Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Tri College 101--Today's Lesson--Freestyle Technique

I've been doing a lot of reading lately and listening to podcasts so I'd thought I'd share some of the information on my blog. At the very least, it will be an archive I can refer to to help optimize my training. I plan on covering any and all topics. Please let me know if you have suggestions on what to cover.

Swimming has been on my brain lately. It's my greatest limiter, and I've been throwing myself in the pool a lot to try and work on my technique. The thing I like to start with is thinking about my form. I break it down into pieces and swim several laps, focusing on that part of my body until I can incorporate it into a whole piece. What to think about?

Body Positioning:

Most important and best place to start. You want to be streamlined, everything aligned, in 1 unit. Balance is key. You want to float equally from your head to your toe. You also want to be efficient in this streamlined position on either side.

1. Head down.

The head is the heaviest part of the human body. Our instinct is to raise our head (for breathing purposes) but this pushes our legs down, causing drag. By focusing on keeping my head down throughout the stroke, it allows my legs to remain in the same plane as my torso so I'm more streamlined. I like to pretend there's a laserbeam on the top of my head, and I focus on pointing the laser at the wall.

Drill: kick (no kickboard) while focusing on streamlined, head-down position. Turn to side to take breath as needed. Try 1st with arms by sides. Then, try with arms out in front.

2. Press the buoy.

Because our lungs are filled with air, this tends to raise our torso up, further pushing our legs down. To counteract this, I like to focus on pushing my chest down into the water, as if a big weight was tied to it. When done correctly with the head down position, my feet raise up and break the surface of the water. I get a "downhill" feeling as I swim, allowing my shoulders to feel free and a snappier, easier recovery. In effect, it's a double-whammy because I'm more streamlined, and my upper body is more free to generate power in the stroke.

Drill: Repeat as in #1, but add imagery of weight tied to chest.

3. Body roll

I'm more streamlined on my side than on my stomach. In addition, by twisting from side-to-side, I generate more power by recruiting the larger muscles in my core and back. I also create less strain on my shoulders this way. I like to think about twisting as one unit from hips to shoulders (the power is generated in the hips) as if I'm impaled on a skewer, a corkscrew, or a board, turning back and forth. As I twist, my legs twist too so I'm kicking while on each side. My head remains in the same position; it's the twisting from the hips that lifts the head out of the water to breathe. I only need one eye out of the water to be able to breathe. I don't need to lift my head. To ensure this, I make sure I can feel my head "resting" on my shoulder as the hips rotate my head for a breath.

Drills: 1st kick on left side. Then, kick on right. 3rd, start on left, take breath, and twist to right side (take 1 stroke), focusing on using core to move to other side. Repeat to return to left side. 4th, begin stroking slowly, 3 at a time (start on left-then stroke to right-left-right), again, focusing on using core and hips to turn body as 1 unit.

4. Bilateral Breathing:

Symmetry will make you a more efficient, faster swimmer. Practice breathing every other stroke (also good for lungs). Practice side kicking drills while on either side.

5. Kick:

Focus on maintaining a small flutter kick, emanating from the hips. Your feet shouldn't come far apart, which prevents drag. The kick mainly helps maintain body position but doesn't add much for speed, especially for triathletes, who need to save their legs for the bike and run (and don't need to kick much at all with the extra buoyancy of a wetsuit). Practice kicking on either side to ensure body position is maintained efficiently.

The Stroke:

Now that, we've worked on body positioning and we have the basics, what do we do with our arms (and core and back!) during the stroke? There are 4 phases: recovery (before next stroke begins), entry (where the arm enters the water), catch (entering arm extends fully), and pull (other arm begins propulsion towards hips to generate power).

6. Recovery:

Stroke finishes with hand fully extended by side and leaves the water, pinky finger up from hips. It feels like you are taking your hand out of your pocket, or "zipping" up a jacket. The elbow should be bent and raised high, while the rest of the forearm is relaxed and limp. The recovery arm is then thrust forward, led by the shoulder and lats. I need to focus on keeping my arm relaxed during recovery, a common mistake. Also, swimmers often focus on a "quick" recovery because it's the "dead" part of the stroke where speed decelerates until the next pull begins.

Drills: There are a ton of options here. I particularly like the "zipper"drill and the "limp noodle" drill.

Zipper drill: Swim on side, lower arm extended, as for side kicking drill. After breath is taken and head is down, practice recovery arm leaving side from hip, pinky finger up, elbow high, as if you were taking your hand out of your pocket. Drag fingers up as if you were zipping up a jacket. Once arm reaches eyeline, dip fingers into water, where you would proceed with entry. As you feel hips "falling" (normally you would thrust here for entry), turn back and return to original position to repeat.

