Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Putting It Together

Date: November 30, 2011
Time: 5:50 a.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Short Course Meters
208 days to Olympic Trials

12x50 on 1:00
odd: 25 kick/25 swim
even: 25 drill/25 swim

1x50 free with no breath (took one breath)

8x25 on :35 breakouts

3x3x100 on 2:30
Round 1:
75 free aerobic/25 easy
50 breast fast (32.5)/50 easy
25 breast fast from dive (14.1)/75 easy

Round 2:
75 back fast (46.7)/25 easy
50 free aerobic/50 easy
25 breast fast (14.5)/75 easy

Round 3:
75 free aerobic/25 easy
50 breast fast (32.3)/50 easy
25 breast fast from dive (14.1)/75 easy

6x25 easy :15 rest

3x(4x25 on :40)
1-3: free no breath or breast underwater no breath
4: easy

100 easy

Broken 100 IM (done as 4x25 on :45, fly from dive) (12.1, 14.2, 15.3, 13.4 = 55.00)

200 easy

Total: 2,400 meters (75 minutes)

I hadn't expected to so little in the pool today, as it was to be my last official hard-working day in the pool before taper starts. But it was good to be able to do the main set of 100s with a lot of rest.

I didn't feel extremely strong in the pool, but as happened yesterday and Monday, the times didn't reflect that. I was happy with the times, especially the broken 100 IM. I'm all for getting as much rest as possible, but I think the interval on the broken 100 IM was too slow. We should have done them on :30 for a more accurate indication of a broken swim. Usually, you get 20-30 seconds rest on a broken 200.

My breaststroke is starting to come together, and my backstroke pull feels more natural. I've been struggling with backstroke for about a year now, and I think part of it comes from recovering from tendonitis.

I'm really starting to get the nervous knots in my stomach every time I think about the upcoming meet. Once in a while, I visualize the races I will be swimming and when it is over, I visualize a time as fast or faster than my goal time. That makes me excited and a little nervous hoping everything pans out in terms of preparation.

Tonight was my last workout with JR Rosania for a few weeks. We didn't do too much work, just some fast-twitch preparation with low repetitions. I felt good at the end. My muscles were a little fatigued, which is just fine, but more importantly, I felt my fast-twitch fibers reacting positively.

And now taper begins!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Take It Easy

Date: Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Time: 5:45 a.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Short Course Meters
209 days to Olympic Trials

800 warmup

6x125 back on 2:15 descend 1-3, 4-6
(1:43, 1:41, 1:33, 1:42, 1:38, 1:30)

500 fly: 25 kick/25 left, right, full stroke/25 three strokes fly, 3 cycles free/25 swim

4x(3x50) on 1:00
1-2: easy
3: 25 breast/25 free fast (31.3, 30.9, 31.3, 31.3)

Easy 50

300 breast: 25 kick with board/25 pull with board between legs

easy 50

50 breast from dive: 30.3

Four fly-back IM turns

Easy 100

Total: 3,300 meters (80 minutes)

Today was the second-to-last day before taper begins, and I wasn't feeling much like sprinting. I wanted to take it a little easier today and work on stroke technique more than speed, and as such, I wasn't as fast as I should have been on the 125s backstroke or the 50s back/breast. I hadn't prepared my body or my mind for all-out swimming, though I was pleasantly surprised with my times on the 50s. My second 50 in the 100 IM is about 30.8, so to be close to it without swimming my hardest was a good sign.

Since last Wednesday, I have been working on a different approach to starting my breaststroke pullout. After watching me in workout that Wednesday, Coley Stickels suggested that I not pull so wide on the beginning of the pullout. It should be similar to a butterfly pull: start shoulder width apart and pull down. It feels like I am losing less of my speed at that part. On today's fast 50 breast from a dive, I was concentrating so hard on that pullout that I spaced out on my breakout and pulled a lot of air. That prevented me from breaking 30 on that swim, which to me would have been a big shock, since I was feeling much like a sprinter today. And don't go spreading rumors. I have very few days where I don't feel like a sprinter!

Monday, November 28, 2011

It Goes Like It Goes

Date: November 28, 2011
Time: 5:50 a.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Long Course Meters
210 days to Olympic Trials

#1 on 1:00
#2 on :50
#3 on :40

4x200 free on 3:00
1, 3 aerobic; 2,4 strong
(2:43 on aerobic swims, 2:33 on strong swims)

300 easy

6x100 on 2:00
odd: back/breast easy
even: breast strong (1:23, 1:20, 1:19)

200 easy

Total: 3,100 meters (75 minutes)

Today was the first true long course meters workout I've done since July (the recent workout with the Washington State doesn't really count). Every swimmer knows that the first long course workout after months of short course training can be painful, and that was definitely true today. Also, I think being at altitude in Show Low for three days might have had some effect as well. It wasn't easy getting a breath on the 200s, but that could have just been general fatigue setting in.

After that set, I had planned to swim easy for the rest of the workout, but Mark threw in that set of 100s, and while I was thinking of wimping out, I figured I needed to do it. I was surprised that I was going as fast as I was. It was very tough to hold my stroke on the final 25 of each of the strong 100s. When it was over, I was glad I did it, and hope it pays off down the line.

I had hoped the pool would be in short course so I could work on my IM transitions. I figured I'm pushing off on backstroke too early in the IM, causing me to be in bad body position and making it difficult to do an effective breakout. I'm not sure if the rest of this week will be short course or long course, but no matter what, I'll just take it as it goes. I was going to break away from the pack after today's distance set (similar to what I did today) and do 20x50 on 1:00. The first 10 would have been fly/back and the last 10 would have been breast/free. Oh well. The set I did at the end was just as effective.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Show Me

Date: November 25, 2011
Time: 9 a.m.
Location: Show Low, AZ
Short Course Yards
213 days to Olympic Trials

400 warmup

5x200 kick with small fins, :30 rest
1-3 free, 4-5 breast

12x25 with small fins on :30
odd: breast pull with flutter kick
even: freestyle, with 12-1/2 kick underwater

100 easy

400 IM -- 50 kick/25 drill/25 swim

4x25 on :45, butterfly with no breath

100 easy

Total: 2,400 yards (45 minutes)

It took everything I had to get through today's workout. Not only was I swimming at altitude (Show Low is at 6,400 feet), but the pool temperature was 84 degrees. I was OK through the 5x200 kick, but I started feeling the effects of the warm water more than the altitude on the set of 25s after that. I made it a goal to do more than 2,000 yards, and to decide the plan after that. I suppose I could have done an aerobic set of 100s freestyle, but I'm not sure I would have wanted to finish.

Since I knew I wasn't going to do a lot of yardage, I decided to do something of worth, hence the 12x25. I thought I could do another set of 12x25 at the end, but I overestimated the altitude effects. My lungs weren't going to be able to handle eight more.

Does swimming at altitude require not just an adjustment to the times you swim, but to the distance? If so, what is it? Did I technically do about 3,000 yards today?

