Monday, March 31, 2008

Monday gym

Good solid workout with M. I told him we had to lay off on the leg stuff today to allow yesterday's training to sink in properly! Upper-body stuff rather strenuous on the muscles, but very enjoyable...

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sunday trainer ride

Hmmm, I fear I am going to be terribly underprepared for this race...

I am glad to have the cycle computer working, it is particularly helpful for tracking cadence, pedaling form/efficiency and thinking about benefits and costs of pedaling in different gears. But it is going to be a very long, slow ride, I'm afraid!

So I went this afternoon and bought the first season of Buffy on DVD (amazingly I never have seen a single episode of this show, I am TV-deprived!) and just watched the first four episodes. Three hours on the trainer, at a steady and comfortable pace.

(Have not mastered workings of computer, so cannot tell you average speed for entire ride, but it was I suppose for the most part in the 14s and 15s--easier to keep in 15s if I really concentrated on pedal stroke--and then sometimes in the 13s or briefly the 16s-17s, but the latter only with more effort than I could sustain for a long ride like that at this point.)

HR avg 125--I had thought I would be able to get it steadily higher than this, and I had about ten minutes at the end where I held it in the low 140s and thought about what it felt like (I think on some of those Spinervals workouts I've seen it spike up into the low 160s, but in general it's really noticeably quite a bit lower than run HRs). But really I need more cycling fitness before I can cycle at a higher heartrate, if that makes sense. It would make my legs more tired than is appropriate!

Some pondering (and some pestering!) will be in order re: training tactics. Race is seven weeks from today, call it five weeks of serious training (but with appropriate rest/recovery time), one week of serious taper and one week of further taper/travel. I will have to think about how to get the best bang for the buck out of my remaining training time without overdoing it.

I need to build cycling endurance, strength/speed and road comfort. As many as possible of the long rides should be done in Central Park, but a medium-length park ride and a long trainer ride is often going to be a more convenient or manageable weekly combination than necessarily having the long one properly in the park.

In the repertoire: Spinervals workouts (interval training, high-intensity, builds strength); timid tooling-around rides in Riverside Park (builds confidence in non-scary way, good place to practice various technical stuff, also it's right next door); rides in Central Park (most like real riding--got to get a grip on myself and get comfortable riding bike over there rather than walking it, middle ground would be to ride over in sneakers and then change into bike shoes once I'm there, that I actually think I could handle... it is specter of tipping over at stop light while clipped in that is mentally holding me back!).

It's good that I'm doing this race. The New York City Tri in July is going to be very daunting--I have heard somewhat intimidating accounts of the bike component (sharp turns, fast riding, accident-prone) and that whole race wouldn't have been a good one to do as my first. (People in NY are often very unfriendly, too!) This one is going to be much less daunting in terms of scariness, though it is going to require a large amount of persistence and common sense to make it to the end in a happy frame of mind!

(I am just checking the race website to look at cutoff times and see if there is any danger that I will not have enough time! But no, surely it will be all right, even if I am one of the slowest riders there. Swim cut-off is 1 hr 20 mins after start of last wave, and bike cut-off four hours after that, so really even if the ride takes me an entire four hours which I rather think it will, I should be OK, and my running will be proportionately considerably faster than my riding so I should not have a problem with cut-offs on the last part.)

It will be interesting to see how it goes...

Addendum. Some consultation of last year's race results, sorted by total bike time, suggests to me that it is actually highly improbable that I will not be able to achieve even in a worst-case scenario a 3:30 bike time/16.0mph-type pace. The people riding at that speed are all running very, very slowly--maybe, really, I will be able to ride considerably better in a race situation and by six or seven weeks from now? This was definitely a zone 1/bottom zone 2 ride, if I can push up fitness so that I can stay more solidly in a zone 2 kind of feeling then I will be OK...

Great Sunday-morning run

And may I just say that I was very, very glad not to be doing the Scotland 10K? There were bagpipes, there were runners with Scottish flags painted on their cheeks, I felt approval (I am half Scottish!) but also great relief that I was not going to run a very hard race (a hilly 10K like that is pretty brutal) in horrible crowds of people that would give me fits of misanthropy!

Ran over to meet S. at Runners Grove, then we did almost the whole loop (stopped a little early to avoid crowds at start--they were just about to go off as we were finishing up). I did the whole run rather harder than I imagined--I was five minutes late leaving the house, left only 30 instead of 35 minutes to get over, so I was feeling a little more time pressure than is really enjoyable. And then S. is naturally a considerably faster runner than I am, as I often have cause to observe! Really our paces would match better if I combined my tempo run with some piece of his long run, only I am doing longer training than he is, so I really was working hard!

(This is good. I want to pick up a bit of speed again for the Brooklyn half and for summer running, and it just won't happen if I keep doing most of my runs by myself at comfortable paces. I'm doing relatively low mileage, and that will continue because of triathlon obligations, so I really need to bump up the speeds on a couple runs each week if I am going to make my goals.)

First leg (116th St. to Tavern on the Green): 3.06 miles, avg pace 10:10, avg HR 156, max HR 169

Main circuit: 5.75 miles, avg pace 8:57, avg HR 162 (that is pretty close to half-marathon race pace), max HR 176

Call it 9 miles--that's very decent, I think. It is pretty freezing here, I am actually going to do my long bike ride later on inside, and just make sure that I get outside on the bike even if only for half an hour of easy tooling around every day this week...

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Saturday swim

It hasn't been a good week so far for training--everything I've done I've enjoyed, that is, but with a heavy work schedule and the bike out of my hands I've done way fewer hours than I hoped. I just picked up the bike from the shop, and I hope tomorrow will include two good long sessions (run in the morning with S., later-afternoon bike)--I think I should make the bike the total priority over the next five days, and I also think I should count my recovery week from next Friday to the Friday after, to respond to various schedule issues...

A very solid swim this afternoon. I knew I could only stay till 5, so I got there some minutes earlier and practiced somersaulting before we got started with masters swim. I did flip turns on absolutely all the freestyle bits, and though they continue to be slightly horrible (actually quite horrible!) I am making minor improvements. The tuck is happening, a bit, though I'm still mostly coming off much too deep. I am never going to learn them properly if I don't do them...


400 choice (I did 200 free, 100 back, 100 fly down-breast back)

4 x 100 as 25 kick 50 drill 25 swim (I did each stroke in IM order--NB this is a good warmup, I noticed the benefit on the stroke lengths later on)

Main set:

In theory the long freestyle segments were to be done descending, but because I was doing turns, I just did them all at the same fairly comfortable pace.

250 free

2 x 100 IM on 2:15

250 free

4 x 50 1 each stroke on 1:15

250 free

2 x 100 IM on 2:15 (in theory on 2:10, but that is as fast as I can do!)

250 free

4 x 50 each stroke on 1:15 (ditto re: 1:10!)

Then I left to go to the CU triathlon club clinic on transitions. Partly it is moot because I have been obsessively reading triathlon-related stuff for the last year and know a lot of it (in theory at least!) already, partly it is moot because the advice is geared towards the very fast young fellows getting ready for the (Olympic-distance) Collegiate Nationals in Tuscaloosa in April and not towards longer-course racing (i.e. no socks on run--that is never going to be me, neither do I imagine that I will ever have my shoes clipped onto the pedals and be scrambling to get feet strapped in once I am actually riding!), but it still seemed to me very worthwhile--interesting to reflect on this stuff.

Total yards: 2600 (hmmm, that's respectable I think...)

Really I should be able to find this out myself, but perhaps it will be as well to ask those better-informed than I--how does the 1.2-mile swim distance for the 70.3 translate into yards and meters?!? I assume it is regular rather than swimmers' mile, a slightly confusing distinction, which would make it 2112 yards (84.5 lengths in the Columbia pool) or 1931 meters (39 lengths in the 50-meter pool at Riverbank)? Somebody put me right, please, if this is wrong! I must have at least once where I go and do the distance as a straight swim, might be less insanity-inducing to go up to Riverbank for that...

(Swim pacing will be on effort rather than time, but I am guessing it will come out around 2:05-2:10/100 yards based on rough impressions of pool swimming paces, so call it c. 45 minutes? Shouldn't be much more or less.)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thursday swim

A mentally tough week, due to some combination of work stress (this time of year is very busy in the academic world, lots of evening obligations!), general tiredness and lack of time for training.

(I still haven't picked up my bike from the store post tune-up! It was briefly a relief to have it out of the house, then a stressor!)

But I had a super-enjoyable swim this evening. Not a serious workout in any sense, but I felt like I was thinking fairly sensibly and making good choices.

(It is so hard, though, to know whether an easy workout comes via common sense or via rationalization!)

So... swimming thoughts.

