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Friday, August 30, 2013

I'm a Terrible Swimmer


I was planning to rag on my bike or talk about my new plan for training, but maybe it is time for a short rant on my swimming.

It isn’t even questionable.  I am a terrible swimmer.  How can someone grow up their entire life with a swimming pool in the backyard and not be able to swim worth a flip?  For the first few weeks I thought I was doing pretty good.  I mean, I didn’t hate it.  I didn’t drown or swallow gallons of water.  Yeah, success.  Then, last Sunday following a miserably hot 6 mile run, I hopped in the pool.

I barely made it 25 meters before I had to bail my spastic freestyle stroke for something I call “The Survivor”.  Half crawl, half dog paddle..head up…breathing air.  Breathing air like humans were created to do by the way.  This was only discouraging because several days earlier I plowed through 250 meters (taking short breaks after each length of the pool) without much trouble.

Maybe the run took it out of me, but I certainly didn’t feel overly fatigued.

This may have been the jumping off point in my previous efforts to become a triathlete.  Though the efforts were extremely brief, a bad day in the pool brings about a tremendous bout of hopelessness.  I know what’s wrong, but I don’t know how to fix it.

Swimming is largely about technique.  That means I need coaching.  Oh, and I’ll need a lot of time because it will take many many tweaks to become a passable swimmer.  This brings about a problem.  I don’t want a coach.  I want to get in the pool and just swim.  It is so frustrating.  Running is simple.  You want to run faster, you do workouts that are fast.  You want to run farther, you do runs that are progressively longer in length.  Swimming can’t be that different…can it?

Yet, I vow not to give up during the month of August (3 days left, I think I can make it).  I have purchased and downloaded some swimming books and DVDs.  I can’t read my way to being a better swimmer, but these have outlined and demonstrated drills that they use with beginning triathletes to get their body position correct and comfortable in the pool.

My original plan was to just go to the pool 2 or 3 times a week and work until I could put together 300 meters without stopping.  Like my running plan…just keep going and adding slowly.  NOPE, not now.  Tonight, I’m going to work on drills for the first 15-20 minutes and then maybe try some laps.  Keep working on the drills for the next few weeks and see if things start to get more natural.  It may not work, but the way I have been doing it will result in me giving up.

Maybe I’ll touch on bike in the next post.

UPDATE:  The drills do make a difference.  Don’t get me wrong, I was still awful.  I didn’t do 15-20 minutes doing only drills.  You look pretty stupid doing these drills so I mixed in some actual laps trying to apply the drills key purpose.  I’m not sure what looks dumber.  Me doing drills or slashing at the water trying to execute freestyle.  I’ve also found I’m better after 15 or 20 minutes.  Things slow down and I slow down.  I’m never too tired (I take a lot of breaks) to take another lap and at the slower pace breathing becomes a little easier.  I just don’t see how I’m going to be able to put together lap after lap without the break (even a quick one) at each end of the pool.  Oh well, I’ll just keep working at it.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The College Pilgrimage


Out on my run this morning I saw a car packed to the roof.  A Uhaul trailer being loaded.  With late August arrives the annual college pilgrimage.  Off to school to gain wisdom and weight.

This year it is my turn again.  Time to release another child from the nest and hope they fly.  I thought it would be easier the second time around, but I'm starting to understand otherwise.  Today, we move our son into his freshman dorm.  I can sense the excitement and subtle fear in his voice.  Fear of the unknown, but excited knowing the unknown is probably pretty awesome.

No, the studying and early classes is not awesome.  Independence is awesome.

If the delivery goes anything like with my older daughter, we'll get the room somewhat settled and then we will make every attempt to leave...in a hurry.  No need to dwell on it.  Everyone blubbering for no reason.

I think more tears are shed in August than any other month.  Mostly by caring mothers sensing a loss on some level.  First day of kindergarden gets 'em.  They won't have little Timmy or Sally at their side 24/7.  Only weeks later do they admit that school gives them a much needed break in the action.

Later we get hit the hardest by them leaving the house.  Not for a few hours, but a few weeks or months.  The silence is truly palpable  Even with two kids remaining at home, once our daughter left there was a hole that took a good while to accept as normal.  The hole doesn't get filled, you just get use to it being there.

So, tonight when I get home and a lone high schooler is the only soul filling the upstairs rooms, it will start to set in.  I will convince myself that the tears on the drive home were the end of it.  No, it is that lonely feeling of a near empty house that gets you.  Then comes the first phone call.  Choking back tears.  Trying to sound excited for all they are experiencing.

Honestly, the only thing that helps is time.

I don't want to end this on a downer so I can say this.  I'm extremely proud of my son.  He's a great kid.  I'm so excited for him.  He gets to start really being a man.  I know God has a special plan for him and is with him.  That's more protection than I could ever give.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Taste of Higher Volume Training


Jumping in a few weeks ago, my training increased by adding some bike and swim sessions just before leaving on two weeks vacation.  I’ll admit that I felt pretty awful after the first week and wasn’t sure how serious this training might actually get going forward.

