My first “official” swim – thanks to Garmin

Any runner knows that if you run and you don’t record it on your Garmin, it didn’t really happen.  Well if the same is true for swimming, I just got my first “official” swim in yesterday.

Brian and I went for an open water swim and he had his Garmin on (mine isn’t water proof or made to track swimming because when I bought it, I thought never in a MILLION years I would need that functionality — little did I know!) and recorded our swim.

It wasn’t pretty, wasn’t fast and it wasn’t in a straight line either.  (Yes, there’s a pattern forming here of me not being able to go from point A to point B in a straight line – if you don’t know what I’m talking about – read my previous post.) But at least it’s official!

So while I may not look it while I’m actually swimming – I’m official and legit because I’ve got the Garmin data to prove it!

Until next time,

Gotta run (or bike or swim)

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Swimming, biking and running – Oh my!

Well, I’m swimming.

How’s that for a surprise?  I’m guessing it’s 3 words you probably never thought you’d read!

I’m not swimming well and I’m not swimming far.  But I am swimming.

One day it just happened.  I’ve even done 3 open water swims.  I have my husband swimming next to me and I have a life buoy around my waist, but I’m swimming!  I’ve even been in open water, and water where I can’t touch the bottom.  And that’s in part to the magical wet suit I’m borrowing.  Man, that thing is buoyant and I LOVE it.  Long live the wet suit!

While I have done open water swims, I can’t go more than 20 yards without freaking myself out and popping out of the water.  I can’t seem to break through the mental hurdle that comes with swimming anything longer than a pool length.  It’s very frustrating.

And my lack of swimming endurance is also very frustrating.  I just ran a half marathon on Sunday, yet when I got in the pool on Monday, I could barely swim one length of the pool.  I complained about this to my Trainer and he said, he’s been there.  Apparently cardio strength in biking or running doesn’t translate into swimming cardio strength.  Great!  The one thing I thought I had going for me (cardio endurance) is now shot to hell.  So I have to start from scratch and start building cardio strength in the water.

My Coach, is still having me practice drills in the pool twice a week, but the other two days I  need to work on my endurance.  One day I have to do laps with rest breaks.  The other day I have to do laps with continuous movement.  He doesn’t care what strokes I do but I need to keep moving.  I can do the backstroke, side stroke or a crazy doggie paddle, if need be – he doesn’t care – he just wants forward movement.  This will not only help me gain endurance, but will also help me feel more secure on race day – knowing if I get fatigued I can flip over to the backstroke until I can lower my heart rate.

My Coach has also been talking to me about the fact that I only breathe to my right and what will happen if I’ve got another swimmer next to me splashing me or if waves are coming at me.  He’s trying to get me ready for the “what ifs” that come with a triathlon.  I’m extremely grateful that he’s talking me through these scenarios, but it’s also scaring the crap out of me.  I can’t even swim longer than 20 yards and now I have to worry about someone taking away my ability to breathe because they are splashing water in my face.  He also mentioned, “what if you get hit”?

What if I get hit?!?!  WHAT?!?!??!

I’m seriously not ready for these conversations yet.  Even though I’ve been having them with myself for months, the fact that my Coach is now bringing them up makes me realize that we are getting closer to race day, that not only could these things happen, but that they most likely will happen and that THIS SHIT IS REAL!

I am terrified to swim a .5 mile in calm, open water with no one around.  I don’t know how to swim .5 mile in choppy water, with people around who are splashing me, hitting me or swimming over the top of me. I want to vomit just thinking about that.  And even though I plan to start my swim at the back of my pack, I know the wave that starts after me will catch me and swim over me and I’m actually guessing more than one wave of swimmers will catch me, probably 2 or 3 of them.  How the hell do I survive?  When I’m not a confident and am not a strong swimmer, how do you get okay with getting hit in the water?  I am getting sick to my stomach just thinking about it.

UGH!


Because I’ve made progress swimming and have officially decided that there will not be a deferment this year, I figured I should actually get on my tri bike and get some miles in on Freddie.

OH HOLY HELL….

If you want to see something comical, you need to watch me on my tri bike.  Who knew biking in the aero position would be so fricken hard?  I CAN NOT bike in a straight line.  And it’s not just that I can’t bike in a straight line, I make sharp, unexpected and sudden swerves to the left or right for no apparent reason.  I can’t seem to transition from my aero bars to the regular handle bar position without almost wiping out.  The first time I road Freddie outside, Brian was with me and at one point he said, “just stop before you wipe out and hurt yourself”.

And speaking of hurting myself, I’m not even going to get into the fact that I was on a training ride yesterday and I was three miles away from my car (I went biking after work so I had my bike on my car and went biking on a nearby paved trail) when the tornado sirens starting blaring.  Let’s just say that was the 3 fastest miles I think I will ever ride in my life.  When I got to my car I had a hard time getting my bike on the rack because of the strong winds and when I a tree branch snapped and landed 20 yards behind me… I couldn’t help but think of the irony of the fact that I had just watched The Wizard of Oz two nights earlier.

So long story short, I need to work on my biking and I need to believe the weather reports when they say there’s a chance of storms!


So I’ve talked about my swimming and my biking – all that remains is running.

Brian and I did a marathon this past Sunday as a 2-person relay.  It was fricken hot.  Too hot for me.  I’m not warm weather runner and I haven’t been heat acclimated this year so I was not looking forward to the run.  Add in the fact that I’m still having problems with my sciatica pain, and I really wasn’t looking forward to the run.

Thankfully my hip pain was manageable, during my run, but what wasn’t manageable was the heat.  I was overheating and it came on quickly.  I was going downhill and fast.  When I saw Brian at mile 4 (yes, I overheated in 4 miles.  Actually it happened in two miles – I guess overheating rapidly is just one of my few gifts) I called an audible and asked him if he could be ready to run at mile 6, the first relay exchange.  Thankfully he said yes and he took over for me.  Our original plan was for me to run legs 1 and 2 back to back and run 13.1 before passing the baton to Brian.  But I knew I wouldn’t make it.

I’m happy to report that breaking up my run and instead of doing two legs back to back, that running legs 1 and 3 saved me.  I had an hour to cool down in the AC of my car, I got a lot of fluids in me and most importantly I ran the 3rd leg into a headwind and that helped cool me down.

A trick I learned while training for my ultra two years ago was to wet towels and freeze them and use them to cool down with while on the run.  Brian had given me one towel during leg 1, I used a second towel while I was resting during Brian’s leg and I had one more towel waiting for me during my final leg.  Brian was ready and waiting for me with the last frozen towel when I had 3 miles left to run.  But a few miles earlier a marathoner had started chatting with me a bit and I felt too guilty having a nice frozen towel when I only had 3 miles left to run and he had 9.  I gave him my towel instead of keeping it for myself and I think I made his day!  I can’t tell you have many times he thanked me and how he said it was a godsend!  He even thanked Brian when he saw Brian at the next relay exchange.  So I felt I did my good running deed for the day! 🙂

So, that’s where I stand with my swimming, biking and running.

I have a lot to do in 2.5 months but I’m going to keep trucking along the best I can, and hopefully I can find a suitable level of comfort with all that I yet need to do and learn.  As my Coach said to me on Wednesday, “you are head strong enough that I know you’ll find a way to figure it out and make it work”.

Never have truer words been spoken.

Until next time,

Gotta run (or bike and swim!)

Progress in the face of a deferment

I realize it’s been awhile since I’ve updated you on my progress.  And that’s because there wasn’t any progress to discuss.  In fact I was getting pretty frustrated and depressed.

Last week I had a session with my trainer and he once again said I was doing better than I realized.  However, that did not make me feel better.  I ended up having a long conversation with him later that same day and I told him that I’m very frustrated and while I can see how far I’ve come, I just fear I have too far yet to go.  Considering when I started this journey I couldn’t put my face under the water – I could appreciate the improvements I’ve made.  But I felt I still had too much ahead of me.  I was scared I wasn’t going to be ready in time.  I told him that the fear of dying is real.  I truly feel like I could die.  That’s not something I’m making up to make my blog post sound more interesting, it’s something I think about constantly.  He said that he remembers having “I can’t do it” conversations with me for the Fall 50 and that he wanted me to remember how well that turned out.  To which I said to him, “I may have wanted to die while training for the Fall 50, but I never really thought I was going to die”.  Again, swimming is SO MUCH DIFFERENT than anything else I’ve ever tried to do.

