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

 

Advertisements

Here we go – all or nothing

This will be my last post before the Chicago Triathlon.  I’m hoping when I write my next post I will be a triathlete!

Wow, a triathlete.  It’s crazy to think I may actually be a triathlete in a few days.  When people say, “never say never”, I’m pretty sure they were talking about this endeavour.

I swore on all things holy that I would NEVER be a triathlete.  I knew I would never participate in a triathlon because the issues that I would have had to overcome to participate in one were numerous and insurmountable to me.  And 95% of those issues revolved around swimming (and the rest involved the fricken outfit!).

I have had an issue with swimming and water since I was a child.  I took, and flunked, swimming lessons as a kid and from there my anxiety with water only increased.  I’ve tried to be “okay” with water for certain activities and I tried not to let my fear hold me back from doing things like kayaking or going in the water while on tropical vacations.  I’d go kayaking but I’d have a life vest on and I’d panic and want to stop the moment the kayak rocked even the slightest bit due to a ripple in the water.  I’ve gone in the water of a Cenote in Mexico, but I basically went in and then promptly got out because it wasn’t fun for me.  I instead stood on dry land and watched Brian jump from cliffs.  There was another vacation where Brian got to play on a waterfall (and he also fell down it – but that’s another story) and I again, watched from dry land and took pictures.  The thought of getting my face wet or going under water was too much for me and I had to watch from the sidelines.

Same is true with triathlons. A few years ago a large group of my friends all competed in the same triathlon and wanted me to join them.  Instead I cheered them on and played event photographer.  It was never in my realm of possibilities to swim and participate in a tri.  The thought was absurd to me and them asking me was laughable. I actually did laugh when they asked me if I wanted to join them and followed my laughter up with a quick, “fuck no”.

If I had to think of all the things that I would have said would never happen in my life – competing in a triathlon/learning how to swim would be at the top of the list, just behind growing 8 inches, losing 50 pounds and becoming a super model!

Not only did I not enjoy water and know how to swim, I had no desire to change my lack of enthusiasm for what I used to call “liquid hell”.  It never occurred to me to try to learn how to swim, especially at my age.  But about two or three years ago, I had the idea of doing a triathlon start swirling around in my head.  And I just couldn’t shake it.  And then once the challenge became real, I had no choice but to learn how to swim.

Learning how to swim is one of the hardest things I have ever done in my entire life.  It’s bigger than just learning to perform a physical task.  It’s taking a true, deep and lifelong fear and trying to shut it the hell up!  And when we talk about fear, let’s not mistake it with my fear of mice or the fear some people have for spiders.  I don’t like mice and they creep me out, but I know a mouse will not kill me.  When I started this journey, I couldn’t say the same thing for water.  The fear of dying was (and still is) real.

So while I’m not sure what’s going to happen on Sunday, I’m sure you all will get a good story from however my day turns out.  I just checked the weather forecast and the winds are more brisk than I’d like and I may be swimming in rippled water. Yikes! And while I won’t like it and I may likely panic, I at least will be in the water trying and doing.  I will no longer be on the sidelines, watching comfortably from land.  I won’t be comfortable, I’ll most likely be scared and freaked out, but as they say, if your challenge doesn’t scare you – it’s not big enough!

Well, this one is fucking huge!

Until next time, when I’ll hopefully be a triathlete…

Gotta run, bike and swim!

 

 

 

Only 35 1/2 lengths to go

Since my breakthrough last Friday morning when I was actually able to swim, breathe and stroke, I’ve gone to the pool 5 more times, including twice yesterday! That’s right, I’ve started two-a-days bitches!  Okay, that sounded more hard-core than it really was. But hey, I have to try to give myself a boost when I can because this whole swimming thing has been really demoralizing, so if pretending that going to the pool twice in one day is card core, than dammit let me pretend!

In my time in the pool since Friday, I have gotten pretty good at swimming and breathing while using flippers.  I’m super pumped about that.  It’s a HUGE breakthrough.  Huge.  Huge.  Huge.  And the fact that I’ve been able to maintain that skill, has me pretty geeked, hence the visit to the pool twice yesterday.

However, once I ditch the flippers that’s when things go downhill.  Quickly.

I just can’t maintain my stroke and breathing.  I can swim (omg, did I just type, “I can swim”?, who would have thought?!?!) about a half a length and that’s it.  Then I have to stop because I’m taking in too much water.  But why?  What’s happening at that time that makes me fall to pieces?  Am I going to slow to keep myself afloat? Why can’t I breathe properly?  Am I too tired?  Am I out of shape and can’t make it more than a half a length? Am I out of breath?  Am I really sinking, drowning and about to die a horrible death – which is the way it feels?

