PSA for new swimmers

Here’s a Public Service Announcement for any newbies out there – if you just learned how to swim in June, don’t go swimming with a lake full of Ironman or Ironman-in-training athletes.  Trust me, it does nothing for your self-esteem or confidence.

Let’s back up to my last open water swim, when I swam with Nicole and Brian (both Ironman athletes) and they swam circles around me.  Literally.  They literally swam circles around me to get me used to the activity that I’ll encounter on race day.  And yes I was very aware that they swam past me effortlessly and at such a high-speed that you would have thought I was anchored in place.  If I wasn’t so scared I was going to drown, I would have been very bummed at how slow I was swimming and how much harder it was for me than it was for them.  So my being scared actually helped me not have time to feel completely bad about myself!

And last night I went swimming in a lake where a bunch of folks were doing their own open water swims. EVERYONE in the lake was either already an Ironman or will be one shortly.  And then there was me.

Besides Stosh and Brian, who were doing shorter swims – the others all swam close to 2.5 miles.  Everyone swam effortlessly, quickly and confidently.  Except me, that is.  I went about 1/3 of a mile and I tried to do my own sighting which means I stopped and flailed every 5 to 10 strokes as I tried to figure out how off course I was swimming.  There is nothing graceful or effortless about my swimming and my sighting!  Then there was the issue with my goggles fogging and my swim cap coming off.  I stopped to try to fix them both but only made the situation worse.  Grace and ease were not my friends last night – not that they ever were as it pertains to athletics, but it was very apparent last night.

After fussing with my goggles and swim cap, I limped (not sure what the correct metaphor is for swimming, but you get my point) the rest of the way to shore and I called it a night.  I sat and watched everyone complete their training swims and I was so unbelievably envious of them all.  And while I know they’ve all been swimming longer than me and have put the time and the hard work into getting where they are, I just can’t help but want to not struggle at everything I do.  I have some friends (actually it seems like most of my friends kick ass) who are just athletic and gifted at whatever it is they do.  I, on the other hand, am not.  But seriously, at some point – can’t I be good at something!?!?  At some point I have to find something I’m good at and I’m not always be the “slow friend”.  You know the one, the one you don’t want to go on a training run or training ride (or now a training swim) with because they hold you back.  Yep, that’s me.  I’m the slow friend.   But then again, if I wasn’t I guess I’d have to change the name of my blog to something else!

But here’s hoping I can find a rhythm and not embarrass myself by coming in dead last and being the last one out of the water at the tri.  Because based on my swimming ability last night with the others, it’s a definite possibility!

(Side note:  How many fricken people can I know who are, or soon will be, an Ironman!?!?!?  I have some freakishly talented friends because I don’t think it’s normal to know this many people who have done something so epic!)

Until next time,

Gotta run (or swim or bike)

My husband and friend tried to kill me

The Chicago Tri is 13 days away and I had my first group, open water swim this past Saturday.  And by group I mean I swam with Brian and my friend Nicole.  Nicole competed in Ironman last year and is an EXTREMELY strong swimmer.  So it was nice to get in the water with her to get some tips and pointers.  I had wanted to get in the water with more people than just Brian for some time, but it’s so hard to coordinate schedules.  But I had wanted to do it because I wanted to get a more realistic feel for swimming in a group – and while two people doesn’t necessarily constitute a group, trust me, I got the full “group swim” experience thanks to those two.

Let’s just say my first group swim was terrifying. I hated every single minute of it, but it’s what I needed to prepare for the triathlon.  Nicole, unlike Brian, who’s my husband and who can’t tell me what to do unless he wants “the look” that all wives are capable of when their husbands piss them off, kicked my butt.  Nicole, being the friend she is – the one who calls me on my shit – was the perfect one to do a group swim with because she wouldn’t let me off the hook.

First, she said I had to take the lead swimming and that I was going to be responsible for sighting, which typically doesn’t happen when I swim with Brian.  And when I say it doesn’t typically happen with Brian, I mean it’s NEVER happened with Brian.  I let him take the lead and sight.  I figure I have enough to worry about just trying to swim, I don’t need the extra pressure of trying to sight too.  I always make Brian swim to my right so I can see him and then when I can no longer see him, I stop – pop out of the water – realize I swam off course and then readjust.  So this time Nicole was making me take the lead.  Let’s just say we did not hit the mark I was given.  But I did practice sighting.  But I really shouldn’t call it sighting as much as I should call it, stopping all momentum as I pick my whole body out of the water to look around and then completely readjust where I am swimming.  As I explained to Brian and Nicole at one point when they were asking me, what landmark I was going to use to keep me on course and I said, “the dock”… but I told them part of my problem with sighting is…. I can “see” the dock from here and from over there and from way over there – so while I’m seeing it and sighting it, I’m still swimming off course, because I can still “see it”.  I just take a really curvy way to get there.  But I was not too concerned about not being able to sight well  because I soon realized sighting was the least of my concerns.

