Saturday, October 29, 2011

Circadean Clockwork

With my new and improved workout schedule, the first order of business is to develop a routine. I am not a morning exerciser. I actually enjoy the mornings and am quite the morning person. My morning bliss centers around not moving, enjoying the peace of the earth, listening to the Wife snore birds sing, and sipping a nice warm beverage while reading something interesting (obviously not this blog).

I have decided to get a jump start on my 2012 season. Technically, I don't need to start until next week but I am an idiot can't really wait that long. I get antsy without goals. Training goals give me something to shoot for and provide me with the guidance I need to keep me motivated.

Circadian Cycles have long since been known. Named after the annoying fact that your dog won't let you sleep in on the weekend, incessantly stomping his feet, barking at you, begging that you let him out and then provide breakfast, only to repeat this process at dinner time. Circadian rhythms are blamed for numerous annoyances; including feeding the Wife babies, getting sleepy during important work-based meetings, and the fact that my bladder will always wake me up at 2:00 am +/- 30 minutes.

For about the past 3 weeks, I have been getting up around 5:30. That's ante meridian in case you were wondering. The alarm goes off, I sludge out of bed, make said morning beverage, and sit for a while. Somewhere between 6:05 and 6:20, nature me calls to empty the system of an impeding solid wastes. This Circadian Rhythm jump starts the need to put on running shoes and head out the door.

In the first couple of days, the body rebelled against wee-hour running. It exclaimed, "I will not give you a good workout." Fine by me. Remember, my current goal is just to develop a routine. Even if the legs, heart and lungs agreed that I could pound out a good run, the brain is holding it back. There will be time enough for pounding <sophomoric giggling> later in the season.

In an essence, I have been trying to reset my Circadian Clock. And, it's been working. In fact, it's been working too well. I find myself getting up on Saturday mornings at 5:30. The desire to poop run kicks in at 6:00 on Sunday morn. Sunday is not a running day! Go back to bed. But, the PRP seems to think that running on Sunday is a good idea. He'll stand outside the bedroom door going through his morning routine (re-read the 3rd paragraph if you are confused). Much to his annoyance, we don't go running. Normally, providing him with a few extra morsels of kibbles is enough to keep him sated while I head back to bed. I listen to the sounds of the Wife snoring crunch crunch of his breakfast. Despite all of my efforts, I rarely rejoin the sleeping world. The clock has been reset and I am destined to be groggy for the remainder of the day.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wacky Wednesday- In honor of Halloween

With Fox having won the bidding wars for broadcast coverage yet again, the conclusion of the 2011 Baseball World Series can only mean 1 thing: new episodes of the Simpsons. The kickoff of the Simpsons season is the traditional Halloween Special, affectionately called the Treehouse of Horror (insert roman numeral here). The opening credits used to be littered with humorous gravestones; throwbacks that only fans would appreciate. For example:

Hint: He's not dead
Then, this tombstone showed up, marking the end to that tradition.

The idea of funny gravestones isn't a Matt Groening original. Some famous dead people have a sense of humor too:
Fine. When will you be back?
Is that a reef in the reflection or a donut?
That explains the smell
But the pig lives on

Some people just have really good names:

Note: Predates Seinfeld
Sure, died by 'accident'

No mention on how she felt about that.


Here's a couple from Rochester's Mt. Hope Cemetery taken by yours truly:

Sounds like an awesome 80s horror/ comedy


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Change in Schedule

One of my big issues in the 2011 season was a reliance on brick training. Bricks in triathlon are generally a bike session followed by a run session. In the beginning, bricks SUCK. Over time, they suck less. Eventually, you don't even notice the pain. They still suck, but you have gotten so used to it that adaptive forces deep inside your soul have learned to ignore the unhappiness. But, they do teach your legs how to be comfortable off the bike for racing purposes. My legs are quite content during the run. I'm still not that fast but at least I've got no rubbery feeling.

A consequence of the brick reliance is the time factor. When I relied on brick workouts, I was short-changing one, or often both, of the disciplines. A 2-hour workout was roughly 1:15 on the bike followed by :45 on the run. Neither one of those really give enough time/ distance for high quality base training. I would have benefited more by biking for 2 hours straight and rescheduling the run to a different day/ time to run longer. Plus, it's hard to really attack the bike knowing that you're going out for a run. Something must change.

On my refrigerator, I have a white board mounted on my fridge which shows my schedule. Here was 2011 general workout guide:

As you can see, I did on the average of 3-4 bricks a week, depending on how dedicated to the schedule I was (translation: dedication varied widely from one week to the next). You can also see, I needed to buy milk.

Here's my new schedule for the 2012 season:

As you can see, I've got this Ironman training thing going on. I am teaching and coaching a sport. The Running Ladies that I train are getting back into the swing of things. I am taking an online graduate class. We're in the midst of buying a new house. On top of that, I've got my country's 500th wedding anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder, and Guilder to blame for it. I'm swamped.

Therefore, I have to spread out my workouts a little bit more. I have reduced the number of bricks by moving more running sessions to the mornings. This should allow me to do longer, higher quality runs (which was a 2011 weakness). I can bike longer in the evenings (again, weakness). Weekends have more time, and therefore, I have scheduled brick training for Saturday and maybe Sunday. I have eliminated the need to swim. Swimming will show up later in the season, probably around March. Swimming will replace the Monday morning run, Thursday morning blank, possibly the Friday morning blank, and maybe Saturday morning. The weight sessions are added in there because the Wife refuses to allow me to morph into an Ichabod Crane body-type.

And, as you can see, I still need to buy milk.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wacky Wednesday- Helmets and Mountain Bikes

Reasons to wear your helmet and NOT mountain bike.

I remember back in the good old days when laws were less stringent. I rode my bike everywhere, through all kinds of weather, on all kinds of terrain. Often, I would do bike hands free. They hadn't invented cell phones yet, but I am clairvoyant. I knew a day would come when I could talk, play a video game, and search the web while working out (and this was before Al Gore invented the Internet). However, helmets were not required nor recommended for riders of any age. This was a good thing because I had kick-ass 80's hair and would not dream of messing it up. Mousse and hairspray did their magic to keep any stray strands in place. Plus, my do was rock solid making a helmet redundant. See photo on the right (not pictured- me).

Only after I became an adult (?) did they pass laws requiring youth helmets. Glad I dodged that bullet. Then I found this stupid sport where they forced you to wear a helmet. I have no idea why. I rode to the moon and back as a kid and didn't need one. Safety reasons? Ha. What's next, they'll tell me that I should wear a seat belt in a car and not smoke?

As a consequence of triathlon, I have grown rather found biking on the road. I appreciate the speed and the feel of the wind flowing through my hair (which is now covered by a helmet consisting of many air vents). If you ignore the motorists, the road is rather predictable. Plus, if you avoid the city, you can find spectacular rides with incredibly nice views.

There is a small branch of cyclists that pay road taxes yet still elect not to use the roads for anything but their cars. I don't get it. I paid all of those taxes and I am going to use the road as often as I can. These idiots feel the need to spend even more money on bikes with suspension, disk brakes, and fat tires. Their shoes have clips and tread. For crying out loud, they don't even wear spandex. They opt to bike on dirt paths in the heinousness of nature. They do not get annoyed if there are sticks or rocks in the way. Would they ever stop and move them out off to the side for the next guy? Nope, they just bike right over the obstacles.

Well, to each their own. Another reason I enjoy the road is the relative safety. Again, if you ignore the motorists, the chances of a tree falling on you or you falling off the side of a cliff are drastically reduced. The roads are a much safer place. This guy would agree. My guess is that he will be trading in his mountain bike for the open roads very soon. He would also agree that wearing a helmet is a good thing.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

9 Months of Parallelism

Warning: This post is intended for mature audiences only. This pretty much means that even I will not be allowed to read it when it's over. Very little of it actually makes sense.