1. I love swimming! I haven't swum since Saturday, since I had a Tuesday work conflict with masters swim and I am very busy right now with one thing and another and lane swim hours are highly restricted and horribly crowded and generally kind of impossible. But I really feel I can hardly afford to have four no-swim days in a row, it is so beneficial for my mental health. I must revisit the notion of a quick half-hour swim in the last half-hour the pool is open during the evening (i.e. sort of 8:55-9:30pm) on a day I can't otherwise swim. Masters swim is very frustratingly scheduled Tues-Thurs-Fri-Sat so that missing Tuesday really seems awful! Very bunched-up in the week...

2. It is not rationalization to say that at this juncture I can either work on freestyle technique or on flip turns but not both at the same time. My stroke feels radically different after last week's technique work, it is exciting to me! It is Rod Havriluk by other means--the coach who was filling in last week had a totally different vocabulary and set of priorities, but in retrospect it gives me a new and more vivid understanding of the Havriluk MONA cues from the January clinic and what I learned there.

3. So: what? Well, all fairly idiotish obvious things I should have known already, only the thing about swimming is that there are so many different things to think about that it is easy to forget the obvious! If I boil it down...

Serious streamline off the wall. Good-quality kick using actual muscles and getting some real speed. Really streamline arms (with hands locked together) and tighten core muscles and keep legs together--it will sound absurd, but I think I really just forgot about all this for some months, I am sure my legs were just hanging around any old way! Amazing how much faster and stronger this feels.

Serious body rotation, also with a view to streamlining and maximizing pull.
Cue: think of ear going to bicep on each side and on every stroke. Concentrate especially on the non-breathing side (and it is striking to me both how much more--well, symmetrical would be an exaggeration--but near-symmetrical this makes my stroke, and also how much more easily I can contemplate bilateral breathing when I'm doing the stroke in this way). Really turn onto the side and get a good strong pull--I am feeling the catch much better on both sides, but especially and strikingly on the left-hand non-breathing side...

(I must say I thought it was feeling very good, considerably more powerful and with less effort.)

I did the warmup: 200 choice (I did 100 free and 100 IM), 150 free drill (50 right arm, 50 left arm--serious drown-thinking during that stretch!--50 catchup), 200 build free, 150 free drill (in theory as above, but I cheated and did 100 thumbsies-salute instead of evil right-arm left-arm thing), 200 build free.

I did the first mini-set: 6 x 75 as 25 kick/50 build, 25 with first half fast, with 10 seconds rest after the 75 and 5 seconds after the 25.

And then I withdrew myself from the workout and spent the last fifteen minutes practicing somersaulting with floaty devices of one kind or another and really thinking about turns. I am a slow learner on this stuff, I get places pretty well and in a pretty timely manner when it comes down to it but only by extreme dedication and diligence rather than quickness of apprehension. I decided to resign myself to it, there is no point wishing oneself otherwise...

I couldn't really figure out how to use the kickboards for floatishness, but a pair of pull buoys worked pretty well. I turned over and over, and started to get a better feel for it--at any rate this was the first time when I really could say that I felt my feet fly up into the air in that obnoxiously and ostentatiously kickish way the natural-born flip-turner achieves! And then I did some slow lengths with turns, and it is starting to come together. Coach Amy was watching & helpfully observed at the end that it seemed like I didn't really have much of a tuck, so that I went over OK and then slowed almost to a standstill once upside-down. This will be the next bit to weave in, but it is fine if it only comes slowly, I will get there in a little while...

(Can't swim tomorrow. I am thinking on Saturday that I'll go fifteen minutes early and do my somersaulting during the last bit of open lane swim, then just do an hour workout rather than 90 minutes--because there is a transition clinic organized by the CU triathlon club at 5, and it seems to me I might benefit more from this than from mildly increased swimming fitness! My bike time is going to be very slow--I have not had a good week bike-wise, it is just full of mental obstacles for me. But I think I should be able to get mentally organized so as to have a very minimalist set of tasks to accomplish in transition--mission for next week's triathlon-related shopping is to get a new pair of goggles or two, since the seal on the ones I've been using is definitely going, and also a pair or two of really good triathlon shorts that I can wear for training and will be comfortable for the entire race. I have already tested out various crucial garments and the plan is in the early stages of coming together...)

Addendum. Total yards: only a meager 1500 plus a couple hundred more plus turning practice, but more to the point than obsessing about yardage...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wednesday run

3.5 miles easy. It finally seems like spring outside--lovely...

(Due entirely to my own time mismanagement, I didn't pick up the bike this afternoon from the store. It will have to be tomorrow, and I will fit in as long a ride as I can--Friday is going to have to be a day off due to work commitments.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Unwanted day off from training. No time to fit in a swim. Evening work commitments today and Friday rule out masters swim, and I won't be able to squeeze a quick one in tomorrow, either, because of this. Despair!

Ah well, I will swim Thursday and Saturday, that will have to be enough for this week--and with the bicycle out of my hands there really is no way to do anything about that. Oh dear--this time of the school year is difficult...

Monday, March 24, 2008

Monday run

in three segments.

Part I: Over to park, then south along the main loop. Leg muscles all rather stiff and tired; couldn't seem to warm up. (This morning's workout, Saturday's bike ride or some combination thereof?) Decided to do middle loop only; stopped at Boathouse to use bathroom and accidentally stopped watch also.

Part II: Miraculously, legs felt great when I started up again! Reminder: sometimes it takes as long as thirty-five minutes to get going properly, don't be alarmed. Ran back uptown and over the 102nd St. transverse en route to LBS to pick up bike.

Part III: Bike has not yet received tuneup. Will get it Wednesday instead. Meanwhile, no bike ride tomorrow am--which means I might be able to squeeze in a short technique swim during midday lane swim hours tomorrow, if I get up early to do class prep. Ran the rest of the way home from the store.

6.78 miles total, 70:07 total run time (10:something pace, faster for second leg than for others). Second half super-enjoyable, first half not so much...

Monday gym

A very good one with M. These Monday sessions have the most unfailingly positive effect on my mood--it is strange, I do not have much of an impulse to make it to the gym on my own, but I very much like all the stuff I do there, and of course it makes it all very pleasant and easy having somebody concentrating so hard on getting you to do stuff. I guess it's just that it doesn't really have a hold on my imagination--triathlon training is another story!

A lot of good regular stuff (planks, pushups, a good V-raise variant, the usual kind of combinations of upper- and lower-body exercises), plus one quite evil new one I had not done before. You stand on one leg, holding a medicine ball in both hands, then lean forward (chest up) as you extend the other leg behind you.

(JMD: "A yoga-type lady would have her leg really straight and horizontal to the ground." M.: "Yep.")

Then you raise and lower the ball, then return to a standing position but without touching the foot to the ground. We were doing 2 x only through most of the stuff today, but I had to plead for a third round of these ones, they were so delightfully evil.

(M.: "I never heard that one before!")

Saturday, March 22, 2008


I forgot to mention the most amazing thing--as I was nearing the north side of the park, I saw an elderly fellow of indeterminate ethnicity carrying a most handsome Russian Blue-type cat over his shoulder!

I saw this fellow and cat once before, the fellow was trudging up the bottom of Harlem Hill and the cat was yowling. You definitely hear that cat before you see it, it was the same thing today, and all the little kids walking by were delighted and mesmerized!

It wears a harness, and it holds onto the fellow's shoulders and back rather as a monkey would...

I have a strong suspicion that they must take a daily constitutional together. It would be appealing if more people took their cats for walks. I hope I see them again soon!

Triaspirational Saturday

OK, it was a mental triumph--the serious long-distance triathletes will be slightly laughing as I say it, because really there was absolutely nothing epic about it (except the epic procrastination leading up to it, and the epic internal struggle that preceded me making it out the door with the bike), but I really had a good bike ride this afternoon...

All round it was a seriously triaspirational day. This week of spring break has been guilt-inducingly useless as far as either work or real relaxation goes, I am still completely exhausted and stressed out, but I feel fully back on track with training, and in fact I am now confident I can do this race in May. It might indeed be that I am the least confident bike rider in the whole thing, but probably there will be some others who are not very confident either, and it seems to me beyond a reasonable doubt that I will not be the slowest runner or the most fearful swimmer, so I will count my blessings...

A lovely run this morning with training partners L. and S. I'm still not back up to long ones, but that's fine, there's quite a bit of time still to add miles on the long one. 6.43 miles (the lower five loop in the park, plus an extra bit en route to brunch!), 10:00 average pace, average HR 150, max HR 164.

(I must make sure to run with S. at every opportunity, since he is moving back to the UK at the beginning of the summer! He is a great fast runner--he hasn't been running regularly, business travel has disrupted his training, but he is just naturally enough faster than me that all my training works nicely as an equalizer! Ditto I.'s baby stroller--she is a phenomenal athlete, she'd never be running with me otherwise!)

