A Good Training Day

I’ve been receiving so much great information about swim practice and technique lately, it’s hard to keep up with it all.  There was a post yesterday in the Total Immersion Coaches group that really appealed to me, a series of focal points for a tune up from Suzanne Atkinson.  I decided I’d add them to my tune up practice for today, and then do a variation on a previous practice.   I’ve said this before, and today was one of those days — be prepared to switch gears when it feels appropriate.

Here was Suzanne’s post as a tune up:

5 x 50 as:
#1 fingertip drag
#2 Drag to elbow lead
#3 Elbow lead to smooth entry
#4 Smooth entry to open axilla
#5 open axilla to shaping catch

Made me think about my 400 focal point tune up.  Decided to bump mine to a 500 and do each one for 100.  Felt great, and noticed lots of points in my stroke to work on improving.

Next set was a tempo trainer ladder for 50s at 1.6, 1.55, 1.5, 1.45, 1.4, 1.35, 1.3, 1.25, 1.2, 1.15

As I prepared for the next set I realized that what I wanted to do, and felt I needed to do was take those focal points from the beginning tune up and use them instead of focusing on tempo.

So next set was 6 x 300 and I chose to pick one focus for each. and I do have to say that I felt very “Shinji-like” in the fact that I could hold a focus for an entire 300.  Today was not a fast practice but I felt it was a very productive practice.

On a different note, the air this morning was 60.

North County Aquatics pool on a chilly morning
North County Aquatics pool on a chilly morning

Getting to the pool and getting in the water was tough!  Once I got in I found the 83 degree water was beautiful, even though under “normal” circumstances that would be way to warm.

At a pool?
At a pool?

This may have been my last practice at the North County Aquatics facility.  We are leaving Vero Beach on Friday morning, Thursday is supposed to be very cold and and  pool isn’t open till afternoon on Friday. I’ll miss it and the pleasant staff and patrons.  This car in the lot this morning did give me a laugh as I was leaving.

5 mile build run on a local dirt road finished off training for me for Wednesday.  Finishing the run with a sub 9 minute mile felt good!

I’ve also become much better about planning meals in advance and cooking.  I made two very simple yet tasty recipes for tonight, Apple Glazed Turkey and Roasted Brussels Sprouts (made with already cooked leftover turkey bacon).  It’s been nice eating at home, and hopefully helping me get back to “race weight” again.

Thursday is pack up and get organized to move day for us so not sure what if any training I’ll get done, Friday and Saturday are “travel” days so I better get something done.

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.

Rookie Mistakes

My friend Mark reached out to me when he saw where I was in Florida and told me about a 5K he was timing in Vero Beach and asked if I wanted to run it.  Since it was being held at one of the exclusive, gated golf and country clubs around here I thought sure — why not!

I clicked on the link to the Quail Valley Golf Club and got the address — about 4 miles from our house, I thought about running there to make today my long run.  Also made note of (what I thought was) the start time — 8:30 AM.  Bryan asked me what time I wanted to leave this morning and I said 7:45 was plenty of time.  He thought the race started at 7:30, and also thought it was somewhere else but I showed him the address and continued on my usual morning routine of coffee, answering emails and the like.

About 7:15 he asked me for the address so he could put it in his gps, I went to get it and realized the race actually started at 7:30!  Crap . . . . . I’ve never done that before.  Felt badly and figured what the heck I could dress and get there in 10 minutes.  Even if I missed the start by a few minutes, what difference did it make?  So, off we went — leaving the house at 7:20AM. Arrived at the gated Quail Valley Golf Course only to be told the race is at the Quail Valley River Golf Course, and that was about 20 minutes away.  Well, we were both dressed so we figured we’d go and at least enjoy the post-race festivities.  Arrived at the Quail Valley River Golf Course and saw the course signs, etc, but no runners.  I got out and went to check in to apologize for missing the race.  The gentleman was very understanding of my confusion, Bryan came back from parking the car and I thought I might as well go run and get in a workout.  When I got to the start area I saw the timing people so I introduced myself and said how much I appreciated Mark registering me and apologized for being a dumb ass.

The gentleman doing the timing said hey, it’s a chip timed race, cross the starting line and we’ll get your accurate time so I figured what the heck and off I went.  No bathroom stop, no warm up, hadn’t even remembered my race belt so I was carrying my number in my hand.  Can anyone tell me why since I was already 20 minutes late I didn’t pin on my number and the like before starting?  Well, it’s a nice way to run a 5k with no pressure!  I just worried a bit about following the course alone but it was well marked and I started to catch up with some walkers fairly soon.  I was afraid to try to push as I know my body doesn’t really do well if I try to run fast without warming up.  I had also had a pretty awful run yesterday.  So I decided I’d just enjoy the run, follow the arrows and then follow the walkers to the finish.  I ended up finishing at  just under 29 — not bad for a three mile warm up run, and nothing hurt!

