OMG will she just shut up about the swimming

I really do have other things to talk about! I do. I have so many exciting things in the works. I’m working on a trail running adventure in March. It’s going to be a 3-day, super remote, crazy endurance challenge that has me a little scared, and definitely questioning my own sanity. But it’s good for me, every spring I like to get in touch with the tough durable mountain chick that I am. Plus, who wouldn’t want to do that here:

I’ll leak more information as soon as I get the guts to admit publicly what I’m planning. You all will like it though. You seem to like my spring adventures and I often get emails hearing about how much you like my little running videos, so there will be plenty of that. Also it seems that the more I beat myself up, the more page views I get, so lets go for broke!

PIC and I are also getting ready to go to CAMP! Yes, sir, we are headed to SWIMBIKERUN our brains out with Chuckie, Ang, and CurlySue in Tucson in a few weeks. I’m so excited to visit a warmer climate and ride my bike outdoors.

Finally I’m so excited that Love Grown Foods is going to sponsor me this year! They are a local Denver company that has a tremendous POSITIVE energy. They are like ME in a company, and I think you can taste it in the Granola that they make. I first tasted them after the Denver Gorilla Run and wanted MORE. Who wouldn’t want more LOVE? Thanks Love Grown, I can’t wait for a great year together! Love Grown is on Facebook and on Twitter too. Check them out, they just launched nationally so you should be able to find it in your local Kroger stores.

Okay, and since I couldn’t go a whole post without talking about swimming, here I go! Guess what?? I am on schedule to swim just over 100,000 yards (that’s 56 MILES) in January! I need just over 6K more and I’m there! 93,597 yards as of today. I’m on track to hit 1,000,000 yards by Kona, you know, just another 900,000. And to top that off, I have just had a few of the best swim workouts ever the last two days.

The first was yesterday afternoon and was the second installment of my “marker set”. That’s what I call it, it’s the set Chuckie has me do to see how I’m feeling. We got to pick it, and mine is 15×200 with increasing rest and (hopefully) descending times. Troy and Annie swam while I got started and then when they got cold they joined me on deck. Again, Troy is becoming my secret weapon when it comes to my swimming (Annie too…she’s such a trooper). Having him on deck is like having a personal coach watching my every move. He has watched in detail all of Karlyns videos and he gives me feedback every time I hit the wall. Last week my final 200 was 3:12 (meter pool). Yesterday with lots of Troy’s guidance it was 3:03. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the clock.

the meter pool makes me feel like I am back at square one. I remember when I was trying hard to break 3:00 for a 200 in the yard pool, and now, here I am again, trying to break 3:00, but I’m in the meter pool. At first it was discouraging and I was always computing back to yards to stroke my ego. Now, I’m embracing the meter pool and I’m setting new goals.

Also, Michelle says I’m officially a swimmer now. You know when you start dreaming in a foreign language that means you are fluent? Well, on a set of intervals on the bike a few days ago, I looked down and I had 1:20 to go and I said to myself “That’s just 100 in the pool, 3 flip turns and your home, make them good”. If I’m comparing bike intervals to the pool…PIC says that makes me a gennnuineee swimmer!

Finally, I’m dedicating this song to Troy. He said today “You downloaded that?” Umm, yea, and I LOVE it. Especially when I saw this video, it just reminds me of being in love and cherishing the joy in the little things that bring you together. Most the time that’s the junk that nobody else would find fun. Love is what happens in-between the lines, during the pauses. So whether you like it or not, Boo, this ones for you!

And now weather is almost 60 here, and so the bike calls. Boo and I are heading out for a ride.

4225 Swim

I’ve been in the pool quite a bit. It’s interesting this winter in the pool compared to last winter. You think a lot when you are swimming a lot. Last year I remember thinking a lot about the “mile”. Ahhh, the swimmers and the mile. Remember those SAT word questions that were like: Lion is to Savanna like Bear is to _________. I hated those, I could never figure out what the heck they were talking about. Well Swimmers are to the Mile like Economists are to Math. The relationship is “wonky and backwards”, and I say that with the utmost respect to Economists.