And after much hemming and hawing and fretting I did indeed make it out for my bike ride this afternoon. I walked my bike over to the park, then changed into bike shoes and rode four loops--25 miles. It was very slow, more because of nerves than of any fitness-related issues, but it was quite enjoyable other than the aching hands, wrists and upper back from tense death-grip! I really feel the benefit of the trainer rides--I'm comfortable on the bike and my leg muscles are very strong.

2:02:28, 25 miles, avg HR 131, max 160

(Somewhat hilly, and fairly windy--but really it's the brake-clutching and excessive caution on even mild downhill inclines that is making me so slow! I will be able to go a lot faster than that when I'm even a bit more comfortable. Cycling friend R. is confident I should be able to do 16-17mph almost right away, on current fitness, but really he is just making that number up out of thin air!)

Oh, and though it was almost 7:30 by the time I was finished and leaving the park on foot, I found that the LBS was indeed still open, and have dropped the bike off for a tune-up and to get the computer fixed. I can pick it up on Monday at three o'clock. I must confess that as well as feeling a rare sense of triumph at having made myself do this slightly nerve-racking thing that I've been putting off, I do also have a strong sense of relief at the bicycle being out of the house--now I really can take tomorrow guiltlessly off!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Lavish Friday-evening posting

Well, it was a good solid triaspirational day, I feel less out of sorts than yesterday for sure. (Still sleep-deprived, though!)

I had a lovely run in Prospect Park with former swimming teacher I. and the twins. That jogging stroller is a behemoth! Wind advisory today, too... Each twin is 17+ pounds, plus the weight of the stroller--we only did the park loop, but I. was working very hard! Call it 3.5 plus .5 jog over to the park.

And then a very good swim this evening. It is not really admirable, in fact it is downright childish, but I swam the workout as hard as I could. The coach was watching very closely, and I was determined to show her that I am a fully competent swimmer who does not need the zipper drill explained to me as though I have never heard of such a thing before! My freestyle has clearly benefited from the work I did earlier in the week.

(I prefer a more, well, joyful style of self-motivation--but hey, whatever works!)

Warmup: 500 free, kicking on side (6-3-6) every 3rd and 5th length.

Main set:

8 x 25 free on :10 rest, dropping one stroke with each successive length (I got from 20 down to 16 but no further; not bad, though. I did two extras by accident, I did not have my glasses on and only had the first couple bits of the workout, so had not yet comprehended the ladder pattern)

50 fly-breast on :05 rest

100 IM on 2:10

150 back-free by 50 on :05 rest

200 free on 4:00

150 free-back by 50 on :05 rest

100 IM on 2:05

50 back-free on :05 rest

(Then in theory a second time through that, but I had to truncate and just pick up with the first 100 IM--so 100, 150, 200, 150, 100, 50, plus 200 cooldown, mix of free and double-arm back.)

I was damned if I wasn't going to make all those intervals, and indeed I did. I was working very hard! (But also concentrating on getting good streamline off the wall and really rotating esp. on non-breathing side. No flip turns--it is that OR technique, and this was a good technique week.)

2500 total. Very respectable, and a high-quality swim also. No dallying by the walls!

I also had coffee first thing this morning with cycling friend R., who gave me a stern talking-to about how I needed to get over my fear of riding outside! He had some very sensible ideas. I've got to make this happen. One aspect of my procrastination on this is embodied in the fact that I never got any cold-weather cycling gear, and I have found myself slightly stymied this week by how cold and windy it still is here. It was right not to do a long bike this afternoon--I was knackered, and it was freezing. But I will skip swimming tomorrow afternoon and bike instead, for as long as I can, with a view to really just making this bike thing start happening. I am contemplating a "21 in 21" self-challenge, but I think it might lock me on an unsuitably inflexible plan. Better just take it day by day.

At any rate it must be my absolute priority to get out there on the bike, even if it's just for forty minutes of tooling around in Riverside Park...

Thursday swimming

Hmmm, this has been a mentally trying week of swimming for reasons I cannot fully explain! There was an impossible wax on, wax off quality to the business this evening which I did not at all have the fortitude to embrace or appreciate at the time--I gave over my background processing resources to the problem at the opera this evening, though, and think I have slightly brought my head around to the facts of the matter.

(One fact is that all three of the triathlon disciplines require extreme fortitude of one kind or another! Never more than during an injury in which one cannot do the thing at all, so I am not complaining, I think, just perplexed!)

So I got some coaching this evening on stroke stuff. It was intensely demoralizing to be given what was basically an insane remedial workout. I again felt like the village idiot of all swimmers.

(I think it is good for me to have this sort of thing periodically, so that I remember what it's like in the classroom for students who don't feel comfortable or to whom I might blithely suggest some major and fundamental retooling of approach/skill set as they tackle some significant project like a dissertation chapter! Really I am a believer in playing scales, taking things utterly to pieces and learning how to put them back together properly, stringent line editing, all sorts of crazily specific exercises of one kind or another, etc. etc. in the fields I actually know something about, so I should not be surprised that one might have to go back to basics in a most horrible way for swimming also. I sort of knew this already, but it is the kind of thing one unfortunately has to learn again and again...)

There was a noticeably beneficial effect on my freestyle stroke by the end of the session. Quite striking improvement in feel.

Here's what we worked on:

Streamline off the wall.

Body rotation.

More specifically, a lot of work with that drill (WHICH I have not done since the fall, making me acknowledge that I probably should go back and have a couple sessions of Monday-night swimming, it's freestyle-specific and very technique-oriented, in fact I was just e-mailing with the coach the other day to tell him I had not dropped off the face of the planet & he said come by any time, so I guess I will do just that) of 6-3-6. 6 kick on side in good streamline, then three strokes, then 6 kick on other side.

Notes to self. Do not kick from knees, kick from hips. Core! Zipper drill to keep elbows in correct position. It is possible to combine zipper with 6-3-6 despite feeling of brain about to explode... Really keep biceps tight to ears off wall, glutes tight. Look to 10 o'clock, 2 o'clock--be especially careful on non-breathing side. High elbows!

In short: galling but intensely useful.

(Unfortunately I have now had a very long day out of the house and with much human contact which, though each individual item was very pleasant in itself, mostly undid whatever relaxation might have been starting to happen yesterday! I am going to have two good solid training days over the next two days, then take Sunday off so that I can go to New Jersey for Easter festivities. I had figured out I should skip swimming tomorrow because it gives me more flexibility for a long bike ride, but now I feel I cannot afford to and that if I skip swimmming it will be from internal cowardice and shrinking rather than from common sense, so I fear I am internally locked in on that now. I also now have a very stressful amount of school-related stuff that I haven't made progress on this week, and that would not seem to me more likely to get done even if I seriously cut back on training-related activities for the next couple days, so it is going to be a scramble to make it through this coming week, but should be a bit more tolerable by the week after.)

(What I really need is a pause button that will let me just stop everything for four or five days so that I can let the fortitude build back up again!)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Swim lit

At the Times, Gretchen Reynolds has an interesting article about Olympian Ryan Lochte's swimming regimen.

I should do some backstroke with a pull buoy, I forgot what a good drill that is...

Hmmm, if I were a fact-checker, though, I would suggest that there are several misleading things in there--unless it is, basically, sarcastic, this does not seem to me helpful advice! Can she really have understood the context for the distance/speed suggestion she makes?!?
Even if you’re a fitness swimmer, incorporate competition and goal-setting into your routine. You don’t necessarily have to sign up for races, but aim to reach the far wall a smidgen faster than you did the day before, or try to break a minute in the 100-meter freestyle, a good benchmark for speed.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Unscheduled day off...

... which was entirely for the best. I feel as though I am finally psychologically entering back into the land of the living!

Due to rain, twins-in-jogging-stroller run with I. rescheduled for Friday. We will hope the weather improves.

No trainer ride this evening--I was getting hair cut and highlighted, and now it is time to eat dinner and start winding down for the evening. I have to make several fairly respectable fund-raisingish work-type appearances over next few weeks and I thought respectability would certainly be augmented if I could fit in a hair appointment over the break!

(It came out very nicely. At the end, A., who has cut my hair for the last couple years here, said: "What do you think?" JMD: "I think I look like I should be going to a party!" A. [looking, assessingly]: "Honestly, you should be going to a party!" In fact I am very happy I am not going to a party, but my hair does indeed look as though it should be out socializing somewhere fairly high-class...)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Brooklyn half-marathon date changed

Just in case you are planning on running it and didn't hear already--from Sat. April 26 to Sat. May 3. Here is more information at the NYRR site.

