Tag Archives: Swimming

The 2017 Season In Review

After nearly 10 months of concentrated swim-bike-run training, my 2017 multisport season has officially ended.

How I feel about the 2017 season. Thanks for the photo, Dad!

This was the second year my coach and I worked together, and I’m incredibly happy with the progress we made across the disciplines. We stepped back from targeting a specific, performance-based race—Age Group Nationals was no longer the “A” event—and instead focused on expanding my endurance portfolio: doing swim meets, guiding for Achilles, and tackling two swim-run races. By de-emphasizing the outcome and focusing on the process, I rediscovered my passion for the multisport lifestyle.

This season, I noticed a huge shift in how I approach training and racing. Rather than obsessing over the result—splits, wattages, and paces—I zeroed in on the execution of the immediate workout. A 4×100 IM (woof!) become a 100 IM, then another 100 IM, and another, etc. In the short-term, each interval provided an opportunity to get the best out of myself; and it was identifying, working toward, and ultimately accomplishing these mini-goals–no matter how small–that set the stage for long-term progress. My goal this year was to execute each workout, interval, and stroke as precisely as possible. Doing the little things right would help the big things happen.

Eldorado Canyon in Colorado (Also, Colorado = THE BEST)

One concept my coach introduced this year was structured, one-sport training blocks. As an event approached—like a swim meet or a marathon—we increased the frequency and duration of the appropriate workouts. I loved this opportunity to throw myself into one activity and dial in on making progress for a few weeks. This method worked well for the swim; throughout the past year, the sport has transformed from a workout I “had” to do into a session I truly “want” to do. I also discovered that signing up for certain events—like the New England Short-Course Yards Championships and the Coney Island Aquathlon—increased my devotion to the process. Now, I truly find joy in the water—and I firmly believe it’s the closest I’ll ever get to flying! This past year, I’ve also become closer with my swimming buds, and that’s another reason I’m excited to go to practice; not only do I have some super fast people to chase, but I also like hanging out with them outside of the water.

A photo from the race that did not make the blog–but I beat a local pro out of the water! (Full disclosure: she smoked me on the bike and obviously won the race.)

Overall, my race calendar looked much different than previous seasons. I hopped in a few swim meets and did some road races, but the biggest change was the lack of triathlons: I raced Rev3 Quassy in June and my hometown race in August (which I never blogged about so who knows if it actually happened, ha). This was all part of the plan, though. Targeting swim meets and SwimRunVA—as opposed to swim-bike-run events—posed an opportunity to work on my not-as-strong triathlon disciplines so I did a lot of swimming and running this season. A lot of the miles came from guiding an Achilles athlete—we trained for and completed two marathons, and we also did a five miler—and this fresh outlook was exactly what I needed after five years of doing tris. It was beneficial to take a step back from short-term performance and lay the foundation for long-term goals. Hopefully, this past season has set the stage for not only next year, but also a lifetime of sport.

Chasing the sun on dawn patrol

So what’s the plan for 2018? The first part of the season will mirror 2017: I’ll head back to Geneva, NY for another Seneca7 (yaaas!), and a few weeks later, I’ll travel to Boston with my Bearcat masters buds for the annual New England Short-Course Yards Championships. I’ll probably tackle a few running events too, and Team #TwoStevens has already signed up for another round of SwimRunVA.

I’m going long in 2018: my “A” races are Ironman 70.3 Syracuse in June and Ironman 70.3 Lake Placid in September.

I’m really excited to make the jump to the 70.3 distance. Ever since I volunteered at Ironman 70.3 Syracuse in 2012, I knew I’d do the race one day, but I did not want to rush the process. The distances have slowly become demystified over the years (1.2 miles of swimming, 56 miles of biking, and 13.1 miles of running), but even on your best day, it’s still going to be a tough race. And previously, that’s what worried me: how would I react when faced with adversity?

Searching for my running legs in the Bronx. They were not there.

Over the years, I’ve become mentally tougher and developed my race acumen so I feel more confident assessing the situation, making adjustments, and executing in the wake of hardships. During the past two seasons, especially, I noticed this change in my mental resolve: when my wheels stayed on at Nationals in Omaha two years ago despite the heat and humidity; when I dropped my chain at Rev3 Quassy in June, but remained calm and collected; and, of course, when I guided an Achilles athlete through two marathons. I built on my mental fortitude this past year by tackling longer events (like SwimRunVA), and I also survived several “character building” workouts and races. (Looking at you, Bronx 10 Miler.) Every 70.3 is a challenge, and I’m excited to devote myself to the training—and keep improving my mental game—and make some magic out there.

What are your goals for the upcoming year?