So when you swim the longest event at a short course yard swim meet it’s the 1650, and it’s affectionately called the “mile”. Is it a mile? Noooo, on the land that you and I walk around on 1760 yards makes a mile. Do they call it the mile….why yes those swimmers do. Maybe it’s a nautical mile, and they just took it “indoors”. Um, nope again. A nautical mile is about 1.15 land miles. If you swim the longest event in a meter meet or the Olympics your going to be going 1500 meters, but you know what…it’s going to get called the mile. I love them to death, but swimmers are cheaters, there is no other way around it.

Well, what do we swim in Olympic distance triathlons? We swim aproximately 1.5k or 1500 meters, so again, a “swimmers mile”. What about Ironman? AhhhHAHA! A race that was invented my non-cheater swimmers! It’s 2.4 miles. Like real miles, like the ones on land. Of course with the buoys and the open water the courses are never really that exact.

So, a couple weeks ago I got an email in my inbox saying that there was a local swim meet coming up and in order to make the “triathlete” crowd feel welcome they were offering a 2.4 mile timed swim. I emailed Chuckie to see if he thought this was something I should sign up for.

Now if I emailed Chuckie
“Hey Coach, do you think I should run a marathon in a couple weeks”
The answer would be “NO”
“Hey Coach, I’m thinking of heading out for a 112 mile time trial on the bike”
“Umm, I don’t think so”
“Hey Coach, what about a 2.4 mile time trial in a yard pool”

What the heck?

2.4 “real” miles is 4,224 yards, we’ll round up one yard to 169 lengths…that’s a lot of flip turns.

The best part (and I’m not going to be able to live this down for some time) was that he emailed Michelle and asked if she wouldn’t mind doing it as well. I totally got her roped into it, and she’s not letting me forget it ANY time soon.

So 12 of us “crazy triathletes” signed up for it. The pool was 6 lanes. So the meet director assigned two of us to each lane and told us to split the lane. It was an in-water start. It was so crazy to look two lanes down and see Michelle, and it was great to look over and see “Pia” a new friend I made at the pool.

We got going and well, I swam. And swam. And swam. I could see the clock on my flip turns so I would watch that a little bit. It was hard to really tell how I was doing because the clock was at the other end of the pool than we started at so I was getting 125, 225, 325 splits which don’t mean a whole lot. But I tried to remember the numbers and check in every once in awhile. It seemed like I was swimming 1:30-1:32 pace. I tried to not have too many expectations going in. It’s 2.4 miles for Petes sake. The only thing I can compare it to is:

– My first IM swim of 1:09 at Canada
– My second and very cold IM swim of 1:07 at CDA
– My Kona swim of 1:10 (really almost 1:11)
– My battleground of an AZ swim of 1:09

I had a few altercations with the guy I was sharing a lane with. Nothing like an Ironman, but the lanes were skinny and we knocked each other a few times. I really had more issues with the lane line off the flip turns since I was trying to “stay on my side”.

And I kept swimming. This is when I started getting confused about the whole “mile” thing. My timer put a kickboard in the lane to signal that I had completed one mile. I flipped and checked the clock. 27:10. I remembered that at state meet last year I swam 24:08 for the mile. What I didn’t figure out during the swim was the whole “mile” “mile” issue. The 24:08 was 1650yds, the 27:10 was 1775 (so 25 more than a mile because we started on the side of the pool that the timers weren’t standing). CONFUSING! My actual 1650 split that Troy took down was 25:11 and I’m happy with that.

I swam on. I felt very consistent and I mostly worked on my form and my timing and my flip turns. I once again saw the flip board signal for the 2nd mile. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how many laps I had left. I thought maybe somewhere in the 700 yard range. My timer had told me that she would singnal when I had a 200 left. So I started watching for that. I tried to pick up my pace, pull my form together and wait for the 200 to go mark.