I think I should still run it--it's now only two weeks before the Florida 70.3, but I think it should be OK. (I ran the Bronx half two weeks after the Manhattan one this winter, and with more enjoyment and with a better time the second time round.) The day itself is somewhat better for me, since on Friday the 25th (day before original race day) I have a long day of work commitments, including a dinner, that were potentially going to impair performance. But I will have to be extra scrupulous on all other aspects of the taper (some training-schedule rearrangement will be in order)... and I must make sure not to get overly tired out at the end of the semester.

I will do it as a final long training run if I am not feeling up to the mark? But it is hard to decide this about races, one gets caught up in the goal of knocking some time off one's NYRR PR...

Tuesday swim

Well, it was somewhat irksome--it's spring break here--and nobody showed up to coach at 6. Or, indeed, to let us into the pool! We learned that a coach was on her way--but it was twenty-five minutes of hanging around the sordid locker room in bathing suits before we got in at almost half past the hour.

It is a contradiction I cannot quite explain, but the swim that followed was both fairly rousing/beneficial in terms of making me feel like I'd had a bit of coaching and a decent workout and at the same time very bad for my swimming morale!

In retrospect, I think that the coach's insistence that I really should do the lap swim class rather than masters swim over the summer was meant entirely well, and that all negativity was directed towards CU for administering the masters program so hopelessly that it will almost certainly be shut down.

(This seems to me reasonably likely. It's very chaotic, and there were only three of us there today swimming, which is ridiculous.)

But it was hard not to feel she was suggesting a demotion...

(Also I did one flip turn right at the start and hastily decided that if I was swimming short today, I could not stand to blow all my time floundering round at the wall! So no turn practice, but I think that was for the best, as it let me concentrate on freestyle technique and pacing, something I have been neglecting for the last week or two.)

Warmup: 200 free, 200 back

Set #1: 2 x 250 as 125 free/25 back on 5:00

Set #2: 4 x 250 free descending (on 5:15, 5:10, 5:05)

Swim down: 200 easy (50 free, 50 back, 50 fly down/breast back)

(Lane swim starts at 7, but due to the break it wasn't crowded, so I was at least able to finish the set...)

The same coach will be there Thursday-Friday-Saturday this week; she did not seem encouraging re: flip turn help, since this is not officially part of what they are meant to do in masters swim, but she says she will give me drills for long-axis strokes and that I should concentrate on those this spring given race performance as a priority and then ask summer lap swim coach to help with short-axis strokes.

2100 yards total

(Wait, that's very respectable, no wonder I feel like I had a good workout! I haven't been thinking enough about pacing recently to do a very good job really 'descending' those 250s of free, but actually it was a useful set, more related to what I'll be doing in that race than most of the swimming I've done recently...)


Courtesy of former student Gautam, a copy of novelist Haruki Murakami's forthcoming memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running has come my way, and it is utterly delightful! The last two chapters are on triathlon, which Murakami has taken up recently also...

Here are some paragraphs that Triaspirational readers are likely to appreciate (I was very much reminded of a recent post by Spokane Al as well):
As I said, if I don’t do anything I tend to put on the pounds. My wife’s the opposite, since she can eat as much as she likes (she doesn’t eat a lot of them, but can never turn down anything sweet), never exercise, and still not put on any weight. She has no extra fat at all. Life just isn’t fair, is how it used to strike me. Some people can work their butts off and never get what they’re aiming for, while others can get it without any effort at all.

But when I think about it, having the kind of body that easily puts on weight was perhaps a blessing in disguise. In other words, if I don’t want to gain weight I have to work out hard every day, watch what I eat, and cut down on indulgences. Life can be tough, but as long as you don’t stint on the effort, your metabolism will greatly improve with these habits, and you’ll end up much healthier, not to mention stronger. To a certain extent, you can even slow down the effects of aging. But people who naturally keep the weight off no matter what don’t need to exercise or watch their diet in order to stay trim. There can’t be many of them who would go out of their way to take these troublesome measures when they don’t need to. Which is why, in many cases, their physical strength deteriorates as they age. If you don’t exercise, your muscles will naturally weaken, as will your bones. Some of my readers may be the kind of people who easily gain weight, but the only way to understand what’s really fair is to take a long-range view of things. For the reasons I give above, I think this physical nuisance should be viewed in a positive way, as a blessing. We should consider ourselves lucky that the red light is so clearly visible.

I think this viewpoint applies as well to the job of the novelist. Writers who are blessed with inborn talent can freely write novels no matter what they do – or don’t do. Like water from a natural spring, the sentences just well up, and with little or not effort these writers can complete a work. Occasionally you’ll find someone like that, but, unfortunately, that category wouldn’t include me. I haven’t spotted any springs nearby. I have to pound the rock with a chisel and dig out a deep hole before I can locate the source of creativity. To write a novel I have to drive myself hard physically and use a lot of time and effort. Every time I begin a new novel, I have to dredge out another new, deep hole. But as I’ve sustained this kind of life over many years, I’ve become quite efficient, both technically and physically, at opening a hole in the hard rock and locating a new water vein. So as soon as I notice one water source drying up, I can move on right away to another. If people who rely on a natural spring of talent suddenly find they’ve exhausted their only source, they’re in trouble.
There’s a good description of running an ultramarathon at Hokkaido--very metaphysical--and I must say that at times I really felt as though I was (were!) reading a book written by my alternate-universe future self, quite amazing:
Running and swimming I like to do anyway, even if I’m not training for a race. They’re a natural part of my daily routine, but bicycling isn’t. One reason I’m reluctant when it comes to bicycling is that a bike’s a kind of tool. You need a helmet, bike shoes, and all sorts of other accoutrements, and you have to maintain all the parts and equipment. I’m just not very good at taking care of tools. Plus, you have to find a safe course where you can pedal as fast as you want. It always seems like too much of a hassle.

The other factor is fear. To get to a decent bike path I have to ride through town, and the fear I feel when I weave in and out of traffic on my sports bike with its skinny tires and my bike shoes strapped tight in the straps is something you can’t understand unless you’ve gone through it. As I’ve gotten more experienced I’ve gotten used to it, or at least learned how to survive, but there have been many moments startling enough to put me in a cold sweat.
Strongly recommended!

Tuesday run

And it was a particularly enjoyable one, too. J. is a great running partner for me, we must keep on doing this. Times a bit faster than mile splits suggest, as I didn't stop my watch while stopped for traffic--I will shamelessly do that while running alone, but I feel it's a bit pedantic when I'm with someone else! The park loop, plus over and back.

6.62 miles, avg pace 10:10, avg HR 157, max HR 173

10:37, 10:07, 10:10, 9:36, 10:23, 9:50 and change

I felt like I could have gone forever--we had some nice harder bits and then some parts where we eased off, it was fun.

I am having a problem, though--I can't relax! I really need some rest and recovery time this week, but the symptom of overwork is that I feel both incapable of getting anything done and also still hyper-vigilant and stressed out! Hmmm, I will have to hope that another couple days of spring break will actually have some effect on me...

Monday, March 17, 2008


I always feel that family and friends in the life of a blogger deserve some veil of privacy--but I am delighted in this case to draw your attention to the latest accomplishment of my also-triaspirational sister-in-law Jessi. If you're in Philadelphia, check it out!

Here's the link with logistical details, and I will paste in the description also:
Strapped in, swinging, sweaty bodies in strange positions. Could it be an all-out kink fest?

Nope! It’s just the latest in inventive fitness.

Philly Fit Club partners Don Bahr and Jessi Zenquis Davidson are bringing their ass-kicking suspension training class to Fusion.

Nylon straps are suspended from the ceiling, and you use your body’s resistance to keep the straps taut as you go through a series of squats, lunges, and crunches that will tone (and exhaust) every muscle. The moves are a bit tricky, but with a little practice you’ll get the hang of it.
Hmmm, maybe I will be in Philadelphia one Saturday and can actually check it out...

Monday gym workout

And very enjoyable it was too...

(Slight left knee issues--having some twinges last night on the bike--couldn't do the one-legged squats today, arghhh! Nothing alarming--discretion the better part of valor--I have had this before--that knee is the reason I do not end up doing lunges on a very regular basis either...)

There's only a bit of it up, but check out the preview of M.'s abs video! That fellow really has some quite awe-inspiring abdominal muscles, it must be said. They are going to reshoot the video, some stuff didn't come out right, but he has to work up the abs again first for display purposes!

Funny conversation at the gym last week re: very small skinny guy who is always running on the treadmill, with an awkward-looking but brisk and effortless gait that really and truly makes it seem that he could run like that forever. Sort of a loping trot! He came over to do a few assisted pullups (with so much assistance that he really was just bobbing up and down on the footrest with a little bit of help from the biceps) while M. and I were using the back extension thing, we were both slightly mesmerized, and once he went away M. could not refrain from asking the following question....

