Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thursday gym workout

And it was a good one, too, though around 6:20 I was thinking very seriously of canceling, this has been an exceptionally poor week for sleep...

We kept things pretty low-key, I was wary of starting to feel sick if we did anything that made my heartrate get very high (had to leave a talk before the Q&A earlier this evening, the room was so hot I really was not feeling well), so it was pretty much the traditional strength-training stuff, more machines than we usually use: sort of nice, for a change, though I am impatient for it to be back where I am working super-hard...

Next week's schedule is going to undergo a bit of modification based on the insanity that was this week. (Really all I want to do is exercise a lot more than I have been doing, but this is not the time to think that way!) M. can't meet Monday morning anyway, and I am going to skip Tuesday-morning swimming because I am out at a play + dinner on Sunday night and also am meeting my grandfather for dinner after Monday-night swimming (he never comes to the Upper West Side, but is seeing a play about 10 blocks away from the pool, so it's too pleasant a thing to miss). I quite simply and obviously need the sleep more than I need the Tuesday-morning swim; the one that's really unskippable is Thursday, that's the day with great coach-workout combination...

I'll do a little bike thing Monday morning, nothing huge, and then swim Monday night; short bike first thing Tuesday am, then I'll run Tuesday evening with S. and other sub-clubbers in the park, but sleep in till 7:30am or so on both Monday and Tuesday for restorative purposes. I'll work out with M. first thing Wednesday morning (plus--hmmm, this is getting a bit repetitive!--bike); Thursday early-morning swim plus bike at gym; Friday light bike and run; Saturday swimming lesson and bike; Sunday 10K race.

(I won't do a taper for this one, I'll just try and sleep and count on it being a rather lighter week exercise-wise than I might like. I'm mostly done teaching at the end of that week, one more seminar the week after and of course tons of other school stuff but it will give me more flexibility schedule-wise, esp. re: running and daytime hours...)

I need to stay flexible about exercise over the next three days. The schedule's pretty tight, and work calls in some fairly important ways! I'll see whether a late bike thing tomorrow evening will work, but I'm prepared for it not to. Saturday early morning I suspect I will still be putting finishing touches on my paper, it's just not psychologically plausible to go out for a run when you're going to have to be all kitted up in nice work clothes & delivering a lecture shortly thereafter--so I am thinking maybe just swimming lesson in the afternoon and bike to follow. Then on Sunday I will do one hour bike and one hour run, that would be a good mental exercise in any case and I will keep the effort level very light.

Thursday swim and bike #5

There is something absurdly unrelenting about the 30 in 30 approach. It it true that I was partly waiting to deal with the bike issue till I finished with that last half-marathon, but on a more introspective level of explanation I have found myself several times this week pondering why it is that I always take on these somewhat massive and inadvisable and sleep-eroding-just-when-I-can-least-afford-it projects at exactly the times when I already feel myself to be near the snapping point in terms of stress.

I may need to skip tomorrow--not sure yet--but I have to save the early morning hours for work, and then I'm out at this conference from 10 till the end of the dinner. It's a mercifully early dinner at least, but I don't think I'll be home before 8:30 or nine; I'll do the bike after that if I can, if I eat a fairly light dinner I should be, you know, all digested or whatever by 9:30ish or 10 and just do half an hour before I go to bed, but I am having a strong suspicion that I have not gotten enough sleep this week for these workouts to really (as it were) sink in...

Anyway, a very nice swim this morning, though I felt mildly queasy at a couple points: I don't think it's exactly food-related, just lack of sleep and the strenuousness of doing butterfly!

Warmup: 300 swim, 150 kick (no time for the other 50 kick or the 300 pull, I was late because of paper-grading imperative)

Main set: 15 x 100, on 10 seconds rest. There is some way to explain this beautifully and economically--it is a beautiful and economical exercise--but I do not know it! Three sets of five. 1-3: free with stroke on the third 25, moving through fly, back, breast; 4: 100 IM; 5: 100 free.

(Hmmm, pity I didn't just swim 50 to cool down, there is something appealing about a round number, 1950 does not have the same ring to it!)

That is a lovely set! A good one for me to go and do on my own. It's funny, you really reap the rewards of the first two fives in the third one, I felt my form on all of the strokes was amazingly better in that last round, very enjoyable...

We were just finishing in our lane as the guys got ready to start their practice, but there was probably one more little set for the other lanes, I am guessing. I want to swim fast enough that I can do the whole workout, I hate not doing it all! However this morning it was not heel-dragging but work that made me a bit late starting the warm-up, so I cannot really have self-reproach.

Then I did 30 mins. on the exercise bike, a mild and pleasant enough interval workout. The basement fitness center room is extraordinarily depressing--I haven't been there for a while, but with a fresh eye I can see that it is not surprising I could never get in a really steady exercise routine in the days where that was the main venue...

Bike #5 of 30, 30 mins., 150 mins. total.

NB: for some reason my breast is much slower than my other strokes. The free is strong, I am disproportionately faster on that one for obvious reasons (I have only just learned the others, but have been working really steadily on free since January, more usefully since March). The butterfly and back have infinite room for improvement technique-wise, they are very clumsy, but actually I move through the water at more or less the same speed as the others I'm currently swimming with--higher effort level, but comparable speed. Breast is ridiculously slow! Form's getting better, so that's more important for now, but perhaps I will address this with I. on Saturday. Wouldn't mind doing a bit of work on back technique also, I think those should be the two things we concentrate on...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Run and bike #4

I couldn't do a brick in the right order, I needed the last of the daylight for the run...

5.2 mi., 147 avg HR, 10:10 avg pace. Nothing eventful, but it was almost painfully enjoyable--the late-afternoon light at this time of year along the river (with the sun setting over the Hudson) is beautiful, like something out of a Keats poem!

I was rather pressed for time after that, but I did squeeze in thirty minutes on the bike and had just about time to shower before going out again. Emergency Clif Bar action--have just eaten actual dinner now, much better, that is not enough food after that workout.

I order boxes of Clif Bars online, or my mother sometimes gives me a box as a (thoughtful!) present--only some flavors are much preferable to others! And I strongly notice that the number of them that I eat is directly related to how palatable I consider the ones around. If they are nice, I eat one almost every day; if not so nice, only a couple times a week in an emergency. (However I do try and keep a box at my office because I am always starving by mid-morning after my lecture!)

Actually I am curious about this, any opinions? Are some flavors of Clif Bar just better than others, or is it a matter of personal taste? The ones I am only rather slowly going through now are apricot, I find they have a not very pleasant sort of raw aspect (the carrot cake one is slightly like this too, only not so off-putting). I have not really tried any of the chocolate ones because in general I prefer non-chocolate--but it seems to me that oatmeal raisin, banana nut bread, crunchy peanut butter and to a lesser extent black cherry almond are really the most palatable. Crunchy peanut butter for instance is mysteriously much nicer than the suspiciously malty peanut toffee buzz, the word "toffee" is distinctly misleading...

(That said, I gave my friend A. a black cherry almond one from a stash in my bag on a stressful day when we were traveling to a funeral and it was 1:30 and there had been no time for lunch between the service and the graveside bit, and she was only just too polite to spit back out the first bite, I think she was expecting something more baked-good-like and less nutritious!)

So: inherent superiority of certain flavors, or no consensus on individual flavor superiority? And is there one I should try that I haven't perhaps mentioned here?

Bike #4 of 30, 30 mins., total 120 mins.

(I am going to do some real bike workouts soon, but this week is not the time, I am swamped!)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bike #3

Pleasant once I was doing it (and 30 mins. is indeed starting to feel very short, I will get acclimated and build up to longer times soon, this week is just crunch time), but an effort of will to get started. All sorts of good reasons to put it off (and really I must not do it in the evenings like this, it is bad for sleep which is my great problem in life in any case), but I cannot afford to miss one so early in the sequence--there will no doubt be days in the coming weeks where I feel much, much worse!

I have put off the bike-run till tomorrow, I would very much like a nice run outside in the afternoon for mental health; M. has rescheduled tomorrow morning's appointment to Thursday evening, so instead tomorrow I'll do 30 mins. bike followed by a very easy five-mile run that I'll hope to finish before it gets dark. (And instead of doing two hours on Sunday morning on the bike, I'll do one hour bike and one hour run.)

#3 out of 30, 30 mins., total 90 mins.

Tuesday swim

Decent workout this morning. It occurred to me last night and then again this morning that certain muscles were strongly and happily telling me I had a good workout yesterday at the gym...

(Wasn't feeling very energetic, not enough sleep and a hardish swim last night, but it felt pretty OK otherwise. I am consumed with the desire to find the perfect swim workout, but it is going to have to wait--the one I want to try is this, if I can get to a couple of their workouts in December I will have a better sense if it will suit me...)

500 warmup, though we only had time to do 350 before we got started on the main workout. Can't remember intervals, we ignored 'em in any case. 2 x 50 stroke, 400 free (I think this said 7:30 on the sheet, I did 7:40 maybe? We were swimming steadily rather than hard), 2 x 50 stroke, 2 x 300 free, 2 x 50 stroke, 3 x 200 free, 2 x 50 stroke. Mostly fly down breast back on the stroke, but a couple lengths of back here and there also. No time to do the 4 x 100 at the end (on 1:50 in theory, which I cannot do), the young fellows were at the end of the lanes waiting to get in. I was relieved, I swam hard enough last night that I could not see any real benefit to doing four more hard hundreds this morning!

Grumble: It has dawned on me that the time I leave for swimming is the exact time the newspaper delivery guy ties up the (slowest) elevator (in the world) stepping out on every floor after having pressed all the buttons! Arghhh--I waited more than four minutes this morning--this may not sound like a long time, but it is a trial of the temper--I cannot quite face walking down ten flights, they're just not really set up for it (trash areas by stairs, not properly lit)...