With the 2011 season officially over, it has become time to start working on 2012. My current 2012 race calendar has exactly 1 race, Ironman Lake Placid. There will likely be several more races added to the list. I generally don't dish out the cash for other races until January or February. Or really close to the early entry fee deadline. I already have a pretty idea of which races I'll be doing next year. But, I am a procrastinator when it comes registering for races too.

In order to effectively train for an IronDistance race, you first take a couple of weeks off at the end of your prior season to recharge the mental and physical batteries, heal up the gunk, and attempt to repair any relationship stress with the Wife. This is good advise for triathletes at all distances. You still have 50 weeks left in the year to be awesome. Just don't eat so much in your down time. (I, myself, struggle with this eating and control thing.)

Next, you start to plan out your season. The first order of business is to look at your A-race and count backwards. Ironman needs about 9 months of dedicated training. HIM should have 5. Olympic distance, around 3-4. Sprint distance requires about 15 minutes of dedicated training, at least 2 days prior to the event. Using these distance/ time recommendations, I started on race day 2012 and have counted back. Nine months equals October 24. That's the latest date I need to start training for a race that will happen in mid-summer next year.

Granted, I didn't make this up. Nine months is an actual recommendation by Friel. Having a few years of IM racing (although, I'm not sure that you can call what I do in the Ironman course 'racing'), it seems that 9 months is right on the cusp of readiness. Funny that when you take the most rewarding yet painful experience that I have and compare it to the most rewarding yet painful experience for the average mother, they are remarkably the same. Thanks to the internet for filling in some of the blanks in this post.

As a science teacher and lover of biology, I get to prepare my students for all sorts of life. One of my up and coming units is related to human development from conception to birth. As a male without children, I am an expert in this sort of thing. That doesn't stop me from researching in an effort to have the Internet try and teach me something. One can dream, right? In my digital meandering, I came across this site. Due to the pictures, I probably won't be showing this to my students in it's entirety (take note if you are at work). I might, but high school teachers students can be quite unpredictable.

As I read through the descriptions, I noticed how human development and Ironman training are almost exactly the same. Here are some salient points of both:
  • When done correctly, they both take about 9 months start to finish
  • They both start off easy and fun but get quite uncomfortable by the end
  • They both really mess with your hormones, body image, and self-esteem

Here's a brief monthly breakdown of what you can expect if you are expecting. You can use the terms baby and Ironman-training interchangeably. Either way, your life is about to change.

9 Months Away from the Big Day- Conception
Wow, this is fun. And easy. You love doing it. In fact, you should do this again and again. Maybe you'll work in 2-a-days. You can't get enough. The endorphins are addicting. You don't mind the sweat, especially when you are in the middle of the act. Sure, it kinda smells when you are done but that's nothing that a quick shower won't cure. But, by week 3, you feel like you want to get sick.

8 Months Away from the Big Day- Morning Blues
Okay, something is just not right. You get up in the morning like before, but the spark is gone. Things are starting to look different, especially in the abdominal region and in your legs.  Outwardly, your body hasn't changed that much. Inwardly, it's a battlefield. Hormone levels are out of wack. Moods change quickly and awkwardly. The reality of the commitment hasn't fully sunk in.

7 Months Away from the Big Day- Coping
It's now mid-winter and getting out of bed for any reason is a challenge. You just want to lie here. Your body is weak from the changes and your energy levels are down. Your eating habits are changing. You have food cravings that you haven't had before. Your heart races even at low exertions.

6 Months Away from the Big Day- Showing
Even your friends and family are noticing that your body is different. For those that are not brave enough to ask, you hear the whispers. Some will blatantly ask you if your weight has changed. As you examine yourself in the mirror, you see why. Parts of you are obviously bigger than before. You may see stretch marks on certain areas.

5 Months Away from the Big Day- Movement
Things are starting to take shape. Even though your is heart still elevated, it's not that bad anymore. You can feel certain parts of your body move on their own, almost kicking, without any work from you. It's a very enjoyable time period.

