I amaze myself at my inability to swim comfortably

God, I suck at swimming.  Seriously, my inability to swim in open water amazes me.  A bit of swells freaks me out.  Hell, calm water freaks me out.  I CANNOT GET OUT OF MY OWN HEAD.  I went for two open water training swims this weekend, the last before the Chicago Tri on Sunday, and they did not go well.  I could not stop freaking out – for no reason.  And I tried everything to distract myself.  You don’t believe me?  Here’s a list of things I tried to do to stop myself from freaking out.

  • I sang to myself.  It took about two strokes to realize that I don’t actually know the words to any songs if I’m not listening to them.  I can sing along to songs in the car like no other, but come up with the lyrics on my own?  NOPE!  That’s a big ol’ negative on that.
  • After a failed attempt at singing the National Anthem, I realized the only two songs I knew all the words two are Happy Birthday and Jingle Bells.  And Happy Birthday and Jingle Bells aren’t really great at distracting me.
  • Neither are nursery rhymes.  I realized I only know The Itsy Bitsy Spider and Humpty Dumpty from start to finish.  And really, those are kind of messed up nursery rhymes.  Why are we singing to kids about spiders and broken eggs?
  • I tried counting.  That doesn’t work, all that does is makes me realize that I can only get to the count of 17 before popping out of the water.
  • Being “mindful” is very on-trend now and I’ve been trying to be more “mindful” in my daily life.  But you know what being “mindful” means when you are in open water… it means you are VERY MUCH AWARE THAT YOU ARE IN OPEN WATER AND YOU SHOULDN’T BE!!!   So needless to say that didn’t work well.
  • I tried to concentrate on my form and on my strokes.  That actually worked okay for me.  Right up until the point where it no longer worked to distract me.  Just like that, I was out of the water.
  • And when all else failed, I just started crying in my goggles.  That distracted me because I had to defog my goggles!

So, what does all this mean?  It means I’m scared to death for my tri on Sunday.  I was so hoping that in a year, I’d have grown comfortable in open water and I’d be writing a blog about how excited I am and how I’m hoping to do well.  But I honestly feel like I’m doing worse than last year.  I should be more comfortable, but I’m not.  And it’s beyond frustrating.

How do you train for something that’s mental?  I guess if we had the answer to that, golfers wouldn’t develop shanks, NFL kickers wouldn’t go far right and I wouldn’t be crying in my goggles.

Until next time,

Gotta run

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I think I may throw up

I started to think about the logistics for next week’s Chicago Triathlon and I may be sick.  I just got super, super nervous.  Let’s not forget, it’s only my SECOND triathlon, ever.  And if you count the time my husband and friend tried to kill me, it’s only the third time swimming with other people.

Oh.  My.  God.  I’m going to be sick.

 

 

Bi – George I think I’m getting it!

Well, I did something I never thought I’d say I did… I did bi-lateral breathing in open water!

I had a training swim on Sunday and after my 1/2 mile open water training swim, I decided it was time to try bi-lateral breathing away from the safety of the pool.

I swam for about 12 strokes, which would be about 4 breaths total, or 2 on each side.  I did this three times.  And you know something, it wasn’t horrible!  I am still not comfortable breathing to my left and I rush it and I gulp air because I feel like I’m sinking when I have to breathe to my left, but I did it.

Brian said my form was good.  I don’t know about that, but I’ll take it!  I was just excited to be able to do it.  Brian also said my arm turnover was quicker, which was good to hear because it felt like it.  I feel like I’m swimming so much faster when I bi-lateral breathe, but I’m really not.  I’ve timed myself in the pool and my speed is almost the same.  Even though my arm turnover is faster, I’m less efficient and my form probably isn’t correct which is most likely causing drag or in other ways, slowing me down.  But that’s okay, I can work on all of that. The hard part is just actually rotating to the left and breathing.  If I can keep getting more comfortable with that and if I can get to the point where I no longer feel like I’m sinking, then I’ll be set to make some progress on my form.

I won’t bi-lateral breathe for the Tri in three weeks, but if I can practice and train throughout winter… who knows what next summer could bring.  I’m so excited to think about being able to actually bi-lateral breathe for real.

Now if only I could get comfortable and make progress in water that has swells.  Those damn baby ripples not only freak me out, they literally make me nauseous and cause me to swallow water and in general, panic like a mofo!

But one improvement at a time, I guess!

Until next time,

Gotta run

Living a nightmare

Here’s a little something for you to think about.

If a person is afraid of swimming in wavy water, and if they are in such water for 20-30 minutes, its like living a nightmare for the duration of the swim.

Think about that… think about living your fear.  And not a fear of spiders where you see the spider and run away and your fear is gone.  Or being afraid of heights and being up on a ladder for a few minutes and then getting back down.  No, think about living that fear for almost 30 minutes.

