Archive for the ‘Training’ Category

The title makes neither common nor grammatical sense but that’s ok, it’s Tuesday.  I don’t love Tuesdays.

Lobsterman 2012 was a really fun race!  Before I really considered myself a “triathlete” (2010), I borrowed a bike, biked to and swam in Walden Pond a few times over the summer, and completed this race as my first every Olympic distance triathlon.

There are a few reasons it’s a “repeat” for me– 1. It was my first and you know, there’s nothling like your… first.  2. It has a lobster bake– and people who like to sit on the ground in spandex and eat Lobster after kicking some serious butt in a race are my kind of people.  And 3. It looks like this–

This is the only race, therefore, that I feel I can compare apples to apples from one year to the next.  So, without further ado- I present– 3 years of race results!

2010: 2:35 Overall Time
193rd Place Overall
24th Female
1st of 9 in my Age Group
Swim: 22:54
Bike: 1:23 (11.4mph)
Run: 46:50 (7:30)

2011: 2:27 Overall Time
48th Place Overall
5th Female
1st in Age Group
Swim: 24:57
Bike: 1:16 (19.5mph)
Run: 43:33 (7:02min/mi)

2012: 2:23 Overall Time
57th Overall (Fast field!)
5th Overall Female (yet again!)
1st in Age Group
Swim: 21:18 (1:18/100m– if this isn’t an advertisement for my swim club, I don’t know what is…)
Bike: 1:13 (20.5 mph)
Run: 45:30 (7:19 min/mi)

The final delta is 12 minutes faster than 3 years ago, 4 minutes faster than last year… AND… I’ve been injured!  Not altogether terrible 🙂  (Let’s get that RUN in shape now, eh?!?!)

This is my take-home message: while I’ve been injured a lot of the season, running very little, I’ve managed to make up for that.  I’ve ALWAYS said, don’t waste time on your strength in Triathlon; rather, focus on your weakness. this is in stark contrast to what I’ve done this season.  Without being able to run and with my hip bothering me a bit on the bike, too– my most consistent training has been in the pool.  And wow… it works.  Granted, I don’t putz in the pool.  My workouts aren’t long either though.  I stick to a hard pace, very little rest and really pushing it.  I don’t swim a lot- during the broken ankle incident I was up to 4 times a week?  Now I’m dialed back to just 2.  However, those workouts are really solid.  This morning’s was a 1000 meter warm up and drill, followed by this:
2 x (400HARD, moderate 8 x 50)
2 x (200 HARD, moderate 4 x 50)
2 x (100 HARD, moderate 2 x 50)

The whole set was 3800 meters and the majority of the pace was 1:25/100meters (not yards).  I was DEAD by the last 100. And if you’re not? You’d better be going for longer than I was 🙂 I think the key is to understand how to maximize your time and sustain the RIGHT effort for that time.  If I were training for Iron distances, I would need LONGER swims.  If I needed more distance I would slow down my pace.  I wouldn’t have swum so much this year but not only did I have to… stupid injury… but I also LOVE my team!  I swim with a talented group of mixed-age masters swimmers.  They absolutely ROCK the pool at 5:30am most mornings.  I’m there as much as I can be and no matter what I’m doing next season, I’m signing on for another year of the team because I can’t fudge these numbers– clearly swimming is keeping me in awesome (or well, good enough) shape.

I’ve fared MUCH better this season than I would have anticipated in May.  In May, I thought I’d re-break my ankle during a transition in a race, not kidding.  I was afraid I’d actually try to unclip from my pedal and crack the ankle all over again because the whole joint felt so weak and fragile.  But nope!  With a little faith and a LOT of slow work, I’ve manged to recover about as well as anyone might have imagined I think.  I’m pretty psyched. I’d like to be a lot faster in NZ for World Championships, but I have a good training plan,I’m working toward a well executed race, and I have a fan coming to watch :)– so I’m pretty sure,  I’ll have a great time.  Proud of 2012 thus far!

Larry, the Lobster, and me 🙂

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My pseudo National Championships recap briefly mentioned a struggle in the bike portion.  It’s not that struggling in a race is uncommon; in fact? it’s generally the case, physically, anyway. I race because I love to race, I love to feel fast and I really, really like to compete.  Therefore, I recognize that no matter what I do, racing will also, on some level, hurt.  That’s how it works!  The indicator of a good racer is not the lack of physical struggle he or she confronts but rather, how well they can sustain the hurt.  Yes yes, it sounds masochistic.  Well, it is! Training for triathlon is not intended to make it so that races don’t hurt; it’s to enable you to sustain physical depletion better than the next guy (or girl).  Maybe you’d disagree- I’m open to other opinions but I’m pretty sure athletes generally agree on this point.

But that isn’t the point of this post.  Clearly, races tire you out, make your quads scream, make your hamstrings lose their spring left– let alone your lungs’ lacking air and your chest’s tightness in the last 1 mile “sprint” at the end of an olympic-distance triathlon.  My struggle at Nationals on the bike was two-fold– my injured hip/glute felt broken– I had shooting pains from my  lower back through to my shin.  Yep, it wrapped around my right side.  No one likes racing injured… I especially dislike it.  The real, technical, holding-me-back struggle however was mental.  The combination of the injury and a few key passes by girls I didn’t think would pass me… well, that began to deplete the one part of me that I’ve always thought as a forte– my mental game.

My mental game often requires dancing to my ipod… pre race. I’m not embarrassed… perhaps I should be…

The mental game can make or break races for me.  When I raced in both swimming and kayaking, the mental game was crucial.  I was known for racing in practice (teammates LOVED that… no wait… they didn’t).  But the reason I did was because I wanted to know I could pull ahead, I wanted to know I had a kick left, all I needed was the knowledge. I had to practice to build that confidence but eventually I could train myself to start as the slowest in the group knowing that my kick would, in the end, beat everyone else’s.  That was predominantly mental– it wasn’t really about fitness.  It was about confidence and… well.. surprising the hell out of my teammates with 150 meters left in a 500 at Nationals for kayaking.  If you’re wondering what connects my various athletic endeavors– from gymnastics, to diving, to swimming to kayaking and eventually triathlon– it’s the mental edge.  I’ve worked my whole life to build the confidence I need to kick hard at the end.  To not get beat and to, as my 1BandID says, “Dig Deeper, Finish Faster.”

