Category Archives: Swim

Race Recap: Ironman Canada – Swim and T1

THE SWIM – 1:10:55 // 1:40/100 yards

Suiting up!

Suiting up!

Making my way down to the water I wasn’t as nervous as I sometimes am for the swim portion of the day. Things that I think helped contribute to that: I had a solid plan, I had quite a few solid swims in Alta Lake prior to race day, and 2 days before the race I found out that the start was deep and in water. One of my biggest fears had been a shallow water start and having to navigate the first 90 degree turn only a couple hundred yards from shore, so learning that we wouldn’t have to turn for nearly 1/2 mi made me feel much better.

G's IMC Mugshot of the day - Alta Lake

G’s IMC Mugshot of the day – Alta Lake

So, as I mentioned, the swim was a deep water start with the start line running about 200 yards, from the first buoy all the way to shore. It was angled a bit as well, so that no matter where on that line you positioned yourself it would be the same distance to the first orange (turn) buoy. The course was 2-loop, but what made it different from a lot of other 2-loop swims is that swimmers stayed in the water for both loops and only made their way back to shore to finish the leg. Usually 2-loop IM swims have a mid-way check point on the beach where swimmers have to exit, run across a timing mat, then enter the water again for the second lap.

Ironman Canada Whislter Swim

I walked through T1 and was sure to cross the timing mat to turn my chip on. On the beach there were hundreds of athletes milling about nervously, but I got straight into the water. The more time I could just float around and acclimate the better, especially knowing that the water was the perfect temperature and there was no risk of getting cold. I got in a solid warm up with a few short hard strokes and treaded water while Oh Canada played, the pros went off, and AGers started getting into the water. I was surprised how many hung back and stayed on the beach, it was almost like athletes weren’t sure how the start was supposed to work.

Athletes getting ready

Athletes getting ready

My plan was to start a bit off of the buoy line to try to avoid the chaos but also to not get in faster swimmers’ way. Randomly I saw 2 of my teammates that I hadn’t yet spotted that day floating within 10 feet of me. We laughed and joked about how skilled we were at following our race plans; since we all have the same coach we figured she had given us similar instructions on where to start. It was great to have some familiar faces nearby though, and since both teammates are stronger swimmers than I am I felt safe positioning myself right behind them and knowing that I’d have space.

ironmancanadaswimstart

3…2…1… Go Time

The first loop of the swim wasn’t too eventful. It felt very crowded, but there were only a couple of times that I felt held up by the traffic around me. Generally I was able to work hard and keep pushing my effort and pace. The turns were pretty rough and congested, but for how many people were within arms reach (A WHOLE LOT) I feel like the experience was pretty calm.

The second loop of the swim got a little more dicey. Swimmers were much more spread out by that point so there weren’t so many people to be conscious of, but it felt like swimmers began to flail a lot more. The water got more rough and even though there was plenty of open water I got hit quite a few times trying to pass groups or when people wanted to fight over the feet I had found to draft off of. I wonder if the same thing happens in a 2-loop swim when a beach exit midway is required.

The 2nd to last stretch before the turn back to shore I started feeling tightening in my left calf, and then in my right. Cramping doesn’t usually plague me during exercise, but I’ve gotten cramps in my sleep enough to know exactly what was happening. I immediately stopped kicking and tried to keep moving forward using only my upper body in hope that my calves would chill. That did it for a couple hundred yards or so, but as soon as I started working hard again my right calf cramped up as bad as I’ve ever felt it. I tried to swim through but I couldn’t keep my lower half from sinking with how paralyzed I felt. I stopped, sat up for a second, and manually flexed my foot with my hands. The cramps came and went a few times during the rest of the swim but I was able to swim through them and before I knew it I was at the last turn buoy.

The last stretch back to shore was the worst part of the swim, in my opinion. I don’t know if people lost their form because they were tired, or if seeing the beach makes people more competitive with each other, but it was a pretty brutal fight to the finish. I tried not to shy away from faster feet and the advantage of swimming in the pack, but with plenty of space around there were too many errant arms and legs for my liking. It felt chaotic and like there was a lot of panic in peoples’ movements. But finally the water got so dark I couldn’t see a thing, which meant it was shallow enough that sand was getting kicked up. I stood up about 2 strokes too early but quickly made my way out of the water and across the timing mat on the beach.