Brian thinks it’s not that I’m out of shape or going to slow or anything else, he thinks it’s that I’m not calm.  He said swimming is all about getting into a rhythm and staying calm.  And lord knows I’m anything BUT calm.  Calm has never been by specialty.

But how do you practice being calm, especially while in the fricken water and trying not to drown?!?!  It’s not like Brian can give me drills to work on that teach “calm”.  Oh sure there’s yoga and meditation that help a person learn to be calm, but that’s completely different from trying not to panic while swimming.  Oh yeah, and I’m also trying to concentrate on all the things Craig told me to, like…. kick from the hips, keep my feet at the top of the water, head down, elbow over wrist, push the water, blah, blah, blah.  That’s a lot of freaking shit in my head that’s not helping me stay calm.

I’m hoping the more I do it, the more calm I become.  I mean everything else just “clicked” for no apparent reason and I had no idea it was going to happen and click when it did.  So I’m really hoping calmness clicks for me too.  Because as of now, I can only go .5 lengths of the pool which means only 35.5 lengths shy of the 1/2 mile swim I need to do in August.  Just a tad shy!

Here’s hoping.

Until next time,

Gotta run (or swim)

Am I swimming?

This morning was my first time back in the pool in over a week because I had gone on a short vacation.  And unlike running while on vacation, it’s not as easy to get a swim workout in while out-of-town.  My only “water” options were the incredibly wavy Atlantic Ocean or the lazy river pool at the hotel.  Neither, getting wiped out by the undercurrents of the ocean or getting run over by a suburban family on their tubes in the pool, appealed to me,  so I thought it best to skip trying to swim while I was away.

Brian and I went to the pool this morning and got started around 5:15 am.  A big shout out to Brian for getting up with me, as he is NOT a morning person.  But I knew I wouldn’t be very productive on my own and I needed the additional support to get me out the door.  Plus, Brian’s been really helpful in showing me some additional drills to do while in the pool, so his coaching would be helpful after my mini-hiatus.

After a few laps of “front breathing” with the kick board and two pool buoys, it was time to try my hand at breathing to the side again.  I had been trying it before I went on vacation and had varying degrees of success.  I figured it would take a while to get back in the swing of things again, but I couldn’t stall any longer, and it was now time to turn my head and breathe (not to be confused with the gentlemen’s turn your head and cough routine!).

I did a few lengths holding onto the kick board with one hand and then when it’s time to breathe, instead of lifting my head up in front of me, I bring my arm back to my side and I rotate slightly and then breathe on the side.  I executed it fine once or twice and then I’d get anxious and swallow water.  But for the most part, it was going “okay”.  But I wanted to try more.

Why I got so ambitious so early in the morning, I’m not sure, but I ditched the kick board and proceeded to move (not swim, I was simply moving in the water) in the water trying to actually use my flippers on feet and my arms – no kick board or pool buoys.  I managed to do a few SLOPPY strokes… but I did it!  It was far from pretty.  But it had all the elements I needed to work on.  I wasn’t using any flotation devices to help (other than flippers), I was kicking, I was breathing to the side and I was using my arms.  Hot damn!  I did this a few more lengths before I decided to up the ante one more time.  So I dropped the flippers.

Okay, here goes nothing…

I wasn’t using any flotation devices to help, I was kicking without flippers, I was breathing to the side and I was using my arms.  OMG! OMG! OMG!

I made it only about 3/4 length of the pool.  But I made it!!

Let’s recap this for a second and let it sink in….

  • I wasn’t using any flotation devices to help
  • I was kicking without flippers
  • I was breathing to the side
  • I was using my arms.

By George, I think they call that swimming!  And trust me, I wasn’t sure because I had to ask Brian.

After getting done with a less-than-pretty length in the pool (and yes I did have to stop half-way), I looked at Brian and I asked, “Am I swimming?!?!”

I tried it a few more lengths and I didn’t do so well.  It’s so much harder without flippers on.  I feel like I’m sinking.  And when I feel like I’m sinking, I feel like I’m drowning.  And when I feel like I’m drowning, I panic.  And that’s never good.  I swallow water and I cough a lot.  Actually this morning it was so bad that I caught the attention of the lifeguards. One actually came over to me and asked if I was okay and if she could bring me a cup of water.  Which was basically her way of saying, “what the hell are you doing, you’re not drowning on my watch!”

My sinking/drowning panic came from not going fast enough to truly propel myself through the water and to float on top of the water.  I’ve been going so slow to learn (when using the help of floatation devices) and I’m also now so focused on my arms (and my breathing, and my leg placement and a million other things people have tried to teach me) that I am used to going slow to try to do it correctly.  But going slow means sinking.  So I could no longer go slow and instead I needed to increase my speed.  I tried so hard to kick as fast as I could to stay afloat.  I swear I was like a cartoon character, just spinning my little legs.  Screen Shot 2017-04-07 at 11.21.52 AM

After a lap of “so-so” progress (and yes, this is the lap where the lifeguard offered me water) I decided not to push it and to stop while I was ahead.  Because so-so progress is better than no progress.  And while I have a LONG way to go, right now I’m going to try to be positive (which is super tough for me) and not think about how far I have to go, but instead think about how far I come.  And god dammit, I’ve come a long fricken way!

Screen Shot 2017-04-07 at 11.39.57 AM

This poster is from the Fall 50, but it seems appropriate today!

Until next time,

Gotta run (or swim)

 

How not to feel like a badass

Morning quiz.

Q:  What’s the problem with trying to learn to swim?  (And yes, it’s a trick question because there are numerous things wrong with trying to learn to swim!)

A:  There’s just no way to feel like a badass.  None.  Zero.  Zilch.

Let me explain.

Monday I went for a run and I was doing a hill workout.  I was on my last hill, the one that has a .5 mile slow incline that just sucks the energy right out of me.  I was chugging up the hill when one of my favorite badass songs came on my iPod.  It’s one of my go-to “rally” songs for when I need to dig deep.  It’s a total kick ass female empowerment song and that song got me up that hill feeling like a total badass. I didn’t feel tired, I felt like a tough bitch.  Running at times, can make you feel like you can kick ass and take names.

Now let’s get off that hill for a moment and get in the pool with me.

There is simply no way to feel like a badass in the pool in my pastel, multi-colored swim cap (and yes I know I didn’t have to buy the pastel cap, but it was cheap and apparently so am I), and let’s not forget I look like a cone head in my pastel, multi-colored  swim cap.  My sensible tri swim suit – which also has pink and purple on it.  And again, I know I didn’t have to buy the one with pink and purple piping but as mentioned earlier, it was the cheapest and as I’m still new to this sport, I don’t want to spend too much money before I know if this tri will be my one and only or if I fall in love and keep participating in them.

So here I am, sensible tri suit with pink and purple piping, pastel, multi-colored swim cap fashioned nicely on the top of my head a’la Jane Curtin – Saturday Night Live circa 1977 and my Mr. Magoo goggles.  Not necessarily a picture of badass-ness.

And let’s now add in my kick board and pool buoys.  Just fricken take away my badass card and revoke my membership to the club, because the kick board and pool buoys are just one step away from fricken floaties – which I would totally have worn 3 months ago when I was starting out.

And just when you think it can’t get any worse, imagine me with my sensible tri suit with pink and purple piping, pastel, multi-colored swim cap fashioned nicely on the top of my head a’la Jane Curtin – Saturday Night Live circa 1977, my Mr. Magoo goggles, kick board and pool buoys and factor in my stopping to cough and spit out water mid-lap.

Nope, not a badass.

Thankfully a triathlon is three sports because it will take me the other two to redeem myself from my utter lack of badass-ness when I get out of the water!

Until next time,

Gotta run (or swim)

Coach Craig to the rescue

Today was the day shit got real in regards to my training for the Tri.  I met with Coach Craig this morning.  He’s the trainer I worked with for the Fall 50.  He knows me and knows how to work with my issues.  And when I say issues, I mean my mental hurdles, not physical ones, but he obviously knows my physical limitations too.  But for me, I need someone who can help me get out of my own head.  I feel like meeting up with Coach Craig is like the Cavalry coming to the rescue.  If he can’t save me from drowning, then oh lord, I’m in trouble.

I’m not going to recap the entire 1-hour session (omg, he had me do so much stuff and I thought the damn thing would never end – 60 minutes in the pool is way too long) but I’ll give you some of the highlights.