Nothing like a come-from-behind “win” (well, the heat anyway) in a 1600 swim race.

But when I fail at the mental game, I fail. Hard. And, I need help. I came up to the 10 mile mark at Nationals feeling ok, with just 15 miles to go.  The pain was tolerable, the hills weren’t atrocious, the wind was high (which is usually in my favor) so my mental state was steady.  Then I got passed.  Not by just anyone, but 2 girls, in my age group, neither of whom had worn wetsuits in the swim.  That, was bad news bears.  In that moment, I honestly felt that I wasn’t worthy of being at Nationals.  My mind wandered… my heart sank. I thought to myself, “what would happen if I just DNF’d (did not finish)?”  That was an unsuccessful line of thinking; if you’re ever considering it,  don’t.  I slowed down, I thought about how hard this race was, how much I had tried to train but couldn’t do enough because of my stupid injury.  I yelled at myself for being injured.  I thought about how no one would really care if I just coasted through the end and made this just basically a training ride.

Cycling’s never been my forte– those are the parts of the race when the mental game matters most! Physical weakness needs the most mental strength!

But somewhere, deep, down … was a much stronger voice.  It was most definitely my friends, my family, my teammates… it’s everyone I surround myself with daily.  They were all saying, “Who is this and what have you done with Julia?”  They know I could do better– they all know, I’m not a quitter.  Left to my own devices I was feeling incredibly depressed, sunk in my injury.  But no single person in my life would let me get away with “just coasting.”  So I leaned on their strength.  I thought about all my incredible friends who work their tails off– and not to win some arbitrary race, but because working hard feels incredible.  Because there’s reward in the simple knowledge that you made your own strides in a day.  My teammates kick butt in their workouts– partly to win some awesome races, of course– but partly because they just love working really hard.  There is nothing akin to the feeling of utter depletion.  Pushing yourself to a limit you didn’t know you had is the reward in and of itself.  Why would I squander this opportunity to work it, hard, all the way to the end?  I just couldn’t.  They wouldn’t let me. Right then, I told myself, “Buck up champ.  Racing isn’t about winning. Racing is about making it hurt… sustaining the hurt… and telling the tale after.”

At that moment, with the strength of all my friends, family and teammates, I turned it around.  I picked up my cadence, I refocused, and I took off after those two ladies in my age group.  And, with a mile to go in the bike, I passed them.  (In full disclosure, they caught me again on the run… but not for another 3 miles!)  And, everything about the race got INSTANTLY better when I decided to take it on, not give up, follow through to the end.  When I took my whiny self OUT of the equation and thought about how my awesome friends and family would all work their hardest in a similar situation, that they’d never give up and they’d never let me give up, I felt like I had the strength of 10 people.  It was incredible.

I submit that the next time you think you need to give up, you need to “just cruise” instead of working to your best ability in a race, a workout, a project– take yourself out of the equation.  Ask yourself what your friends would say to you– what your family might say (as long as it’s positive, people…) and then hit the RESET button.  Or at least, try.  Sometimes you don’t have it one day– that’s ok too.  But when you’re wondering whether you’ve got something more… ask your (imaginary? in-your-head) friends what they want you to do… and believe me, they want you to keep working to YOUR best. And if you ever need it, you can imagine that that is what I would tell you.  I’d say– “you got this… dig deeper, finish faster.”

I owe my friends and family and teammates SO much for their consistent encouragement, their own hard work and determination because it’s completely, awesomely contagious.  Keep it up guys, I need it 🙂

So, long time, no blog. That’s pretty lame.  The truth is that it’s really hard to write, talk, communicate in any way about triathlon when you’re injured.  Well, when I’m injured anyway.  It’s not as though I’ve thought that I’m invincible… no wait, yes I did.  As I posted earlier this spring, I was stuck in the pool a lot over the course of my broken ankle recovery.  The recovery was slow, but by May at least the cast was off.  I worked up to being able to jog again and in fact, I posted a 5k “PR” at the end of May.  Only to find out later– I think the course was short. Nonetheless, it was a decent time followed with… serious hip pain.  That hip pain is reminiscent of pain I was experiencing in November/December, which caused me to stop running last winter. So here I was again, unable to run, in the middle of the tri season.  I’d take breaks of a week or 2 off of running, riding and swimming as much as I could.  I’d then return to the track or tempo runs, only to feel this radiating, killer pain in my low back, right side of hip and down into the hamstring.  I write this now, not because I’m all better, but because I think, I hope… I am improving.  All I know is that I can’t bring it back full force.  If I do, I’ll risk a PR at Worlds, which is what I want more than anything else.  I couldn’t care less about placing… I’d just like to hit that pretty stride I had last year at Nationals.  So, that’s where I’ve been.

Just for fun– here are my quick Summer highlights of 2012:

1. May 17: Summer Blues Run— 5k PR (ish?) 19:27

2. June 1:  Rev3 Quassy!  I never wrote about this race despite it being a ton of fun, actually.  Firstly, #Rev3 events are fantastic.  The race was incredibly well put together, my name was on my bike holder, and the support throughout the race was spot on!  Obviously, I’m a teammate for Rev3 but I’d have this opinion either way– it’s just a festive event when it’s a Rev race.  Given the opportunity I’d be going to Cedar Point, Dells, Wisconsin, South Carolina and Florida to do their races.  The timing just doesn’t work, sadly!  In any event, it wasn’t a terrific finish by time, but I placed in my age group and overall, I was in the top 10 women to finish.  That felt awesome.  Despite pretty much hurricane conditions on the bike, I managed to NOT fall.  That’s probably a win in and of itself, right?!  Yeah, I know. I fall a lot.  (At least I’m smiling as I churn up a puddle:)

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3. June 22Racemenu 5k Overall Winner 🙂

4. July 6-8: Black Fly Tri.  This event was AMAZING.  The festival weekend is comprised of a Bike TT on Friday night, Olympic Tri Saturday and Sprint Tri Sunday.  You can pick and choose- or do the “Lord of the Flies” Competition, which is all 3 🙂  You know which one I chose… obviously.  After not quite enough training for it, and a BEAST of a hill in every event (it takes place ON a ski mountain after all), I still had a fantastic time.  I ended up in 2nd for the Oly, Sprint and the Overall in my Age Group.  I met a TON of people and got to hang with some old friends too.  LOVED it!

