Sunday, October 30, 2011

Life in the Fast Lane

Date: Sunday, October 30, 2011
Time: Noon
Location: Tucson, AZ
Short Course Yards
239 days to Olympic Trials

10x100 on 1:40
1-5: 75 choice/25 free with 2 breaths
6-10: IM drill

3x150 on 2:30
50 back/50 breast/50 free aerobic (averaged 1:55)

3x150 on 2:20 free descend to 90 percent (descended to 1:30)

8x25 breakouts on :45

100 breast fast from push (1:01.79)

4x50 choice easy on 1:00

6x50 free on 1:00 breathe every 5

100 back fast from push (55.89)

10x50 choice easy on 1:00

100 IM fast from a push (56.48)

10x50 choice easy on 1:00

4x25 free fast with short fins on :40 (held 11 seconds each 25)

200 easy (with stretching)

Total: 4,200 yards (90 minutes)

Lots of fast swimming today! With five weeks to go until my taper meet, I needed this workout. I wanted to make sure I was fully recovered from my illness and that the stroke techniques I have been working on each day were falling into place.

On my 100 breast, I took seven strokes per 25. I freaked out on each length, because I normally take eight strokes per 25. I thought maybe I was going too slow or gliding too long. The majority of the time -- when I wasn't freaking out -- I was working on the new kick Tako taught me on Friday. I believe that is what helped me reduce my stroke count. I was able to ride the kick a little better, because I was getting more out of it. Five months ago, Tako made me realize that I wasn't keeping my legs together at the end of my breaststroke kick, and now he's shown me how to get more power from my legs. At this rate, watch out Brendan Hansen! (Just kidding.)

I feel like I've neglected my backstroke so much this fall. Putting an emphasis on breaststroke has made me feel like my backstroke is suffering, though today's swim was a reminder that it's doing OK. I still have problems veering to my left, and I think it has to do with the weaker back muscles on my left side. I'm optimistic that things will straighten out in a few weeks.

I was very excited to do the 100 IM, but my timer (my partner, Geoff Glaser), decided to have a lengthy conversation, and I didn't want to be rude and interrupt them. At the time, I thought the extra rest would be fine, but as two minutes turned into five, I started to worry that my muscles would get tight. And they did. My stroke was a little forced on butterfly and part of backstroke, and everything came together on breatstroke (seven strokes again!). The time is pretty good.

The barometer I use for short course yards fast swims from a push is that they should be about five tenths faster than my short course meters tapered goal time in that event. I'm a little slower on the 100 breast, but on target on the 100 back and 100 IM.

Today was one of the few solo workouts that I was sad to see end. I actually thought about doing another 100 IM to see what it would feel like with more awake muscles, but I figured it was best to end on a high note. I might have swum slower!

Today was a good setup for the rest of this week. I'm getting ready for what should be a very tiring week in and out of the pool, but all in all, it should make me a better swimmer.

Friday, October 28, 2011

It's All Coming Back to Me Now

Date: Friday, October 28, 2011
Time: 5:50 a.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Short Course Yards
241 days to Olympic Trials

8x50 on 1:00 choice

6x200 kick with short fins on 3:30
Descend 1-3 flutter kick, 4-6 backstroke kick
(2:45, 2:40, 2:37, 3:00, 2:50, 2:47)

600 easy, done as:
200 choice
200 (15 breakout/35 easy)
200 easy

50 breast fast from push - 28.7

4x50 easy on 1:00

50 breast fast from push - 29.2

50 easy

10x50 breast kick drill (two kicks, one pull) on 1:05

50 breast fast from push - 28.5

200 easy

Total: 3,300 yards

Today was the first good workout of the week! I was worried I'd go through the entire week without a workout I could be proud of and look back on with a smile. My plan before knowing the workout was to try and get a couple of timed 50s breaststroke in, and I was able to find an empty lane for that. After the 600 recovery, the top group did 6x200 descend 1-3. I had no plans on doing that, especially since I'm six weeks away from my taper meet. Now is not the time to do two sets of descending 200s. I was fine with doing them for the kicking set, because I still need to develop endurance in my lower body. But I needed to have a sprint set in the workout today, and had I done the 6x200 swim with everyone else, I might not have been in the condition to do any fast 50s.

As you can see, I used part of the recovery 600 to get ready for sprint 50s. I can never over-emphasize how important it is to get your nervous system ready for fast swimming before you do it. Don't do a long, easy warmup and expect to have good results on a sprint set. This is why you need to do short bursts during warmup in a meet as well.

I was very happy with my sprint 50s today. I hadn't had good times with sprint sets since returning from Orlando. Part of it may have to do with my body being so tired from travel and work and training, but I'm usually able to push through all of that. The fever I had on Monday proved that I am not as invincible as I once thought.

With Mark Rankin out of town on vacation (shooting innocent animals in Idaho), Tako was there to give me pointers on my breaststroke. He believes my kick needs a lot of work (duh!) and offered some suggestions. It might be difficult to explain in writing. Instead of kicking my feet back, he suggested I kick down a little bit, but not in a butterfly way. He used Kosuke Kitajima's kick as a comparison. I've seen Kitajima's kick underwater, and it is fantastic.. I tried it a couple of times on the first 50, and understood the concept. I let my mind go on the second 50, and I think that contributed to the slower time.

I was going to do the 50s kick drill and get out, but I felt like I got the concept of what Tako was referring to and decided to try another fast 50. Tako wasn't nearby, so I asked a swimmer in a nearby lane to time with the watch on his arm. I have no reason to believe he started the watch late or stopped it too early. My stroke felt faster, and I did it with fewer strokes! On the first two 50s, I took eight strokes each time on the second 25. On the third 50, I took seven strokes!

I rarely focus on my legs during breaststroke. I categorize myself as an upper-body swimmer for all strokes, and while I don't just let my legs dangle behind me when I swim, I tend to focus on what my upper body is doing, because it's where a large part of my propulsion comes from. (This is very different from Rebecca Soni, as you can see in this video.) But lately I have tried to think about my legs, and it has paid off (i.e. Trials cut).

Tako has helped me reform a lot of my swimming this year, and I can't thank him enough for what he's done.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cool It Now

Date: Thursday, October 28, 2011
Time: 5:45 a.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
242 days to Olympic Trials

400 warmup

18x50 done as:
1 on 1:00
1 on :50
1 on :40
1 on 1:00
1 on :50
1 on :40, etc.
(did breast on the 1:00, back on :50 and free on :40)

600 with running dive at every 50

10x75 free on 1:15 aerobic
(averaged :51)

3x300 free on 4:15
200 aerobic, 100 strong

150 easy

100 free fast from dive (52.4)

200 easy

6x25 backstroke fast with start

100 easy (with stretching)

Total: 4,500 yards (90 minutes)

I took the day off form work today, so I stayed after the normal workout (which ended after the fast 100 free) and worked on backstroke starts. This was the second time I've worked on backstroke starts since May, with the first time being last Sunday. I need to work on these very week. It's always a very weak part of my backstroke race. While I don't believe I'll ever be an underwater kicking dynamo, I don't want to start every backstroke race  half a body length behind everyone. I asked Coach Tako to analyze my start, and he said I was using too much of an arc to get into the water. He suggested using my hips to push me backwards more, enter a little flatter without losing speed and have a shallower entry. I tried it a few times and I improved, but not to the point that I felt completely satisfied. I'll do more work on it Sunday.

Today was great for recovery, but it was ruined by the fast 100. After about 3,500 yards of fairly easy swimming, my body wasn't prepared to swim fast. Everyone around me except for Alan Carter, who can seemingly go super fast at the drop of a hat, didn't swim very fast on that 100 either. I felt like I was forcing my arms to turn over faster than they wanted, and I wasn't focusing enough on my technique.