Last week was the perfect training week.  I’m going to call this my first real week of triathlon training.  I hit every workout on the schedule.  Stupidly, I tended to extend the bike and swim sessions beyond scheduled time/distance because I feel such a sense of inadequacy about those disciplines.  Today, the weekly summary comes in from DailyMile and shows the problem.

Since I rarely use this blog to go over my training, I’ll have to tell you why this is alarming.  I have not had more than 5 workouts (all running) in months.  I also have rarely covered more than 20 miles in a week (again all running).  So basically, I added 5 more workouts and 30 miles (on the bike) to my workload instantly.  This my friend, is far to large of an increase in volume to stay healthy.

Here’s my dilemma.  I like to always be ready to run a half marathon.  This way I can enter a race on a whim or shuffle on to full marathon training without all the base building period.  Thus, my mileage needs to stay up around 20 miles or more each week in 4-5 workouts.  Others would recommend more mileage, but that’s how I roll.  So in order to train for a triathlon, I thought I’d simply add biking and swimming to my existing schedule even though every training plan I looked at for a Sprint Distance Triathlon would nearly cut my running mileage in half.  Somewhere in yesterdays 13 miles on the bike I told myself I needed to rethink this plan.  While 30 miles on the bike is nothing and 2 swim workouts far from exhausting, they are a lot considering I was at zero only a few weeks ago.

Fortunately, this week my schedule is goofed up by a short two day trip to take my son off to his freshman year of college.  I’ll still get some workouts in, but I’d like it to be a down week.  Then, I can regroup the following week to push hard again.

At this point the hardest part of this new triathlon thing is workout scheduling.  I need to start my morning workout around 5:00 AM.  It is still very dark, so the only option is running.  Which is great, except when you need to bike or swim.  I might spend a morning on the bike trainer next week to see how that goes.  I could also join one of the local fitness clubs to have a pool available to me, but I’m already bleeding money from the gear I’m stashing away.

Anyway, I just having a good time with it all right now.  Also, I wanted to mention an amazing development.  My heart rate during my run Saturday stayed much lower than normal.  It could just have been slightly cooler temperatures, but I think even a few weeks of cross training has had a positive result.  I’ll report back in another week or two on this development to see if it is genuine.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Trying not to Tri is Tough


Since my last post, I've been running as normal.  Squeezed in a few vacations (worthy of independent posts for sure) and may have begun training for a triathlon.

Wait, what's that you say?  What exactly is "may have begun training for a triathlon"?

Fair enough, let me explain.  I purchased a bike about twelve years ago.  When we bought our home and moved, I hung it from the garage ceiling thinking I'd ride it because I would have to look at it so often.  I mean seriously.  Take out the trash; there's the bike.  Leave for work; Bang.  Home from work; Hello Mr. Bike.

That was ten years ago this month.  I've done nothing but looking at the poor thing.  Heck, I have maneuvered ladders around it probably over 100 times during that period.   I don't even recall doing anything but thinking to myself I'd better get that bike down and go for a ride.  Occasionally the kids would ask "you ever gonna ride your bike again Dad?"  "Yes" I'd retort, but since I was always running and training for marathons, it was easy to sluff it off.

It will be no surprise that each year during the Tour, I get a small itch to ride.  But again, this is usually dismissed because my fall marathon training is set to begin.  Then there is always the thought of if I get it down from the ceiling, I'll have to put it back up there.  Who the heck wants to do that?

On a random Sunday afternoon about a month ago, I took her down from the rafters.  GREEN THUNDER was in piss poor shape.  Empty tires, dust & dirt caked everywhere, and no telling how the chain, shifters, gears and brakes might have survived.

I pumped up the tires and hopped on for spin around the cul-de-sac.  Not bad. Everything pretty much worked.  While the gearing and derailers needed some tuning, I could hit most of the 24 gears and more importantly STOP when applying the brakes.

You've probably already made the connection, but getting on the bike led me quickly to a place I have avoided for years.  If you're looking for a change of pace, how about a triathlon?  Oh crap.  Not that voice again.  The one to which I respond.  No, we've already been through this 1,000 times.  I tried to swim laps on numerous occasions.  Remember?!  You like fluid in your ears?  Have you forgotten how awesome it is inhale pool water?  And besides, if I can't Ironman, which I cannot, then I ain't interested.

So, here I am.  New helmet.  New bike computer.  New, well, lots of stuff (details when I get the guts...or after my wife sees the bill and I live to tell about it).

I've been on a handful of short rides and spent a little time in the pool.  I didn't fall or drowned so I guess they were a success at this stage.

While running will remain my primary focus, I plan to share much of what I've gotten myself into during the coming weeks or months.  We will just have to see how long it lasts.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace.