Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Go the Distance

Date: Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Time: 5:50 a.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Short Course Yards
117 days to Olympic Trials

300 warmup

8x50 on 1:00 drill choice

3x(4x100 on 1:45)
1. fast turns
2. 15 breakout/35 easy
3. 25 fast with turn
4. aerobic choice
Rounds 1 and 3 back, round 2 free

150 -- 25 drill/25 free with one breath

4x25 no breath on :30

4x25 back fast on :30 (avg. 13.5)
100 easy on 2:30
2x50 back fast on 1:00 (26.8, 27.1)
100 easy on 2:30
4x25 free on :30 (avg. 12.5)
100 easy on 2:30
2x50 free fast on 1:00 (25.0, 25.0)
100 easy on 2:30

3x50 :15 rest -- 25 scull/25 swim

50 back fast (26.0)

150 easy (with stretching)

Total: 3,300 yards (75 minutes)

I was happy with the times on my fast swims today, but my strokes did not feel very strong. It felt like I was not exerting as much force on the water as I should on all-out swims, even though the times are as fast or faster than usual. I know I've been pushing my body to the limit and it's not always going to respond the way I want, but I had expected to be able to have a quicker tempo on backstroke and more propulsion on freestyle.

I had an entire lane to myself today! I arrived to the pool a little late, and when I walked toward my usual lane, there were already four people in it. I won't swim in the lane next to the wall (a lane I dub "the whirlpool") unless I have to, and my other alternate lane looked crowded as well. I went to the other half of the pool and did the entire workout as written, with the exception of the first 700 yards. The sets seemed to be constructed well, and I had no issue with the rest intervals in terms of adequate recovery.

Why didn't I do any breaststroke today? If you look at yesterday's workout, you'll see that I did more than enough breaststroke today, and will do an insane amount tomorrow when I swim with the kids on breaststroke day. I needed a break from breaststroke, and I didn't miss it at all. I've been neglecting my other strokes in the past two weeks, and I should not forget that I am racing in the 100 back and 200 IM (as well as a few relays) at the sectional meet. I want to do very well in those events, too!

Tonight's dryland session with JR Rosania was the toughest yet, but apparently will be the hardest workout I do with him as we begin the final phase of dryland training. Today I did more repetitions on some exercises, and more sets than ever before. I wasn't sure I'd be able to walk out of the building at the end of the workout, but the sheer thrill of finishing was able to override any pain I was feeling. My lower back was in knots, since I had to do more repetitions of the dreaded leg extensions exercise. After that, I felt like this would have been less painful!

JR did give me some words of encouragement as I was preparing to leave today. He reminded me that I have come a long way since I started working with him about five months ago. Many of the exercises I do with relative ease now were quite strenuous back then. I do feel happy about that, and I'm glad JR gave me that note of confidence as I was leaving. Otherwise, I might have wondered if I wanted to come back for more next week!

Even though I am resting in the pool in the days leading up to sectionals next week, I might not cut back on dryland. I don't want that part to be difficult when I return. Maybe we'll cut back a teeny bit, though, if I can convince JR to do so.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I See the Light

Date: Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Time: 5:45 a.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Short Course Yards
118 days to Olympic Trials

300 warmup

24x50 on :50
1-4 kick/swim
5-8 drill/swim
9-12 swim

300 breast pull

8x75 on 1:20 descend to 200 IM effort on 7 and 8
odd: 50 breast/25 free
even: 25 breast/50 free

12x25 on :30
odd: fly with flutter kick
even: breast with flutter kick

6x50 breast on 1:10, 2 easy 1 fast
(29.3, 28.8)

50 easy

200 breast kick no board

4x25 on :40 breast fast
12.0 (from dive), 14.0, 13.8, 14.1 = 53.90

150 easy (with stretching)

Total: 3,500 yards (80 minutes)

I was not expecting so much breaststroke today! Since the Masters group at Phoenix Swim Club is not comprised of a large number of breaststroke specialists, the workout surprised me.One of my teammates said to me on the way to the locker room: "I bet you really enjoyed that workout!" I did to a degree, but not completely. I don't like training breaststroke. It's a very tiring stroke, and I tend to fatigue quicker in workout with breaststroke than any other stroke, though that may depend on the effort and distance.

Tuesday is always stroke day, but when there is not an IM focus, we tend to work on all the strokes, not just one. Mark gave us the choice of strokes to do on the 6x50, and I figured since I was already doing so much breaststroke, I should just do the set breaststroke! The effort wasn't 100 percent -- maybe 96. I hadn't really prepped for fast swimming, but after that set, I was definitely ready for the broken 100.

Obviously, doing a set on a 40-second interval does not make it a lactate swim, so you should take that 53.90 with that in mind. If the interval had been :25 or :30, I might have been more fatigued at the end, and the swim would have been more indicative of what I experience in a race. No matter. It was a chance to work on the stroke and attempt to evenly split each of the last three 25s. I think I did that well.

Though it was cloudy and windy this morning, I did notice that the sun is starting to rise earlier, and in a few weeks, we'll have sunlight during our morning workouts! It definitely helps the mood, especially since we've been swimming in darkness for the past three months.

I still can't believe that we're four months from Olympic Trials. Where has the time gone?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Almost There

Date: Sunday, February 26, 2012
Time: 11:20 a.m.
Location: Tucson, AZ
Short Course Yards
120 days to Olympic Trials

300 warmup

Three rounds:
300 free with snorkel on 4:15
200 breast kick on 4:00
100 IM drill on 1:30

8x15 breakouts on :45

100 easy

Four rounds on 6:00:
25 breast swim against Power Tower
25 back swim with Power Tower
25 underwater dolphin kick with short fins
25 breast swim fast
100 easy

100 easy

100 IM fast from push (56-mid)

300 easy (with stretching)

Total: 3,600 yards (80 minutes)

Sorry I forgot to post this workout yesterday, but the Academy Awards pretty much ruled over my day, making me forget  few things I needed to do once the show started.

In any case, Sunday's workout was pretty tough, though my body handled it better than I expected. The only real tough part of the main set was the underwater kick. The only rest I got within each round was the time it took to unhook the belt that connected me to the Power Tower and put on the fins, and then the time it took to take off those fins for the last 25. All told, maybe 30 seconds rest in each round.

The big technique aspect I worked on during the main set was finishing my kick correctly, even as the lactate started to build in my legs. If I can swim technically correct when tired now, it makes it easier to swim correctly when tired at taper time.

We've reached a crucial point in the countdown to Olympic Trials. We're exactly four months from the 100 breaststroke, and I'm starting to see how close we are to the meet. I'm also about a week and a half away from the sectional meet, and I'm feeling quite confident about how fast I'll swim. Mind you, I'm only going to rest at most three days, which is not even half the time I would rest for a full taper. It'll make me fresh enough to race well, but not rested enough to make it difficult to get right back to work after the meet. Sectionals is going to be the last test for me before Trials. I might swim one or two more local meets before Trials, but sectionals will provide an optimal racing experience (i.e. more people at a rested state) than the local meets and also will be held at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way, Washington. I've had a lot of success at that pool. I qualified for the 1991 Pan-American Games team in that pool. I swam fast at the 2007 Masters nationals, breaking a fast record. I'm hooping the streak continues, but I won't step on the blocks and allow the "streak" to take control.

Today was a day off from exercise. I love these days. It gives me a little itch to get back in the pool tomorrow and allows me to have a recovery from Sunday's tough workout.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Strong Enough

Date: Saturday, February 24, 2012
Time: 5:45 a.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Short Course Yards
122 days to Olympic Trials

300 warmup

9x100 on 1:45, 25 kick/25 swim

12x75 on 1:30
odd: breaststroke -- 25 kick drill/25 double pullouts/25 kick on back
even: freestyle -- 25 kick drill/25 kick to 15 meters/25 kick on back

50 easy

6x25 dolphin kick underwater on :30

100 easy

4x(3x50 on 1:00) with short fins
Rounds 1 and 3: 25 underwater flutter kick/25 free swim, with number three in each round fast
Rounds 2 and 4: 25 back swim/25 dolphin kick on back, with number three in each round fast

100 easy

3x50 on 2:00 breast fast from push
(28.4, 28.6, 29.0)

200 easy

Total: 3,450 yards (80 minutes)

At the gym (4:45 p.m.)

20 minutes elliptical machine

Five minutes shoulder warmup

Ten minutes abdominals

Sitting bench press (12 @ 145, 8 @ 175, 6 @ 190)

Seated row (12 @ 130, 8 @ 160, 6 @ 180)

Ten minutes in hot tub

My legs felt like rubber after getting a very good massage from Tod Miller yesterday. I was very worried that my legs weren't going to handle a kicking workout today, which is one reason why I decided to not do the 6x200 on 3:00 kick that was written for the group. But, Mark Rankin had suggested that I was going to do a 15-minute vertical kicking set while holding a 10-pound weight at some point during the workout. I was afraid I would drown halfway through that, feeling that my legs would not be able to keep me afloat. Luckily, we did not do the vertical kicking, but I might be doing it next Friday.

I was very happy with my breaststroke today. My 50s at the end were promising. On the third 50, I was trying too hard to go faster, when I should have trusted my stroke more and not rushed through the pullouts. But I haven't gone under 29 since mid-January, so I feel better about the way things are going. I think this is the product of lifting heavier weights this week, and getting my muscles smoothed out last night. I'm starting to feel like a sprinter again, and not a moment too soon!

I really need the day off from exercise tomorrow. I need to recharge my batteries with plenty of napping and no thoughts of swimming!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Fly Like an Eagle

Date: Thursday, February 23, 2012
Time: 5:50 a.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Shot Course Yards
123 days to Olympic Trials

3x(3x100 on 1:40)
1. 75 swim/25 kick
2. back swim
3. reverse IM

9x100 free on 1:20
(averaged 1:07)

9x50 on 1:00
odd: four wall pushups at 25
even: Dive from both ends

8x25 breast on :45
odd: 15-meter breakout
even: double pullouts

200 breast kick, no board

8x25 no breath on :30
odd: fly
even: free

16x25 fly on :30

200 easy (with stretching)

Total: 3,400 yards (75 minutes)

Whew! That was a lot of butterfly today! But the key to making all those 25s was to find a comfortable rhythm and not overdo it on the first few 25s. As much as I wanted to, I did not race Alan Carter in the lane next to me. I wanted to make all 16 without breaking stroke. If I had held a faster pace, I would have broken down by number 10. I was happy to make them all, especially since my shoulders and lower back were sore from yesterday's workout with JR.

The water was about a degree cooler, so I was able to do those 100s free on 1:20. If it was the same temperature as yesterday, I might not have done all nine of them.

Today my strokes felt very good, especially my breaststroke. I felt like I was grabbing more water, and getting a faster recovery, which is one of the key elements I'm working on before sectionals.