I didn't lose sleep over that fast 100, or how much work is needed on my backstroke start. When I got home after workout, I slept for two-and-a-half hours! I didn't think I needed a nap that much.

I would have swum with Coley Stickels' group tonight, but I have to teach a swimming lesson at 5:00. Despite the fact that I have to run errands and practice my piano playing this afternoon, it's good to give my mind and body a break in the middle of the week.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Feeling Alright

Date: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Time: 5:45 a.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
243 days to Olympic Trials

300 warmup

4x(3x75 on 1:10)
1. 25 swim/25 free head-up/25 swim
2. 25 kick/50 swim
3. 75 choice (done as back/breast/free IM)

20x25 kick on :35
Done as: 5 fast, 1 easy, 4 fast, 1 easy, 3 fast, 1 easy, etc.

4x100 free on 1:45, descend to 90 percent
(1:11, 1:07, 1:03, :59)

16x50 on 1:15
3, 7, 11, 15 breast fast from a dive
(No times for first two, but 11 and 15 were 27.3)

100 easy

Total: 3,000 yards (75 minutes)

I was feeling much better today than yesterday in the water. This might be a little too much information, but at the end of every set, I coughed up some pretty thick green globs of phlegm. I think that means the bug that's been in my system since Sunday is on its way out. About 15 seconds before diving in for the last 50 from a dive, I took a deep breath in and on my exhale started a major coughing fit. Since I was standing on the starting block, I had no choice but to dispense the phlegm onto the pool deck. Luckily, I had my own lane for that set, so I didn't disgust anyone. By mid-afternoon, I was only having one coughing fit every two hours, instead of one every hour!

I don't really know what to think of the 27.3 for the dive 50s. I didn't feel particularly strong, and my left shoulder muscles were tight and unresponsive. But my stroke count was good (six strokes for first 25, eight strokes for second 25) and I wasn't scrambling through my stroke. Actually, I felt like I could have continued with another 50, though I might have fallen off considerably on the last 25, like I did last week. This illness should pass by the end of the week, and hopefully I will not have lost anything in terms of conditioning or speed.

After work I went to see JR Rosania for more torture dryland work. Some of the exercises I did were new, such as standing with my legs apart and essentially shooting an eight-pound ball into the air as if I were making a basketball free throw. The hitch was that I had to bring my legs together in the air and land with feet together. It's a fun exercise, actually, though it reminded me once again why I don't play sports that involve throwing a ball. Again, the exercises were very swimming-specific. I liked the exercise on the ab roller, where I put my feet on the ab roller and brought my knees to my chest, similar to doing a butterfly or breaststroke turn. It's definitely taxing on the abs, quads and hip flexors.

While talking with JR, he reminded me that he also worked with Klete Keller, who was part of that epic 800 free relay at the 2004 Olympics. I know the list of swimmers who have found Olympic or NCAA success while working with JR is very long, and just mentioning people like Gary Hall Jr., Misty Hyman and Klete Keller just scratches the surface. But on the other side of the coin are the swimmers who will not find themselves racing at the Olympics, but are doing the same exercises and finding improvement as well. Evie Lynch, who is 59 years old and a former Masters world record holder, goes to see JR five days a week and has triceps that a teenager would envy.


Before I sign off today, I want to give a very special thanks to all the people reading this blog in countries outside the United States. In addition to Canada and the UK, I have readers in Finland, Norway, France, Spain and Brazil! I'm so glad you all are finding inspiration in my daily musings! See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I Want a New Drug

Date: Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Time: 5:50 a.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
244 days to Olympic Trials

20x25 on :30 -- 1 kick/1 drill/3 swim of each stroke

8x100 on 1:40 roving IM

Three rounds:
200 on 3:30
4x50 on 1:00
8x25 on :30
Round 1: 25s fast (did the odds as 15m breakouts, evens easy)
Round 2: 50s fast (did them as 200 IM pace, averaging 32.9)
Round 3: 200 fast (did 200 backstroke -- 2:12)

Total: 3,100 yards (65 minutes)

 I was still feeling sick today. I took a sick day form work on Monday, and slept a great deal that day. I had a slight fever and throat ache, and the fever managed to break around noon Monday, which leads me to believe I might have been swimming Sunday with a fever. That might explain why the water felt extremely warm that day.

In any case, I woke up this morning feeling better than Monday, but not 100 percent. I figured I could ease through the workout, but the final set presented some challenges. I didn't feel the energy to do anything all-out, and even though I swam the 50s at 200 IM pace, I wouldn't have gone faster if I was feel better. You can't go 4x50 all-out on 1:00. You'll fail after number two, I guarantee it. I wanted to do a 200 IM on the fast 200, but I knew it would hurt more than it usually does. I opted for backstroke, thinking that even in my present state, I could go under 2:10. I managed to see that my 100 split was 1:04, so I really fell off on the last 100. I was trying to race Alan Carter in the lane next to me, as he was doing a fast 200 IM. I knew that since I barely caught him on breaststroke, that I wasn't going under 2:10.

The rest of workout consisted of a 300 kick, and I was feeling very bad at the end of the main set, so I decided to get out and stretch in the shower. The warm water was soothing, but I really wanted to go home and go to bed.

I felt better as the day went on. Tonight I'm going to take some prescription cough medicine to help my lungs and throat. The cough medicine has codeine in it, so I'm going to feel very good when I close my eyes tonight. The plan is to swim tomorrow and play it by ear. It's sprint day, and I hope to feel good to see how everything is doing with my strokes.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Some Like It Hot

Date: Sunday, October 23, 2011
Time: 12:20 p.m.
Location: Tucson, AZ
246 days to Olympic Trials

300 warmup

12x50 on 1:00
1-4: 25 breast kick drill/25 free with two breaths
5-8: 25 back kick drill/25 free with two breaths
9-12: 25 fly kick drill/25 free with two breaths

Four rounds:
150 free on 2:15 alternate breathing sides each 25
100 IM aerobic on 1:40
50 on 1:00 as 15m breakout/35 easy

100 easy
4x25 IM order fast on :45
200 easy
4x25 IM order fast on :45
200 easy

200 breast kick with board easy

Eight starts (six backstroke, two breaststroke)

Total: 3,200 yards (80 minutes)

I was feeling under the weather today, so my planned Power Tower workout was scrapped. The 200 kick sort of took its place. Plus, the water was rather warm, which didn't do wonders for my sprinting ability. As I have likely mentioned before on this blog, I don't do well in warm water. And with today being the one-year anniversary of Fran Crippen's death from drowning in warm water during a 10-kilometer swim race, I thought about the dangers of warm water swimming constantly. Some people enjoy swimming in warmer water, but I still don't understand why they do. My blood pressure is elevated in warmer water, and my heart rate during aerobic sets is higher than usual.

With me not feeling my best, I figured it was a good idea to lay off the sprinting today. I thought about doing 1,000 yards of aerobic freestyle and backstroke after the set of 4x25, but I wasn't in the mood to stay in the water longer than that.