I swam, and swam. No 200. I swam. I saw the clock turn to 60 minutes. I flipped and thought for sure I would see the signal. No signal. Another lap, no signal. I knew once I saw the signal I had about 3 minutes to go. I was watching that clock. I saw 62 minutes. No signal. 63 minutes. no signal. I was starting to get a bit bummed out. I kept adding 3 minutes to the clock time and with each passing minute I was getting more emotional. I see the 64 minutes. I come into the wall. No signal. I flip and I start to get emotional. I see all these people running down the side of the pool waving at me. I breathe to the side where Michelle is standing and I see her making the “stop swimming” signal. I stop mid length and my timer is stannding there shouting “Your Done”. I said “Where was the signal for 200 to go?” Apparently she put it in and I just never saw it.

I got really emotional. I had no clue what I swam. In my head I had swam a 1:08 because that’s where I was thinking I was at. I didn’t get to give it that final kick at all. I was looking forward to a kick. I was really emotional about not getting to kick. How strange. The mind plays funny games. I cooled down and wipped away a few tears. I don’t cry often but I was definitely weepy.

We were swimming in a high school pool and the swim team girls write their goals on the flags. I thought that was REALLY awesome and a great idea!

I swam a 1:04:22. It took me a little while to even think I did a good job after the way the whole ending went down. Poor Michelle, I’m this strong girl who takes charge in normal life, but then I get in the pool and she has to deal with this apprehensive tadpole. What are friends for?

Michelle by the way won the thing. Amongst the 12 of us, she kicked the water out of that pool. Troy said she looked so strong and powerful and she was at the finishing wall in 55 minutes. Was she showered before I finished? No. Could she have been…Yes!

Annie loves sitting on Michelle’s lap

As I sat down afterwards to talk over my splits with Troy I started to feel much better. Man, I am a steady eddy. I went out conservatively, I got into my groove and I stuck there. 1:31 pace. My 500 splits were 7:37, 7:40, 7:38, 7:38, 7:36, 7:41, 7:37, 7:31, and then a bit more to finish off the last 225. So of course now we just gotta get that average to come down. The hard work lies ahead. It always does.

I’ve got to say, I really love Troy. He loves the swim meets. He kept track of my splits during the swim and afterwards I asked him if he had anything he wanted Chuckie to hear about his impression of my swim and he wrote this:

“I think your endurance is really deep because you are so consistent. You swam with great form and held it consistently. I think your cadence is much quicker than it was last year. I think you still need to develop strength because of how I see your pull through the water. As you go faster it’s going to hurt more and you need to learn to go to that place”.

I really feel like Troy has such a good heart. He’s patient, understanding and supportive, but he also knows how to be honest with me. He chooses his words very carefully, sometimes it drives me nuts, but I always know that when I ask for his opinion his response will be really helpful.

The Vegan Thing

I thought the vegan thing might be a December experiment. But then January came, and well, I didn’t buy any meat. Now it’s towards the back half of January and I’m not any closer to jumping off the vegan bandwagon than I was 20 days ago. So, I’ll just say that things are still up in the air, and I’m still experimenting, how’s that for being vague.

I thought I would write a post about some of the things I’ve learned and been inspired by this month when it comes to not eating things with a mother.

Justin’s Nut Butter: They have sponsored me for a little over a year now. If you haven’t tried any of their products you should pick up some squeeze packs next time you are out. They are great to stick in your pocket for a long ride or hike, and are quite the treat when you have just gotten out of the pool. For any athlete who isn’t eating meat or dairy, nut butter is a great way to incorporate a bit of protein and some of those healthy fats that we need. I’ve known since I first met him that Justin himself is vegan. He came up with his Nut Butter because he was looking for something accessible to eat when he was mountain biking. He’s been a source of inspiration and I like that I can eat any of their products and know that nothing was “slipped in”. Another thing that is really awesome is that they are working really hard to create sustainable squeeze packaging. It’s not an easy feat, and I applaud them for taking the reigns on this.