Anti-grumble: I finally got a bathrobe! It is not particularly nice, but the sales clerk sold it to me with extraordinary glee (that was a guy who was really loving his job, the girl at the cash register was dumbfounded at how many robes he had already sold that day) but it will do for now, and it was cheap enough to replace when I find a nicer one.

Further anti-grumble: My past self's present to my present-time self was to put the coffee and water in the stovetop espresso maker last night. It will be ready in about 30 seconds...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Monday night swimming

On the subway downtown I was (I'm not kidding) pondering the relevant pages in my appointment book with a view to working out when I could schedule the necessary minor nervous breakdown a.k.a. weekend off...

I can have it from the evening of Friday the 21st through Monday the 24th, but only if I get in all my grades on Friday. Otherwise I will just have a major nervous breakdown on Christmas, which will be worrying for my family members; so this is a good incentive to get the grading done in good time...

Tonight's workout was bad for my self-image as a swimmer but good for my actual swimming. We had a substitute coach, and he set us very determinedly to work on something that has been on my mind recently as the necessary next project as far as freestyle goes: bilateral breathing.

I'm a very strongly right-handed person, I only breathe on the right (every fourth stroke unless I am swimming very hard in which case I switch to every two), I've got to change this, but of course breathing on the left side or bilaterally reintroduces all the problems into my stroke that I was making at the beginning (in particular the thing of breathing a bit too late in the stroke and then having all the rest of my arms and legs go out of whack). Ah well, it is all in a good cause, even as I was not really enjoying it I was thinking of how good it was for me...

I can offer a very accurate description of the exact workout because it was given to us one little bit at a time in a way that made it hard for me to remember, also it was a different swimmer's brain than usual so the patterns weren't clear to me, so I asked the coach to tell me again at the end so I could write it down.

(I am thinking it would be a good one for me to take and do by myself at Riverbank one day over the holidays.)

Warmup: 300 (I snuck in a few length of butterfly)

300 pull: 100 breathing left, 100 breathing right, 100 bilateral

2 x 25: first breathing every 4, second every 2

Next part of the set with fins:

200 kick by 25s (front; left side; right side; 5 kicks on one side, then switch, aka "alternate catchup")

4 x 50 "broken swim" down (three strokes, then kick on side), swim back breathing every third stroke

4 x 50 breathing every 5, 3 strokes by 25

[I am guessing this is where the fins came off, but really I can't remember.]

2 x (4 x 50) descending 1-4

2 x (25 + 50 + 75 with 20 seconds rest and bilateral breathing)

6 x 100 in threes, with first two comfortable and third hard (I did the first three on 2:00 with the faster group, but this really just is too fast for me still, had to switch to 2:10 for the second three; time on the final one was 1:40, that's not bad)

150 with negative splits (i.e. second 75 rather faster than 1st 75)

100 cooldown choice (I did 50 streamline kick on back, 25 butterfly, 25 breast)

Some useful tips: working on streamline position off wall (and why did I never think before about how the first hand I stroke with should be on the bottom?!?).

As I say, it was not the most enjoyable workout, but looking at it again now I have more of a sense of accomplishment--the kind we get from doing things that we do not entirely like but that are good for us!

A nice thing: he told us that there will be a fun run in Doug Stern's memory, to raise some money for Sloan-Kettering, round the reservoir in the park on Thursday the 20th. That will be a nice thing to look forward to (pre-nervous breakdown, just about!). Details from the New York Flyers website:
1st Annual Jingle-Bell Fun Run for Doug
Thursday, December 20, 6 p.m. - 7 p.m. on the reservoir at Central Park in memory of swim coach Doug Stern, and for the benefit of Kidney Cancer Research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. To enter, participants only need to buy a jingle bell from Mike Keohane for $10 (100% of the contributions going to MSKCC!!) and then show up, in costume or not, between 6pm and 7pm on the reservoir and run in memory of Doug. This fun-run will be an untimed, uninsured, unmanaged, un-porta-sanned, un-everything event. The way it's supposed to be.

Here are further details.

Training partner L. has also persuaded me to join her and some others in the 10K NYRR race on December 9. It would be nice if I could run a great race--some thoughts will follow closer to the time on pacing. If I am sensible, I should be able to beat my PR from May. It would be even nicer if I could use it as a commitment device to get some sleep next week...

Bike #2 and gym workout

You know, it is most curious, because really I did the exact same thirty minutes on the bike this morning that I did yesterday, only somehow it was much more enjoyable today! Perhaps because I had eaten breakfast first--or maybe because I did some hard minute-long effort bits in the middle that were rather lovely (hmmm, I like how you can get your HR to spike up so quickly, this is convenient--running is not really so much like that, at least at the level I'm at--swimming is, but in a different way--but there is something very pure about the way it works on a bike).

The siren song of e-mail diverted me briefly from what should have been a rather more seamless transition out the door to the gym (I was having an all-round more complicated morning than usual--I had to bring clothes & stuff to shower at the gym, which I never do, because I had split-second timing to make it to midtown for a 10am rehearsal), but basically this will work...

A good workout with M. Just solid, nothing insane, though we did have a stimulating little bit at the end where I thought we were done and then we had some unexpected and rather pleasant little final stuff!

I confessed to him that I just cannot shake the idea of having my winter fitness goal being to work towards being able to do 3-4 unassisted pullups. We have had this conversation before, he is always skeptical, but I think I have persuaded him that it really is worth doing.

ED. Just to clarify--not skeptical about whether I can do it, in fact he is more confident than I that I can--just skeptical about whether it's a good idea!

There just isn't that much gym stuff that really has much sway over my imagination. I can get excited about pushups in miscellaneous variants (I am thinking about doing a lot of 'em with that alternating dumbbell row kind of thing on the sides, and ones with only one foot on the ground, etc. etc.), and planks and ab stuff of various kinds; and I can get excited about the notion of the unassisted pullup. I enjoy the other stuff, but it doesn't strike me mentally one way or another, I don't care how much weight I'm lifting!

It is not so much really that M. thinks I shouldn't do it as that he does have an idea of the proportional female physique that does not involve excessive back muscles--I'm not saying he's wrong--in fact the reason we first were talking about it was last January in the very particular circumstance where my awful stress fracture had insanely limited what I could do. Basically there were about six weeks where the only, only thing I could do at all was 3xweek workout with him, it was about the only thing that kept me sane, but we couldn't do any lower-body stuff and even a lot of core work was ruled out because of too many hip-area muscles involved. So basically we did strict upper-body and limited core stuff for 4-5 weeks and it was fairly amazing how muscley I got, I kind of never saw such a thing... He was alarmed, it was pretty funny! We stopped doing several things for a while precisely because of this question of back muscles!

However if we are doing full-body workouts and I'm doing a lot of cardio it will probably not be so noticeable. Not to mention I cannot really see my own back muscles anyway so there is little potential for me to be aesthetically offended! These body-builders just do not have a really sport-centered focus, their priorities are different--he's a great trainer for me to work with, he's incredibly fit himself and has very high standards, I really enjoy working out with him, but he's not knowledgeable about endurance sports and every now and again something like this reminds me that really he and I care about somewhat different things...

Bike #2, 30 mins., total 60 mins.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Bike #1

I am tempted to describe it as fairly pitiful, but the whole point of the 30 in 30 is just to do it every day and not worry for now about whether it's pitiful or not!

I have a confession which those who do not know me in real life will find almost literally unbelievable, it is so farfetched--but I have not had a television in my life for a million years (well, say at least ten years)--my mom did give me one, oh, I think it must have been the fall of 2001 but I plugged it in and couldn't get any reception (that's why I remember it was shortly post-9/11, because TV reception was especially non-functional?) and at Radio Shack they laughed at me when I asked about buying an antenna and told me really I just had to get cable! So the TV just sat there unplugged (a friend of mine had given me an old DVD player, only I did not have the cords to connect it with), then (after several years, I fear--in fact probably MANY years, it is possible that I only moved it when I was getting the apartment ready for a subletter in August 2005!) I put it in the closet because it was taking up space...

So last week, in aid of cycling-related enterprises, I ordered a very tidy and convenient little unit; it fits on the edge of one of the bookshelves, it does not take up any space at all. And I dug out the couple DVDs that I have had to hand and never watched, and put the first one in (it was Howl's Moving Castle).

Further true confession: I meant to do an hour, but the scene that comes about half an hour in where they are cooking bacon and eggs made me so hungry that I really thought I could smell the bacon! So I got off, and am writing this blog post (because my hunger for reading and writing is always stronger than my hunger for actual food), and now I am going to eat something immediately...

#1 of 30, 30 mins., total 30 mins.

(Actually it was about 32, but I realized I was not going to stick it out despite good intentions!)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Swimming lesson

Goodness, I have just had the most lovely swimming lesson: in fact it has been an extraordinarily decadent-feeling day, I have pretty much done nothing but exercise (with brief intervals of caffeination, refueling and internet time-wasting in between). Swimming lessons are particularly decadent because they are so expensive, it is an extraordinary luxury (in general I spend fairly unbelievable amounts of money these days on fitness-related things, my frugal soul is moderately outraged at my own extravagance, but the swimming lessons really are over the top--it is probably just as well that they will soon come to an end).

(I must get at least four hours of work in this evening, or else I am not in a good situation...)

We worked on lots of miscellaneous stuff: I did remember to ask about how to do that butterfly-kick-on-back-with-double-arm-back thing (we worked on it for a while, it's tough!). Almost all fly and breast, with some interesting drills--I think both the breast and the fly really are improving. An interesting breast drill that involves holding your left leg in your right hand behind your back (or the other way round) and just swimming with the other two limbs--after a couple lengths on each side of this, you go back to the full stroke and it works like magic....

And lots of good fly stuff, I had a couple lengths where it was absolutely magically amazing! I was really working on the short exit and letting the arms fly forward, and suddenly the stroke seemed to require virtually no effort (it is true that I was wearing big fins) and I was just flying down the pool, I loved it--these glimpses are a lovely thing, it does not need to be like that all the time but it gives you something to aim for...

Saturday run

It is not worth making myself irritable wrestling with the watch-to-computer interface, I cannot get the exact data onto the computer this morning but we will say it was a very nice eight-mile run, around 9:30-9:40 pace...

One unfortunate thing about running is how long it takes to warm up, especially trying for lower-HR runs. The first four miles, I couldn't help thinking that really though I know it is slightly mentally pitiful I do prefer doing the 'long' run with company. It wasn't that I wasn't enjoying myself, it was reasonably enjoyable in some sense, but I just wasn't really in the flow of it. Then around the four-mile mark it all came good (though my hands were remarkably cold by that point, I forgot to wear gloves and was too lazy to go upstairs for 'em when I realized!), the second half was rather lovely.

It's pretty much exactly eight miles if I run down Riverside Drive to 106th St., then over to Central Park and around the full loop once, then back home. This is good, I should make this my mid-week run and then, when it's suitable based on schedule and training considerations, have a longer one on Saturday...

Friday, November 23, 2007


Because I am a literal-minded and determined person, but also have fairly scrupulous leanings, I am clarifying the nature of the 30 in 30 bike commitment. I really am going to do it barring unforeseen calamity (the first day is 11/25), and in a worst-case scenario where I miss a few I will do two bike workouts each day between the 21st and the 24th. But it will be better if I can do one a day...

Upcoming training schedule

The holiday season is a trying thing for the aspirational triathlete! There are various kinds of uncertainty and pool closing issues that make it very difficult to lay out a clear plan.

The week of 11/26 is probably the single busiest week of my entire year, I am looking at my appointment book in utter horror and dismay (three rehearsals in midtown for this performance art project I've gotten in on, midtown lunch with editor and marketing people, two lectures to attend and a two-day conference on Friday and Saturday in which I am a participant and for which I learned only a week ago that I will need to write some kind of a "lecture" as opposed to just serving as respondent, plus the usual teaching and exercise stuff...). The next three weeks in general are just more complicated than usual due to various end-of-semester things.

So: priorities.

This is going to be slightly half-assed, but I'm pulling back a bit on running and trying to have six weeks where I concentrate on gym workouts (extra sessions with M.), some high-intensity interval stuff and super-scrupulous eating for weight loss if possible but at any rate body composition improvement. I have a lot of muscles already, to tell the truth, but there is always need for more muscle! Holidays will make things difficult, but on the other hand for that reason alone it's a sensible time to have a stricter than usual set of rules.

(But I will eat a cookie here and there, I think...)

I am also going to have, starting on Sunday, a "30 in 30" approach to the bike. Thirty workouts in thirty days, and I'm going to pull this off (if possible!) by setting the bar extremely low on what counts as a workout. Half an hour on the stationary bike at the gym or the bike trainer at home counts. There will only be one guaranteed long bike each week--most of the others will be short bike or bike-run combos--and in fact I am not really going to be doing great training bike-wise, because my schedule is horrendously impossible this next month or so.

I'm still leaving things relaxed for this weekend, recovery week spirit. Probably 7-8 miles slow run tomorrow morning, plus a swimming lesson in the afternoon; then a longish indoor bike on Sunday.

(Another minor complication is that the CU gym has good stationary bikes but the gym where I work out with M. has unusably ancient ones--I mean, they are technically usable, you can turn around the pedals--but they are several generations old and do not give anything like the workout the newer kind do. Not really worth using--so on these days I need to combine bike trainer at home with gym workout, even though it is psychologically and logistically worse not to have 'em happening in the same place--you know how it is, you get home from the gym & you've already been out for an hour and a half exercising and all you want is coffee and food and internet. Mental fortitude, though! I think this means I have to do the trainer ride FIRST, before I go to the gym for my personal training session with M. Will try that this week, anyway.)

Schedule for week of 11/26:

Mon. am: 30 min. bike trainer, PT; pm: swim.
Tues. am: swim; pm: CU gym for bike-run workout (30 min. bike, plus 30 min. fastish running on evil absolutely tiny little 1/10-mile indoor running track).
Wed. am: 30 min. bike trainer, PT.
Thurs. am: swim, 30 min. gym bike.
Fri.: 1 hr. easy bike trainer.
Sat.: am: bike-run (30 min. bike, 30 min. run); pm swim.
Sun.: 2 hr. steady bike trainer.

I will see how that goes before making a commitment for the following weeks, but this is going to be the shape of things (I hope) between now and Xmas, only with more running than I have time for this coming week. In theory I'm doing this indoor triathlon (10 mins. swim, 30 mins. bike, 20 mins. run) on 12/16, but I'm not planning on doing any tapering for it, more just using it to get a feel for things in a very unstressful indoor situation. (There are set transition periods, for instance, ten minutes between each to change and get set up for the next thing.)

I also can see already that I am just going to have to stay calm and flexible for the weeks between 12/22 and 1/2. The nearby pools are closed (though I should be able to fit in a couple swims at Riverbank), I will need to visit family for a couple days right at Xmas, I may need to attend a conference in Chicago between Xmas and New Year's (but won't know till the last minute) and may visit friends in South Carolina for a couple days over the New Year's holiday.

(Hmmm, the redeeming feature of a possible Chicago trip would be if I found a hotel with a swimming pool, this is a consolatory notion--suddenly I feel slightly more optimistic about things...)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thursday run

It is sixty degrees and sunny--that's crazy...--and I just had a nice quiet run in Riverside Park. Everyone is very smiley because of the holiday...

A recovery week run. Quiet and slow! As I came to the four-mile point I felt strikingly warmed up and fluid and ready to really run, it is a pity it takes so long: but I had a nice little surge up the hill on the outside of the park above 96th St., and I ran faster for the last bit also, it was too enjoyable to miss.

(Stress fracture area rather sore still from the race--I didn't really notice while I was running on Sunday, but it was definitely--I won't say painful--but I was feeling it quite a bit the couple days following. It was definitely affecting my gait. I'll just make sure to take it easy for the next week or so still with the running, I think it is a muscle thing rather than an actual problem with the bone.)

5.16 miles, average pace 10:31, average HR 143 (I was trying to keep it really low, but it didn't quite happen)

10:55 (133), 10:57 (143), 10:46 (141), 10:23 (143), 10:06 (151)

But the higher HR on the last is because by lap end my pace was 8:41; for the last .16, I've got 8:00 pace and HR165.

Over the weekend I've got to think about the next sequence of training weeks--I've got some ideas... I want some HIIT-type stuff for weight-loss benefits but I think it will be more prudent not to have it running-related, not even treadmill running, it is too likely to contribute to injury; but actually the bike trainer should be a good way of doing some stuff like that. Must ponder...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Wednesday gym session

I had the most enjoyable workout this morning with M. at the gym--usually I am sort of insanely foaming at the mouth and wanting to work fiendishly hard--but today I really did feel lazy and we had a wonderful recovery-week workout of the lightest and most delicate kind, like having broth and toast and grapes in an invalid-type situation! I broke out a light sweat, but nothing crazy--just a nice quiet traditional full-body workout of a most pleasant sort.

(But I am glad we're starting up like crazy again on Monday! I'm going to switch from just once to twice a week for the next three weeks, starting on Monday, and then once I'm done teaching for the semester and the schedule opens up a bit I will have three sessions a week just for three or four weeks--do lots of pushups and stuff... I have not entirely abandoned my long-term goal of trying to get to where I can do three or four unassisted pullups, for instance--but I am far from it at this point--it is not really where my imagination really drives me, in any case--but it would be cool, eh?!?)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tuesday swim

A good swim physiologically, so to speak (there must be some better way of saying that!), but it unfortunately awakened my inner grumbling striving voice--WHICH I may say is a voice that gives me great inconvenience, on the whole I think it is for the best that I have such a thing and yet it would be even better if I could shut it off at will!

Locker-room consensus: better-than-average Tuesday am workout.

(They are all 'canned,' so to speak, just hung off the thing at the end of the lane--the block?!? Is that what it's called? I feel ludicrous using swimming expert-knowledge vocabulary that really is beyond my grasp...--in ingenious little plastic sleeves with strings. This means there is really no coaching/intervention in the lanes...)

My usual lanemates were not there, so I was swimming with the real lane seven people, with mixed results. The workout (approximately--I can't remember all the intervals):

warmup around 400 yards I suppose, mostly free but I did 4-5 lengths of fly also, very enjoyable, and some kick...

8 x 75: evens fly back kick-free-free, odds free with 7-5-3 breathing (on 25s)
8 x 25: uneven sprint descending (on :40): 1/2 easy 1/2 hard, 1/2 hard 1/2 easy, hard, easy

3 x 75 free on 1:30
3 x 50 choice descending on 1:00
2 x 200 free on 3:30
3 x 50 choice descending on 1:00
3 x 75 free

Then a set we only had time for part of, 25-25-50-50 (and so forth, but we didn't get to 'em) kick-swim.

But here's the thing. These women are better swimmers than I, but also their priorities are different. It is inevitable that my free is much, much better and faster than my other strokes--I handle this by working really hard during the other stroke bits and by skipping repeats when necessary (I skipped one of the 75s at the beginning because I had used up a vast amount of energy trying to sort out the fly back kick--I still did not get the timing right, my double-arm back strokes were actively at odds with my dolphin kick...--and I skipped the third repeat on each of the choice 50s, I am just too slow to keep up properly). Really I am better off swimming with my usual lanemates, but it's not inappropriate for me to swim in real lane 7, my free pace is just fine.

