Running With Gears

Today was long run day — 10 miles this week.  Off Bryan and I went to the jungle trail, sunny today and temperatures were warming up.  I started my run slowly, as usual.  And when I say slow I mean slow — like an 11 minute mile.  Next mile was a 10:35, and as always I was thinking about my own training and my coaching.  I thought about swimming with the tempo trainer and how we are all learning to swim with gears.  How about running with gears?  I decided that I would take my 10 mile run and try to steadily descend throughout.  I was thinking 10 seconds per mile, but that was a bigger jump than I planned in the beginning.  Going from 11 to 10:35 would come back to bite me at the end.  But, I continued to think about the comparison to learning gears in swimming and learning gears in running, and how much that would pay off in running, and especially in longer distance triathlon.

So, continuing along I went from 11 to 10:30 to 10:20 to 10:10 to 10 to 9:50  and now it started getting tough!  I was barely able to hit 9:44, 9:37, 9:41 for miles 7, 8 and 9.  I was determined to make the last mile faster — and pushed through for a 9:32 mile, but I didn’t feel as good as I wanted to.  What did I learn?  If I make a plan stick to it, and it reminded me of what I always say to my athletes — if you are running long the early miles should feel easy.  All it all it was a good run though, and I’m going to continue to work on gears in all my training.

It would have been very easy to just sit and lounge for the rest of the day.  I had committed to doing a practice that Terry Laughlin, the founder or Total Immersion, had emailed out to all of the TI coaches.  And I can’t let my virtual swim team down,  so off I went to the North County Aquatics Center.  I am getting used to the spectacular facilities to swim that are available.  I paid a whole $16 for access for a month to this beautiful pool!  So far, I’ve only had to share a lane once and that for only 5 minutes.

North County Aquatics Center, so inviting!
North County Aquatics Center, so inviting!

Monday’s swim practice turned out to be a breakthrough.  I felt as though my stroke count, time and overall feel in the water was coming back.  I did cut the original practice a bit shorter though, I started getting cramps in my calves (from the long run I’m sure).  There is so much to focus on while swimming, and it is rewarding to see the instant feedback by way of improved stroke count and pace.

I never get tired of watching the sunset, no matter where I am.  Tonight there was a beautiful  sky to close out the day.  I am forever grateful and truly blessed.

Treasure Coast sunset.
Treasure Coast sunset.

Catching Up

Had one of those “ahah” moments a bit through my swim practice today.  I’ve been focusing on tempo trainer and counting strokes, and trying not to be discouraged by the outcome.  I feel like my times are slow, my stroke count is high.  Times like this are when I really wish for a fellow Total Immersion coach on deck or in the pool with me to give me a couple of pointers.

I left the house without the new practice I wrote and decided to do the practice that I wrote for Monday.  It was tough to get in the water to start — weather was cloudy, windy and only mid 60s.  The lifeguards were wearing wool hats and gloves.  The staff had told me the pool temperature was 78 — something I would normally love when swimming indoors or on a hot day.

I debated cutting it short, skipping it altogether, etc. but I do have a virtual swim team that I don’t want to let down.  Went thru the tune up and the tempo trainer ladder and started to feel a bit of “discomfort” which I knew was coming from something not right with my stroke but couldn’t pinpoint it.  Got through the 150s trying to decrease and increase stroke count by one per length but kept adding and subtracting 2 strokes.  I’m usually able to do this pretty successfully.  This was frustrating, but then I remembered I’m swimming in a 50 meter pool, something I hardly ever do!  So, my changes in my stroke would have equated to adding or subtracting one in a 25 yard or meter pool.  Yea, a small thing but it definitely made me feel a bit better.  Started on the 300s and could really feel my shoulder starting to ache so I decided that rather than focus on stroke count I would just relax and swim with focal points.  And that turned my whole swim around, so much so that my second 300 became a 500 because I just totally forgot to count.  Two 300s of head position (one of which became a 500), two 300s of arms and a final 300 that I had planned to focus on kick but instead just focused on engaging my core.  A 100 cool down brought me to a 3200 meter long course practice that I feel very good about.  It’s the longest I’ve swum in quite a while.    What did I learn?  Sometimes plans just need to be readjusted, and that is absolutely okay.

Just a beautiful sky!
Just a beautiful sky!

Over the last few days I’ve had a nice recovery ride on local roads, in spite of a lot more traffic than my first ride here.  I did come upon a beautiful sight at the end of one of the roads I ventured down.

I’ve had a long run and a short run on the jungle trail, even got to warm up with an easy one mile run / walk with my husband this morning.  All good as long as I have no pain and can keep picking up my pace as my runs progress.

Captain Forster Hammock Preserve
Captain Forster Hammock Preserve

The jungle trail is just a beautiful spot to run, I just wish it had some hills.  I’m really starting to feel in my running groove again, and I’m hoping for more bike time as the weather improves.  There was an abbreviated swim practice on Monday, I thought I had to get the car back so Bryan could golf but monsoon rains cut that short!

Good dinners at home, I’ve made a couple of my favorite dinners, and a couple of new ones.  One of the most delicious chicken soups I’ve ever had was based on this recipe.  I had no sweet potato so I doubled up on the butternut squash, used fresh spices and added some quinoa to make it a bit more substantial for dinner.

Bryan and Brody, two of the loves of my life!
Bryan and Brody, two of the loves of my life!

The real highlight of my trip so far happened this morning.  I looked outside and spotted my husband Bryan with his other best friend in the world (after me!)  This picture just makes me so happy and so grateful and so thankful, I can’t stop looking at it.

