Swim pace illiterate

Someone please help me; lord I’m a lost cause when trying to figure out my swim pace!

And NO, I’m not even trying to figure it out in my head or old school by looking at the timer clock in the pool.  Maybe that is what I should be doing.  No, instead I’m relying on not one, but two, very expensive watches.  (Don’t ask why I wear two watches – it’s a long story).

A few weeks ago I went swimming at – what one of my watches told me was – a sub 3-minute pace/100 yards.  I can not swim that fast but a few of my laps were flipper aided or were other “drills” so I took my time to be pretty meaningless.  Expect for the fact that the laps I did “standard” seemed to also come up as sub 3:00.  But again, I know this isn’t possible.  That was my first red flag.

My .88 mile swim on Sunday took 54 minutes – give or take.  One watch calculated my pace per 100 yards at 3:04 while the other one said 3:33.  If you actually do the math, the 3:33 is more accurate.  But where did the 3:04 come from?  Three thirty-three has me missing the swim cutoff by about 10 minutes, but 3:04 has me making it by 10 minutes.  Now you can see why I need to figure this out.

I went swimming again this morning and once again did drills, some with flippers and registered a pace under 3:00 minutes – 2:48 to be exact on my watch on my left arm and my right arm watch gave me a pace of 3:19.  Seriously, how can this be?  As far as I know, they are both set up the same, I never set an auto pause on either watch.

So what can it be?  My pessimistic side says to always go with the watch that shows the slower time, just to be safe.  But come on, I need a win every now and then, so if I can actually see improvement in my swim speed, I’d sure like to be able to celebrate it.  But more importantly, I need to truly know what my swim pace is.  If I can’t even swim at a pace that gets me out of the water before the swim cutoff, as I’m swimming solo in a pool, how in the world can I expect to try a Half Iron or Ironman in open water where the conditions are more like a rugby match than they are a casual swim?

If anyone knows why my watches, an Apple Watch and a Garmin, are so far off, please let me know.

Until next time,

Gotta Run

 

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Running, not swimming is keeping me up at night

It’s been a crazy busy spring, and summer is looking to be even crazier and busier.  So let me jump right in and get you up to speed on my training.

Swimming:

I have been in the pool a lot.  Just this past Sunday I swam 31 laps!  Hot Damn!  Thirty one laps equals about .88 of a mile and I have to swim .93 miles for my August Tri.  So from an endurance perspective, I’m covered.

What I don’t have covered is speed or bilateral breathing.  I was able to choke and cough my way through three ugly laps while breathing to my left while wearing flippers.  I drank more pool water in those three laps than I have in the past 10 months.  It was ugly, it was uncomfortable, it wasn’t good but it’s a start.  I’m still frustrated, but at least I made a bit of progress.

I’m also very, very, very frustrated on my lack of speed.  I have not made any improvements on getting any faster.  My .88 mile swim on Sunday was at a pace of 3:33 per 100 yards.  I need to swim AT LEAST 3:19 per 100 yards to make Ironman cutoff.  SIGH!  Beyond frustrated.  I don’t even want to talk about it so I’m moving on to my biking update.

Biking:

I finally got my bike off the trainer and out of the basement and in some fresh air.  It was a horrible spring here in Wisconsin – we got over 36 inches of snow in April – and that forced me to stay inside longer than I would have liked.  But I just did my first two outdoor rides and so far, so good.  And by that I mean, I didn’t crash!  I set the bar low for myself so I can tip-toe over it!

Running:

Running should be my easy sport.  It’s what I’ve done for the past 10+ years and it’s the one I don’t have to think about.  Unfortunately, it’s all I’ve been thinking about.