However it is very striking: partly because they're all good comfortable swimmers, what they do is ignore the intervals, take no rest, and just swim everything at a comfortable pace. So for instance the sprint 25s were supposed to be on :40 (and I am thinking I do understand the intervals for the free, though the other intervals are just not relevant for me yet, I cannot repeat 50 back on 1:00 for instance, I can't even really quite make that time the first go round...). This means REST. And I understand the point of a mini-set like that is to take the rest. But instead we're just swimming down and back, not really taking any rest (say more like on :25-30), so the sprints are not really sprint... And then the pace for the 200s was quite leisurely, where really you want to do 'em hard and then take the rest, I would have swum those a lot harder left to my own devices!

Arghhh... it was making me slightly crazy though as I say I was physiologically enjoying my swim, hands still all nice and pawlike...

I need to check out that Masters swim at CU--what I want is a really consistent coached workout that will really push me to get better. This is fine for now, and the Thursday morning workout is great, but it is not exactly what I need...

Also: I am still not doing flip turns on warmup let alone main sets. I do need to work on this, but I am making an executive decision that a higher priority for now is to practice bilateral breathing. I never do it except on these assigned sets with breathing constraints--it's a bit better than it was at first, but I still have a super-strong preference for breathing on the right side that will not serve me well when I start to do what I most want to do in the world, that lovely thing called a sea swim...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Monday night swimming

We got started kind of late, so it was much more technique stuff than main set, not really worth transcribing in detail even if I were mentally capable at this point of reconstructing it! I was knackered--but strange to say it was the most miraculously good swimming evening technique-wise, my hands felt like huge lovely bear paws and I felt like I was having amazing reach & body rotation and stuff, don't know what was up with that. Everyone was, like, "You're flying!"

Anyway, we did 2 sets of 3 x 100 descending, with ten-twenty seconds rest, to get a time to hold--I was starting at 1:45 and got down I suppose to 1:40 (getting a bit of extra rest, though)--then we did 3 more hundreds with a lot of rest, like on 2:30, trying to hold the fastest pace. Really it's a pace exercise, I am not sure I quite got it: but the first one was 1:40 and it felt pretty OK, and then I was worried that my times would slip because I was not wanting to swim more (the times really do slide when you're doing these without so much rest, last time I tried I could not hold 1:45 on a 1:50 interval) & so I worked a little harder for 2 and 3. The second was 1:38, and the third was 1:36--that's crazy, that extra rest makes a huge difference...

I did some lengths of butterfly during the hanging-around not-quite-starting waiting period at the beginning, it seems good. I am regretfully deciding that I will not sign on for the next Monday-night series after this one's done. We've got five more workouts in this session, and it's great for technique and fitness, no doubt--but it's extremely expensive compared to various other options, and I'm also not crazy about a workout that gets me home only at 10 at night on Monday. If I got to bed earlier on Monday, I would be more likely able to make it to the Friday-morning workout at CU which does not cost me any extra money since I'm already paying for it. (Spring semester schedule different in various ways that may make it easier to get more sleep during the week--actually who am I kidding, I always think this and it never is true!?! But I am only teaching on Tuesday and Wednesday, so really it is possible...)

Anyway, I'll leave it for January and February, and then go back in March if I find freestyle technique and/or fitness sliding with just the other. (I will need to find some more skills-and-drills-type workout in any case.) The Monday night sessions are just feeling very depopulated, that's the other fact of the matter--a couple of the faster swimmers are still hanging in, but all the medium-fast ones are gone now. I am not sure if this is seasonal or if they are migrating elsewhere--I think possibly the latter, though. And it is definitely not as interesting swimming only free! Oh, I must check out the CU master's swimming before Xmas and see whether it's worth getting in on--it's some very modest amount of money like maybe $100 for the whole semester so even if I only went once a week it would rather be worth it if it's any good...

Middle-of-the-night thoughts on running

Well, I really did go to sleep around 8:30, I was knackered, only the trouble is I woke up quite thoroughly at 3 and cannot go back to sleep! Arghhh, it really is too early to get up, I could use another three hours of sleep or so--not to mention I do not have any milk in the house for coffee...

1. Don't worry, I'm not having self-discontent, but I am having a strong feeling that I could have run a bit faster today! Not astronomically faster, but I was holding back pretty hard through the whole middle six miles or so of the run--I could have relaxed into it a bit more, and I am pretty sure I could have sustained an 8:30 pace. Interesting--it will just take a while before I am a more experienced racer...

2. Philadelphia is going to be the ideal place for me to do my first marathon. There were noticeably fewer spectators this year than last, because of the earlier start time, and it is also a course that some people complain about because the spectators are concentrated so heavily in the first half of the race and then at the very end, but there's a long stretch in miles, oh, 13-20 that is very sparsely populated indeed. I like this. Spectators are nice, there were some funny ones (two very tiny kids for instance holding up hands for high-fives on the bridge leading up to Penn, they looked thrilled when I swiped 'em, it was hilarious!), but really I prefer to dig in and concentrate on what I'm doing without all the distraction...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Recovery week

Which is not exciting, but will be sensible & also fit in with the holiday and the fact that I have a strangely huge other set of things going on over the next few weeks--not really strange, I suppose, it's always like this around this time of year:

Monday pm John Jay swimming
Tuesday CU morning swim
Wednesday am gym workout with M., followed by 30-45 min. on bike trainer
Thursday am run 5 easy in Riverside Park (then to New Jersey for the holiday, just for the day fortunately)

Not sure yet about Friday-Saturday-Sunday: one run somewhere in there (but maybe a bike-run workout), at least one swim if I can drag myself up to Riverbank State Park which I believe is my only available option Fri.-Sun. However I. says it is possible we might have a lesson after all on Saturday afternoon--the heat's off in the school over the Thanksgiving holiday, she says she had to stop teaching on that day because of all the little kids complaining about how cold the water was--but she thinks I will be stoical, and it is true that I am fairly impervious to cold and want to squeeze in as many lessons as possible before she has her baby...

Philadelphia half-marathon

OK, good, I have done my last half-marathon for 2007 with a really satisfactory PR of 1:54:14 (mile pace 8:46).

It was an interesting and illuminating run. I was aiming for just under 1:57, and spent much of mile 3 and mile 4 mildly berating myself for going too fast. (Like: "You are never going to do a good marathon next fall if you cannot learn self-discipline on pacing!")

Why was it so acute? Well, the half-marathoners and marathoners started in two separate corrals and then fed back in together; there weren't really pace groups in the half-marathon corral but when we came into a single stream I found myself roughly with the 3:45 marathon pace group, and I felt like that was actually a very comfortable speed.

But the numbers on my watch were rather alarmingly speedy--I tried to slow down--I didn't do a very good job.

So I started thinking like crazy--trying to come up with useful mental strategies along the lines of "Well, you cannot just run along with these other people, run your own race, think of it as a challenge like playing a piece that is scored for two different time signatures or something, just concentrate." I thought a lot about how stupid it would be to blow it by going out so much too fast. I thought about slowing down, and I did, but then I would pick it back up again...

Suddenly around mile 4 (mental wheels still churning) I thought a series of thoughts very quickly and then my mind was at rest...

To wit:

1. I had after all decided in advance I didn't need to pace this race conservatively--I had already made my sub-2:00 goal for the year, so it was really worth experimenting.

2. I felt pretty good: HR still in the lower 160s, not really working that hard, quite tolerable.

3. A half-marathon is after all NOT a marathon, not nearly the same pacing hazards (at least insofar as I have been training very steadily and fairly systematically exactly for this distance, which also I think happens to suit me particularly well--I do not have an affinity for running short distances very hard, I like running medium distances at medium-hard intensity).

4. I felt absolutely certain I could comfortably maintain this pace for 10 miles. After that, who knew--but even if I then fell back on something as slow as 10:00 pace, I would still finish under two hours...

In conclusion, I was neither having an on day nor an off day, I was just running solidly in more or less ideal conditions at what is clearly (based on effort) my current comfortable half-marathon race pace. I had a very good taper and sleep week for the Grete's Great Gallop half in the first week of October (this week's sleep was not fortunate), but the heat and humidity were awful, and the course was hilly, so my time of 1:59:07 felt like a triumph--it was a triumph. But it was also, I think, rather slower than I would have been capable of that day under different conditions.

So I stopped thinking so much and just concentrated on keeping effort steady and tweaking the speed back down any time I saw it go into the 8:10s rather than, say, 8:30s, and the time frankly passed by in a flash, I could hardly believe when it was over...

The last couple miles were hard--my leg muscles particularly in the hip flexor sort of area had gotten very tight (I am not used to running on such a long flat course, you get used to having more varied terrain), and I was definitely ready to stop running at the end. But there was never the kind of aerobic load on the body I felt in the August and October half-marathons--the temperature really makes a huge difference...

Splits (the distance on my device is clearly off, it is only counting me 12.9 rather than 13.1, so adjust paces accordingly--dramatic mile differences have more to do with hills, I think, than with dramatic speed adjustment of any other sort):

1 9:23 (HR 152)
2 8:40 (160)
3 8:32 (161)
4 8:50 (162)
5 8:45 (163)
6 8:48 (164)
7 9:26 (165)
8 8:49 (167)
9 9:15 (167)
10 9:25 (166)
11 8:18 (168)
12 8:22 (171)
13 [8:13/176: not counted as a whole mile, plus I forgot to turn the stopwatch off at the finish...]

Two more things:

1. It seems about a million years ago now, but I had a lovely swimming lesson yesterday morning! About halfway through I. was making fake crying gestures (i.e. rubbing eyes with hands in cartoonlike manner) and saying I would be sad at it being the end of our swimming lessons as clearly her work was done... REALLY I can swim the butterfly now, that's crazy! MUCH room for further improvement of course... Note to self: it is very good for the breaststroke if I do alternating lengths of fly down breast back (though as I. also observed, the breast is very decent if one doesn't attend to its being in the style of twenty years ago--which is funny, because I never learned breaststroke when I was a kid, just freestyle, but I suppose flat swimming is flat swimming and we keep our memory of flatness even if it wasn't stroke-specific!).

2. The thing I especially like about this race result is that it makes me think about marathon goals for 2008. I am going to be conservative in choosing pace goals, I am not I think on the whole a hubristic person, but I do believe in having a vision. And my vision is that if certain things happen, I would not be crazy to think of a sub-4:00 marathon goal. (That's a 3:59:50-type sub-4:00, nothing more ambitious!) The three enabling conditions I envisage:

(a) A couple of Olympic-distance triathlons in June and July which for me will be a roughly 3:00+ race, with particular attention to the problem of getting used to that intensity and duration (I will of course keep racing half-marathons all year, I just love that distance, and I will also of course continue to do a lot of swimming and some biking through the marathon-heavy training season of August-November, so my general fitness will be good though I will certainly be using a relatively low-mileage training plan)

(b) Philadelphia as my race--flattish, fastish, late enough in the season that temperatures are likely to be cool and without the mental challenges (i.e. adrenaline, irrational excitement, mentally demanding course) of New York, which I will wait to do the next year

(c) At least one sub-1:50 half-marathon. A sub-1:50 half will really make me feel that a 4:00 marathon is a sensible goal and not a first-timer's insanity. So this race today takes me significantly closer towards seeing how that might happen in 2008.

(Not that I know--but it is really my opinion that I should be able to get my half-marathon mile pace down to about 8:00, further than that I am not sure I will be able to go--though who knows, maybe it's possible?!?--but 8:00 seems to me a reasonable guess at something challenging yet attainable. I've been running only a bit more than a year, I run only three days a week [sometimes four, but the fourth run is only ever very short] and I've never done more than about 25mpw mileage--currently I'm triathlon-obsessed so I won't have a run focus in the next six or eight months, I'll just keep up as I've been doing, probably around 20-22 run miles per week over the winter--but I think that raising mileage at some point for a run-specific season should get me rather faster...)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thursday run

Last little three-mile pre-race run this afternoon, a chilly dark overcast late-afternoon run with wet leaves on the ground and nobody about the place. I would say three easy miles (ten-minute pace, HR avg 145), only it was one of those days when the legs are leaden and even a slow pace feels like a lot of work! I didn't sleep enough this week, I think...

(Fortunately just at the end I suddenly really was warmed up and felt quite fluid and comfortable, just as well too--this business of tapering is mentally challenging, it introduces self-doubt! I am having a slightly sore right knee for instance--on Tuesday I noticed it, partly through being struck that I was not enjoying this thing of running on concrete--I don't do that Riverside run so often these days as I did over the summer, and there's no doubt the surface is harder on the knees--it's probably better that I'm not doing it so often, but it also means I'm not acclimated--a couple training partners commented on unpleasantness of concrete West Side Highway part of the Nike half this summer, and I really didn't notice it... I do not think I have an injury, I just think that tapering makes you suddenly attentive to these minor things that normally good exercise chemicals totally put out of mind...)

So in the slow hard part of the run I was suddenly asking myself whether I was crazy for thinking I could hold a just-below-9:00 pace for the race--but I think it's really worth trying, there is no huge downside, I already made my sub-two-hour half-marathon goal for the year. So there it is: say 9:00 miles just for the first mile and a half or two until the crowd thins out, then move a bit faster to 8:50ish, settle in on 8:55 according to the Device or "sort of just under 9" if I have a mechanical failure and I'm counting off clock and mile markers (really in that case I would just be running by feel). Speed up to 8:30 for last two miles if I can. I am trying for 1:56:50-something, just under 1:57 at any rate. 8:55 pace, to be precise--of course it seems ludicrous to be so specific, these mechanical devices sort of lead us down the primrose path. Really a lot will depend on how much rest I get in the next couple nights, so my priority (other than some desperately overdue paper-grading that must happen tomorrow!) is to SLEEP.

(Oh, and another useful thing about today's run: Becca is quite right, I do not want to be running with a jacket or fleece tied round my waist, the feeling of running light is priceless. This Brooks jacket is very nice, it's going to be great for long runs this winter as a lightweight and breathable but warmish layer, but when the temperature's in the low 40s you are warm already and no longer need gloves after about TWO MINUTES of running. I must dig through bags of old clothes in closet & just find something I can ditch at the start.)

Thursday swim

That is a lovely way to start the day--the way I feel when I get up at 5:15 is basically along the lines of Not quite as terrible as you might expect, but it is all good once I'm actually in the pool. I am determined to convert myself into an early riser, against the huge weight of years of experience the other way & also a strong genetic bias towards late nights (Seymour Benzer's fruit flies!). Sleep is a slightly intractable problem...

Warmup (really it was 300, but I missed a 50 somewhere in the progress from blackboard to lane): 3 x 250 (100 free, 75 back-breast-breast, 50 double-arm back, 25 fly)

First set (hmmm, I like this one--Thursday workouts are the best...): 6 x 150, 100 free 50 stroke, 1: fly, 2 and 3: back, 4-6: breast. The coach gave us an interval of 3:00 but that was what it took us to actually swim them, so really we went on 3:30 to keep it all clear...


Second set: 12 x 50 pull, odds butterfly down breast back, evens back down free back.

The faster lanes had some sprint 25s at the end but this was all we had time for. This workout is too short--really it's only about 55 minutes pool time if you're not in the pool right at 6:00 sharp, the Young Things (who are absurdly lean and muscley, it is ridiculous, it is really as though they are a different species) are hovering waiting to get in right at 7:00...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The adverbial flip turn

Since I cannot have another workout today, I will indulge myself in a frivolous post...

A few weeks ago at Monday-night swimming, I shared the lane with a guy who has relatively recently--i.e. perhaps in the past six months--acquired a fully functional flip turn, after many years of swimming.

(I heard the story afterwards from the women in the locker-room--it was a proud accomplishment that the guy had presented this spring to our late lamented much-loved swimming teacher when he visited him in hospital--I believe the swimming teacher rolled his eyes and said that he could have been doing 'em all along!)

These women certainly (affectionately, but still...) felt that this fellow has been gloating over his flip turns, and I could not exactly differ. If I had to come up with an adverb to describe the style of his flip turn, I would say he turned smugly.

How is it possible that a motion underwater could be so strongly characterized by an adverb?!?

And then I thought about other kinds of flip turn that one might be likely to see. (Now I feel like I'm channeling one of the eighteenth-century novels I've been teaching recently--OK, I'm going to open the Shandean vein...)

AN ANATOMY OF THE FLIP TURN. Viz., the manner in which this underwater maneuver may be conducted....






But I am especially interested in the attachment of an emotional affect, as it were, to the turn. I cannot imagine an angry flip turn, but I can imagine an irritable one. I can imagine flip turns triumphant, joyful, doleful or magnificent, also pitiful (hmmm, I have done a few of those myself, or floundering/incompetent is more like it). But here we're coming away from style and more towards basic questions of competence, which is not interesting in this verbal sense.

Other plausible possibilities: arrogant, modest, heedless, self-possessed, extravagant, furious.

Nigh-inconceivable possibilities: tumultuous, devastated, defeated (though possibly if we had seen the swimmer lose a heat and then do cooldown laps, we might interpret a self-contained turn as a defeated turn).

So what is the constraint? Is the nature of the movement in swimming, i.e. that we cannot really be abrupt or angry underwater in any particularly legible way? Or is the flip turn simply categorizable as part of a family of movements--like, say, waving one's arm in the air--that are constrained to be described with a certain pool of adjectives because of the limits on legibility of bodily motion more generally? Have I missed out obvious possible categories of emotional affect?

And how long a clip of the turn would one need in order to assess affect? Is it mostly the going-in and coming-out parts of the turn that are expressive, or could a very brief clip of the person just coming off the wall be similarly evocative? Would the assessments be impossibly subjective, or would they fall into patterns as assessments of facial expressions do?

(Getting a decent flip turn is one of my winter goals, but clearly I prefer thinking about them to actually doing them, arghhhh!)

Wednesday gym workout

A super-enjoyable session with M. this morning (mercifully rescheduled to 8 rather than 6:15, though I got up at 5:15 anyway to do a couple work things early on). There is something about knowing I am only allowed to exercise for an hour (I wrote off the notion of swim or bike today, I need to keep the volume down for taper!) that gives an ineffable and not strictly physiological intensity to the time. Upper-body and core stuff, it's good--I'm looking forward to bumping up the weekly sessions after this race. Next week will be recovery week, partly just because of holiday-related inconvenience, so I'll just have one session on Wednesday, but I think I'll move to 2/week for the last couple weeks of the semester and then go up to three once I'm done teaching. Muscles!

Gear-related musings: hmmm, pondering what to wear on Sunday, it's a bit problematic. The weather's just been freakishly hot, so I haven't really had a chance to test out colder-weather gear (and I don't have a lot anyway, since I was injured all last winter). Last year I checked a bag and it was a great nuisance retrieving it afterwards, they were very chaotic; I'd rather just wear everything on my back.