2nd Annual SwimRunVA Recap

On Saturday, Oct. 21, I completed my “A” race of the 2017 season, SwimRunVA. Held in Richmond, the endurance event spanned roughly 18 miles, totaling 3.3 miles of swimming in the James River and 14.9 miles of running along trails.

#TwoStevens!

The uniqueness of swimrun centers on its structure and logistics. Unlike typical road races and triathlons, this is a team event, meaning each athlete sticks with their partner for the duration of the competition. (Garden State SwimRun was an exception.) Most swimrun races are point-to-point, starting at A and traveling to B, and all contain multiple transitions that challenge athletes to go back and forth between swimming and running. Finally, all gear that is used for the swim must be carried on the run and vice versa; ultimately, this equates to swimming while wearing running shoes and running with paddles and pull buoys. Sounds like fun, right?

Pull buoys, paddles, wetsuits, oh my!

“Fun” was the guiding principle for my triathlon training this year. My coach and I worked to round out my endurance portfolio, gain multisport experience in a variety of events, and ultimately keep this lifestyle fresh and fun: I guided an Achilles athlete for a marathon (and we’re doing the NYC Marathon tomorrow, but that’s another post!); I participated in swim meets; and, I competed in two swimrun events.

Getting after it on the trails

SwimRunVA sounded interesting because with the abovementioned outlook, it demanded lots of swim and run training, which meant lots of time working on my not-as-strong triathlon disciplines. Since I had never attempted this type of race, my training saw some new techniques and different workouts, and it also introduced a team component. Although I love competing solo, I grew up playing team sports; the fact that I would be tackling 3.3 miles of swimming and 14.9 miles of running with a friend not only gave me peace of mind—knowing we were in it together—but it also made me train harder. It was easier to tap in to motivation knowing that my teammate was counting on me.

Scoping out the swim

As the race approached, my teammate and I met up once each week and completed swim-run bricks together: twenty minutes of swimming, 20 minutes of running, 20 minutes of swimming, etc. These workouts gave us the chance to identify sustainable paces (we projected a five-hour finishing time), work on communication, and above all, get used to transitioning from swimming to running and vice versa. Each Sunday was a key workout day for me: I’d run 3.5 miles to masters practice, swim for two hours, and run 3.5 miles back home. Overall, I swam 4-5 days per week and ran four days.

Sighting #AllForTheSwim

Anyway, onto our memorable weekend in Richmond!

We flew down from New York City late Thursday afternoon, which gave us enough time to get our bearings, explore the area, and take care of last-minute race necessities. We ordered a swim-run race kit from Europe that contained our tether, pull buoys, and compasses, but the package was held in customs, leaving us without gear. Luckily, we found a swim shop within an aquatics center, so we bought the required items. Friday morning began with a shake-out half-mile “run” to the Black Sheep for breakfast, and we also ventured down to the American Civil War Museum to check out the mighty James River—its surging rapids and monstrous boulders were clear indicators of just how gnarly the swim portions would be, and we were pumped!

So gnarly

One reason the boulders were so visible was due to the low water level, the race director Jay told us at the pre-race briefing and dinner. (Sidebar: two thumbs up for the veg-friendly spread!) Last year, the James was about five feet deep while the water measured 3.5 feet. This meant we would have to swim around and potentially over these rocks, and these natural road blocks added an extra challenge to navigating the course: there was never a true straight line we could follow. Unlike triathlon, where there are buoys stationed at various points on the course, the swims in Richmond had two buoys only—one at the entry point, and one where competitors exited. Safety measures and general swimrun etiquette was also discussed, and Jay also reviewed the course in its entirety. Although SwimRunVA was only my second ever event of that kind, I felt relaxed and at ease after the briefing. Sure, there was some uncertainty—how would my “new” pull buoy hold up on the run? What if we got lost?—but it would be an adventure!

Fiddling with my paddles

I wish I could talk about each of the seven runs and six swims in great detail, but honestly, the entire race was a blur. My teammate and I settled in to a comfortable, endurance pace with the objective of managing our energy and simply enjoying the day. The opening run and swim segments set the tone for outing as we were greeted by a gorgeous sunrise. During those moments—especially during the swim as it was the longest continuous one of the day at 1.1 miles—I took time to reflect. I felt grateful to be in nature, exploring a new-to-me area. I felt grateful to have a body that allowed me to swim and run. And I felt grateful for the experience as it was unfolding moment to moment.

Thanks for the suit, Blueseventy!