4 Months Away from the Big Day- Taking Over
It is consuming your life. It is in control. Everything you do has potential consequences. Parts of your body are changing shape and color. You might actually freak out.

3 Months Away from the Big Day- Discomfort
It is putting more and more pressure on you. There is pressure on your lungs. Worse, your GI tract is out of order. Everything is building.

2 Months Away from the Big Day- Clumsy
Your muscles don't work the way they used to. Everything aches. Your back hurts. You are prone to snap. Your hands and feet might swell causing a need for new shoes. (Note: If I use 2011 as a parallel, this was when I developed my knee problem. The system works.)

1 Month Away from the Big Day- Calm before the Storm
Things are slowing down a bit. It has been putting severe pressure on your organs. You need to relax more. You are getting antsy and excited.

The Big Day
You made it after 9 months of processing and working towards this goal. People will inevitably ask you stupid questions like, "Are you ready?" No one, no matter how many times they've experienced it in the past, is ever ready. You go into it with wonder, doubt and mystery. Will it hurt? Yes. Will you suffer? Yes. And, the longer it goes on, the worse the pain gets. There are drugs that help out, but many opt out of the drugs (and some are blatantly illegal). All you can think about is push, push, breathe. Push, push, breathe. Would somebody please get me some ice and a glass of water, stat?! 

There is always this thought in the middle of the process when you will swear that you are never doing this again. Patience. Now is not the time to make any rash decisions. When it is over, you have a high. It is a feeling that no one can explain. You look at your prize and beam with pride. You did that. You had help along the way, but this is yours. You smile. You are happy.

The only real difference: In one situation, you get a baby. In the other, you get a finisher's medal. They are pretty much the same thing.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Season Ending Big 4

I'm not one to brag, not in the traditional sense anyway. My form of bragging tends to be focused on data. I swam/ bike/ ran this much distance and I felt good/ great/ pansy. When I report race results, again, I focus on the data. What place? How many people? How many chicks passed me? What place in my age group? Rarely do I feel a sense of accomplishment in which I actually feel I am better than another. Even if I finished ahead of you, had a faster _______ (insert bragging right here), I still don't think that I'm better than you. Quite the opposite. I normally feel that pretty much everyone on the planet is better than me.

Occasionally there comes an accomplishment that I want to share. Yes, I am bragging a bit. But, understand, it's only because this has never happened to me before. I have been a triathlete since the turn of the century. I have been a dedicated triathlete since 2003. I have been an Ironman triathlete since 2007. Not only has the 2011 season been my busiest triathlon season, I did something that I had not done before. This simple fact alone may be a reason to count my season a success, despite my horrid experience in several races and relative suckiness.

My triathlon season started off at Keuka Lake, where I did the Olympic Distance event. Shortly thereafter, I developed a knee problem. It started to resolve itself just in time to do the Musselman Sprint Distance event. That race didn't go as well as planned, but it I had a good time anyway. Next up was the big race of the year (both literally and metaphorically), Ironman Lake Placid. The knee injury manifested itself making the run more excruciating than expected. I hated it so much that I signed up again next year. After that disappointment, I signed up for a few shorter races. I culminated the 2012 season, part 2 with Half Ironman Syracuse. Upon crossing the line, I had done all 4 major triathlon distances in the same season.

I don't know why, but I am rather proud of this accomplishment. See, I kinda live in my own world. I have a warped sense of reality. I think that I am mostly right and only occasionally wrong. Most people completely misunderstand my genius, despite it's overwhelming obviousness. I can fix most problems with very minimal thought. Just ask and I'll tell you how. Luckily for you, I am also humble. So take this next sentence with those facts in mind... I am a god! I don't think that there are many people in the world who have done this before.

Okay, I know that there has been at least one other person who has done it before (I can't fathom a universe where I would be the first). But, that information is completely unconfirmed. For 1, USAT doesn't really publish this data. For 2, most triathletes probably don't have blogs in which they discuss this sort of thing (I don't read enough to confirm that last thought). For 3, triathlon is rather expensive and the majority of Americans cannot afford it (coming as an unofficial DINK, what else have I got to spend my meager salary on?). For 4, did I mentioned that I am isolated from the rest of the triathlon world? There's a good chance that every 2 out of 3 triathletes do this on a weekly basis. But, since I don't really get out that much (it's Friday night and I am blogging), I actually have no idea.