And now, it's off to my monthly bodyworking session! I will need lots of total body work today. Between dryland and swimming, my body has been put through the ringer since I got back from Italy three weeks ago.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hit Me Baby (One More Time)

Date: February 22, 2012
Time: 5:45 a.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Short Course Yards
124 days to Olympic Trials

300 warmup

6x100 on 1:40 various drills and kicks

7x(3x50) on :50
Odd rounds with small fins:
1. 25 underwater kick/37.5 easy
2. 25 aerobic/25 build from underwater dolphin kick
3. 25 breast pull fast/25 easy
Even rounds: descend 1-3 backstroke (descended to :30)

2x100 easy

Five rounds:
25 underwater kick with small fins/25 easy/25 underwater kick with small fins/75 easy on 3:00
100 easy on 2:00
50 breast on 1:00 (Pull with small fins on rounds 1, 2, 4, averaged :29; swim on rounds 3 and 5, averaged :29)

200 easy

Total: 3,850 yards (80 minutes)

Another hot day in the pool, punctuated by close to the same workout we did yesterday (and apparently, the same workout given on Monday). Coach Mark Rankin said the thermometer read 82 degrees. I think it was 82.99 degrees. Not much cooler than yesterday. It was quite difficult to sprint today, but I gave myself a few mental slaps and did it. It took a lot to do those underwater kicks. Every time I emerged for air, my lungs couldn't send the oxygen to the needed muscles fast enough, a product of swimming in warm water. Everyone else was doing fast 100s, and I knew I would be worthless doing that. In warm water, my sprinting limit is 50 yards/meters at a time, and it helped get my heart rate down.

At the end of each set, I sat on the edge of the pool, letting the cool air bring down my core body temperature. It really did help.

Tonight's workout with JR was one of the toughest I've done. The volume of exercises increased dramatically, from 32 sets to 42! JR told me at the beginning of the workout that I looked "fresher" than usual, meaning I was doing the exercises with more ease, and he was right about that ... until we got to the back raises and back extensions, two of my least-favorite exercises. JR increased the repetitions on those exercises from 15 to 20 and increased the number of sets from two to three. I thought my back would give out on me when I tried to walk after that, but I managed to make it look like I could handle it with no problem. I'm sure JR heard my grunts of agony during the exercises, though.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Hot Blooded

Date: Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Time: 5:45 a.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Long Course Meters
125 days to Olympic Trials

200 warmup

6x100 on 2:00
25 kick/25 drill no free

7x (3x50) on :55
1. fly/back
2. back/breast
3. breast/free

5x200 on 3:30
odd: 100 back/100 free
even: 200 back

Total: 2,850 meters (60 minutes)

The water was 83 degrees, the warmest it's been in many weeks. I couldn't take it. I got out halfway through the final set, which was supposed to be 10x200. After five, my mind was feeling like mush and my muscles were like taffy. I couldn't go any faster than 1:25 per 100, and when I tried, I felt dizzy.

I've been getting a lot of flak in the past few weeks for my comments about swimming in warm water. I know there are people out there who have no choice but to swim in these types of conditions, and you have my sympathy. I trained in a pool that was, on average, 84 degrees when I was in high school, so I know how horrible it is to swim in water that feels just a step below boiling.

I am not holding out hope that the water will be cooler tomorrow, despite the fact that it is pushing 75 degrees during the day here in Phoenix.

When I got back from Virginia on Sunday morning, I went to the gym for a workout. Since I did not post the workout, I am putting it here:

Five minutes shoulder warmup

Sitting bench press (12 @ 150, 8 @ 180, 6 @ 190)

Sitting lat pull (12 @ 140, 8 @ 180, 6 @ 190)

Sitting leg press (12 @ 180, 10 @ 230, 8 @ 250)

Leg adductors (12 @ 170, 10 @ 190, 8 @ 205)

3x20 box jumps

10 minutes abdominals and stretching

I am going to do two weeks of strength-building exercises in the gym, coupled with my once-weekly sessions with JR Rosania that will be working on muscle endurance. I want to get my muscles primed for racing at sectionals, and a two-week cycle of heavy lifting will get me there. I hope to hit the gym again on Friday and concentrate more on upper body than I did on Sunday.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Date: Saturday, February 18, 2012
Time: 12:30 p.m.
Location: Manassas, VA
Short Course Yards
128 days to Olympic Trials

400 warmup

4x(2x100 IM, :15 rest)
Round 1: 1 breath free/breast scull/back drill/fly kick
Round 2: free kick/1 breath breast/back scull/fly drill
Round 3: free drill/breast kick/underwater dolphin kick on back/fly scull
Round 4: free scull/breast drill/back kick/fly 1 breath

Four rounds, one each stroke:
2x(15 yds fast on :30/25 fast on :40/10 fast on :30)
2x50 aerobic choice strokeon 1:00

100 easy

Four rounds:
25 underwater kick or swim from a dive, straight into 12.5 fast swim
10-15 seconds rest
12.5 fast
20 seconds rest
25 underwater kick or swim
10 seconds rest
25 fast swim
100 easy
Rounds 1 and 3 breast, round 2 back, round 4 free

 200 easy

Total: 3,100 yards (90 minutes)

Today's lactate set was a variation of what I did last Sunday, without using any equipment, which might have made it a little bit easier, but not easy! It's very difficult to kick or swim underwater on the third 25, when you're already struggling to catch your breath, and definitely not easy to swim a fast 25 after that! This will be very good for race endurance. I hope to be able to do a set like this long course before sectionals, though it's not very necessary.

The important thing about this workout was to do a good warmup -- at least 1,500 yards, and about a tenth of that needs to be short and fast. You can't go into the main set without limbering up your muscles.