Race day conditions were perfect. The air temperature started around 50 degrees and steadily climbed to the low 70s, and the water hovered around 60 degrees. The first swim felt a little brisk, but it ended up being ideal as the race progressed; each time we finished a run segment, we were ready to get in the water and cool off. (There are a handful of companies that make swimrun suits, and Blueseventy hooked me up with a prototype they are introducing to the market next year. I absolutely loved it!) Most of the running legs traversed trails, but there were a handful of “urban” running segments with stairs, ladders, and—my favorite—a pipeline. Full disclosure, we did get lost three times, but that was our fault. (Race protocol dictated we carry a course map, which proved to be helpful in these instances, ha.) Plus, it gave us a chance to further explore Richmond.

I felt like I was in The Hunger Games!

Team Two Stevens finished in 4:47, and we narrowly missed the podium in the mixed division—by four seconds! But more importantly, we had a blast, and we already registered for next year’s race.

2017 Garden State SwimRun Recap

This past Saturday, my Cannondale Slice remained at home as I went to New Jersey and completed my first swim-run endurance event, the Garden State SwimRun.

All photos are from the Garden State SwimRun Facebook page.

I’ve taken a step back from racing triathlons this season and focused on rounding out my endurance portfolio: competing at swim meets, guiding for Achilles, and volunteering for the Challenged Athletes Foundation at the New York City Triathlon. The catalyst for this decision was my “A” race this year, SwimRunVA, a team-based outing where pairs are tethered together and alternate between—you guessed it—swimming and running. Even though being tethered was not an option this past weekend, the event still presented an opportunity to familiarize ourselves with this new-to-us world.

Most of our anxiousness surrounding swim-run derived from logistical uncertainty, especially since everything athletes use for swimming must be worn while running: what shoes (and socks?) could we wear without getting blisters; how would we carry our paddles and pull buoys on the run; when and how would we take nutrition? We both researched, but reading cannot replace doing; we went into this outing with open minds, good spirits, and a willingness to ask questions, make mistakes, and soak in the experience. After all, this was trial run (and swim … and run …) for our goal race.

We made the hour-long drive to Randolph, NJ and were the second people to arrive at the race. With more than an hour before the start, there was plenty of time to study the course map, pick the brains of race organizers and more experienced athletes, and attempt to develop a plan for transition from one sport to another.

#TwoStevens coming through!

As stated above, during a swim-run event, competitors are allowed to use paddles and pull buoys (which is not the case for triathlon), but all gear must be carried or worn during each segment. This means, yes, you swim while wearing your running shoes, and as my teammate and I discovered, you run while wearing your paddles. One of the race organizers (who generously loaned me her pull buoy) advised rotating our paddles during the run segments: simply moving these plastic fins from under our palms to sitting on top of our hands led to a more “natural” arm carriage during the run portions. The seasoned swim-runners rigged their pull buoys to be attached to their hips with elastic strings. Like the paddles, this foam floatation device was simply swiveled from between the legs to the hip depending on the current segment. We plan to do the same for October, but during this race, we simply stuffed the buoy in the back of our tri tops.

The race began with a 0.25-mile run that took us around a baseball field. I had flashbacks to my softball days!

Garden State SwimRun saw about 100 competitors and offered two distances: the sport distance (5.45 miles total) and elite distance (10.9 miles total) with the sport option consisting of one loop and the elite course spanning two. Since my teammate and I will tackle three miles of swimming and 15 miles of running in October, we opted for the longer distance that featured 16 transitions. Our plan was to dial in to a sustainable, endurance effort.  As our first race of this kind, we were realistic and conservative.  Although similar to triathlon, swim-run is its own multi-sport world; just as we train consistently for swim-bike-run events, others log serious hours swimming and running.  Overall, we approached this outing with respect–for the course itself, for the total distance, and for our fellow athletes.

Focusing … on not falling.

And we had an absolute blast! There were tons of volunteers stationed on the swim course and by transitions, plus there were some manning water stations on the run legs. Going into this race, both my partner and I put a lot of thought into transitions and logistics, but once we started the event, our bodies took over; there was no thinking—especially on the trails—and we simply reacted. As a stronger swimmer, I used my time in the water to recover, stretching out my strokes and settling in to a bilateral breathing pattern. (When I race, I breathe every stroke.) The trails were more demanding, especially since my experience running off-road is extremely limited.  Luckily, my teammate led the way, so I followed his line and tried not to trip.  We chatted a bit during the run segments, but the longest and most technical leg (2.58 miles) felt like an active meditation:  I focused on the step that was immediately in front of me and couldn’t let my mind wander. The few times I almost zoned out, I almost wiped out! (Note: I did not fall once!) We balanced each other out too: my strength lies in the swim, so I led; once we arrived to the run sections, I followed my partner’s line. We finished in 3:17:59 almost squarely in the middle of the pack.

Watch out, SwimRun VA–Team #TwoStevens is coming for you!