  • I actually did worse breathing today during my first two test-laps than I had done the previous 1.5 weeks.  I was so bummed, because I wanted to impress Craig, but I had to stop a few times to breathe because I freaked out.  Ugh.
  • But Craig said he was actually impressed and that I was farther along than he thought.
  • He had a check list of things he was watching for and grading me on when I did my test laps.  He wouldn’t show me the list because he knew I’d focus on the items he was watching for compared to just being natural. Which I would have done.  And it’s an example of how he knows me so well!
  • Craig was impressed with my kicking.  He said runners almost always kick incorrectly and kick from their knees (which is what I thought I was doing) but he said I kick from my hip (which is correct).  He actually graded me a B+ in kicking and he said most people he works with he grades a D.  So here’s to being above the curve on this one!
  • Apparently when I’m floating, my arm placement out in front of me is spot on.  I can’t really get too excited about this because I’m holding a kick board.  But both Craig and Brian said that my straight arms in front of me while I do that isn’t normal and most people have bent elbows.  I chalk this up to my old cheerleading days.  I had many years of “straight arms” drilled into my head.  Some things I apparently just don’t forget.
  • Craig also said my flexibility is helping me more than I realize.  He said I have a better range of motion in my shoulders than most people and this too is good and will be pretty important when I start doing strokes.  Craig said, “you are extremely flexible… for someone your age…” and then I didn’t hear what he said after that because I was too focused on the fact that he implied that I’m old.  Oh man Craig, you could have just stopped at “extremely flexible”, did you really need to throw in the “for your age” comment? And yes, this is what women hear when you say something like that – so men, be warned!   I think I will grade you an F for that one!
  • He had me do laps without the kick board and instead use two individual handheld little floaty things.  I’m sure they have a name but I don’t know what it is.  They don’t provide as much support as a kick board – which was the point – so it was definitely harder.
  • But it wasn’t as hard as when he took away all floating devices from me and just had me float and kick with my arms in front of me.  I didn’t get very far before I stopped because I felt like I was sinking.  He assured me I wasn’t sinking.  I said, “well, I sure feel like I’m sinking”.
  • So I did it again and again I stopped.  He told me that I’m not sinking.  But I think the reason I felt like I was sinking is because I didn’t have the kick board to keep me “higher” on the surface of the water and in turn I couldn’t get my head out of the water enough to breathe.  So instead of getting a nice inhale I gulped and then I swallowed water.  And then I stopped and told him I was sinking and he said I wasn’t.  See the pattern??  Thankfully we didn’t do too many of those.
  • He had me do a few lengths on my back.  Again he said he was impressed at my kick and my straight arms (except when my arms go into the water – which I still keep straight, but apparently is a big no-no).  He thought I was really strong on my back.  Which I said, “of course, because it’s the only thing I’d do as a kid because I wouldn’t put my face in the water!
  • He had me do some drills kicking against the wall, some with flippers and some without.
  • I had to do some bobs in the water, just breathing in and out.
  • He also ended the session with the both of us looking into a mirror and he was showing me the arm stroke movements he wants me to practice.

He’s going to send me a list of drills I need to work on, which I guess is good but I still don’t have the breathing down.  I feel like I need to learn that first.  Honestly I couldn’t care less if my elbow is bent in the water or if I’m kicking correctly – if I can’t breathe.  If I can’t breathe, I’ll never have the opportunity to work on the other issues.  I was going to tell him this but I figured I’d try not to be negative during my first session.  I’ll wait until the second one for that! 🙂

But I’m guessing he knows my negativity and self-doubt are coming.  As I said earlier, he knows me.  At one point during the session he said to me, “I’m going to explain to you what to do next, then I’m going to explain why it’s important and then you’re going to soak it all in like a sponge, go home and think about it and over-analyze it”!  Ha!  I actually laughed out loud.  Some people might have been offended by that comment – but not me.  He nailed!  That is exactly what I do and exactly what I will do!   But I have to trust he knows what he’s doing.  Not only does he do this for a living but he helped me cross the Fall 50 finish line and there were definitely times I didn’t think that was possible.

So here’s hoping he can work his magic again because if Craig can’t make me a swimmer – than no one can!

Until next time,

Gotta run (or swim)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A little road time, a little pool time and a lot of swearing

Here’s my update on my training this past weekend.

Run:

Saturday’s run was my first run in the double digits in 9 months.  How pathetic.  But I just haven’t had it in me to run and when I do, it was short and sweet.  But I’m trying to get some half marathons under my belt this year and I need to get my butt in gear.

The route we ran included a lot of old residential neighborhoods that had crappy snow-covered and icy roads.  The sidewalks were pretty clear of snow but the sidewalks are unbelievably uneven due to tree roots and uneven settling.  So my options were to take my chances on the snowy/icy roads or the uneven sidewalks.  I decided to go with the uneven sidewalk.  That was not the right decision.

Four miles into my ten-mile run I tripped on the uneven sidewalk.  I’m a foot shuffler so I barely pick my feet up off the ground when I run and this makes uneven sidewalks very difficult to run.  And  because I was out of practice with this type of running condition, it didn’t take me long to fall victim to the hazards that were waiting for me.