And this fear, isn’t a physical fear, where the minute you start doing it, your fear subsides.  No, it’s internal and nothing you do or say can counter it.

It’s irrational.

It’s exhausting.

It’s anxiety.

It’s panic.

It’s an elevated heart rate.

It’s every fiber of your body telling you to stop.

It’s the demons in your head getting louder and louder.

That’s what it’s like for me swimming.  And while I’m getting more comfortable swimming, open water – and especially swimming with swells – is down right fear-inducing.  So while I may do it, it’s not easy and it’s not fun and everything about it sucks.  And when I get done doing it, I don’t feel a sense of pride or a sense of relief.  I’m too numb to enjoy being done.  I just spent almost 30 minutes “on high alert” and it takes time to physically and mentally come down from that.

So while I can swim from Point A to Point B, and it may look like I’m doing well or swimming just fine… make no mistakes, there’s nothing fine about me.

[And if you haven’t already guessed, I did an open water swim this weekend that contained some baby swells.  And it was a long, long 25 minutes in the water. But I did it.  And no, I didn’t feel good when it was done.]

Until next time,

Gotta run

 

 

When the inner voices just won’t shut up

Two half mile swims, just 2 days apart.  Same body of water and relatively the same water conditions.

Swim #1 was away from shore with no music.

Swim #2 was along shore with music.

Swim #1 had no less than 6 panic attacks that lead to stopping and periods of rest.

Swim #2 had no stops and was pretty much panic free.

This tells me that my struggles with swimming (outside of swimming in swells and/in waves – that’s another story) are mental. I can’t calm the voices in my head unless I’m distracted. The voices telling me I can’t do it are too loud.  I count my strokes, I try to say the alphabet backwards, I try to see how high I can count in Spanish, I try to list all of my cousins, I name bands that start with the letter A, then the letter B, etc.  I have a lot of tricks and nothing helps.  Music helps.  And so does having a good sight line nearby.  But I can’t listen to music during the tri and my site line for it will be a big body of water and not the shore.

So what’s the training plan to toughen me up mentally?  I can do swimming drills until I’m blue in the face but if I can’t overcome the mental hurdles I’m facing – my form really won’t matter.

I’ve always said that running a marathon, running an ultra or learning to swim isn’t about physical toughness, it’s about mental toughness.  And I’m not mentally tough enough for swimming.

If only the voices in my head weren’t so loud and crazy!  And mean, they are mean!  They have never once told me anything positive, they are always negative and sometime down right bitchy.  Yes, I have bitchy voices in my head. Go figure!

Until next time,

Gotta run

It is just just not my year for running

I’m struggling man, I’m struggling.

Not with swimming.  Okay, I am struggling with swimming.  Getting used to open water swimming is still a struggle.  I’m having MAJOR goggle fogging struggles and in general, swimming will always be my nemesis.

But what I’m really struggling with is my running.  I mentioned earlier that I have compartment syndrome (CS), but I’ve also been having hamstring issues.  I’ve gone in to get dry needled to work out my hamstring issues and correct some of the issues I’m having which are leading to that and possibly by compartment syndrome.  But beyond my nagging and chronic conditions like CS or my hamstring soreness, I’ve never really had an injury.  That is until now.

Last week Brian and I were doing a two-person marathon relay.  I had run the first 6.25 miles and it went really well.  My CS and hamstring issues didn’t bother me and I felt good.  Brian took his first 6.5 miles and then it was my turn again to hit the pavement and finish my last 6.5 miles.

I got about 2 miles into my last leg when my calf/Achilles was starting to tighten but I wasn’t worried.  Typical aches and pains arise all the time while running and that’s what I assumed this was.  Just after my calf/Achilles started to tighten I saw Brian on the route cheering me on and I had decided to use that time to grab the BioFreeze from him and spray my leg.  I thought that was going to be the fix I needed and I didn’t think about my sore leg again.  That is until it popped.