But the race start is at 7am, so if I'm there by 6:15 it's a longish coldish wait with just a light long-sleeved shirt on. I've got a Patagonia fleece-type pullover that I will fall back on if needed, but during my last short run tomorrow I'm going to try out the new jacket I bought this weekend. I know it's a bit dire trying something new so close to the race, but I'm almost certainly going to take it off just before the start and tie it around my waist anyway, so it should be OK... and it's got lots of pockets, so I can have gloves tucked away, and also my phone. I had thought of running really light, carrying barely anything, but I think to be on the safe side the phone is needed in case there is some reason I do not particularly want to walk the couple miles back to my brother's house--I will hope to get a taxi, but in Philadelphia it's never a sure thing to hail one on the street, not like NY...

(Last year after this race I pretty much couldn't walk, it was NOT good! My poor mother has still not recovered--my brother and sister-in-law and training partner L. were not particularly traumatized--but it is different for mothers... I have made a mental note already that if/when I do an iron-distance triathlon I had better make sure she is (a) in another state and (b) knows as little about it as possible...)

(I got a couple pairs of tights at the same time as the jacket, but they're definitely warmer than I need, I'll just wear the usual Nike capri ones that I always wear--I've got multiple pairs, they are absurdly comfortable...)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tuesday run

Five easy miles in Riverside Park (beautiful weather, too--upper fifties, sunny--short sleeves!).

Hmmm, the fact is that once you're more or less fit, it really is less enjoyable to run slowly than to run moderately quickly--but the double task today was (a) to honor the spirit of the taper for Sunday's race and (b) to make up for running too fast on Saturday by really concentrating on holding that slow pace. An exercise in self-discipline, in other words.

This is a fairly flat run, only a couple little hills, so it's actually much easier to hold heart-rate and pace steady than in Central Park--also easier to work on this when I'm running on my own. (But I am going to go back to using heartrate rather than pace for those long Saturday runs, I think it's easier to enforce--in fact I am contemplating setting the wretched monitor alarm perhaps to go off at 153 or so--and we will try to hold it under or at 150...)

The thing I like about this slow pace is that I kind of feel I could run like that forever! And in the end there is a certain perverse pleasure to the discipline of holding oneself back from something one really would very much like to do (I say this rather dubiously, I am trying to persuade myself--but it really is true, think how much more I'll enjoy my race on Sunday having restrained myself today...).

5 miles, average HR 140 (there, that really is 50bpm below my max, that's good), pace average 10:20.

Mile splits (I slowed it down at the end, concentrating on the HR): 9:57 (140HR), 10:03 (143), 10:04 (142), 10:16 (140), 10:38 (136).

Tuesday swim

Funny how much better things look after (almost) six hours sleep and a morning swim. Yesterday I was in the depths of exhaustion--I had quite a lot of coffee, I had quite a lot of tea, I was even desperate enough to take a nap, but I could not shake the line of thought that goes something like this: Hmmm--maybe eyedrops would be worth trying as a remedy for this awful granulated eyeball tiredness situation--but really given the way I feel like my whole face is sunken in from tiredness we are talking more like eight-week medically induced coma plus facelift... Now I feel quite cheerful again, this is good!

A respectable though not inspired swim this morning, I am not at all sure I can reproduce its details. Miscellaneous thoughts:

1. I didn't do flip turns during the warmup period, ARGHHH! Ritual self-reproach...

2. I notice not having had the Monday-night swim in terms of feel, it takes a little longer to get it--but surely this thing of swimming different strokes is already paying off. I feel I have noticeably more body rotation in my free stroke compared to a month ago, this really does come partly from doing backstroke; and the catch is also really better, partly from doing breast. I had a very good feeling of long strokes, lots of obliques involved & a really nice fast strong catch, I like it...

3. I must put my taper before my obsessive need to learn to swim better, no extra swims this week or it will have a negative impact on my time on Sunday. (Frustrating, though--maybe I can find somewhere to swim over Thanksgiving--but on the whole those days are a writeoff as far as swimming goes, which is a great pity--it will just have to be considered a recovery week...)

Warmup: 200 swim, 75 kick, 75 stroke.

(I did butterfly on every choice option, it takes me almost the whole workout to really get back in undulation mode!)

Then something kind of along these lines:

3 x 150 (75 back, 75 free) on an interval I can't remember
4 x 100 (interval supposed to be 1:50, but I can only do those for a couple, maybe I'm swimming them in 1:46, then I have to fall back on 2:00 interval--this is a good goal for the winter, though, I'm close enough that I can see I should be able to do 100s properly on 1:50 by the early spring, get it down to 1:42 as something I can hold & I'll be good to go...)
2 x 200 on 3:40 (again, it takes me 3:40 to swim it, so really we had more like on 4:00)
2 x 100 (50 drill, 50 stroke)
2 x 150 (75 breast, 75 free)

And then we ran out of time--team practice starts at 7 sharp. I did a couple more lengths of butterfly, and then we stopped...

A comical twist: H. and I got moved over to lane 2 (i.e. lane 7 was in lane 2) because there was a film crew shooting some footage--and they needed to have the good fast swimmers in the lane we usually swim in! I was a little confused about the details, but I think one of the swimmers (or coaches? not sure) is co-owner of a bakery & is going to be featured on Throwdown! with Bobby Flay...

[Ed. update: I think this is the bakery...]

Monday, November 12, 2007


Circumstances are perhaps conspiring to help me have a good taper...

Monday-night swimming is canceled tonight (the pool at John Jay is closed), and M. called last night to reschedule our usual 8am appointment. He offered me 6:15 this morning, but I was so tired yesterday evening I couldn't quite face the prospect and suggested 6:15 Wednesday morning instead (clearly irrational, but days-away early-rising always of course seems more tolerable than next-day--also I really did need to sleep 7-8 hours last night).

So here's how the week's looking--sleep is crucial for race preparation, but those early mornings make it difficult:

Today: work-related evening obligation, but will do a quiet technique swim for half an hour if I am done in time

Tuesday: 6am swim workout, run five easy miles pm

Wednesday: 6:15am gym workout with M. (will concentrate on core and upper-body), plus two treadmill miles

Thursday: 6am swim workout, one hour bike trainer ride (really this should be on Wednesday, but I won't have time to fit it in--we're coming into the crazy part of the semester where my evenings are full of workshops & colloquia & lectures...)

Friday: sleep in! Evening: go to CU gym, do 2-3 slow TM miles and half-hour technique swim. OR day off. Not sure yet about this--I do think I'll sleep better that night if I go and have a very relaxed hour of exercise...

Saturday: sleep in! 11am swim lesson. Train to Philadelphia mid-afternoon.

Sunday: Philadelphia half-marathon.

Want to weigh in on whether it would be better just to take Friday off? I do better if I decide in advance, then I do not have so much self-reproach! I find a quiet Friday-evening swim a very good way of winding down from the week, plus if I don't run a bit that day it's kind of a long gap from Wednesday early morning to Sunday. On the other hand, the body responds well to rest...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Indoor mishaps

A largely uneventful hour-long ride on the bike trainer just now. It was curiously enjoyable, good chance to listen to a bit of music (I have had Camper van Beethoven on the brain this week for some reason). Felt a lot smoother by the end of it, really I just have to do it very regularly and it will become comfortable.

The mishap: hmmm, not good--around the 45-minute mark, I suddenly realized that the whole bike was toppling over sideways... I re-balanced myself on the bookshelf which is mercifully rather sturdy and bottom-heavy and did not likewise topple. Mildly shaken, I got off and examined the situation--I realize I never fully sort of clamped down the lever thing on the trainer...

It is not so much that I am inherently unmechanical--I have good mechanical genes at any rate--as that I do not pay attention to things and also I overthink! In this case I remember having a lot of musings along the "How do I know whether I have to push really hard or whether pushing really hard will break it?!?" lines. But now I have pushed it in really hard, and it did not break... Making a mental note, though, to check setup properly before getting on next time... (However on a more positive note, I clearly did a reasonable job assembling that bookshelf...)

Saturday lesson

When I got home yesterday the internet was out of order, and I could not instantaneously blog my swimming lesson--deprivation!

A very good lesson. I now have independent confirmation that I can do real honest-to-God IM! Funny how that butterfly thing just fell into place this week, there is room of course for infinite further improvement but I really did just learn how to do it, and I think as long as I keep doing it I am not going to suddenly forget it now...

(I must see if we can work on turns a bit in one of these upcoming lessons. I am resolved to practice my flip turns for free, only somehow it is always easier to skip. Resolution: do all flip turns on warmup lengths, regardless of whether I feel like it or not. Revisit this policy after Xmas and see if I'm ready to start doing flip turns in the regular sets also.)

We worked mostly on butterfly and breast, with a little bit of back at the end. My breaststroke is fully functional but very flat (I think this is partly still a legacy, though I did not learn how to do breaststroke as a child, of the very flat swimming style of the 1970s, it took me a long time this winter to get a sense of the body rotation for freestyle), I will have to work on building in more undulation--after some unsuccessful attempts at approaching it from that side, I. and myself were in agreement that we must just work from the flat end of things and see how it goes. I was noticing very much this week at the morning workouts that when everyone else is doing a breast pull set they really are doing something dolphin-like with their bodies--but when I try to do this, either pulling or swimming, I kind of end up with some distortion of timing that stops me almost dead in the water, it is counterproductive.

But I really can swim butterfly now! Four things I. left me to think about (along with humorous apologies--from her to me, and from me to you--for the fact that the vocabulary is better-suited to ten-year-olds!): enter wide for good catch/pull; lightbulb/hourglass stroke; exit with short karate-chop; straight arms recover forward on puppet-strings led by pinkie. She says what she tells the ten-year-olds on the karate-chop exit is "WAVE your competitors goodbye" (with hands out behind...)... The other main thing to remember is the kick in being a lot stronger than the kick out--I think I was getting overenthusiastic on the latter...