I was happy with the set today. I don't think the goal is to do any of the underwater kicks/swims on a certain time, or do the fast 25 on a certain time. I didn't have a reliable pace clock at the pool today, so I couldn't have timed myself anyway. But the goal was to just swim hard under such intensity. And I think I did that well.

OK, time for a nap!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Make Up Your Mind

Date: Friday, Feb. 17, 2012
Time: 11:50 a.m.
Location: Manassas, VA
Short Course Yards
129 days to Olympic Trials

300 warmup

200 IM -- 25 scull/25 kick

8x100 back, :15 rest
75 swim/25 kick with at least hands out of water

8x50 breast on 1:00 -- 25 pull (2 under, 1 above)/25 double pullouts
8x25 fly swim on :35

100 easy

4x100 free descend 1-4 on 1:30 (descended to :56)
:30 seconds rest
4x100 back descend 1-4 on 1:30 (descended to 1:00)

200 easy

Total: 3,000 yards (65 minutes)

I'm covering the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association's high school championships this weekend, and glad to get in a workout between prelims and finals. (By the way, I'm very impressed with what I've seen from these kids so far.)

I spent a lot of pre-workout time trying to figure out what to do. Should I do a kicking workout, which is what I would have done if I were in Phoenix? Should I do a sprint/lactate workout, as I do on Sundays? Should I just do a basic aerobic workout to get the kinks out?

I didn't make up my mind until I finished the first 500 yards. I was going to do some prep for an IM set at the end, but again, I couldn't decide if I wanted to descend some 100 IMs or break it up. So, what you see is what I decided to do. I was pretty happy with the descending 100s. I didn't expect to be much faster than that, since the interval didn't allow for much rest.

I'll do a lactate workout tomorrow. And the best thing is the water temperature: a wonderfully cool 80 degrees, though I could feel warm water coming out of the jets.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Freeze Frame

Date: Thursday, February 16, 2012
Time: 5:50 a.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Short Course Yards
130 days to Olympic Trials

4x200 on 3:00 every fourth 25 no free

6x50 on 1:00 – 25 kick/25 swim

200 scull

Four rounds:
2x125 free on 1:40
4x50 breast pull on 1:00 – 25 head up/25 regular (no pull buoy)
:40 rest between rounds

6x25 on :40 from middle of pool, underwater kick off wall

200 easy

Total: 3,450 yards

My legs didn’t feel very good this morning. I was happy we were doing breaststroke pull, because I don’t think my kick would have been very productive after yesterday’s workout. To be honest, I don’t think I properly took care of myself after the workout. I drank a lot of water during the workout, but I didn’t drink very much the rest of the evening. I think I drank a cup at most, when I should have had at least twice that much to help my body flush out the lactate and help with recovery. When I woke up this morning, my legs felt heavy, and the first 1,300 yards of the workout were used mostly to recover from yesterday.

I didn’t push the main set too much. I averaged 1:23 on the 125s and :37 on the 50s. For the most part I was working on my technique. During the warmup, Mark Rankin told me he noticed that my left arm was crossing over my body on freestyle, and had some underwater footage to back it up on a nifty underwater camera. He wasn’t the first to tell me that recently, but I thought I had fixed it. Apparently not! So I used the 125s as an opportunity to concentrate on my left arm. I lost my snorkel many months ago and had not made any effort to get a new one, but I think I should so I can see exactly what’s going on with the left arm.

Also, Mark filmed my breaststroke head-on, and I noticed at the end of the recovery, I was pointing my fingers down instead of straight ahead. I was even able to freeze the image and see the exact angle I was pointing my fingers. What this does is cause you to have to angle your hands back up closer to the surface for the next pull, and that’s wasted energy. This is something you don’t necessarily see in race footage filmed from the side, and I was grateful that Mark was able to show this to me. I worked on bringing my hands forward and keeping my fingers pointed toward the wall, and though it’s more work on my shoulders to keep the arms closer to the surface, I think it sets up the next pull better.

Today stressed the importance of getting your stroke filmed. You always think you are doing something right, but the camera does not lie! I took for granted all the opportunities I had to get underwater filming when I was part of the USA Swimming Resident Team in Colorado Springs in the late 1990s. The last time I was filmed was about this time last year, when I saw many mistakes with my start and turn, particularly that my head was not in the right position on the entry and on the push-off. I fixed it in time to do well at the Masters nationals, and later when I made my Olympic Trials qualification time. If you have the opportunity for someone to film your stroke, please do it. And if you have access to an underwater camera (like this one), which is what Mark used for filming me this morning, even better!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Everybody Hurts

Date: Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Time: 4:45 p.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Short Course Yards
131 days to Olympic Trials

I knew what I was getting myself into when I walked onto the deck this afternoon. Pain. Lots of it. Wednesday is lactate day at Phoenix Swim Club, and boy did I create some lactate today! I hurt so much at the end of workout that 300 yards of warmdown was barely enough to get blood flowing back to my calves.

The goal of these lactate sets is not to hold back at the beginning, and have something left at the end. You want to be fast at the beginning and get through the rest of the fast swim with all the energy your muscles can give you. I can tell you that my lungs and my legs were not happy at the end of each fast swim. Add to the fact that the water was still too warm (at or near 82 degrees), and sprinting was not an easy task today.

The main portion of the workout only had 475 yards fast, according to Coley. It felt like more, but that's just my brain thinking that the set was much longer than it was. We did four rounds of fast swimming, with no more than 100 yards fast each round. The thing that made it so difficult for me was swimming with fins. I don't do much fast swimming with fins, and by the end of each round, I could barely get my legs to move ... which is the whole point. The good thing was that we had about five minutes rest between each round, and that we were going in heats, which meant we didn't have to deal with swimming in circles. I love doing fast swimming with no one else in the lane!