I haven't done much in terms of yardage since Tuesday, and I think that could affect my training in the final 14 days leading up to my taper meet. I will swim on Monday (my usual day off), and try to get some good workouts in on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as well. I plan to do some good workouts as well while working at the U.S. nationals, but taper officially starts on Dec. 1, so the quantity won't be the priority.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Short and Sweet

Date: Thursday, November 24, 2011
Time: 9 a.m.
Location: Tucson, AZ
Short Course Meters

5x200 free on 3:30
50 kick/25 left/25 right/100 swim

10x150 kick on 2:45 with small fins and snorkel
1-3 free, 4-5 butterfly

Power Tower:
3x25 breast fast on 1:15

25 breast fast from a push

6x50 back on :55 (averaged :36)

100 easy

Total: 3,100 meters (60 minutes)

Thanksgiving Day isn't one of those days where it is sacrilegious to swim. I was happy to have the opportunity to put in some laps today, not just because I was planning to eat a lot today and wanted to justify the extra calories. I didn't want to interrupt my training too much, and I had written a workout that was part recovery after yesterday's lactate workout. Unfortunately, the pool at the University of Arizona's Hillenbrand Aquatic Center was only open until 10, so I had to cut my workout short by about 800 meters.

I didn't want to do much breaststroke today. I needed a break from the stroke for a day, and it was good to focus on freestyle. When I did breaststroke on the Power Tower, I felt strong for the first time in a bout a week. I could feel the catch in my stroke again, and it was great to move smoothly down the pool. If I had been able to finish my workout, I would have done a few 25s breast with dolphin kick, in order to work more on arm speed.

I had a great Thanksgiving meal with Geoff's parents. Instead of turkey, we always have a different meat, such as roast beef. Today, it was a delicious ham with sweet potatoes and spinach, followed by mincemeat pie. No swimming tomorrow, because Geoff and I are going to the White Mountains in eastern Arizona. Hopefully, I'll be able to swim Saturday and Sunday, but it's not set in stone. We might do some (very) light hiking this weekend, so that will likely be my exercise.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The First Time

Date: Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Time: 4:30 p.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Short Course Meters/Yards
215 days to Olympic Trials

Today's workout with the senior-level age group team at Phoenix Swim Club was definitely one of the most difficult I have ever done in my 33 years in the sport. The goal was to emulate race pace training while building up extreme lactate, and on a scale of 1 to 10, the lactate level was at 9 for the entire workout.

At Coley's request, I can't post the workout here, but the main set was about 700 yards of some very tough swimming using rubber tubing, swim parachutes and fins, in the span of about 45 minutes. Today was the first time I've ever used a swim parachute, and it is extremely tough to swim with one. You can't imagine that small device having the ability to keep you from moving forward, but when it first took hold of water, I instantly felt how effective it was!

The most difficult parts of the main set were the underwater kicks and the variations on what we call in Masters "wall-ups," in which you pull yourself out of the water multiple times. This time, instead of pulling ourselves halfway out of the water, we had to pull ourselves completely out of the water. My legs and lungs were screaming!

The part of the main set I found the most relevant to race pace training were the fast 50s, which were broken into separate components. Using smaller fins required you to work the kick more while emphasizing a faster stroke tempo.

At the end of the workout, I was ready to do a long warmdown. After 100 yards, I asked Coley if he could time me for a dive 25 breast. I went 12.3, which was pretty good given the tough hour I had just endured. I didn't have much leg power to push from the blocks, but my stroke felt strong.

I wasn't sure I could survive the workout, but when it was over, I found myself smiling. I could have done a similar workout with the Masters group, but it would have been essentially a set of push 50s or 25s that might have made me happy with the times, but ambivalent about the workout itself.

Can't wait to attend another lactate day at Phoenix Swim Club!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fly Like An Eagle

Date: November 22, 2011
Time: 5:45 a.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Short Course Meters
216 days to Olympic Trials

700 warmup

16x25 on :30 (four each stroke)
8x50 on 1:00 (two each stroke)
4x100 on 2:00 (IM order)

8x25 on :40
Odd: fly kick halfway underwater
Even: Double breaststroke pullouts

4x(3x75 on 1:15)
1: fly/back/breast
2: back/breast/free
3: back

12x25 on :45
Odd fast, even easy

200 warmdown (with stretching)

Total: 3,500 meters (80 minutes)

Not a bad workout today, though I had trouble getting my heart rate down during the main set. On the upside, I did not break stroke on the butterfly. I continue to marvel at my newfound ability to do butterfly without breaking stroke. I could never go 200 yards/meters in one set without a desire to do some one-arm butterfly. It's usually because I had no support for the lower half of my body during butterfly, and thanks to working with JR I am able to do the second kick in the stroke much better, which in turn helps set up for the next stroke. I am not saying I enjoy butterfly more, but it makes it less painful. I am anxious to see how this pans out in my IMs in a couple of weeks.

At the gym (6 p.m.)

Five minutes shoulder exercises

Sitting bench press (15 @ 110, 12 @ 140, 10 @ 160)

Sitting row (15 @ 80,  12 @ 110, 10 @ 140)

Three rounds:
12x Medicine ball throwdown (12-pound ball)
10x throwing ball up
10 back lifts (while holding 8-pound ball and extending it out front at top of exercise)

Three rounds:
10 Jumping lunges (while holding 12-pound ball)
15x Cable pull (motion similar to butterfly pull/breaststroke pulldown) 

2x25 breaststroke pull (with 6-pound dumbbells)

Five minutes stretching

I mixed in a weight workout with some exercises JR gave me, since he was taking an early start to his Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Doing his exercises are fun to do at the gym. I got lots of stares when I was doing the jumping lunges, and a few people freaked out when I started doing the ball throwdowns.

My left shoulder is still giving me some problems, and though I don't think this is cause to believe the tendonitis is back, it is cause to believe that the exercises I am doing are putting some stress on the shoulder muscles. Part of my rhomboid muscle on my left side has a lot of scar tissue on it. I felt it when I did some self-massage today, and when I leaned against a corner, I recalled the feeling of the muscle not responding to the pressure. Usually when you massage a tired muscle, you feel a the knots release when you are done. With this rhomboid muscle, I only felt tough sinews, as if they had atrophied. It had a "crunchy" feel to it as I passed the corner of the wall over the muscle. What I need is one of those portable electric stimulating machines. I could put a couple of pads on my back and let the electric pulses shock the rhomboid muscle back to life. That's what my physical therapists did when I first experienced the tendonitis. They shocked the weakened muscles back to life.

This pain doesn't present itself very much when I am swimming. Only when lactic acid starts to build in my shoulder muscles do I feel some pain referral, mostly in my Deltoid muscle. I'm doing more shoulder stabilization exercises now, and those should help.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Playing With the Boys (Girls, Actually)

Date: November 20, 2011
Time: 11:40 a.m.
Location: Tucson, AZ
218 days to Olympic Trials

Today, the plan was to do about 3,500 meters in the short course meters pool at the University of Arizona. Before I got into the pool, I went over to the head coach of the Washington State women's team, which was starting a workout in the main pool, to say hello. The head coach is Tom Jager, one of the legends in swimming. Don't know who he is? Shame on you. Here's a link to information on his stellar swimming career.

Tom grew up on the other side of the Mississippi River from St. Louis, in Collinsville, Illinois. He swam for Parkway Swim Club in St. Louis for many years before going to UCLA. Having grown up in St. Louis a generation after Tom left for UCLA, I knew him well. After we caught up on each other's lives, I was planning to go to do my workout. Tom introduced me to the women on his team, and they greeted me joyfully. I was going to wave to them and leave them to their workout, when one of them invited me to swim with them. I agreed to do so, not knowing what was in store.

I only had an hour before I had to teach a swimming lesson, so I had hoped to get at least 3,000 meters in before that. I only swam 2,000 meters (long course) in that hour:

5x100 choice on 2:00

400 kick, with the last 12.5 meters of each 100 fast

6x50 drill on about 1:20

4x50 free on 1:00 (averaged :38)

3x50 free on :50 (averaged :36)

3x50 free on :40 (averaged :34)

200 easy

4x25 breakouts

The team was getting ready to swim against Northern Arizona University on Monday, hence the extremely relaxed workout. Even they were surprised at all the rest they got. I'm sure they'll swim well tomorrow. Today's workout was like a taper! As I was about to head to my lesson, Tom got into the water and showed the team his stroke. It was just as I remembered it from his days of winning Olympic medals. I could tell the team was impressed. Tom said later it was the first time he had gotten in the water with his team in seven years, but it looked like he had probably been splashing around on his own a few times.

Here is a photo of Tom and I, taken today.

So, I didn't get in the workout I had planned today, but after yesterday's performance at the swim meet, it was clear my body needed a little recovery. I didn't mind spending more time hanging on the wall than swimming today. The girls were a delight to talk to, and if I had done my planned workout I might have stopped after about 2,000 meters anyway. The diving well was about 83 degrees, and at that extremely uncomfortable temperature, my brain would have instantly found ways out of the workout. So, the 2,000 meters I managed to get done today was much more pleasant than the 2,000 meters I would have forced myself to do otherwise.

Add in the fact that tomorrow is a normal off day, I should feel better on Tuesday. This week will present a few challenges in terms of swimming. I don't think I will be swimming Thursday, and on Friday morning, Geoff and I are going to the White Mountains in Arizona for the weekend. The closest pool to us will be 20 miles away in Show Low. Hope we have time for it, and that the pool is conducive to a halfway decent swim.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Oh, What a Beautiful Morning

Date: Saturday, November 19, 2011
Time: 8:30 a.m.
Location: Mesa, AZ
Short Course Meters/Yards
219 days to Olympic Trials

This morning, I made the trek out to the westernmost part of Mesa for a quick Masters swim meet. All I wanted to do was get some fresh racing under my belt before I prepare to taper in a couple of weeks. Things didn't go as expected.

2,300 yards warmup

100 breast: 1:05.79

400 warmdown

100 IM: 1:01.17

300 warmdown

100 back: 1:00.80

500 warmdown

Since I had done a very tough pool workout and an equally tough gym workout yesterday, I don't know why I put such high expectations on myself this morning. The muscles in my upper body were in knots. The tendons and muscles in my left shoulder (the one afflicted with minor tendonitis) were very sore. Nothing I did could stretch them out.

The 100 breast felt technically good, though I knew the speed wasn't fully there, based on how I felt the first 50. Still, I felt like a 1:03-low was happening, and I would have been pleased with that. I felt dejected to see 1:05 on the scoreboard, and when I got out, I wondered if the bulkhead in the pool was set at 26 meters, instead of 25. For about a minute, it was a joke rattling around in my head, but I briefly wondered if that were true. (I subtly verified that the pool was 25 meters at the end of the meet.)

About 20 minutes after my 100 breast was the 100 IM, and my transitions were not clean. My fly-to-back turn felt weird, and I didn't have much speed coming off the wall. But again, the technique was good.

The 100 back was a victory in that I stayed in the middle of the lane for the last three 25s. That is my major issue on swimming backstroke outdoors, and though I had hoped for a sub-1:00 swim, I was happy with the way it was swum.

Again, I know I worked very hard yesterday, but I am taking a while to process what today's swims mean as I move forward to taper. Does this mean I am working harder than ever? Yes. Does this mean I am overtraining? Not sure.

I don't have much of a benchmark for in-season times in short course meters, but no matter the pool format, I am never four seconds off my taper time in an in-season meet. I've swum three 100 breast races in the past month, and the times were agonizingly slow. At the Rowdy Gaines meet in Orlando, I chalked it up to devoting more time to working than swimming. At the pentathlon two weeks ago, the rationale was that I had raced 750 yards in 30 minutes. I had no real reason for today. I should have been able to step up and swim as fast as I normally do, even with tough workout still lingering in my muscles.

I am not discouraged, but I am being very introspective about this. I just hope that with a good taper, everything will fall into place. I will admit I am a little afraid about how to approach the next 11 days, and the nine-day taper I have planned after that. Should I back off weights and JR's boot camp early? The dryland seems to be the only thing I can figure to be weighing me down right now.

I have a lot of reflecting to do. But on the upside, tomorrow's workout will be largely aerobic, since I did my race pace training today.

Friday, November 18, 2011

I Did It My Way

Date: Friday, November 18, 2011
Time: 11:50 a.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Short Course Meters

This morning, I pressed "off" instead of "snooze" on my alarm, and when I woke up again, it was 6:05. Too late to rush to the pool and do anything of worth. I decided to try and make the noon workout, which is always a crapshoot for me. Usually, I'm rushing to the pool in order to get there in time for the first set, and today was no exception. I had one minute to spare, which was enough to do a little dynamic stretching before diving in.

8x100 on 1:45
Odd: Kick last 25
Even: Kick first 25

150 underwater kick

Four rounds:
4x25 kick on :30
100 easy on 2:30

12x25 kick on :40

150 recovery (25 drill/25 swim)

4x50 breast on :55
4x50 fly on :50
4x50 back on :45
4x50 free on :40

200 easy

Total: 3,200 meters (75 minutes)

At the gym:

Five minutes shoulder warm up

Sitting bench press (12 @ 160, 8 @ 180, 6 @ 200)

Lat pull (12 @ 150, 8 @ 175, 6 @ 190)

Leg extension (12 @ 140, 8 @ 160, 6 @ 180)

Bicep curls (12 @ 25 pounds per arm, 8 @ 30, 6 @ 37.5)

Leg adductors (12 @ 160, 10 @ 180, 8 @ 200)

Ten minutes abdominals and stretching

Those who swim at the noon workout have the advantage of seeing the entire workout before they start. Those of us who normally swim in the mornings do not have that luxury. I saw the set of 50s at the end and spent the workout mentally preparing myself for making the intervals, especially the 4 on :40. The wrinkle was that I thought all 16 of them would be freestyle. Only when Mark began describing the set did he mention that the challenge was to do each stroke, but we got the choice of which strokes to do for each interval. I knew I could make breaststroke on 55 or 50 seconds. Doing them on a 45-second interval would have been a big challenge in short course meters, and it would have affected my ability to do the final four on :40. I figured I would do the set the way I did it because I wanted to get maximum rest as the set went on. I realized I would get more rest on the 50-second interval if I did it butterfly, and so that's what I did.