M: How much do you think that guy weighs?

JMD: 115, 120 pounds?

M: Maybe 130. 135, tops...

JMD: You know, M., this would not be true for YOU, but I look at that guy every day and just wish that I had that build, it is perfect for running!

M: [Gives me horrified look--he has not been working with me for a year and a half in order for me to have that build, he is a great believer in muscle!]

JMD: Very scrawny, no upper-body muscles...

M: You know, when I was a kid, I was very skinny! I had that build...

JMD: You were a slender young thing. You would not be happy if you had that build now...

What I do not understand is why the guy isn't running outside and actually training for something. He would be an insanely gifted marathoner, he just has that look! But instead he runs for an hour on the treadmill every day, at the exact same speed, and does some desultory upper-body stuff, all without breaking a sweat. No training benefits to speak of from doing your runs like that! He does not really look as though he's enjoying himself, either--but when I said that to M., he just started laughing and said, "No, that's just his personality, though!"

Clearly this fellow has found a routine that suits him and prefers not to depart from it!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

"Grind it out"

I must confess that several times now I have popped the Spinervals 9.0 - Have Mercy DVD (2 hrs.) into the player and then hastily popped it back out again when I looked at the list of things it included. But tonight was the night...

+ : I did stay on for the whole thing!

- : I really had that bad feeling that I was doing something too advanced! Mentally too advanced rather than physically--there are one or two things I can't quite do yet (like ride standing in a pretty easy gear--it's fine in a hard gear, because I feel stable and strong--but in an easy one it gets all rackety and unbalanced and I just sit back down out of mild nervousness), but it's definitely more the sense that you have in, say, a yoga class where they are moving too quickly through unexpected things. Not perhaps very enjoyable!

I seem to remember that the first time I did the 9.0 one (which I now love--it feels like home when they have segments of it in this one!) I also was just mentally struggling to keep up. This one will get better if I do it again, I expect--but I should also consider it an incentive to get outside. The way it's pasted up from different bits makes it a little harder to concentrate on also.

ARGHHHH! Bike stuff must be highest priority for the rest of March for sure. Whatever it takes!

120 minutes bike/trainer

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Saturday afternoon swimming

I am the village idiot of all swimmers!

I had a blinding revelation concerning flip turns today, something that actually the coach was trying to explain to me yesterday and that probably would have been clear to anyone reading here as I talked the other week about feeling like lungs would explode as I popped up like a cork, except they would have thought it would have been so obvious to me also that they would not have bothered to say it!

I was kind of nodding my head to the coach yesterday while not really listening (hmmm, perhaps the phrase in question was something along the lines of "I am not really a science guy, but the water is denser deeper down"!), I expect it is just too many things to think about at once, I was concentrating on mentally gearing up for another stab at the evil thing--but I suddenly realized this afternoon that of course my lungs feel like they are going to explode since I keep coming off the wall strongly downwards rather than perpendicular near the surface of the water or upwards--it is a question of underwater pressure, not of breathing issues!

Let us say that I go four or maybe even five feet down instead of staying close to the surface--it is hardly surprising that buoyancy should be strongly making me pop up as I feel increasingly like my lungs will explode!

I felt better about the whole business after this insight, but there is no doubt the next few weeks of swimming will not be nearly as enjoyable as usual. Hmmm, much doggedness required for all swimming-related pursuits--I really will just have to do those turns on all my freestyle bits, even at temporary cost of technique, comfort and speed--doing them just on warmup lengths is not enough, you have do a lot of something before it starts working right...

(Taking a glass-half-full approach, I will note that it is very striking that whereas usually I look forward to the freestyle segments and feel mildly incompetent on the stroke bits, today it was certainly the other way round, doing very bad flip turns erodes my feeling of competence and the stroke bits seemed like a total reprieve!)

No coach again--I think there may be a bit of an issue over spring break. But one of the other swimmers wrote up a workout we had earlier this semester.

Warmup: 200 free, 200 IM drill-stroke by 25, 200 free, 200 back

Workout (truncated):

300 free, 3 x 100 free, 3 x 50 stroke IM order, 50 easy
200 free, 2 x 100 IM, 3 x 50 stroke, 50 easy
100 free, 1 x 100 IM, 3 x 50 stroke, 50 easy

2600 yards total

Saturday run

Very nice run with former student L. just now. Jogged over to Central Park and did the loop--I have now slightly lost confidence in the measurements of my Polar device, but let us say 6.6 miles, 10:54 average pace, 155 average HR and 177 max (I had a lovely surge up Harlem Hill at the end, I haven't had the chance to do any hill work to speak of over the last month and I was strongly thinking of Al's post. Hmmm, that is a very enjoyable feeling, and I now feel really back in the swing of things as far as running goes. Time to start building up the long run and also doing some more intense hill stuff and some minor speed stuff here and there also--I am full of enthusiasm...

Friday bike-swim

Truncated but nevertheless triaspirational.

I meant to do a real bike ride outside, only I forgot how I tend to procrastinate on that and my afternoon ran away with me, so I only had time for the shortest sprint spinervals workout on the trainer. (That's a good workout, though!)

Then I went to swim, I had to leave fifteen minutes early anyway in order to get downtown for a play, but I ended up not doing a proper swim workout at all, for the very good reason that Coach Henning noticed during my warmup that I was making an effortful and hapless attempt at doing flip turns and came over and gave me a very helpful twenty-minute coaching session instead. They are still awful, but I will continue to work on them, if I am just persistent and ignore the horribleness of doing them it will be some weeks from now and I will be able to do them much more successfully, I think! I do understand the basic principles much more clearly now, and I had a few that were--well, I will not say respectable, that would be a serious overstatement, but beginning to approach the definition of a flip turn in most of the essential particulars.


27:00 Spinervals sprint workout

37:30 minutes swimming (practicing flip turns is VERY TIRING, I might add!): 300 free warmup, a lot of flipping and treading water while nodding head enthusiastically and zooming off the wall at wayward angles, then 200 free, 3 x 50 stroke in IM order on 1:10, 200 free, and then I hopped out and made my way downtown for a very pleasant evening with an adopted family member who is particularly dear to me, was in hospital for weeks in January after heart surgery (the culmination of some months of bad heart-related stuff) and who is now happily recovered enough to be back on the theatre-and-dinner circuit. The play wasn't good, and he's still not feeling great, but it is delightful to me that we can even do such a thing! And we had a pleasingly good dinner at Five Points afterwards (emergency Clif bar having been called upon for sustenance in the meantime)--I had grilled sardines, roast chicken and a most delicious combination of ice creams and sorbets (I think they are from here--tangerine sorbet, vanilla and salted caramel gelati, very tasty...).

Friday, March 14, 2008

Pictures, belatedly

Actually some quite decent pictures from the Bronx half--I look like a serious person having a serious run! Only I am always sorry to think that my build is so strongly on the "short and solid" model rather than the "lithe and long-legged"! Ah well, I will just concentrate on improving performance and not worry about the question of length of legs, about which, really, there is nothing to be done...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Thursday swim

And very enjoyable too, though slightly marred by another episode of coach absenteeism! Hmmm, seems clear in retrospect that one reason I was so excessively grumpy and distressed on Tuesday evening was extreme feeling of swimming deprivation--I am making a mental note that it might be worth popping in Monday or Tuesday evening even just for 25 minutes of evil crowded evening lane swim if I have to miss another Tuesday swim this semester...

So, no coach, and though it is fully irrational I find I cannot swim nearly as hard if there isn't a coach present, even though the normal workouts do not involve much supervision at all! One of life's mysteries.

Flip turns in warmup were TRULY AWFUL, I cannot even describe the waywardness with which I angled myself off the wall! But in the 150 I did at the end, they seemed much closer to adequate, I think I just needed to warm back into it--haven't swum since Saturday afternoon.

I did not come up with anything very imaginative to do, but I liked it anyway!

Warmup: 200 free, 200 IM drill-swim by 25, 200 free, 200 back

Main set: 5 x 100 IM on 2:30 (about 15 seconds rest), 5 x 100 free on 2:10 (10-15 seconds rest--if a coach is there I can do them on 2:00 with similar rest, but if there's nobody notionally paying attention I end up dawdling on the turns!)

plus 4 x 50 kick (dolphin, whip, flutter, dolphin--those names are so romantic!), 150 free

2150 yards total

Triaspirational bliss

Really it is illusory, I have a long list of work-related tasks that must get done today and tomorrow (and indeed I've got an awful further pile of 'em for next week's so-called break also!), but I have just had a very nice run that truly made me feel that all will be well...