2017 Coney Island Aquathlon Recap

On Saturday, July 15th, I completed my first swim-run event, the Coney Island Aquathlon.  As its name suggests, the race took place in Coney Island, and it ended up being my first trip to the Brooklyn neighborhood that’s famous for its boardwalk, amusement park rides, and carnival foods. More importantly, this competition served as an introduction to the swim-run world; my “A” race this year is SwimRun VA in October.

All calm at the swim start

The event offered several distance options with solely open-water swims (0.5 mi., one mile and two miles) and swim-run categories (0.5-mi swim and three mile run; one-mile swim and three mile run; two-mile swim and six-mile run) offered. Three of my Bearcat masters buds registered for the race, and we all opted for the “long course” two-mile swim and six-mile run. Although there were difference between this race and what I will be doing this fall, the main similarly I wanted to experience was the transition from swimming to running: how my legs would feel, what my heart rate would do, and how easily would I settle in to my desired pace.

My race plan was simple: warm up the first mile of the swim; build the effort through mile two; and keep my heart rate under control during the run. From the “Trial By Fire” races I completed with my old triathlon team—where we alternated between swimming and running—I knew this third goal would be the toughest. Without fail, my heart rate would skyrocket as I exited the water and started to run so I expected the same experience.

Overall, the swim progressed smoothly. Well, the water was choppy—I felt like I was in a washing machine—but there wasn’t a lot of jockeying for position or contact with other swimmers. Competitors were released based on which distance they were doing, and even though there were only about 40 people doing the longer race, I swam solo for the majority of the time. There were a few opportunities to draft, but I got impatient swimming in the pack. In hindsight, I should’ve been more assertive in terms of joining a group off the bat, but since I had never raced two miles in the open water, I wanted to be conservative. For what it’s worth the top two women did the swim in 55 minutes, and my split clocked 1:01. (The woman who placed third completed the swim in one hour.)

In an effort to keep my heart rate under control, I took my time as I transitioned from one sport to the next: jogging to the transition area, peeling off my wetsuit, slipping on my running shoes, and ultimately heading out onto the boardwalk.

Locked in and finishing strong

I settled into my pace fairly easily, but I immediately had issues with my breathing. During a triathlon, it takes me about a mile to feel “good,” but my lungs were still burning when I hit the 2.5-mile mark so I backed off the pace. I told myself I’d increase the effort once my heart rate was OK, but that didn’t happen until mile five. (When my coach and I talked about this challenge after the race, we were able to identify a few ways to key my heart rate in check.) On the bright side, the weather was perfect. The sun came out around the mile five, but I finished the race strong and sans sunburn.

Where is everybody? Ha!

I also won my age group (full disclosure: I was the only girl in my age group, ha!) and placed fourth overall among women. My Bearcat buds crushed it—one guy won the race overall, and the other two took first and second in their age groups—and I had a blast seeing them out on the run course. It was a great day of doing sports with friends, and I’m excited to apply the lessons I learned to my swim-run training and beyond.

When’s your next race?

A Long Overdue Update: Seneca7, Rev3 Quassy, and Lake Placid

Hello.  It’s me.  I was wondering if after all … these months you’d like an update?  Yes?  Good.

Summer nights in the city

As you noticed, I failed to write a blog post following the Seneca7 in April. For the second consecutive year—and third time total—I tackled the 77.7-mile relay race around Seneca Lake with some of my best runner friends. We had a blast, and it was an unforgettable weekend, but when I thought about articulating the weekend, I struggled to find the words.

The Seven PerSISTERS

The CNY running and endurance community suffered a tragic loss at this race with a local legend passing away. Although I didn’t know him well, we met a few times at Fleet Feet events during the summer of 2012. His energy and enthusiasm were infectious, and I wanted to soak up his positivity and knowledge. When I visited the shop during my trips home, I would occasionally see him, and that was the extent of our interactions. Our paths didn’t cross during the Seneca7 itself, but upon hearing the news, I struggled to accept it. How could this happen to someone so young, so passionate, so selfless?

Summer solstice sunrise

For the following few weeks, the news consumed my thoughts, especially during workouts—the endurance sets in the pool, the VO2 max efforts in the saddle, the speedwork intervals on the pavement. Working through the disbelief, the shock, the sadness by swimming, biking, and running helped, and it gave my training a renewed sense of appreciation.  Life is too short to pursue things that don’t bring us truly alive; this sport, this lifestyle, this community make me feel complete.

My happy place: in the saddle

This perspective made me feel relaxed heading into my first triathlon of the year, Rev3 Quassy. A hilly and technical course, this race broke me last year: in what is usually my strongest discipline, the bike made me feel uncomfortable, ill prepared and absolutely dejected, and I carried these sentiments onto the run. This year, the plan was simple: execute a solid swim; ride conservatively on the bike; and hang tough on the run.