JaiSeed: This book really got me started down the vegan path and opened my eyes to things like vegan cheese…for nachos of course! The biggest concern I had in the beginning was “I’m an athlete” and I didn’t want to hinder my ability to make progress. Looking back at all I’ve learned it’s an absurd concern. I eat so much more healthfully and I’m sure I’m getting so much more nutrients that I was in the past. Rich and his wife Julie wrote Jaiseed and making the recipes in their book makes me feel like I am in their kitchen cooking with them. It’s a very personal cookbook, like something a friend would pass along to another friend. Rich is a certified bada$$ and he gave me the confidence that if he can do 5 self supported Ironmans on 5 different Hawaiian islands, in 5 days on a vegan diet…then I’ll be just fine!

My Terry Walters Books: These are the bread and butter of my vegan diet. She has two books, the first was Clean Food and she followed that up with Clean Start. Both books are organized by season and I’m proud to say that just today I finished making every recipe in the Winter section of Clean Start. I’m told her books are more “macro” than they are vegan, but she’s not so into labels, just good clean food. It’s easy to be vegan and pretty unhealthy, after all, Crisco, sugar, white flour, and white rice are all vegan. Terry’s books are healthy and they satisfy my desire to be in the kitchen, cooking tasty food for family and friends. I’ve made some awesome awesome dishes and if she were to write 10 more books I would buy every one.

The PCRM (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine) website: They have hosted a 21 day vegan kickstart and I tell ya, I have learned more stuff from their video content, links, and recipes. I especially like that they highlight a vegan person everyday and that person writes an article with their tips and a few of their favorite recipes (people like Bob Harper from the Biggest Loser, Alicia Silverstone, and Scott Jurek). It’s been enlightening to read different perspectives and has perked my interest to study certain issues further.

Vega: This is a company that was developed my Brendan Brazier. He’s a Canadian Professional Triathlete and he’s vegan. Again, this stuff inspires me because I am the exact customer he developed his products for. They are pricy, but they are great. His protein and Whole Health Optimizer always make their way into my smoothies. I’ve also really enjoyed his online community, I’m so glad he put that together.

VitaMix: I have quite the obsession with the VitaMix. I can’t explain how good it feels to throw a bunch of veg and fruit in my machine, toss in some chia, some coconut oil, some Vega and drink it all up. So yummy. I love that thing. I think my favorite thing to make in it is the Jaiseed Mushroom Gravy. We always have a batch of this in the fridge for dumping on mashed potatoes, or quinoa, or cooked millet. It’s a crazy recipe, but turns out so good!

B12 and Protein: Two of the main questions that people get about a vegan diet is: What about protein, and what about B12? I thought this was a great article about B12. It convinced me that I am going to be able to get B12 without supplementation. Troy and I did A LOT of research on this topic and were happy to hear that your body stores excess B12 for future use. That’s why meat eaters get B12 in meat, because cows (for example) eat plant forms of B12, and it’s stored in their body and then meat eaters eat the cows and get the stored B12. Troy and I likely have enough B12 already stored to last quite some time. So that’s good. Now protein. This was helpful. First let me say that even in my uninformed state when I started I never felt like I wasn’t getting enough protein. I think that when you are eating really HEALTHY you tend to naturally get adequate amounts of protein. I have learned that protein is all over the foods that I have been eating. Even the spinach that I throw in my smoothie every morning has a pretty nice punch of protein.

Where now? Yea, I don’t know. Do I want a burger? No, not really. Do I want to stop drinking Mix1 because it uses Whey Protein Isolate which isn’t vegan? Not really. I still really like the First Endurance Ultragen too which also has Whey in it. So while I haven’t had either of these in several months since my training load is light right now, I do plan to use these products during training. They have worked wonders in the past for me.