Besides having to do my own sighting, I was also supposed to do my best to treat the swim as the real thing, that included reacting or not reacting to “other swimmers”.

The first time Nicole came up from behind me and bumped into me while swimming, I stopped, panicked and looked at her like “what the fuck!?” (I may actually have said it too – I can’t truly remember).  She said, that I need to get used to it because that’s going to happen.  And then I panicked some more.  She asked me what I’m going to do if that happens on race day and I said, I’ll stop and let everyone go around me or get away from me!  Well, apparently that’s not a real plan.  I thought so, but Brian and Nicole did not.  So when Nicole told me I had to deal with it because it was going to happen on race day, I truly wanted to quit.  And while I fought back the vomit, a tear or two may have escaped.  I was truly panicking on the inside and wasn’t doing too good of a job hiding it on the outside either.  Let’s not forget that I’ve only been swimming for two months!  Having people bump into me while swimming is such a fear inducing act, it’s almost indescribable.

But if that’s going to happen, it’s going to happen so I had to keep swimming.

Long story short, I spent the entire 1/2 mile swim having Nicole and Brian throw everything at me.  They swam right next to me so I couldn’t complete my stroke, they bumped me, they cut in front of me, they swam right behind me so I’d kick them, they kicked water at me, they swam in front and then promptly stopped in front of me so I’d have to swim around them, etc.  I’m not going to lie, it was HORRIBLE.  And besides feeling panicked, I was also just so pissed.  I wanted to just be able to swim and not have to deal with all of this.  Swimming (and now sighting) is hard enough for me, why couldn’t they just let me be and let me swim????

But I know why, because on race day, the other swimmers aren’t going to just “let me be”!

And this is what I have an issue with.  As I was talking to them about it later, I don’t understand why swimming into other people is acceptable.  I mean, I don’t run into other people.  When running, even in the most crowded spaces, runners do everything they can to NOT run into another person.  And we certainly don’t bang into each other, rub tires or throw another biker off course.  Why isn’t it the same with swimming?  Brian and Nicole said it’s because you can’t see while swimming.  But I can see!!!  I saw them in front of me, I saw them alongside of me.  I could see!!!

So, while I hated every single, fricken stroke of the swim – I’m so unbelievably happy that I experienced it.  I’m going swimming with Nicole again later this week, and while the thought of having her run me over while swimming makes me a bit sick to my stomach, I know in the long run – I’ll be better off because of it.  It’s just definitely not something I could ever look forward to.  But it is good practice.  Which makes me think, that all coaches and blogs talk about making sure that triathletes get out of the pool and do enough open water swims to prepare for race day.  And while that’s true I think the biggest miscue by the experts is not making people do group swims.  And I don’t mean group swims where everyone spreads out nicely and goes about their business, I mean group swims where your husband and friend deliberately try to scare and drown you!  Okay, maybe they weren’t trying to drown me, but it felt like it at the time.

So to any newbies out there that may be reading this blog, make sure you have a spouse and friend that love you enough to try to drown you!  You’ll thank them for it!

Until next time,

Gotta run (and swim and bike)

 

 

 

 

 

I am swimming

I am swimming.

Three little words I NEVER thought I’d say.  Truly.  I never thought I’d say those three words.

I got in the pool yesterday and I swam, unaided, for 18 mother-fucking laps!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  That’s half a mile for those that don’t know pool lap conversions!

Half a mile is the distance I have to swim in my triathlon.  HOT DAMN!

As I type this, the true magnitude of swimming a half a mile hasn’t really sunk in.  Part of me says, “no biggie, it’s just another workout at the Y.”  But the other part of me says, “FUCK YEAH, I ROCK!!!!!!!!!!”

Swimming the 18 laps felt really good.  I didn’t struggle, I felt I was in a rhythm, my breathing was pretty good and I felt comfortable.  I didn’t intend to swim 18 laps.  My goal is always to do 9, or 1/4 mile.  But once I got going and it felt good, I just kept swimming.

So while I’m nowhere near a confident swimmer and I still have a long way to go because I need to get “okay” with swimming in choppy, open water with other people… at least I finally made some decent progress and I’ve been able to cover the distance I need to swim.

And to think, just over a month ago I was thinking about deferring because I couldn’t swim one lap.  Wow, a lot can happen in a few short weeks.

Until next time,

Gotta run (or swim a 1/2 mile!)

 

P.S.  For those keeping tabs on my poison ivy, here’s the update.  I also have hives.  Yep, that’s right, I have hives ON TOP OF MY POISON IVY!  It turns out I am allergic to the oral steroid they gave me to fight the poison ivy.  So now I’m off of all meds and I just have to gut it out.

AND, if poison ivy and hives wasn’t bad enough, last night as I was sitting outside I got a few mosquito bites.  Yep, I have now completed the trifecta of itching… poison ivy, hives and mosquito bites.  I can’t make this shit up!

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)

image

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!