As you may recall, during Fall 50 training in 2015 I started to complain about shin splints.  And I’ve dealt with the nagging pain ever since.  Pain and frustration led me to dig a bit deeper into my shin pain and when I did this, I realized that what I thought was shin splints this whole time was not.  It is something called Compartment Syndrome.  What is Compartment Syndrome you may ask? Well, let me tell you.  Actually I’ll let Mayo Clinic tell you…

“Signs and symptoms:

  • Aching, burning or cramping pain in the affected limb — usually the lower leg
  • Tightness in the affected limb
  • Numbness or tingling in the affected limb
  • Weakness of the affected limb
  • Foot drop, in severe cases, if legs are affected
  • Often occurs in the same compartment of both legs
  • Occasionally, swelling or bulging as a result of a muscle hernia
  • Begins after a certain time, distance or intensity of exertion after you start exercising the affected limb
  • Progressively worsens as you exercise”

If you read the causes listed above and are still a bit confused, let me try to clarify it by giving you the example that the doctor gave to me.  For all Wisconsinites, you’ll understand this analogy, for those reading this outside of WI, sorry but I may lose you here.

Try to think of my muscle as the “meat” and my fascia as the “brat casing”.  When my muscles warm up, just as the meat of a brat does when cooking, it expands.  And if you cook a brat without poking or cutting the casing, the meat will explode when too hot.  My muscles aren’t actually exploding, but they are being squeezed inside the fascia (or casing) and there’s no way to relieve the pressure.  Well, there is a way to relieve the pressure and it’s the only way to treat Compartment Syndrome and just like in my brat analogy, my fascia needs to be cut.

Fun!

I did ask if my fascia can be “poked with a fork” like when cooking brats.  But not only did the doctor not find me too amusing (I wasn’t even trying to be funny, poking it seems less invasive and painful), he said that wasn’t a solution.  It has to be surgery and they have to cut it, not poke it.

The problem is that recovery is 6-8 weeks.  Not only do I have a lot of triathlons this summer on my race calendar, I have the Marine Corp Marathon in fall.  I don’t have 8 weeks to set aside for recovery.  I have plane tickets to Washington DC purchased so I’m going to run that damn marathon.

There is no other treatment or cure unfortunately and surgery will be in my future.  But I have found a “band-aid” fix for the time being.  I am terrified that my band-aid will soon fall off and it will no longer help me.  Compartment Syndrome is so painful that I can’t run through it.  It stops me in my tracks.

But what I have found that has worked as a MacGyver trick is to stop – often very suddenly I may add – and walk when I feel it coming on.  And walk slowly.  Yes, super slow.  It usually starts coming on around a 1/2 mile into my run (which makes starting a race really fun when you start to walk less than a half mile into the race).  I can’t stop too soon and I can’t stop too late.  It’s weird and it sounds like it should be easy… just walk – what’s the big deal?  Well, here’s the best analogy I came up with to explain how hard it is (and scary) to time it right.

If you’ve ever cooked oatmeal in a microwave in a bowl that was too small, you’ll understand my example.  You’re cooking the oatmeal, or in my case running, and things are going fine until you notice the oatmeal is getting really hot and is coming close to boiling over the bowl and exploding.  You know you have to stop the microwave AT JUST THE RIGHT SECOND to catch it or it will be too late and disaster will have occurred.  Stop it too soon and you just have to start the heating process all over again.  BUT, if you stop the microwave at just the right time, just as it was about to explode and you stop and let it cool down, give it a minute or two, then you can start it back up again and everything is fine.   But look away for a second and it’s game over.

Same thing with trying to contain my CS.  I can feel my legs getting tight, getting numb and getting hot.  But if I stop to walk too soon, it does me no good and it starts all over when I start running again.  And if I go even 5-10 yards too far, I have screwed everything and I can no longer finish my run and I’ll end up walking home in pain.

So yeah, fun times.  And as I said, I just found this “temporary fix” and I’m afraid that once training really ramps up that it won’t work as a fix.  If that happens…

Nope, I’m not even going to think about that.  I can’t think about not being able to get through my summer and fall races.  I just can’t go there yet.  It’s too much to think about.

So that’s my update, now that I got you hungry for brats and oatmeal, what do you think?  I’m guessing you weren’t expecting all the drama to come from my running and were probably thinking my swimming was what was going to pre-occupy my blog again this year.  Oh how I long for that to be the case.

Not sure how my summer and fall training will unfold, but I do know that I will once again not have an easy schedule ahead of me.  So here’s to doing what I need to do to get it done.  Stubbornness, grit and hopefully a bit of luck will get me to November when I can rest and take care of my legs.

