Category: swimming

Random Thoughts from the Swim

If you didn’t start swimming until you were an adult, you may already know that swimming is an incredibly mysterious thing. There are so many questions in a 35 minute “form-focused” workout…


  • Why does my swim cap sometimes fill up with air and start floating off my head?
  • How come I can do a bunch of turns and then just can’t even reach the wall with my tipsiest toes? Did the wall move?
  • What the hell did my right hand just do?!
  • Is this pool hot? I think this pool is hot.
  • Ouch. Why can’t I make it through one swim in this pool without whacking my hand on the lane line?
  • What is that guy doing? Is there such thing as a backward butterfly? I think he’s making that up.
  • Why does water burn when you forget to exhale out your nose during a flipturn?
  • I wonder if foggy goggles can just keep getting foggier.  Or is there is a fog maximum saturation point?…do I really need to see anything?
  • Ouch! Foot cramp! When was the last time I ate a banana? Should I be eating more bananas?
  • Why didn’t I start swimming as a kid?
  • When did I start? I wonder if I’m done. I can’t see my damn watch.
  • Will there ever be a day when I don’t have to think so much?

Perfectly Imperfect

I had a hint of how things were going to go, the night before, when I was copying my morning swim workout on to paper: 50 breaststroke no rest.
Text to coach: Hey, coach. I don’t know how to swim breaststroke…

The day didn’t start for me until well after 6:00 thanks to a crazy night of hot flashes that decimated sleep. (hot flashes are stupid) So no swimming until after the kids were on the bus and even then I was so damn tired that swimming was questionable from moment to moment.

I finally made it to the pool just before 9am. Not to my regular pool which is closed for repair, but the local Y which so graciously lets me swim during the repair. The “fast” lane had 2 others during my warm up and I could feel the stress of the sleepless night start to fade away (it always does in the pool).

And then, promptly at 9:00, swim lessons started, a swim lane was removed, and then there were 7 of us in the “fast” lane. I’m not sure what the definition of “fast” is, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have included what was happening in that lane. I was right back to tired and cranky and now in a traffic jam of leisurely breaststrokers. I started to wonder if this is the universe’s way of getting my to finally learn the breaststroke. Or maybe it was sign that I should just get out of the pool, go home, and get some sleep?  In my sleepy, soggy haze, I tried to figure out what I should do with this time.

I optimistically tried to complete the first fast 25 yards – nope! Drills! Lots of drills. One arm, side drills, catch-ups, drills, drills, drills.

And then two finished…there were just 5 of us…oh maybe I could figure out how to do my planned workout, imperfectly, between my lane mates. I have no idea how, but it started to work. I’ve never had to pass people or weave through a lane or turn with more than one person resting at the end – it was sort of mayhem, but is was sort of fun to focus on something other than swimming back and forth.

I was happy with myself for getting the workout done. And in the end, the drills had been perfect as I had a mini breakthrough on my rotation (or lack there of , when breathing to the right).

As I was leaving, I passed by the pool, where all the swim lanes had been removed to accommodate a very large aqua aerobics class – I guess my timing could have been even more interesting than it was!

The day’s imperfection was highlighted when I uploaded the session and realized I’d missed 2x100s when writing out the workout and when there was just no way to fit in yoga with work and life. And twice again when I caught myself opening deodorant to put on my toothbrush only to correct it by grabbing my curly hair product, instead. It was all perfectly imperfect.

my husband’s a cyclist

He’s not a triathlete. He believes in Big Foot more than the possibility of a good ride being preceded by a swim and/or followed by a run.

This is cool. We share a lot of time and discussion with cycling. He’s great with details and mechanics and makes living with 7 or 8 bikes feel pretty reasonable. He’s also incredibly supportive of my triathlon training, though the finer details of swimming and running don’t interest him. (This I forget.)

He recently had the great idea for adding some fun to the kids’ February vacation. We’d head down to the Cape Codder in Hynannis for a couple of days in a family hotel / indoor water park. The kids would love it and he highlighted an added benefit – “You’ll be able to get in a couple of swim workouts over vacation while your pool is closed.”

I love his plan, but every once in a while one doesn’t quite come together 100% as we imagine.

When I asked the woman at the front desk if there were specific times for lap swimming, she hesitated, as if waiting for a punch line.  “So, you haven’t been here before…?”

best laid plans

A trip to the pool provided a more enlightened view of just how silly my question was. Oh, sure, lap swimming. You go for it, buttercup! ♥

Triathalife Plan B – water displacement, potato chip eating, and hedgehog appreciation.


splash down #428

rain umbrella

Factory Tour

Animal Ambassadors



plan B: mental conditioning

Power of thoughtsI read an article last week about mental conditioning and competitive athletes. The inspiration in this piece was a 2008 Olympic swimmer who missed the wall on her turn during a medal race.  This cost her important time, but she recovered and made the podium.  The author described how she was not just physically, but mentally prepared for this moment.  She had missed the wall in trainings before, had practice working through the experience, and had trained herself mentally to overcome the negative thoughts that typically come with such a mistake.