I’m just one person trying to make good decisions for my health, and that of my family. Anyone else faced with the same education would probably make different decisions than me. That’s what’s fun about life, making your own decisions and seeing what it’s like to live with them. Change is always possible.

Aquatic Edge Clinic

Well, week two of January came in at just a tad under 24K of swimming. It was a big week, but lots of fun too. The definite highlight of the week was a slumber party at PIC Michelles house. Her hubby was out of town running Phoenix Rock and Roll half marathon, and my hubby was out of town doing this:

Yes, while he may have to deal with my dad and his crazy antics, you gotta admit, he’s a pretty darn lucky son in law that my dad treats him to LOTS of snowcat skiing. Check the two of them out, pretty awesome if you ask me (dad in front, Troy in back). Next time any of you say “Your husband is such a saint” you just remember that his life rocks the house (He’s married to me…duh).

So while they were galavanting in the winter wonderland of Steamboat Springs, Michelle and I were tag-team parenting so that we could each get in all our workouts. I moved into her house and we swapped kid watching and attending so that we could train. It was really fun and I think we did a great job with the kiddos. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a slumber party. Everyone was asleep by 9pm at this one though!

The big kicker for me was on Sunday. I had signed up for a swim clinic (my first ever) with Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen of Aquatic Edge. One of the rough things about swimming is that everyone you talk to has different advise on how to swim. Get on your side…swim flat…head up, head down….etc etc. I’ve written about this many times before, and really, it doesn’t even bother me anymore. I made a decision quite some time ago to listen to everybody, to “Seek First to Understand”. That’s my MO with swimming.

Karlyn has her own stroke. One that is probably a bit more “off center” than most. But the most awesome bestest coolest, neatest, radest thing about Karlyn’s clinic was that no stone was left unturned. She taught her stroke from entry, to exit, from fingertips, to toes. She drilled us in every aspect of what she was teaching and when I left I knew exactly what her stroke entailed. It was clear as a bell. For someone who has never been taught from the ground up how to swim this was refreshing. Usually people look at your current stroke and give you tips. Karlyn was the opposite. It was almost like “throw that out, just do this”. Here is her swimming if you have never seen this before:

Crazy, huh? Karlyn has set 208 FINA Masters World Records (more than anyone else ever), and 47 of those are currently standing. She is a dynamic, friendly teacher who is enthusiastic about her sport. I loved that she said “When your knees are toast, and you’re tired of getting hit by cars, my sport is waiting for you”.

I think more than most people in the clinic I was quite receptive to the changes. Not to say that people weren’t “receptive”, but I think it’s because I’m pretty attentive, good at following directions, and I REALLY REALLY want to swim faster. I am a sponge when it comes to information and I really started to fall in love with her stroke, and what she was teaching. Karlyn lives in Kona, and due to my current infatuation with all things Hawaii (says the girl who’s fingers are very sore from playing the Ukulele for 2 hours last night), I think her stroke just reminded me of the islands. She gave a lot of tips like “paddling on your surfboard” and “see the fishes, hear the fishes”. It was like she was speaking to me, hahahaha!

Off topic: I found this picture of Troy. He has that sweet “old school” stroke, I love it! He is dang fast in the pool though.

I didn’t even take any pictures during the 5 hour clinic, I was in sponge mode (not sponge as in sit at the bottom of the ocean and don’t move, but sponge as in “absorb”).

So monday, the day after the clinic, I had a swim that I was nervous about. Chuckie asked us to pick a 3,000 set that we would repeat often to help us start to become more aware of our own state of being in the pool. He calls it in-tuning. I picked 15×200 where the first 5 you start out fast with little rest (like really little), then you will get faster after that, but with more rest. I didn’t know what to do. Old stroke, new stroke? I hadn’t tried to go fast with the new stroke, I had only learned it 20 hours prior and I was still just trying to stay afloat.