Skim the Surface: A complimentary drill to emphasize high elbows in recovery. Drag tips of fingers across surface of water during the recovery.

Limp Noodle: To emphasize relaxed arms, visibly dangle the forearm from the elbow during recovery phase. You'll look ridiculous but it really helps.

Lat/Shoulder Throw: To emphasize leading the recovery with the shoulders, lead with the shoulders. Overexaggerate by "throwing" your arm (from the lats) forward. Emphasizes a quick recovery.

7. Entry:

Hand enters water at eyeline or a little out in front with high elbow. Because you're on your side, gravity wants to push you in the direction of your entering hand. Let it. Use the thrust from your hips and core to "help" gravity drive the entering arm down and forward. I used to want to keep my arm out of the water for way too long, entering out way too far in front. However, the sooner I enter the water, the sooner I can propel myself forward. Time out of the water is time wasted.

8. Front-quadrant swimming:

I used to swim like a helicoptor. When 1 arm was out of the water, the other 1 was directly below. It's much more efficient and more streamlined to leave the leading arm out in front and "wait" for the other arm to enter the water before dropping the other arm. Balance drills are key here (swimming on side with lower arm extended) since the recovering arm pushed our torso down. The natural instinct is to lower the leading arm to counteract this but it's much more efficient to leave it out in front. It also allows us to be tall and lean. The taller we are in the water, the more distance we can cover. Not only are we more streamlined, but waiting for the other arm gives us more power. Instead of having to drag our pulling arm through the water, now we have the other arm as a fixed point for leverage to help us out. That allows more recruitment of large, stronger muscles like our lats and core, which gives our shoulders a break (preventing overuse injuries). When done correctly, it feels like climbing a rope. Also, you should feel like a corkscrew with an engine in your belly.

Drill: Catch-up--a favorite of mine. Leave extended (lower) arm in front until recovery arm enters the water and "tags" the extended arm before beginning the pull.

9. Entry:

After entry, the arm fully extends, making you feel tall and lean. To become even taller, at this point, twist to your side so you are looking at the side wall. Make sure your extended arm stays somewhat relaxed. I had been focusing on "tall and lean" so much I was hyperextending my shoulder. Bad. Also, focus on extending your arm in the plane directly in line with your shoulders and hips. Straying out of this line causes drift (and shoulder strain), and we want to swim as straight as possible (most efficient--shortest distance between 2 points). I picture 3 lines, 1 down the midsection, and 1 at the outer edge of each hip. As I turn, I point the extending arm towards the opposite hip, as if I were skating down railroad tracks. (I tend to extend my arm too far away from my body. Some people cross the midline, which is just as bad. Helps to know your personal swimming habits since form focus and drills is a highly individualized activity depending on your needs.)


Long & Lean/Body Roll--Extend arm fully as if you were reaching on tiptoes for something on the top shelf. Turn fully on side and look at side wall as you do this.

Skating--pretend the line down the center lane is the middle of the railroad tracks. Align with the center of your body. Focus on lining extended arm up with the tracks as you swim so you swim in as perfectly straight a line as possible.

10. Pull:

The most elusive part of the freestyle stroke (because it's underwater and hidden from view) for me and also the most important because it generates the power that propels us forward. After the recovering arm has entered the water, it's time for the extended arm to begin the pull. It has "caught" its place in the water, the extended arm has reached above it, higher on the rope, and you will now "climb" up the rope. Begin with your pinky finger. Yes, your pinky. Sounds weird but ends up generating the most power. With high elbow, bent, begin pull with pinky, hand down and facing wall behind you (pretend you're going to slap it). Begin propelling your hand towards your hip. When done correctly, forearm makes a serpentine ("S") shape under your chest. Here, you don't want to take a straight line since that will be the least time under the water. More time, means more power can be generated. Your elbow, forearm, and hand create a paddle, like an oar, which is why it's so important to have a bent elbow. During the pull, your hand is accelerating throughout so that it is moving the fastest at the end when it reaches your hip. When done correctly, your hand should feel as if it's "flinging" out of the water. You should feel "slippery" or "silky." You should not feel tired or lots of resistance. This indicates you aren't recruiting your larger core and lat muscles and instead are relying more on your arm and shoulders.


Closed-fist swimming: Simply swim with a closed fist instead of normal open hand. Emphasizes how important "paddle" part of forearm is in creating power. Also gives you a great feel of water when your return to normal swimming.