Here's the thing: Now that I have done the Big 4, I don't know what I am going to do for the rest of the season. What else have I got to accomplish? I've done the Sprint. I've done the Oly. I've done the HIM. I've done the IM. In a matter of speaking, I'm done. I have no where else to go. I might as well give up now. Luckily for me, I don't have much of a choice in the matter. Whether I like it or not, my season is over. Fini. Kaput. There are simply no more races to be had. Triathlon is officially over north of the Mason-Dixon line. The sun has moved to the southern hemisphere. Darkness outlasts daylight. Temperatures are plummeting. There simply is no more 2011 Triathlon season. I might as well start planning next year...

(To be continued)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Big Kona

I had every intention of writing yesterday. I had plans of coming up with something whimsical (assuming that I have that sort of potential). Alas, I just did not have it in me.

It might have been out of respect for my Jewish brethren. Yesterday was Yom Kippur and I did not want to tempt my Jewish readers by posting something that they could not read. But the real truth was that I spent much of the day watching the Ironman Kona live feed. I have been looking forward to this day for a while. It's no secret that I want to, one day, NOT watch the race and actually do the race. Since I am not that good of an athlete, and since the rest of the world seems to be getting faster, I have to live vicariously through others.

The Unfortunate Beginning
The race started at 7:00 am, like all other races in the Ironman world. The professional race goes off a few minutes early. However, Hawaii is much further west of my current location. And, like you should have learned at some point in middle school, the further west you travel, the earlier it gets (that is until you reach this magical, imaginary line where the system gets skewed).

7:00 am is 1:00 pm in the Banter time zone so I had some time to kill. I have been running a lot lately. My running could use some work and I have been taking advantage of the off season to start building up a run routine that I can carry on into the 2012 base season (more on this soon). I went for a near 5 mile tempo run which I was able to hold a 7:22 per mile pace and felt like I could have gone faster. I'm not there yet but I may soon have to drop my "I'm not a runner" attitude.

After a quick shower, I took the Wife shopping. It is the weekend and she gets her time. Plus, we had a free $10 coupon that expired later in the day. It was for a sporting goods store. Up front, this would seem like a positive. Until you realize that there are so many possibilities and we spent too much time looking at stuff we could afford on a $10 budget. Our actual purchase was limited to socks and a swim cap. Finally, it was reduced to 3 swim caps (the Wife prefers the lycra kind, which kinda sucks since I have roughly 3 billion free silicon/ latex kind that they hand out at races). Lycra caps are small items and are not easily found in a sporting goods store that is bloated with golf and football tailgating supplies. By the time we made it home, I had missed the swim start. My viewing started as the lead dudes were entering transition.

I hooked a second computer up to my television. This act enabled me to watch the race on a bigger screen and freed up my computer for other tasks, such as blogging. I didn't really touch my computer much during the race. I was riveted.

A Brief Recap of the Important Happenings
Andy Potts, as expected got out of the water first. You'll remember Andy as the inspiration for my "Know the Course" post. He's an amazing swimmer and a great athlete. However, his swimming prowess is almost immediately negated by the bike ride. Chrissie Wellington, the -if-she's-racing-she'll-probably-win racer, was uncharacteristically way behind the leaders. Chrissie missed last year's event due to a viral infection. She didn't want to miss again. However, she was injured. Having suffered a horrific bike crash a couple of weeks ago (see left leg in photo, click to enlarge), her preparation training was below ideal and was apparent from the onset.

