Archive for ‘Swimming’

April 14, 2015

Still Squeaky

On Sunday I had the Run For the Parks 4-miler, another NYRR race in my quest for the 9+1 and guaranteed entry for the 2016 NYC Marathon.  After a 20-mile bike ride on Saturday I was in no mood to get myself up and in Central Park by 7:45 AM for a race that—if all went well—was going to take me less an half an hour. Off I went, though, hoping that my tired legs and squeaky toe were up for it.  The subways can be kind of a crapshoot on Sunday mornings, so I allowed a lot of extra time for travel and ended up (for once) arriving a good bit early for the race.  It was still fairly cool out so I used the time to warm up and probably put in close to a mile before I started working my way to the start.  I hadn’t run since Tuesday due to the toe squeak, so I was anxious to get some strides in and feel out a good race pace before we started.  I was hoping for a pace in the low 7’s, but every time I thought I was probably approaching that and checked the Garmin, my pace was actually low 7’s/high 8’s.  It didn’t seem like the best sign, but I finally hit it and held it long enough for it to sink into my brain and then headed off to the start.

The race had a strong turnout, which is great since 100% of the proceeds go to park programs, but 8,000+ people in Central Park does get a bit crowded.  I was in the third corral thanks to my Prospect 4-miler time, and I figured having fast people around me would help a lot with the pacing.  We got off to a quick start and I focused on breathing and finding a good rhythm.  I pushed pretty hard and I really don’t remember much of the race other than trying and succeeding in overtaking some chic in a Boston Athletic Association jacket, and dropping one of my gloves half a mile from the finish.  That was upsetting because 1) they’re my favorite lucky running gloves, and 2) I knew it was stupid to try to take them off when I was that close to the end.  I clocked in at 28:55, which was 7:14 splits—30 seconds/mile better than my Prospect 4-miler in February.  As soon as I cleared the chute I worked my way back to where I dropped the glove, waited for a break in the runners, and did something resembling one of those football player drills to dart out, grab the glove off the ground, and then run back to the curb without disrupting the flow of the race.  Thus reunited with my gloves, I headed back to the finish to wait for LRB, who was running with a newbie friend.  When the results were posted it turned out that I had finished 13th in my age group and 103rd overall woman, which, given the field size, is probably my best finish ever.  It was totally the gloves.

After the race and some brunch with LRB and his friend, I hit the pool to work on the two-beat kick we had learned in class last week.  (And by “learned” I mean attempted with much awkward flailing.)  Since I had already put in a hard cardio effort I decided just to really focus on technique on the swim.  I spent 30 minutes kicking down the pool one length on my back, then working on the two-beat kick swimming back.  Since I could catch my breath on the kicking lengths, it took some of the pressure off timing the breathing with the two-beat, and by the end I felt like I was starting to get the hang of it.  I suspect that my kick form could still use some work, though.  It feels more like flinging something icky off my foot than a singular flutter kick, but I think it’s progress nonetheless.

This weekend I also officially joined the Brooklyn Tri Club, and we had our first bike workout of the season bright and early this morning.  I was able to hang with the other newbies, but I am getting my first bout of seriously cold feet for the upcoming races.  When I started this whole tri endeavor, it was the swim that scared me.  Now it’s the bike that I find myself dreading.  Despite all the time I spent on the trainer this winter, being on the road is a whole different world.  I find riding in traffic really nerve-wracking, and I still find  the feeling of being clipped in terrifying challenging.  After my ride on Saturday I decided to wear running shoes when I’m riding on the streets for the time being, and only clip in when I’m in the park or otherwise out of traffic.  That has at least eased some of the anxiety I have when cabs are whizzing by me inches from my elbow.

I’m actually surprised at how vulnerable I feel when I’m just riding fast in the park, though.  I love going fast on skis or skates, but on the bike I just keep thinking about broken bones and road rash.  This morning we were working on keeping a fast cadence and spinning on the small chain ring, and I was having a really hard time convincing myself to pedal downhill.  I hope know that a lot of this will work itself out as I get more comfortable on the bike and log some more road time.  My first sprint tri is a month away, though, and I feel woefully underprepared at the moment.  I’ve been focused on running these past few months and I still haven’t done a real brick workout, let alone an open water swim.  I need to just sit down and layout my training calendar for the next four weeks, get the key workouts scheduled, and I know I’ll feel a lot better. But between work, training, and minimal sleep requirements I can’t seem to find the time.  Also, I’m getting worried about the squeaky toe.  Before the stress fracture, I would have just run on it and not worried unless I could hear it over my ipod, but now I’m afraid of another boot-bound month and lost training hours.  I keep reminding myself that part of the reason I wanted to do the tri was for the challenge—to learn to swim properly, to get better at biking, and to do something that a few years ago I thought I could never, ever do.  Then there’s the part of me that keeps screaming, “screw this!  I just want to run!”  One of these days, she’ll come around, right?

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February 17, 2015

Keeping Track

Last week was probably my most solid training week since my stress fracture, and I’m feeling pretty good about where I am.  I ran 30.8 miles, biked 19.4, swam 1200 yds (that’s an estimate since I’m still struggling with lap count, but more on that later…), and I also got in two strength training sessions.  Running-wise, I had my mile-repeats on Tuesday, an easy 6 on Thursday, and a 12-mile long run Sunday.  Saturday I bricked my swim workout with another easy 6-mile run, which, happily, did actually feel easy.  I’m still working to build my swim endurance, but my efficiency is improving and I’m definitely wasting less energy on my kick now.

Central Park

Central Park, with not another person in sight…

 

For Sunday’s long run I met Long Run Buddy in Central Park, which we had nearly to ourselves, thanks to the 14 degree temperature and frigid wind gusts.  We bundled up and decided a legitimate warm-up was in order.  After a shuffley mile we picked up the pace for our park loops.  LRB had a 90-minute easy run in HR Zone 1-2 on his schedule, so we ended up pulling back a bit on the 8:30 pace I was targeting and settled in around 8:40.  At mile 10 LRB peeled off at 92nd street to wrap up his workout, and it was at that point that sucked on my water bottle in vain and discovered that the nozzle had completely frozen.  I do love winter running and generally don’t really mind the cold, but that seemed a bit much.  Consoling myself that I could always eat snow if necessary, I got ready to push up the Harlem Hills the second time.   I was nervous curious about how I’d do on the hills, especially on loop two, but I felt pretty strong throughout.  I was definitely not able to push the pace as much as I was in the fall, but I’m confident that I’ll get the uphill speed back with a some focused time and effort.  In any case, I still felt good endurance-wise, and I was able to pick up the pace for the last two miles.  I finished my 12 in the park and still had about mile back to LRB’s apartment, and in an effort to stay warm I opted to just jog it back.  All-in, I ran 13.8, which makes me feel much better about my 14-er coming up this weekend.  After a hot shower the feeling returned to my fingers and nose, and LRB and I hit up a beer hall for some post-run sustenance.

LRB's liter o'beer and my teeny-tiny Riesling.

LRB’s liter o’beer and my teeny-tiny Riesling.

Monday I was off work for the holiday and logged a 45-minute strength training session, 8 miles of HIIT interval biking, 3 loads of laundry, and some marathon cooking.  My running bras are clean and my freezer is well stocked, so that made me a happy girl.  We had our wine critic friend over for dinner last night which resulted in more imbibing than was perhaps prudent, especially given this morning’s intervals.  I hit the treadmill feeling a bit sluggish and fought my way through 10×400’s at 6:40 pace.  It was not my most stellar performance and I had to take a couple of my recovery intervals at a walk, but I gritted my teeth and made it through the full set.  In fact, I know that I made it through because I used my snazzy new counting bracelet, which I made yesterday to keep track of my pool laps.

10 beads on the left.  Count 'em.

10 beads on the left. Count ’em.

I got some great suggestions last week on how to keep count in the pool, but apparently I’m hopeless.  I think the real problem is that I’m still concentrating so much on technique that I just don’t have the mental bandwidth for anything else.  Right now, my thoughts during swimming go something like this: “1, 2, 3, breathe!  Lead with the crown of your head!  3, breathe!  Don’t push the water down! 2, 3, breathe!   1, 2, head down! Breathe!  Straight legs!  Relax! 3, breathe!  Turn!  Breathe!  Crap, is this lap 11 or 13?  Breathe!

I was racking my brains all week trying to think of a low-tech solution, and I remembered that in my knitting travels I’d seen instructions for making row-counting bracelets.  I dug around in my crafty bins and found some stainless steel beads, jump rings, and black cord and I was all set.  I think the result looks moderately adult enough that I can wear it all day, and it worked beautifully for ticking off my intervals this morning.  I’ll be trying it out in the pool tonight.

The general idea is that the cords are a bit longer than the beaded area, leaving a short gap.  The beads will slide along the cord, leaving a space between the counted beads and the ones ‘on deck,’ but there’s enough friction that they don’t slide around on their own.  I’ll put up a separate post this week with the materials I used for my bracelet, along with instructions and photos.  It’s a fast project and these would make a useful gift for your favorite runner or swimmer.  (Or knitter.)  These could range from masculine to feminine, simple and elegant to colorful and fun depending on your choice of beads and hardware.  The only real constraints are selecting beads and cord of compatible size, and making sure your materials will survive the water if you plan to swim with it.  I tend to gravitate towards minimalism, but you could easily incorporate number and letter beads for a personal touch, too—names, inspiration, a mantra, or PR’s.

January 19, 2015

Making Progress

Stress Fracture Update

The big news this week is that I ran… twice!  The first one was supposed to be just a mile, but turned into two, and the second was supposed to be 3.5 and ended up being 2.5 due to freezing rain, but still, I ran!  My foot felt a bit sore for about the first mile or so of each, and again towards the end of both runs, but overall there seemed to be no increased soreness or swelling afterward.  I did notice that my arch felt a bit tight a few hours after, and I think I will probably need to be a bit more diligent about stretching and using the foam roller as I ease back into running.  I’ve been keeping up with the strength, biking, and swimming this week as well, and weirdly, I think I can actually feel my body starting to adapt to the new training.  Everything stays the same for days or weeks, and then suddenly the hand weights that felt heavy last week seem to be lighter, or something will just click mid-swim.  Last week I looked in the mirror and thought that it seemed odd that my arms didn’t really look any different after a month of swimming and weight training, and then two days later I looked like I had taken up a blacksmithing hobby.  (I actually did a little in college and have some lovely candlesticks to show for it…)

Anyway, I’m trying hard to come up with a training plan for the next several weeks that will challenge me without risking reinjury.  My successful runs this weekend gave me enough confidence to sign up for a 4-mile race a month from now, and I’ve decided to try using a slightly modified FIRST plan to train.  I’ll actually be doing the cross-training this time, which should fold nicely into my tri plans, and if all goes well, a fast 4-miler will set me up for faster distance work this spring.  I still need to lay out my full race calendar for the year, but I want to hold off a few more weeks to see what kind of running volume I’m able to handle before I start committing to the spring races that I really want to do.  In related news, I got the email on Thursday for my guaranteed entry to the NYC Marathon, and $227 later I am officially in!  Long Run Buddy is as well, and I’m very excited to have a training partner for the full distance of my long runs this fall.

When do I get to call myself a Triathlete?

Even though I’m holding off on committing to any major (running) races for a few more weeks, I did sign up for two sprint-tri’s in May and June, and suddenly that whole endeavor is getting much more real.  My swim classes started last Tuesday, and I’m so, SO glad I enrolled.  The class is geared to novice (but not absolute beginner) swimmers and is focused on the basics of technique and efficiency.  I’ve always seen myself as a weak swimmer and was nervous that I should have signed up for the beginner class, but I seem to be at least at the average skill level in the group.  A few of my classmates have done the NYC Tri before, so I feel a bit more confident that I’ll be able to get through the swim in the allotted time, not to mention survive a dip in the Hudson.  There are also several veteran runners/first-time triathletes in the class who are signed up for the NYC race, and it will be great to get to know a few other newbies as well.  Last week’s session focused mainly on breathing technique, and in addition to working side lying kicking and one arm drills, our coach referred us to this video, created by sea mammal Michael Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman.  His explanation is very clear and after a very focused half hour in the pool this weekend I actually did start to feel the bow wave on my head.

This week I hope to start structured training for the 4-miler and settle into a workable training schedule that incorporates multiple swim, bike, run, and strength workouts each week.  I will be doing two-a-days several times a week, but I’m hoping that scheduling more short and varied sessions will keep me healthy while still building fitness and strength.  I’m trying to alternate days so that I minimize doing the same activity back-to-back, but I still have to work out the kinks.  I’m incorporating a lot more strength training that I did last season, and I hope that will help me prepare for a heavier training load and avoid injury.

