Thursday, January 31, 2008

Blissful Thursday evening swimming

It simply defies rational explanation. But swimming makes me feel like a superhero! Seriously, I was so dazed and stupefied all day, it was not good--worked too hard earlier in the week, couldn't quite get myself together. I liked my run this afternoon, but afterwards I was hungry and tired and totally zonked out. I ate a good meal to refuel; nonetheless I was still in a daze--exhausted, scarcely believing that I was actually going to make it over to the gym for another workout.

But after one and a half lengths of swimming, I felt completely energized and insanely recharged! It really is bizarre, it cannot be endorphins, it is too quick (I almost always get it after the first length in the pool, quite unlike running where it's at least a mile to warm up and really often more like three or four before I feel great)--it is some physiological effect of buoyancy and the pressure of water on skin and the feeling of moving through the water that really just makes me feel supercharged...

(I am still swimming freestyle more slowly than in November and December, I'm guessing, and with a less acute sense of paces and "gears"--I went to Monday-night swimming very faithfully from August through December and freestyle technique and pacing and speed is the one thing we work on there, it's highly triathlete-oriented, so it is not surprising I have not really improved since then on that front. But I am progressing in other respects, I think, so it is all OK...)

This workout is lovely! I had the lane to myself (though I am thwarted, there is no swim this Saturday because CU has a home meet, I will have to try and get to the Friday-evening swim tomorrow although it will make me feel rushed), it was blissful, only marred by several bouts of acute cramping in the right calf while doing butterfly.

(Had to stop and cling to the side of the pool and make faces while I waited for it to pass off! An onlooker would think I am a lunatic, I am always saying the next bit of the workout to myself to try and remember it. I am sure the cramping has to do with running beforehand and general tiredness--something to watch out for. I have had it now and again before, but not so early in a workout, more like at the end of an hour and a half intense freestyle workout where some of it was with fins and I was swimming really hard.)

Similar rationale to the other day, intertwined ladder strands...

(Hmmm, then I went to the grocery store because I am making cupcakes tonight [a pleasant task!] for a very lovely and very dear friend who is not feeling very happy about her birthday and shopping has put the details out of my head, I cannot remember now at all how many I was doing of each thing, arghhh! Oh, I guess if I really pay attention I can reconstruct it...)

Warmup: 4 x 200 (100 swim, 50 drill, 50 kick)

Further warmup set: 5 x 50 (fly, free, back, free, breast), 10 x 25 with 5 yards fast and 20 easy, 10 fast and 15 easy, 15-10, 20-5, whole length sprint, then repeat for second five

Main set:

2 x 200 free, negative splits (I did 3:50 or so, twenty seconds rest, so say I could try those on 4:10 if I were doing three or four? hmmm, maybe more like 4:15 or 4:20 if I were doing more repeats...)

1 x 50 fly (25 swim, 25 drill)

2 x 150 free, descending by 50s (I did OK with these, but have lost sense of pacing I was working on in the fall--have now forgotten details of times, but was checking clock on the 50s--say I started on :20, came in on :17 and :13 on subsequent 50s, so that is more just steady, could not tell you stop time, maybe :09-:10--not bad though...)

2 x 100 back (75 swim, 25 kick)

The hour was almost over by this point, I had to skip the next bits which were basically some variant of 2 x 100 free descending, then a breaststroke thing with swim and drill, then maybe 2 x 50 "smooth" free -- because I wanted to do the last one, which was 200 IM. Very nice, except that the lap swim had started by that point and I only narrowly avoided several crashes which were really my fault as I was obstinately still swimming in the nice left-hand slice of lane [Ed. No, right-hand slice, it seems too lavish even when one has the lane to oneself to go right down the middle, I prefer to hew to the driver's side as it were on the way down but to swim back on the same side!] I had had to myself the whole previous hour! Crashes averted, however, and it was all good...

(Hmm, that's 2500, is that right? That's good, usually I am doing more like 2100 because it's a "short" hour--but I was the first person in the pool for warmup, right at six, and didn't get out till a few minutes after seven, so that's how I get really good use of my pool time--more feasible to get in promptly when it is pm rather than am...)

Thursday afternoon run

A mentally restorative Riverside Park run. Clear, sunny, upper 20s--very nice...

6 miles, 10:00 pace, avg HR 151.

(Really HR was in the upper 140s, only tweaked up by the fact that in order to turn my regular run into 6.0 rather than 5.5ish miles, I have to add on little bits at the end, too hamster-treadmillish to run round in a circle but today I ended up doing a few times up and down various steep hills out of the upper part of the park. It is a mild pity, the way to extend the run properly involves a less attractive stretch at either end--either going onto the narrow and mildly dangerous underpass bike path and down to the sanitation pier at 59th St., or else locking oneself in to the river path known as Cherry Walk up until 125th St. and then through the parking lot at Fairway in a rather chaotic way back to the upper bit of Riverside Park. Makes more sense just to eke out an extra half mile in dribs and drabs, or else for a longer one to bump it up to eight or nine and do it properly by jogging over to Central Park and running the six-mile loop. However, on a slightly unrelated note, it is exciting to see that it seems that they may be finally filling in the missing bit of river path that has required one to detour ever since I first started running there--rather sooner than that link suggests! Some rather mesmerizing crane-type activity...)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


The first two weeks of the semester seem to have hit me extraordinarily hard this year . . . or maybe it's always like this, but I self-protectively forget?!?

In any case I have taken the evening off from exercise, due to exhaustion and poor meal timing--I had an overwhelmingly long day, and it belatedly dawned on me that not just because I was sick, this is perhaps best thought of as a recovery week.

(Or, more aptly, a survival week!)

I have consoled myself by putting the finishing touches on an (over-?)elaborate training schedule, posted below.

(I've drafted weeks 8-16 also, week 16 concluding with Florida 70.3, but it seems to me certain that I will have a better sense of what will and won't work with the shape of the week once I make it through weeks 1-7. (A lot of it has to do with my teaching schedule this semester--so that the 30-minute gym bike preceding the Tuesday swim derives from the fact that my office hours are over at 5, the swim workout starts at six and it's either wasted downtime in my office or else an alluring opportunity to overschedule myself with additional student appointments that tip me over the edge into exhaustion at the end of a teaching day, especially given that I teach again at nine the next morning. If I go straight to the gym, change and bike for a bit to warm up, that's a nice and actually fairly relaxing use of a bit of otherwise dead time.)

Weeks 1-7 are problematic because I have a book manuscript I'm desperately hoping/needing to finish by Feb. 18 (if humanly possible! still not sure that this is the case, but the one other thing I will do before bed is block in the hours for book work in HUGE AND LURIDLY COLORED WRITING in my appointment book, IT MUST BE DONE!) and two talks to sort out--partly written and thought through, partly not--for the California trip in March. Will have to use common sense balancing work and training, in other words.

Week 8 is spring break, but rather than loading it heavily with training it will be best used as a recovery week--I will need to get as well-rested as possible and regroup for the last part of the semester...

I've followed some fairly standard training principles, pulling back every third or fourth week based partly on travel and other considerations, but I haven't written in a regular day off. I will take them as needed, particularly based on unpredictable work-related contingencies that just require some flexibility.

(Hmmm, I am not terribly inflexible, but I cannot say that flexibility is one of my main virtues!)

I've also set it up so as to have some redundancy, as this seems to me the only way to reliably skip workouts that should genuinely be skipped. The next three weeks are a bit of a strain, because of the book completion issue and various other matters pending--I will certainly be skipping a couple of those swims, that's my prediction, and I will consider the bike as top priority because it's a huge weakness.

(I will allow myself to be relatively weak-willed and do most or all bike workouts indoors till after the book thing is sorted out and I can spare a bit more attention and energy for the problem! Spinervals Endurance DVDs en route from Amazon as per Al's recommendation...)

(Hmmm, I already see some room for improvement based on book issues, probably those two Monday-night swims that I've paid for and want to make up should wait till the book is done, will ponder that one as it comes up...)

A long enough preamble, I am in ridiculously wordy vein this week due perhaps in part to the fact that I'm teaching what is commonly referred to as the longest novel in the English language! (It's going to take us the whole semester--it's almost a million words long!)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Mildly indiscreet rhapsodizing about Tuesday good things

And perhaps fortunately for both discretion and the non-enthusiasts amongst you, I then was at a two-and-a-half-hour work dinner which has only just delivered me home, which slightly took the edge off the blissfulness--but only slightly, since it was a heartwarming dinner of teaching awards (long citations in presentation to honorees, though!) that reminded me of all that is best about the university I teach at...

Itemized good things:

1. Still felt kind of sick this morning when I woke up, but then suddenly around noon very hungry and realizing the cold had run its course, bursting with relief and enthusiasm to be back at normal energy levels. BURSTING!

2. A very enjoyable (for me at least!) class this afternoon, which also caused me to reflect with gratitude that because of where I teach, I think I have not had a single class this whole school year where I did not afterwards feel delighted and pleased with my lovely students and the interestingness and usefulness of the kinds of thing we talk about together...

3. (OK, really I am going to abandon the list format now, because this is HUGE! HUGE AND BLISSFUL!)

My swimming problems are solved!

Well, not really, that is hyperbolic, but I went to the CU masters swim workout for the first time and it is absolutely lovely. It will suit me in every particular, as far as I can tell (oh, good opportunity to move back into list mode, let's be lavish and start a whole new one!):

1. It meets Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 6-7pm and Saturday from 4-5:30pm. Lovely to have a weekend organized swim workout, the one I've been going to is only Tuesday-Thursday-Friday 6-7am.

2. PM. PM!

3. Because sleep deprivation is the thing that reliably tips me over towards nervous breakdown, and really the fact of the matter is I cannot get up at 5:15 even two days a week let alone three without seriously messing myself up.

4. PM! Just thought I'd say that one more time.

(4a. My mom has a cute story about my brothers as small children poring over the ads in the newspaper for cheap electronics on sale, pondering an AM radio/alarm clock that was being sold for a modest amount of money and then concluding together that it would not be appropriate for their needs because they mostly liked to listen to the radio in the afternoon when they got home from school...)

5. And it is LOVELY. Lovely and welcoming. Two swim-team undergrads who coach, and a logistical organizer, all THREE of whom e-mailed back to me within several hours of me first inquiring by e-mail yesterday. And the people at the workout were so friendly and nice, I will not actually go into it because surely swimmers deserve a THIN and diaphanous veil of discretion over their manners and morals, but let me just observe that in the locker room afterwards it was amazingly SOMEONE ELSE OTHER THAN ME who had a smile bursting over her face and was saying "I JUST LOVE SWIMMING!" So we all had rhapsodic swimming-related enthusiasm, and the other two women personally and enthusiastically welcomed me to the workout--those of you who swim in friendly environments will not find this staggering, but I must sternly and happily observe the difference from my usual!

6. Pretty much all split lanes rather than circle swim, not crowded at all, and again WELCOMING, fellow I swam with actually invited me into the lane...

7. Super-nice coaching, super-nice workout! Which I did not have time to do all of, but I did do as follows (but it seems like a long time ago now, may be fuzzy on details):

800 warmup (300 free, 100 IM drill, 100 kick choice [dolphin and whip, with kickboard--quads have been ludicrously stiff since Sunday afternoon, fortunately the swim has quite cured it, that's good too!], 300 free with breathing 3-5-7)

Sort of inverse-pair ladder (there is probably a name for this I don't know, but I like it because it makes me think of DNA and double helices!), of which I did only the first half and cannot tell you exactly what the second would have been, but the numbers are deducible at any rate:

400 free (have now completely forgotten my time, but it struck me as not bad)
50 fly
350 as 7 x 50 IM "trans" (i.e. fly-back, back-breast etc.)
100 ? (really I just can't remember this now--something with breast and free, that would make sense?)
300 back-free-back
150 (officially something to do with IM drill-kick, but I just did 100 IM and 50 swim down as the hour was almost over)

And the coach was contemplating the question of intervals and I think I will be able to get some good advice on all this stuff, I was definitely being left to my devices in the good ways but attended to in the good ways also!

I AM IN SWIMMING-RELATED BLISS. I think I will go to JB's Thursday-morning early ones still until this session ends in March, since I really like that workout and I also like the flexibility of being able to switch off am-pm on days I have schedule conflicts--may be worth paying for both through the summer just to keep that flexibility (and the later spring-summer schedule is 6:30-7:45am which is rather more humane). BUT this is going to be great, all good, all good....

I did make an extraordinarily insane training schedule last night while feeling rather ill, it was my main consolation; I will post the first four weeks of it later in the week, but the rest of it I should hold onto for now until I actually see how I make out with this next round where I actually integrate cycling...

More anon!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sleeping on it

Further thoughts on yesterday's race:

I really do have a cold.

(Evidence: the HEAPS of disgusting used tissues in the bedroom! Hmmm, not feeling so good--not terrible, but not great...)

Between that and the 30-40 seconds I probably lost because of placement at the start, and general tiredness, it easily adds up to 20-25 seconds slower per mile than I would like.

The trick is finding a balance between rationalization and realistic self-assessment!

But I think that on a good day, I could currently do 8:45 miles for a half-marathon on that course--it is not so much that my fitness and speed are worse than I thought than that race paces come in quite a bit more variable (depending on conditions) than one would like. This is especially true when one is not very experienced...

I have ordered an expensive but exciting-looking set of Spinervals DVDs from Amazon, based on Spokane Al's recommendations. (Thanks again, Al!)

The next couple weeks are looking a bit patchy for training purposes--a lot of work obligations, including an overriding need to finish my book revisions! But I've sent an e-mail to try and get more information about the CU masters swim, which is in the early evenings--what I really need is to reclaim the early-morning hours just for the next couple weeks for book work time (I cannot do this on a regular basis, but the fact is it's impossible to finish something big during the school year unless I tip over into getting up at--oh dear--4:30 or something like that...), try out the evening swimming and see what will work for me. I want to keep Thursday morning swimming, because JB's workouts are so great, but I could trade off the other days, both the morning workout and the evening masters involve an all-or-nothing financial commitment but cost only fairly modest amounts of money so it's not prohibitive to mix and match...

What I really want is to make my lovely training plan for the weeks between now and May, but I am not sure quite when I will have time! And as I say, the next couple weeks are sort of catch-as-catch-can in any case...

Bike ride later, if I am not feeling too sick--but really I am OK, just congested...

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Manhattan half-marathon (Grand Prix #1)

Interesting experience.

My time (off my Polar--official times not yet up) was 1:57:33, which would have greatly disappointed me had it been revealed to me yesterday by a malicious time-traveler, and yet as I felt it was fairly hard-won I will count it a minor triumph and leave it at that.

First of all: seeding disaster!

(Really I prefer to save the word disaster for genuine calamities, but I think I am allowed a little negative hyperbole as a race-day treat--and in fact the main thing that got me through miles three and four was thinking about the phrasing of a potential blog post on this topic...)

Or, to be more accurate, not so much a seeding disaster as a port-a-potty disaster--it can be said the New York Road Runners direly miscalculated the number needed at the start, so that when I arrived around 8:05 (8:30 start) there were literally, oh, fifty people in line for each one.

(Getting there earlier wouldn't help, because I'd need to pee more than once!)

After a minor peeing-related seeding disaster in August, I resolved just not to drink liquids the morning of a race! But yesterday I found myself with a slight cold (not anything serious enough to call off the race or switch to a slower pace, slight sore throat and stuffed-up nose, neck-up only), and I felt it more important than usual to hydrate properly this morning, I felt rather parched.

In fact, though, this time it wasn't just me being walnut-sized-bladderish, it was a lot of people quite inconvenienced--when the race was started, there were still many hundreds of people waiting to use the toilets, and by the time I got to pee and then went to the starting corrals I was literally at the very, very back (of a field of over six thousand...).

(It's chip time rather than gun time, so it doesn't exactly matter if one is still waiting in the line for a toilet when the gun goes off, but obviously it is better to be seeded appropriately.)

However I was not as irritable as I sometimes have been in this situation, I felt fairly philosophical, really there was nothing to be done--only it is very discouraging for one's race to feel at the beginning that one is losing quite a lot of time in an unavoidable way. I was slipping through gaps and overtaking as many people as I could, but it's really pretty nightmarishly crowded in any case, and it was quite depressing thinking about the extra minute or so that probably accrued to my time in some fairly straightforward way as a result of my self-placement.

My times were slow enough for the first four miles, in fact, that the real mental challenge was resisting the temptation to slow down and do this run as a training run and race the Bronx one in two weeks instead.

(Racing two in two weeks seems to me a recipe for injury, so I must restrain myself and do the next one very slowly.)

I spent a lot of time contemplating the appealing prospect of slowing down fairly dramatically, also because I just didn't feel great.

(I had a fairly tiring week, no good taper feeling, slept little and badly on Friday night, etc. etc. Nothing anything could have been done about, really...)

A lot of time contemplating it...

However I was finally rallied by two things, one positive and one self-admonitory.

The positive: as I came up to the six-mile mark, one or two very fast runners went by to the finish--I think usually I am past that point by the time the first finishers are going by, but it was actually rather lovely, it is good for the spirits to see a very fast and graceful runner glide by!

The self-admonitory: race results and paces are up for ever more on the NYRR website, I would have self-reproach every time I ever looked at my results if I saw this time over two hours when I knew I'd actually set out to race it.

(Quite different if one deliberately did it as a training run or what have you! It is not a point about the absolute times but about the relationship between times and goals and the successful interplay of resolution and flexibility in a race situation.)

So I got a grip on myself, and of course the second hour of a half-marathon is really much more enjoyable than the first, though I never really physically got in a good groove. Not a bad result in any case--in August I would have been thrilled to go sub-2:00, so I should just remember that and be grateful!--and actually there's something really valuable about a race like this.

As I've said before, I have a pretty strong preference for training over racing. I like racing, but I love training...

This race was certainly considerably less enjoyable than most of my long training runs have been over the last six months. But on the other hand, it showed me very clearly what I sort of know already but what it's worth being reminded of--it's the mental challenges that keep racing interesting, and make it worth doing.

(Otherwise I would just train almost all the time and hardly ever race!)

Keeping oneself steeled to the purpose, working uncomfortably hard when one is not particularly having lovely endorphins or seductively fast mile splits or whatever--it's the kind of thing that takes quite a bit of practice to be able to really call forth in oneself under genuinely trying but high-stakes race situations (this was neither), and this race was definitely a good one for practicing those skills.

1:57:33 (HR avg 162, HR max 178, 8:41 pace average)

Mile splits (numbers slightly dodgy I think, total distance for instance coming up as 13.44 rather than 13.1--must recalibrate...--terrain is quite varied, though, so steady effort yields variable mile splits according to elevation):

9:33 (146)
8:46 (159)
8:46 (159)
8:05 (161)
8:30 (160)
8:31 (163)
8:24 (163)
8:39 (161)
8:50 (166)
9:12 (161)
8:42 (166)
8:45 (168)
8:33 (172)
and a bit (HR avg 174 for last part, 177 at race end)

[Updated: NYRR site says 1:57:27 and 8:57 pace, that sounds about right--the Polar must have a weird algorithm for calculating average pace! And I note that the 9:12 mile later on in the race must be the one where I walked through a water station eating a gel--I wasn't feeling physically overwhelmed, but didn't have the mental fortitude to eat and run and drink at the same time... something to work on...]

Friday, January 25, 2008

A great Friday-morning swim

(But I forgot that we can go all the way till 7:30 on Fridays--I blew my time on swimming, I only had time for 1.5 miles on the treadmill rather than 3, this is not really right--but on the other hand I cannot imagine it makes much difference as far as Sunday's race goes, at least I got a bit of a warmup, I will take tomorrow totally off and have a good lie in tomorrow morning if I can swing it...)

Warmup: 500 free. (No time for the next bit, which was 3 x 100 IM with drill, kick, swim by 100s. But this is a good idea for a warmup.)

Very nice main workout, I liked it. And I got some times on the longer ones, swimming a bit harder than yesterday (I was full of self-reproach for loungeyness and sauntering!) but still very comfortably. So:

400 free (8:02)
4 x 100 IM (last one drill, same below)
2 x 50 fly hard
50 easy swim

300 free (5:56)
3 x 100 IM
2 x 50 back hard
50 easy swim

200 free (3:49)
2 x 100 IM
2 x 50 breast hard
50 easy swim

(And there was one last 100 one too, only by this point I really needed to get a move on, I am barely having time for more than a sip of coffee, though of course I always have time for a blog post!)

(That's all yards not meters of course...)

I felt very strong and steady in the water. Lovely!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Thursday morning swimming

Well, I just like swimming, it was one of those mornings where although I feel I was swimming very slowly it was nonetheless quite lovely... there is something about the particular perfection of the pressure of water on skin that is extremely physiologically enjoyable, makes you feel as though you have dolphin hide instead of regular old human skin, I like it!

Warmup: 300 free, 200 kick

Main set:

Hmmm, let me see if I can reconstruct. Not an exciting one, though definitely enjoyable. I only got partway down the list (team practice started right at 7), I was making a mental note as I left: "Five things, it is only five things, you can remember five things..."

3 x 150 (75 back, 75 free)
4 x 100 free
2 x 200 free
2 x 100 (50 drill, 50 choice: I did catch-up, zipper drill with salute/forehead swipe, fly, back)
2 x 150 (75 breast, 75 free)

Further thoughts:

I think I am swimming more slowly than in the fall! Better, more comfortably, more efficiently, much less gasping for air--but definitely slower, arghhh!

I guess it's partly because I haven't been to Monday-night swimming for while. I've got two sessions already paid for because left over from the last session, but I'm waiting to use them till I can do two weeks in a row, so that will be Feb. 11 and Feb. 18.