No Monday swim this week--the John Jay pool is closed. So I should be able to go and have a quiet technique swim that night, then Tuesday and Thursday morning workouts, then Saturday lesson. That's enough, I think, for this week.

(Even though really in my heart of hearts what I want to do is maniacally swim two times a day until I really am a better swimmer. But I am slightly amazed by how much progress I've made in the last couple months. I did 160 IM to warm up yesterday--it is a 20-yard pool--and I. commented afterwards on the fact that I looked like a person who was swimming a lot--it is true...)

Once this half-marathon is over, I'm going to keep up the same kind of run mileage but slightly reshift priorities. Six weeks or so of more gym workouts with the trainer, keep up the swimming at current levels, and a bike focus. Because of holiday-type stuff I can't quite guarantee the thirty-in-thirty thing (I can't find a link for this, but the premise involves doing thirty workouts in thirty days in a single discipline of triathlon), but I am going to do twenty-one-in-twenty-one on the bike. Just take a very calm approach, and I think the weather has gone cold enough that I will do 'em all inside--set goals modest, so that half an hour on a stationary bike at the gym post-morning swim will count--have one long one in the week (preferably outside if it's not freezing), building up to two hours, 3 just 30-45-minute recovery rides, and three real little workouts with some kind of interval thing or technical thing to concentrate on like pedal stroke. This will be good...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Saturday run

I am laughing with pleasure post-run but really also with self-reproach, it was the dreaded day when it was me and C. and S. and they are just fast runners and we did not adhere to pace guidelines...

(I would think that the slowest end of their long run pace overlaps with the fastest end of mine, but of course it is just hard anyway to hold oneself to these slow paces. My race isn't till Sunday next weekend, so I think it really is fine, and frankly if you find people you like running with it's probably worth a bit of tradeoff--assuming nothing catastrophic--on race performance for good training companionship. But I am making a stern note for myself that when I'm training for the marathon next year I will need to really make a choice on this, and that insofar as my race time really matters to me I will need to find some slower folks to do the long runs with, or else just ruthlessly enforce my will on these ones! Which is mildly distasteful to me, but obviously possible--only I cannot have a hodgepodge strategy that diverts me off course!)

(Goodness, I am tempted to find a low-key late spring marathon to do--only really I think I should wait till the fall, for injury-prevention and speed-building reasons it makes a ton of sense to keep concentrating on half-marathons and shorter races instead and I also will need the time for triathlon training. But it is certainly a tempting thought...)

The pace readings were occasionally a bit dodgy--S. has just got a Pod also and I wondered whether it was some kind of interference, but perhaps the main thing is to replace the battery...--but I think the distance and time are right, so I am kind of actually smitten with guilt looking at the numbers now, only it was so enjoyable that it really was worth departing from guidelines! There was one bit just near the end, say around 9.6 miles, where we were going very steadily and strongly up Harlem Hill and as we leveled out afterwards I seriously felt like I was floating along, it was most (what shall I say?) blissful...

10.55 miles, 1:35:16 run time, 9:05 average pace, 150 average HR

Mile splits: 9:43, 9:08, 9:20, 8:48, 8:39, 8:42, 9:32 [that was me trying to be resolute! it did not stick...], 8:32, 8:17, 9:06 (plus another half-mile around the same pace)

Saturday link

The New York Times discovers triathlon...

(Hmmm, that use of the word "ambivalent" is not really right...)

Friday, November 9, 2007

In which I am thwarted

I went just now for one last pre-lesson butterfly practice session--but when I asked the young fellow at the front desk for a towel and pool locker key, he sadly informed me that there are no pool hours this evening because of a meet! I was crushed--the most annoying thing is that they've had some sort of sign on the locker room door for weeks with miscellaneous closing dates, only I did not pay attention, so it is my own fault...

If I were a truly virtuous and self-disciplined exerciser, I would now change out of my bathing suit (yep, I'd put it on at home beforehand, most trying) and into biking clothes and do an hour on the trainer, but I am feeling lazy and hungry and am instead going to eat dinner and read a book! I'm a little worried now about whether I'll be able to go to sleep--I took a nap this afternoon that I assumed would be counteracted by swimming. On the other hand, this week was so short on sleep that perhaps it will be OK... (I will let the bedroom get very cold, and also try and stay out of bed for reading-related purposes in the meantime.)

Resolution: if I want to run the race I intend to in Philadelphia on Sunday the 18th, I must sleep properly this week. I can't guarantee great sleep or quite enough of it, but I must not have any four-hour nights like I did this week. I felt totally wrecked today, it was not very productive--I used up three days' worth of energy on Wednesday and Thursday and had none left for today!

I have a firm intention of making a good stab at a 1:56:5X time in the half-marathon next weekend. It's flat, the temperature should be civilized and since I've already made my sub-2:00 goal there's no reason to be super-conservative, that was the cut-off point that mattered to me. I feel it is mildly hubristic to plan on taking a little more than two minutes off my previous time of 1:59:07, but the conditions in that last race were awful--it was amazingly humid, and the course is really quite hilly--so that I really should be able to do considerably better. And when Coach Mindy gave me my goal paces for the half-marathon in August, the range was 1:56-2:02, so if Mindy thought I could do it then and I've since done quite a lot more longish runs and improved fitness generally through lots of swimming, then there's a very good chance it's attainable...

(Sleep matters a lot, though: if I turn up at the start pretty run-down from a long week, I will be struggling a lot sooner and a lot less likely to make my time.)

So: pacing. Let us assume the Device is reasonably accurate--I think it's quite close, at any rate. If I hold 8:55 mile pace for the first eleven miles, I can then see how I feel and even pick it up a tad for the last couple--in the last few I've done, I've definitely been working as hard as I could (and walking during water stations, too), but I've also still picked up the pace for the last couple miles, and I am imagining some combination of (psychologically necessary) short walk breaks in miles 8-10.5 or so and then really speeding up again just for the last few when the end is mentally near.

It will be interesting to see how it goes! I've got a ten-miler tomorrow morning in the park, that is a nice thing to look forward to--should be very enjoyable. I like racing, but I love training...

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Thursday morning swim

An extraordinarily cheerfulness-inducing swim this morning, quite lovely. I am just totally in love with swimming!

(Aside from how good it feels I like the busy industriousness of everyone going up and down in their lanes, like shuttles on a huge industrial loom...)

Warmup: 600 (300 free, 200 pull, 100 IM).

Main set (this is a delightful one):

4 x (75 back, 75 breast-breast-free, 75 fly-free-free, 75 free), odd ones pull and even swim

To conclude (the men's team were hovering and waiting to get in): 4 x 50 free, odd ones easy and evens fast, on 1:15 and 1:30.

Mmm, I love it....

Resolution: Do not be tempted to ignore previous decision and go to tomorrow morning's workout! Only got about four hours sleep last night, will be out till midnight or so seeing Shakespeare tonight, must get more sleep tonight--I will just do a nice little butterfly-practicing swim in the evening...

BTW I really think I can do that butterfly now! It's the most rudimentary version only, but I am very excited!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


All right, that's it for me and yoga for this semester! It's absolutely pointless! There hasn't been a single class this semester where I didn't spend more than half of the time wishing I was (were!) elsewhere. I'm stopping, and I'll make another stab at it next semester...

This afternoon my thoughts were distinctly and particularly elsewhere, mostly I was musing about what it is I'm not liking about yoga, with the result that my poses were comically half-hearted and pitiful. Finally the substitute teacher called me on it & reasonably affectionately but pointedly scolded me, pointing out that though when one is really quite ill it is not a good idea to do yoga, if one is just tired or out of sorts it should be restorative and invigorating. I can't remember the exact words she described, but it crystallized what I've already been feeling: the thing I do that makes me feel really vivid and focused and energetic even when I'm ruinously tired is swimming!

An hour and a half of yoga is an hour and a half I could have used for a swim today, and it is idiotic for me to waste the time this way, especially if I'm being so half-assed. I really love all the other stuff I do, this is pointless if I'm not going to pay attention and throw myself into it...

And the part of the brain that has sometimes been very engaged with yoga is all needed right now for learning butterfly properly!

So that's it. (Not as dramatic as it sounds, probably only three or four more classes this semester anyway.) I felt extraordinarily cheerful the moment I decided this, very smiley, it was a kind of productive naughtiness that I feel I do not have often enough--I often feel guilty, I rarely feel naughty, the latter is on the whole to be encouraged if one is fairly rule-abiding most of the time. Of course I could not actually walk out on the spot, that would just be rude, but I had the satisfaction of a mischievous decision and a reclaiming of energy and a useful time slot for more important purposes...

(Ironically I had been considering skipping class today because of work-related pressures, only I sort of have a hard-and-fast rule that while sometimes an exercise plan needs to get canceled because of a specific work obligation, and while certainly work should be taken into account when making season-type plans--I partly didn't train for my first marathon this fall because I needed my wits about me for work...--exercise should not be canceled out of a general sense of vast amounts of work to be done. The work will get done, probably at the expense of sleep, and I have many more years under my belt of doing excessive amounts of work than of exercising regularly...)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Reeling and writhing and fainting in coils

More undulation!

The fit is upon me, I could not resist, I went and had a twenty-five-minute technique swim at Teachers College.

(I think by next week I'll be competent enough to do it in the regular pool--for now TC is best b/c I can have half of a funny little lane to myself and not feel stressed out or annoyed...)