Here’s the plan this week:

Monday

Weight training – JM No More Trouble Zones

 

Tuesday 

AM

Running – Intervals

6×800 @ 3:38*

RI 90 sec

PM

Swim class

 

Wednesday

AM

Swim – 30 min

PM

Strength – JM Ripped in 30 Week 2

 

Thursday

AM

Running – Tempo

2 mi @ 8:04*

1 mi easy

2 mi @ 8:04*

PM

Optional 30 min bike

 

Friday

AM

Strength – 1 hr with Trainer

 

Saturday

AM

3 mi easy

PM

30 min swim

 

Sunday

AM

Brick:

Cycle

10 min easy

10 min tempo

10 min easy

5 min hard

5 min easy

Long Run – 7 mi @ 8:34* (If all goes well this week)

 

*I should note that these paces are pegged to my last marathon and I have no idea if I’ll be able to handle the speed after 6 weeks off.

December 31, 2014

Getting Stronger

I’m not really one for year-in-review appraisals or New Year’s resolutions.  In general, I associate New Year’s with two weeks of noobs crowding the gym.  (Newbies please note: if you are walking on a treadmill, the automatic cool-down period at the end is not for you.  Do not walk in slow motion for five minutes while others are waiting, only to hop off and resume a brisk pace to the locker room. Seriously.)

In light of my recent injury, though, I can’t help being a bit more reflective than usual this year.  I had easily the best training year of my life.  I learned how to set challenging goals and not to let myself off the hook for them.  I learned to train hard and successfully.  Injury aside, I think also I learned how hard I can push myself, and it’s harder than I thought.  As a friend said recently, “You have to cross the line now and then to figure out where it actually is.”  The stress fracture, too, has been instructive.  I’ve been reminded that I’m not Superwoman and no matter how good of shape I’m in, I still need to be gentle with myself.  I enjoyed running this year more fully than I ever have, and I’m now even more acutely aware how precious every step is.  I have realized these past few weeks how much running has become part of my identity, and how it’s become a measuring stick for how may day, or week, or life is going.

My foot continues to improve, albeit slower than I would like.  Interestingly, it seems to plateau for several days at a time, and then overnight will suddenly feel markedly better.  The injury first became apparent just after Thanksgiving, but I’m pretty sure that walking four miles on it at the Jingle Bell Jog and the pain that ensued after probably set things back a bit.  That would put me at somewhere around week three of the healing process, which means the bone callus should be forming now.   There is a distinct bump at the site of the injury now and the area is definitely less tender now, so that’s all to go the good.

Swimming really has been the silver lining to all of this, as I may have actually set myself up to drown in the Hudson next summer had I not been absolutely forced to focus on the swim.  I’m far worse at it than I expected, and I never would have dedicated this much time to it if running or biking were at all possible.  I don’t enjoy swimming yet, but I’ve been working hard, and after watching several YouTube videos to study up on technique I’ve definitely been able to make some headway.  Last week I realized that I was “swimming flat,” meaning that my hips were staying parallel to the bottom of the pool while my upper body rotated.  I finally got the reach-and-roll rhythm going and suddenly instead of flapping around, I felt like I was actually gliding through the water.  Make no mistake, I’m still terrible, but I can now reliably overtake some of the oldest women in the slow lane.  At any rate, my swim classes start in two weeks, and I am perhaps unreasonably optimistic that they will help tremendously.

Part of my current frustration with swimming is that I am not good enough to get a really hard, satisfying workout in.  I’ve also been strength training, though, and I am finding an appreciation for pushing through a really hard set that I’ve never had before.  I tend to rush through lifting, so I do best with a trainer or video to guide me on form and pace.  It’s been difficult to find really challenging workout videos that don’t require a lot of high impact cardio intervals, but so far I’m most impressed with Jillian Michaels’ No More Trouble Zones.  I can do most of the workout without modifications and the sets move fast enough to provide a good cardio component as well.  I really do feel like I will come through this injury stronger physically, and maybe mentally as well.

Cheers,

ModC

December 18, 2014

The Brussels Sprouts of Training

Although I’m still awaiting the results of my MRI, a trip to the podiatrist on Tuesday confirmed my suspicion of a metatarsal stress fracture.  I’m now boot-bound for the immediate future, and am likely looking at 6-8 weeks before I can start running again.  The good news is that I can continue to swim and I may be cleared for cycling and pool running in a few weeks.