After my warmup I did a few 100’s. Oh, Wow, Ok! So I guess the new stroke is definitely not any slower! So I got into the work of the day and went NEW STROKE all the way. Go big or go home. Wow, sometimes I felt like I wasn’t getting any of it, other times I had forgotten I was in the landlocked state of Colorado. I was swimming with the turtles in Kona. Karlyn gave us so many triggers to think about that the entire workout flew by. Between thinking about my wrist/lat connection, paddling my board, pointing to the corners of the pool, keeping my V, glide/set/snap, keep your pulse, feel your paddle, relax your shoulders. Whew, that workout went by likity-split.

The new stroke lead me through a great workout (read:fast) and towards the end as I was trying to pick the pace up more and more I told myself “paddle away from the shark”. Then immediately I said in my head “No, don’t think like that, paddle to keep up with the dolphins, paddle to catch the wave”. I have to stop initiating that fight or flight response in the water. At the end of the workout, my fingers were shaking, and my arms felt great in that ouch way. It was such a good hurt. I so very much look forward to keeping it up and I feel like I actually have something to master while I am putting in the trials of miles in the pool.

I made a little 3 minute video of some of my time in the pool this month so far. The beginning of the video is before the clinic, the end of the video is after the clinic (actually the night after the clinic). It’s all still very new, so keep that in mind.

Pook Buoy

I had to share this really quick before I head to bed. Tomorrow (and every day next week) are early swim days just like last week so I gotta get my head on the pillow BUT… I have to show you this video.

Part of my plan to become a better swimmer is to create some swim “memories” that are positive and lasting. See, so many “lifetime swimmers” have tons of memories of high school swimming days, and meets, and goofing off with friends in the pool. I get it, I have all those same memories with running because I ran cross county and track in high school. So I started taking my camera swimming last week because I’m trying to create memories of joy that are associated with swimming. I really do think this will help…if not make me faster, it will help me enjoy it more.

Also, I’m big on the mental aspect of sport and I really need to stop saying “I’m a weak swimmer” or “I’m not a very good swimmer”. So the photos are reminding me that I am a good swimmer, and working on getting better. Fake it ’till ya make it Sonja!

Chuckie gave me two “family flops” this week. That means: head to the pool and swim around with the family. Get in some light stuff but play with Annie in between and keep it all fun and silly. Coach really always knows best. He knows how to get the work done, but also prescribes a balance that promotes fun, and attachment. Love it! Very “up my alley”.

Family flops were difficult in the past but since I signed Troy and Annie up for Greenwood Athletic Club too, now we can all go and enjoy and play together. There were so many hilarious moments during our family flops this week but this one is my favorite. I call it the “Pook Buoy” (if you didn’t know Troy and I call Annie “Pook”, it’s short for “Pookette” which is what I called her when she was in my belly).

Seven Days of Swimming Make A…

You know those “streak runners” who try to run every day without taking a day off? I’m a newbie streak swimmer. Racking up the yards, getting used to the pool. I’ve got a swim clinic with super famous and 200 record setting Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen next weekend. The following weekend I’m tackling the Ironman swim in a yard pool for a timed 2.4 mile swim meet run by the swim dogs (I hope there are no actual dogs in the meet, although that might make me swim faster). 2011 is going pretty well thus far on the swimming front!

January 1: 8749 yards

January 2: 1969 yards

January 3: 3000 + 3281 = 6281 yards

January 4: 3450 yards

January 5: 3250 + 2734 = 5984 yards

January 6: 3200 yards

January 7: 3007 yards

The first 7 days of 2011 came in at 32,640 yards.

Only 967,360 yards to go until I hit the 1,000,000 mark (said with pinky on my bottom lip and an evil laugh).