Yep, it popped.  About 1/4 mile after seeing Brian I was running along minding my business when my calf popped.  And I stopped.  Actually I swore – loudly – and then I stopped.  I had no idea what just happened.  All I knew was that it was quite painful and wasn’t going to be a good thing. I tried to keep running and I couldn’t.  And that’s when panic set in because I knew I wasn’t going to see Brian for another 2+ miles at the next rendezvous spot.  I tried to continue hobbling along the best I could, willing myself to be okay.  But I soon realized I wasn’t going to be okay and I wasn’t going to make it to the next rendezvous spot – at least not quickly.  That’s when I remembered the really fancy and expensive stop watch (aka my Apple watch) on my wrist.  I had gotten it because I don’t run with my phone and I felt I needed the security of being able to contact someone in case of emergency while running.  Little did I know the emergency was going to be during a race and not a training run.  I had never tried calling on my watch before and I surely hadn’t tried to do it as I was hobbling along with the medical staff following me.  (Yes, a woman from the medical team had spotted me in distress and biked over to me to see if I was okay.  When I said yes I was fine, I’m not sure why she didn’t believe me.  Was it the crying or the hobbling?  Not sure!  Either way she followed me for quite a while to make sure I was okay.)  I couldn’t get in touch with Brian but thankfully my sister Carol was rocking the route too, so I called her instead.  It turned out that she was with Brian.  I told them what happened and that I couldn’t go on and that I needed them to back track the course to come find me – which wasn’t as easy as it sounds.  I gave them my wrong locale and I just couldn’t seem to find where I was, to give them an exact place where to find me.  But eventually they did.  But to my credit, I made it another .75 miles on my bad leg while Brian and Carol tried to find me.

And of course, I was not going to have a DNF on my report card so when Brian said to get in the car, that we were done, I said NO!  I wasn’t letting Team Miles for Miles drop out. I would finish my last 3 miles if I had to walk or crawl it.  BUT there was another option… Brian could take my last 3 miles in addition to his last 6.5.  Knowing how stubborn I am and that I absolutely would have hobbled my last 3 miles if given the option, Brian reluctantly agreed to take over for me.  But not after calling me the most stubborn person he knows!  (That may be true!)

Fast forward to today, Friday… 5 days after my injury – which turned out to be a calf tear – and I’m still limping.  It’s a minor calf tear and the first few days, while pretty painful, contained a lot of improvement and progress.  But now my progress as slowed. I feel like I may have taken a step backwards.  A limpy, gimpy step backwards, but a backwards step nonetheless.

I have a 25 mile bike race tomorrow that we are going to do and I’m a bit afraid.  I totally thought I was going to be ready, but I’m not feeling as pain-free as I had hoped.  I also have a sprint tri next week that I don’t know if I’ll be ready for or if I’ll have to pull out.  And all of this unknown due to an injury has me freaked out.

As I said earlier, I’ve never truly been injured.  I’ve had nagging pain – lots of it, but not a full-blown injury.  Not even as a kid.  Growing up a tomboy on a farm, you’d have thought I’d have had my share of injuries.  But not even a sprained ankle or a stitches.  I’ve been really lucky.  Until now and that’s why I think my mental anguish is as bad as the physical anguish.  While I’m not dying, and it’s only a minor calf tear, I just don’t know what to do with being sidelined.  The thought of dropping out of an event is REALLY REALLY hard for me to wrap my head around.

It’s already been established that I’m stubborn and that stubbornness is telling me to rub some dirt on it and get back in the game.  But I’d also like to think that I’m smart.  Smart enough to know that my goal events are the Chicago Tri in August and the Marine Corp Marathon in October and I have to heal to get ready for those races.  And while I know this, I still hate the thought of possibly dropping out of a stupid “warm up” tri next week?  Why is that?  Like I said, I’m smart enough to know the right thing to do, why can’t I do it?  The thought of dropping out makes me feel like I wimped out and I’m being a pussy.  I feel like I should be able to leather up and see my commitment all the way through to the end.

But then again, my main commitment is the Chi Tri and Marine Corp which may not happen if I re-injure myself or don’t heal in time to ramp up my training.

UGH!  The round and round I’m having internally in my own head is making me quite bi-polar now.  I can’t make the lambs stop screaming (name that movie reference)!

So, that’s the latest and greatest.  I’m loading my bike and heading north tonight for the bike ride tomorrow.  I’ll see how my leg feels during the bike ride and the rest of the weekend.  I have another dry needling appointment Tuesday morning and depending on how I feel after that, I’ll make the call whether or not I drop out of the Tri next weekend.  So wish me luck!

Until next time,

Gotta run (or hobble slowly)

 

A new experience

OMG, I’m excited to report I had my first bi experience last night.

NO, not that kind of bi-experience!

I did one lap of bi-lateral breathing while swimming.  Woot Woot!

It was ugly and I’m not lying when I say I drank a ton of water and probably held my breath more than I should.  But I did it.  I swam, I breathed to my left, I swam, I breathed to my right and then I hit repeat.  By the end, I was basically willing myself to get to the side of the pool because it was so ugly and uncomfortable.  But I don’t care how ugly it was.  It was my first and you never forget your first time!

I definitely have to work on my rhythm because it was not smooth and my instinct kept wanting me to breathe every right stroke.  All of that will take time to get used to.  But at least now I feel that there’s hope for me.  I feel that I can keep making progress and maybe I can actually get this whole swimming thing down.

So while I’m not getting any faster, at least I am making some progress and that really excites me and keeps me going.

Until next time,

Gotta run