I was very happy that I made all four of the butterfly intervals without any desire to break stroke. I have to give a lot of credit to JR Rosania for making me do that dreaded hip extension exercise. It's strengthened my lower back in a way that's helped me stay with the undulating rhythm of butterfly. My arms and shoulders were hurting on number four, but I was able to keep my body position and technique fairly consistent. I was so proud of myself that before starting the 50s of backstroke, I yelled to Mark, "I didn't break stroke! Take that!" Saying that gave me a little adrenaline for the rest of the set. I felt like I was going to vomit when we finished, but everything stayed down. I just needed to get my heart rate down and catch my breath.

I've been answering a lot of challenges lately, both in and out of the pool. Last week, it was 10x50 breast short course yards on :45. This week, I improved in my dryland work with JR and today, I didn't back down on a very tough set. Mark thought in the future I should try the whole thing breaststroke. I'm not sure I would make it past the round on :50. The last eight might be a straight 400.

In any case, I'm pretty sore tonight, and yet looking forward to racing tomorrow at the Masters meet in Mesa, Arizona. I will start the meet with a 100 breast. I don't really have a goal time, since I don't swim short course meters much in season. I just want to work on race strategy. After that is a 100 IM and 100 back. It's a one-day meet, and I didn't want to overload myself like I did with the pentathlon a couple of weeks ago.

But life doesn't stop for a swim meet. I've got to do some housework before going to bed. I wish I had one of those robot vacuums that could clean my entire house while I put my feet up and watch television. COnsider my bathroom and vacuuming duties as extra dryland!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Just What I Needed

Date: Thursday, November 17, 2011
Time: 4:40 p.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
221 days to Olympic Trials

Today's workout with Coley Stickels' senior-level group at Phoenix Swim Club was easier than I expected. All of his swimmers are racing this weekend, and he didn't want to overload them with a lot of work. We "only" did about 3,500 meters, and that was fine with me. I suppose I should have stayed in a little longer to do some extra work, but I'm not concerned. I needed a good recovery workout today, and that's what this was. None of the sets were physically challenging, but did have me, as usual, concentrating on various aspects of my strokes. Today did not have a breaststroke focus, which was fine.

Below is what we did for the main set:

300 on 5:15
100 pull/50 drill/50 swim/50 kick/50 swim

2x25 on :30
#1 free with seven strokes, #2 breast pull underwater with flutter kick

150 on 2:30
25 pull/25 kick/25 swim x2

200 on 3:00
50 pull/50 swim/50 kick/50 swim

2x25 on :30, same as above

2x75 on 1:20
25 pull/25 kick/25 swim

100 on 1:40
50 pull/25 kick/25 swim

2x 25 on :30, same as above

3x50 on :50
#1 fly/free, #2 back/free, #3 breast/free

I'm glad I swam this in the short course meters pool. The group was split into the short course yards part of the pool and the short course meters part of the pool, with no discernible reason why some were in SCM and some were in SCY. The first set we did was largely freestyle-based, and it involved a drill that has become very popular, but I have honestly never done before. I"ve heard it called the "bow drill," where you stop your freestyle arm recovery at halfway and hold it there for about eight kicks. I don't have the leg strength to balance my body at that part of the stroke! It was quite difficult for me to do that drill correctly. I'm sure my arm wasn't perfectly positioned on the drill, but no one corrected me.

The aches from working with JR yesterday lingered with me throughout the day. My office is in a retrofitted house, and there is a fireplace with a mantel. The corner of that mantel has become my favorite place for a quick back massage. I put my knotted muscle on the corner of the mantel, plant my feet and dig in. After a minute or so, I feel the knot going away. I had a few of those this afternoon, and though they are still there after swimming, the knots aren't as tight. I'm expecting to get some bodywork with Tod Miller after Thanksgiving, and he'll be able to work out the knots better than the corner of any fireplace mantel.

After today's workout, Coley suggested that I attend the USA Swimming Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, in mid-January, as well as the sectional meet in March. I do need to swim some long course meets before Trials, and I won't get that opportunity swimming in Masters until June. The only issue is that I won't shave for the meets, though I might rest a few days for sectionals. If I can get the time off from work, it might be fun to swim in those meets, especially Austin. I went to college there, and I miss that city dearly. I told Coley that if I were to go to the meet there, I might not want to come home!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

You're the Best

Date: Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Time: 5:40 a.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Short Course Meters
222 days to Olympic Trials

1900 warmup and main set prep

100 IM fast from push (1:03.2)

300 easy

100 back fast from push (1:02.5)

300 easy

100 free fast from push (59.8)

250 easy

50 breast fast from push (32.1)

200 easy

Total: 3,300 meters

Today's main set as written was 10 rounds of 100 fast/100 easy on 4:30. Before the start of the set, I had only done 1,100 meters of swimming, which is not enough for my body to wake up and start swimming fast. So, I used the first four rounds of the set to do some aerobic swimming and breakouts. I felt like my blood sugar was getting low after the first round, so I hopped out and took a few big chunks out of an apple I brought to the pool. After about five minutes, I felt better. I rarely eat before workout; the apple was to be post-workout fuel restoration. I believe swimming in the warm water had quickly burned up the fuel stores I had in my body, and I was in need of more quickly.

I was happy with my times today, as the 100s were within six seconds of my taper goal time (though I'm not swimming the 100 free in three weeks, I have long hoped to go 53 in short course meters). As for the 50 breast, I felt a little choppy in the first 25, but eased into the stroke off the turn.

Today, my left shoulder gave me some problems. It's the same shoulder that had tendonitis in 2009 -- and will always have issues for the rest of my life, since tendonitis never fully goes away without surgery. I've been negligent in maintaining strength in my shoulder muscles and tendons, and I realized that when doing exercises last week with JR Rosania. Tonight, I put a lot of focus on my shoulder work without overstressing my left shoulder. When I am not doing dryland, my goal is to do some shoulder stabilization exercises to keep my shoulder strong. I feel it mostly on backstroke and freestyle, mostly in posterior muscles (deltoid and rhomboid).

JR toldme that today was the best I've worked since starting with him. I kind of agree, but I still feel as sore as the first session. The difference, he said, is that my muscles have adapted to the stress of the exercises ot the point that I'm able to finish the exercises strongly. The hip extensions, where I lift my legs from perpendicular to parallel to the floor, is still the toughest exercise. My lower back is in knots for hours afterwards. A little Ben-Gay helps soothe the soreness. But that exercise has helped my butterfly, which is my worst stroke. I feel like I'm using my second kick more, which does originate in the lower back and travels down the leg. It helps with the finish of my breaststroke kick, too, but the biggest improvement has been in butterfly. I am anxious to see if it will provide any assistance in getting through the first quarter of the individual medley.

Wednesdays are awesome when I know I am swimming with Coley Stickels' group the next day. I get to sleep in until 6:30! You would think I would stay up later, but usually my body is ready for sleep at 9:00.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Just That Kinda Day

Date: Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Time: 5:50 a.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Short Course Meters
223 days to Olympic Trials

24x25 on :30
2 free, 2 non-free

16x25 kick on :30
2 free, 2 non-free

Three rounds:
4x100 on 1:40
(Round 1: 50 fly/50 back, round 2: 50 back/50 breast, round 3: 50 breast/50 free)
4x25 on :30
(Round 1: 2 fly, 2 back; round 2: 2 back, 2 breast; round 3: 2 breast, 2 free)
1 minute break

3x50 easy :15 rest

6x100 IM on 1:40
Odd: Regular order (averaged 1:13)
Even: Reverse order (averaged 1:17)

250 easy (with stretching)

Today's workout fulfilled my butterfly quota for the week ... and then some! The only time I did not do butterfly as instructed was on one of the reverse 100 IMs at the end. I am physically getting through more difficult butterfly sets, and I'm not sure why, but I know it will help my 100 and 200 IMs.