I was sorting out various things last night and realized that partly by accident I've got a number of runs with friends coming up, and that this is actually a very good way for me to get totally back on track with running. Frankly I do not need a complicated run schedule, I just need to run three times a week (plus a fourth short brick workout) at varying speeds--which is of course well managed by varying running partners and distances!

(And I have let myself veer too strongly into reclusiveness these last few months also, I must steel myself and get back in the habit of having more human contact!)

Just now I had a lovely short run with postdoc J. in the park. I would think we run at quite similar paces, perhaps she's a bit faster than me but she's also been mostly doing shorter stuff, this is going to be great--I am betting we can have a regular once-a-week local daytime run commitment for sure...

On Saturday I am running in Central Park with my lovely former student L. (who is back in town for a visit). She is a longtime very accomplished swimmer and cyclist, and has recently taken up running--I see triathlons in her near future!

On Tuesday I think I will run with J. again...

On Wednesday I am running with swimming teacher I. in Prospect Park. She has sent me a very funny e-mail in which she warns me we will be running very slowly because pushing the jogging stroller with her baby twins in it up the hills in the park makes her feel like Sisyphus! Might see if I can persuade her to let me take a picture for the blog...

And on Saturday the 22nd I will have a nice longer one with trainer partner L., who unfortunately now lives at the opposite end of Manhattan but who is my original and most stalwartly faithful running partner!

3.6mi, avg HR 161, max HR 172, avg pace 9:50

(I think we were going faster than that! Have I really lost that much running fitness?!? Hmmm, I am having a problem with my Polar footpod--I finally got around to recalibrating it after that last half-marathon, since I had the 13.46 vs. 13.1 ratio to work with--only then when I put the pod back on my shoe, I accidentally put it on the other way up--and I think it's on the correct way now and was wrong before--so I do not want to put it back the other way--but I think I now totally have to do a proper calibration run and recalibrate yet one more time! Because it uses this inertial technology, the way up it is--to use a ridiculously childish expression--makes some difference!)

(Actually now I have gone and looked at this information page it seems to me perhaps I had it the right way round before, arghhh! I am going to take it off and put it back on the other way!)

(There is a bicycle-related flavor to this confusion!)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wednesday bike-run

OK, that was good for my confidence, not all willpower has permanently deserted me...

90 minutes bike trainer ride (two of the short Spinervals workouts, sprint/power and technique/recovery, plus minutes to make it up to ninety--mental challenge to stay on the bike!)

2 miles run at 10:30 pace, HR average 153, max 163

I now feel that this whole race thing will be totally doable. All I have to do is train steadily and figure out how to change the tires on my bike and also bike in traffic without having a minor nervous breakdown! I'm going to get on the second task this weekend...

(Not much traffic at all if I go early on Sunday morning, really it shows me that my fear is completely irrational!)

The plan

Well, post-teaching and office hours I collapsed into bed this afternoon with considerable relief and exhaustion, slept for a few sorely needed hours, then got up and sorted out a few domestic matters (really it would be better if I lived in a purely monastic cell, I do not find my attention very interestingly engaged with the living environment, the food arrangements, etc.!) and ate some food that I must slightly more thoroughly digest before I undertake any sort of workout...

But I have just made my training plan for the nine (gulp!) weeks remaining between now and the big race in May, and it seems to me good...

It has taken some weeks for various things to dawn on me, I had too many other things on my mind at the beginning of the semester.

-- Tuesdays are my most stressful and tiring day of the week, and it is unrealistic to do anything other than the mentally refreshing (palate-cleansing!) 6-7pm masters swim (assuming no schedule conflict--this week I unfortunately had to go to a lecture instead). Rather than sticking doggedly with a Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday run schedule, I should move the first run of the three to Monday afternoon or evening, when my time is considerably more flexible and I am less knackered.

-- I really like that FIRST half-marathon training program, but it requires more mental attention than I have to spare this semester, given work- and triathlon-related priorities for this spring. I am contemplating their marathon training program for the fall, though! Because I've committed to this May 70.3 race, I need to modify ambitious speed goals for Brooklyn half-marathon at end of April. Assuming things continue as expected, I am confident I will make a 1:58 goal for that half (it is supposed to be fast and flat), and it might well be that I can do 1:56 or even a little faster if things go well and I don't get sick again. But this isn't the time to train for speed and try and get down under 1:54--I need mental and physical attention for the wretched bicycle! I will set pace goals the week of that race based on how training has gone, but I should expect my time in that race to be very similar to my winter races.

-- The main 'give' on this schedule involves potentially shortening workouts rather than skipping them altogether. I need to run three times a week and bike at least three times a week, with the long run and the long bike as priorities. The Wednesday workout can be turned into a straight bike workout or a shorter bike-run workout as needed.

-- The other main 'give' is that the recommended half-iron-distance training certainly does not include four weekly swims! Some of those I will need to skip in any case for schedule-related reasons. But it dawned on me very clearly the other day that though I want this race in May to be as enjoyable as possible, which means serious bike time, there is no time goal that is as important to me as continuing to work on becoming a better swimmer. I'm just in love with swimming, that's the fact of the matter, and the intrinsic value to me of these swim workouts is very high! Insofar as the 70.3 is a highly aerobic race distance, I think that swimming's incremental and relatively non-injury-producing contribution to cardiovascular fitness is probably worth a fair bit--but I should skip the Friday swim, for instance, rather than losing the Friday bike time.

-- It is important for both mental and physical training to keep these weekends of good long endurance workouts where I do longish sessions in all three sports over the two-day period. In future training seasons, I will be able to set up more intense and race-specific workouts that for instance involve doing all three in the same day, but for now it is not worth the logistical hassle and the extra stress on the body.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


In retrospect the plan of running this morning was very unrealistic, ongoing sleep issues and pressures of work defeated me! Ditto for tonight and tomorrow morning, completely unrealistic, I have at least four hours of work still to do by 9am tomorrow! However I have now wrestled my head around the lapsed running fitness issue quite enough for the evening. Must just make it through tomorrow morning's seminar and perhaps sleep for some hours in the afternoon and then approach the problem afresh. It might be prudent to skip the 10K race later this month, though--I will have to see how things go over the next week and a half...

Monday, March 10, 2008


It will not have escaped the attentive reader that I have had a complete failure of will in the last few days vis-a-vis running! It is inexplicable to me, usually I am on the impervious-to-cold end of the subjective temperature spectrum, but it seems like since Saturday I've just been more or less continuously freezing as well as exhausted, and mysteriously unable to face the notion of running outside, despite sun!

I diagnose winter fatigue and continued pre-spring-break stress--but I must get up early tomorrow morning and run, this has been a training disaster, I will hope this post gives me better accountability...

Blissful gym workout

I am still very under-slept (this weekend was bad for quantity and quality both), but I finally feel back at full strength otherwise. If I make it through the end of the day Thursday, I am going to collapse for a few days for rest and recovery! It was an absolutely blissful gym workout though, a great relief to be feeling so much more myself after the evil lung ailment.

We started with a classic M. lineup of stuff, the kind of things that have to be avoided if one is not feeling well: front and side planks, cobra and quadruped with light weights, push-ups, v-raises and toe-touches (both very good core exercises), that plyometrics drill of running in place with high knees. Nothing else particularly worthy of note except for an absolutely evil lunge variant--the kind of ankle weights that make me feel like I'm on a spaceship practicing for heavier gravity on another planet, and 5- or 8-pound weights held up in sort of shoulder press position, front leg on platform and then start from lunge position and bring leg up into a front kick. I always feel I'm bad at lunges anyway, but these ones were absolutely dire, I hope we do them again next time...

(Bonus link: some good stuff up at M.'s Myspace page, and I think some footage from the famous Absession video will be available at Youtube in the near future!)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

It's freezing....

I had such a great workout day yesterday, I have actually decided to take today off! No, seriously, though I got not nearly enough sleep last night, I feel fairly tolerable, and it's beautifully sunny--but extraordinarily windy and in the low- to mid-30s, dropped about 20 degrees over the course of yesterday evening. I will work this afternoon instead and then borrow an hour from tomorrow daytime work hours to have a nice run then instead...

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Lovely Saturday swim

Partly more lovely than yesterday's, I must confess, because I was much less principled about doing flip turns throughout the workout! I did 'em on the 400 free warmup and the 2 200s at the end only, but I will say that while functionally they were possibly (mostly) worse than yesterday's, they are in the essentials coming much closer to how they should be (i.e. really coming off wall properly on back), and I even had quite a few (though they were sometimes waywardly not at the 90-degree angle) where the breathing somehow worked as I am guessing it should and I did not feel as though my lungs were going to explode. I now have confidence (which I did not before!) that if I keep on working on it, it might be a month from now and I might actually be able to do them for real...