During the first event of the season, there are always kinks to iron out, but the outing progressed smoothly.

Pleased with my execution and pleasantly surprised to bring this home

Aside from dropping my chain during the 40-K bike ride—and having to get off my bike to fix it—I had a good day and even managed to sneak on in my age group. I was shocked given the technicality of the course and my mechanical issue. Any day you wind up on the podium is a good day, but I was even happier with my progress:  I shaved off three minutes from my swim; I refused to let the mechanical issue spiral out of control on the bike and simply accepted it and moved on; and I hung tough on the run and even passed people.  This season debut gave me even more confidence in my abilities, progress, and mental game.  It also peaked my interest in long-course racing since I dialed into an endurance effort on the bike and felt comfortable on the run.

Not ready to be done … who am I?

The long-course thoughts continued as I traveled to Lake Placid in mid-June for our yearly training trip. I trained like a 70.3 athlete for four days and took full advantage of serene Mirror Lake and the beautifully brutal bike and run courses: I logged four swims, two rides, and two runs, which equated to nearly five miles of swimming, 100-plus miles of riding, and 17 miles of running. Open-water swims occurred every day, and I rode one 56-mile loop of bike course on Friday and Saturday.

Bro-ing out and keeping an eye on the boys as they fixed a flat tire

The second ride provided a new Sherpa/emotional guardian experiences: two guys in our group are doing Ironman Lake Placid, and they needed to ride 112 miles (two loops of the course) on Saturday, and I tagged along for miles 56-112. Although I’ve witnessed friends in various stages of their Ironman training—and have even been on hand during the race itself—I had not witnessed the crucial 100-mile ride firsthand, specifically the backend when things can unravel. There were a few tough moments out there—for those who know the course, especially during the final 12-mile climb back into town—but the guys did great.

Never have I ever spontaneously signed up for a half-marathon. Oh, wait …

Placid is paradise and makes me feel fully alive—and it also tempts me do crazy things, like spontaneously sign up for a half-marathon. To be fair, there was some peer pressure (thanks a lot, long-course buds!), but I did not need much convincing. Any and all time I could spend outdoors was welcome, and again, my long-course wheels were turning: the 13.1-mile run was nearly identical to the route athletes will run at the inaugural Ironman 70.3 Lake Placid this September. Thankfully, my coach gave me the green light, and he instructed me to use this outing as a pure recovery run, especially since I was coming off 100-plus miles of cycling of the past two days.

As I ticked off mile after mile, I was grateful to be moving at a pace of “hanging out for a scenic tour of Placid” and not pushing it because the course was absolutely beautiful, and the outing served as a good recon session as well. I even got to run with a super cute ultra runner who looked like a lumberjack. It was the perfect way to end the one of the best weekends of the year.

Never leaving

So what’s coming up? I tackled my first aquathlon this past weekend in Coney Island. A few of my Bearcat masters buds raced as well, and we all completed the two-mile open-water swim and six-mile run. It was an adventure, and I learned a lot out there; it was a good simulation for my “A” race, SwimRun VA in October. Hopefully I can post a race report within a reasonable amount of time. This weekend is the NYC Triathlon, and like last year, I will be volunteering for the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) as a handler.

What’s new with you?

Triathlon Training Log – Week 14 (April 3)

It always feels like the weekdays drag while the weekend flies by.

As seen after my run

This week seemed especially long since I had non-training commitments every night after work. Being busy is good, but I definitely need a few more days to recover, ha.

Training notes: my coach and I met last week for a summit meeting to recap the off-season and discuss my triathlon life. I made a lot of progress on my swim and run throughout the past few months, but I am ready to be a triathlete again and become BFFs with my bike. Because I was logging laps and running miles, I lost a lot of watts, so I have my work cut out for me—but the month of April is all about the bike.

Monday – a.m. CompuTrainer class at Tailwind Endurance

After a busy and high volume weekend, my legs needed this 75-munute spin-out. It took about 40 minutes for everything to loosen up, but I felt much better getting off the bike than I did getting on.

Tuesday – a.m. brick (CompuTrainer class at Tailwind Endurance and run in Central Park)

April is brick month at Tailwind Endurance, and we kicked off the campaign with some #2MileTuesday action: this consisted of a 75-minute threshold ride and—you guessed it—a two-mile run off the bike. This was my first run after the marathon (you know you’re a triathlete when …), and I headed to Central Park with one of my friends for a lower loop. I was pleasantly surprised how comfortable everything felt.