Carry the barrel: Pretend you are carrying a barrel under your arm as you pull. This encourages the high elbow feel so important in the pull.

Hip Brush: To ensure fully completing the pull, touch your hand to your hip before your hand leaves the water.

This completes the stroke! Remember, imagery is everything. If you lose that slippery, downhill feeling and the water suddenly becomes "heavy", you're muscles are tired and your form is deteriorating, which is your body's way of telling you, "Enough!" Swimming beyond this is going past the point of diminishing returns.

Helpful websites:

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Discuss amongst yourselves...

This month in Triathlete's Point-Counterpoint, Cameron Elford and Rebecca Roozen discuss whether "serious athletes should receive special treatment on race day, or should everyone just lighten up for Pete's sake." This struck a chord with me, and I was curious on your opinions as well. Do you think slower ("less serious") athletes slow you down on race day, or are you more annoyed by the hard-core ("more serious"), aggressive athletes yelling at you to get out of the way?

Elford writes, "practically all of us have been thrown off, perhaps even frustrated, by a fellow competitor (and I use the term here loosely) as he or she lollygags through the race without a hint of urgency, content in the serene, peaceful state of being a fool."

On the other hand, Roozen argues, "if you haven't made the cut and aren't carded as a pro, turns out you're just like the rest of us age groupers. So you might as well loosen up and have a little fun."

I have to agree whole-heartedly with Roozen. Triathlons are intimidating enough with the slick space-age tri bikes, disc wheels, and rocket helmets. I wish it were more beginner-friendly. I want more people to see what I've discovered--how fun it is to be healthy. The world would be a better place (and certainly a lot lighter) if we all participated in triathlon. It's nerve-racking enough on race day without the hard-core pro-wannabes elbowing at the swim start and yelling aggressively on the bike course. I may not be fast, but I certainly train as much as the next guy, and I like to think of myself as a "serious" athlete. When I'm out there on the race course, I'm suffering just as much as the next guy. Only thing is...I just may be having a little more fun. What's my secret?

I had to swallow my pride a long time ago as fellow tri club members zipped past me on the swim, bike, and run. If I were in this to win, or even PR at every race, I would have given up a long time ago. In fact, I had to dig a little deeper and find out the true meaning of why I go out there and race. It's become more of a spiritual journey and an adventure than a race to win.

I was listening to an interview with Chris (Macca) McCormack (Ironman Talk) and he said confidently that he shows up on the start line expecting to win. He then retorically asked why other athletes show up if they don't expect to win. Of course, Macca is gifted so he hasn't had to search for an alternative reason for racing. But I don't show up expecting to win the race, not even come close. I show up on race day expecting to have fun, get some good exercise out of it, and maybe even learn something about myself or my place in the world through the struggle of getting to the finish line.

Then, I listened to an interview between Roman Mica and Mark Allen (on 3/30/06 at, an absolute legend. In the first part of the interview they talk about spirituality and triathlon, and it really hit home for me. He said that most athletes are preoccupied with their lactate threshold, heart rates, and VO2 max but that on race day, none of that matters. How you will perform is up to you, as a person. Mark Allen comments on the importance of mental toughness: "Especially in the longer races, like an Ironman. You have a thousand moments where you want to quite and a thousand moments where you don't feel good. You question what you're doing out there and what your motivation is. Being able to draw strength from somewhere in those moments to make it past them is really what peak performance is all about."
Fit Body Workshop

To hear an Ironman legend like Mark Allen speak about the spirituality in triathlon made me actualize why I'm out there every day, kicking my ass (slowly). It's not about the speed. It's not about the finish line. It's about the adventure along the way.

Monday, June 25, 2007


Congratulations is in order!

To all those who did IM-CdL this weekend!
You guys rock! You are Ironmen!
(e.g. fellow blogger Jodi--

To all those who did San Diego International this weekend!
Ack. I'm envious. Sorry I didn't make it this year.

And to Jason and me, albeit a little self gratuitously.
Yesterday was our 7-year wedding anniversary.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Data Alert!!! Training Plan Reassessment Time

I can hardly believe it myself, but I guess I've been making an attempt to get back into shape for 6 weeks now. I still feel like I'm kicking my own ass but I decided it was time to evaluate where I am. (Gulp!) So, per my full disclosure policy, here are my stats:

I'm focusing more on time rather than distance but I have to stay, I'm pleased since I've been told that consistency is the key. After a false start for the first 3 weeks, the last 3 weeks have been SOLID. I guess I needed a "pre-prep" phase. (Actually, week 3 was the scary week that Jason was in and out of the hospital.) I've been following my plan as best as I can for these last 3 weeks, which means, folks...I've earned myself an R&R week!!! Well, hold on a minute. Because I'm still just getting back into it, for this R&R week, I will try to maintain the same frequency of workouts while dropping the intensity waaay back. That means more ocean swims and time on Rocky (the very lonely mtn. bike). Anyway, my overall goal during this Prep phase was to get my body used to working out again. I feel I'm almost there. Very close.