I needed to do some work on my backstroke start. I haven't done any practice starts since July, and my start in the 100 back at the meet in Orlando was abysmal. I only take four dolphin kicks off the start, so I do not need to dive too deep on the entry. I worked n being a little shallower, so I don't work as hard to get to the surface. I think I got the hang of it, but more work needs to be done. On the upside, my breaststroke start felt very good.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

Date: Friday, October 21, 2011
Time: 5:45 a.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Short Course Yards

300 warmup

12x50 free on :50
odd: no breaths from flags to wall
even: 25 catch-up free/25 swim

4x250 flutter kick with short fins on 4:30
(averaged 3:40)

Five minutes vertical kicking with 10-pound weights, alternate 30 seconds kick 30 seconds rest

12x25 on :35 underwater kick

4x100 free on 1:30 aerobic
(averaged 1:10)

Easy 50 and one minute break, then 100 breast fast from dive (59.6 -- 27.6, 32.0)

easy 200

Fast 50 breast from dive: 27.2

easy 200

Total: 3,200 yards (75 minutes)

Before workout began, I specifically asked Coach Mark Rankin if we could do a fast swim from a dive. He said yes, so that swim was running through my mind the entire workout. Not knowing what the distance would be, I planned to not push the set of 250s kick too hard, nor did I force myself to push it on the underwater 25s. After yesterday's massage, I was a little sore from the work done on my muscles. Usually, working with Tod Miller takes two days to recover from, so tomorrow I might feel wonderful!

After hearing my time on the fast 100 breast, I was crestfallen. It seemed like such a slow time. I don't normally do a 100 breast from the blocks in workout, but I know I need to do it. The 50 was better, but not great. I know I am training hard, both in and out of the pool, but I thought the times would reflect the work I'm doing. I had expected to go at worst a 58.0. After the workout, I asked Mark to give me his thoughts on the 100 breast. "Solid" is what he said. That's coach-speak for "Eh, it was more good than bad." He did mention that my first 50 might have been too fast, and I agree. But given the state I was in today, I wasn't sure that laying off the first 50 would be a good idea. I believed I would not be able to adjust to a faster gear. So, taking it out hard and holding on the last 25 was the only option on the table this morning. Having a 4.4-second discrepancy between 50s is not good. You want to be no more than 3.5 seconds off. I know my body is in tumult, and I will take that to heart.

This morning we had a couple of visitors to the workout, making lane two a very fast freestyle lane. In addition to Alan Carter, who seems to do everything from the 100 to the 10K, the lane had Sean Justice, a Florida grad who is a very good distance swimmer. And then there was Marin Naranca, who swam at Arizona State as a sprinter and now coaches at Grand Canyon University. I stayed in lane three for workout, knowing my freestyle would not match up to these guys. I don't know how fast they went on the 100 fast or the 50 fast, but I bet they were all quite good.

No exercise tomorrow! I have to cover the prelims of the world cup in Berlin, then I get to sleep in until 9 a.m., which will be wonderful. I am looking forward to Sunday's workout. Lots of Power Tower and short-distance speed work ahead!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Just Breathe

Date: Thursday, October 20, 2011
Time: 5:50 a.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Short Course Yards
249 days to Olympic Trials

4x125 on 2:00
odd: breathe every 4
even: breathe every 5

450 kick no board, done as 100 breast/100 back

6x25 underwater pullouts on :40

Twelve rounds:
25 from dive
5 push-ups
5 sit-ups
25 done as 12-1/2 kick, 12-1/2 scull

8x150 free on 2:00
(averaged 1:40, heart rates at the end of the set were 180, 144, 126)

4x100 on 2:15
25 free with fists/25 free with one leg out of water/25 back/25 breast head-up

100 easy (with five minutes stretching)

Total: 3,500 yards (70 minutes)

I was hoping for today's workout to have an exercise set built in. These kinds of sets are much better than, say, 3x500 on 7:00. I felt fatigued near the end of the set, especially in my teres major, teres minor and deltoid muscles. Those three areas are generally where I experience the most fatigue during pool workouts, and adding the stress of getting out of the pool after every 25 only increased the soreness as the day went on. I know this can only help increase strength in those areas, and it's important to work those muscles, as they aid in propulsion in every stroke. When these muscles are fatigued, I feel them primarily during the catch and early pull phase of each stroke, particularly in freestyle and the breaststroke pullout.

Holding 1:40 on the set of 150s was tough. I didn't want to do the set in the first place, particularly after number five. I could have used "sprinter's prerogative" and stopped after the fifth repeat, but I forged ahead through the set, held 1:40 for the remaining three and was happy that my heart rate recovered at the end. Plus, I was doing well with being consistent with my new stroke. It's been six weeks since I started working on it, and though it is starting to feel comfortable, it will be a long time before I can say my body has learned it. I'm still working on the technique of keeping my head in line with my arms on starts and turns, and I learned that three months ago!

Tonight was a great session of body work with Tod Miller. He found all the stress in my legs from Orlando. The key to relieving the stress in your muscles during a massage is to breathe. It helps you to stay relaxed, especially when the only thing you want to do is tense that muscle. I feel like my legs are back to normal, and I should be able to make it through tomorrow's kicking workout.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Getcha Head In the Game

Date: Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Time: 6:15 p.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
250 days to Olympic Trials

At the gym:

Ten minutes on elliptical machine

Five minutes shoulder warm up

Sitting bench press (15 @ 110, 12 @ 140, 10 @ 155)

Deltoid press (15 @ 35, 12 @ 55, 10 @ 85)

Hamstring curls (15 @ 60, 12 @ 80, 10 @ 100)

Tricep curls (15 @ 50, 12 @ 65, 10 @ 70)

Ten minutes abdominals and stretching

Today was not a good day for me in the gym. This is my "recovery" week, which means no heavy lifting. My muscles really needed the break. But after covering a swim meet until 2 a.m. this morning and a nine-hour day at work, I was ready to throw in the towel, curl up in the fetal position and sleep until dawn. But I had to teach a swimming lesson tonight at a health club, so I figured I might as well get in some exercise, especially since I did not swim today.

After the set of deltoid press, I really wanted to go home. It was difficult to get my muscles in the mood for exercise. I was thisclose to walking out after that exercise, but I remembered that a) the kids in my heat at Olympic Trials aren't leaving their weight workouts early (if they are in fact old enough to do a weight program) and b) I was getting a massage tomorrow! I found a little more energy to finish the workout.

Though my body clock hasn't been in sync since Friday morning, I feel pretty good physically. I expected to be a zombie today, but I only had one moment in the early afternoon when the urge to take a nap hit me. I killed that urge by playing some of Melissa McCarthy's best skits from her stint on "Saturday Night Live." It's amazing how laughter can help keep the body revved up.
In case you were on the edge of your seat waiting for them, here are links to videos of three of my four swims at the Rowdy Gaines Classic last weekend. Unfortunately, I was unable to get someone to take video of my 100 free, which I was anxious to see, since I've made changes to my stroke.

100 breast

50 breast

100 back

Any comments you can give on anything you see in the videos will be much appreciated! I am well aware that my feet are not pointed at the start, but other than that I feel I was technically proficient despite the less-than-average times.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Can You Feel the Love Tonight

Date: Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Time: 6:15 p.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Short Course Yards

300 warmup

6x150 on 2:30
Odd: 1st 50 kick non-free
Even: Last 50 kick non-free

12x25 on :30
One-turn 25s from middle of pool, did two of each stroke and four IM transition turns

40x25 on :25, 10 each stroke

One minute break, then 50 fast breast kick no board
Did six kicks underwater, then took a breath with a small scull. Time was 37.7

8x50 on 1:00
Odd: 50 IM
Even: IM order doing different kick than stroke (i.e. butterfly arms, breast kick)

8x25 on :30
Odd: 15-meter breakout
Even: easy

50 breast from dive (27.6)

Easy 200 (with stretching)

Total: 3,400 yards

I haven't swum at the evening workout for Phoenix Masters since I first moved to Phoenix in 2008. The group is much smaller and not really at my level. There was a woman who did the set of 25s on :25 with me, but did not really push the set. She was averaging 22 seconds per 25, while I was holding 17 seconds. I held that average on the breaststroke, too, which was not as difficult as keeping my stroke smooth and controlled on butterfly!