Wednesday – a.m. swim with Bearcat masters

Coming off my first true brick of the season, I wasn’t sure how quickly my body would recover and turn around for a quality swim. Although this was a freestyle-based practice, there was a lot of choice stroke work, but I chose to do freestyle, ha.

Thursday – a.m. CompuTrainer class at Tailwind Endurance

Nothing showy or flashy about this workout: 6×3 minutes at VO2 max with a long warm-up and cool down.

Friday – a.m. swim with Bearcat masters

For whatever reason, this swim felt like a breakthrough workout. I’ve been feeling a bit down on my swimming after last weekend’s meet, but I felt so good in the water during this IM session—and not just during freestyle. Maybe this is a turning point, or maybe it’s mental, but either way, it was a great 3500m swim.

Saturday – a.m. CompuTrainer class at Tailwind Endurance; p.m. swim with Bearcat masters

A most successful sports Saturday: two hours on the bike and 1.5 hours in the water. The ride consisted of a 3×20 minutes at threshold main set, and we tackled 4200m of freestyle work with lots of pulling and kicking in the pool.

Sunday – a.m. run

Since April is all about the bike, my “long run” will decrease: today, for example, I met my run bud for 5.5 miles. That’s it. My legs felt like molasses from the biking this week so I was glad there were not double digits on the schedule.

What are your goals this month?

Triathlon Training Log – Week 13 (March 27)

Yesterday afternoon, in addition to conquering my second swim meet in three weeks and third one ever, I enjoyed some delicious dim sum with my Bearcat teammates.

Surprisingly, not stuffed with pork, but rather a sweet, egg custard. Yum!

We pigged out big time!

Training notes: this week was all about recovering from last Sunday’s 26.2-mile adventure. (The recap is almost done, promise.) Although I was able to walk and move around fairly well on Monday, I didn’t start to feel somewhat normal until Thursday. And I learned the hard way that I cannot run a marathon and then expect to slice through the water at a swim meet.

Monday – p.m. CompuTrainer spin-out at Tailwind Endurance

After work, I went to Tailwind for an easy 30-minute spin-out and spent some quality time in the NormaTec sleeves.

Tuesday – a.m. CompuTrainer class at Tailwind Endurance

Another easy spin session at Tailwind. This time, I went before work—and saw a bunch of my triathlon buds—and made adjustments to the prescribed workout. Basically, I hung out at 70-75 percent for 70 minutes.

Wednesday – a.m. swim with Bearcat masters

After a week-long hiatus, I returned to the water. My legs still felt toasted from Sunday, but I hung tough for 4200m of freestyle swimming.

Thursday – a.m. CompuTrainer class at Tailwind Endurance

A Sufferfest workout was on the docket, and while the class tackled the prescribed intervals, my coach instructed me to do the VO2 max efforts as threshold blocks. My legs felt surprisingly OK, and I was even getting a little ancy toward the end of the workout because I wanted to push more.

Friday – a.m. swim with Bearcat masters

Woohoo for Friday Fly Day! My body felt much better in the water, but this IM-based, butterfly-focused workout was still brutal. We logged 4000m.

Saturday – a.m. CompuTrainer class at Tailwind Endurance; p.m. swim with Bearcat Masters

Sportz Saturdays are back! The day started with a two-hour ride at Tailwind Endurance. It was a tough workout with intervals ranging from 80 to 105 percent without any true recovery. (Blocks at 70 percent were considered recovery.) I hit my numbers and survived the ride, but I have a lot of work to do in the saddle.

That afternoon, I went to the pool for a 90-minute distance freestyle swim. My favorite set of the day was the 5x200s. I love locking into that pace. We also spent some time working on starts off the blocks for the upcoming meet.

SundayNYC Parks Swim Meet

Lesson learned: I cannot except to swim fast one week after running a marathon. There were about 30 Bearcats who went to Queens for this meet, and since most of us competed at Harvard two weeks ago, expectations were low. In hindsight, I should’ve done what my teammates did and swam events I “didn’t care about” like the 50-yard breaststroke and maybe the 100-yard butterfly. Instead I swam personal worsts in the 200 and 500 freestyle and the 100 IM. Oh well. Train, race, and learn.

How long does it take you to recover from races?

2017 New England LMSC Short Course Yards Championship Recap

From Friday, March 17 through Sunday, March 19, my Bearcat masters teammates and I traveled to Boston for the New England LMSC Short Course Yards Championship.

Hello. It’s me.

A staple event for my team, this competition was my first multi-day and short-course yards meet. (My first two meets were measured in meters.) Suffice to say, it was a weekend of learning, absorbing, and growing as an endurance athlete, and I had a blast butterflying, backstroking, breaststroking, and freestyling.

