Category Archives: Swimming

All the Wrong Lessons

For the past month or so, I have been at the bottom of a very heavy heap of work. More stuff than usual landed on my calendar toward the end of January, and since I typically know my overall schedule/work pattern a few weeks in advance, I could tell that I was going to be inching my way out of the hole — but never quite surfacing — for all of February.

But now here we are, Feb. 27, and while I am not at the top of the pile, I can at least see the top. Between shipping a report last night and requesting a couple of days off for mid-March, I can actually envision a time when I feel calm and collected and on top of my shit. My house may be a disaster, my book heap from the library sadly untouched — but this morning I got home from Burn at 8 and actually managed to cook eggs, sip coffee, and read blogs before work like any good red-blooded American girl. All of which is to say that I’m hoping for slightly more regular posting to resume around here shortly.

But first, here’s a story about swimming.

As I’ve been contemplating maybe, probably biking to Santa Cruz, I’ve been putting a lot of emphasis on cycling miles. My mileage still isn’t where I really want it to be — and I’m kicking myself for a dumb decision I made earlier this week that will leave me short of my goal for this week unless I do two major rides within 12 hours, which, extra dumb — but I’ve been waking up at gross hours to ride the trainer and cobbling together weekend franken-rides of two or three legs divided by errands and group training. It’s not pretty, but it’s (probably?) enough.

Running, too, has been fitting in OK. I’ve been doing mostly shorter runs — nothing longer than 6 or 7 miles this year so far — but I’m starting to add runs off the bike back into my life, and those extra couple of miles make the difference between 12-mile weeks (“barely running,” in my mind) and 16- to 20-mile weeks (legit). My running mileage usually takes a hit when I start tri training, but two years in, I’m prepared for that and know I’ll be able to start sneaking in an extra mile or three once I get used to the schedule.

But swimming? I think I’ve been in the pool fewer than five times this year. Maybe fewer than five times since Santa Cruz. October was Vermont. December was another crazy span of work. Did I maybe swim a few times in November? It’s possible but feels unlikely. Then, right when I started to get back into it, I somehow tweaked my shoulder (like, while sleeping) and could only sort of dress myself for a week, so swimming was clearly not going to happen then. And that brings us to now.

Swimming is the tri sport I like the least, but I actually don’t mind the act of swimming. In fact, it can be great for shutting off my brain, which I’ve been much in need of lately. What I reject is the stuff that surrounds swimming, the gathering of gear and the needing to be at a place at a particular time, the smelling of chlorine and itchy skin and extra showers, the lane-jockeying with other people. (Generally the more a sport involves other people, the less inclined I will be to do it.) I’ve also never adjusted to the inflexibility of morning swimming at my pool, which is a lame excuse but also a truth, and I’ve gotten it in my head that if I get there even five minutes after opening, I might as well not swim at all. All of this is why I’m contemplating joining a master’s group, but it meets far from me in a place with no good bike route and I hate having to repark in my neighborhood at night and blah blah blah excusecakes — the point is, I have not been swimming much.

This week was the first full week of TAG training, and on our schedule for swimming was the base pace test — 3×100, 200, or 400 at the fastest pace we can sustain. Divide by how many hundreds you swam, and that’s the interval pace we use for workouts. This workout has been my nemesis, because while I can swim faster 100s and even faster 1000s sometimes, I somehow pace myself all wrong for the base pace test. My base pace has worked out to basically 2:02/100 since before I started actually training for swimming, which is fairly frustrating and probably contributes to my lack of desire to swim.

So I go to the pool on Tuesday night planning to do the 400s, but I almost back out and swim the version with 200s to get home sooner. I ultimately decide against it, because I’m worried I’ll get stuck with a base pace I can’t maintain. Yes, that’s right: I picked the longer workout because I was certain I’d be slow at it. I do my warm-up, and my first “easy” 100 comes in around 2:08, and I’m thinking, “oof, at least this will be the year my base pace finally improves from week 1 to week 10.”

And I start the first 400, and it feels awkward, and I’m coming into the wall all wrong, but I stop my watch and it reads 8:05. Even then, I’m thinking, “Great, I blew it all in the first 400.” So I swim the next one and it’s 7:54. And I think I must have miscounted. So then I swim the last one, and it’s 7:53.

So for the first time in three years, I have a base pace that starts with a 1. (Barely — it’s like 1:59:33/100 — but whatever.) And it happened without swimming.

OK, I can think of some rational reasons for this. I’ve been working on a lot more upper body and core strength through Burn. My weird shoulder issue caused me to adjust my stroke a little bit, and I think my (still super wonky) technique is better for it. And I was certainly well-rested from all the thousands of yards I haven’t been swimming.

But it also seems like the lesson here could be a simple one: Don’t swim. It’s improbable, sure. But more improbable than that workout? I think not.

New Toy!

I heard about the waterproof H2O Audio iPod Shuffle holder right around the time I started braving lap swim on my own, but I waited a long time to actually buy it. I didn’t have a newer-generation Shuffle, for one thing — I still had the long, skinny first version that looks like a pregnancy test — and for another, I wasn’t convinced it would actually work. I also didn’t want to become dependent on music for swimming the way I have for running; while I know I’m capable of running without music, making playlists is itself one of my favorite pastimes, and I’m going to have to wean myself off during triathlon training. I didn’t want to start off a new sport with the same crutch.