Why did I swim in the evening workout? I am covering the prelims of the World Cup for Swimming World, which has me up at midnight. At first, I thought about staying awake until it was time for workout this morning, but I was so exhausted after posting my prelims report at 2 a.m. that I couldn't have stayed awake for 10 minutes. I figured swimming in the evening was much better than not swimming at all, and that held true. The set of 25s on :25 was not difficult at all, and my heart rate was 165 at the end. That's extremely low for me. That shows I am very much in shape.

Sprinting, on the other hand, was not as easy. That dive 50 at the end was tough. I didn't feel the easy speed I'm trying to get in time for the end of the season. I could feel the muscles I worked hard yesterday with JR Rosania not being very responsive. It's best not to force your muscles to do something they don't want to do; that's how injuries start.

Funny story to end this blog entry. I was walking to my car after today's piano class at South Mountain Community College. I had stayed late to work on playing chords correctly, and figured I had 20 minutes to do so before heading to the pool. As I got to my car, a man yelled out to me from his car, "Are you Jeff Dash?"

"Uh, no," I said, though I had a feeling he might have just gotten last names mixed up. Jeff Dash swam for the University of Arizona and a few years ago was training for Olympic Trials in Tucson.

"I mean, are you Jeff Commings?" he asked me. I said I was, and we greeted each other. His name is Wiley, and he said he is a professor at the school. I meant to ask him what he studied, but I figured if he were a piano teacher, he would have offered some advice to me. In any case, he swims for Sun Devil Masters and he was on his way to workout. It was great coincidence to meet Wiley, and when I got home tonight, I discovered that he is an art professor at the school. Art is definitely not a subject I will be taking at a college campus! It's not easy for me to draw stick figures! In any case, Wiley had taken seven years off from competition after college, and was returning to competition this year. He said he went 24.0 in the 50 free at the Ron Johnson Invitational last weekend, which is quite fast! I'm sure I'll see him again, either around campus or at the short course meters state meet in December.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Accentuate the Positive

Date: October 17, 2011
Location: Phoenix, AZ
252 days to Olympic Trials

I did not have Internet access in Orlando yesterday, so before I go into today’s activities, I want to let you know how I did in the pool at the Rowdy Gaines Classic on Sunday.

I forced myself to warm up more than usual. I did 2,800 yards, most of which was aerobic swimming to try and loosen up the stiffness I felt in my lower back and legs. Though the hotel I was staying in (the Rosen Centre) was elegant, the bed was like sleeping on a board. I’m not a fan of hard mattresses, and I was tossing and turning a lot in my sleep to try and get comfortable. The warm up helped wake up my body, but I still felt stiff in my back. I did some starts to make sure I could still race. The starts felt fine; no issues with trajectory, power and entry.

About an hour after warm up, I swam the 50 breast. Just as a reminder, this was a short course meters meet. I won the race in 29.23. Not a great time, but I was not focused on what the scoreboard said. I swam the race well technically. From the start to the finish, I was aggressive, which is how a 50 of any stroke should be swum. In that hour between warm up and the race, I was on my feet recording race footage and interviews, so in terms of race preparation, I wasn’t at my best. Again, my focus this weekend was more on work than racing.

About two hours later, I swam the 100 back. My back was much stiffer, because I had not sat down since my 50 breast and I was wearing deck shoes that didn’t offer the best support. The time of 59.45 was very disheartening for about two seconds. I instantly cheered up when I saw that Steve Wood had swum a 59.92 in the lane next to me. Steve had been trying to break the Masters world record in the 100 back in the 50-54 age group all weekend; this was his third and last try. I like to think that I pushed him to break the record. I only noticed where he was on the first turn, though I could sense that he was pretty close to me on the final 25 meters. My stroke felt a little sloppy, but it was nice to swim backstroke indoors!

What should I take away from the meet? I’m trying to think about all the positive aspects of each race. I know that I shouldn’t focus too much on the times I swam, given my physical state all weekend. I was happy that my stroke count and technique was not affected by fatigue, that I was mentally ready to race whomever was within striking distance of me and that I have seven weeks to continue to get race ready for my taper meet. I remember that Ryan Lochte doesn’t come close to his best times at in-season meets, and he never gets disheartened by it. In fact, I bet it fuels his fire.

I was up at 4:30 a.m. Florida time to catch a plane back to Phoenix this morning. I slept during four of the five hours to my layover in Las Vegas, and spent the hour flight from Las Vegas to Phoenix preparing for work. I had a lot to do at the office before I left at 3:30 for piano class, from scheduling interviews for “The Morning Swim Show” to sifting through more than 100 emails. And all I wanted to do was sleep.

After piano class, I headed to JR Rosania’s Healthplex for some dryland work in these final weeks before tapering. JR was integral in the Olympic gold medals won by Gary Hall Jr. and Misty Hyman, as well as a few top swimmers from Phoenix and lot of athletes in other sports. (Check out his dryland tips in Swimming World Magazine each month.) I had gone there a couple of years ago when I was diagnosed with acute tendonitis in my shoulder. Those guys are miracle workers. Instead of five weeks of doing almost nothing but kicking, they cut it down to three weeks, with the ability to do full swimming workouts in five! Oh, and I broke a Masters world record eight weeks after that. Combining physical therapy with joint strengthening, my left shoulder feels much better, though it will never be 100 percent, since a small part of the tendon was damaged. Thankfully, not damaged enough to require surgery!

Tonight, JR didn't want to overwhelm me too much, but I did feel like I got a whole-body workout that wasn't necessarily about building muscle, but about increasing the explosive power in my muscles, using exercises that simulate swimming. For instance, I stood about three feet off the floor and threw a 10-pound ball down to thee ground, using the same technique used for the breaststroke pullout: palms down, elbows up. The force of which I was throwing the ball to the ground was similar to the force used on the breaststroke pull. I started slow to "grab the water," then pushed it (i.e. the ball) down with as much force as possible. 

All of the exercises were completely new to me, or were adjustments from exercises I used to do. You know about push-ups with claps? I did two regular push-ups, then on the third one, I pushed up and did a clap and repeated that four times. Another one involved what's usually the tricep curl. Instead of keeping the elbows close to the body, I bent over at a slight angle, held my arms straight out, and pulled toward my body. My lats were involved with this, as well as my triceps. One of the newer exercises was a variation on the hamstring curl. Instead of lying flat on my stomach, I stood with my legs perpendicular to the ground, and my body bent at 90 degrees. I lifted my legs up so my body was parallel to the floor, with about 20 pounds of weight providing resistance. That was tough!

I'll be working with JR once a week until taper. I know I will see improvement, but as I try to remember with each new thing I try: I am 37 years old. I am not 17. Tonight my muscles are simultaneously thanking and cursing me.

Tonight, I am covering the prelims of the World Cup in Moscow for Swimming World. The session will end at 1 a.m. Pacific time, way too late for me to get an adequate amount of sleep before the 5:50 a.m. workout. I plan to attend the evening workout at Phoenix Swim Club tomorrow. The turnout there is primarily fitness swimmers, so essentially I might be doing the workout alone.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Stand Up and Fight

Date: Saturday, October 15, 2011
Location: Orlando, FL
Short Course Meters
254 days to Olympic Trials

Today I in Orlando covering the Rowdy Gaines Classic for Swimming World. My main function here is to get race footage and interviews with people in the meet. I have a rule that I do not compete in a meet in which I am working as a journalist. It is too difficult to set equal priorities for both duties. I found that out in 2008, when I tapered for a meet that were covering in Phoenix. The work required to get the equipment set up for a live stream, as well as the mental work that went into it, took a lot of energy away from my swimming, and I did poorly in the pool. I agreed to swim a few events at the meet here because, well, Rowdy asked. And I can't say no to Rowdy.