Even though I took swimming lessons as a kid, I cannot compare myself to folks who logged laps through high school and college.  The competitive swimming learning curve is steep.  Yes, I had goals for the meet, but they centered on execution as opposed to performance-based, numerical values.  As I’ve learned with triathlon—and to paraphrase legendary basketball coach John Wooden—when I focus on doing the little things right, that makes the big things happen.

I went to Harvard … for a weekend for a swim meet. (Don’t worry, Mom: the tattoo is temporary.)

Speaking of John Wooden, I had flashbacks to my basketball days as we rode the bus from New York City to Boston on Thursday night: heading to another city for a weekend of competing, cheering, and hanging out.  During the 4.5-hour drive, my teammates talked me through the structure of the meet and gave me tips for warming up, cooling down, and staying composed during the eight-plus hours we’d be spending at the pool each day.  We also talked a lot about eating and team dinners, and it became apparent food was a top priority for swimmers.  Full disclosure:  I quickly hopped aboard the all-you-can-eat bandwagon and had two breakfasts every morning.  I even went to an amazingly delicious diner after finishing my final event.

So metabolically inefficient, so not caring. Thanks to The Breakfast Club for making this spread possible.

To be fair, swimming five events (50 free, 100 free, 200 free, 500 free, and 100 IM) over the course of three days revved my appetite.  I spent the most time in the water on Saturday, swimming the 500 free, 50 free, and 100 IM.  On Friday, I swam the 100 free and 200 free relay.  On Sunday, I did the 200 free. Heading into the weekend, this line-up seemed doable.  After all, I was “racing” 1000 yards over three days, and we typically swim 3000m each day during practice.  But when you calculate warm-ups (800 yards or so each morning) and cool downs (100-300 yards after each event), it was a lot of swimming:  high intensity swimming, slicing through the water swimming, searing pain swimming that made my muscles scream.  But that’s when the race starts, and that’s what makes it fun:  when your body begs you to relent, slow down, or stop all together, what do you do?

Just do it

As the weekend progressed, I became increasingly comfortable and confident reading the heat sheets and remembering my lane assignment, developing a warm-up and cool down routine, and managing my nerves and excitement.  This was a big meet, and the events progressed quickly:  the competition pool contained eight lanes, and each event saw as few as 8 or as many as 20 heats. (For example: the women’s 400 IM wasn’t a popular event; the men’s 50 free, however, was the polar opposite.) There were two adjoining, but separate pools, which were designated as warm-up and cool down areas.  Sometimes, I had a lane to myself; others, I was circle-swimming with six people.  I liked how there was a specific time each day to practice starts off the blocks.  I need a lot of practice with dives.  One of my teammates helped me adjust the blocks and gave me some pointers, and I could feel myself progressing throughout the weekend.  I enter the water with a little more pop and authority these days, although I still have plenty of room for improvement.

#WannabeSwimmer?

I had the most fun swimming the 200 freestyle relay on Friday afternoon, and I confirmed my partiality toward the longer distances of the 200 and 500 yards.  One of the coaches said people either love or hate the 200, and it’s an event that plays to my strengths as an endurance athlete—it demands speed, endurance, and the ability to hurt.  These characteristics matter for the 50 and 100 too, but elements like getting off the blocks (I may be the slowest swimmer off the blocks) and breathing patterns (apparently, you aren’t supposed to breathe every stroke during a 50 because it slows you down) matter more, and I simply have not developed those skills yet.  Again, those little things—starts, turns, breathing patterns—make the big things happen, and those little things mean more during shorter events.  If I’m the last one off the blocks during a 50, I can’t make that up.  Plus, I like the pacing strategy behind the 200 and 500.  The 200 was my final event of the meet, and it was the one I executed the most precisely: redline off the blocks for 50, settle in to 87 percent for the second 50, and then build through 100 by 25s.  I had a similar strategy for the 500: use the adrenaline off the blocks, settle in, and then increase the effort at the 300-yard mark.  Overall, my triathlon background translates better to those longer distances, so going forward, that’s what I’ll be focused on.

A complete race recap needs results so here are mine:

Friday
100 free – 1:05.68 (seed – 1:06); 10th AG

Saturday

500 free – 6:32.29 (seed – 8:00); 11th AG

100 IM – 1:24.40 (seed – 1:30); 21st AG

50 free – 30.90 (seed – 32.00); 10th AG

Sunday

200 free – 2:25.28 (seed – 2:48); 8th AG

When is your next race?

Triathlon Training Log – Week 11 (March 13)

I’m a few days late with this post, but with good reason.

Blodgett Pool at Harvard: so much room for activities!