I went home and told Brian about my conversation I had with my Coach and he agreed with Craig.  He also told me that I have to keep trying and see how it goes.  I tried explaining to him all the “things” I still needed to learn/conquer by the end of August and how I felt I didn’t have enough time.  To which he replied…. “you’re looking for someone to tell you that you shouldn’t do it and that you should defer, no one is going to tell you that. You are the only person who can make that decision, no one else will”.

I don’t know why that revelation bothered me so much, but it did.  And it’s probably because it was accurate.  I wanted Coach Craig to tell me I wasn’t going to be ready and that I should defer.  Or have Brian tell me that there’s still too much to learn and I’d be better off waiting until next year.  If someone else told me, then I’d be able to look at myself in the mirror and feel like I wasn’t copping out.  I could tell everyone.. “well, my coach said I wasn’t going to be ready – so I better follow his advice”.  It’s a way for me to push accountability onto someone else.  Because I don’t quit… I needed someone else to tell me to do it. Then I wouldn’t be quitting, I’d be listening to the advice of my Coach or my husband.

Fuck.

That was last week.  As I said, I was feeling pretty low.

But this is a new week and I’m happy to report I’ve made progress.  BIG progress!

When I got in the pool on Tuesday I was able to go 8 lengths (or 4 laps) completely un-aided.  No buoys and no flippers.  I was JOYOUS!  I rested a long time in between each length, but I at least did it.  The most I had done previously was 4 lengths or 2 laps.  And those were horrible, I felt like I was sinking I was panicky and I just powered through the lengths but it wasn’t pretty.  But on Tuesday, I felt “okay”.  I won’t say I was comfortable, because that’s an adjective that I may never use to describe me and swimming.  But I didn’t feel like I was sinking (for the most part) and was swimming with decent technique.

But as I may have already mentioned, whenever I have a breakthrough like this, my next time in the pool is usually disastrous and I slip back 5 steps.  BUT I’m thrilled to report when I got in the pool Wednesday evening, not only did I not slip backwards but I did 12 lengths/6 laps!  Holy balls, how did I do that?!?!  I took long breaks in between each length because my heart rate was elevated, but I did it.  Woot Woot Fuckers!  I rested and alternated between recovering for :60 and recovering for :30.  So it took me a long time to complete the 12 lengths, but hey at least I did it.  And let me just repeat… Woot Woot Fuckers!

And then despite my desire to sleep in this morning I got my butt out of bed and hit the Y again nice and early.  I actually walked through the doors at 4:58am, too damn early!  But it was totally worth it because I did 12 lengths/6 laps AGAIN!  That’s right people – in the words of one Miss Brittany Spears…. oops, I did it again!  AND I was able to reduce some of my rest breaks.  Instead of alternating between a 60 second and a 30 second rest break, I did all 30s!  So talk about 36 hours of progress!  I’m hoping this means that I’ve turned another corner.  If I can truly keep doing lengths without flippers and can work on reducing my rest breaks, I may have a shot of doing this!!

And since no one will give me permission to defer and as one of my co-workers told me today… “you’re too stubborn to NOT do this”, my only option is to keep at it and keep making progress.

Until next time,

Gotta run (or swim)

Side note:  I’m doing my first open water swim this weekend.  Lord help me.  If nothing else, it should make for an interesting blog post!

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)

 

Swimming update

The Chicago Triathlon is five months away, five months from yesterday to be exact.

I still can’t swim and I’ve been at it for four months.

In fact, sometimes I think I’m getting worse.  I swear I almost drowned myself yesterday in the pool.   And I’m not exaggerating.  And yes it’s possible to almost drown yourself in the pool!

Probably the biggest “omg, what if this happens in the open water” panic/freak out mode I’ve ever had, happened yesterday.

Yep, that’s how my week started off; just freaking peachy!  Hope your week is better than mine!

Until next time,

Gotta run (or swim)