T1 – 3:21

I got to the wetsuit strippers and felt like there were 1000 of them and 1 of me! I scurried up to 2 guys and they had a hard time but after a few tugs successfully stripped my suit off.

The inside of the tent was extremely dark, and I felt like there was no one there – athletes or volunteers – so I got to work by myself. I threw my suit, cap, and goggles on the ground, dumped my bag and started putting my shoes on when a volunteer asked if I needed help. I told her I only needed help packing up and a couple of moments later I had grabbed my helmet, sunglasses, and was off to find my bike.

Tracks!

Tracks!

The transition area was a little bit clunky in terms of the set up; no fault of IMC but the park was strangely shaped so it was hard to make the best of it. I found my bike with no difficulty though (tip: always walk your race day path through transition a few times before the race!) and made my way out of transition, across train tracks, up a path, and to the main parking lot to mount. As I got on my bike I was so so so glad I had remembered to put it in the small ring, as climbing up the hill to get out of the lot was more of a b*tch than I remembered.

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Sunrise Friday July 20

 

Soon after there was thunder, lightening, and a downpour. But it started out pretty!

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Swim Hunger

I’ve always though it was just me, but I am a hungry hungry hippo after I swim. No matter how hard or easy my workout is from the moment I get out of the pool or lake until the moment I go to sleep I.AM.HUNGRY.

I’ve made up a number of excuses for always feeling starving post swim, including:

  • Maybe you engage more muscles during swimming than other activity so your body needs more nutrients to refuel?
  • I’m a terrible swimmer so I burn 8 million calories trying to stay afloat.
  • Okay maybe I’m not terrible, but very inefficient.
  • I rarely fuel up as well pre-swim in comparison to pre-bike or pre-run, so it’s only a matter of time before I get hungry.
  • It’s mental. Because the whole swimming process takes so many steps (pack bag, get to pool, change clothes, get wet, shower, deal with we belongings, get dressed, sigh) I feel like I deserve a more substantial refuel than I do.

Today Training Peaks’ blog posted an entry called Why Swimming Makes You Want To Eat Your Young. No I don’t have any young, but I know exactly what they mean!

The basic answer is that cold water (pool or lake) triggers our bodies to believe that they are hungry to encourage us to fuel up (gain body fat) to protect us against the cold.  The theory makes sense to me, though I wonder why running or cycling in cold temperatures wouldn’t have the same effect. Thoughts?

I must say though, I’m sad to hear that my swim sessions don’t actually warrant the refuel that I crave!

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Friday Cry Day – For Daily Sweat

This installment of Friday Cry Day is for Daily Sweat, who I have officially now met in person!

We went swimming this morning. It was horrendously cold. I let the coldness take over at the start and my lungs are still frozen. 😦 But Megan was super tough, shrugged off the coldness, and made a new friend (in addition to me)!

Introducing, Daily Sweat’s new friend:

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Swimming Lesson 5 and Other Updates

I am a proud graduate of the Nuun swim team (clinic)! Swimming Lesson 5 is over and done.

During the 5th lesson (Monday) I got to celebrate that I’ve actually made some pretty good form progress in the last month. All of the form changes that I’ve written about I’ve adapted to fairly well. When I get tired they begin to fly out the window somewhat, but I’ve also learned which drills snap me back into shape quickly so when form falters I can find it again. I’ve also figured out which drills are as productive as banging my head against a wall (I don’t do those ones anymore).

It’s been helpful, essential really, that during this time I’ve been able to not focus on speed and just focus on steady consistent pace and distance during all of my swims the last 5 weeks. The harder I try to swim fast I SWEAR the slower I go; if I can just relax and focus I can hold a decent pace pretty well without feeling like dying. These swimming lessons have reinforced this times a million.

During this last lesson I ran through my drills and form work so that we could create a list of the top stuff I still need to concentrate on during my swims.

  1. Arm width. My left arm still likes to aim to close to the centerline.
  2. Rotation. Pull from the lats while sideways.
  3. Core engagement. Lead rotation and glide from there.

I now have a mental list of the 3 things to check in on if my swimming feels sub par, which I’m sure it will at some point, again.

Other things…

Today is Wednesday, which means last night was Track Tuesday. Track Tuesdays have been pretty uneventful for me the past couple months. Lots of not attending at all, and the last few weeks have been more like Slow Jog Tuesdays. And Slow Jog Tuesdays aren’t fun to write about.

Last night I got my first real post-injury crack at some running that made me feel excited. I warmed up with my current normal 8:15ish mile pace, and then got to do 6x 800’s at 7:00 mile pace. Just a couple of months ago I was completing these at a pace so much faster it makes me feel like crying. When I found out I’d be running anything at a 7:00 mile pace I felt like crying too. It sounded impossible, but I fared better than I thought I would. Sets actually got easier up until #5.

My heart rate was embarrassingly high, my breathing was labored, and my legs were burning and I loved it. (My recovery 400’s were at a good clip, for the record.)

I’ve been anxious about my return to running; as much as running is all I want to do the return from injury is never seamless or easy. You hope you didn’t lose too much. You’ve always lost more than you hoped. Even if you’re fit as can be your body is no longer accustomed to running pain. There’s nothing like it. Everything hurts. Everything feels hard. And you have to constantly remind yourself that NO YOU DO NOT HAVE TO STOP KEEP GOING GO GO GO.

Though it’s slower than where I was, it’s also faster than where I’ve been. I’m really looking forward to this weekends 60 mile bike + 40 min run (8 min/mi pace) brick workout. If I can knock that one out on pace it will be step 2 to feeling better about things.

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First OWS of the Year

It was approximately 500x less terrible than I had gotten worked up about.

The water was pretty cold when I first got in, but I’m used to that initially freezing feeling; 24 hour fitness runs their pool so cold that if you rest between sets for more than a minute you end up with goosebumps. I tip-toed in really slowly, but was pretty surprised at how tolerable the water felt when I finally dove in and went for it. It probably helped that the sun was beating down on my suit and face.

The swimming part? Also went well. I just buoy hopped for this first foray back into the open water. Rather than focusing on getting across the lake I wanted to focus on keeping my form intact and not getting anxious or stressed out by the temperature or darkness. The only part of my form that was challenging to recall was to “bury my head” and keep it down.

Dare I say I’m looking forward to the next trip to open water?

Oh, and the most exciting news of all: My wetsuit still fits absolutely perfectly! Honestly, I was worried…

 

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Swimming Lesson 4

Swimming lesson #4 happened 4 days ago, and though I haven’t swam since I feel like it was a good one. Survey will be in tomorrow after an actual REAL swim.

This week it was just me again, but it felt really productive. The drills are starting to come together more, feel less awkward, and are translating into changes in my swimming. And though I’ve felt like there are positive changes being made it’s lovely to have someone on the sidelines reaffirm that. Swimming is hard in that you really aren’t supposed to see anything other than the bottom of the pool so there’s no way to make sure you aligned other than to feel it. AND, needless to say if you don’t know what you should be feeling that’s sort of difficult impossible.

We worked more on rotation and keeping my core engaged, because when I can pull that off my form clicks together much more effectively. When my core is not engaged first my kicking goes, then my breathing goes, and pretty soon I’m flailing and splashing and being the uncoordinated swimmer of 4 weeks ago. When I can hold it together (+ breathing) my swimming feels different, and though not yet fast it feels like less work. Less work and less effort = good when it’s going to followed by many hours of cycling and running.

Now that I’m starting to feel like I know what I’m supposed to be doing, and I’m getting more comfortable doing it, I’m liking this whole swimming thing a lot more. Not that I ever didn’t like it, but when my yardage got kicked up a notch due to my lack of running I did start to dislike the pool (more than) a little. Now that I’m fighting with the water less and am making progress, even if just with drills as measurement, I can more than tolerate it.

Except for when this happens:

But I’m just going to hope that’s an irregular occurrence.

2 more lessons to go!

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Swimming Lesson 3

Today the Nuun Swim Team, as we I fondly call ourselves us, bailed. Early work duties, a race next weekend, and other miscellaneous excuses prevented everyone from attending, except for me and our fearless leader. And she is truly fearless if she is willing to take me on, trust.

Though I missed my teammates it was nice to have the lane to myself and to really get more swimming as opposed to some of the waiting that can happen when you’re sharing a lane with others who are trying just as hard as you to learn the drills. My normal pool has been getting more and more crowded in the morning with the onset of triathlon season I’d guess, and though I usually dodge the circle swim bullet it was nice to have a wide open lane to myself in a pool with bright lights and high ceilings.

We did more rotation and reach/glide drills (versus how I usually swim which is muscling through it) and though I felt some minor progress on Friday I really felt a leap today. Like, a L – E – A – P. The drills that I’ve been struggling with and sinking on came fairly naturally after a brief warm-up, and I was able to really focus on form and consciously make changes and uphold them.

It’s as though everything I’ve been thinking about swimming is completely backwards, and it’s taken a lot of fighting with myself and the water to reverse that. Rather than pull I should reach! Rather than speed up my cadence should be slower! And don’t get me wrong – it isn’t actually reversed yet. But I feel like I’m at a point where I can at least get myself back to here when I go (which is sure to happen) astray. Next time I’m in the pool having the worst swim ever I’ll be able to stop, realize that I’m doing something wrong, figure out which drills to do to center myself, and continue on without hating things too much.

I really want to like swimming more, and I’m getting there. Good thing, because there’s still not too much running happening on this foot which is a combination of nerve-wracking, disappointing, and depressing with Boise looming.

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Swimming Lesson 2

Feeling more inspired from some good weekend training on Sunday night I was excited to get in the pool for lesson #2. I didn’t practice my drills as much last week as I would have liked, but I got in the water twice and really tried to focus on form and take the time I needed to get the job done. Everything is still feeling awkward during the first few tries, but then I remember the basics and each time I’m able to nail the movements more quickly and with less swallowed water.

Tip: Chlorine is not a good hydration method. You heard it here first!

Today we practiced the same drills as last time but then added some single arm swimming. This new single arm move is similar to the torpedo from last week but requires core strength to lead the single arm reach and pull body roll. I’m not supposed to think about it as pull. No pulling!

Another Tip: Muscling through the water does not a good swimmer make.

I have to really think about this one. I wish I could find a video or illustration of someone doing this properly because I can’t picture what it looks like. Strangely enough it feels way smoother than more natural on my uncoordinated and weak side, supposedly because that side isn’t trained to do anything currently. So to get it down I have to practice on my weak side first and then compare to my strong stupid side.

Tip #3: The drill is sort of like this video here, fast forward to 2:06ish and go from there.

My problem is that my body is so accustomed to pulling to get momentum that I’m not using my core to help rotate my body on its axis to get the extra leverage that I need. So, though the video makes it look so easy “get your shoulder out of the water” it’s deceptive, because it should really be coming from the core. And rather than pulling I should be reaching.

Hoping to get more good swimming in this week so that I can practice master this.

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24 Pool

After spending two consecutive days on the trainer watching it snow, and seeing the weather forecast for last night (SNOWPOCOLYPSE!) I started getting worried about work travel and getting my training in.  And about work travel. And about getting my training in. I’m okay with changing the plan, but I’m not very pleasant to be around when I don’t have a plan, so after confirming on every channel and website I decided to take action against the weather. (Never mind that it didn’t snow, the pool was still closed for inclement weather so it’s a good thing I’m nuts!)

My knee is a bit creaky and sore from so much time on the bike (see the last 2 days above), and I don’t dreadmill, so that leaves the pool. But public pools operate on school inclement weather schedules which tend to be conservative and unpredictable here. We live 2 blocks away from a 24 Hour Fitness, one with a lap pool that’s also open for 24 hours per day, but I’ve never swam there because I’m not a member and didn’t swim when I was (3 years ago). As a last resort I chatted up an online sales specialist last night, signed up for a free trial to get me through snowmageddon, and headed over there this morning.

First off, the front desk attendant took one look at my ID and remembered me. FROM THREE YEARS AGO. And I’ve even gotten married since then, so my name has changed. Then, I went down to the pool and there were four glorious lanes, and one person swimming. One person total. I could have had three whole lanes to myself if I wanted!

I’ve been trying really hard to convince myself that I like the public pool enough to inconvenience myself by continuing to go there. What will I do without my pool friends? How will I dry my hair at 24, because they don’t have hand dryers? But I like the drive home from the pool as the sun rises! But really, a lane to myself, 24 hour per day availability, and a 2 block walk might just win out. Stay tuned for the life-changing details.

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