But then my parents got me a Shuffle for my birthday, and my latest stupid leg thing made me realize that at some point in my athletic life, I will almost certainly do something to myself that requires a significant stretch of swimming and pool-running. Plus, I came into a sizable amount of Amazon credit and the darn thing was (and still is) on sale there anyway. So I bit.

I put it in my hand for scale, but I really should have put my hand next to something for scale. I have tiny hands.

I’ve taken my new toy to the pool twice now — once on Tuesday for what turned out to be a very abbreviated swim (my fault for not checking the water aerobics schedule) and once on Thursday for a more normal 30-minute session. It’s certainly not enough for a proper review, as I have no idea how it’s going to hold up over time, but the two swims gave me a pretty good sense of the pros and cons.

The setup is easy: turn on the Shuffle (and in my case, queue up the playlist, because otherwise it’ll just play songs in order and skip my podcasts — or maybe I just don’t know how to use my Shuffle properly, which is eminently possible), plug it into the jack in the case, close the door with the waterproof seal and make sure it clicks, and hook the case onto your goggle straps. It took me about seventeen seconds to get the earphone cords tangled in my goggle straps, but really, it’s not challenging to get it going. The makers recommend putting the Shuffle in the case and submerging it in a bowl of water before trying it “live” for the first time, but I skipped that step. Living dangerously, that’s me.

I wasn’t expecting much in terms of sound quality, and I did not get much in terms of sound quality. It sounds — oddly enough! — like you’re listening to something under water. Sometimes the sound seemed to be stronger in one ear than the other, and sometimes it got wobbly and far away overall. I tested one song but mostly listened to podcasts — oh! how I have missed podcasts during these weeks of not running — and my gut feeling is that the sound is a bit more forgiving with songs. (Also, apparently listening to things while swimming does not stop my incessant counting. I just count over whatever I’m listening to. Same way I still get thinking done on a run while listening to a podcast, but less useful.)

Based on the reviews, I figured I was signing up to have a terrible time with the earbuds. By default, the device comes with rounded squishy tips, which just do not work for my oddly shaped ears. I’ve tried; it’s a no-go. So I was thrilled to find that there’s also an included pair of “tree” tips, which I also use on my regular earphones.

I'd never heard them called "tree" tips, but it's an apt name.

These were a pain in the ass to get on the earbuds (the opening is smaller and needed to be kind of stretched over the end of the earphones), but it was worth it. They don’t suction into my ears quite as well as my regular pair — the shape of the plastic bubble-y part is a little too large for that — but they’re far better than I expected. I still lost almost all sound a few hundred yards into Thursday’s swim when I knocked one a little loose; what ended up working best was making sure my swim cap was firmly over the plastic parts.

The case doesn’t feel particularly heavy, but it does add weight and probably a bit of drag, and I think I’ll need to loosen my goggles a bit when I swim with it; if I thought I knew goggle eyes before, I had another think coming after Thursday. I could feel the indentations. It was not pretty.

Overall, so far I’d call it a nice novelty. I’m not sure I would have bought it had it not been essentially free, but I’m glad to have it. I don’t plan to swim with it all the time, but it’s also hooked onto my goggles now, so it’s just as easy to use it as not.

And oh man, do I have a lot of Pop Culture Happy Hour to catch up on.

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Discussions I Would Like to Have with Swimmers

A few questions I have at the end of my highest-volume swimming week ever:

1. Do you always smell like chlorine, too?
2. Can other people tell?
3. How do you make your non-dominant hand do anything useful in the water?
4. Do you also just count over and over the whole time you’re swimming?
5. Flip turns in the shallow end: yay, nay, or “only if you have more coordination than everything you’ve ever written here suggests you do”?
6. Which would you rather do: lift weights first and have to put a swimsuit on when you’re already sweaty, or swim first and have to put a sports bra on when you’re just kind of damp?
7. Do your cats also attack your chlorine-y flip-flops the second you step in the door and roll their little faces on them with such fervor that you often find the flip-flops in two different rooms later?
8. How long do your goggle eyes last?
9. Is swim-ger (swum-ger?) way, way worse than runger for anyone else? By halfway through my (five-minute) post-swim shower, I have a sudden, sharp need to shove something down my gullet.
10. Can you please recommend me a better moisturizer?

{Also, in leg gremlin news, the DO at my primary care practice thinks it’s tendinitis of one or the other ankle/tibia tendons and then offered, basically, prescription-strength Aleve. I told her Aleve makes me feel like my brain is being stirred with an eggbeater and was there any alternative and she was like, “Yeah. Ibuprofen.” So I’m the girl who hoofed over a $20 copay to be told to take ibuprofen. This practice is usually very hippie-dippy-let’s-investigate-root-causes — I mean, that’s why I love them — but since I’m seeing my sports medicine guy on Tuesday, I didn’t push it.}

{In possibly related news, I was looking at my red Adrenalines and noticed that the inside left toe treads are so worn down they’re nearly flat, especially compared to the same area on the right shoe. What does it mean, internet? It should be noted, though, that the heel treads are pristine, so the next person who tries to tell me that I’m obviously a heel-striker and that’s the source of my problems — which my otherwise wonderful sports medicine guy tried to pull the last time I saw him — gets whacked in the face with my practically untouched Adrenaline heels.}

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