800 warmup: 400 free, 200 IM kick-drill by 25, 200 back

Set #1: 3 x (3 x 100 free as 75 long/25 build, 2 x 50 kick [dolphin, whip; flutter, flutter; dolphin, flutter]; 4 x 25 odds slow evens 85-90% [2 x fly, 2 x breast; 2 x fly, 2 x back; 2 x back, 2 x breast])

Set #2 (truncated): 2 x 200 smooth free, 3 x 75 85% IM no free, 25 easy free

The backstroke really benefits from being in the warmup like that, it was feeling great by the end--that is my most variable stroke, I would say. Breast just isn't that great yet, I feel I have only a tenuous grasp on the timing. Fly is rather lovely but there is one optimum speed at which the stroke really works and yet I do not quite feel like I am going to die/drown, at all other speeds it is either too slow to have the right rhythm and undulation or so hard that really I am on the verge of exploding! But back sometimes feels very clumsy and at other times feels absolutely lovely, today was one of the good ones...

That is a lot of yards, in my opinion! 2950...

(Hmmm, if I had counted at the time, I would have squeezed in the extra 50 and called it 3000! It was true, the last one I did should have been 75 rather than 25 easy, only it was over time already and the little kids were waiting to get in for their team practice. The full workout was 3500. Ah well, another time...)

Saturday trainer ride

I have to make it through one more week of school before spring break, at which point I have a week where I can collapse and also ponder my training schedule and do it properly for the next couple blocks of weeks. I have a clearer sense now of priorities, including the notion of having four or five long and/or double workouts between now and early May that are for building mental confidence as well as fitness for extended sessions of exercise...

Just did 90 minutes on the trainer, my favored 5.0 Mental Toughness workout. I did pop in the two-hour 9.0 "Have Mercy" video at first, but was daunted by the long and complicated list of different components (I think it's a patchwork creation of bits from lots of different workouts)--I made a hasty decision that it was too advanced for me and that I had better stick with the one I've done already, which I know suits my purposes very well. (Still got 90 minutes of swimming to do also this afternoon.) I am thinking that my longer rides should really just be done outside at a somewhat easier effort level--I will try that 9.0 one of these days, but not the day before a longish run...

85ish mins. (forgot to start monitor right away), avg HR 138, max HR 164

Cycling fitness is definitely improving. Of course these trainer rides give no benefits to speak of in terms of road confidence or bike handling skills, but it is noticeable to me how much my pedaling technique has improved, much smoother and stronger than at the beginning...

Friday, March 7, 2008

Friday swim

I was feeling so dreary all day, I really almost skipped swimming this evening--I was standing on a rainy street corner at 5:50, swimming gear in bag, torn as to what to do, I could not decide whether the voice of reason was saying swim or not swim! But I felt I couldn't afford to miss the potential mood boost that almost invariably accompanies swimming, and I am very glad I did go, it was enjoyable and useful...

Main observation: I am determined to vanquish the evil flip turn!

I did a lot of 'em this evening, they are awful, I am not doing them right, but I get a glimmer of how they should be and I am never going to be able to do them properly if I do not do them badly first...

(I am going to have another session of musing on the flip turn instructional videos at Go Swim TV. I can see quite clearly what I'm doing wrong--as soon as I flip over, my body is wrestling to come upright, so instead of coming straight off the wall on my back in that chair position I am turning over much too soon and basically coming to a complete standstill and then very slowly popping up to the surface like a cork at which point my lungs feel like they are going to explode because it is so long since I had a breath of air! So I will take some time tomorrow at the end of practice to try coming straight off the wall on my back and really waiting to flip over, that is the next thing to concentrate on... However certainly as evil as I feel them to be, and as badly as I am doing them, I am doing them much more comfortably than a couple weeks ago, so there you go...)

Warmup: 250 free, 50 back, 100 IM drill, 200 build choice (I did 25 fly, 50 back, 50 breast, 75 free)

Set #1: 2 x (1 x 100 IM, with fly and breast drill; 2 x 50 free on 1:10, first one build up second one build down)

Set #2 (truncated, only had time for first five out of ten): 5 x 200

1, 2 free smooth on 4:20
3 2 x 100 solid on 2:00
4, 5 free build on 4:20

And I did all flip turns for all four of the straight two hundreds (cannot yet afford the oxygen debt when I am swimming harder for the solid 100s), so while it leads to less smoothness I think it was worth it, getting the wretched turns down is going to lead to me getting a lot more out of these swim sessions...

2000 yards, not bad...

Short and sluggish Friday-morning run

Hmmm, I am annoyed with myself...

The trouble with a 3.5-mile run is that it really does sometimes take that long just to get properly warmed up. The last half-mile or so, I was feeling much more myself, but the first three were full of mental self-reproach.

1. Legs noticeably sore from that deceptively short bike workout yesterday! Those short sprint intervals really affected my muscles, my legs just didn't have it in 'em to do anything very energetic.

2. Mismanaged morning arrangements. I didn't get up as early as I imagined; neither did I head out for my run right away, although I meant to. Result: heading out at 10:30 on nothing but a mug of tea and a cup of juice is not sensible. I felt under-caffeinated and under-fueled (especially under-caffeinated!)--it is not surprising I was so sluggish.

Anyway, tired legs meant I did it as a seriously low-HR run, which is probably all for the best. I need to think through my training priorities and figure out what I can realistically expect for paces etc. for spring racing--I think the real mental challenge is that I cannot do everything, and it may be that the triathlon priorities preclude me making my more ambitious time goals for the Brooklyn half-marathon at the end of April.

The truth of the matter is that though I have been sleeping as much as possible for the last week, I am still in need of some serious further rest and recovery! This morning I have been feeling like probably what would suit me best would be medically induced coma for three weeks with no interruptions!

3.5 miles, avg HR 136, avg pace 11:01

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Triaspirational bliss

Lungs still not at 100%, but much improved. Only major fit of coughing during swimming was instigated by a mouthful of water down the windpipe as I finished a fourth 25 of hard butterfly, so that is good, that is an honorable reason for coughing...

55 minutes bike. First, the short sprint/power workout on the time-saver Spinervals DVD (it's very simple, but I have forgotten it by now as swimming intervened--what, 2 x 6 10-seconds-at-100%-effort-50-seconds-light-spin?). And then I just stayed on the bike spinning for another 25 minutes or so while I watched the Bike Maintenance segment on the DVD.

Hmmm, good demonstration of tube-changing--only curiously it did not seem to occur to them to show how you get the wheels off the bike in the first place, which would seem more relevant than making these adjustments to the tension on various things which really most of us will leave to our local bike shops! I am going to have to have a horrible tube-changing session one of these days with Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance and a double dose of fortitude--I am sure I will be tempted to burst into tears when (a) I can't get the wheels off and (b) I can't get the wheels back on again and the bicycle lies in sundered pieces all over my living-room floor! But this is crucial for confidence for the race in May, I must know how to change a tube, it is actually quite likely that I will have to do so one of these days...

Then a very good swim. I felt really strong in the water, partly because of Wendy's good advice this week to think of swimming hard as pulling hard rather than having a faster stroke than usual--this is a good way of avoiding flailing...

(I continue to work on flip turns. I made a ridiculous deal with myself, I will do 'em at the far end on all warmup freestyle and wherever else I can stand to! So that for instance I flipped on the first turn on the 75s but not on the second, because it would have prevented me getting the really nice big ample lungsful of air I needed to do the last 25 with only two breaths...)

Warmup: 200 free, 100 back, 200 free, 2 x 50 kick (I did 50 dolphin, 50 whip)

Set #1 (x 4):

2 x 75 free, last 25 only 2 breaths (on 1:40)
4 x 25 build, 75%, build, 95% (on :45)

(I did one set of each stroke for the 25s: free, fly, breast, back. I do not really have gears, so much, on the other strokes, they just feel all pretty hard!)

Set #2 (abbreviated):

25 ez - 25 fast - 50 ez - 50 fast - 75 ez - 75 fast - 50 ez - 50 fast - 25 ez - 25 fast

Gosh, that felt great, I love doing that kind of a set--only sorry I did not have time for the full 800 with two pairs of hundreds in the middle...

And I had some useful experimentation with triathlon garb...

So, to sum up:

55 min. trainer bike (25 min. at avg HR 133, plus 30 min. at 120)
2050 yards swim (avg HR 128, max 152, 145 at end of last set)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Wednesday run/bike

The battle for this week is definitely between the huge mental appetite for training and the commonsensical awareness that this needs to be a light/recovery week--these cold symptoms just will not go away, it is annoying!

(It isn't just me, everyone round here seems to have had more or less the same thing--it is characterized by its lingering nature...)