Depending on whether I really enjoy those or not, I will sign on for the next session of seven--it is very expensive ($50 a pop, for what's basically just a glorified freestyle workout--it is true it is very good, and very specific to my needs--but it partly only is worth it if I'm slotted in an appropriate lane with people who will push me, I was not enjoying it quite enough in November and December to make it seem worth it), and I am also committed to an early-morning workout schedule that makes swimming in midtown from 7:45-9:15pm on Monday nights a bit of a disaster for my life...

It's partly, I suppose, because of the nature of these morning workouts. I can swim quite a bit faster than I was swimming this morning, only I was splitting the lane (usually there are three of us and I am in the middle speed-wise, today just two and it was less irksome for the faster swimmer and less stressful for me for us to split!) and it leads to me basically ignoring times and just swimming at a comfortable pace.

The sad truth: I used my watch to time myself for the 200s (oh dear, this really is awfully slow, I am ashamed to confess it!), partly because I was pondering Wendy's lovely set of 8 x 200 descending 1-4 and I thought it would be worth getting a baseline super-comfortable time, i.e. time I could swim ten of 'em in a row on not much rest. So (I am dragging my heels on saying it, it is so slow...): 4:14, 4:18. (I was only taking maybe 10 seconds of rest, not a long one.)

I think the pacing was more even than that but that there was some button-pressing that added seconds to the second one. I am having self-reproach for not having swum 'em hard and got those times, because usually we're doing circle swim and not really having any rest, so I have kind of missed my chance.

(But hopefully at one of these Monday-night ones I will get a time for a hard 500--and in fact, now I think about it, probably I really just should do that next sequence of seven this spring, expense be damned, and then drop it after that, this timing would be best for the May race.)

On a brighter note, someone sent a funny e-mail to the CU triathlon team listserv yesterday--obviously kind but thoughtless relatives had given her a lot of triathlon equipment for Xmas that she either had already or did not want!--and for $20 I am going to get a brand-new-in-original-packaging Camel hydration pack. Despite nervousness about biking & bike-related things, anxieties about swim slowness, general mind-blowingness of doing a race that will be more than six hours, etc., really I think the great challenge on this May race is going to be nutrition and hydration (and pacing insofar as it affects those things), and I am set on taking this stuff much more seriously... I do not think I will be a confident enough bike-rider to drink out of bottles while riding, it will be better if I wear the water on my back!

Smog masks

Juliet Macur has an interesting article at the Times about newly designed smog masks for American Olympians in Beijing.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Wednesday-afternoon listing!

1. For some reason I had a peculiarly lovely run this afternoon. Temperature in the high 30s, sunny and crisp and altogether delightful as the sun dropped towards the horizon. In fact though I rather loathe taking pictures (I would rather just be in the moment!) I was thinking strongly of Wendy and having an urge to show her the loveliness of the setting, so I think on some sunny wintry upcoming afternoon run where I have no particular training goals I might actually bring the camera in my pocket and stop a few times to attempt to document the loveliness...

(2. It would be too much to expect, though, to capture on camera a glimpse of the handsome Boat Basin Calico! I did not see her today, but she was looking very sleek the last time I spotted her--she lurks around the tennis courts...)

3. 5.5 miles, HR avg 149, pace average 9:50. For some reason--mental tranquillity?!? hmmm, that might be an overstatement...--I fell into a most comfortable pace and did not depart from it, it was really good. Very even mile splits and HR: 10:04 (142), 9:53 (149), 9:48 (149): 9:39 (151), 9:42 (149), last half mile with ending HR of 150.

4. Then when I got home I did thirty minutes on the trainer. Very easy (I am going to be slow I'm afraid in that race!), trying to keep cadence close to 90. Average HR 129. Bike very creaky-sounding, it is not the chain, something needs oiling and the bike computer is not really working; I will take it in to the shop sometime in the next week or two for minor adjustment.

5. Friday evening is useless for work in any case, I think it is not confidential when I say that I'm interviewing candidates from dawn till dusk (as it were) in my capacity as a member of a subcommittee of this: so I am going to indulge myself and spend an hour or two making a really lovely and elaborate training plan for the race in May...

6. I meant to do a bike-run or run-bike workout yesterday afternoon, but I was quite simply too tired, and common sense kicked in. It is my resolution for 2008--it will sound absurd, but it really is what I need--to skip workouts when necessary. It is clearly counterproductive to do them when absolutely exhausted. For many years I was an only sporadic exerciser and compulsive workaholic. I am in no real danger now of lapsing out of the workout habit--I am too thoroughly triaspirational!--and so it is more important to counteract obsessiveness with moderation than to push myself really hard. This is a tough one, always I want to drive myself into the ground!

7. Doing run-bike instead of bike-run can always be rationalized as a question of making use of daylight hours, but really it is nervousness about trying new things (what if my legs are tired, what if I run out of fuel?) and I must get over it! The days are getting longer, so soon I will have no excuse.

8. Also soon I must start riding my bike outside. It will be fun! (I say weakly... but no, really, it will be fun....)

9. In the meantime, though, I need to get some entertaining DVDs but also some spinervals-type workout DVDs. Probably I can go and rent some at the local video store and wait to purchase till I work out what will suit me. Does anybody who uses that stuff regularly have any recommendations, though? (Spokane Al, I'm lookin' at you!)

10. Re: pacing for Sunday's half-marathon. Seems pretty clear. I'm not sure how my running fitness is these days--haven't really lost any since November, I'd guess, but haven't gained any either--too many weeks where I only ran twice or compromised on length etc., too much exhaustion in December. So: I will be contented with anything sub-2:00. Three obvious goals:
Easy goal: <1:59:07 (Grete's Great Gallop time from October, under impossibly hot and humid conditions--same course, though I'm not sure whether we're clockwise or counter-clockwise this time round--I really should be able to beat this barring unforeseen calamity).

Moderately challenging goal: sub-1:56 (a nice number).

Challenging goal: <1:54:14 (Philadelphia PR from November, but that is a very flat course, so I'm not holding my breath on this one, it will be an honorable result if I run hard and make 1:56:xx, plus those Central Park races always involve losing some time due to crowds at start).

Tomorrow morning I'll swim and do a short bike. Not yet decided whether to do the swim workout Friday--I think I probably will, then just do an easy three miles afterwards--Saturday off--Sunday morning race... Next week is kind of a recovery week and still with pressures of various work stuff, but after that I can seriously start training, very exciting!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Dropping dead

The poetic origins of the modern marathon. (Courtesy of The Dizzies.)

Full text of Browning's "Pheidippides" can be found here.

Tuesday morning swim

It is amazing to me how reliably a good swim workout will dispel feelings of stress and weariness...and it really was a good one today, JB was coaching (though Tuesday is not his usual day) and there was no team practice afterwards so we had a longer than usual one also. Very good!

I will put down the whole workout in all its beauty, though I missed parts here and there due to lateness, slowness, absent-mindedness, etc. (in short, all the ills that swimmers' flesh is heir to--I skipped at least a couple hundred of the free from the warmup, for instance, those distances are really for the fast lanes only):

1000 warmup: 2 x (250 free, 250 as 25 fly, 50 back, 75 breast, 100 IM) (skipped most of the second 250 free, no time)

Set #1: 1 x 25 (fly), 2 x 50 (fly-back), 3 x 75 (fly-back-breast), 4 x 100 (free); then all free 1 x 25, 2 x 50, 3 x 75 plus 4 x 100 IM

Set #2: 9 x 100: 3 x 100 (75 catchup, 25 sprint), 3 x 100 kick (I did dolphin-dolphin-whip-flutter), 3 x 100 pull (25 breast, 25 back, 50 free)

And I had a word with JB beforehand, and it's perfect--he's very busy through Feb. 16, which is kind of my time frame for intense busyness also, so we'll figure out a couple lesson times after that. This is good, for peace of mind I needed to make a move on that and get the ball rolling but really it will make more sense for me not to squeeze it in over the next week or two, I'll be able to pay fuller attention if I can send my book manuscript off first...