5. INJURED   There was just no getting around this. From mid July through mid August I was just plain old injured.  There was no racing and there was barely any running.  I worked on the bike as much as I could and I swam… but it was tough all in all.  I actually made time in my life for other fun things– I spent time with my family in New York, spent time exploring Boston’s eateries and the rock gym, I went to Florida, and did my best to put the anxiety of being injured at bay.  It worked, for the most part.  My friends noticed it, as I’d snap, “I don’t want to talk about Nationals!” or Worlds, or even generally about triathlons.  I felt like a fraud– I was this athlete previously in pretty decent shape ready to take worlds by storm and then boom– a crazy, injured season.

5. Age Group Nationals 2012.  OK, so, they happened. But even the day before I caught myself saying, “this race had a limit, maybe I should have sacrificed my spot so that a real athlete could be competing.”  Ew, self-loathing, useless thoughts.  So, I bucked up the best I could. After a terrible night’s sleep, I woke up with the beginnings of a RIDICULOUS poison sumac attack.  It was laughable, really.  In any event, I raced!  I put up some interesting numbers–

Here is my comparison of Nationals 2011 (fresh and tapered!) and 2012 (freshly injured!):

2011 Results:
23:33          T1: 1:35        Bike: 1:13.06        T2: 1:25            Run: 41:39

2012 Results:
Swim: 22:37     T1: 2:04     Bike: 1:13.49    T2: 1:28      Run: 44:03
Deltas:
1. Swim = 2012 much faster!  1:35/100m vs. 1:23/100m this year!  2012 swim training worked!
2. Bike= negligible.  In pain so I know my mental game was way off.  Also, SO thirsty on the bike and if you know me you know… I didn’t have water with me. #dumbtriathlete
3. Transition 1: Hilarious. WHAT was I doing…
4. Transition 2: Tired AND very dehydrated
5. Run = 2012, whoa. As expected, really slow.  However, I stopped to walk through the first water stop and pull my shoe lace tighter.  I think this might improve by October.

The swim was a great take-home message. Training consistently really does help.  The same is likely the case for the other two sports but… silly, injured me, wouldn’t know.

Lastly–

August 26: Rev3 Old Orchard Beach!  Another fantastic event! I did this as an Olympic Relay, having just come off of Nationals the weekend before.  My awesome guy got coerced into it as our runner- his little bro has just gotten into tri’s and is flying!!! So, I swam, Jeff cycled and James ran and we WON!  I had never done a relay tri before and this was such a fun race race for it.  So many spectators and fanfare!  I definitely didn’t pay attention to course maps and ended up running to the swim start a mile away– but that’s clearly human error- not a race problem 🙂  I’ll pay better attention next time…. #oops.  This was its inaugural year and it went incredibly smoothly.  Everyone should head up to Maine for it next year!

So that’s it… so far.  This morning I hit my 10 x 100 @ 1:15 and it actually didn’t kill me. I’m psyched to think I could even get a little quicker by October.  But no guarantees. I need some open water practice, for sure.  I have a few races in the next month then it’s taper time for Worlds.  I’m finally able to talk tri again so I plan to do a bit more of this in the next few weeks.  Hopefully I’ll find something interesting to chat about.  Requests welcome, as always.

Missing EVERY Interval

Posted: May 8, 2012 in Swimming, Training
Tags:

This is just a short post to articulate my body’s current, hilarious condition. I raced on Sunday. Yesterday, in typical Jules-fashion, I got very little sleep, ran one of the hardest spin classes I could come up with and lifted in the evening. I followed that with an AMAZING dinner (belated homemade birthday dinner!) and again… almost no sleep. Ugh, hate this pattern right now.  Well, it might not shock you to know that this morning’s swim practice was… hilarious. I mean, it shouldn’t be called that. I should probably be embarrassed or have some other silly emotion about it, but I don’t.  Here’s what happened:

4:45am: Jules wakes up before the alarm… and contemplates bailing on the whole morning and sleeping.

4:55am: Jules laughs while stumbling out of bed, sore in most muscles head to toe.

5am: “Oh well, here goes something…” mumbled as I walk out the door to practice.

5:20am: Jump in the pool for warm-up and I’m freezing cold. No amount of ‘warming up’ is helping. It’s fine, stroke feels ok. But my upper, lower arms have nothing; my legs can barely maintain a weak 2-beat kick… and I’m just doing my best to be smooth in the water. “Screw speed, it’s just warm-up” was the mantra.  Time for the set (note– this is ALL long course Meters) — a GREAT set: 2 x 200 hard, 2 x 200 recover, 3 x 150 HARD, 3 x 150 recover, 4 x 100 HARD, 4 x 100 recover, cool down. Here’s what I did:

1200 straight warm up– tried to do 4 x 100 on 1:30, which just meant I was swimming straight.

1 x 800 straight. Yep, those 200s? Just cruised in and out of the walls “on” the interval- no rest really.

1 x 800 straight. Again, the 150s? Never made the interval with rest. Just kept swimming. Ended up ‘catching up with my lane’ by skipping a 100. #badathlete

1 x 800 straight. Haha, joke is on me. I seriously assumed the 1:30 long course pace would be FINE (it usually is!)– but no. Again, straight up– 8 x 100, no rest, just swimming through.

I did an entire swim practice without making a single interval. WOW.  That has never happened to me. Usually I could push through, dig deep– something. This morning? 0. Honestly? I had no problem with that. It wasn’t a good practice, but I also didn’t NEED a perfect, on-target practice this morning.  I needed a recovery swim. Even if my training schedule hadn’t called for recovery this morning– that’s CLEARLY what my body was on track to do. Sometimes that’s how it works. You could be all sad-faced about it and pout– but it’s one measly practice. Might as well first: laugh and second: be proud that you got in the water in the first place! Nicely done, Jules even if ridiculously done 🙂

I then saw that my track buddies had bailed due to rain so I hopped into the gym for some more long, slow, silliness on the treadmill. This wasn’t worthwhile, I just wanted to stretch out my kink-ed legs and this sort of did the trick.  The best part was the PCB pipe they have at the gym– in place of a foam roller.  The harder the better, please. (twss).

Not sure this is a worthwhile read to anyone, but I think it’s helpful to see when my friends (athletes and non) hit an obstacle, or have something go awry and to see how they react. I’d like to think I’ve got perspectives of being a planner and being flexible. Does being an athlete mean having a healthy dose of both? I’d argue: yes.

Do you agree? Has this happened to you? How do you react? Am I taking it too casually? (not that I’d change my mind but curious to hear honest thoughts!)

(Classic “fitting” shot on my new-to-me Quintana Roo Seduza! Although the two main components (the bike and the jules) in this picture appear to be normal sized, it’s just an allusion; we’re just both mini. 🙂  More fun (funny?) pictures follow…)

As many cyclists and triathletes will admit, a professional bike fitting can ostensibly seem to be a big, unnecessary cost. We will also admit, that’s just not the case. Professional bike fitting is a bit of a nebulous term– the costs range dramatically between bike shops (and friends who know bikes “real well”) and the actual service itself ranges as well. There isn’t one, best way to ensure a great fit for a new or even old bike. That isn’t only because each person’s shape and flexibility is different but when you add the complex geometry of the bike, the differences between cyclists is exponential (or factorial, actually). I think women might best understand this by thinking about the ways that clothing fits… or doesn’t… even if technically a size 6 should just be a size 6, right? Yeah, I know, never that simple. Guys- your clothing is ridiculously simple so the analogy stops there.

Why get fit? A proper fit bike will make your time on the road and trail (or the race course) more enjoyable and maximize efficiency. Whether it’s a new or old bike, you could probably benefit from finding optimal riding position (even if it’s just YOU who’s changed and the equipment is the same). If that weren’t enough reason, a “fitting” is the type of initial cost that has a long term benefit in injury prevention– and let me tell ya– nothing is worse than being a sidelined athlete. Often things such as: saddle sores, sore knees, tweaked hips, lower back aches, shoulder strains and neck soreness are directly related to your bike fit. I don’t want to overpromise here (note: I’m not even a good cyclist let alone an actual bike fitter!), but I have also read and heard that a good, tight fit on the bike can lead to an overall increase in output by 10% (I presume this is talking about wattage). So, to recap you might consider a bike fitting if you’re a) new to the bike, b) dislike being injured, c) want to increase cycling efficiency or d) want to be faster. If you want none of these? well, you’re probably not reading this blog.

What is involved in a bike fitting? That depends.

1. The basic fitting: although it might vary a little from shop to shop, for the most part the basic fit will analyze the following:

  • Pedal-shoe interface (yep, this is actually variable      and can be optimized based on your quad/hamstring flexibility)
  • Seat height (fore/aft)
  • Cockpit sizing (handlebars, brakes, gear components)
  • Bar/stem height, length, rotation
  • Handlebar placement
  • Aerodynamic position
  • Proper Pedaling Mechanics–how to effectively pedal, so      the power will be transferred to the pedals.

Cost? Usually around $80-100. OFTEN this will be included in a bike purchase! So make sure to ask. It might be discounted if you spend some money on gear and equipment too. I’d say this is basically mandatory for anyone getting a new bike, but possibly insufficient for a seasoned cyclist looking to ameliorate aches/pains or improve pedal-to-power stroke.

2. The mid-level Option: The mid-level bike fitting is also completed by professional bike fitter. This fitting not only measures everything from a basic fit, but in addition adds in aspects of motion, flexibility, and angular momentum. Specifically, a professional fitter will look at your overall movement on the bike to see where you might have muscle imbalances (or flexibility differences), mobility, stability and strength (specifically core!) that will contribute to a great fit versus just an “ok” fit. These fittings span the gamut for price- you want to make sure this is going to be at least an hour’s session and just ask the bike shop what the fitting includes to make sure it’s really getting into the nit and grit of your cycling. The average costs I’ve seen? $150-$300. Communicate what you need and what you’re looking for and you’ll find that either a higher cost is justified (is the fitter recording the stroke and analyzing dynamically? might be worth a little more because then YOU get to see what he/she does!) or it’s a lower cost with less frills (just some extra expertise and dynamic analysis).  Either way, I’d actually say this is worth it if you’re going to be cycling more than once a week– no matter the distance. If you’re getting on your bike that consistently, a bad fit will be contributing to overall pain in other parts of your life. And why invite that? No need for discomfort (well, no more than what happens in daily, grinding workout sessions of course).