I planned to do 2,000 meters of warmup this morning, but only managed about 1,600. That was not enough to get ready for racing, especially since my body was tired from walking two miles to the pool yesterday (long story) and tired from getting about six hours of sleep. To add to it, I was so busy being a journalist that I didn't make the time to jump into the water for another brief warmup before the 100 breast. I won't string this out any longer: I went 1:05.5 in the 100 breast. Not a very good time. But, on the bright side, I was technically good during the race, and specifically worked on getting more out of my kick. That wasn't easy to do, since my hip flexors and quadriceps were exhausted from yesterday's walk. I wasn't disappointed with the swim. If I were here to specifically race, I know I would have gone 1:02. Thanks to my good friend Laura Winslow, I have video of the race, and I'll include it in either tomorrow's blog entry or Tuesday's blog entry.

About two hours later, I stepped up for the 100 free. I was more prepared. I did about 400 yards in the warmup pool to get my body ready. I didn't want to fake through this swim. I was anxious to race Rowdy, who would be in the heat, as well as the other people swimming, many of whom had swum a lot of events earlier in the day. I went 54.73 and got second in the heat! Rowdy did not swim. I got second to Ben Christoffel, who's in my age group in Masters and probably can't wait until I move into the 40-44 age group so he can win some breaststroke events. Ben was on the other side of the pool, but I could see him on the even-numbered lengths. My concentration on this swim was the new armstroke I learned from Tennessee coach Matt Kredich, which was to get the forearms involved in the pull. It felt strong the entire way, and was only three  tenths slower than my fastest 100 SCM freestyle in Masters! Most of all, it was fun to race those guys in that heat. Pushing off the walls and kicking hurt so bad, but I dug in and was happy that I fought to the very end. Maybe I should swim this event more often, since I seem to be showing a lot of improvement in it this year.

As I mentioned before, I didn't come to the meet for racing. Plus, this was my first competition since I made my Olympic Trials cut in July. The bad part about Masters sometimes is there aren't a lot of meets. Or, in may case, I seem to be busy during the times those meets are scheduled.

Aside from the great swim in the 100 free, I got to meet some Olympians! I did an interview with Martin Zubero, who won the 200 back for Spain at the 1992 Olympics. I had a lengthy talk with Tracey McFarlane, who swam at Texas a few years before me and won a silver in the medley relay in the 1988 Games. And of course, there's Rowdy, who gave me some very kind words about my book. I gave it to him last year to read, thinking he might get around to it eventually. But he said it inspired him, and to hear one of my swimming heroes say my story inspires him meant a lot.

The meet continues tomorrow! I'm swimming the 50 breast and 100 back. I signed up for the 100 back specifically for the chance to race Martin Zubero, but he won't be swimming tomorrow. He did say in his interview (which will be on in the coming days) that he's looking forward to getting back into competitive swimming, so we'll see each other on deck in the future!

I'm writing this about five hours after my 100 free, and my quads are still on fire. My hip flexors feel better. This is a sign that I either need to strengthen my legs, or rent a car! I'm glad Laura did rent a car and is letting me ride with her to the pool and back. Ready for one more day in Orlando!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Hard Day's Night

Date: Thursday, Ocotber 13, 2011
Time: 4:40 p.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Short Course Yards
256 days to Olympic Trials

400 warm up (75 choice/25 scull)

Three rounds:
2x50 on 1:00, done as 25 breast pullout and one stroke repeated/25 three kicks, one stroke, three pulls, one stroke)
2x75 on 1:15 (back/breast/free, with no more than five strokes on breast)
4x25 on :30 (odd: breast pull with flutter kick, even: three kicks, three strokes)

Two rounds:
2x100 on 1:45 (75 breast kick with arms in varying positions/25 breast pull) Note: This was supposed to be done with a snorkel but I did not have one.
2x50 on 1:00 (one breaststroke kick, one breaststroke stroke, one kick, one pull)
2x75 on 1:15 (back/breast/free)

Two rounds:
1x150 on 2:15 (back/breast pull by 25 for 100, then back/breast by 25 with no buoy on last 50)
1x100 on 1:30 -- 75 free/25 breast at 500 free aerobic pace plus 5
2x75 on 1:20 (25 breast pull/25 breast kick underwater/25 underwater pullouts)
1x100 on 1:30 -- 75 free/25 breast at 500 free aerobic pace plus 2
3x50 on :40 (1 back, 1 breast, 1 free)
1x100 on 1:30 -- 75 free/25 breast at 500 free aerobic pace

200 warmdown: 25 double-arm back with breast kick/25 scull for 150, then 50 feet-first scull on back

Total: 4,000 yards (80 minutes)

Today's workout with the age groupers at Phoenix Swim Club was physically tough and mentally challenging, as you can see. The final set was very grueling, especially since I did not know what my 500 aerobic pace really was. I think it's around 1:05 .. but I went :58 on the final 100 in both rounds. Maybe a little too fast, but I managed to be one of the few to not only make those 50s on :40, but be able to do that final 100 well. My heart rate was 180 at the end of the set. A little high, but not out of the ordinary for me.

During the first set, Coley Stickels, the head coach at Phoenix Swim Club, was surprised that my breaststroke pull is so wide. I told him that many have remarked on that, but no one ever told me to make my pull narrower. Since my breaststroke is very reliant on my upper body strength, I feel the need to get a wide pull to grab more water. I have never felt like this slows me down, and the wider pull does not put pressure on my shoulders. On the second set, I pulled narrower on some of my strokes to see how it felt. I didn't think I was getting very good distance per stroke. It is something I will explore, just to see if a narrower pull will translate to faster times.

I was worried that my body wouldn't want to do any fast swimming after a long day at work, but it responded very well to everything I asked of it ... although the chicken salad I had for lunch wanted to join the party a couple of times.

By the way, Coley really thinks I can go 1:02 in the 100 breast at Trials. Ha! Of course, nothing's impossible, but that is a major mountain to climb. My lifetime best is 1:02.46, and to imagine that I could go a best time at 38 years old in my best event seems preposterous. But isn't that the job of a good coach, to make us believe that anything is possible?

This weekend could be a step in that direction. I'll be racing for the first time since making my Trials cut, and while I don't expect fast times since I won't be shaved or rested, I will use the meet as a barometer of what needs to be done in the remaining seven weeks of the season.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Somebody's Watching Me

Date: Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Time: 5:45 a.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Short Course Yards
257 days to Olympic Trials

300 warmup

8x100 on 1:45
Odd: 25 free with strong kick/25 free with easy kick
Even: 50 choice/50 build

Four rounds:
12-1/2 from blocks
25 with fast turn
12-1/2 fast
(About 15 seconds rest between each, and a minute between rounds)

4x(6x50 on 1:00)
3 and 6 fast in each round
Round 1 and 3 free: 25.2, 24.9, 25.3, 25.3
Round 2 back: 25.9, 26.2
Round 4 breast: 29.5, 29.3

Easy 300

4x50 on 2:00 done as broken 200 IM
25.5 + 26.9 + 28.6 + 24.4 = 1:45.4

Easy 200

Total: 3,200 yards (75 minutes)

At the gym:

Five minutes shoulder warmup exercises

Sitting bench press (12 @ 155, 8 @ 170, 6 @ 185)

Leg extensions (12 @ 140, 8 @ 160, 6 @ 175)

Bicep curls (12 @ 25 (each arm), 8 @ 35, 6 @ 40)

4x20 box jumps

Ten minutes abdominals and stretching

When I amend the workout to get more rest during the sprint sets, I sometimes feel eyes shooting daggers around me. While the entire pool is swimming fast, I'm swimming easy. I've told many people why I take more rest on sprint sets, and though they say it's a good idea, no one really does it with me. Maybe they are afraid of the coach yelling at them or fearful they're not getting an optimal workout done. Either way, I feel the jealousy spreadig through the air most days. Today it took a lot of effort to erase those thoughts and concentrate on my swimming.

