Saturday, January 24, 2009

More Navel Gazing

What with my own training going on, I haven't watched Basta swim lately. I figured he had it pretty much under control and now it was just a matter of longer and faster.

Well, I watched him swim a couple laps in the pool before I was ready to jump in and start my own workout. He looked like a corkscrew. What happened to his nice smooth roll? It was gone. His upper body was completely disconnected from his lower. He was twisting at the waist and giving a weird whirly kick with his legs on occasion. Huh? What happened here?

I stopped him and asked why he wasn't rolling any more. He, of course, said that he was. We talked about that for a bit and then he claimed to have never rolled like that before. Wrong again. I told him to do some laps of the rolling drill but he didn't remember it. I told him how to do it and he said it was impossible for him, he'd sink. Sigh. He fights me so hard on this swimming.

So I got in the pool and showed him the drill, straight from the Total Immersion video. Push off the wall on your side, kicking gently. Bottom arm is under the water and reaching forward, upper arm is on your thigh out of the water. Your hips align with the bottom of the pool and the sky, your face points directly down. Glide in that position for a few moments, then pull the forward arm down and roll the body to the same position on the other side. Roll face up to breathe then back down to face the bottom of the pool. Glide on each side a few kicks, then roll gently to the next side.

After a few laps Basta finally stopped fighting it and got the smooth roll down again. We think that the roll went to hell when he started to really reach for maximum length on his stroke. He was reaching too far, twisting his upper body, leaving his lower body to do whatever, and crossing his midline in a big way, too. Basta, Basta, Basta. Coaching him like this is interfering with my workout time, too. My work schedule doesn't align with the pool hours very well so my available time to swim is very limited. When I walk the deck watching him swim I'm losing my own training time. That's a bit of a problem.

Fortunately, this didn't take long to fix. He looks much better again.

As for me, I tried all the methods of counting laps that I'd read about after a quick google of 'counting swim laps.' I did 1x400 doing an easy, build, easy, hard sequence. Swim each length in that manner and after the hard length you've done 100. Repeat 4 times to 400. That was easy to keep track of and was a good workout, too.

I did the next 400 using letters of the alphabet. 400 is 16 lengths, or A through P. Pick a category of some kind and think of all the words you can that start with the letter of the lap you're on. I chose 'animals.' So on lap one I thought "Aardvark . . . Abalone . . . Apple - no that's not an animal . . . Anchovy . . " and so on. It worked. I never lost track of where I was. P, the end of the 400, came pretty quickly. But with all the searching in the brain for animals there wasn't any time to think of form, speed, variation in arm turnover, anything. So this would be good for just slogging out the laps. I'll use it once in a while.

For the third 400 I counted every length, not lap. That way going up would be an odd lap, coming back would be an even. If (when) the mind drifts and I lose track of the lap count, at least I know if I'm on an odd or an even and it can help find where I am. That did indeed help, though not perfectly. I still had to really think sometimes -- now was that 7 or 9? Hmm. Must have been 7 . . .

I did that 3x400 in 33 minutes. 11 minutes per 400, or around 2:30/100m. Slow. If I keep that pace for the event I'll have a 48:16 swim. Not quite the last one out of the water, probably. I must pull harder. A little quicker arm turnover. Press the chest and streamline the body. Steady improvement.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I Have Much To Say

And no doubt I will take a while to say it. So I'd best begin . . .

When last we spoke, I was suffering from a baffling malady that made every step of a run painful, sent my heart rate through the roof during extreme activity like, say, standing up, and made me feel like either my eyeballs or my heart , or both, was going to explode. Needless to say all of that was causing my workout schedule to go down the tubes.

Well, turns out it is the poultry allergy. It has progressed to including turkey now. It took about two weeks of being poultry-free before most of the symptoms left and I could do a somewhat normal workout again. But hallelujah that I figured out the problem and simple avoidance takes care of it. I can train again.

We usually do some kind of purity program for the month of January, and because of the aforementioned problem I wanted to do a major purity routine. So for this month of January we are booze-free and meat-free. Fun, I know. But we are kind of enjoying it.

The current state of Basta is quite good. He had a problem with his right knee over the holidays, this time the back side of the knee was puffy and sore. He wasn't able to run with any kind of pace. I think that was simple overuse and we backed off on his running for a few weeks. That didn't help a great deal so he stopped running altogether for a week. That did the trick and the knee/calf healed. His chronic sciatica problem has been in remission for many weeks. All of the sudden he can run again. Back at his old fairly perky pace of 7-8 min miles. We're both very pleased to see that.

The Surf City Marathon is in two weeks and he is going to do the full distance. His last long run was 18 miles and he did just fine. No pain, no stiffness the next day, no swelling anywhere. He is ready. He'll do two weeks of tapering and then it's show-time. I don't think he'll BQ, but he'll probably have a good run. He needs a 3:45 finish time to do that. That's an 8:35 pace. It's within the realm of possibility, just unlikely. He hasn't held that pace on his previous long runs. But he's going to start with the 3:45 pace group and see how that goes.

Otherwise he's doing quite well. Swimming, biking, running. All on track for IM Brazil. Bueno.