As I mentioned, we did four rounds of fast swimming. Each of the first three rounds were different, and on the fourth round, we got to choose which of the first three rounds we wanted to do again. Neither of them seemed particularly enticing for a reprise, but I chose the first round. Here's how that went:

25 underwater kick fast from dive with small fins/12.5 fast swim
12.5 underwater kick/25 fast free
25 fast choice

It's much tougher than it looks! The thing is, you only get about 10 seconds rest after each section of that set. Not enough time to catch your breath, but just enough to get your mind pumped up for the next section. Oh, and you start the second section from the middle of the pool from a neutral sculling position, do a flip turn and kick underwater. Again, it much tougher than it looks. I know many of you do the workouts that I post here, and I'm anxious to find out what you think of this set.

Lactate sets like this are very good for sprinters, because I feel it gets the fast-twitch muscles going and teaches the muscles to "swim through the pain," which is what we all have to do in the last 25 percent or so of a race. I hope to do another lactate workout with Coley before sectionals, which is in three weeks.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Where Is the Love

Date: Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Time: 5:50 a.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Short Course Yards
132 days to Olympic Trials

4x(3x100) on 1:40
1. 12.5 fly/12.5 free
2. 25 back/25 breast
3. 50 IM/50 free

14x25 on :35 turns from middle of pool

8x150 on 2:30, descending to fast on 7 and 8
odd: 50 fly/50back/50 breast
even: 50 back/50 breast/50 free
#7: 1:37
#8: 1:38

50 easy

14x25 recovery on :30
Odd: dolphin kick on back
Even: back swim

4x75 on 1:30
#1: 25 fly/25 back/25 breast fast from dive (41.8)
2 and 3 easy
#4: 25 back/25 breast/25 free fast from push (43.8)

250 easy

Total: 3,700 yards (75 minutes)

I wasn't feeling the love today from the coach or the water. I thought Mark would show us how much he loves us on Valentine's Day by taking it easy, but it did not turn out that way. Adding to my sluggish and non-sprinting feeling was the warm water (about 82 degrees).

I did like doing IM work today, because I have been focusing too much on breaststroke this past week. I don't want to forget that I'm not just training for a 100 breast at the Olympic Trials, but I'm also training for the summer Masters national championships the following week, where I will be swimming more than just breaststroke

My strokes felt OK technically, but I was trying too hard to go fast and swim correctly. I shouldn't have forced things too much, because my body will begin to learn to swim that way. I wasn't feeling much in my legs on my breaststroke kick, and my arms just felt like jelly. I was hoping to go under 1:35 on the fast 150s today, but in perspective, going under 1:40 is pretty good. I need to remember that I do not perform well all the time, nor do I need to perform well all the time. Having a few bad workouts here and there only keeps me motivated to be better. If I were swimming well every day, I might get too complacent.

I did notice the use of the number "14" today on a couple of the sets. Cute.

At the gym (4:45 p.m.)
20 minutes on elliptical machine

10 minutes abdominals and stretching

I was waffling back and forth on going to the gym after work. I thought it would be good to have an evening of no exercise, but I also knew that I would not be doing any dryland until at least Sunday. I figured that some cardio work would help strengthen my legs, and I felt my upper body could use the break, which is why I didn't lift any weights. This will hopefully make me sharper tomorrow afternoon for the lactate workout with the gold group at Phoenix Swim Club. I've done one of these workouts with them before, and I felt like I had to crawl to my car I was so tired. But this will be good race training, as we'll go full speed with a good amount of rest, while at the same time, teaching our muscles to swim fast through the pain that we feel in the last 15 percent of the race.

I also didn't spend too much time at the gym because I wanted to go shopping for some new shoes. My tennis shoes have been worn down by a couple of years of standing on pool decks, not to mention sightseeing in Asia last year and Italy this year. I could definitely feel the cushioning support wearing away with each step. The shoes I got today felt very good the second I put them on. They are actual "tennis shoes," made for playing tennis. I haven't played tennis since ... gosh, I don't know! But they offered better back support than the traditional training shoes and were cheaper than running shoes, which I don't need because I don't run! Here's a photo of my new shoes, made by New Balance:

I like them because they are not flashy. Just a simple shoe. And affordable. I got them at Sports Authority for $54. I'm sure many of you will want to suggest a very high-end shoe for me, but I don't need them. Since my sport is in the water, I have no need for those shoes. I am fortunate to be able to wear tennis shoes at work, so I just wanted something comfortable that would go with my business casual attire, but can also look good with gym shorts. I think these work nicely.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Pump Up the Volume

Date: Monday, February 13, 2012
Time: 5 p.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
133 days to Olympic Trials

Since I did not swim today, I will go into detail of my workout tonight with JR Rosania.