Today's workout produced surprisingly positive results. I was worried that last night's gym workout would take some of the edge off my muscles and fatigue them faster. But all my strokes felt very good today. I was especially happy with the 28.6 in the 50 breast in the broken 200 IM. I think I can be faster in my 50 freestyles, but I'm still learning this new stroke technique, and I'm not sure if it's making me faster or slower. I know my stroke has changed dramatically. I will conduct a test soon to see if my old stroke or new stroke is faster. I won't do that test in the 100 free I'm racing this weekend, though if I find that I'm losing ground, I might revert to the old stroke, which did produce a great result last April (47.29 in 100 free).

Speaking of that broken 200 IM, I had mixed feelings about doing it on a two-minute interval.

I had to go to the gym today, because it was the last day I would have this week to do so. I tried to work different muscles today, but it's not easy when the exercises you do work more than one muscle group. Though I wasn't sore in the pool, I definitely felt the pain and soreness in the weight room. I cut the workout short by one exercise (I had planned to do work on triceps), and did more stretching than abdominal work today. Before I left, I rolled my lats and deltoids on one of those foam rollers, and it felt like heaven when I was done. I will still need a handful of ibuprofen before bedtime.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Gonna (Butter)Fly Now

Date: Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Time: 5:45 a.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Short Course Yards
258 days to Olympic Trials

400 warmup

4x(3x50 on 1:00)
1: breast pull, 2: 25 fly/25back, 3: 25 breast/25 free

2x(4x125 on 2:00)
1. 50 fly/25 back/25 breast/25 free
2. 25 fly/50 back/25 breast/25 free
3. 25 fly/25 back/50 breast/25 free
4. 25 fly/25 back/25 breast/50 free
(averaged 1:25 per 125)

4x(3x50 on 1:00)
1. kick easy
2. kick/swim easy
3. swim at 200 IM pace
(fly 29, back 30, breast 33, free, 27)

Six rounds:
100 on 1:40
4x25 on :25
(On rounds 3 and 6, did 100 fast. All other times swam aerobic. Round 3: 56.2 for 100 back. Round 6: 1:02.2 for 100 breast)

100 easy (with five minutes stretching)

Total: 3,900 yards (75 minutes)

At the gym:

Five minutes shoulder warm-up exercises

Sitting bench press (12 @ 150, 8 @ 170, 6 @ 190)

Sitting lat pull (12 @ 140, 8 @ 170, 6 @ 185)

Leg press (12 @ 200, 8 @ 220, 6 @ 240)

Leg adductors (12 @ 150, 10 @ 180, 8 @ 200)

4x25 breaststroke strokes (with 5-lb. dumbbells in each hand)

Ten minutes abdominals and stretching

Way too much fly today! I know it is IM day, but some days my body really does not want to do a lot of butterfly. This was one of those days. I am glad I did almost all of it. I will admit here that on the set of 125s, I skipped butterfly only once, and it was only a 25. I thought my heart rate was getting a little high on number six, so I figured not doing butterfly would help a little bit.

I wasn't extremely pleased with the 1:02 for the 100 breast. My stroke felt very good, but not very strong on the last 25. Alan Carter was doing a 100 IM in the lane next to me, and I figured racing next to him would be a good barometer of how fast I was going. I caught him on the third length, and naturally, he went right by me on the final length. I don't know if it was the huge wave he pushed into my lane on the last length, or genuine exhaustion, but it was tough getting to the wall. I think I might have swum the first 50 too fast. My coach said I was out in 29.8, which is a little fast for a 100 breast from a push, at least for me. I should have been about a half second slower on the first 50. You might not think that is much slower, but it does make a difference. I might have gone 1:01.5 if I had split it correctly.

I was surprised how much I did on the leg press at the gym today. I am being very cautious of doing maximum weight in this phase, because I could tear a muscle or tendon very easily. The key, I think, is to start off with an easy five-rep warm-up on each exercise, just to let your muscles know what they are being asked to do. Don't feel like you are going to fail on the set of 12, either.

I was asked by a teammate how much rest to take between each set of the 25 breaststroke strokes. It's a very good question that I didn't have the exact answer, because I don't quantify my rest between sets in the weight room. But, you should treat it as doing one round fairly easy, then three with a fast tempo (and correct technique). Twenty-five strokes for me is a 50-meter breast from a push (though I did 24 when I got my Trials cut), so I treat it as an all-out 50 in the pool. Give yourself adequate time to recover before doing the next one, which should be just as good as the previous set.

Speaking of recovery, it's time for bed! I can barely keep my eyes open. I keep thinking about the five-hour flight I have to Orlando this Friday, and how that will be a good opportunity to catch up on some sleep.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sunday Bloody Sunday

Date: Sunday, October 9, 2011
Time: 11:30 a.m.
Short Course Yards
260 days to Olympic Trials

400 warmup

3x(4x100 on 1:40)
1. free breathe every 5
2. back
3. breast kick drill (one pull, two kicks)
4. IM stroke drill

Two rounds:
4x50 breast on 1:00 holding :35
8x25 back on :30
4x50 free on 1:00, three breaths per 50

8x25 on :45, 15m sprint

Power Tower (90 percent full)
3x (3x50 on 1:30, done as 25 fast/25 easy)
1-3 breast
4-6 free
7-9 back

350 recovery

Five minutes stretching
Total: 3,800 yards (80 minutes)

Sometimes it is not easy to design a workout for yourself. I knew I wanted to do about 20 minutes work on the Power Tower and the 15m breakouts, but I didn't know how to get there. Sometimes it feels like garbage yardage, but today I used the warmup sets to focus on the weak parts of my strokes. On breaststroke, it is grabbing the water better with my feet. For freestyle, it is not losing the grip on the water halfway through the pull. For backstroke, it is swimming straight! I didn't succeed in swimming perfect backstroke. On one of the repeats, I cut my finger on the lane rope. The cut closed up fairly quick, thanks to the magic of chlorine, but it did sting for a few minutes. That is the danger of swimming backstroke outdoors. Sometimes your inner compass doesn't work.

If you do not have a Power Tower (or Power Rack or similar device) at your pool, you can amend the sets I do to be sets of all-out 50s on the same interval. Based on the number of strokes I took, I was basically swimming 50 yards without the turn. My times on each stroke were about five seconds faster than my actual 50s, which was OK by me. I hadn't filled the bucket on the Power Tower to almost full in a very long time, and I don't recall doing such a difficult set with that much water in the bucket. I am glad I was able to complete the set without failing on technique.

Today was one of my few solo workouts when I didn't feel any urge to cut short a set or end workout early. It did take me about 40 minutes for my body to feel good in the water, and it was just about that moment that I was ready to do the second round of the 50s breaststroke. Sometimes, it's like a light turns on. Other times, I just need to get my blood pumping for a while.

This was a great start to week two of eight in my sprint phase. This week will end with me competing/working at the Rowdy Gaines Classic in Orlando. I'm very much looking forward to the meet, though I wish it hadn't been on the same weekend as the Ron Johnson Invitational, which is going to be held on the campus of Arizona State University, where the late Ron Johnson coached for may years with great success. I'm not sure who will come to the Ron Johnson meet, but I suppose I'll be doing a virtual competition with them.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Enter Sandman

Date: Friday, October 7, 2011
Time: 5:50 a.m.
Short Course Yards

4x(4x75 on 1:15)
1: 25 kick/25 drill/25 swim
2: 25 head up/50 swim
3: 25 underwater kick/50 swim

Thirty seconds rest between the following distances:
150 breast kick moderate (2:30)
100 breast kick faster (1:38)
50 breast kick fast (:44)
50 breast kick moderate (:50)
100 breast kick faster (1:37)
150 breast kick fast (2:16)

200 kick recovery

12x25 breast swim on :35, holding :15
(The effort was similar to a 200 IM pace.)