(And I've got some good stuff to work on in the meantime--I need to try these couple other masters swim situations--and Wendy gave me a wonderful combination of analysis and drill suggestions on the video from the other day, it is going to be very helpful. This morning for instance I was breathing out rather than holding my breath and it really does make the breathing thing work better! Hmmm....)

Monday, January 21, 2008

"You're not regular!"

Pure bliss. It is true, it is rather decadent, I have just blown several prime morning hours on exercise--but though I have a ton of work I must & will do later, it is a holiday, so it seems at least mildly justified...

A great workout with M. at the gym. For some reason just particularly enjoyable--quite a bit of upper-body stuff that I am going to be regretting at tomorrow morning's swim workout, miscellaneous leg and other stuff that we often do, and then a demonically effective set of core exercises at the end, some new stuff: front plank with elbows on the stability ball and toes on the seat of that pecs/rear delt machine, that is enjoyably challenging; side planks on the ball; and a new exercise M. has been tweaking, it is a good one, it's a crunch variant on the ball that involves bringing up the torso and one leg at the same time...

But the funniest thing was the conversation we had while I was doing some leg stuff on the machines. He was looking kind of sheepish and confessed that the other day one of his clients threw up! It was his third appointment, M. kept asking "OK?" and the guy kept wanting more work, then suddenly it was all over!

(And M. said that the first time he himself worked out with a trainer, he threw up--he'd been working out for six years, he was far from being a newbie, but the trainer wanted to impress M. and M. wanted to impress the trainer and it was an unfortunate combination...)

The guy didn't think it was a big deal, but the good part of the story was that there was a woman watching who just launched into M. She said to him, "I am a mother and a teacher! You were just working him too hard! I've watched you here--you're not regular!"

(M. said she had been recently watching him run six-minute miles on the treadmill! Which caused her to say to him "You're an animal!" Which is not very complimentary, really--he is just very athletic and a hard worker!)

So we had a very funny and enjoyable conversation about this whole notion of "You're not regular!" The thing about fitness is that you can be a very ordinary person and keep working on it and then you're in fact not regular, but it is by work rather than innate talent. (It is true that M. is very genetically gifted also, but insofar as he is not regular it is really by application rather than by magical giftedness!)

Then I did 30 mins. on the bike at home. At first it felt like a foreign object, but I quickly remembered the feel of it--I like this bike, it fits me well, I am going to make this bike thing happen!

I was pondering this morning on the (freezing cold) walk back from the gym that I must just take this race in May very steadily, having mechanical difficulties for instance is the one thing most likely to throw me but that is the mental test, I will have a session soon with that road bike maintenance book spread out in front of me where I approach the question of how to take off the wheels and change tubes...

Sunday, January 20, 2008


video Because I suddenly realized that personal mortification should not prevent me from shamelessly soliciting free advice from various people who actually really know about this stuff! Any thoughts are welcome, especially as to priorities (what to tackle, in what order) and suitable drills...

The horrifying truth...

Well, really I am not a well-informed-enough swimmer even to see the horrible truth in all of its particulars! I have just pasted in a screen capture rather than the full video, it is too awful to contemplate...

On the bright side, the force on each side of my stroke seems relatively symmetrical, the numbers are quite similar and it doesn't look wildly off; on the down side, I definitely can do better on keeping heels close to the surface (but this I feel is quite easily fixable, I don't do badly with this in general), and it is a total disaster with respect to the width of hand entry and the position of the elbows during the stroke!

(I think the numbers also suggested that the pull part of my stroke is much stronger than the push, I will keep focusing on that--we had some useful cues...)

But really and clearly I need to keep my hands on entry much closer to the midline, and then really focus on high elbows throughout!


I think I will never be an elegant swimmer, but certainly I can become a much more effective one...

Just as well I do not really live in the fantastical building-with-all-night-pool-access, or I would be haring off to try some drills right now. If I can squeeze it in, I will go tomorrow evening and do a bit of tinkering if there is a quiet lane at the Columbia pool...

I have e-mailed the CU coach about having a couple of lessons. I think that even though really my job for the next few weeks is to finish book revisions, get classes underway, start biking regularly, not spend excessive amounts of money, generally deal with work and life stuff and stay more or less calm (because it will be a pity to blow the reservoirs of calm associated with my lovely recent vacation), my swimming technique problems really count as an emergency that can't wait!

Time and tide wait for no man...

(I like having a project!)

(Image courtesy of Swimming Technology Research.)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Lovely Saturday run (with a side of bacon)

It was the perfect day for it--sunny, low to mid-30s, and for once in my life I was actually well-rested, it kind of gave me a glimpse of how much my training (my life!) would benefit if I could get more sleep on a regular basis! Bliss!

Ran over to meet training partner L. at Tavern on the Green, then took off north together to do a five-mile-plus clockwise loop. Ran into D. around 86th St.--D. and L. and I were always running as a threesome when we first started with Coach Mindy's advanced beginners group in the summer and fall of 2006, D. is the fastest of us naturally but doesn't mind adjusting for company--and we had a rather lovely and speedy bit over the northern hills (not reflected in my mile splits, but it felt very enjoyable). D. is doing the Manhattan half next weekend, so that will be fun, we will get a bite to eat afterwards...

L. and I peeled off at the 72nd St. transverse and ran back uptown to our preferred brunch spot at 84th and Columbus. I owed her a birthday meal, having had to skip her actual birthday party due to various impossible other obligations--this was unglamorous but delicious, and included a side each of perfectly cooked bacon...

8.78 mi., avg HR 153, avg pace 10:00 (but the distances are running short of reality, I must recalibrate--it was probably nine and a bit really)

10:25 (148), 10:00 (152), 9:29 (152), 10:10 (148), 9:56 (149), 10:00 (155), 9:59 (159), 9:40 (159), plus incomplete ninth mile (156)

Puts me in a frame of mind to race next weekend rather than simply running it! No reason not to--I'll see how it goes--won't beat my Philadelphia time, or even probably come near it, but I might be able to do 1:56ish, we will see.

The Bronx half is only two weeks later, so I'll definitely do that one as a training run. The Brooklyn half is April 26, three weeks and a day before the Florida race, so that will be very decent as one last hard fast long run and then start tapering afterwards. It is a nice thing about the half-marathon distance that you do not really need much recovery time...

Friday, January 18, 2008

Quiet Friday swim

Hmmm, I really am awfully fond of swimming...

Pretty quiet over there at the Columbia pool--some of the time I had a lane to myself, some of the time sharing with someone suitable who I think I have swum with before, then unfortunately some more awkward sharing while I was doing my time trial. Arghhh! Ah well, no big deal, it was more marred by my own lack of concentration and total haphazardness!

I just wanted to get some vague idea of how I would swim on a 1000-yard time trial with splits for the 100s, but I am not used to using my Polar for this, I was completely lame, irregular pacing and absent-minded split-pressing and general half-assedness! However it was rather enjoyable, and I can always try it again properly next week--in any case this gives me some idea.