Eight minutes warmup on elliptical machine

Dynamic leg stretching

Two rounds:
20 reps on ab dolly with arms on ab dolly
15 reps leg raises over five-foot tall punching bag

Two rounds:
20 reps on ab dolly with legs on ab dolly
15 situps with legs out straight, raising eight-pound ball up to ceiling

Two rounds:
15 reps back raises, extending arms out with 15-pound ball (simulating breaststroke arm recovery)
15 reps reverse leg extensions with 20 pounds

Three rounds:
20 reps leg press on leg shuttle  with wide stance ( six resistance bands set to near equivalent of 200 lbs.)
Seated push stool backwards up an incline about 25 yards long

Two rounds:
10 reps horizontal jumps on leg shuttle with five resistance bands
Seated pull stool up incline

Three rounds of 20, simulating breaststroke outsweep with resistance bands

Three rounds:
12 reps throwing 10-pound ball up wall
12 reps standing double arm row

Three rounds:
15 reps ball throwdown (15-pound ball)
15 push-ups

Five minutes cooldown on stationary bike

These workouts with JR are not easy, and I really felt the burn today. Over the course of the next five or six weeks, JR will be increasing the number of sets I do, which is going to be a way to build muscular endurance and hopefully make my body learn to perform well at high levels of fatigue that is not similar to lactate sets in the pool, but maybe VO2 max sets. The high volume is good for dryland work; not so much for the pool workouts. I like that many of the exercises feel swimming-specific. The exercises I do at 24 Hour Fitness on my own are the typical exercises that people do in the weight room, with a few exceptions, like my breaststroke sets or the cable pulls.

While I know I will feel sore tomorrow, the soreness is not as bad as when I workout at 24 Hour Fitness. There, I'm focused on strengthening my muscles, which involves breaking them down and, as a result, they feel more sore as they try to repair themselves. My lats are still feeling the sting of Friday's weight workout, as well as yesterday's workout in the pool. Luckily, not much of today's session focused on my lats.

The best part of workout was deciding what to eat for dinner. It gave me incentive to finish the workout well. After initially trying to decide between Chipotle and Wendy's, I figured a home-cooked meal was best. In a few minutes, I'll be eating a bowl of rice with turkey smoked sausage, drizzled in olive oil. That sounds so good, I'm going to sign off now and get to cooking!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Happy Birthday to You

Date: Sunday, February 12, 2012
Time: 11:20 a.m.
Location: Tucson, AZ
Short Course Yards
133 days to Olympic Trials

300 warmup

5x100 free on 1:30, no breathing inside flags
4x75 IM (fly/back/breast) on 1:30 -- 12.5 kick12.5 drill
3x50 breast on 1:00 distance per stroke
2x25 free on :30 one breath per 25

One minute break

4x100 free on 1:30, descend 1-4 (descended to :59)
3x75 on 1:30 -- kick/drill/swim back, breast and free
2x50 breast drill on 1:00
1x25 underwater

4x15 breakouts on :45

50 easy

Four rounds:
25 fast from a dive with parachute on :30
37.5 fast from push/12.5 easy on 1:00
25 fast
100 easy
(Round 1 back, rounds 2 and 4 breast, round 3 free)

200 easy

Total: 3,200 yards (75 minutes)

On Saturday, I celebrated my 38th birthday. I never thought that at this point in my life, I would be training to compete in my third Olympic Trials. What a thrill to know that my path has taken me to this point! As I promised to do when I started this journey, I am enjoying (almost) every step of the way. Today's workout was another great one, and a great way to kick off another year of life.

The main set was not entirely new to me. I will admit that I borrowed it from Coley Stickels on the one day I came to swim with the top group at Phoenix Swim Club on their lactate day. I wanted to work on my 100 breaststroke pacing and tempo, though it would have been better to do it in long course meters. The first 25 was obviously very difficult, and being strapped to this parachute makes you feel like you are not moving forward. I never swam with parachutes in my life until a couple of months ago, and I thought when I swam wearing this parachute I was going to drown, that one doesn't compare to the Kytec chute. It holds more water, which means more difficulty in moving forward. You obviously have to try harder wearing the parachute, but the key is to use great technique. The first 25 was tough (took about 16 seconds from a dive), and the hardest part of the set was the last 12.5 yards of that 37.5-yard sprint. Pushing off the wall was agony for my legs! The final 25 wasn't that bad, so maybe I should think about shortening that interval from 1:00 to 50 seconds.

Sets like the main set I did today are going to be key in working on racing in workout. It builds up so much lactate in your system, and you work on fighting through the muscle pain.

I am thinking about going to Wednesday's lactate workout with Phoenix Swim Club, which means I will have to switch my session with JR Rosania to tomorrow. This also means I won't have tomorrow off, as usual, but I am traveling for work later this week, with no promises on pool availability for a one-hour workout. I'm trying to fit everything in before Thursday afternoon, with the expectation that I might not swim Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Under the Sea

Date: Friday, Feb. 10, 2012
Time: 5:50 a.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Short Course Yards/Short Course Meters
136 days to Olympic Trials

Short Course Yards:
12x50 on :50
odd: kick/swim
even: drill/swim

300 flutter kick with board

Short Course Meters:
8x75 on 1:30 -- 50 fly kick underwater with short fins/25 easy

8x50 on 1:00 -- 25 breast pull fast with short fins/25 easy

200 easy

Short Course Yards:
8x50 on 1:00 breast kick no board

8x50 back on :40 (averaged :31)

200 easy

Total: 3,200 yards/meters

We have been doing a lot of breath-holding work at Phoenix Swim Club lately! I have a feeling that Coley Stickels' arrival as head coach a few months ago has something to do with that. Every time I swim with his top group, we're doing underwater swimming. Now, we're doing it more often in Masters as well. Not really complaining, just noticing that I'm spending much more time under the surface.

Today's main set was 9x200 on 3:00, mostly kicking with fins. I opted not to do it, and chose the set of 75s and 50s in the short course meters pool instead, to do some fast-twitch work. I chose to do those underwater kicking repeats, and I know my legs will not like me tomorrow, but I was happy I did it at the time.