300 easy (25 drill/25 swim)

12x50 on 1:00, every third fast
(Backstroke -- 26.0, 26.5, breaststroke -- 29.4, 29.7)

Three rounds:
30 seconds vertical kick breaststroke, holding 15-pound weights
30 seconds rest

100 easy (with stretching)

Total (not including vertical kicking): 3,000 yards

Last night at 11 p.m., I was covering the prelims of the FINA Swimming World Cup in Dubai for I thought prelims would end by 11:15, but they weren't over until 11:45. I finally went to sleep at midnight. I was very concerned about how I would swim this morning with only five hours sleep, but I did very well! Maybe the chilly water (about 78 degrees) woke up my body enough to make it forget about the lack of sleep. My backstroke sprinting felt awesome today, though my breakouts weren't great, because I was circle swimming. As for my breaststroke, I was still not feeling the power in my legs, but my arm strokes were strong.

On the downside, I pulled my right rhomboid muscle during the main kick set. It happened, I believe, from doing repeated turns off the wall while holding a kickboard with my left hand. I think the motion strained the muscle, and it ached for the remainder of workout. It still hurts now, though not sharp pain. I think some Ben-Gay will take care of that.

The endorphin rush we get after swimming only lasted for 90 minutes. By 8:30 a.m., I was ready to crash ... hard. If I had fallen asleep at my desk, I could have easily slept for an hour. I'm not upset that I had to cover a meet in Dubai (a meet that turned out to be fairly slow, by the way) and get only five hours sleep. Because I will be doing this for just about all of the world cup meets, I need to better plan my life around them.

I planned to go to the gym after work today, but I figured in my physical condition, it might do more harm than good. So, I will take a two-hour nap before driving to Tucson for the weekend. Since I have no plans for Saturday, I can sleep through Saturday morning after covering the Dubai meet tonight.

Earlier today, I submitted my entries for the Rowdy Gaines Classic, which will take place next week in Orlando. I didn't want to overload myself with events, since my primary focus there is covering the meet for Swimming World. I'm excited to hang out with some famous names, including my "childhood" idol Tracey McFarlane. I was 16 when I went to my first USA Swimming nationals in 1990, and I got an autograph from Tracey. And being on the same deck as Olympic champions Martin Zubero and Brooke Bennett will be a blast as well. I'm swimming the 50 and 100 breaststrokes, the 100 back and 100 free. Yes, the 100 free. Why not?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Stormy Weather

Date: Thursday, October 6, 2011
Time: 5:35 a.m.
Short Course Yards
263 days to Olympic Trials

600 warmup

18x50 on :50, 2 free, 1 non-free

Two rounds:
Three minutes swim, dive every 25
Three minutes scull
Three minutes kick
Three minutes swim
(Did 62 lengths total)

6x50 on 1:05, five wall pushups at the 25

Total: 3350 yards

This morning, the temperature was about 70 degrees, the wind was blowing quite strongly, and it even rained for about five minutes as we started the long main set. That made getting out and diving even more enjoyable! Pretty soon, it will be cool every morning, and it will be time to break out the parkas! The only bad thing -- at least to me -- is that the heaters are now going to be turned on in the pool, and that means goodbye to cool water! Until next spring (around April), the pool will likely be too hot for swimming. It always is, and I used to complain about it. I won't anymore. It not only reaches deaf ears, but it only increases my mental frustration and takes away from my concentration during workout.

I had to get out of workout early this morning to go to the dentist (clean bill of health!), so I made a point to get to the pool as early as possible to do some yards before 5:50. I think there was about 800 yards left in workout when I was done. The main set was fun to do, and I set a challenge to do a mile in 24 minutes. All that sculling and kicking made it difficult, and I wasn't going to speed up the sculling just to get the yards in. These types of "exercise" sets show up often on Thursdays, and I like them because they break up the monotony of swimming back and forth, though getting out of the pool for dives doesn't get easier when you get older!

Since this is Thursday, I was planning on swimming with Coley Stickels' group at Phoenix Swim Club this afternoon, but I had errands to run today that needed to be done before I went to Tucson this weekend. Next week, I will definitely swim with Coley's group on Thursday to get some more breaststroke work done. In November, I'll switch to his Wednesday workouts for sprinting.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Get Into the Groove

Date: Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Time: 5:45 a.m.
Short Course Yards
264 days to Olympic Trials

300 warmup

6x50 on 1:00
(was supposed to do some breakouts and fast turns, but I wasn't ready to swim fast)

200 free aerobic on 4:00
(Went 2:18, was supposed to be fast but I wasn't fully warmed up)

2x100 IM aerobic on 2:00

4x50 on 1:00 (15y breakout/35y easy)

8x25 on :30
(1, 4, 6, 8 done with 15m breakouts)

200 free aerobic on 4:00 (2:20)

100 IM fast, followed by 100 easy on 4:00
(58.2 on fast 100 IM)

4x50 easy on 1:00

8x25 easy on :30

200 free aerobic on 4:00 (2:20)

2x100 back aerobic on 2:00

4x50 on 1:00
(1 and 3 fast breaststroke --> 29.6, 30.0)

8x25 easy on :30

200 free aerobic on 4:00 (2:21)

2x100 back aerobic on 2:00

4x50 easy on 1:00

8x25 on :30
#1 fast breast from a dive: 11.8
2 and 3 easy
4 fast from push: 13.8
5-7 easy
8 from a push: 13.5

100 easy (with stretching)

Total: 3,900 yards

Today was a good example of how I amend the posted workout to do some race-pace training. As you can see, we did essentially four rounds of four 200s in broken fashion. The 200 was supposed to be fast on the first round, the 100s fast on the second round, etc. The workout called for both 100s to be fast, but I only did one fast. It also called for all four 50s to be fast, but I did two of them fast. I was not happy with the IM time, but everything else was good. I didn't feel like I was in my groove until the final 15 minutes of the workout, which was right about the time we were doing the 50s fast. My stroke felt pretty good, though my legs are a little achy from last night's body work. I had a hard time grabbing water with my feet on the breaststroke kick, and I wasn't sure if I was moving forward.

All in all, it was a good workout. I got lots of chances to concentrate on speed and technique. I wanted to keep my stroke count low while improving my stroke tempo. Not an easy thing to do. I was taking 7.5 to eight strokes per length on breaststroke, and there's nothing bad about that, but I would have been much happier to go those times with just seven strokes. The dive 25 breast was a welcome surprise. I don't usually break 12 seconds until I start tapering!

Back in June, as I was preparing to make my Trials cut in the 100 breast, I asked one of the Phoenix Swim Club coaches, Takahisa Ide, to film my start to see what can be improved. You see the above-water shot here and the underwater shot here. As you will see in the underwater shot, my head was not between my arms, but well outside the body line, which was slowing me down. This was also true on my turns. After a couple of weeks of work, I believe fixing this technique flaw is what helped get me that Trials cut, and what helped me get under 12 seconds this morning. Thanks again, Tako!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I Need to Wake Up

Date: Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Time: 5:45 a.m.
Short Course Yards
265 days to Olympic Trials

1100 warmup

36x25 fly on :25
Alternate two kick, two swim
(Barely made interval on kick, held about :18 on swim ... and did not break stroke!)