Moira runs a 19 minute 5k again (NOT!)
Moira runs a 19 minute 5k again (NOT!)

I went right over to the timer to let him know my actual time, just to avoid any later issues.  He told me no worries — they had other problems.  Seems the lead cyclist had led a bunch of people off course and they ran about 4 miles.  For a while, my name was on the results as finishing in 19 minutes, which was actually when I started.  I immediately crossed my name off, didn’t want anyone to think that was my correct time!

Post race refreshments.
Post race refreshments.

One thing about a race at a private country club . . . . . . they had the nicest water stop setup and post race food.  Waiters were staffing the tables in white collared shirts, with nicely arranged fruit, muffins and Twinings tea.  Not your usual box of bagels and fruit for sure.  Bryan and I wandered around for a while, checking out the yachts and such.   I won a nice thermal water bottle for winning my age group.  A fun morning for sure, in spite of being totally unprepared to run this morning, I am very glad that Mark asked me if I wanted to participate and I’m very glad we went in spite of being so late!

Quail Valley River 5K, first place 50 - 59
Quail Valley River 5K, first place 50 – 59

Hopefully I’ve gotten all the mistakes out of the way for the season, and that all my races end up as positive as today.

I headed off to the pool next to get in a 10,000 meter swim week.  Felt great and mixed up my practice with the tempo trainer and some real focus on my arms — weightless, painting and holding straight lines, opening my axilla and focusing on that split second of a good catch.  I thought the pool may be crowded since it was Saturday and the sun was out.  There was four totally empty lanes — swimmers heaven!  I noted a slight improvement in my stroke count vs. tempo today, and times were a bit more consistent.  All in all I was pleased with my practice and I’ve noticed that the 50 meter lap doesn’t feel quite as long any more.  The pool is closed tomorrow,  I’m going to try to set up my video camera on deck on Monday and try to get some video so I have an idea of what my stroke looks like.  These two weeks have been a lot of swimming for me, my only gauge right now is that nothing hurts.

We’ve had a couple of great dinners.  Bryan spotted a recipe on Facebook and showed it to me.  Since it’s from my favorite blog I tried it last night.  All I can say is if you haven’t already you absolutely have to make the Almost 5 Ingredient Pizza Spaghetti Pie.  As Bryan loves to say . . . . . “it’s to die for!”  We used fire roasted diced organic tomatoes plus a cup of sauce, pork sausage and 5 italian cheese mix.  Tonight’s dinner was a repeat, another new favorite — Chicken Apple Sausage and Brussels Sprouts.  Almost two weeks of clean eating and Bryan and I are both feeling pretty good, and Brody is loving all his healthy snacks.

Something else I’d like to include here, there are lots of links and posts to stuff on Facebook and I don’t always watch them.  I saw this one earlier but didn’t have 15 minutes, but made a note to check it later.  Right before I started cooking I thought I’d give it a look.   I’m so glad I did.  I know what defines me, what defines you?

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.

2013 Comes to a Close

I can’t possibly write enough to cover what has occurred over this last year.  Ups and downs, but definitely more ups.  Joys and sadness, but definitely more joy.  I feel that my life is more than I ever could have imagined, and more than I ever deserved — my family, my friends, my Club members, my training partners, my business partners — life is good.  I truly love the life I live, and I live the life I love.

Although not sunny in Florida today it’s still warm.  I enjoyed a steady paced 5 mile run and thought of other runs I’ve been on while traveling.  The abandoned orange groves remind me of my training trips to Clermont, Florida.  The cows and other wildlife remind me of runs in Costa Rica — especially the cows — which led me to think of my friends Mary Lynn and Bryan and the debate over skinny cows vs. healthy cows.

Quiet night tonight, I don’t expect we will be still awake to ring in 2014.  Tomorrow I plan to join in the TI Virtual Swim, still need to decide on a practice but I am looking forward to the beauty of the outdoor long course pool!

Skinny or healthy cows ;-)
Skinny or healthy cows 😉
He was definitely checking out what was going on!
He was definitely checking out what was going on!
White babies, how cute!
White babies, how cute!
Jack asses everywhere you go.
Jack asses everywhere you go.
A palm tree nursery.
A palm tree nursery.

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.


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