Just Jump In

2011 is here and I got my first schedule from Chuckie. I was totally excited for it and very curious about what it was going to look like. You can be dumb as a rock and still figure out what I should be doing in January. It’s obvious. But for those of us who are dumber than rocks we hire really good coaches and they tell us the obvious.

Swim until your suits fall apart.

So I open up the schedule… Wow. Alright. On the top it says 18+ hours this week. I gotta admit, in some sick way, I got really giddy. Because nothing says “Game On” more than your first week back being 18+ hours.

Then I cruise Chuckie’s twitter account and it says

As coach, it’s hard to know *where* to start (with) new athletes, but I’ve found that it pays to try to crack them sooner rather than later!
–Chuckie V

I’m not even a *new* athlete!

As I skimmed (ok I didn’t skim, I pretty much devoured) all three pages of my weeks schedule I start to see a trend (again, it’s a no brainer). Yup, there it is, 17 of the 18 hours are swimming. I kid…barely. Really, it’s a lot of swimming, over half the hours, plus there are extra credit swims in there. Kompetitive Edge helped me pick out two brand new super durable TYR suits several weeks ago and neither of them have dried out since Saturday.

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.

When you are faced with 17 out of 18 hours of swimming (again, i kid, but go with me here) the only thing to do is to JUMP IN!

Yep, just poise yourself on waters edge, secure your goggles in place, take a big deep breath, tuck your chin and leap off the edge. No regrets, no hesitation. It’s 2011 folks, and the years are going to just keep slipping by if you don’t choose to make the best of them. I plan to give it my all this year or drown trying.

This quote really got me through last nights swim. 10×200, the first 4 on 2:55 (that’s HARD for me), and the rest were on more rest but supposed to be faster. Ouch.

The water is your friend. You don’t have to fight with water, just share the same spirit as the water, and it will help you move. ~Aleksandr Popov

Here’s to swimming one million yards between now and Kona…literally. Do the math, it’s achievable! 40 weeks until Kona!

New Years Day Nemo Style

This day irks me. I am always stuck between “it’s just another day, move along move along” and “I should reflect, I should look back, look forward”. I’m somewhere off center, leaning towards it’s just another day.

Last year I heard that some Masters groups like to swim 100×100 on New Years Day. This year the Masters group at my local Athletic Club put together a 100×100 swim session so I invited Michelle. Troy and Annie even decided to come and swim around, play in the snow as well.

I wondered if it would be held in the indoor pool or the outdoor pool. One of the big reasons I joined the Greenwood Athletic Club (I know you think it’s so I could see John Elway work out on a regular basis) was because it has the only year round outdoor pool in Denver. I am always “trying” to make swimming a more enjoyable experience, and in a land-locked state, that task takes a lot of imagination. I wasn’t too surprised when everyone headed outdoors. It was 20 degrees today. At least it kept us swimming faster.

I didn’t know how many I could do. I’m coming off some heavily reduced volume and quite a bit of rest. The instructions from Chuckie were to get in, see how we feel, and swim until our form started falling apart.

The group had broken the 100×100 into sets of 10×100 with a different protocol for each set. Some were pull, some kick, some descending, some had stroke in them. Check out that snow, brrrr!

I gotta say, as much as I feel like an “insider” when I run, I feel like such an “outsider” when I swim. When I arrive at a group swim setting, especially at my club I know I am the slowest there. I immediately relegate myself to some sort of lane with a wall. I was lucky today that “Joe” hopped in with me, so I had some company for a few thousand, this is extremely rare. I’m such a social person, but when I swim, I feel lonely most the time. PIC was there but she was 4 lanes up, tucked in the middle of all the good swimmers, firmly planted safely inside the click that is the “fast swimmer cool kids”.

Nobody means to be exclusive, they are all very very nice people, and very very fast swimmers. It’s just one of those situations where you show up to a group thing, and you are the slowest. It automatically lands you as an outlier, someone on the fringe. You can’t make the intervals. When people are chatting at the wall, you are madly swimming. When you get to the wall, everyone is long gone.