The main set was tough, and the 25s were supposed to be all out, but the 100s on the set were so hard that I didn't have the energy for four all-out sprints in each round. I was concentrating on technique while swimming a little bit faster than aerobic pace. For the first round of 100s, I was averaging 1:13, and about 1:14 on the second and third rounds. That's about 1:06 to 1:07 for those who need those times converted to yards for comparison. I had to do that a little bit today, as this was only the third short course meters workout I've done in a month. With the taper meet being short course meters, I'm glad the bulkhead at the pool was removed, and we'll likely do short course meters all the way through the next three weeks.

When I don't feel like swimming fast, my breaststroke is usually the stroke that falls apart first. I tend to find an easy way to swim comfortably, and that easy way usually involves bad technique. It took a lot of mental effort to continue to think about the kick Tako taught me a couple of weeks ago, and to concentrate on the hand pitch after the catch. Those are my two main focus areas on breaststroke right now, and the more I can swim correctly when I'm tired (and a little bit lazy), the easier it will be to swim fast when it matters.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

If I Didn't Have You

Date: Sunday, November 13, 2011
Time: 1:30 p.m.
Location: Tucson, AZ
Short Course Meters
225 days to Olympic Trials

12x150 on 2:30
1-4: choice
5-8: 25 breast double pullouts/25 free/25 breast kick/50 free/25 breast pull
9-12: 50 back/50 breast/50 free

8x25 breakouts on :45

100 easy

Two rounds:
25 breast fast from push on :45 (15, 15)
50 free fast from push on 1:30 (28, 28)
75 IM fast from push (fly/back/breast) (47, 48)
200 easy

Four starts

4x100 easy on 1:50

Total: About 3.450 meters (80 minutes)

For today's main set, I was joined by Scott Shake, who normally does a long nonstop swim during the same time I'm swimming, but during my first set, he asked what I was going to do today. When I told him what the main set was, he didn't hesitate to say he'll join me for it. I was a little surprised, since Scott is a middle distance swimmer, and this set was specifically for sprinters. (Yes, I know, middle distance swimmers need sprint work, too.) I have a feeling Scott didn't want to swim alone today. I know the feeling.

If Scott hadn't been there for the main set with me, I might have convinced myself to stop after the first round. With the water at 82 degrees, sprinting was extra difficult today, and though the times were pretty good, I didn't want to deal with a second round of sprinting in warm water. But Scott's presence convinced me to continue with the main set, and I'm glad I did.

I had planned to do some work on the Power Towers after the main set, but I didn't have the energy to do more sprinting in the present conditions. I worked on starts instead. I probably should have done some backstroke starts, but I didn't have a touchpad to put in the water, and I didn't trust that the tiles on the wall were not slippery.

This was a good start to the week. Before the workout I signed up for the Mesa meet which takes place next Saturday. I'll swim the 100 breast, 100 IM and 100 back, and it will be the last meet before tapering, so the goal is to fine-tune all my racing aspects. It will also be the last week of training without any types of interruptions before the state meet. Thanksgiving weekend will be spent in the White Mountains of Arizona, and I may or may not be able to swim every day. The following weekend, I'll be in Atlanta covering the USA Swimming nationals, though I believe I'll still be able to swim every day, since I will be hanging out at the pool all day.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Faraway (So Close)

Date: Friday, November 11, 2011
Time: 5:50 a.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
227 days to Olympic Trials

4x(4x50 on 1:00)
1: 3 strokes/10 kicks
2: 25 head up/25 swim
3: 25 free underwater recovery/25 normal
4: breathe every 5

6x100 breast kick with board on 2:00, descend 1-6
(1:40, 1:38, 1:34, 1:32, 1:32, 1:30)

Four rounds:
Three minutes kick (did about 175 yards each round)
40 seconds breast vertical kick

3x(4x50 on 1:15)
1: underwater no breath
2: fast kick
3: underwater no breath
4: fast swim
(Fast swims -- back: 26.5, breast: 29.9, free: 25.5)

Easy 100

50 breast from dive (27.0)

200 warm down (with stretching)

Total: 3,050 yards, not including vertical kicking (75 minutes)

Aaarrrrrgh! I almost broke 27 seconds on my dive 50! I was upset by that for a few minutes, but happy that I got so close. I'm usually a few tenths slower, and in a 50, just a few tenths mean a lot. I'm not sure how I was able to go that fast, since my legs were quite tired by the end of workout. But this harkens back to the kind of things we used to do when I was in high school. My coach used to regularly do a fast swim off the blocks after a tough workout, and though we rarely did anything noteworthy, it always set us up for race readiness when it mattered. I do wish we had non-slip walls, so I could practice my backstroke starts. It's a big hassle to get a touchpad from the storeroom and put it in the lane, especially since we only get about two minutes' notice. I will do some work on my backstroke start on Sunday.

This morning we were visited by two members of the Phoenix Swim Club senior group, Michael Nelson and Walter Ross. Michael had just won the state title in the 100 breast with a 57.1 (56.7 in prelims) and Walter almost got a second swim in the 100 free. Both of these guys kicked our butts this morning, and they were even more awesome when they put the fins on, but then again, who isn't awesome with fins? (Me.)

I did feel good about beating Michael on the 50 at the end. He "only" went a 28.0. Still pretty good a week after his taper meet.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Y'All Got It!

Date: Thursday, November 10, 2011
Time: 5:45 a.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Short Course Yards

Odd: Free breathing every 3 on 2:20
Even: 100 back/50 breast on 2:40

4x300 on 4:30 -- 100 free swim/100 back swim/100 breast kick
(averaged 4:00)

8x75 on 1:30 -- 25 fly/25 scull/25 free with one breath
(averaged 1:00)

10x50 free on :40
(averaged :31)

10x50 breast on :45
(averaged :37)

200 easy

Total: 4,200 yards

I was planning to swim with Coley Stickels and his group this evening, but I had two major projects to finish at work today, and I wasn't sure I would be able to leave work in time for workout. This morning's workout wasn't that taxing physically ... until the 10x50 breast.

The original set called for 24x50 free on :40. Not to usurp Mark Rankin's authority, but I didn't feel like I needed to do that at this point in the season. I compromised with myself and did 10 free. Those 50s weren't extremely difficult physically, though I had trouble keeping count! After that, I was planning on doing some breakouts on :45. But during the rest after the 50s free, Mark suggested doing some 50s breast. I knew it would be painful, but I had no valid excuse to throw at him. I did the set, and felt OK for the first three. Then, fatigue started to build in, and instead of trying harder to go faster, I tried to keep my technique in line. That wasn't easy to do, especially when I was in agonizing pain on eight through 10! I'm glad I did the set, but my heart rate at the end (186) showed me how difficult it was.

Breaststroke is always more taxing for me than freestyle, at least as far as heart rate is concerned. My aerobic heart rate in freestyle is much lower than that for breaststroke. I wonder if that's true for many people. I believe it's because breaststroke uses more muscles.