New Years Day 2014 Swim

We haven’t seen the sun since we stopped at South of the Border on Friday, but it’s warm here so I’m not complaining.

January 1, 2014 and the forecast is for rain pretty much all day.

Rainy start to 2014
Rainy start to 2014

I committed to swim as part of Mat Hudson’s TI Virtual Group Swim on New Year’s Day so off I went.  It would have been very easy to stay on the couch with some coffee this morning.  Thanks for getting me out the door, and it was wonderful to be swimming with someone half way around the world in Turkey!

The North County Aquatic Center was not crowded at all when I got there, just a couple of lap swimmers and two club swimmers in the lane next to me.

Mile swim at Punta Leona, Costa Rica in April 2012.
Mile swim at Punta Leona, Costa Rica in April 2012.
New Year's Day at the North County Aquatic Center, Sebastian FL
New Year’s Day at the North County Aquatic Center, Sebastian FL

Good memories when got a cap from my bag, I found the swim cap from an open water mile swim race in Costa Rica.  I didn’t really do my homework on picking a practice for today, after my tune up and the constant tempo set I realized that my planned practice wasn’t going to work out — can’t do 75s or 125s in a 50 meter pool.  I also realized that I was feeling some fatigue from Monday’s swim so I just eliminated that part of the practice and finished up with a 200 for a total of 2600 meters again today.  I used focal points during my tune up and cool down — head position, relaxed arms, breathing, kick.  I’m feeling particularly slow in the pool but I’m also assuming that with patience and practice a better pace will return.   About mid-way through today’s swim I realized that what my arms were doing in the water need some work — I cycled thru focusing on keeping my elbows up, keeping a patient lead arm and a good catch.  When I did this, and remembered to really open up my axilla I noticed a slight improvement in my pace.  I’m going to bring my video camera to swim on Friday and do some video of myself.

I’m hoping the rain stops and I can do some biking tomorrow.

My 2014 Season Starts Today

I am going to keep these posts short as I’d like to keep up with a blog on my training at least for the next two months while I am traveling.

I looked forward to swimming this morning at the North County Aquatic Center.

North County Aquatic Center, Sebastian, FL
North County Aquatic Center, Sebastian, FL

I will most likely be in the Vero Beach area for the next three weeks so it made sense to invest the $16 in a pass for the month instead of paying a whopping $3 per session (senior citizen discount LOL!)

There were long course lanes available so I took the opportunity since it is something I never get to do at home.  I’ve also decided to go back and start with the first tempo trainer practice I did in the pool a couple of weeks ago.

I realized I was very tense, maybe a result of three days driving.  So, I focused on relaxed head, relaxed arms, breathing thru my 400 tune up.  I’m slow, and seem to be taking more strokes than I remember in the past (40 +/- for each 50 meter length).  I’m hoping to see improvement over the next few weeks.

I took the easy way out and rather than write everything down I’ll rely on my Garmin 910XT file for feedback.  I did not “rush” to mark laps, I’m hoping to see myself get back closer to a 1:50 hundred with practice and focus on my form.

Healthy breakfast and off for some exploring of the area.  I hope to get in an easy run later today of about 4 miles.

UPDATE:

In spite of an afternoon of exploring and a margarita at lunch, I did come home and get that 4 mile run done.  Felt pretty good, found a hard packed dirt road through some abandoned orange groves and totally enjoyed an easy, steady build run.  

Came home and made dinner from my favorite site — 5 Ingredient Monday:  Seared Chicken Thighs over Cauliflower Puree!  

You Make Swimming Look So Easy

For years other swimmers and triathletes have said that to me.  I usually just smile, but sometimes when I feel like they may really be interested in how I got there I tell them it takes an awful lot of practice.  The next logical question of course is . . . . practice what?  

Much of what I learned during my Total Immersion instruction has been very easy for me to implement since the methods and rationale seem to me to be so based in common sense.  

What has really allowed me to make a difference in my own swimming and for so many of my students’ and club members’ swimming all starts with just one basic principal — head position.  My own “ah ha” moment of how to achieve it and the “aha” moment of grasping a concept that I could share with my swimmers?  Feel as if the water is a pillow cushioning my head in the water, just let my head go to exactly where my head wants to be and trust that when I do release my head it will end up in just the right place.  

I’ve been part of several TI courses over the last year, both as a student and as an instructor.  Each time I’ve heard Terry Laughlin (the founder and head of Total Immersion) talk about head position I am struck with what a simple concept it is, but one that eludes so many.  When I practice it I feel the difference instantly, when I take the time to channel my focus.  I knew I was on the right track in passing it along when I was teaching some very new adult swimmers recently.  We were talking about head position and I said that if your head position isn’t right then everything else you do is just an attempt to compensate for that — I saw that same light bulb go on for a couple of them!  Since that morning I’ve seen their own personal swim practice change dramatically for the better.   

Simple concept, yes.  Simple to implement — maybe.  It takes discipline and focus to spend time in a pool or open water just focusing on head position.  Try it and see if it make a difference in your swimming.  I have a feeling that practicing good head position will do more to shave seconds off your 100 time and minutes off your mile time than endless “workouts” designed to improve your endurance and speed.  

Happy swimming!
* I am a USAT-Certified Triathlon Coach, a Total Immersion Level Two Swim Instructor and Coach and the founder of the Jersey Girls StayStrong Multisport Club.  If you are interested in working on your swim skills, please get in touch with me at moira@staystrongmultisport.com