About 200 yards into my  warm up, this morning, my left shoulder came out of its proper track and I was in pain. I tried another couple of strokes to see if it was just a random tweak, but it wasn’t.  The shoulder wouldn’t stay in track and the pain was enough that I knew working through it wasn’t the best choice for my long term goal.

My immediate response was implosion.  I was mad and could only see all the time I had invested as a waste.  With this stupid shoulder, I’d probably never be able to swim fast enough to be competitive at the level I was trying for.  I felt cursed and like there was no longer any point.  I was going home.

Falling apart in the deep end was a good thing;  I needed to swim back to the other end, anyway.  I went slow, slow, slow. And in the quiet, defeated 25 yards, it occurred to me that I may not be the fastest, but I still could swim.  And even if I needed to stay at my previous speed, with my crappy old stroke, it wasn’t the end of the world or my goal. There are lots of people (Kayla Wheeler came to mind) who swim competitively with fewer limbs than I’m lucky to have.

I fretted in the shallow end for a while.  Mid-fret, I started to massage the muscles in my back, down my arm, and around my shoulder.  Everything was tight and the pain was sort of radiating.  I stretched and massaged my left side for 5 minutes or so.  Optimistically, I decided to try again and just see what happened. It pulled out of the track with sharp pain right away.  So, I flipped on to my back and fretted some more.

The article about the mental recovery of the Olympic swimmer came to mind.  My situation was probably more mental than physical – even though I could identify my shoulder and the pain as the problem.  This is my shoulder.  It just has structural issues that aren’t going to be fixed without surgery and it’s not really bad enough to warrant surgery.  It’s gotten stronger with 6 months of physical therapy, but it’s not cured. It’s possible, actually likely that this will happen again and during a race. It is the only left shoulder that I have to work with, so what did I want to get out of this training-this practice? I need to stop fretting about what I can’t do. I need to figure out what I can do.  What can I do,  when this happens, to finish as strongly as I can.   I need to figure out my strategy and practice it. During a race, I won’t have the shallow end for a 5 minute fret and massage. How do I want to respond when / if this happens mid-race? And then I’m going to start practicing my answer, so I can be able to respond more competitively in the future.

My new intents for this training became: 1. to figure out what I can do when this happens, 2. to start talking myself through the strategy, and 3. to practice the combination of the adapted swim and a new mental message.  Each stroke was very deliberate as I paid close attention to my shoulder and to trying to understand what the limits were today.

I realized that my  torso rotation had a significant relationship to the pain in the shoulder when the left arm was out of the water.  I also realized that I experienced no pain or dislocation when rotated fully and took a breath on the left side.  I could reduce the pain with more rotation when my right arm was out of the water, but not when I took a breath on my right side.  I experimented and tried as many things as I know to try (which isn’t that much), but today breathing on my right side wasn’t going to work.  So I swam breathing every four breaths on the left and every two when I got winded. After a short period of time, I felt able to maintain this rhythm without straining my brain too hard.

For the last set, I decided I wanted to glimpse what I could accomplish with the back-up strategy.

8 x 50 @ 1:05 (descend 1-4 and 5-8)
1 -4:
 :50, :49, :47, :45
5-8:   :45, :44, :42, :40

Trepidation is the best word I can come up with to describe what I felt in the first few 50s. Once I hit  :45, I knew I had a little more, without risk of additional injury or pain.  I was right.

Does this session mean I won’t shut down and throw my pool toys if this happens again? Doubtful.  I’m just hoping the practice of the stroke and the new mental strategy gets me back in the game sooner. And un/fortunately I’m sure there will be other opportunities to practice this.

There was one other thought that probably helped me get back in the game and deal with this.  I thought, if I can’t be a strong swimmer, then the bike is going to be even more critical to my time. Oh, crap, I’ve got to figure this out.  (I still hate the bike.)

New Year’s Wisdom

Winter WaterA Polar Bear Swim to kick off 2014!

This sounded like the perfect way to start a year that was filled with bold goals and all sorts of crazy wishes.

Jeff & I couldn’t make the Christmas Day swim, so making our own event just a week later seemed like a decent balance of daring and reasonable. (this is “reasonable” per the endurance athlete, endorphin brain, of course.)

We picked our time: 10:00 am.  There was discussion of a possible run after we warmed back up.  The perfect start to the year.

The beauty of moving up into the higher age groups, is gaining experience and wisdom.

“We should probably check to see if the reservoir’s frozen.”

nICE 2Freezing cold water is one thing,
frozen is entirely different!

Neither Jeff nor I were chipping through the ice to carry out this mastermind plan.

Plan B: Kick off the New Year with a day of rest.  Makes sense.  It’s going to be a very busy year. I’ll need my energy.

Tomorrow she moves mountains