What will I take away from that breaststroke set? Mainly that my legs were sore from yesterday's workout with JR, and each kick was excruciating. Again, I'm glad I did it, but my legs will be punished for it throughout the day.

I want to share a dream I had last night. I was competing in a somewhat major international meet, but I'm not sure what venue was hosting the meet. It wasn't clean and shiny like most major venues, but had a dank and moldy feel to it. But the venue was packed for the final event, the 400 free relay, and for some reason I was the anchor leg for the United States. We were so far ahead that the third swimmer decided to grandstand for the crowd by stopping at 50 meters and letting the competition catch him. As he pushed off, the crowd went ballistic. I turned around and saw Cesar Cielo enter the building, ready to swim the anchor leg for Brazil. To make matters worse, it was so cold in the pool that I was wearing a heavy coat (not a parka) and when I dove in for my swim, I forgot to take it off!

Obviously, I had a difficult time swimming fast with a heavy coat, but I was able to hold off Cielo until the final 15 meters, when he caught and passed me. Brazil won by half a second.

Why would I be swimming freestyle on a relay at a major international meet? And what was with me swimming with a heavy jacket? Dreams are weird.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Almost There

Date: Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Time: 5:45 a.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Short Course Yards

300 warmup

6x100 on 1:45
75 free/25 no free

9x50 free on 1:00, overkicking at various points

Two rounds:
1x100 on 2:00 easy
4x25 free on :30 breath control
4x50 on 1:00 best average
Round 1 50s were free, averaging 27.1
Round 2 50s were back, averaging 29.2

6x50 easy :15 rest

Three rounds:
50 fast (breast from dive: 27.0, back from push: 25.5, breast from dive: 27.2)
50 easy, then 1:00 rest
25 fast (breast from dive: 12.0, back from push: 12.3, breast from dive: 12.1)
25 easy, then 1:00 rest

100 easy

75 IM from dive (41.3)

225 easy

Total: 3,300 yards (75 minutes)

Today marks 31 days until the Arizona State Masters Short Course Championships. It's almost here! Nothing special happens at this point in the season, but the realization did give me a little jolt.

I liked today's workout very much. It had an element of endurance sprinting with the best-average set, but also had a race-pace set at the end. And the remarkable thing is that the rest was already built into the race-pace set! Those rest intervals were not decided by me.

I was very happy with my sprinting today. Despite the warm water making my muscles feel rubbery (felt like 82 degrees), my times were right on target. I was hoping to go under 12 seconds on one of my dive 25 breaststroke, but I'm happy with two times in the 12-low range. I don't think my starts were all that good, though. I felt like I was losing speed too much after my body entered the water, but I wasn't sure if it was my naturally inflexible ankles or something that could actually be fixed. Or were my legs just too tired to spring hard from the block?

I was feeling a big knot in my left rhomboid muscle through the entire workout, and no amount of stretching could remove the knot. When I got home tonight, I tried to work it out on a special wooden kneader that I have, but it's still there. I'm going to put some Ben-Gay on it before I go to bed, and hopefully that will help. The only problem with putting Ben-Gay on at night is my cat is attracted to the smell, and she tries to lick the cream off me, even if I have a shirt on. She won't take no for an answer, so I might have to shut her out of the bedroom tonight so I don't have to wake up at midnight to her trying to get to that strange aroma emanating from me.

I had a very good session with JR Rosania today. Someone asked if my sessions with him are working on building muscle mass. Absolutely not. Some of the exercises use very little weight, and work instead on the explosive speed in my muscles. For example, I do back extensions while holding an eight-pound ball. When I lift up, I throw my arms forward while holding the ball, similar to the breaststroke recovery. The weight of the ball isn't heavy, but the hard part is getting my arms forward in an quick motion.

Another great exercise I do there is standing on a platform about knee height. Holding a 15-pound ball, I throw it down to the ground, imitating the motion of a breaststroke pullout and butterfly pull. The key, JR said, is to lift the shoulders to engage more back and shoulder muscles, and to throw the ball hard to the ground. When I'm in the pool, I try to replicate that motion on my breaststroke pullouts. These exercises and all the others he gives me have a swimming specific purpose, and usually I discover that purpose in the pool the next day.

Jason Lezak does a similar type of training, and it seems to be working well for him in his mid-30s!

Tonight I was so tired when I got home that I couldn't find the energy to practice piano. I need to do so, because my final recital is the same week as the state meet, so I have essentially two championship performances in one week. I am trying to play the song "Scarborough Fair" (which repeats 17 measures five times) and while I have the melody down, it's hard to play the chords. I didn't have much desire to work through that tonight, but I'll make up for it tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Surprise, Surprise

Date: Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Time: 5:45 a.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Short Course Yards
230 days to Olympic Trials

300 warmup

4x(4x25 on :30), one stroke each round IM order
1 drill, 2-4 swim

4x(3x75 on 1:15)
1: 25 fly/50 back, 2: 25 back/50 breast, 3: 25 breast/50 free

6x(3x100 on 1:30)
1: back, 2: IM, 3: free
averaged 1:11 on back, 1:06 on IM, 1:08 on free

12x25 on :35
Odd: breast with 2 pullouts
Even: backstroke as three left/three right/three full strokes

8x25 on :45
Odd: Breast from dive (12.7, 12.1, 12.3, 11.6)
2, 4, 6, easy
8 breast fast from push: 13.6

100 easy

Total: 4,000 yards (75 minutes)

This is the time of the year when I bite my tongue quite often in workout. As the weather gets colder in Arizona, every pool in Arizona cranks up the heat to insanely high temperatures. The only pool I have been to from now through April that is not overheated is the Arizona State pool. I won't defect to their team, but I did swim there a couple of times in 2009, and it was wonderful to do a sprint workout in an 80-degree pool.

This morning, the pool was about 82 degrees, which made the main set of 18x100 difficult to do as written. Mark wanted all of them to be strong, so we would get decent rest. I would have been happy to hold 1:06 on backstroke and 1:03 on freestyle, but I needed a couple of repeats to get my heart rate down after a somewhat fast 100 IM. During the set, Mark suggested that a dive set was coming up "so you guys can cool off." With the air temperature at 50 degrees, we were definitely bound to do that!

I was very surprised at the 11.6 on my 25 breast from a dive. I don't go under 12 seconds regularly in-season, so that made me feel good. My stroke technique was OK, though I think I exposed my legs too much on my kick in an attempt to push more water with my legs. The dive was smooth and clean, and the breakout pretty good as well. I wasn't looking for something this morning to make me feel better about the :59 I swam on Sunday in the 100 breast, but those 25s did the trick for me!