I warmed up with 250-300 easy swim.

Then I did 5 x 100 IM (I am still just excited that I can swim 100 IM, this is ridiculously enjoyable!).

Then I did my time trial, details follow below.

Then I did 4 x 50 fly down breast back, and then a 50 of back, and then I called it a night...

OK, so here goes, I did not do a very good job with pacing or button-pressing! I have adjusted the ones where obviously I did 150 instead of 100 by adding in the time for the 50 as though the 100 was the same speed as the one before (which is not a foregone conclusion, I was all over the place--I think I could swim 1000 at the pace I started at, but I realized partway through it would be more sensible to concentrate on form and that my fumbling at lap-end with buttons and attempts to see what lap I was on was messing up times in any case, so by the end I was swimming at a pace I feel I could maintain comfortably for a very long time...)

(2:01 + 1:01)
(2:06 + 1:04)
(2:06 + 1:06)

So 1050 in other words; can you believe that three times I only pressed at 150 instead of 100?!?

I think 2:00/100 will be a quite reasonable goal pace to think of for now, maybe a bit slower if my technique does not really improve but it should be that I can get up to speed on that, I've got a lot of months of training still--and really of course all this is to say that I took the plunge and registered for Florida 70.3!

I've got some work stuff I've got to clear in the next couple weeks before I can indulge myself in putting together a fantastically detailed and somewhat stringent yet also intensely sensible and non-injury-tempting training plan; the thing to do in the meantime is just start putting in a bit of time on the bike. (The bike is the huge challenge, I've got my work cut out for me...) But this really is going to be fun...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Thursday evening workout

And a very good one too--I was all springy and well-rested, it was slightly amazing...

I meant to do three treadmill miles afterwards, but even on the way over there it was clear it wasn't going to happen, I was having a fueling issue (ate lunch early, had a Clif bar at 4 because I was starving, at 5 realized I was still starving but it was not the moment to find anything suitable to eat, and by the time I could have it was 6 and too close to the appointed workout for me to figure out anything--made it through the workout OK but there was no way it was sensible to do more, I really needed to eat at that point).

And then on my walk home I was thinking--hmmm, interesting, I am much more sensible when I am calm and well-rested from having been on vacation!

It is true that the little voice in my head is saying That is very bad, you have not been running enough at all these last weeks, you really needed those miles, but it is a quiet little voice and the calm voice of reason is all, like, No! Be sensible, go home and eat nutritious dinner!

And similarly I have already decided I am skipping the swim workout at 6am tomorrow. I need sleep, because I need to work productively and calmly and hard over the next couple weeks--I will do a quiet swim in the evening instead, the pool shouldn't be crowded (term hasn't started yet).

And anyway, that swim clinic really showed me--as if I didn't know it already!--that my swim technique is in far more urgent need of improvement than my swim conditioning!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A wild idea...

So as I met one after another of my lovely host Brent's triathlete comrades, and as every collegial little subgroup of triathletes consulted with great excitement about the latest projected tally of Grand Cayman triathletes racing the Florida Half Ironman in May (22+!), I slowly became consumed with the idea of how much I would like to do it myself--and that really there is nothing stopping me!

I must ponder it this weekend, but I think I am going to do it.

I vaguely conclude that it is mildly financially imprudent but not excessively so, that I can train in a sensible way that will not be likely to lead to overtraining or injury and that really it is almost the only thing that is going to get me properly on the bike in the right time frame!

Also it is a good way of sort of tricking myself into having only very moderate expectations of myself. It is soon to do a race of this length, so I will approach it as a lovely day of adventure, pace very easily on swim and bike and just try to set myself up for an enjoyable run about one minute per mile slower than my usual half-marathon pace.

Exciting to contemplate! More details to follow, once I have properly decided, but I am strongly leaning in this direction...

Quickie sea swim

Really just enough to get wet (the water is so clear, it's amazing, makes me nervous I am going to, like, step on a fish and hurt it when I get upright to get out of the water!)--my one regret about this past week is that I did not swim nearly enough in the sea...

Now I must pack & get ready to reimmerse in normal non-lizard-accompanied life...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What I did on my vacation...

Not in the least triaspirational--but more suitable here than at the main blog!

Today I saw the most amazing thing--at the Botanic Park--BLUE IGUANAS--huge--and lots of 'em!

(But it gave me cause to think what a pity it is that we do not live on a planet where there are lots of ten-foot-long lizards prowling the streets of major cities...)

My photo-taking is at a very inferior level, you will get better pictures if you click through onto that website, but here's a tiny taste of it:

Monday, January 14, 2008

Evening swim


250 warmup

6 x 100 (25 kick, 25 pull, 50 swim)
4 x 100 (25 head up, 25 catchup, 25 one arm, 25 swim)
4 x 100 (25 fast, 25 easy, 25 no air, 25 swim)

200 cooldown

Warm gym workout

It was a good one, though.

I spent about 80% of the day in an annoying but familiar mode--vaguely trying to write/edit--but really spending more time having thoughts along the lines of Hmmmm, I might be able to ponder this better if I just close my eyes for a few minutes--and generally feeling wasteful and inefficient with time. But finally around three I mentally pulled myself together, finished the day's allotted task and made it over to the gym next door.

Nothing special: 10 minutes bike warmup, 20 minutes core, three treadmill miles. But very pleasant--and now I have just had the childish but delicious sustenance of a strawberry jam sandwich, because the swim workout starts at 6:15--perhaps I had better go and eat an orange too, that will be pleasantly digestible...

(Why does it sometimes take a whole day to write a couple paragraphs and move a couple other ones around?!? At other times I am capable of maniacal productivity and can sit down and write several thousand words in a couple morning hours--today was most certainly not one of those days...)

Jelly babies

A great story about the Scottish woman who's just broken the women's record in the Everest Marathon.

(Thanks to Craig for the link. Here were some thoughts on fell-running at my other blog, after reading Richard Askwith's excellent Feet in the Clouds.)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Swim clinic! (updated...)

Well, if you had told me a year ago I'd be posting a picture on my blog of myself in a bathing suit, I would have been very dubious--but anything in the aid of triaspirationalism!


It has just been a super-illuminating and enjoyable day, really fascinating...

We went to the Swimming Technology Research clinic and it was rather fabulously good--the funniest parts were when the real live swim guru (he cited his teacher "Doc" Counsilmann, my favorite!--and it must also be noted that a fellow in the next lane commented upon his resemblance to Clint Eastwood--"that fellow in the westerns"--but I would have said Nick Nolte...) very solemnly talked about why it is better to learn from looking at MONA than from a Human Swimmer, even an Olympian--but the drills in the pool were excellent, and the combination of video and data analysis really useful.

(I've got the disk, I'm going to ponder it... I think I can't be bothered right now to upload the file and paste an image or two onto the blog, maybe I'll save that for some day when I can't swim and need something mildly interesting and swimming-related to blog about here!)

The main things I learned I knew already, but it is remarkably effectual to hear and see them so effectively confirmed from the outside--it gives me a very clear sense of what to work on.

First of all, and this has been true every time I've seen even a tiny little non-underwater clip of myself swimming, my arm entry is absurdly far outside my shoulders, this is incredibly inefficient!

(But in other respects I can see a great deal of improvement since the last freestyle video I looked at, maybe in June--my body position and rotation is definitely better.)