From Friday through Sunday, I spent some quality time with my Bearcat masters teammates at Harvard competing at the New England LMSC Short Course Yards Championship. This is a staple event for my team, and my only regret is waiting so long to attend—I had so much fun!

Training notes: this week centered on keeping my legs and body fresh for the swim meet. Thanks to Winter Storm Stella, I didn’t run at all, but that may have worked in my favor because my legs felt great throughout the weekend.

Monday – a.m. CompuTrainer class at Tailwind Endurance

It’s been a while since we’ve done this workout titled “Peter Rabbit.” Following a 15-minute warm-up, we faced three intervals that contained tempo and threshold efforts: four minutes at 88 percent, then two minutes at threshold times three (with one-minute rest between).

Tuesdaya.m. run and p.m. run off

Thanks to Winter Storm Stella, there was no working out—but I needed the rest day.

Wednesday – a.m. swim with Bearcat masters

About half the people at practice were heading to Harvard, so the coach divided us into two groups and programmed different workouts: a “normal” swim and a taper one. I opted for the taper option, and we did a lot of race-paced efforts (mostly 100s) and practiced diving off the blocks. I never thought I’d see the day where 3200m was a taper swim.

Thursday – a.m. CompuTrainer class at Tailwind Endurance

Easy spin-out to keep the legs fresh for the weekend. After work, I hopped on the bus with my Bearcat teammates and headed to Boston.

Friday – New England LMSC Short Course Yards Championships

I. Love. Swimming. Full recap to come, but my first short-course yards meet started with the 100-yard freestyle (1:05.68) and the 200-yard freestyle relay.

Saturday – New England LMSC Short Course Yards Championships

Day two packed the most action in the pool: 500-yard freestyle (6:32.29), 100-yard IM (1:24.40), and 50-yard freestyle (30.90).

Sunday – New England LMSC Short Course Yards Championships

The 200-yard freestyle (2:25.28) ended up being my favorite distance of the weekend, and it was my lone event on the final day of competition.

How was your weekend?

Triathlon Training Log – Week 10 (March 6)

Although half over already (what?), March will be a memorable month.

Long run headspace for the win

Next weekend is my third swim meet, and on the 26th, I’m guiding an Achilles athlete for the Queens Marathon. Big things coming!

Training notes: overall, this was another good week of swimming, biking, and running, and I also came to a few conclusions about training thus far. First, after Monday’s power test, I confirmed I cannot expect to make huge gains on the bike by riding only twice per week. I also realized I am ready to start biking more (remember how I avoided my bike for three months during the off-season?). This realization came at the right time, although I have a few events to finish first—my swim meet on St. Patrick’s Day weekend and the Queens Marathon on the 26th. After those two outings—and after some recovery from running 26.2 miles—we will shift to traditional triathlon training. Although I like swimming four times per week, my swim frequency will decrease to make room for more biking and running intensity.

Monday – a.m. CompuTrainer class at Tailwind Endurance

So that was a power test that happened. It had been a year since my last one, and I forgot how mentally tough it is. We started with a five-minute “blowout” effort to wake up the legs and open up the lungs before the official test began. I broke up the 20 minutes into mini, five-minute blocks and focused on building the effort throughout.  I did not make as many watts as I wanted, but I will get them back.

Tuesday – a.m. run and p.m. run

Started the day with five Cat Hill repeats for a total of five miles. After work, my Achilles buddy and I met up for a loop of Central Par. We both wore our neon Achilles t-shirts and received a ton of cheers and words of encouragement.

Wednesday – a.m. swim with Bearcat masters

There was a lot of “choice” work during this practice, meaning each swimmer got to select which stroke(s) to do—and since I have a swim meet in a week, I chose IM. (Never thought I’d see the day!)

Thursday – a.m. CompuTrainer class at Tailwind Endurance

This short, 60-minute ride was a “zone tester” to make sure our new FTPs were accurate. Since my FTP increased only a handful of watts, I didn’t have too much trouble hitting and holding threshold and low VO2 max intervals.

Friday – a.m. swim with Bearcat masters

We kicked off taper week with some short and fast efforts (lots of 25s and 50s), and during the workout, we also had our choice of strokes to work on. Since I’m doing the 100 IM at Harvard, that’s what I chose to do during our main set. I logged about 3,000m before heading to work.

Saturday – a.m. run; p.m. swim with Bearcat masters

Like last week, I tackled my long run on Saturday (12-mile progression run) before a longer, 1.5-hour (and 3,700m) swim with my Bearcat buds. It was a high-volume day, but I felt great during and after both workouts.

Sunday – p.m. swim with Bearcat masters

Short, hour-long swim just to get a feel for the water

When’s your next race?