3. The High-Tech Option: There are really high tech fittings; these include clipping into your bike in a way that not only measures your power around the pedal stroke (watching for inconsistencies, or where the “waste space” of your pedal stroke is) but in addition this allows a sophistacated software system to understand where your flexibility is insufficient and should be “supplemented” by your position. The software/hardware combination does this by measuring the weight the foot is carrying around the stroke. Then in addition, they include the bike mechanics measurements included in the basic and pro fittings as well. These are completed by a professional bike fitter (certification is pretty stringent) and can run over $300 per hour. Yep, I know… that’s kind of pricey. Honestly, this isn’t money I (personally!!) would spend. This is because I know I could get a great (albeit slightly less fancy) fit for less, but also because I’m not talented enough to benefit from the delta in price (meaning, I might as well use the extra $$ to race some TT events and improve my handling). If you are a good to great cyclist– this might be a fun opportunity to explore your inefficiencies and improve your cycling in a way you are less likely to by cycling through the same motions that you have for multiple seasons. Fewer places offer something like this though, so it’s usually worth a quick google search (Aw, I know, you just wanted an easy link right? try this: http://ww1.lmgtfy.com/).

I have been incredibly fortunate to be introduced to a fantastic cycling couple– Don and Elaine Vescio who run the triathlon center VMPS, which I’ve mentioned before. Don and Elaine led computraining sessions I took part in all winter; they analyzed my pedal stroke, they told me to stop pedaling a bike that was too big for me, they let me borrow a bike when mine was stolen!, and have been incredible mentors in all things triathlon. In addition, Don helped me not only pick the bike I so badly needed in order to train and compete (to replace my sad stolen TREK) AND helped fit me to the bike. In fact, we are still working on optimizing the fit and the components to suit my exact needs! It was a laborious effort on Don’s part– it’s definitely a pro-fitting (and beyond, really), which he offers anyone for a very very reasonable rate and the time and care and expertise that he has are worth much more. And because we were having fun– we took some pictures! Good fit, right?? Pretty aggressive and tight and I’m lucky to have the flexibility for it (or so we hope!). I’ve only clocked ~100 miles on her, but I’m happy so far!

Tell me– what’s your experience? Is the bike fitting worth it? Are there tell-tale signs of a successful fitting? Any requests you’d make specifically to improve a fit?

Adult [SWIM] Toys

Posted: April 19, 2012 in Swimming, Training, Triathlon

Oh, did I pique your interest? Yeah, I know my audience 🙂  Some tweeps have asked me to write a little about my personal opinion on swim toys– that is (in my mind): kickboards, pullbuoys, paddles, resistance bands, snorkels and floaties.  Wait, you didn’t mean floaties?  Well, I love them; I think you should wear them all the time.  Like this guy!Image

He’s the coolest. You want to be like him.

Ok, sorry, a little punch-drunk this morning.  Back to the actual tools you might use in the pool.  I should preface this again, as usual, by saying, I am by NO means any kind of expert. I’ve swum a bunch and have opinions like any person who spends too long underwater in their own head.  So here are my thoughts:

Kickboard: No go. These make a lot of sense when you’re a youngin’ learning how to kick and holding your breath is already a big stretch.   But it’s NOTHING like the real thing- whether swimming in a tri or swimming for cross training, the harder thing to do is to use your core to keep your hips lifted in the water and your feet kicking at a steady tempo.

Pullbuoy: Sometimes. I think there are better tools, but when you need to isolate your upper body it is VERY tough to do that without some kind of mechanism tying your legs together.  If you don’t use something, you probably ARE kicking even if you think you’re not. The slightest kick helps keep your body afloat and balanced and it’s incredibly hard not to do.  So, if there is a pulling set, use something– if you don’t have a resistance band or a resistance band pulls your legs down (see below), by all means, use the buoy. No, it’s not race simulating, but to be honest– a wetsuit is very buoyant so it’s not far off either.  It’s better practice to isolate your upper body, keeping yourself on the surface and using good form than to let the legs sink forming a pike in the water. (ok this isn’t the best picture, but perhaps it’s a little illustrative of the point. Also, don’t pick your head out of the water like a puppy… puppies are cute, they aren’t fast).

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Paddles: Maybe. So, I don’t use these.  But I absolutely understand their purpose and I think it’s valid for many athletes.  First and foremost, it’s a great strengthening mechanism. These work not only your posterior and anterior deltoids (hot hot sculpted shoulders anyone?), but with a nice long “catch” out in front of the stroke (and making sure the hand is entering just within peripheral view), you will work your lateral muscles and triceps (sexy fast back and arms).  Does that description make sense? The ‘catch’ is SO important when you use paddles, otherwise, you will likely end up injuring yourself for no good reason.  The best “catch” with paddles is to aim to keep the upper arm (think: keep elbow up!) towards/parallel to the surface while the flat palm pulls back toward your body.  This will WORK your triceps and especially hard with paddles but so good for you! The picture shows a great setup, just before the “pull” which will be led by the forearm, not the upper arm!ImageI want those hot long arms 🙂

Resistance bands: YES.  These can be used in 2 ways– pulling is the first.  Take a resistance band (circular, not a long band) and put it around your ankles.  If you can swim that way for 100, great. If you can do 10 x 100? without compromising your good, body position? Awesome. I really support using these. But if your legs slouch because your core isn’t used to holding up your legs– don’t use this.  Instead, practice holding your legs up on your own– no buoy, no kick– just core.  Your abs will feel it and you will get stronger just trying to keep those legs afloat.

Stretch cords: The OTHER way to use “resistance” is by using stretch cords.  I LOVE these. You can use these anywhere! Pool or not. You will get lots of benefit from these: strength and technique chief among them.  For you “non-swimmers” out there– try these out!  Here are a few of my favorite exercises with stretch cords: thread the cord (or stretch band, nothing fancy, but needs to be a little long) around a banner or secured bike rack, something stable.  Then take each end in each hand and hinge at your hip with both hands stretched out above your head. Find tension in the cord in each hand (equal on both sides), and pull the bands down in that “catch” shape– high elbows, hands and forearms pull down, bringing hand directly below elbow, and repeat. This picture helps (the one on the left is better): ImageA next step is to pull all the way through, with a nice strong “finish” to your hip.  That finish isn’t really something that directly translates into your stroke in the pool– you actually want to exit the water AT if not just before your hip and not pull through to a straight arm.  But it’s a nice tricep strengthener if you want that.