Boy, were those 50s on :40 tough! Mark had written that set on the board during the set of 50s kick, and I saw it and immediately thought of ways to get out of it. Sorry, that's the sprinter in me! I thought it would be very tough to do 8x50s on :35 free, and Mark suggested I do them breaststroke on :40. I knew that would be quite difficult, and I didn't want to fail on breaststroke today (saving that for Sunday). We compromised and I did backstroke. My stroke started to fall apart after number five, but I held my average of 31 seconds through the set. Pushing off the wall was tough for my legs, which might have cramped if I did nine instead of eight.

I'm very happy with the way the week progressed. I was worried about how long it would take to get back into swimming shape, and I think the fact that I exercised while I was in Italy helped a lot. If I had been less active I would still be feeling the awkwardness I felt on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I'm mentally finding the focus for sectionals again, which is about four weeks away. That's plenty of time to get race ready!

At the gym (4:45 p.m.)
Sitting bench press

Standing cable pull (simulating freestyle pull)

Leg press

Leg adductors

3x25 breaststroke strokes with 5-pound dumbbells in each arm

10 minutes abdominals and stretching

I was a little apprehensive about doing a weight workout today, but I will be traveling for work next week, and while I might be able to swim while I'm gone, it's very unlikely that I will be able to lift weights. So, this is putting a weight workout in the bank!

I really like doing that breaststroke stroke exercise. It emphasizes all the muscles used in the stroke, even those that don't aid in forward propulsion. I've tried to keep my body from being very sore tomorrow by sitting in the hot tub right after my weight workout. Hope it -- as well as a few ibuprofen -- does the trick!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Approaching Normal

Date: Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012
Time: 4:30 p.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Short Course Meters
137 days to Olympic Trials

Today's workout with the gold group at Phoenix Swim Club started with about five minutes of race visualization on the pool deck, not a bad way to start, especially in the 77-degree sunshine! I do a lot of race visualization, especially in the four or five weeks leading up to the "big meet." But I've been doing a lot of visualization lately of the environment I'll be facing at the Olympic Trials, and that is what I focused on today. I didn't play the 100 breast race in my head from start to finish, but replayed various parts over and over. The final seconds before stepping up to the blocks are very important, as I tend to hyperventilate at that time and often get those little thoughts that things are not going to go well. Sometimes it helps; sometimes it does not.

The five minutes of visualization led to what was yet another challenging workout for me, but one that, as always, can pay off well in about four months. One of the toughest parts of the 4,000-meter workout was doing 2x100 on about 2:00. Yes, the interval was tough, but this is why: You do two underwater breaststroke pullouts, followed by one stroke on the surface, and repeat that for the entire 100! My legs were burning at the end of each 100 (don't know why), and it was tough to finish the second pullout correctly. I found myself shortening the length of the second pullout to get to the surface for air, which didn't make me happy, but I was willing today to sacrifice technique for life.

The final set today really taxed me. It was only 1,650 meters, but it was almost nonstop for me. You will understand why when you see the intervals:

2x200 on 3:15 -- 100 back/100 breast
#1 pull, #2 swim

3x150 on 2:30 -- 100 pull/25 scull kick/25 swim
#1 back, #2 breast, #3 free

4x100 on 1:30
1&2: 50 back/25 breast/25 free
3&4: 25 back/50 breast/25 free
Pull buoy on 1 and 3

5x50 swim on :45
2 back, 2 breast, 1 free

6x25 on :30 -- half underwater/half swim distance per stroke
2 back, 2 breast, 2 free

What a set! I knew I was going to be in trouble when I realized the whole set was on a 45-second base. That is a tough interval for short course meters! And since I rarely (actually, more like NEVER) use a pull buoy, it wasn't easy keeping up on the pull parts of the set. I was going much slower on the parts with the pull buoy, especially on breaststroke but just as much on backstroke and freestyle.

I never liked using a pull buoy in workout, because it affects my body position badly, and I'm not sure that it really teaches you to swim correctly, i.e. using your arms and legs together. I do understand the mindset of separating arms and legs in workout to isolate parts of the stroke, but I grew up on swim teams that did not use pull buoys often, so I never got attached to them, as the majority of my Masters teammates do. It can be a crutch, and for some reason, a lot of people go faster with a pull buoy. For someone like Roland Schoeman, I don't know why that is true, because he definitely knows how to keep himself balanced and on the surface of the water without a pull buoy. Maybe it does make holding the body position easier for him.

I worked a lot on my pullout, and I'm happy that I'm getting better at moving the dolphin kick to the beginning. It does feel like a smoother pullout now, but I'm trying to keep my body alignment intact when I do the dolphin kick. I think I undulate too much, and it's something I'll work on next!

I think I'm feeling like I'm getting back to normal in terms of feeling my strokes in the pool. Today was the first day since my return from vacation that my breaststroke felt normal. I wasn't trying to go fast, but the timing and the rhythm all felt easier to achieve. Tomorrow there is usually a fast swim at the end of workout, and if so, I might do a fast breaststroke swim for time. I have some fast breaststroke planned for Sunday, so it might be best to wait until then to do some extensive breaststroke sprinting. We'll see how things feel in the morning.

Speaking of which, it is now 9:15 p.m., and workout starts in less than nine hours! Got to get a good night's sleep! Good night!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

No One Said It Would Be Easy

Date: Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Time: 5:45 a.m.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Short Course Yards
138 days to Olympic Trials

1500 warmup

75 free @ 95% effort/75 easy on 3:30 (41.3)

25 breast fast/125 easy on 3:30 (14.3)

75 free @ 95% effort/75 easy on 3:30 (40.5)

50 breast fast/100 easy on 3:30  (29.3)

75 free @ 95% effort/75 easy on 3:30 (40.9)

75 breast fast/75 easy (44.9)

12x25 kick on :35 -- 3 fast/1 easy

12x25 on :35, breaststroke double pullouts

100 back fast (55.4)

300 easy (with stretching)

Total: 3,400 yards (75 minutes)

I didn't have any expectations on the main set today. I knew my sprinting wouldn't feel "natural," since I haven't done a sprint workout in two weeks. Breaststroke hasn't felt good this week, and it's probably going to take a while to feel better -- though I hope it clicks during tomorrow's all-breaststroke workout with the kids at Phoenix Swim Club!