So I was pondering the training priorities, and I realized I needed some mental readjustment. The bike remains very high priority, but I think I need to pay more attention to running again, to make up for having rather neglected it. It's fine to run only twice when running fitness is high, but I need to build back up with some easy miles if I really want to be in good shape for long runs. This is a question of preventing injury rather than worrying about speed--if I want a longer run at the weekend, it needs to be balanced by appropriate mid-week mileage.

So: priority for this week and next, on run and bike, is to build in frequency before going for long sessions. Especially for the run, I need to let the soft tissues ease back into absorbing stress! And this fits with general need for rest and recovery. Nothing speedy for another week and a half--if I make it through the end of next week, I've got a week of spring break where I can really sleep a lot and try and get things fully back in good train, in life and in training...

Even though I know it is both mentally and physiologically more useful to do bike-run than run-bike, it was not in human nature to resist the chance for a real actual outside run this afternoon, sunny and high 40s and really beautiful! I just did four very easy miles, and then the 30-minute recovery/technique bike workout afterwards. I am having pangs for not having had something more intense, but I know this is really more suitable for this week, I had to stop several times on the run to blow nose/clear out lungs, it is irksome!

4 miles/avg HR 148/10:42 pace
32 mins. bike (high-cadence and one-legged drills)/avg HR 127

I must take my bike in for a tune-up, it has gotten terribly creaky! And the computer hasn't worked for quite a while--annoying not to have cadence, and of course it is nice to have speeds also. Here's the adjusted schedule for the next week and a half (and yes, I know I am really spending more hours swimming than is sensible for my schedule, three times a week will be more suitable than four--I'm coming up on a season where there are a lot of evening work commitments, though, so I think I'll be missing some of those swims anyway, I'm going to keep 'em all on the schedule for now and just swim them easy as needed, or substitute a straight swim or sets of freestyle for pacing if I feel in need of something more relaxing).

(Will skip one or two of these workouts as needed for purpose of recuperation and/or work.)

Thurs. am: 90 min. bike; pm: swim
Fri. am: run 5; pm: swim
Sat. am: 90 min. bike; pm: swim (and take bike to the shop!)
Sun. pm: run 7-8
Mon. am: gym
Tues. am: run 5 (schedule conflict knocks out evening swimming)
Wed. pm: 90 min. bike
Thurs. pm: run 5, swim

And then I will do the next block of weeks as a real training schedule, with suitable run buildup for late March 10K and late April half-marathon and sensible integration of as much cycling as possible...

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Mental toughness vs. mental insanity!

As of this week, I am supremely calm!

Well, maybe not exactly, but for reasons that I cannot entirely go into here (more detail about work and life than needs to be confided to the whole of the internet!), I strongly feel that I am over the hump on what can be alternately thought of as three very stressful months--or six--or maybe nine--or actually maybe twelve--or really and actually maybe more like eighteen--or maybe more like my whole very stressful life right from the time I started graduate school in 1994!

Which is to say--I won't hear about tenure for another couple months, most likely, it's not that I have new information about any of this, but I have sorted out my own thinking on various matters, made some choices and some decisions about what to do based on different contingencies and I feel extremely much better than I did a couple weeks ago...

I had a good swim this evening, but before that I had a bit of a battle on the mental toughness vs. mental insanity front...

(Mental insanity is sort of redundant, only it's more evocative than plain old insanity!)

I am good on mental toughness, I think; I have not really been tested in an endurance sport capacity, but some of it is portable from other arenas of life, I've got good stamina and endurance on regular stuff. But there is a fine line between mental toughness and mental insanity!

Which is to say my main task, other than work, for this week and next is to calm down, finish recovering from the lung ailment, etc. etc. But somehow I found myself in the grip for some hours earlier today (it was a result of reading this over the weekend) of a strong conviction that as well as doing a short bike workout and an hour of swimming, I should really do the first speedwork session of aforementioned training plan on the track at the gym (namely 4 x 400m at 7:25 mile pace, with warmup and recovery jogs)...

Fortunately I saw reason--I am still sick! I can do a shortened/modified version of this plan if I like, I do not have enough weeks to do the full-on plan, but I should wait to start it next week. What I needed to do between my seminar and swimming was hold office hours, eat and digest a Clif bar and drink a lot of water, not somehow squeeze in a run workout when I have hardly run for weeks and already had very sore legs from doing a lot of lunges at the gym yesterday.

So no run today, that's as it should be, because my lungs are still full of junk! But I had a good solid swim.

Warmup: 2 x 250 (150 swim, 50 drill, 50 kick)

Set #1: 800 free (100 finger drag drill, 150 swim, 100 salute, 150 swim, 100 catch-up, 150 swim, 50 fist)

Set #2: 10 x 100 (on ten seconds rest):

1 = 25 back, 75 free
2 = 50 back, 50 free
3 = 75 back, 25 free
4 = 100 back
5 = 100 free

And repeat for fly, only I did fly down breast back, at the coach's suggestion, as a coughing control measure, that fly is a strain on the lungs even at the best of times!

So that really was good and solid, I didn't swim anything super-hard, I concentrated on technique, I got in a bit of stroke. 2300 total, not bad at all.

(Got some good though of course as always slightly mortifying tips from the coach, too. Hmmm, got to concentrate on keeping those legs in a straighter and stronger and steadier position, seems like they're just kind of waywardly rambling all over the place especially when I am doing drill rather than swim! Arghhhh....)

Stolen workout

I pilfered half an hour to do one of the time-saver 30-minute Spinervals workouts. These are very good, how convenient--I have been well aware of really stinting on the bike as I get back into workout mode! Seven 90-second hard intervals, with rest between, then a round of a couple minutes at the end where you start in a high cadence and easy gear and shift to smaller cogs at the back. Now: eat, shower, teach...

Monday, March 3, 2008

Monday gym workout

A solid workout with M. Still not feeling great, but it's nice to be back in the gym--hopefully by next week I will be more energetic...

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Sunday run

Lungs still very gummed up, some mild GI distress (antibiotics?) and I could feel my hip muscles rather tight by the end of it--but the runners amongst you will be laughing as I say, fervently, it was utterly lovely!

(It is irrational, really I know I could not have lost all my running fitness in a little over two weeks, but the fact is I do not have very much experience with these things so as to know; I last ran on Feb. 14 and then had a week of insane work and a week of this awful chest cold/lung ailment plus business travel, and really it was slightly preying on me even before I got sick that it might be I would no longer be able to run at all!)

5.1 miles, 10:43 average pace, average HR 146.

(Pulled back whenever I came up on 150, want to keep the stress on the body low till I am one step--several steps?--more fully recovered.)

Saturday, March 1, 2008

A cool two thousand...

My urgent priority for the next three weeks, other than meeting my obligations to my students and colleagues and doing a couple of extra work things I made commitments on a long time ago, is to get myself back into better health. I need to calm down, and I need to rest!

Training is part of that, but I must be very careful not to plunge into it in some way that will set me back on health...

With great regret, I've canceled the California trip that was coming up the week after next--there was no best-case scenario on health, it was quite simply going to be too much stress on the body. My lungs are still just, oh, it is too much information really--full of junk...

But I had a very lovely swim this afternoon...

I do not think I am someone who takes the ability to exercise for granted--I think I am always very grateful and appreciative that I am able to do it, I really enjoy all the stuff I do and I believe in sort of squeezing as much appreciation and enjoyment as possible out of even a fairly workaday workout. But there is no doubt that a week of workout deprivation will prime one for the most ardent and heartfelt gratitude!

I took it very easy because of the ongoing lung situation. (But I'm significantly better today, it's definitely the first day where it seemed at all sensible to try and exercise.) I decided in advance that I would swim only very easy and get out after an hour rather than trying to do an hour and a half. But it was wonderfully enjoyable--arms and legs felt very strong (well, that's because this enforced rest is like an evil week-long taper!), and it was a good chance to focus on technique. I did some flip turns, and in fact it was well-tailored for working on alternate-side breathing...

Warmup: 200 free, 200 IM kick-drill, 200 free, 200 IM kick-drill

Main set: 4 x 250 pull as 100 free (breathe every 3), 50 back, 100 free (breathe every 5)

And a cooldown of 200 mix free and back because I felt that would bring me to a very respectable total...

The silver lining

At the New York Times, Gretchen Reynolds on overtraining. It's a good article, but I liked the last item on the list of signs of overtraining at the end best:
Not many colds. True, it’s not normally a sign that you need to see a doctor, but athletes are more likely to overtrain if they manage to avoid viruses. A cold ruthlessly forces the body to slow down and thus prevents overtraining.
So there--I can reconceptualize illness-related downtime as useful...