My first race is July 14th, an Olympic distance race. I want to get my swimming back to being comfortable for a 1 mile steady swim. I won't be able to really race this race since it's too soon. But I hope I can use it as a good workout and finish feeling strong.

My Limiters:
When I look at the specifics (broken down by sport), I can see my swimming needs more attention. Because this is by far my greatest limiter (hmmm, do I even have any strengths?), I will make sure I get 3 swims in during my R&R week, 2 of them pool swims (1 ocean), so I can continue building my swim endurance and form. I will be signing up for Masters swimming in the am again. It helps like nothing else even though it wipes me out. Plus, I think I may recruit the masters coach for some privates to work on my form.

My 2nd greatest limiter is my strength on the bike. San Diego is very hilly, and I feel exhausted after every ride. I just need more time on the bike, honestly. A little riding around here, and, wallah! No hill repeats needed! Also, religious time in the weight room, which I've been very good about doing. 2x/week--whole body exercises including glutes, quads, core, back, lats, chest, shoulders, triceps, etc. I'm going to be HUGE! Well, hardly. I don't build muscle easily, which is why weight training is SO important for me. I also got a(nother) bike fitting this week because it's been extremely uncomfortable in the aero position. They tweaked a few things (raised the bars up so I'm not so crammed down) temporarily until I get back into shape again.

My Specific Body Type:
I've been learning a lot about myself in general these past few months. I have a long, lean body type that doesn't gain weight easily but also doesn't gain muscle easily. Not only that, but muscle I build disappears verrry quickly without maintenance through weights and training. For me, weights will always be a critical part of my program. In addition, I tend to need more recovery time after a hard race or a hard workout. I needed a good month after the half-IM. Because I ignored this and tried to train for a marathon simultaneously, my body broke down, forcing me to take off 2 and a half months. I will need to make sure I have 1-2 rest days/week without fail and an easier R&R week every 3rd week as well. I simply break down without it. I may not have a lot of power on the bike, and I have a lot to learn with my swim technique (I can lollygag around out there forever but have no speed or zip), but I always feel strong on the run. At least I have that going for me.

Anyway, I've been revising and shaping up my training plan. Reading lots of books, listening to lots of podcasts. Definitely psyched!!! I even started wearing a HRM again, and I tend to hate extra gadgetry. However, I want to get better and have heard so many coaches advocate HR monitor training that I can't ignore it anymore.

My Goals:
Right now, get used to training again without feeling the need for extra recovery time. I feel I need 1 more Prep period before going into Base training. Basically, I try to get the workout frequency down in the Prep period, while keeping the intensity and duration fairly low; e.g. make it fun. This is the time to keep it inviting so I keep wanting more.

Then, I will begin a long Base (re)building phase in preparation for the Half IM in late October. All races in between will be "C" races--for fun, freshness, experience, and training. I will focus more on my heart rate during the early part of the Base building (~6-8 wks) and ensure it is kept below aerobic threshold to teach my body how to utilize fat for fuel more efficiently than glucose. It will be tough because the intensity will feel too "easy" but if I go slow now, I can go fast later. Also, everyone else will be in a different cycle since their season is going full swing and mine is starting over. So it will take some discipline and restraint on my part.

I will have more detail into the specifics of the training plan coming soon, but until then, I leave you with the latest from my workouts:

I've been focusing on each workout as an individual puzzle piece lately. Each workout has a purpose. During my last 2 runs, I finally felt as if I regained my running stride. I have renewed strength in my legs. I could actually feel my toes gripping the road like fingers pulling myself up a rope. It was such a strong, empowering feeling. I heard the frogs croaking from a creek, not quite dried up yet, on my evening run, and it made me smile. Frogs in southern California? For a moment, I was back in Wisconsin among the prarie grass, Queen Anne's Lace, robins and cardinals. But then a lizard darted across my path and a hummingbird zipped from tree to bush, and I was pulled back into the SoCal environment.
I swam in the Cove on Friday night and saw several tri club members. The water was calm, although the current was flowing its typical direction--out. I had picked a route from the grass so as to avoid the massive kelp beds, which weird me out. Neon green and pink swim caps dotted the wide "lane" between the 1/4 mile and 1/2 mile buoys. The massive numbers of swimmers wriggling in and out of wetsuits on the grass and swimming in clusters in the water reminded me that summer was here. Friday night is "the" night that all the triathletes come and swim at the Cove. The swells tend to make me really queasy but I was able to keep it under control on this swim. Going out, as usual, was easy. I reached the 1/4 mile buoy. I wanted to swim out to the 1/2 mile buoy but it looked so far. So far. This used to be easier. I decided to err on the side of too little and headed back. Next time. I could feel the water rush past my hand as it entered the water, as the current surged around me. However, the strength of my stroke pulled me through the water, little by little. My sighting has definitely improved. A line of pelicans flew overhead into the setting sun on their evening food patrol. Ocassionally, a tern dove into the sea with a "plunk", attempting to spear a fish. Sea lions barked from the rocks by the caves. I was able to avoid the seaweed and follow my pre-visualized route. I've been working on breathing every other stroke--bilaterally--I find the slowed breathing in open water helps calm me and forces me to focus on form and rhythm. As I came back in, dozens of little to medium sized fish swam with me, coming up to the surface to feed. I swam tentatively, fearing my arm would accidentally snag one of the many bright orange Girabaldi swimming alongside me. They, however, were much better swimmers than me. I didn't even come close to touching one as they expertly darted around my limbs and fingers.

Hot Songs for Your Next Workout:
First off, if you're into podcasts, check out the Cadence Revolution and PodRunner. Both are pretty awesome.

1. My Friend--Groove Armada
2. The Adventure--Angels & Airwaves
3. This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race--Fall Out Boy
4. Say it Right--Nelly Furtado
5. Galvanize--Chemical Brothers
6. Check on It--Beyonce & Slim Thug
7. Into the Ocean--Blue October
8. You Know--Chris Cornell
9. You Had Me--Joss Stone
10. 24--Jem

Sad News for Tri Club San Diego

I just found out our club president died of a sudden heart attack on Wednesday. I'm shocked. He was young, vibrant, and healthy. He will be missed by so many. He did so many incredible things for our club. His poor wife...

"We all lose friends.. we lose them in death, to distance and over time. But even though they may be lost, hope is not. The key is to keep them in your heart, and when the time is right, you can pick up the friendship right where you left off. Even the lost find their way home when you leave the light on." -Amy Marie Walz

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Hanging in There II

First, I've been updating my blog (hence all the quotes) so I can get everything into the archive. I've also added some new links to my sidebar, including some awesome podcasts I've become addicted to. I'm currently working on swim/bike/run workouts that I like to put up for everyone's use. Sometimes, it's nice to print one off and go rather than think of an excuse why not to do one.

Jason's off the prednisone and just as sick as before. Back to square one. They put him on a 2nd course and scheduled an appointment to put tubes in his ears. The doc doesn't know if it will help but it's the least invasive procedure to try. From what I've read about Meneire's that's about all we can do right now. So he's at home, bedridden and miserable. He's lost another 5 lbs, bringing the total up to 20 lbs. He begged me to turn the ceiling fan off this morning because it was exacerbating his dizziness. He's been too dizzy to even shave lately. Poor thing.

I had minor surgery on one of my dental implants on Monday. A 1.5 hr procedure turned into a 3.5 hr ordeal, leaving me with an insane headache from a sore jaw, funny neck contortions, and vibrations from the drill. Ugh. I'm stuck with a temporary crown that's for "smiling, not eating beef jerky." Okay, but what about swimming, biking, and running? It's only a matter of time before that damn piece of crap falls off. Yippee. I'm a 29-year old that needs denture adhesive.

Anyway, I've been slogging through my workouts. I'm still in the Prep phase but I can't believe how out of shape I've become. I know I took 2 months off because of my sinus infection but I feel like I've lost everything. Plus, everytime I pick up a tri book or mag, I feel like Joe Friel is there quoting me all the stats on how much your VO2 max decreases after 48 hours off. It's totally depressing. I can't have lost that much, can I?

I haven't given up hope completely. The workouts feel good. I'm hoping in a few weeks time, I will start to feel better. Believe it or not, I'm feeling the worst on the bike. I have NO power. No umph. And with all the hills around here, I'm getting annihilated. My neck and shoulders have been KILLING me so I'm back to the bike shop for a(nother) bike fitting this afternoon. Sigh.

Anyway, just when I'm feeling miserable and depressed about how out of shape I am and how slow I am, I go back to a previous draft I'd been working on and realized I can take a different perspective on all this:

I'm enjoying this Prep phase. I have enough experience now to know my fitness will come back. I'm enjoying the journey. This is becoming much more of a spiritual adventure for me. One thing that hit me the other day is that as triathletes, we are always trying to better ourselves in a lifelong quest for improvement. We hold ourselves to a higher standard. We wake up and expect the best from ourselves and take the best care we can of our bodies so we can perform a little bit better each day. And it feels good. It's such a rewarding process. I love how we're always learning and striving to improve. Those are the things I crave as someone who's adopted the triathlete lifestyle. It's that "superhero" feeling that our lives are nothing but ordinary and we are unique individuals with the capability of doing amazing things.
So I'm going back out there because it's easy to improve when the only direction to go in is up.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Quotes Galore

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.


Aerodynamically the bumblebee shouldn't be able to fly, but the bumblebee doesn't know that so it goes on flying anyway.

--Mary Kay Ash

"One ceases to recognize the significance of mountain peaks if they are not viewed occasionally from the deepest valleys."--- Dr. Al Lorin

"The gun goes off and everthing changes... the world changes... and nothing else really matters."
--Patti Sue Plummer

"Give me somewhere to stand, and I will move the earth." -- Archimedes

"The journey is the reward."
--Chinese Proverb

“Mind is everything; muscle [mere] pieces of rubber.All that I am, I am because of my mind.”
- Paavo Nurmi

"Sometimes winning has nothing to do with being first across the finish line"
--John Bingham
"Some of the world's greatest feats were accomplished by people not smart enough to know they were impossible."--Doug Larson
All you have to do is look straight and see the road, and when you see it, don't sit looking at it - walk.
-Ayn Rand

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Every little bit

I finished another solid week of training. I am kicking my ass right now. Every workout wipes me out. I keep forgetting how much fitness I've lost after 10 weeks of rest. However, I'm having a lot of fun. Just trying to get it done. Every little bit counts. It just feels so good to be out there doing it and enjoying it. Plus, I love that it only takes me an hour to get a solid workout in as opposed to the 3 hour+ bike rides that I was doing. There are some benefits to being out of shape! Mainly how quickly you start to gain fitness.

Monday and Tuesday were rest days. I got a massage and some much needed recovery from the week before.
Wednesday, I ran with a new running group. They go fast and push me so it's a great tempo/speed workout mid-week. Afterwards, I lifted weights. I've also been stretching a lot.
Thursday, I swam after work. I need to join a masters swim group again so I can get this over with in the morning. I had a solid swim but only lasted 40 minutes before my form began to deteriorate. After dinner, I hopped on the trainer for a short 30 minute ride.
Friday, I did weights and a fun, little recovery 4 mile run with a friend from work.
Saturday, I felt very sore and tired. Even though I did so little, I felt like I was bordering on overdoing it. Can I seriously be this out of shape? Anway, I settled for a late afternoon, short 15-mile ride. Then, I got an urge to get into the ocean and ran down to the beach for a sunset swim.

I had forgotten how crowded it gets in the summer at La Jolla Shores. I keep forgetting it's summer. I remember in January having to psych myself up to get in with a wetsuit, booties and hoodie. It sucked. I keep expecting the chill of the water to shock me but I was hot in the sand with my wetsuit. The air temp was about 70 and the water temp felt like upper 60s. Amazing what 10 degrees difference makes. I only swam for a little bit before hopping out. Every little bit counts. Then, I shed my wetsuit and ran back in. The water felt like silk around my skin. I love swimming sans wetsuit! It's so freeing. I hopped out over the waves past all the surfers and swimmers. It felt so quiet and peaceful. I bobbed gently with the surf and watched the sun peak through the evening clouds rolling in. The water sparkled like it was on fire where the rays hit the ocean. Pelicans dove into the water like missiles, fishing in the setting sunlight. Everything felt just right. That's when it hit me that summer was here. And even though the beaches were crowded, all I needed was enough room for my bag. Being able to jump into the ocean in just a swimsuit was worth it. And I could find solace just a couple hundred feet off shore, where few dare to venture. I felt so cleansed when I got out. Now, if only I get all the sand out of the shower...

Sunday, my running group and I ran the 8 mile Low Tide Ride 'N Stride from Imperial Beach to Coronado on the Silver Strand State Beach. It's a great annual event held at the lowest tide of the year. Part of the run goes on the beach by the Naval Seal base, which is normally closed to civilians but they open it up for this run, which makes it way cool. Not a lot of people do it either, so it's very serene and meditatitive. Not only that, but the sand is glittery and gold as if someone smeared body paint all over. Only thing, I forgot how hard it is to run 8 miles in the sand! Mentally, it's tough too because it's just you and the sand and the ocean with nothing changing for miles and miles so it feels like you're getting nowhere. I just took my time and had fun with the group. Afterwards, we enjoyed a big breakfast at a local eatery in Coronado. I had a great omelett, latte, and fruit. Yum.

Then, we went back to the beach and I jumped in--no wetsuit again. The waves were big and there was a red tide, which apparently is safe for swimmers. Guess I'll find out. I didn't realize how choppy it was until I got out. After the breakers, I spotted a buoy about 1/4 mile out and decided to go for out. The current was in the absolute opposite direction, and I was getting pushed and pulled every which way. I did a lot of alternating breaststroke and freestyle to keep my bearings but I made it. Coming back was a lot easier. I tried to body surf in but the wave broke wrong (and they were big!) and I was right in front of it as it broke. I tried to position myself correctly and shut my eyes and held my breath. It pummeled me, and I got knocked for a loop. I felt like I was in the spin cycle of a washing machine. All I could see was froth. I wasn't sure which way was up. I stood up and realized the ocean had stolen my goggles and a contact. Have I mentioned how much I HATE contacts? I had to drive home with one eye shut. Anyway, despite my messy reentry, I still had a blast and felt very relaxed after I got out.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Hanging in There

Well, Jason is still sick but he seems to be having less severe episodes. Since the condition has become chronic, I'm continuing to fight to take him to doctors but also fight myself and prevent myself from wallowing in frustration. I've been trying with all my might to maintain routine and a sense of normalcy, simply by trying to eat healthfully at regular intervals, work out regularly, and go to bed at a decent time. I've also been working my ass off in lab, which helps get my mind off of the situation.

Back to Training:
Meanwhile, I've found solace in training again. I've been working out with my training buds, and that has been wonderful therapy. Also, I'm following my new and improved training plan, which will be up soon for all to see. I've also signed up for races to get me excited, and I am. Actually, I'm stoked. In addition, I think I'm going to start investing in some new toys, starting with a tri bike, which I've been meaning to get for awhile. Time to start getting out there and taking some for a test ride!

Prep Training:
These past few weeks have been a "Prep" period, in which I'm introducing my body to regular training again (vis a vis Joe Friel). Since I'm still sore after most of my workouts, I'm trying to work on frequency and back off on duration and intensity until I don't feel so trashed the next day. At that point, I'll know my body is ready for the next step. I think I'll probably stay in Prep phase for a few more weeks to be safe.

Prep Specifics:
I'm training about 6-8 hours a week with 1-2 days off/week. I've also started regular stretching and weight training, which has been wonderful for injury prevention. I've also started doing Yoga and am signing up for some classes (more for peace of mind) at a studio by my apartment. I'm also getting weekly deep tissue massages.

Basically, I've been doing weights 2x/week (1 hr total body--mix of free and machines), running 2-3x/week, swimming 2x/week, and biking 2-3x/week. Basically, I've found when I run 3x/week, I only get to bike 2x and vice versa so I've been swapping each week with a bike-heavy vs run-heavy one. For now, this is all I can manage. I'd like to get back to doing each 3x/week. Especially with the bike, where I've lost power, and the swim, where I've lost everything.

To address my limiters, #1, I need regular incentives to follow my plan. Group workouts are awesome for this.

Weekly Goal--3x--tempo, long, and track or R&R (total mileage ~20 mi or ~3.5 hrs)
Wed and Sun, I run with a group. The mid-week run is my tempo run and Sunday is my long run. I really look forward to these. For my 3rd run, I can do a track workout with the tri club on Tuesdays, or run on my own for recovery. I've been opting for the latter lately given how out of shape I am (also I'm not sure how useful track time is for my long-term goal of Ironman, although I think it would be useful in the beginning when I'm up to it). Anyway, running I have down pat. It's easy for me and my strength. I really haven't lost too much here.

Weekly Goal: 3x/week ~50-60 miles (~3-5 hrs) (trainer session--strength/drills/intervals; mid-distance tempo ride; long ride)
For biking, I have decided to go out with a group on the weekends for my long ride. There are tons of options in this area. I'm trying a new group this Saturday. Gulp! We'll see how it goes. During the week, I like to spin on the trainer to a Spinerval DVD for 1 workout, which kicks my ass and builds muscle. My 2nd mid-distance workout during the week is usually a much-needed solitary ride up the coast for about 30 miles, which ends up being a tempo/interval ride with some hills and some aero time. I've lost some endurance and definitely strength/power on the bike but I think it will come back quickly. I do need to get a bike fitting again because my aerobars have become incredibly uncomfortable all of a sudden. Go figure. Of course, once I get a tri-specific bike, my current bike will be solely a road bike so maybe I won't have that problem. However, a bike fitting is in order in the meantime.