Snorkels: Can someone else comment here? I had NEVER seen these used before this year. And now they’re all the rage… in swimming pools… Ok, I DO understand that you’re probably not comfortable with breathing and that can have deleterious effects on your swim stroke.  However, you have to BREATHE in a race. You have to get over the difficulty that is breathing.  So, sure, you can use a snorkel when you want to simply focus on improving your technique for drills in the pool.  But don’t come to rely on it!

Ok, so there are some tools for thought. What do you think? What toys do you use? What do you love? What did I get wrong here? What would you add?? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

As most people know, I haven’t been running, cycling or being a real triathlete these last few weeks.  As a little update– my silly boot has stuck me in the pool almost every day for 14 days in a row!  NUTSO.  I swam 28,000 meters in about 8 days.  Obviously, this just isn’t sustainable.  And I’d know, I do sustainability professionally…. no wait… wrong one.

Anyway, my coach added something to my schedule that he called, “pool running.”  He seriously underestimate my capacity for this weird, new activity– as he instructed me to “just strap on the running belt and run the intervals.”  Oh, yes, just … strap on.. wait, what?! Strap something on in the pool? This former (past life) swimmer girl stopped in her tracks. It’s not that I’d never seen people doing this activity, it’s just that… I thought it was minimum age 60.  Oh how very wrong I was.  My first time aqua jogging was hilarious.  I had a set of 5 x 3 minutes with a nice long warm up and cool down.  I thought, “well, this will be easy, maybe too easy.”  HA.  Wrong yet again.  I worked my buns off… not literally (glutes have purpose, I swear!).  I don’t know much about my heart rate data, but I do know that I was working it– and doing my best to ignore how ridiculous I looked.  But at some point I couldn’t help thinking, “this isn’t running; hell, this isn’t even jogging.  This is awkward… yogging.”  A la Anchorman — yes that is an urban dictionary link.

Seeing as I have had NO clue how to do this… these have been my own self-developed ‘strategies’ for, well, trying to move forward:

1. Feet off the ground (thinking about nearly-missing the bottom); skip the shallow end.

2. Pull my knees up, keep up the cadence… (that’s clearly a relative metric).

3. Arm pump is ok, as long as it’s NATURAL.  This is not sculling practice!

The best way to show the “look” of this activity might be the “What people think I do” meme.  Yes, go see that link, the whole post will make more sense if you do 🙂  This is my best attempt:

When I say I’m “Aqua Jogging”:

What my friends think I’m doing:

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What my Coach thinks I’m doing (great form, so angular and tall…):

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What it feels like I’m doing (come on! I’m wearing a floating device!):

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What I’m actually doing (wait I’m supposed to be moving… forward?):

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Motioning a whole lot… and not. going. anywhere.

So far, This is my Awkward Yogging.  Clearly this is NOT a ‘how-to’ post– more of a “HOW DO YOU DO THIS?!” desperate plea for help 🙂  Any thoughts? Hints? Strategies? 

Today I’d like to chat about Flip Turns.  But for full disclosure I should first mention that one of my flip turns has resulted in the following hott look:

 Yes, that would be the HIGHLY fashionable “Stormtrooper v6” boot.  It’s so a la mode, right?  All the cool kids are getting them (Get better quickly, Kacie!).  Granted, Kacie is a rock star.  She ended up with not 1 but 2 stress fractures and has a good excuse!  That girl just completed a 2X Ironman.  Yes, you’re reading that right.  She completed a race consisting of 4.8 miles of swimming, 224 miles of cycling and 52 miles of running.  Yes, insane, but also bad ass.  She has a great Q&A post about it herebecause I know you were wondering which flavor of poptart she uses 🙂  #BreakfastofIronmanChamps.

So, back to the issue at hand.  Flip turns.  As I mentioned I managed to break my ankle doing a flip turn in… wait for it… January?!  Yep, that’s right.  2 months ago, I did 2 things that put me in a boot today: 1. I flipped HARD into the wall– not into the water and OFF the wall, but INTO the wall and 2. I kept working out on the ankle assuming it was just a bone bruise (because honestly, who breaks a BONE in the pool? this girl, apparently).  In any event, this is all to say- flip turns are NOT evil and that’s coming from a girl who would happily claim otherwise right now 🙂

Before I get into my mini tutorial on how to do a flip turn, I first want to say– first, practice your flip turn AWAY from the wall.  Do them in the middle of the lane, try switching direction quickly, it’s great practice.  Second, find your place by watching the bottom of the pool, looking up at the wall will slow you down a lot and trust yourself, keep practicing your orientation; thirdly, don’t be timid.  Yes, you can hit your feet, your ankle, etc… but it’s very rare, you are MUCH more likely to be too far than too close ever.  If you want to  improve, practice makes perfect, so strive for a great turn on EVERY wall during your practice!

Flipturns: A Tutorial for a fast flip:

1. Body position- Going INTO the wall, you need to prepare your body to wrap around the turn.  The best way to do that is to feel your horizontal body line tilt down at the chest, just a tiny bit.  By thinking about pressing the weight your chest down a little towards the bottom of the pool, you’ll be able to get your head sunk a little lower than the surface of the water.  Do not tuck your head or arch your back, but rather feel as though you are leaning toward the bottom of the pool- chest first, sinking your upper body beneath the surface and feeling your shoulder socket stretching a bit as you keep your arms moving in the same place along the surface (yep, better work on that flexibility!).  This shift in your chest will only result in about a 2 inch, or 4 cm difference- that isn’t a lot! Don’t dunk yourself. Swim into the wall, sink the chest, which will THEN allow you to tuck your head at a spot lower than your body, which enables you to engage your abs to PULL you legs over top, instead of bouncing up and over the surface with your head and body. Many people think the flip is like a jump into a tuck just before you hit the wall.  I’d argue that it’s more like quick origami fold in your body to wrap around the turn, instead of a gymnastic bouncy ball at the wall.