I still haven't decided if I am going to swim in the meet in Mesa on Nov. 19. I won't rest for that meet, but I would like to swim a fresh 100 breast before taper starts. I'll make the decision before Friday.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Take Five

Date: Sunday, November 6, 2011
Time: 8 a.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Short Course Yards
232 days to Olympic Trials

Today was the Phoenix Swim Club Pentathlon. The meet order was: 500 free, 50 free, 200 free, 100 free, 200 IM. I have swum in events like this before, and have fun with them ... though the short amount of rest makes for some painful swims. Here's a look at my performances. All five events were done in a 90-minute time span:

2,000 warmup

500 free: 5:03.88
Splits: 57.87, 1:59.16 (1:01.29), 3:01.18 (1:02.02), 4:02.89 (1:01.71), 5:03.88 (1:01.01)

10 minute break (400 warmdown in this time)

50 fly: 24.69

Five minute break (300 warmup in this time)

200 back: 1:58.81
Splits: 28.20, 57.60 (29.20), 1:27.89 (30.69), 1:58.81 (30.92)

Five minute break (200 warmdown in this time)

100 breast: 59.48
No splits available

Five minute break (300 warmdown in this time)

200 IM: 2:02.66
No splits available

500 warmdown (with LOTS of stretching)

Out of five events, I felt good about three of them. Sadly, they were the first three. I wasn't happy that the two events which weren't good were two of my best events (100 breast and 200 IM). But, three out of five ain't bad!

I was quite surprised by my performance in the 500 free. I haven't done a 500 free in competition since high school, and I think I swam a 5:03 then. I got a great race from Patrick Brundage, who is very much a middle distance/distance swimmer and has a lot of experience doing the 500. That definitely showed at the 300-yard mark, when we turned almost even and he took off.

The 200 back was also a very nice surprise. The final 25 was very painful. Pushing off the last wall almost had me gritting my teeth underwater. Knowing that my 100 breast was next, and that I hadn't raced a 100 breast since July, I could have swum a lot easier on the backstroke. But, I am not the type of person that backs out of a race if I'm feeling good, and the 200 back was the last race today in which I felt good.

Diving in for the 100 breast, I could immediately tell that the result would not be satisfactory. I could feel the lactate in my muscles during the first pullout and my breaststroke muscles did not want to respond for the entire 100. To make it worse, my technique was sloppy. My legs were not together at the end of many kicks, and I could feel my hands slipping on the insweep. I took seven strokes for each of the last three 25s, but a low stroke count isn't good when the speed isn't there. I felt embarrassed to see "59.48" on the scoreboard, but I couldn't think of that for much longer. I wanted to break two minutes in the 200 IM, and I had to get into the mindset for that race.

I was mentally ready to swim a fast 200 IM, but my body was already checking out. I dove in and the butterfly felt OK, but backstroke was worthless. At this point, I was swimming against the clock (Patrick Brundage was a couple of body lengths behind, also feeling the weight of the morning's swims). When I swim against the clock in a 200 IM, it's difficult for me to push the breaststroke. I did my best to at least keep the technique correct, but I was so tired I could barely get through the pullouts!

My freestyle felt incredible today. I was tired at the end of the 500, but I believe the technique of keeping a strong vertical forearm and not letting go of the water halfway through the pull helped me keep my splits even and strong.When you're racing tired in-season, the best thing is to keep the technique proficient, so when you're swimming at your best at the end of the season, technically correct swimming will be easy. This starts in workout, continues to the in-season meets and follows through at the end of the season.

I don't want to go into the taper meet with a 59.48 being my last 100 breast. I might swim in a short course meters meet in a couple of weeks in Mesa. I would definitely do only two events. One would be the 100 breast, and the other might be the 100 back, 100 IM or 200 IM.

Friday, November 4, 2011

I Won't Back Down

Date: Friday, November 4, 2011
Time: 5:45 a.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Short Course Yards
234 days to Olympic Trials

300 warmup

4x300 on 5:15
odd: 50 kick/50 swim
even: 50 drill/50 swim

24x25 on :35, done as:
2x25 free with six strokes per length
2x25 breast with three strokes per length

Three rounds:
4x50 back swim on :45
4x50 on 1:00 (1 and 3 with 15m breakout, 2 and 4 easy)

125 easy

75 breast fast from a push (45.4)

Easy 175

75 breast fast from a push (45.3)

200 easy (with stretching)

Total: 3,950 yards (80 minutes)  

After Wednesday's dryland workout with JR and last night's swim workout with Coley, my legs were fried this morning. My hamstrings and groin muscles were very tight, despite my dynamic stretching before getting into the pool and light stretching after the set of 300s. I didn't want to do the 24x50 as a kick set, though that is the way the set was written. I didn't bring my fins, and even if I did, I couldn't have done that set kicking on a 45-second interval.

By the time the set of 24x50 was done, I was having trouble pushing off the walls, and my fast-twitch muscles in my arms didn't feel very responsive. But I decided to not give in on the physical signals I was getting from my lower body and swam those two fast 75s at the end. I could have done freestyle on them, I could have backed down on the effort or I could have just gotten out. All were viable options. But I would not have been happy with myself later. I am quite happy with going 45-mid on the swims, especially the first one. I was sharing a lane with one other person, and we agreed to swim straight for the 75. But while swimming the first 25, I noticed someone was about to jump into the lane, and I instinctively decided to swim circle. Luckily, I was swimming breaststroke, so I was pretty deep underwater and didn't hit the guy sharing the lane. We managed to do OK for the rest of the 75, but I wondered if I could have gone faster if I didn't have that brief distraction. The answer was no, but my legs were not happy that I wanted to do that 75 again. I had trouble getting my quads to respond to sprinting, and it showed on the final 25, where I jumped up to 7.5 strokes, as opposed to the seven that I'm still getting used to taking.

Another reason I thought about backing down was because I have a tough meet on Sunday, and I wanted a little bit of rest for it. It will be a quick meet, with only about 30 entrants. Everyone -- or almost everyone -- swims five events (500 free, 50 free, 200 free, 100 free, 200 IM in that order) and it's likely I'll do all that in about 90 minutes, depending on how long a break we take between each event. I'm not looking for fast times necessarily, but just want to see how well I step up and swim fast. I doubt I will have anyone to race, but I will be doing a 500 free, 50 fly, 200 back, 100 breast and 200 IM, so I might be racing someone on the 100 and maybe the 200 back. Looking forward to it. This might be my last meet before the taper meet in December, though there's another one scheduled for the Saturday before Thanksgiving in Mesa. I'm not sure if I'll be able to get to that one.

At the gym:

Five minutes shoulder warm-up exercises

Sitting bench press (12 @ 140, 8 @ 175, 6 @ 190)

Leg extensions (12 @ 130, 10 @ 160, 8 @ 180)

Lat pull (12 @ 140, 8 @ 170, 6 @ 180)

Shoulder shrugs (20 @ 30 each arm, 15 @ 40 each arm)

3x20 box jumps

2x25 breaststroke pull on physioball with five-pound dumbbells

Ten minutes abdominals and stretching 

With my legs still sore, doing leg exercises today was dicey. I thought about skipping legs, but it was good to work on strength. I might not be at my best at the meet Sunday because of this, but I think that might call for about 30 minutes in my tub on Saturday night. 

Next blog will be on Sunday, with results from the meet. See you then!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pull Me Under

Date: Thursday, November 3, 2011
Time: 4:35 p.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Short Course Yards/Short Course Meters
235 days to Olympic Trials

Tonight I swam with Coley Stickels' group at the Phoenix Swim Club, though the turnout was sparse, because most of the swimmers were preparing for the state high school championship. Prelims begins tomorrow, and a few of the kids were at the pool doing some final prep. It brought me back to my days as a high school swimmer, getting pumped up for the state meet in Missouri.