Once the athletes jump on 2 wheels, Andy sadly gets passed. Chris Leito, a fellow American, tends to be the king of the road. Yesterday was no exception. Here's the thing about watching the pros race the bike ride... They are absolutely fun to watch. There is more than 4 hours of coverage on the bike ride alone and I was glued. I can't handle watching more than 15 minutes of a professional football game due to boredom. But 4+ hours of men and women cycling down the road? That I can do with absolutely no problem. I find these athletes inspiring. In fact, they busted me out of my now 3-week cycling drought.

After the first woman, Julie Dibens, made it past halfway mark, I went for a ride of my own. I envisioned myself at some point in the near future cycling down the Queen K highway, past scores of cheering fans, and living up the moment. I had re-entered the cycling world thanks to IM Kona.

I got back from my ride in plenty of time to watch more of the bike leg. Chris Leito made a break during the second half of the 112 mile ride to put a gap between him and the other athletes. His lead was not as big as it was in the past. Julie was still slamming the competition on the bike. Chrissie, who would have normally been in the lead by now, was many minutes behind. She was very near Mirinda Carfrae, who was last year's winner.

On to the run. I watched the entire pro marathon without missing a minute. I had planned on cutting the grass but I felt guilty for missing the swim and some of the bike. The grass would wait until tomorrow (which is actually today). This was a good decision because Chris Lieto was passed very quickly into the run leg by Craig Alexander. Crowie and Chris have battled in the past but never this soon in the race. Chris struggles on the marathon and Crowie was soon running in the pole position all by his lonesome.

Julie had set a woman's bike course record and had a commanding lead. However, she recently had surgery on her foot and was clearly struggling on the run. She ended up dropping out of the race, thus officially negating her course record. Poor woman. Chrissie started the run leg many minutes behind the bike leaders, including Caroline Steffan, and was about 3 minutes ahead of Mirinda. Rinny is the owner of the IM Kona Marathon record, which she set a year ago. Running is Rinny's strength. It was shaping up to be an interesting women's race.

History was Set
Craig Alexander held his lead. Going into the final 3 miles, his quads cramped up and he stopped to stretch at least 3 times. Some of the really great runners, Peter Jacobs and Andreas Raelert were chasing but they were very far back. It was Crowie versus the clock. The number to beat was Luc Van Lierde's course record set 15 years ago. It looked as if Crowie was going to end up a few seconds short. But then, looks are deceiving as he beat the old mark and became the first person ever to come to the line under 8:04.

With Julie out of the race, Chrissie took the lead from Caroline around the halfway mark. Interestingly, Mirinda was not gaining or losing any time. Chrissie and Rinny were matching mile for mile, which was bad for Rinny as she stayed about 3 minutes back. When Chrissie crossed the line, she had set a new run course record, beating Rinny's time from a year ago. Ironically, she held the record for only about 3 minutes as Rinny had beaten Chrissie's run time by a little more than 30 seconds. Rinny had reclaimed the run title, which was a consolation prize. Chrissie was now the 4 time Ironman Champion and had the second fastest time in IM Kona history. She showed that, even though her swim and bike times were un-Chrissie-like, that there is more than one way to win the title. In her victory speech, she thanked Rinny (in true champion form) for providing the motivation to run so hard.

So there you have it. A great day in triathlon. The long-standing men's record goes down with male champ had proven to his doubters that he can SBR better than anyone else ever on the course. The female champ, having never lost a race at this distance, came from unfamiliar territory (from behind) to score the victory over last year's champ. Plus, a doofus of a blogger got back on the bicycle, officially kicking off base training for next years season.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Swimmer vs Semi-Swimmer Mentality

The Wife is going through some personal athletic struggles. Namely, her knee hurts. As a guy who had a knee problem as recently as June, I can relate. Oddly, she responded to her troubles in the exact same way I did. She went with NOT going to the doctor and increasing yardage in the pool. It's the latter of her responses that will be the focus of this post.

I am assigning her the term 'semi-swimmer' mostly because that's the most accurate description I can think of at this time (and it is meant with absolutely no disrespect). She has been on a team in a former life. When I interviewed her for this post she revealed that her team days were roughly 25 years ago or when she was in 6th grade (whichever makes her seem younger). She admitted that some strapping young swimmer, who now happens to be a triathlete, taught her how to flip turn when she was very far removed from middle school. She has unrefined talent without the benefit of being coached. Semi-Swimmer.

Difference #1- Lap Counting
Almost every swimmer I have ever met accepts that laps and lengths are synonymous. That means that 4 laps and 4 lengths are the exact same distance. I have never been in the presence of a coach that said, "Go swim 4 laps" and meant down-and-back equals 1. Non-swimmers and semi-swimmers see these terms as completely different. Length (L) means down or back. Lap means 2L.

Even though I've been involved in many of the lap-versus-length arguments, the point is relatively moot. Swimmers actually think in terms of distance, such as yards or meters, to the nearest 25. In my above example, Coach would not ever say, "Go swim 4 laps.", S/he would actually say, "Do a 200." Swimmers immediately translate this information into down, back, down, back, down, back, down and, finally, back. We count by 25s in our head (25, 50, 75, 100, blah blah blah 200).

Therefore, me (the swimmer in the relationship) talking with the Wife (the semi-swimmer) produces all kinds of confusion. The SS will ask me about my set. I spout off, 'This is #2 of 5x200s.' SS will then ask, '200s are how many laps?' Now, since I have SS-conversation experience, I have to pause and do some mental math.  I respond with, "8 of my laps, 4 of yours."

Difference #2- The Pace Clock
She's got speed but has absolutely no idea how much. Recently, for example, we cat and moused in the pool again. I was doing 100s (that's 4 of my laps, 2 of yours) and she was doing 50s (2 of my laps, 1 of yours). Before she started mousing me, I was holding 1:20s on a 1:45 send off. I know this because I have been trained that the second most important feature in the pool is the deck clock (the first most important is water). Swimmers have it beaten into their head from day one that the clock is more powerful than the coach and our eyes should focus on very little else while at the wall. I have received swimming consequences in the form of a 500 yard butterfly swim (that's 20 of my laps or 10 of yours) for missing a send off while coach was talking to me about my technique.

The SS was swimming 200s (that's 8 of my laps, 4 of yours). When she stopped at the wall, she looked around. But not once in the direction of the pace clock. She looked at me, the lifeguard, the old guy in speedos too small to be shown in public (in her defense, she didn't linger), the water floater lady in the deep end 2 lanes over, and then back at me. When she does these sets, she's a rather consistent 1:50ish pace per 100 (see note on 100s above). But, since she doesn't even know the clock exists, this bit of data is lost on her.

She pushes off for her next interval based on some sort of arbitrary factor, of which I do not understand. The clock has not reached a swimmer milestone, such as the 60, 15, 30, 45, etc. It wasn't even on an multiple of 5. No swimmer pushes off on the 37. It's just a fact. 

When she made the decision to join my set as a mouse, my male ego gene turned on. My pace for the hundred dropped to the 1:15 and I have a habit of even pacing these sets (swimmers know this sort of thing). She was holding 39s for her 50s (swimmers also know what other swimmer's paces are). I am in awe of her ability to pound out such speed. I would guess that sub-40 second fifties is the swimming equivalent to a 6 minute per mile running pace. Pretty dang good. Especially for someone who has not grown up in the sport. She, much to my annoyance, still refused to look at the clock.

Difference #3- Doing Sets
About a week ago, SS went swimming on her own. Now that the knee thing is bugging her, she's astir with restless energy that used to be spent on running. Her yardage has gone up drastically these past couple of weeks while her mileage has gone down. I, on the other hand, have not been in the water much since Syracuse 70.3. Like a good Banter, I am curious about all things her so I asked her about her swim set. She proudly admitted that she had done a mile without stopping.

Actual pool where she did the deed
This is indeed something to be proud of. Most people won't run a mile let alone swim it without stopping. I have to admit that I have never done this distance in the pool* without stopping either. A mile, in swimmer speak, is long (or 70 of my laps, 35 of yours). Whereas I have done several miles in a given swim practice, I am pretty sure that my longest set has capped out at 1000 yards (meaning 40 of my laps, 20 of yours). I am blown away that a non-swimmer or semi-swimmer would even contemplate such a set, let alone accomplish it.