8x50 swim on 1:00, working on IM transitions
(Did all as 25 back/25 breast)

6x250 back on 4:00, descend 1-3, 4-6
3:04, 2:56, 2:54, 3:15, 3:00, 2:50

50 easy
12x25 on :30, every third fast
Breaststroke: 14.4, 14.1, 14.3, 14.0

Easy 200

Total: 3,800 yards

On this first official swimming workout in my sprinting phase, I found myself lacking the necessary physical motivation to swim fast. I slept well last night, but it took my body nearly an hour of swimming to finally feel good. I couldn't get the turnover I wanted on the set of 250s, and I think I was trying too hard on the fast 25s. I was hoping my muscles would wake up and respond to the commands my brain was giving them, but it was a bit of a struggle today. On the fast 250 back when I went 2:50, I split 1:06 at the 100 and 2:16 at the 200. Terrible! My body didn't want to hold 1:06 for two straight 200s, even though that shouldn't be a problem. I think a lot of it had to do with the hard weight workout I did yesterday, but usually the opposite happens, in that my muscles feel so strong that I feel like I'm grabbing twice the amount of water than usual.

But with this being the first day of a new phase of the season, I know there is a long way to go, and I'm excited to see how it goes. My push pace times from the past month have been better than expected, so things are looking up!

This evening, I stopped by Tod Miller's Beyond Massage Therapy for some major body work. My muscles were in knots, and his bodywalking techniques have been a welcome relief. Though the session did involve actual massage, about half was devoted to the bodywalking, which not only puts body weight on pressure points and large muscle groups, but it helps to spread out the muscles and engage the nerve endings. Tomorrow, I'm certain I'll find a better feel for the water. Near the end of the session, as Tod was kneading out knots in my shoulder blades, he said: "You've been doing some training!" Each lactate flush he did with my muscles verified that. I've been putting some serious pressure on my body these past few weeks. It's all good, but I have to realize that I sometimes need to take a step back and realize that I'm 37, not 17. My body won't recover as quickly as it used to. Yes, I suppose I can drink those super-expensive gels and drinks to keep my muscles moving freely, but I think a very good and free way to do this is to increase the amount of stretching I do. I do about two minutes worth in my warm down after every pool workout. Maybe it's time to raise that to five minutes. Couldn't hurt, right?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Let's Get Physical

Date: Monday, October 3, 2011
Time: 6 p.m.
276 days to Olympic Trials

At the gym: 

Five minutes shoulder warmup exercises

Sitting bench press (5 @ 90, 12 @ 140, 8 @ 170, 6 @ 185)

Standing lat pulldown (5 @ 50, 12 @ 60, 8 @ 90, 6 @ 105)

Leg extensions (5 @ 70, 12 @ 130, 8 @ 160, 6 @ 170)

Hamstring curls (5 @ 70, 12 @ 90, 8 @ 120, 6 @ 130)

4x25 breaststroke strokes on therapy ball (w/ five-pound dumbbells)

Ten minutes abdominals and stretching

Since yesterday's workout in the pool had no real race-pace training in it, I officially name today the official start of my sprint phase. For the next eight weeks, I will be focusing on building stroke-specific strength in and out of the pool, while getting my fast-twitch muscles ready to race on December 10. This will be done every day in some fashion, even on recovery days. As we go through this phase, you will see what I mean when I say every day will have some racing focus.

No swimming today, and I was worried about doing two weight workouts in a row. I hardly ever do that, but my schedule after work for the rest of the week will keep me from getting to the weight room again until Saturday at the earliest. The stuff you see above is the type of exercises I will be doing this week and next. That will be followed by a week of "recovery" in the gym, where I do my normal 15-12-10 sets. Then, repeat that three-week cycle again, followed by tow more hard weeks and finally, taper!

Doing the breaststroke strokes on the therapy ball really helped me focus on where the most power comes in the stroke, and what muscles are responsible for it. I recommend this to people who have difficulty generating a fast tempo on sprint breaststroke.

I've just chugged a 16-ounce glass of milk with protein powder mixed in (great for recovery) and now it's time to settle in with pasta, tuna and broccoli -- and tonight's new episode of "How I Met Your Mother."

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sunday in the Park With George

Date: Sunday, October 2, 2011
Time: 9:15 a.m.
267 days to Olympic Trials

At the gym:
20 minutes elliptical machine

Five minutes shoulder exercises

Sitting bench press (15 @ 120, 12 @ 140, 10 @ 160)

Sitting leg press (15 @ 140, 12 @ 180, 10 @ 220)

Triceps (15 @ 80, 12 @ 100, 10 @ 120)

15 minutes abdominals and stretching

10:30 a.m. at the pool

800 warmup

4x200 free on 3:00, breathing every 5 holding easy pace
(Averaged 2:23)

4x200 free on 2:40, breathing every 3, aerobic pace
(Averaged 2:19)

4x200 free on 2:20, choice of breathing pattern
(2:07. 2:09, 2:18...rested for first 100 of #4, then did a 1:09 final 100)

400 recovery

4x100 free on 1:30, aerobic pace
(Averaged 1:12, slightly slower than aerobic)

4x75 back on 1:20, aerobic
(Averaged :52)

4x50 breast strong pace on 1:10
(30.4, 31.3, 31.0, 30.5)

8x25 no breath on :45 (done as three underwater breast pullouts)

Easy 100

Today fulfilled my once-monthly Sunday workout with Phoenix Swim Club. With today starting my eight-week sprint phase, I knew before I walked into the facility that the workout would not have any race-pace sets for me. Even if this were not the start of my sprint phase of training, the set of 200s would have been impossible for me. It's an easy excuse to say I'm not a distance swimmer, and that my body does not know how to hold a fast pace for four 200s with only about 10 seconds rest. I thought I could make it through 3.5 of the 200s, but I hit a wall big time at the 50-yard mark of number three. It was impossible to push through. The lactic acid was piling up in my body, my lungs couldn't bring in enough oxygen, and I was getting that nauseous feeling in my stomach that I get during long swims. I thought about pushing through number four, but it would have been a wasted 200 anyway.

I was happy about the 50s breast at the end, because I hadn't done much breaststroke to warm up. Given the interval, I didn't want to push the 50s too hard. I could have gone 29-plus on the first two, but I might have deteriorated on number three. You need at least 90 seconds to do all-out sprints correctly. I kept my form on all four, and was happy to hear the times called out to me.

Today in the gym was not indicative of the sprint phase. I didn't want to do anything too hard right before a Sunday workout, though I did increase the weights on some sets. I didn't feel any negative effects of doing that in the pool.

A lot of you have responded publicly or privately about my post from last Friday about my poor eating habits. The main consensus is that oatmeal is a very good breakfast choice, and I agree. I used to eat oatmeal almost every day, but I think I gave it up a few months ago because it seemed weird to eat hot cereal in the morning in Phoenix, when it was already 95 degrees! I went to the grocery store today and got a large container of Quaker instant oatmeal, a gallon of milk, raisins and a container of vanilla-flavored soy/whey protein powder. I'll mix that into my oatmeal. I won't eat oatmeal for every breakfast, but it will be the majority of them. Other times, it might be bagels and cream cheese, while others might be a bagel with ham and cheese.

Thanks to all who chimed in with their thoughts. One person suggested I should post everything I eat, along with caloric intake, protein consumption, etc. I don't think I can promise to do that consistently, especially since most of my day is spent grazing on stuff like handfuls of Cheerios or a bagel at 3:00 to keep my blood sugar up until dinner. Plus, I tried to do that when I was training in Colorado Springs, and it's a nightmare to keep in a journal. I also mentioned that I hope to lose five pounds in a matter of weeks, and since I don't have a scale at home, that goal is only an estimate and will be mostly determined by the size of my midsection. I don't check myself out in the mirror every day, but often I'll notice the tiny spare tire forming around my waist, and I can't show up at Olympic Trials with a muffin top! Once I lose that weight (or replace it with muscle), I will work to keep it off through June 25, 2012.