Tonight's workout wasn't exhausting or extremely difficult, but I did wish the intervals were slower, just so I didn't feel like I was rushing through some of the sets that I wanted to take my time and work on technique. Some sets felt like a straight 1,200 or 1,000 yards, with only enough time to take a couple of deep breaths for what was usually an underwater swimming or kicking drill. Most of the sets that gave me trouble involved breaststroke pull with a pull buoy. This has always given me trouble. I find that most people do a large dolphin kick when they do breaststroke pull with a pull buoy, and I used to always get yelled at by my coach for doing that in high school. I can't say for sure that most of the kids (and the postgrad swimmers) were doing dolphin kicks, but I was well behind them on breaststroke pull sets, but I had no problem staying with or ahead of them on breaststroke swim sets.

In any case, the reason I love going to Coley's Thursday breaststroke workouts is because it allows me a lot of time to concentrate on the finer points of my breaststroke. Today, I thought about my hand pitch when I began the insweep, making sure my fingers were pointed downward. I also tried to think about my kick, and I could feel a difference kicking "the old way," compared to the way Tako tried to teach me last week. If my legs weren't so fried from yesterday's workout with JR Rosania, I might have been able to put more effort into kicking today.

I won't try to re-create the workout for you, as it involved lots of drills that defy easy written explanation. But we did 4,900 yards/meters in about 110 minutes. For the final set, we moved from the main short course yards pool to the six-lane short course meters pool for 1,200 meters. The water was warmer, the pool is shallower and the intervals didn't slow down to accommodate for meters, so the final set exasperated me. But, on the bright side, my heart rate was at a steady 150 the entire time.

I'm not sure how my legs and lower back will feel tomorrow morning. I saw Mark Rankin at the pool tonight after workout and warned him that I might opt to swim during the main kick set tomorrow, if my legs haven't fully recovered. I hope they do, because I plan to do some race pace swimming tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wake Up Little Susie

Date: Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Time: 5:45 a.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Short Course Yards
236 days to Olympic Trials

300 warmup

4x(3x75 on 1:15)
1: 25 kick/25 drill/25 swim
2: choice swim
3: free no breaths between flags

6x50 kick on 1:10
Odd: 25 fast/25 easy
Even: 25 easy/25 fast

4x(4x50 on 1:00)
1: 25 fast IM order/25 easy
2: easy
3: free @ 200 pace (27.0)
4: easy

100 breast fast from push (1:02.1)

300 easy

100 back fast from push (56.4)

300 easy

50 breast fast from dive (27.5)

200 easy

Total: 3,350 yards (75 minutes)

I was very sluggish in the water today. I woke up at 3:00 last night and couldn't go back to sleep right away. The last time I looked at the clock before I fell into a deep sleep again, it read "3:50." My brain wanted to swim fast, but my body wanted to be under the covers.

A little disclaimer here: As my lane mates (and those in adjacent lanes at Phoenix Swim Club) know, I take what I call "sprinter's prerogative" on many of the sets during my sprinting phase. Instead of doing two 100s fast from a push, everyone else did four. I simply swam easy in my lane during two of those fast swims. I wanted to have more than three minutes rest between my 100s in order to focus on race pace training. If I had done the set as written, my 100 breast would have been in the 1:05 range, and my 100 back would have been probably :58 or :59. I noticed that others in my training group were able to hold pretty fast times on all four of their swims, which is great for them. I do wonder, however, how much faster they would have gone if they only did two with about eight minutes rest between.

In any case, my sprinting times weren't too far off my average, given my physical state. I had hoped my dive 50 would be under 26, but I had a bad turn and stupidly tried to recover from it by increasing my turnover on the last 25. Live and learn.

5:00 p.m. with JR Rosania

Today was a "very good" workout with JR. It was "very good" in the sense that I can feel the ache in my muscles two hours later. Most of the hard stuff was concentrated in my hamstrings and back. After an eight-minute warmup on the elliptical machine and dynamic stretches for my legs, I did some lunges with an eight-pound ball, rotating to each side on the lunge. Wow! That really puts some stress on the hamstrings! I know my hamstrings are weak, hence the inability for them to deal with simple lunges.

As for my back, I did a set of back extensions where I had to thrust my arms forward on the upswing, similar to the breaststroke recovery. Oh, and I was holding that eight-pound ball. I followed that up immediately with a variation on hamstring curls. Instead of lying on your stomach, you bend at the waist and put your torso on a platform while holding a bar in front of you. Then, you lift a bar with both of your legs, keeping your legs straight. That burns in the hamstrings and back! That was a sign that my lower back muscles were not very strong, either.

Though his workouts are tougher than what I do at 24 Hour Fitness by myself, I always find myself smiling when I'm working with JR. I think it's because there are other Masters swimmers there doing the same thing I am, and we all are dripping sweat and talking about the pains that come with being old. But we love it, because, as I told you last week, a lot of us are seeing results.

As for me, I think I'm going to end my day with a big glass of water. That will help the ibuprofen go down easier.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

You Can't Always Get What You Want

Date: Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Time: 5:50 a.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Short Course Yards
237 days to Olympic Trials

600 warmup

12x25 fly on :25

50 fly fast from push (26.5)

300 back with four dolphin kicks off each wall

50 back fast from push (26.7)

4x100 breast on 1:45 with double pullouts on each 25

50 breast fast from push (30.1)

300 free breathing every 5

50 free fast from push (25.4)

3x200 on 3:30
1-2 aerobic backstroke
3 fast IM from push (2:07.0)

300 easy (with stretching)

Every time there is a butterfly set, I am ruined for the remainder of workout. That was very evident today. My shoulders were killing me after the 25s fly, though I took great pride in doing all 12 without breaking stroke. It's amazing how strong the mind can be sometimes.

I didn't know we were doing any fast swims today. If I had known, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to do anything different, though I did wish there was some sort of small set to get our bodies ready for fast swimming. If I always got what I wanted in this world, it would be very dull.

All my 50s were OK, though my breaststroke should have been under 30 seconds. I won't beat myself up about it, though. I was focusing too hard on the kick portion of my breaststroke and not on swimming fast.

I am very pleased with the fast 200 IM. I did alone, as Alan Carter chose to do a 200 back, and went a 2:01, I think. My butterfly felt atrocious, but I made up for it on the other strokes.

I enjoy the workouts when we focus on all four strokes, and Mark Rankin gives us those often. It allows me to not get bored, and keeps me focused on the 100 and 200 IMs, which I am looking forward to racing in about five weeks.

One more thing. I do not do any dolphin kicks on my backstroke turns, so that 300 backstroke was tough. Why don't I dolphin kick? If you saw my ankles, you would know why. I experimented with dolphin kicking in 2009 and 2010, but my backstroke did not improve. I think it got worse, because I was in such oxygen debt on the final 25 of a 100 backstroke (short course yards or meters) that I couldn't finish the race properly. Below is a link to watch my 100 backstroke at the recent short course Masters national championships. You'll see that I'm really the only one who doesn't utilize dolphin kicks, and it didn't seem to be a problem!

Jeff Commings 100 backstroke

I don't want to say that doing a few quick flutter kicks is better than dolphin kicking for everyone. It's just better for me!