Second of all, and as a consequence of the first thing, I think I'm correct in my intuition that I am more urgently in need of a technique breakthrough than improved conditioning. I often have the feeling that based on my current level of strength and conditioning, and on the amount of time each week I spend swimming, I should be able to swim considerably faster than I do at the same effort levels.

(Maybe a better way to describe it is that I swim at perfectly reasonable speeds, given that I'm quite new to the sport, but with considerably higher effort levels than the more experienced swimmers around me--I am pretty strong, my aerobic conditioning both swimming-specific and non-is quite good, I am capable of working very hard, but really I'm working excessively hard to make up for weaknesses in technique. Which sort of describes my approach to life more generally, I always think that dumping huge amounts of excess energy and work into a situation will make things better, it often does but it is a spendthrift approach, it would serve me well to become more parsimonious!)

So this is the one big technique thing to work on. I should have a couple lessons with I. once she's back teaching again (or with Jim Bolster in the meantime, I bet he could fit me in for a couple later this month) where I just concentrate on freestyle stuff again--it wasn't bad that I spent all my lesson time working on the other strokes, I made considerable progress with those, but now it's time to start really paying attention to freestyle technique. I can't say I am convinced it is going to come in the next month or two, but I do feel that perhaps over the next four or five months I will finally make some technique stuff happen that should make me able to swim quite a lot faster...

And now--pictures!

Hands up!

The technology...
And finally, the view from the condo balcony--quite lovely...

(Updated to reflect appropriate photo credit--all pictures courtesy of Brent--because I am far too lazy to take any myself! He also points out that the balcony one may not reflect the current state of the foliage...)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Enjoyable Saturday run

6 miles, appropriate effort level--not especially fast, but hard enough effort to be super-enjoyable by the end. Perfectly timed to catch the last of the evening light...


Well, it was pretty much as great as I'd hoped, only better because really I never swam in a sea like this before!

(Hmmm, remembering childhood swims at North Berwick--it is lovely there--but freezing!--more like where you go paddling in the water up to mid-thigh but still with a sweater on, even in August...--my brothers and I were fairly hardy, we did have some teeth-chattering swims now and again, it was a ritual requirement of visiting grandparents at the seaside, but that beach really was the kind where you have to have a windbreak up if you want to sit outside on it and read a book!)

Not a long swim, maybe three quarters of a mile, but quite, quite lovely. (But I have to practice this thing of rolling my head back into the water after poking it up to see where I'm going...) The water is so clear, and you can see the most amazing things--just beautiful...

(Here's where we swam from--if you poke around on the site, there are some pictures...)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Blissful Friday afternoon workout

I fear it will sound annoyingly like gloating, but I am having the most idyllic day...

First I got a modest but respectable amount of work done while wasting enjoyably lavish amounts of time on the internet.

(I've finished the first full pass through the book manuscript I'm revising--this sounds like more work than it actually was, since it really unfortunately just involved me making mental and actual marginal notes as to what needs to be done. The real work still remains. But now I can go back and properly plunge into the first section--this is good...)

Then I went to the gym and had a super-enjoyable workout. 10 minutes warmup on the bike, then a bunch of core stuff (for some reason I really like doing that stuff, even though I have little patience for the other gym stuff--I am happy to report that the next-day verdict on the swimming injury is definitely "bruised" not "broken," but it is still sore enough that I rationalized not doing any shoulder presses or anything like that, slightly painful to close my grip around anything still, including a toothbrush or a door handle!). So lots of planks and pushups and suchlike. Then three treadmill miles, very good, I do after all have that half-marathon coming up not very long from now, and finally a quick dip in the pool, just ten minutes or so, to remind myself of how to do breaststroke and do a couple lengths of stroke drills...

(Sorely needed, at this point! I feel I lost technique almost as much or more than fitness over that break...)

But the most exciting thing today is still to come--a swim in the sea!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Lovely Thursday swimming

Very enjoyable...

300 or so warmup (it is post-holiday layoff, everyone is hanging around at the end of the lane and pondering their lack of fitness, we had some long rests between repeats too!).

4 x 150 (25 kick, 50 pull, 75 swim)
4 x 100 (25 catchup + 25 swim x 2)
3 x 100 (25 kick underwater, 75 swim)
200 cooldown (I did 3 x breast down fly back, and then a couple lengths of backstroke at the end--I am afraid I am going to forget how to do those other strokes if I don't start doing 'em again properly in the near future!)

Swimming is the best thing...

[Ed. Swimming is the best thing, except that I always want more of it--I'm all, like, now I want the second hour! Swimming is also the best thing, except that entirely through my own fault--drifting to center, still not used to swimming clockwise rather than counterclockwise in the lane--I whacked someone with my hand, I hope they are not horribly injured, presumably someone would have said something if genuinely damaged, but I am still trying to decide whether the relevant part of my hand is just bruised or perhaps actually broken! Fortunately it does not hurt when it's in a relaxed position, just when I try and close my hand into a fist... Hmmm, I think it's a bit better, will hope for further improvement tomorrow...]

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Lovely evening run

Very flat, and very dark once the sun had fully set--so dark I hardly could see! Generally glasses really improve my not particularly good night vision, but the glare off lights in the distance rendered them worse than useless, I belatedly realized that I could see the road surface and the oncoming terrain much better without 'em...

5.93 mi., 10:56 average pace, slightly stymied as to how to get average HR for the entire run directly off the wrist monitor (I am not quite so far gone in obsessiveness as to bring the microphone for the evil SonicLink feature on vacation with me) but going up from low 140s average for first couple miles to low 150s for the last.

Most enjoyable...

Davy Jones's locker

It is not strictly speaking triaspirational, but as it involves water we will make an exception...

I actually went for a dive today! The wreck of the Cali...

Hmmm, very beautiful down there, one huge amazing school of fish that took up cubic footage sort of the size of an auditorium, lots of very beautiful things swimming around that made me feel vaguely remorseful about how fond I am of sushi (we had some very good sushi last night).

I really am on vacation, it is quite surprising and delightful to me!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Monday-night swimming

And it was good, too--I have really been missing that swimming fix...

It was a very straightforward workout--so straightforward that I have rather forgotten the details!

(Hmmm, shortsightedness, can't really see what's written on the board without glasses--and then somehow I find it much harder to remember afterwards if I didn't mentally process in a coherent and conceptual way.)

Let's say 250 warmup, 6 x 100 straight free (25 easy, 75 strong), 4 x 100 drill (25 head up, 25 catch-up, 25 kick six times and then stroke, 25 swim), 4 x 100 first 25 underwater (which I can only do about HALF of--but I followed Wendy's advice about properly facing the bottom of the pool and certainly found myself with less of a tendency to veer upwards, at least until the point where I suddenly popped up through water that felt as thick as pudding) then 75 swim.

I was stymied at the beginning by something I completely didn't think of--I am in the Cayman Islands, they drive on the other side of the road, they do circle swim in the other direction too! This is all very well and good, but it renders useless my by-now-adequately-fast open turn with right hand touching--I was still fumbling at the end of practice to do it the other way round with left hand touching, I must ponder that one...

Given the turn issue and the relative lack of swimming in the last couple weeks, I found myself a bit awkwardly between groups: a little too fast for the fastest beginners' lane, but not really fast enough for the slower intermediate. After the first two hundreds, I switched up and did the next four with the faster ones and then also the first two drills sets--but I was working absurdly hard, it was time to switch back. If this were my regular swim workout, I would doggedly work to get fast enough to be the back person in that lane, it's a stretch but perhaps doable--maybe on Thursday I will do some of the initial stuff with them again before switching back to the slower one...