I was very surprised by my times this morning. My 75 freestyles at 95 percent shouldn't not have been in the 40-second range. I was expecting to go about 42 or 43. What does that say about my freestyle? Is it getting faster? I have been doing more freestyle in the past 12 months than ever, and mixed in with my stroke change last September as advised by Tennessee coach Matt Kredich, I am pleased with the changes. I'm also pleased that I'm adjusting better to moving the dolphin kick at the beginning of my breaststroke pullout. Only once today did I do a double kick, and happily it was during the double pullouts at the end and not the fast swims. I was pleased with the time for my fast 75 breast. My stroke felt clumsy and a little forced to move fast through the water, and seeing that I was able to go under 45 seconds made me feel good. I think the new pullout helped with that somewhat.

Getting back in the groove of exercise has made me feel quite sore since Tuesday morning. After tonight's workout with JR, I am sure I'm going to feel like every muscle is in knots. I stretch extensively, drink water and eat well after workout, but all of that isn't going to help this 37-year-old body feel like it's 20 years old. Hopefully next week things will feel more like normal!

Near the end of my session with JR, I thought of a great main set to do on Sunday. In my mind, it sounds like a lot of fun, but I am slightly apprehensive about doing it, because it will be quite painful by the end. I can't wait to share it with you!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Be Italian

Date: Feb. 6, 2012
Location: Phoenix, AZ
140 days to Olympic Trials

10:45 a.m., at the gym
Five minutes shoulders warm up
Incline bench press (15 @ 95, 12 @ 120, 10 @ 135)
Standing lat pull (15 @ 50, 12 @ 60, 10 @ 75)
Hamstring curls (15 @ 80, 12 @ 90, 10 @ 110)
Bicep curls (15 @ 15 each arm, 12 @ 20, 10 @ 25)
Leg extensions (15 @ 100, 12 @ 120, 10 @ 140)
Ten minutes stretching

11:50 a.m., at the pool
Long Course Meters
12x50 free on :50

1x100 back on 1:45
1x200 on 3:30 (100 free/100 back)
1x300 on 5:15 (alternating 100 free/100 back)
1x400 on 7:00 (alternate 100 back/100 free)
1x500 on 8:45 (alternate 100 back/100 free)
One minute break

4x100 IM on 1:45

300 breast kick no board :30 rest

2x100 :15 rest
25 breast scull/25 breast drill/25 free scull/25 free fingertip drag

4x50 on 1:15 breast kick drill

2x50 :15 various drills

Total: 3300 meters (70 minutes)

I was surprised how good I felt in the water today, since I hadn't swum once during my 10-day vacation in Rome, Italy. It took about 30 minutes for my body to adjust to moving through water again, but I was happy that I was able to stay close to my aerobic pace without feeling too exerted. All I wanted to do today was get my feel for the water again.

If you plan to visit Rome, don't pack your swimsuit. The city has no public pools, and it is quite expensive for visitors to use health club or private pools. And forget about swimming at the site of the 1960 Olympics (and the infamous 1994 and 2009 world championships). I got a stern "no" after acting out my request in charades to the non-English speaking receptionist. Too bad, because the pool is nice. The outdoor pool looked nice as well, though I could only see it through high fences because it was closed to the public -- and not open, since temperatures in Rome were at or near freezing.

I suppose I could have loosened up on my euro-pinching, but I didn't think doing a 75-minute workout was worth 20 euros, or about $24. Masters teams in the United States don't charge more than $10 for visitors, and public pools are cheaper than that in the U.S. I was very surprised that my search for available pools on came up empty for public pools in a city of nearly 3 million people. The city didn't have a place for kids to splash around in the summer, or for adults to stay fit all year. It's even more confounding, given that Italy has a rich history of elite swimmers that includes reigning 200 free Olympic champ Federica Pellegrini. I did see a youth swim team at the indoor pool at the Olympic site, but it's still a head-scratcher.

Though I did not swim in Italy, I got plenty of exercise. During the first three days, I walked an average of five miles through Rome each day, seeing all the major sights. The city subway and bus system helped greatly, but we vastly underestimated the distance between some places, since our "trusty" map was not built to scale. By day three, my legs and lower back were in knots, and I wasn't sure if I could handle more days of sightseeing. Fortunately, we had taken in all the major sights in those three days (including the magnificent Sistine Chapel), and the temperature in Rome had started to drop dramatically, which made our time outside limited.

By Friday, Feb. 4, snow had covered Rome for the first time in about five years. The slush then turned into ice that made walking around even worse, since we hadn't packed for such weather. Running shoes aren't great for keeping traction on ice.

Because I stayed active throughout the trip, I doubt I had any setback for my training for Olympic Trials. I think I will be back to my "old self" by Thursday, looking forward to the sectional meet in Seattle next month. One thing I worked on in the pool today was the breaststroke pullout, especially trying to move my dolphin kick to the beginning of the pull. I feel like I hold my speed better with this change, but I find that I'm still putting in the dolphin kick at the end of the pullout, which is where I've been doing it for the past six years. It's going to take a lot of patience to get it to work to the point that I don't have to put all my concentration on that part of the swim, but I have patience.