Goal: 3x/week (2 masters classes; 1 ocean swim; ~4 hours or ~4000-5000m)
This is still and has always been my biggest limiter. To make matters worse, I like it the least so I spend the least time doing it. It's not that I hate swimming. It's just that the pool is rather boring and I'd rather be biking or running. However, I do love the ocean. I think I could even swim 4x/week if 2 of those swims were ocean swims. Maybe I should consider that. Having said that, I improved the most when I swam in a masters class. I'll sign up for the morning classes and get it out of the way to pave room for the evening running and biking session. Sigh.

Every other week, I'd like to do a practice triathlon. Either in a race situation or staged myself. Ideally, I'll do all 3. At the very least, I'll build in a brick bike/run mid-week (so I have enough recovery for my long weekend sessions).

That's my plan in a nutshell. Build back up. Use this framework as my backbone and go from there. Here's my tentative race schedule:

6/17 Low Tide Ride 'N Stride (low key 8 mile beach run)
7/4 4th of July Scripps Bike Ride (50 miles)
7/14 Camp Pendleton Olympic Distance Tri
7/29 Solana Beach Sprint Tri
8/19 America's Finest City Half Marathon
9/30 Mission Bay Sprint Tri
10/28 Soma Half Ironman (Tempe, AZ) GULP!!!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Meniere's Disease

I know it's been awhile. Life keeps throwing darts in my path. Jason has been seriously ill these past few weeks, and all my attention has turned to making him better. It now appears that he may be suffering from Meniere's disease (see link in title), and we are trying to get it under control. It's caused by excess fluid in the inner ear, making you feel as if you have constant, intense motion sickness, even while laying down. At first, we didn't know what was happening and took several trips to the ER to have a bombardment of tests run to determine that whatever was going on was not life threatening. Baffled, the doctors seemed to shrug their shoulders and kept sending him home. Meanwhile, he wasn't eating and lost 15 lbs. I kept calling doctors, researching his symptoms, making appointments and demanding more tests until we could finally pinpoint something with his inner ear. Unfortunately, Meniere's is a lifelong disease with no cure. It's not very well-understood. It's also possible that he may have viral labryinthitis, which causes the same symptoms as Meniere's but eventually goes away. I'm praying it's the latter. Until then, he's on a myriad of drugs to treat the dizziness, nausea, and headaches. I've gotten him to eat again, although small bits--mostly gingerale, Ensure, and unsalted tortilla chips (he has to be on a low-salt diet) so he hasn't lost any more weight and is drinking enough fluids to prevent more trips to the ER.

It's been a crazy few weeks. The first week, I couldn't leave his side. The second week, I hesitantly returned to work (he's had to take temporary disability until we know more what's going on). I also forced myself to resume exercise because it's the only way I know to release the build-up of stress and help me sleep at night. I've also been scheduling more frequent massages and drinking more herbal tea (I haven't had to "share" his Valium (to treat the dizziness)...yet).

The exercise helps a lot. I ran with my group yesterday. They coaxed me into a slow 10 miles. At the turn-around point, in a cute little park, I saw a bluebird. A bona fide bluebird. He was so gorgeous. Phew! I'm out of shape! Afterwards, I went for a delightful ocean swim. For 20 minutes as I played in the waves, I felt like I was on vacation. I slept like a baby last night.

Jason seems to be getting a little bit better every day although the progress is slow. He can get out of bed for longer periods to shower and brush his teeth. He can watch t.v. without feeling naseous now. This weekend, I could walk with him in the park, and he felt okay. Tonight, he had a small episode but nothing as severe as last weekend. I'm worried after the Prednisone wears off, the dizziness will increase but I'm hoping for the best.

I saw a hummingbird at our feeder a few weeks ago when Jason was in the throes of one of the worst episodes of dizziness ever. I remember feeling so hopeless. Then I saw the hummingbird at the feeder. That feeder has been up since January, and I haven't changed the food once. I have never seen a hummingbird at that feeder until that day. I immediately ran to the store and got fresh food, washed out the feeder, and put out new nectar. I've seen at least one hummingbird at that feeder every day since then. Every time I see one on our balcony, it gives me hope.