2. Tight tuck/fold:  Rather than thinking of the flip turn as a big awkward ball, I think of the flip as I said above- a quick fold in the body to switch directions as quickly as possible.  Here is a pretty good picture of what I mean– notice her head is down, face looking towards knees and legs are not shooting up above the water line, but are smoothing following her body flat around the turn.

3. Feet PLANT: Aim your feet toward the wall- smoothly draw them (with your ABS!!) over top of your head, along the water line (not up and over!), until they meet the wall.  At that point, plant the balls of your feet solidly so that your toes are up.  As you practice, this might change to the SLIGHTEST angular change- 11 o’clock or 1 o’clock depending which direction you turn, but my advice is to practice the fastest turn possible to get OFF the wall, which lands your feet with those toes up.  Your legs do not need to be right next to one another– in fact, they shouldn’t be.  Space your feet about hip width on the wall to generate the most power– think of it as you might a solid squat in the weight room.  Your hips are already naturally down (as they would be seated ‘back’ in the weight room), your back should be flat, parallel to the surface (flat back in a squat) and with your feet separated from one another, you’re prepared to essentially perform a squat jump off the wall.  Mary Eggers is about to take on LANCE (Armstrong, y’all) in a swim race and here she is demonstrating AWESOME positioning off the wall:

4. Tight streamline: The streamline off the wall might be the most important part of the flip turn, the place where you could gain or lost the most time.  Notice in the Mary Eggers picture, she notes that her arms are already in the right position before she takes off- that is crucial!  If your arms are loosey-goosey, they are only hindering your hydro-dynamicism (creating drag)  coming off the wall.  When you get your feet planted on the wall, think about forming the tightest line possible, from hands to feet.  That means, pulling those arms tight above your head, straighten the arms, tucking the head right between the arms (no tucking the head up or leaning it back), engage the abs and the glutes and… launch!

Altogether: Consider looking at the body from the side, optimally you would see: 1. flat horizontal line 5-7 feet from the wall, then the same tight line in the body but upper body tilting beneath the water (3 feet from wall), then the head tucking around, pulling your legs straight over your head into a pike at the wall (knees as close to face as possible) then quick bend at the knee at the last minute to plan the feet on the wall, toes up, hands overhead in a atreamline position, ears tucked beneath straight arms, feet apart, and LAUNCH!

When I hurt myself, I did a few things wrong.  I turned onto my side before the flip was complete- so my feet were never going to get to the right position on the wall, with toes UP.  However, I was doing a few things right too because it’s tough to crack your bone– my tuck was tight, I had a lot of speed.  Don’t use your flip turn as a chance to slow down and rest- it’s just a change of direction, unfortunately necessary in these little pools!  So, take advantage- swimmers and triathletes alike, just because you might not perform one in a race doesn’t mean there isn’t a fitness to these- don’t let your heart rate drop by using these as rest, think about how they can boost you for the next 25 yards or keep you up to speed when your technique starts to falter.

I clearly am no expert- but I love doing flipturns.  Any other advice you can think of?  How do you use your turns- for a little boost? or a little rest?

OK, maybe ‘math’ is a bit strong.  Maybe I should call this a “mental breakdown” but sounds really bad, right?  Right.

In my mind, when races, events, or training sessions get long, I need to start breaking them down.  In fact, if I don’t, I find that I just inevitably start to slow down and lose steam.  And well, that’s no good, right?  As it turns out, most of that slowing down is really mental, much more than physical.  Seriously, ask my spin class.  They’ll tell you that with a little gentle… “coaching” they maintain much more effort than they might otherwise.  So, in a race, I turn that coaching in on myself.  That way, I’m busy not only NOT thinking about how “hard” the event is (because what is the use of THAT mindset? OF COURSE it’s hard, why else do it?), but I am also able to concentrate on a pattern, or a way to keep my speed up beyond trying to envision how to make my muscles ‘just go faster.’  While I was home, I swam an annual Pittsburgh Meet where EVERYONE swims a 1650.  It’s kind of neat actually.  (ok, some of you are bored just THINKING about it, but let me explain.)  The Masters swimmers in Pittsburgh are a really active, engaged bunch who love things like this– it’s a reason to get together, test your fitness annually, and see some really fast swimmers, and a whole host of not-so-fast- but still incredibly motivating people swim the same event.  This year there were possibly 10 or 11 heats?  It was incredible.  In fact, because the network is so friendly, I knew a swimmer in just about every heat! That’s just from my parents swimming on Masters teams!  (and with me occasionally joining them when I’m home!).

There are, of course, a variety of ways to approach a long race or long training session for that matter.  This isn’t to say I’ve got some ‘right’ idea, by any means. In fact, when I posted on the twitter about this, I got several responses- from doing a 2 mile race “as fast as possible” from a seasoned triathlete – practicing speed and tempo, to “slow and easy with a fast sprint for the last 100” for a swimmer in a 1650.  My mom swam this with me and WON her age group!  Her mental breakdown was: 1 x 150 warm up, then 3 x 500, each one a little faster than the one before.  That PLUS a Powerbar Gel 45 minutes before her race gave her a 30 second PR!!

GO MOM!!!  (Yes, we are wearing MATCHING Steelers Swim caps)!! (And that is my sweet new Rev3 Triathlon training suit! I like it; it shimmers…)

My 1650 mental breakdown:

For full disclosure: I had NEVER swum this before- not in a pool or race anyway- so ANY time would have been a PR.   I didn’t have any time increments in mind, this was all completed by “feel.”

400 Setup: I wanted a cruising pace that felt a little ‘too’ slow in the beginning, like I was holding back just a bit.  No big kicks, just strong through the water and really focusing on form, breathing and good streamlines off the wall.  My breathing was every 5 for 100, then every 3 for 100.

2 x 200: These were done as pickups– so I thought of them as “builds” but no major speed work, just constant increasing in effort and yes, I did allow myself to take the edge off when I started the “second” 200 here.  I was feeling quite fast and possibly unsustainable by the end of the first 200 so I needed to make sure I kept it all under control.  The form, breathing and streamlines were still maintained (yep, every 5, every 3 by 100)- each of these was intended to be executed well/effectively– but the speed was a bit more variable here than in the first 400.