(Because the thing is that everyone is incredibly nice, about a hundred times nicer than at either of the swim workouts I go to in NY! At each of those there are one or two reasonably friendly people, and after many months you get people becoming more civil, but NY swimming is singularly unwelcoming, I cannot say I quite recommend it!)

(Here's the swim club site, and here's the coach's wikipedia bio--interesting. Mmmmm--french fries... Thanks to Brent for inviting me!)

Slightly intractable sleeplessness situation, it is true it was rather early when I first tried but I was so knackered it seemed advisable--not! But I am going to make a second stab at it shortly, once I read some more pages of a trashy novel...

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Long run

Enjoyable, but hard work: harder (mentally and physically) than I quite imagined. A host of factors, I think:

- haven't really been running enough during the week to justify twelve-mile weekend run

- coming off several weeks of truly massive and out-of-control stress and sleeplessness (i.e. have already dug excessively deep on stamina reserves)

- possibly underfueled (I find these mid-afternoon runs tricky to eat for properly, I did have breakfast and snack and lunch so it seemed plausibly OK but in practice perhaps not quite enough--maybe 950-1000 calories? I took a gel around mile 9 and definitely felt more energetic for miles 11 and 12--but perhaps that was just the scent of home...)

- and I suppose I have not really done that many 12-mile runs in my life, usually I do them with other people, conversation makes the time go by quickly!

However I did like it very much--and I am after all doing a half-marathon in three weeks (a hilly Central Park one...) so it was important to get in a good one this weekend...

Annoyingly the HR function was completely out of whack, I was getting totally implausibly high numbers (like 117% of HRmax) and had to ignore it! I went on subjective pace, which really I can do perfectly well now, only there's a tendency to creep up in speed--I think I went about 10-20 seconds per mile faster than I really am aiming for on these long ones.

12.17 miles, avg pace 10:00. Mile splits: 10:34, 10:12, 9:38, 10:12, 9:33, 9:56, 9:42, 10, 9:40, 9:48, 9:45, 10:25. (And a bit.)

(The first and last miles are slower because I'm running on city blocks rather than in the park--flat but full of interruptions...)

I must see if I can dig out the warranty on this Polar device and see if anything can be done, it is fine not having HR now and then but really I need it to work properly--I wonder if the problem is that I quite often wear it to swim, in theory it is waterproof to something like 2 meters but in practice perhaps not...

Now I have to go and do things to get ready for my trip to a tropical island paradise!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Quick afternoon run

Almost talked myself out of it due to time pressure and troublesomeness of showering, but I am glad I went out anyway: 3.18 mi., HR avg 155, 9:22 average speed, definitely under 8:00 pace for the last three quarters of a mile or so.

(I need more run frequency, which will mean doing short ones like this where I can fit them in. It is pure foolishness to think a three-mile run is not worth bothering with, that's a very reasonable distance for a fourth and fifth run in the week, which are the ones I have not yet systematically been able to build in.)

(And now I really must go or I will be late!)

Friday morning swim

Well, as far as sleep goes, I was hoping for "lavish and restorative 9" but what I got was "restless though adequate 6." I did not set the alarm, but it was clear at 5:15 that I was not going back to sleep any time soon and that really I should just get up and go to the swim workout, and I am so glad I did, because swimming has an amazing effect of giving me the sense that all is right with the world....

(I am neither deluded nor narcissistic, it does not rationally persuade me that all is right with the world in defiance of all common sense and what I read in the newspapers, it is just a physiological phenomenon--but a very enjoyable one!)

Warmup: 400 swim, 200 kick, 200 pull with fourth 25 non-free.

Main set: 3 x 200 free; 6 x 25 (2 drill, 1 build, 1 strong, 2 choice i.e. non-free); 4 x 150 IM (doubling up on back and free; I did 100 for the fourth one to catch back up with the faster swimmer in the lane); 6 x 25 same as above; 5 x 100 free.

I felt very slow (and I must confess I did the last 5 100s on 2:05, that is slower than I should be doing!), and my form on the freestyle stroke has suffered from not having had Monday-night technique work for a number of weeks now, but really it was just fine...

I was thinking a lot during the workout about one unfortunate aspect of swimming versus running. I think the problem is that because the technical barriers to entry on swimming are so much higher, the skill level at this sort of workout is dauntingly high. I am basically the slowest swimmer who's actually doing the workout (there's one woman who's often there who's a hair slower--she is also probably at least thirty years older than me...--and then there are three or four people in lane 8 who are for one reason or another [i.e. health or lack of knowledge of other strokes] doing a modified workout).

There's no problem with this, I'm new to it and I'm resigned in any case to being fairly slow, but I feel that my swimming and running are in many respects very commensurate with one another--or rather, let's say that I'm a better runner than swimmer but that's because running is technically completely undemanding! But in most of the settings in which I run, I would be one of the medium-to-faster female runners. But in these swim contexts I am terribly slow...

So that the difficulty with these masters swim workouts is that it's the equivalent of me, say, doing track workouts with one of the really fast local running clubs (like the Central Park Track Club). It is good to challenge yourself, but it is not good to put yourself in a setting where you're much, much slower than everyone else. Hmmm--I guess I will just have to get to be a rather better swimmer, and then it won't be so much of a problem...

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Thursday gym workout

I had a good one this morning with M. I did get a couple more hours of sleep, not enough but I felt significantly more human than I did in the middle of the night, and we had a solid session that brought me more or less back to my right mind. Those pushups with kickbacks are evilly good!

I had thought of swimming this evening, only I've been out all day and it's so cold outside that I am not sure I can quite face going back out. Work and life stuff at home perhaps more pressing...

No Thursday swim

And it is a pity, because I have been looking forward to it all week, but sleeplessness has had me up again at 4am after a criminally small number of hours in bed, and it is clearly more important even than my lovely cheerfulness-inducing Thursday-morning swim workout to try and get another few hours before what is unfortunately going to be a fairly long and demanding day of stuff.

I have just been wrestling with the choice for half an hour (this mental wrestling is a great part of the sleep problem!), but I have already lost so much sleep in the last week and a half that I think that I will possibly not be able to survive today without the extra two and a half hours I must try to eke out now!

Hmmm, I hope I can actually get back to sleep, though... I suppose I must take the attitude that hours lying down that are not in actual mental turmoil count as rest also...

It is my main resolution for 2008 to improve this sleep situation, but in the short term it's difficult to know quite what to do about it!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Evening swim

Thank goodness that pool is open again! I must make better plans for next December, if I had put something better in place I could at least have had two or three good swims, I have really missed it...

I am in a state of utter tiredness, it's a minor disaster...

I had a really nice half-hour swim. Just was a bit late getting over there, they close at 9:30 sharp--and I brought my running stuff, I thought I would do a couple of treadmill miles afterwards, only the thing about swimming is that it is good for the sanity as well as the physical health--about ten minutes in, I suddenly thought, "Am I crazy?!? I just need to calm down! And it is after nine o'clock and I still have not eaten dinner and really I shouldn't go and run after this, it's stupid..."

500 warmup easy free, 5 x 50 fly down breast back, 5 x 100 with odds IM and evens free. Oh, it was so nice! Though I fear it was one of those swims where I mainly thought about how much improvement I have ahead of me as a swimmer....