Swimmers do all sorts of stupid sets and drills in the water. We are repetitive by nature but even we have limits. We'll do such workouts like 100x 100s (that 4 of my laps, 2 of yours in case you forgot). We'll do all sorts of hypoxic sets, meaning that we'll hold our breath underwater until we're ready to pass out (FWIW, we don't know why we do them either). We work the terms 'build', 'descend', 'negative split', and 'sculling' into our daily lives and think nothing of it. But, do a set that consists of a 1650 straight? Nope. I haven't done that one yet.

*Disclaimer- I have gone longer than a mile without stopping in practice and in a race, but it was not in a pool. It was in open water and with a wetsuit. And, by default, no deck clock.

So there you have it. Swimmers are a different breed of crazy, especially when compared to the semi-swimmers. The nuances of the swimmer versus semi-swimmer attitudes are obvious when you get right down to the nitty gritty details. Now, if only the SS would accept some coaching. Maybe from that same strapping former young man who taught her how to flip turn. But, like swimming a mile in the pool, there are just some things that I shouldn't do.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Death of an Old Friend

I am in mourning. An old friend of mine died recently. It was a workout relationship. Me and that friend have done virtually every bike and run workout for the past 2 years together. I am not sure I can survive my efforts without my buddy. Lately, I have been feeling empty, especially when I go for a run. There's a void that I am not sure would be filled. 

My heart rate monitor stopped working on me. 
The signs of it's demise were apparent so you'd think I had some time to prepare myself. For example, my normal HR while running is between 165 and 178. On September 7th, I went for a short, easy run. It recorded my max HR for the workout as 206. That in and of itself is not enough to call the morgue. There's more... On Sept 10, I went for a 6 mile tempo run. The device listed my average HR at 156 (well below tempo) with a max HR at 219. Either the device was gasping for air or the [220- (your age)] formula is in desperate need of revision (which is also true). On September 11, during a race mind you, it gave me nothing. My reported HR for both the bike and run was zero. It was gone. That's when I noticed the smell.

Some say that there are 7 stages to mourning:  

1. Shock- I couldn't believe that it was going. Even though I saw the warning signs, I was surprised that it had stopped. Part of me felt that it would resolve its problems on its own without any intervention. Before I was smart enough to see the clues, it stopped ticking (at least in the receptive way).

2. Denial- Even after it gave me no values, I continued to run in it for 3 more sessions before leaving it at home. If I try hard enough... If I give it enough time... It will start working again.

3. Bargaining- Dear God, please make it come back. I swear I'll be better. I'll wash it more often. I'll give it more blog time. I promise I'll have more efficient workouts. I don't want to run alone (if you don't count the PRP).

4. Guilt- I know that there's something I could have done to save it. Maybe if I had spoken a kind word. I didn't respect it enough. Man, I am such an idiot for letting a great device slip through my fingers. Maybe, just maybe, I'd have a working device if I'd replace the battery.

5. Anger- I am so pissed right now. How in the world will I quantify the effort of my run? HUH? Fricken HRM up and leaves me. Did it ever stop and think how I would feel? Plus, I might have to replace it. These things cost money. It's not like I can breed them for free.

6. Depression- I seriously don't know what I am going to do now. I have been biking and running on HR for so long that I can't imagine workout out without it. I miss the feel of its band across my chest, constricting me like an eternal workout hug.

7. Hope- Even without my beloved HR data, there are still ways to succeed. For example, I did the entire Syracuse 70.3 Bike and Run without it. I had a great race.  Rumor has it that running pace, when coupled with rate of perceived exertion, is as good if not better than HR. My next big bike purchase is a power meter, which trumps HR on any given day. 

Some also say that there's one more stage:  
Acceptance- Goodbye old friend. You and I have had some great times and great workouts together. There will always be a place over my heart for you.