Then there's me. My big event is the Oceanside Half Ironman, right? My little problem resolved to the point where I could train again at 12 weeks til event. That's bare minimum for training for a Half Ironman. I'd lost a lot of fitness from being unable to train well for over a month, so it really feels like I'm starting over. I've been doing a full training schedule for two full weeks now, just entering the 10-weeks-to-go week. It's been a tough two weeks and I'm POOPED. Tired. But it's a good tired. Just plain ol' muscles being used and my fitness being pushed. I like it. I know it'll only get better and I'll get stronger.

But I'm just not very fast. I know I'll be able to complete the distance at Oceanside, but will I be able to do it within the allotted amount of time? I'm worried. Here's where I am right now:

The swim: I swim for an hour in the pool once a week. I'd like to tell you how many meters I cover in that time but I have yet to successfully count laps. Seriously, how do people do that? I've been just going by time and figuring surely I've swam a mile within an hour. I just read some advice to count letters of the alphabet instead of numbers, so I may give that a try next time.

On Sundays we're doing an open water swim in the bay. That water is COLD this time of year! 54F (12C). Brr. The wetsuit warms up quickly enough but the feet, hands, and head stay cold the whole time. You can't feel your feet as you climb out of the water and it's hard to talk for a bit until your lips unthaw. But Oceanside won't be significantly warmer by early April, so this is good training.

But I'm slow. There's a buoyed off swimming area in the bay that's .6 miles from buoy to buoy and back. I swam that distance in 27 minutes last Sunday. Too slow. If I could keep the same pace for another lap I'd have a 54 minute swim in Oceanside. That's really slow. So I have 10 weeks to double the distance and pick up the pace. The slowest swimmer in my age group last year at Oceanside finished the swim in 59:30. Only 10 were over 50 minutes. The vast majority did the swim in 30-45 minutes.

One of the reasons I'm so slow is that my shoulders just aren't very strong. They've always been pretty wimpy so this isn't a surprise. I'm working on that -- pushups & weights. The other reason is that my arm turnover is too slow, which is just a matter of fitness. So get stronger, get more fit, put more time in the water, and I can hope to shave a few minutes off that swim time.

The good thing is that I actually kind of like the swim now. The very thought of swimming a distance like this used to fill me with a gut-gnawing queasiness and dread. I'm quite pleased that I've managed to conquer that fear and learned how to swim with some idea of knowing what I'm doing. I no longer dread it and I know I will only improve.

The bike: This is my limiter, now that I've improved my swimming. I am just slow. Far too slow. Apparently my legs aren't very strong, either. I work on technique, I make sure I am pedaling efficiently, I keep my upper body still, I keep my cadence high, but I'm just not pushing hard enough on the pedals. I need more gears, in fact, because my legs are toast by the end of a ride.

Here's the sad truth. Two weeks ago I rode 30 miles. Flat river trail, into a mild headwind but back on the tailwind so that probably evens out. I forgot to pump my tires (d'oh) so they only had about 80psi. I swam earlier in the day and had just a power-bar in between workouts so I was quite hungry by the end of that ride. This was the last workout of a long workout week so I was rather tired, too. But I really tried to push the pace hard, especially when I had the tailwind. I worked hard to keep my cadence around 90 and to pedal non-stop, no coasting.

The result: After 30 miles my legs were like jelly and my average pace was 13.3mph (21.4kph). Way too slow.

Last weekend I rode again. This time I felt more rested. The bike was freshly lubed and the tire pressure was correct. I ate a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich pre-ride and brought along plenty of gels, blocks, and fluids. It was a pretty day, cold when we started out but nicely warm by mid-ride. I felt stronger and able to ride farther. This time we rode the Backbay trail that follows a river with a slight but continuous elevation rise for the first 15 miles or so. Then the trail parts and goes up into the canyon with long and steep hills. I did 10 good miles of hills, then took the river trail with its now slight decline back to the car. 40 miles total. I felt strong up until the last couple of miles, then my legs lost their steam and I knew I'd planned a good distance for me that day. But the result? 12.2mph (19.6kph). Yeah, I don't ride hills very well. Obviously.

So right now I'm just over halfway to being able to ride the full distance, and if I keep my current pace I'd do it in somewhere between 4 - 4:30 hours. The slowest biker in my age group at Oceanside last year had a 12.6 average pace and finished the bike in 4:26.

I really don't want to be the slowest biker in my AG. There were 6 women that actually finished the bike in the sub-13mph range. The top 20 or so all rode 18-20mph. So the bulk were in the 14-17mph range. I need to get up in that range, comfortably. I need to do this ride in less than 4 hours. I have much work to do.

And 10 weeks to do it in.

Finally, the run. Don't have much to say about that. I've done a lot of running in the past few years. I've done several half-marathons. They take me around 2:20 to finish. I've never done one after riding for 4 hours beforehand, though, so I have no idea how I'll do in Oceanside. But I can already do the distance, though with some walk-breaks. In 10 weeks time I should be able to improve my pace and non-stopness nicely, but I'm not putting a great deal of emphasis on it. My focus will be the bike. With some run bricks afterwards.

So yeah, overall I'm a little worried. I want to beat the cutoff time of 8 hours, and I really don’t want to be last. What was I thinking when I signed up for this? I need to double my distance and increase my pace all around.

But Rome wasn't built in a day, I know. Half Iron fitness doesn't come from monumental effort here and there but from steady progress, day in and day out. I have a plan and I'm following the plan. I'm healthy and my fitness is improving.

It'll be ok.