4 x 100: Here comes a little speed.  I am not talking about something anywhere near a ‘sprint,’ but this is where I began to add speed, on each 100.  I descended these not only by 100 but within each 100 as well, getting a little added ‘boost’ on each.  I did this by thinking about a faster kick on each flip turn, keeping the turn tight and feeling like I could really kick HARD in the last 25 of each 100.  But I did allow a little slow-down at the beginning of each 100 or I wouldn’t have kept up the speed throughout the whole 4 x 100 “set.”

Lastly- 9 x 50: These are interesting at the end of a race.  I took these breathing basically every 5/every 3 by 50, but I really cranked these out.  I started in my head with “8 to go” by the time I was halfway back on the first 50 (getting a wee bit ahead of myself, eh??).  There’s NOTHING like having fewer than 10 x 50s though– 10 x 50s is a short set- and to be in only single digits really makes it fly by.

Even with the funnny, strange, complicated? or “fun” if you ask me… breakdown, my splits tell a very interesting story. NO change.  Once I hit my stride in the 4th 50, my delta was about  8 tenths of a second! Check it out!

 Ledewitz, Julia 25 JCC-AM Seed: 23.00 Actual: 20:18.00 33.93 36.81 37.72 38.19 38.34 38.27 38.37 38.69   38.63 38.54 38.62 38.82 38.11 38.54 38.52 38.32 37.82 38.36 38.04 38.07 38.20 38.06 37.84 38.39 37.97 38.08 38.08 38.41 38.00 38.32 38.01 37.69

The last 4 x 50s should HURT.  Just expect that it will and it won’t be so bad.  If it doesn’t hurt a little… what’s the point, right?  Why would we race?  Give yourself a little credit- you can do MUCH more than you think you can. I would argue that your brain may be your biggest ‘physical’ limiter.  It’s mine anyway… hence the overly complicated mental game for an otherwise pretty simple activity 🙂

Here’s a fun pic from it!  Shouldn’t be looking “up” as much as I am here, and should probably consider… kicking… at some point, but I think I was coming into the wall (excuses, excuses:).

How about you? any mental games or breakdowns for training, swimming, running… life’s errands?

This is just a short post based on the fun we all had with my recipes post!!  More recipes keep filtering in, so check it out!!

Today’s topic was instigated by my friend, Jessie, who writes a wonderful life-running blog, you can read here 🙂  After recovering from a serious knee injury and subsequent surgery, she’s feeling a little less than amazingly perfect especially in terms of running.  Oh, how I understand the feeling.  One of her main issues is just that in her recovery process, she’s lost a little of her motivation to get AFTER her running workouts.  It’s not that she doesn’t do them, it’s that the intensity wanes, her enthusiasm then does as well and… as with most running surgeries, her pace is just not quite where it was pre-injury, which is furustrating on all counts.  The other thing about jess… is that she LOVES to run.  She honestly misses the feeling, the high, that running gives her when she isn’t running, so cutting it out completely was simply not an option.  Almost the opposite.. she not only JUST completed a half marathon (after only 6 months of recovery!) but has, yet again, signed up for another!

I understand this feeling of losing motivation though and it’s especially hard when you do in fact need to train.  The worst for her is that running on the tread dreadmill is among her least favorite activities but it’s often the right choice given that it’s softer than road and the road/sidewalks do (on occasion….) get icy/uneven in Boston.   So, I suggested a few things:

1. Give yourself time to RECOVER!  I think Jess suffers from an affliction most athletes I know have– too much time “on” not enough time “off.”  That means that her runs were all only mediocre because she was not well rested or recovered from the last one.

2. One full rest day!  Give the body a break and let it rebuild, every week!  This way, your base pace could be faster each week or 2!

3. Mix it up!! I wrote out some treadmill workouts that I enjoy.  And would LOVE to hear your thoughts/ideas/workouts that make the treadmill a little more enjoyable!

Non-Dreamill ideas:

For all of these- the base pace is the same! Find that easy pace that you could sustain for miles on end (but you won’t have to!) and where I’ve written BP remember that pace.  Don’t make it TOO hard, that’s the tempting ifdea… but you’ll regret it halfway through the workout. On different days, this might vary a little if you’re feeling sore, but try to maintain this BP for 1 month.

1.  40 minute Pyramid (medium intensity): 5 x 6 minutes
10 min. warmup

Set 1: BP (base pace) 1 minute each @ 2, 3 and 4 percent incline
2-3 minutes recovery @ flat jog

Set 2: BP 1 minute each @ 3, 4 and 5 percent incline
2-3 minutes recovery @ flat jog

Set 3: BP 1 minute each @ 5, 6 and 7 percent incline
2-3 minutes recovery @ flat jog

Set 4: BP 1 minute each @ 6, 5 and 4 percent incline
2-3 minutes recovery @ flat jog

Set 5: BP 1 minute each @ 5, 4 and 3 percent incline
2-3 minutes recovery @ flat jog

8 minute cool down

2.  40 minutes Rolling Hills (medium intensity): 5 x 8 minutes

5 x

1 minute BP

2 minutes increase speed by .2

2 minutes increase incline by 2%

2 minutes increase speed by .2

1 minutes recover, flat easy!

Each set can get faster by .1, or increase Incline by 1%.

3. 30 minutes of Intensity!

5 x 5 minutes, warm up and cool down!

Set 1: 1 minute @ Base pace + .4

1minute @ BP + .5

1 minute @ BP +.6

1 minute @ BEST EFFORT!

1 minute RECOVER EASY

(adjust the .4 only after the first set. if that is too easy, pick it up; if it is too tough, drop it to .3)

YOUR turn.  Thoughts?!? Ideas??  Let me know! I’m always on the lookout to make the treadmill a little more… fun?