And it reminds me to make sure that the people who show up to group functions that I organize are made to feel special and included. Just a reminder for me personally. We are all out there to have fun, and to get better, but it reminds me that everyone is looking for a little validation at times, a little inclusion so to say.

I was glad that Troy was there. I think others may have wondered who was the “hovering helicopter husband” with the 5 year old dressed in snow pants in 20 degree weather hanging out on the swim desk, but let me tell you, it was nice to have a smiling face watching me, and nodding a lot. Annie would walk along the deck and keep pace with me as I swam and she would smile at me. That was a real treat today.

So I got going into things and really I just plodded through things. I focused on my form, reaching long, then reaching deep. Holding the water I found, trying my best to push it backwards. I focused on relaxing what didn’t need tensing, using the muscles I’m supposed to be using when I swim. It was so crazy above water with the splashing, the steam, the snow, but so peaceful below water.

My view above water

And my view below…sometimes you have to look deeper for things to become clear.

I was happy to say that about 60 in I still felt pretty good. Tired, but good. 61-70 was a kick set and I threw away my flippers a couple days ago so those were painfully slow. 71-80 I let myself use pull buoy/paddles. Those were on 1:45 and went by quickly but I could really tell that my arms were tired. My form felt like it was breaking and my arms hurt in a sore way.

When I finished 80, everyone else was done with 100. I had these illusions of grandeur of me finishing all 100, all alone, and in 4 hours. But 3:10 of swimming and 80 was good enough for me. It’s not like me to “quit”, but I had instructions from Chuckie, and my form was degrading, and I’m not going to do something stupid just getting back into the swing of things. Did I feel lame? Not really. Was it a new place for me to be in…not going the longest? Kinda.

So, on New Years Day, when I could think of a few things I would rather be doing, this was good. I’m going to need to get used to the loneliness and sometimes awkwardness I feel when I swim because I have a lot of swimming to do this winter.

I’m trying to not get a complex about my swim. I swam really hard last winter. I swam a 24 min mile in the State Masters meet in April of 2010, and then it seemed that through the season my swim just slipped backwards to where it had always been. I could pull out some fast sets in the middle of the season but my racing in the open water, and my confidence in the pool remains lackluster, at best.

I want to reaffirm myself this year to swim more/harder/better/whatever, and I don’t want to be cynical or sarcastic about it. I’m not one to make resolutions, but I do look to the New Year this year to give me a new zest for the pool. I found a way to enjoy it in the winter of 2010 and I’m going to have to search to awaken that flame. It’s like my view of the pool today. I feel like I’m only looking above water, like I’m only feeling the splashing, and the fog and the snow and the WTF am I doing here feelings. I need to find a way to look beneath the water. To find the calm, the serenity and the beauty in my own practice.

I try to compare it to running, something I am more familiar with. In running I know that a 9 min miler is not going to become a 7 min miler without a hell of a lot of work, and not just any work, but the right work, at the right time, with the right rest, and the right shoes, and the right frame of mind. Even then it’s super rare for me to see someone actually make it happen. And that depresses me about the swimming.

But then I also know that the jump I need/want to make is about 11% which is taking a 9 min miler to an 8 min miler. That is something I see as doable within a year, but again, lots of hard work, no missed sessions, and the work must be the right work. So there is hope, I think.

Troy said if you don’t give it your all then you never know if you would have gotten faster. We all know what happens if you don’t try. If you do try your hardest you may or may not get faster, but there will be no unanswered questions in your head. And that is my style, that’s how I roll.

So, it’s 80×100 to start off the season. We will consider these 80×100’s many tiny steps to stripping away what I am scared of, stripping away my nervousness in a pool setting. I will let them be a metaphor for a new start, a renewed start, and fresh start. And somehow I will try to see beneath the water, where things are calm, and beautiful.