokes and 660 flipturns. I expect it will take me about 7 hours with feeding breaks. This distance is nearly equivalent to 20K and close enough to the 25K I'll be swimming on May 18 in Pensacola. I will probably get in another 15K swim and a few more 10K swims before that event.

And, it should put me in a good place for the swim camp coming up April 24-28 in LA. Of course, while these long swims are good physically and somewhat mentally, they are not much for preparing me for open water swimming in the cold ocean with wind, tides and varying waves. But, it's the best I can do with what I have for now.

I think I'll go ahead and have another mini Snickers.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Life after Vegas

I spent a glorious vacation helping my friend Carly celebrate her 40th birthday in Las Vegas last weekend. We ogled 18-carat diamonds, harassed a loud-mouthed bartender, dined on lobster gazpacho, mozzarella ice cream, red pepper jellyfish and enjoyed fantastic shows -- including The Beatles - LOVE and the Thunder from Down Under. So all in all, it was everything Vegas is supposed to be for a girls' weekend. Except maybe for keeping up with marathon swimming training. The hotel had a very nice fitness center with lots of equipment, but the pools were all designed for people in thong bikini's and umbrella drinks. I slogged a few miles on the treadmill and lifted some weights and we walked for hours every day, so it's not like I was a total slug. But, after 4 days without swimming, I was getting a little antsy about getting into a pool.

I called the concierge and asked for a place to swim laps in a 25 yard or meter pool. She called back awhile later and recommended the Las Vegas Althetic Club. She said it was a short cab ride away and was a full service health club with a 25-meter pool. So, despite an evening spent with several gorgeous, shiny-chested men from Australia, I returned to the hotel at a descent time so I could get up early and head to the club. 

The "short cab ride" turned out to be $20 plus tip and took me to an older, and creepier, area of the city. Lots of empty buildings and strip malls. A hotel called "Ahore" advertised rooms by the hour. Ewww.

But the fitness club was OK. The pool was dimly lit and surrounded by teal and purple painted walls. Totally rad.

I put in a 5000 meter workout and felt much better. We got home late, so I didn't do anything on Wednesday, then put in a long workout on Thursday and short workout on Friday.

Saturday, it was time to get back on track. I packed a lunch of 3 bottles of Perpetuem, 2 bottles of water and a bottle blue Gatorade and headed off to the Y for a day full o' laps.

I was a little tired and still trying to shake the cold that has me hacking up phlegm balls, but told my brain to quit bitching. We were stuck in the water for the next few hours, so get over it and get on with it.

I swam 15,300 yards in 4 hours 40 mins, which includes the breaks. I got out once and went to the lockerroom to pee. I really need to get over my pee-in-the-pool inhibition. I'm not sure I can. It's been ingrained in me since I was a toddler that peeing in the pool is totally gross. But, when you are training to swim for 15 plus hours, you just need to get over that. It's a necessity.

I was tired and a little sore this morning, but all in all, not too bad. I'm glad to be back on track with my yardage. 

I ran a Totally Rad 80's themed 5K today with my friend Laura. Turns out, the route was noticeably shorter than a 5K - about 2.37 miles according to Laura's phone. But I jogged it all and had a blast wearing my 80s dress - that I still had hanging in my closet.

After the run, I went over to the Zoo Bar for the KZUM Programmer party. I absolutely love this radio station. I was a volunteer programmer (DJ) from 1992-1996 and was on the board for a few years in the early 2000s and Paul has been a programmer since 1992, except for the 2 years we were in KC, so we know this place and I feel like we've had a small part in its survival. As past Programmer of the Year, Paul had the privilege to present the award to Amy Miller this year. Her show, The Melting Pot, is a liberal activist's rally cry - lots of political music and commentary. Seriously good stuff.

After the party, I went to the Y for our afternoon practice. It was a 5000 yard endurance whoopin'. I don't think my 400 yard and 200 yard time trials will win any medals, but after a 4 and a half hour swim on Saturday and a road race over the noon hour, I felt pretty good about doing it at all. The workout also included 20 x 100 on the 1:50. Sounds like a leisurely interval, but it was tough going. 

All in all, this has been a good week. It was nice to have a break from the routine and it was nice to get back into the routine. With a goal like the English Channel, life isn't normal. There will be lots of beautiful days I spend in a dark indoor pool. There will be cold, windy and rainy days I'll spend at a lake. It's a commitment to make sure I get in the yards that will get me across the Channel. I'm not keeping a perfect schedule, but I'm doing pretty well and I'm determined to keep it up.