A bit of warmup, then the fins went on and I did some lengths of dolphin kick alone, and then quite a lot of lengths of breast pull down butterfly pull back, concentrating on the up-down of the dolphin. Then I did some lengths of butterfly, still with fins, and I really do think I've got the basic idea now; then I took the fins off and did some lengths without, and it seems fully functional.

Mild mental health alert: ardent fits of excessive work traditionally lead to overwork, exhaustion and mild depression by the end of the semester! Watch out for compulsion to overwork ... it always seems like a good idea at the time!

I had only three little windows for possible technique swim this week, and it is never wise to miss the first of three, especially as the one tomorrow is fairly iffy--this one having gone well makes me think I should just have Thursday morning workout and quiet Friday evening technique swim and figure that I'm covered. I will skip the Friday morning workout because I'll be out late at the theatre on Thursday and because my Saturday run needs me to have slept decently Thursday night. Next week is the taper for the half-marathon, so I will have to be more careful about slipping in extra workouts; and the week following is Thanksgiving, with further travel and inconvenient holiday pool closures. So it is right that I must seize the moment...

The holiday feel

An absolutely lovely run just now in Riverside Park with C., who is a much faster runner than I am--just as well we only really got going at the end...

(It's sunny and clear and fifty degrees and a university holiday--now I must go and get a move on to be in time for the string of student appointments that I thought I would take advantage of the holiday to schedule! Really holidays are as naught--except insofar as allowing for exercise-related decadence...)

5.23 miles, average HR 151

Mile splits: 9:30, 9:26, 9:09, 9:18, 8:37. Lap end pace for last little bit was 7:40; I can definitely run one mile at 7:40, not sure about more than that...

Oh, I am longing for the future in which I can comfortably run eight-minute miles!

Tuesday swim

This morning's swim was so delightful that I must write a rhapsodic post about it even before making coffee!

Bonus: I suppose because of the holiday, we had my favorite coach who usually only does Thursdays; and also because there was no team practice starting at 7, we could go all the way up to 7:15 and have a slightly longer workout than usual.

Most exciting news: I think (hmmm, might have been better to have independent eyewitness confirmation!) that I did a real honest-to-god 200 IM...

Such an appealing workout...

(My arms were a bit tired from yesterday, but on the other hand it's more than made up for by the feel you keep for the water.)

Warmup: 1000. 400 swim, 300 pull, 200 kick, 100 IM. (I skipped some lengths of the initial swim as I thought I'd better stay in synch with others in the lane.)


4 x 100 back
2 x 300 (100 free, 100 breast, 100 free, all pull)
3 x 200 IM (first one kick, second one pull, third one swim - this is the way to do it and get it to work!)
4 x 100 free on descending intervals (2:00, 1:55, 1:50, 1:45--and yes, I did make the times, so I was excited...)*



(And I think a couple of us will be able to get some small-group lessons at a relatively affordable rate in December from the coach--he has to get the real team season underway, but there should be time soon, and then I will be covered once I.'s on maternity leave. This will be good--it is an extraordinary luxury, really, having access to a coach of this caliber!)

*ED. Really that is not quite right, 1:45 is the time the last one took--you only have three times for four--still getting the hang of this description business!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Monday-night swimming

The first of a new session (they come in series of seven or so), so the population had shifted a bit. (Also some marathoners absent--a lot of these triathletes are very regular and accomplished marathoners also, not a surprise...)

It was a very good workout, only afterwards I had a quick dinner with training partner L. as we are not going to have any runs together this week and the details of the workout perhaps slipped away from me! Let me try and reconstruct...

(I really am getting faster, BTW. My favorite moment was at a point where the slow lanes were doing 4 150s and the fast ones were doing 6 and I finished quickly enough that the coach told me to do a fifth one. He was just laughing when he saw how excited I looked! I want to get fast enough so that I can do the full workout with the fast-lane people! I think it will happen--I will not be in the real fast lanes, but I am near being ready to move over one slot, if it is a bit more crowded next week & depending on who's there I could probably be at the back of that lane--only of course really I prefer leading a lane--so we will see...)

Warmup: 200 swim, 200 kick with fins and board.

Technique set (with fins):

3 x (3 x 50 side kick, right-arm down and left-arm back; 3 x 50 "anchor drill," long dog-paddle down and short dog-paddle back; 3 x 50 "reverse" side swim [one arm at side, and breathe on opposite side from stroking arm)

4 x 150 (100 pull, 50 swim, concentrating on long reach and good catch)

Conditioning set (no fins):

(this is where I now can't really remember a couple pieces)

What was it?!?


Something along the lines of 12 x 50, 20 x 25, is that possible?!? A lot of short fairly hard stuff, at any rate, and I think it was two separate bits of stuff rather than just one or the other... can't really remember now... enjoyable, though...

To end:

3 x 100 on 2:00, holding a fairly hard speed

Then 300 swim, at that same speed per hundred

I sort of messed this up through inexperience (also my cap fell off in the 300, it was distracting, I had to go and retrieve it afterwards from the very deep bottom of the deep end)--I paced off the people in the next lane, who are still just a bit faster than me. So I did not hold my time on the 100s (I would say it was 1:42, 1:45, 1:45--but I was having very hyperventilationish breathing on the third one, I should not have swum the first one quite so fast), and then I couldn't quite do fast enough on the 300. The others were aiming for 5:15, I would have liked to do that but I did 5:30. However it was a good hard swim, and next time I will just do the 100s a tad slower--really holding on 1:45--and then see how I manage for the 300...

I was in a lane by myself for most of the workout, once the technique part was over at any rate--there were few enough of us there that nobody even had to circle-swim. It's good, because you get a bit more coaching this way, very helpful. My technique has dramatically improved but I still have lingering problems with the same stuff that was holding me back months ago, in particular a tendency not to breathe quite early enough in the stroke, which leads to the left arm falling a bit in the water. My left-hand catch has dramatically improved, though--I must just keep on paying attention, those drills are really excellent for this stuff...

Gym workout

Another good one--we did a slightly tweaked version of The Workout (M. has started working on the script for the video...), it is super-enjoyable. I find this core stuff much more compelling somehow than straighter lifting-type stuff, it really is good.

Then I did two pretty easy treadmill miles when we were done--this is the very much most obvious place in the week to add that in, I think I cannot afford to miss it. It helps on run frequency, it adds a couple miles to the weekly total, most of all it lets me get increasingly comfortable with extended exercise time.

Ten minutes walk over there, ten minutes warming up, an hour of working out, twenty minutes of treadmill running, ten minute walk home: 1:50. (Of course walking is not really much to speak of, but it's the in-motion time that seems valuable.) In terms of my priorities for 2008, the durations of the different races break down as roughly two hours for a half-marathon, three hours for an Olympic-distance triathlon and four hours for the marathon (those last two are optimistic down-the-road times rather than necessarily attainable-next-year times, but it gives ballpark--in reality probably my first one of each would be more like 3:15 and 4:10-4:15 respectively, though I'm certain that after I've done a few I can bring it down)--the more I can get in the habit of exercising for longish periods, the more ready my body will be to handle the necessary intensity over the extended time period. I am sure this has been to my benefit on the half-marathon stuff so far--it's a mental thing as well as a more strictly physiological thing, managing to stay focused for the whole time.

I have to sit down with the training schedule and figure out the bike part again--I am still completely not on a routine for that. It's getting to a hard time of the year to make a change, though--really I'm probably kind of locked in now for the remaining five weeks of the semester. Hmmm--we will see...

Sunday, November 4, 2007


I had a productive swimming lesson yesterday afternoon, though slightly disconcertingly there was another teacher doing a lesson with two kids in the other lane--usually we have the pool to ourselves.

(It wasn't the lesson that was distracting so much as the rather loud mothers--who kept on interrupting to ask I. things like "Our friend so-and-so is doing X swim--how long will it take her to swim a mile?" Most annoying...)

Hmmm, this butterfly is just going to take a while to figure out...

Yesterday's lesson was almost all me just doing the same thing again and again, it was most useful (and we didn't do any one-arm drills to speak of, because I. sensibly points out that we've got to put the pieces together sooner rather than later and one does not actually swim butterfly with only one arm stroking at a time...). Big fins for everything--some dolphin kicking to start--and then just doing breast pull down and butterfly stroke back, but dolphin kick in both cases.

This is to work on timing, and it sort of magically fixed my get-the-breathing-entirely-in-the-wrong-place problem; but then once the front part's working, I forget to keep my mind on, you know, undulating or whatever!

It was pretty funny, I. was running up and down along the side of pool shouting "UP! DOWN!" and I was wriggling around in the water trying to comply...

The whole thing pretty much just furrows my brow still, at one point I had to very seriously ask her, "I., don't you think it's possible that I just really don't know HOW to do the dolphin kick, and that's why I'm not going up and down in the right way?!?" But she was most certain that I do know how to do what she is often calling (is this a standard term, or just the phrase one uses with small children, i.e. the way that all swimming teachers seem to use the instruction "make a small pizza with your hands" for the breaststroke pull?!?) body dolphin and that quite simply it's one of these things where you have to do it in a way that feels monstrously exaggerated before you get it even moderately right.

(I remember this same thing on the freestyle stroke, I know that really it is quite true--it is natural to think that a very modest and ineffectual version of some gesture is outrageously exaggerated--all interesting tricks of the mind to work this stuff out.)

Resolved: I cannot afford to miss the lesson the week of the Philadelphia half-marathon, I need to get as many as possible in before I. goes on maternity leave and I am left to my own devices on stroke. I had thought of going down Friday, but really I must have my lesson on Saturday and then go down--if I. can give me an early-morning slot either by switching with someone else or just shuffling me to the top of the deck, then that is good, but in a worst-case scenario I will just bring all my stuff with me to the lesson and then go straight on from there to the train station.