Until next time,

Gotta run

 

Self-congratulations is not easy

I had an early morning session in the pool today with my Coach.  I had seen him on Wednesday too but we didn’t do a lot of swimming or drills on Wednesday, it was more talking about what I’ve been doing and my upcoming goals.  Today he had me doing more drills.

He really wants me to work on my body position because as we both agree, it’s the SECOND most important part about swimming…. with not drowning being number one.  He’s finally conceded that body position is number two because he’s tired of asking me what the most important aspect of swimming is and me answering “not dying”!  So to speed things along, he’s now acknowledging that for me, body position is the second most important.

As we were working on body position in the water he had me just glide through the water with my arms out in front of me and just kicking.  I wasn’t doing any strokes and when I had to breathe, I would stop and stand up to breathe.  It was pretty simple, so I was surprised when he was pretty excited about how I did.  He said my body position was really good and that I was basically 80-90% perfect.  I just shrugged it off and he could tell that I wasn’t overly impressed with it and he wanted to know why I wasn’t more excited.  I said that I wasn’t more excited because it wasn’t that big of a deal.  I wasn’t actually doing the strokes – I was just gliding in the water.  No biggie.

That’s when he pointed out that it is indeed a big deal.  That last year at this time I needed two pull buoys and flippers to do what I just did now without any swimming aids.  Not only did I need two pull buoys and flippers last year at this time, but I didn’t even want to put my face in the water to do it and I would routinely cough or swallow water.

He also commented on how, when he watched me swim on Wednesday, a lot of what he taught me regarding the basic mechanics of swimming had stuck with me and are still there.  Again, all good things in his opinion.  In my mind, I still am not comfortable and still can not go fast.  That’s what I think about. I don’t think about the mini victories I’ve had (just ask Brian, he’ll confirm it) along the way.  And Craig could tell that I wasn’t impressed with my improvements. That’s when he again said how well I’m doing and said that he actually wanted me to say it out loud.

So I reluctantly said… “yes, I’ve improved!”  And then I got a fist bump from Craig.

I know I never acknowledge my progress and instead get down on myself for that which I can’t do – instead of being proud of what I can do.  So here I am, I’ll say it again, this time not just to Craig as I was sitting in the pool, but to all of you.  I’m acknowledging that I’ve made improvements.  I’m swimming!  I’ve come a long way and I’m not giving up.  I’ve made improvements and I plan on continuing to make improvements!

(It’s taking all of my self-control to not type out and follow-up with all of my negatives and all the things I still need to learn!)

So there’s my Friday self-congratulatory fix!   And it’s just about as difficult to admit I did something well and give myself credit for it as it is to actually learn how to swim!

Until next time,

Gotta run

 

I’m making it blog post official

Okay, here I go – here’s my big announcement.  I’m quite terrified of saying this out loud (or in this case, typing it online) but I want to make it real and put it out there.  Once it’s in the universe – it’s out there!

I have a goal.  And my goal is to work my way up to doing Ironman in 2021!

YIKES!  There it is… I said it!

Three years seems like a long time from now, yet it feels like it’s right around the corner.  I have a lot to do in 3 little years.  I have to learn to swim 2.4 miles.  As of now, the longest I’ve swam is .5 miles and I cried uncontrollably before doing that.   And let’s not forget I just learned how to swim in June and I’m still afraid of water!

I have to learn to bike 112 miles.  Right now the longest I’ve ridden is 25 miles.  Besides learning to go the distance I have to learn to do hills.  And a lot of hills.  And I have to learn to bike in a straight line and not crash.  I do not want a repeat of the Great Poison Ivy Outbreak of 2017!

And I have to get back into running.  Ever since my ultra in 2015, I’ve struggled with my running motivation.  I need to get back to marathon distance.  All I’ve done the past two years are half marathons and I’ve struggled with training for those because I had no desire to lace up my shoes.

And on top of all of this, I have to find a way to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles faster than I ever have before.  As of now, I wouldn’t make the swim cutoff for Ironman.  And if I do somehow manage to make the swim cutoff, I wouldn’t make the bike cutoff.  I’m not going to go through Ironman training only to be stopped in transition because I didn’t make the cutoff time.

But why make my declaration now in 2018 if I don’t plan on competing until 2021?  Well, because I need the motivation to train that much harder.  To make that extra sacrifice and to be held accountable.  I figure I can get through 2018 without changing my lifestyle and making too many sacrifices.  But once 2019 rolls around, and if I do a Half Iron next year, it’s game on.  I’ll be making a lot of sacrifices to get to that end goal in 2021 and I will need my family and friends to understand why I’m making these sacrifices.

So there you have it, I made it Blog Post Official (not to be confused with making it “Facebook Official”).  And while a lot can happen in the next 3 years, if you know me at all – you know that once I make my mind up – I’m too stubborn to quit!

So join me on this crazy adventure – won’t you!?  Because if nothing else, I’m sure training will make for some interesting blog posts.

Until next time,

Gotta run!

Do something new every year

Every year I like to do something new.  I want to make sure I “do” something special and not just “go” someplace special.  Don’t get me wrong, if money were endless, I’d go everywhere and see everything.  But sadly it’s not, so instead of getting hung up on going places, I want to make sure I experience life, do things and don’t just view things.

When it comes to doing things it doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it’s something I haven’t done before.  It could be fun, athletic or entertaining.  In the past some of my new “things” have been trying my hand at stand up paddle boarding, kayaking and mountain biking.  I’ve also done a skydiving simulator, ran various distances and did obstacle races as well as a stair climb.

My new thing for 2017 was doing my very first triathlon.  And more importantly my new thing was learning to swim.  As I’m reflecting on that journey, I’m truly amazed I did it.  The depth of my fear of swimming was a deep one.  It was many decades long, was completely irrational but completely real.  Crying uncontrollably at the sight of the water at the start of my tri should help you gauge the level of my fear and discomfort.

When people talk about getting outside of your comfort zone, learning to swim was definitely outside of my comfort zone.  It was so far away from my comfort zone that you would have needed NASA to track and find it’s location.  And not that all of my new things have to be this big and scary, it just so happened that 2017’s was big and was scary.  And honestly, I couldn’t be more proud of myself.  It’s hard to say that, but it’s true. I am proud of myself!

I truly cannot believe I learned how to swim.  I started my journey to learn how to swim in November of 2016 and couldn’t swim until June 2017 and my tri was in August of 2017.  Nine months of emotionally putting myself in some of the most uncomfortable situations I’ve ever been in.  This took some serious dedication as well as a lot of stubbornness.  And while training and running an ultra wasn’t easy and it was also emotionally draining, I never thought I would die, which I did often as I tried to learn to swim.  And I didn’t have a fear with running as I did with swimming.

And also let’s not forget that while I was trying to learn to swim, I also had to master biking.  Which I did ONLY after crashing and getting the worst case of poison ivy AND hives humanly possible.  But did I quit, no.  Even though it would have been really easy to do so at this time.  Instead I waited until my poison ivy stopped oozing and then I got back in the pool.

After learning to swim in the pool, I headed out to the open water.  Which brought its own set of challenges.  Sighting – or in my case – not being able to sight, swells and other swimmers all made open water swimming extra tough.  But did I quit?  No.  Did I cry?  Well of course!

Yes, many of my new things have made me cry.  I’ve cried on the side of the road during some horrible training runs.  And I have cried while standing in water not wanting to put my face in it.  In my case it’s not… “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”; instead it’s “what makes you cry will make you stronger”.  And stronger I am.  Not physically but definitely emotionally.  All thanks to my “new” thing in 2017.

I’m not sure what 2018’s new thing will be.  I am doing an Olympic distance tri next year, that will be new.  But besides that… what new thing will I do?  I have no idea, but I anxiously look forward to figuring it out.  This time I just hope there’s not as much crying involved!

Until next time and until next year,

Gotta run

 

I’m just naturally not-gifted!

I got back in the pool yesterday.  My goal is to get in the pool at least once a week during the winter months.  I swam 1150 yards, which is the most I’ve ever swam!  For reference, as I was training for my tri in summer, I was swimming 900 yards.  It’s not a lot more yards, but it is 5 more laps.  It’s a big deal for me.  A really big deal!

I looked back at the blog post I wrote last year on 12/7/16 and I couldn’t breathe in the water, had a hard time even blowing bubbles, could only “move” in the water with a kick board and in general, my future looked bleak.  So the fact that one year later I’m swimming MORE THAN a half mile is HUGE!  FRICKEN HUGE.

But I still can’t breathe to my left.  And truthfully I haven’t been putting in a lot of time on this.  First, I just need to get back in the pool and put some time in and get some good laps under my belt before I try to tackle bi-lateral breathing.  I have done a few laps while holding onto the kick board and tried breathing to my left and it didn’t go well.  Last night I tried just doing one stroke repeats while breathing to my left and that too did not go well.  Why, oh why, does it have to be so hard?

A friend asked me why I am trying to learn to breathe to my left and I said it was for two reasons.  1, I feel I need to be able to breathe AWAY from waves and swells if necessary.  And 2, I feel if I can breathe to the left it will make me faster.  I don’t know if this is true, but I figured it can’t hurt.

And let’s just say I need all the help I can in getting faster.  I actually amaze myself at how slow I am.  And when I say I’m slow, I am slow at EVERYTHING I do.  I’m a slow runner, I’m a slow biker and now I’m a slow swimmer.  Do you know people who are just gifted athletes and no matter what they try, they are good at it?  I have some friends like that.  They are good, they are fast, they win things.  I don’t win things!  EVER!

And not only do I not win, I’m always at the back.  Always.  I had one friend who was a back of the pack runner but when she took up biking she kicked ass.  She could hang with some really fast bikers and was outperforming most of the guys.  I was secretly hoping that would happen to me, that I would get on my bike or get in the pool and discover I was a natural at it.  Nope, that did not happen.

How can that be?  At some point I need to be good at something, right?  It’s only fair.  And I’m not even asking to be fast or to win stuff, I just don’t want to miss the fricken cutoffs in an event.  Right now, with all things being equal, if I were to compete in a Half Iron, I would come in under the swim cutoff time by about 5 minutes.  5 MINUTES!  That’s not a lot.  THAT IS TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT!  And this is based on my time that’s me swimming in a lap pool, by myself with nobody swimming into me, no one bumping me, no waves or swells causing me to panic.  And let’s not forget about the fact that I can’t sight and can’t swim in a straight line, which means I would need more than 5 minutes to compensate for all of this!

Basically I would train my butt off for a Half Iron only to get stopped after the first event.  That would be brutal.

Why am I so slow?  At everything?  I know I’m not athletic, but why does that make me slow?
Why don’t my body parts turnover as quickly as other people’s do?  I tried SO HARD yesterday in the pool to go fast.  I thought my arms were coming out of the water as fast as possible.  I thought I was rocking it.  That is until I saw the old gentleman who got into the pool a few lanes away blow past me in the water like I was anchored in place.

So to all you fast, gifted athletes out there, what’s your secret?  Is it all genetics?  I do admit that I got screwed in the athletic genetic department, so is all hope lost?  I can do drills and put more time in the pool but how much will I really improve?  This goes for biking too, what do I need to do to get faster?  (I’m not even going to ask about how to become a faster runner because now I’m just trying to stop the downward spiral this has become my pace, which gets slower and slower every time I head out the door).  And how much can a really slow person truly improve?  How much can I improve upon my times?

Any and all tips and pointers are welcome at this point.

Until next time,

Gotta run

 

Just like riding a bike

I got back in the pool yesterday, the first time since the Tri in August.  I figured I couldn’t delay the inevitable any longer.

You know the saying, “it’s just like riding a bike”?  Well, it was like that.  And remember, when I started riding my bike, I crashed and got a wicked case of poison ivy and hives?!?!!

Yep, just like that!

Ugh!

Have I said lately how bad I am at swimming and how it is not easy or natural?!?!

And I haven’t even tried to learn to bi-lateral breathe yet?  THAT.  WILL.  BE. INTERESTING.

Until next time,

Gotta run!