Even though I run so slow, it’s amazing the velocity I can pick up while launching myself forward at the pavement head first.  I started my fall at the beginning of a single-lane driveway.  I someone managed to traverse the whole lane in two giant steps.  Normally my little baby shuffle would probably have required about 6 steps before I got to the other side.  But when you’re trying to catch yourself, it’s amazing what the human body will do.

On the other side of the driveway from where my fall started was a patch of snow and I remember thinking, as this was all happening in extreme slow motion in my mind, that if I could somehow make it to the snow bank it would brace my fall much nicer than if I went down hard on the cement.

In my haze to land on the soft snow, I failed to factor in the other danger lurking ahead in the snow bank.  A big solid, wooden fence post – with a very sharp corner.  My forehead was on a direct collision path for this sharp corner and I didn’t even realize it.  Because I was more concerned with breaking my fall and hoping to land in the snow, the post was never on my radar.

After I took my two giant steps across the driveway I ended up landing in the snow just shy of the post.  I probably came within an inch or two from landing head first into the pole.  I didn’t realize it, but according to Brian – who saw it all go down and couldn’t believe how lucky I was that I missed the post – said I ducked away from the post at the last second.  Which is good because it probably kept me from knocking myself unconscious.

Needless to say this shook me up a bit.  But after a minute or two of re-assessing the situation and making sure I didn’t hurt anything more than my ego, I started running again.

And that’s when I realized I did hurt something more than my ego.  My two giant steps – which is not normal for my little legs – caused a pretty good hamstring pull.  And it was on my right leg, the one that I’ve already been concerned about because of my sciatic pain that’s been causing me all kinds of problems.

Well, great – another 6 miles on crappy roads with a pulled hamstring – this should be just fricken peachy!  Nice way to jump back into double digits.

I managed to finish the run without doing any more damage to myself.  But the pulled hamstring is still pretty tender.  I skipped my run on Sunday and decided to cross train instead because I knew there was no way I could do even a short run without being in a lot of pain.

I’m so pissed.  I haven’t been able to run on this leg all year without being in pain and now I have to go and add to it?!?  I’ve been trying to make it better – and with one fall – I made it that much worse.

Because my leg is so bad right now, I’m holding off on signing up for spring half marathons.  I just have no idea if I’ll be injury free enough to take on a half in spring and I don’t want to sign up and then feel obligated to do it, even if my leg is still bad.  I have a two-person marathon relay on the docket for June.  So I’m aiming for that race, other than that, I’m not sure what spring races I will do.  This damn leg is holding me back!

Swim:

As I mentioned I cross trained on Sunday, I did the elliptical and the bike at the Y.  And after those activities, it was time to get in the pool again.

My goal for my pool time was to learn to start breathing to the side and turning my head to breathe compared to picking it up in front.  I had been doing so well the past 5 times in the pool with breathing and doing laps that I thought it was time to take it to the next step.  Side breathing.  Or as other people call it… breathing correctly!

I did one or two laps breathing forward and then it was time to start turning my  head.  I  knew I wasn’t at a point where I could actually move and do this so I decided to start by hanging onto the side of the pool and just breathe and turn.  Breathe and turn.  Breathe and turn.  I had watched a few how-to videos on YouTube and they made it look so easy.  In reality, it’s not.  And instead of breathe and turn, it was more like breathe, turn and then stop and swallow all the water I just took in.  Breathe, turn, stop, swallow, swear and whimper.

Man, how can it be so different?  I mean the concept should be the same, right?  Breathe in and then breathe out.  Breathe in again and then breathe out again.  But nope, that’s now how it worked for me.  I was getting water in my nose, I was swallowing a crap load of water and in general the sensation of turning my head to the side was making me a bit dizzy.

UGH!

I tried not to quit right away.  I gave it the ol’ college try.  I even tried breathing – unsuccessfully – from both the right and left side.  Brian suggested that since I’m just starting out, it may not be a bad idea to try to get comfortable breathing from both sides.  And while I can tell that I’m definitely more comfortable doing it to my right – which is my dominant side – I figured since I’m not doing it correctly anyway – why not do it incorrectly from the left as well as the right.

I think I stayed in the pool for another 5 or 10 minutes before calling it quits.  I was pretty disappointed as I got out of the pool.  I had been hoping it would go better and would be easier than it was.  I felt like I had made such good progress the past week and I guess I just got cocky and was assuming I’d be able to do this too.

Oh well, one step – or breath – at a time I guess.  And while the step may be a limp due to a pulled hamstring and sciatic pain and my breath may include swallowing more water than I should… I can’t say I’m not trying!

Until next time,

Gotta run (or swim)