I’m upset, of course, and disappointed that I probably won’t be able to run the Hot Chocolate 10-Miler and the Fred Lebow Half Marathon that I am registered for in January.  It’s been ages since I’ve raced the shorter distances, and I was really looking forward to getting back to training in earnest.  I had also planned to run the Shamrock Marathon in March, but depending on when I’m cleared to resume full training that may not be feasible either.  It’s certainly not the end of the world, but as any athlete knows, injuries are incredibly frustrating and it’s easy to get a bit depressed on top of the physical trauma.  I know my own tendencies in that department, so I’m working hard to reframe the situation into something positive.

I’ve realized that one of the most difficult aspects of dealing with injury for me (and I suspect for many runners who are a bit Type-A) is the loss of the structure and routine that training provides.  When I’m working through an injury and can’t do my “real” workouts,  I usually tend to do somewhat aimless sessions just so I can feel like I got my exercise in.  This time around, I’m trying to approach time the time away from running as an opportunity to address some weaknesses that I never seem to have time for otherwise.  I’m setting specific goals and building a training plan to get there.  I want to improve my upper body and core strength with weight training twice a week, complete a 30-day chin-up challenge, and build up to swimming 500m with this training plan.  The hard part, of course, is garnering the same level enthusiasm I have for my running.  Getting better at things you’re bad at is unglamorous, eat-your-veggies kind of training–the sort that is hard and ugly and generally not much fun.  Rather than running around the park with at least a modicum of grace, I’m flapping around in the pool just trying not to inhale water.  The learning curve is steep at this end, but so are the incremental gains.  In 6-8 weeks I may just have a new set of skills.

~ModC

 

 

December 15, 2014

Still Limping

After a lot of rest and Advil last week, my foot was actually feeling a bit better by Friday.  I have an appointment tomorrow with a podiatrist who specializes in runners and triathletes, but by the weekend I was hopeful that it might be a moot point.  On Saturday I could hop without wincing, and I even wore footwear other than my running shoes to dinner.  On Sunday I had a bunch of errands to do, as well as a pile of laundry and cooking for the week.  I swam in the morning and then spent a good portion of the day on my feet.  By evening I was visibly limping again and my chiro friend asked me if I had considered the possibility of a stress fracture.  I had, of course, but mostly to convince myself that if I had one, my foot would probably hurt more than it does.  After two weeks with no improvement, though, it does seem like the most likely scenario.  I’m also pretty sure that the fact that I can actually feel my third and fourth metatarsals inside my foot is not a good sign.  I imagine that I’ll get a definitive answer tomorrow, but just in case, I stopped taking the Advil (it can impede healing of fractures) and ate an extra bowl of bone broth soup last night.  Either way, it looks like I might be spending more time training in the pool than I originally thought.

December 12, 2014

Limping Along

It’s now been a week and a half since I’ve run, and if anything, my foot seems worse.  I made an appointment to have it looked at next Tuesday, and until then I’m just trying to stay off of it as much as possible and ice it frequently.  I’ve now abandoned the nightly hope that it might possibly feel better in the morning, and I removed the next two weeks of bike workouts from my calendar because the reminders were making me sad.  (I am stubbornly refusing to remove the run workouts, however.)

I have swum three times so far this week, and the jury is still out as to whether that’s aggravating it further.  The injury seems to feel worst in the morning, and while I’d hoped that swimming might be an effective way to gently loosen it up, it seems just as painful when I get out of the pool as when I get in.  I’m happy to report that I suck at swimming a little less every day, so that’s progress.  I’ve been feeling really overwhelmed with how much work I have to do to get ready for the swim leg of the tri and, circumstances aside, I really am glad that I’ve been forced to start training a little earlier.  Even knowing that I have seven months to get there, I’m still completely intimidated by the thought of an open water swim of almost a mile.

I just finished a very effective 30-day ab challenge this week, and it has me thinking that baby steps really are the way to go.  (Who can do a 4 minute plank?  This girl.)  For some reason I had in my head that I wasn’t ready for a training plan, but after some quick searching I found a beginner’s workout plan that makes the whole endeavor seem a little more doable.  Of course, this one only gets me up to swimming 500m workouts over the next month, but I have a feeling that if I can get over the initial ‘I’m completely incompetent’ hurdle it might get a little bit easier.