Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pool again

There is something depressing about the first pool workout after having such a fantastic time in Virginia at the Jim McDonnell Lake Swims. But, even though I was very pleased with how I did, I know I can do even better. And that means not slacking off on my training. Also that was just the season opener for me. I'm planning to make my first open water swimming season as busy as possible.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

1 Mile

The one mile race was my third ever open water race. Also third in two days. And my seventh trip around  Lake Audubon. I put myself towards the back of my wave and followed the pack out onto the dogleg. This was the first (and only) time I actually caught a look at my lovely wife, watching from the walkway.
I was a little tired by this point but I figured there was no point in holding back, if I had any power to spare now was the time to pour it on. By this time navigating the course actually wasn't hard. I could feel that sighting was more effort than before, though. This was probably a good thing, because I think I started to be more efficient about it.
Everything felt pretty smooth until I had already passed the turnaround buoy and was on the long stretch back in. I slowly reeled in another swimmer who I had spotted a few yards ahead of me. I pulled up on his right within about 8 feet and half a body length behind. I figured I'd be happy to stay right there or, maybe, if I was lucky, actually pass him. But then the distance between us had disappeared and I  had to veer right to avoid crashing into him. So I corrected and then I had to veer again to avoid crashing into him. And then a third time. I figured maybe I should try picking up my pace. If I spent less time swimming alongside him maybe he wouldn't have time to wander so far off course. Well that plan failed and the long-delayed collision took place. It wasn't really much of anything. I slowed down, skipped a stroke and got behind him for the draft. I'm still having trouble with drafting so after a little while I swung way out to his left and got back to swimming my own pace.
I lost track of him almost immediately so I don't know if I actually did wind up  passing him or not. For that matter I can't tell if he was practicing some racing technique and deliberately boxing me out or if he just tends to pull to the right. In fairness I should allow that I may have been pulling to the left. But I don't think so.
When I got around the drain I let it all go and did a reasonable approximation of a sprint into the finish line.
Three races, one clinic, two days and it was time to head for home.

After I grabbed a little more food

2 miles

Between Saturday and Sunday they adjusted one (or two?) of the buoys so that the course would be a true mile instead of one and two-thirds kilometers. I couldn't tell the difference. I'm not even sure which buoy(s) they moved. In any case since I knew I could make three times around before being overtaken by my own hunger I started out pretty confident. I think maybe I was not the only one who felt that way because my group (wave C) went out faster than my wave in the 5k. Anyway it seemed faster. By the time I came out of the dogleg and back to the main lake I was looking at a pack of swimmers way out in front of me. It was more or less what the leaders of the clinic swim had looked like just before I lost track of them entirely. I said to myself  "Well Rick, there's basically no chance of chasing them down so just relax and focus on your stroke" So that's what I did.

It came as a bit of a surprise to me when I made the first 90 degree turn at the far end of the lake and found that I was right on top of them. I seem to lose track of other swimmers at the turns so I don't know how many of them I actually passed, but that was still a pretty good ego boost. Things got a little more spread out on the way back but I think I might have passed one or two more people. But as I was swimming around the drain two swimmers blew right past me. It is possible they had been riding my draft for a little while and jumped on their chance to make a break. But at least I know they weren't the winners lapping me, because I then followed them most of the way to the turnaround at the end of the dogleg. Everything felt  pretty smooth for the rest of the swim. There were maybe two other swimmers around me for the home stretch. When I caught sight of the drain I saw there were two swimmers just starting around it. I thought to myself "Rick, you can catch those two" I expected that if I caught them they would race me into the finish. Instead I blew right past them. It was not until later that I realized they must have been from a later wave just starting their second lap. Sorry guys!

I felt pretty strong jogging up out the water into the finishing chute. Time for a little more food and then one more race.

The clinic

The advice on navigation that they gave  during the clinic might have been helpful to me before blundering through the 5K. Not that it was useless after one open water race. Use big features on the shoreline to help you navigate. Get a look at the course before the race. They talked a little about the mental aspects of open water and mentioned a few drills that use might use in your training. But there is no substitute for practice which is why the clinic included a practice swim.

The swim had wave starts just like the races. From my point of view the major difference is that there were not as many faster swimmers participating in the clinic. Which meant that I started in the first wave. I put myself toward the back of the group and we were off. This was wave A so there were some fast swimmers. I didn't even make an attempt to hang with them. My short term goal was to keep them in sight. So I followed the lead pack around the dogleg and back towards the main lake. But by the time I had turned out of the dogleg and onto the main part of the lake I had lost track of the lead pack. I couldn't see anyone to either side. I suppose a savvy and experienced swimmer could have been riding my draft at this point but I doubt it. So I swam out the rest of the course on my own, without a bunch of other swimmers to help my navigation. Much to my delight I managed fine on my own. I did pause on my way back between the turnaround and the finish and look around. I couldn't spot anyone in front of me or behind. I got to the finish feeling great and went for a second round of food.


I was seeded in wave D for the 5K swim. So I got to see waves A through C start. I walked into the water with group D and put myself toward the back of the group. I had no experience swimming in a pack and didn't want to risk getting kicked, elbowed, or tangled up with the other swimmers any more than absolutely necessary. We got the signal to go and I started off slowly, trying to stay behind the pack and follow them to the first buoy. I had looked at the course map plenty of times but I didn't really have any sense of scale. How long would it take me to get to the first turnaround? More importantly, how long would it feel like it took me to get to the first turnaround? How close would I need to be to spot the buoys? I didn't know any of these things. (as it turns out I guessed right about how close I need to be to spot a buoy: pretty close) Anyway my guidelines were go with the flow and keep the shore on my right.

I followed the pack to the first turnaround buoy and got myself around it without getting lost. A little bit after the buoy I got that horrible feeling. The feeling that tells me that there is no way I can keep this up and I may as well quit right now. It is pretty disheartening to get that feeling so early on in a race. On the other hand maybe it has to show up at some point and it's better to get it out of the way soon. Since that feeling has shown up a few minutes into every long workout that I've done since February I know it doesn't mean a thing.

I relaxed and completed my first lap around the course, navigating almost entirely by the other swimmers and the shore. By the second lap I was feeling a little more confident. I thought that since I had just gotten a swimmer's eye view of the course I would have an easier time navigating. Not so much. On the long stretch down the main part of the lake I spotted a buoy and started to turn around it. About six strokes past it I realized that it was not, in fact, a turnaround buoy. It was a stay-between-this buoy-and-the-shore buoy. Oops. So put myself back on the course and continued on my way feeling foolish and slightly annoyed. When I did find the turnaround buoy (by following the other swimmers) I thought that maybe it was bigger than the others. That was my new working assumption.

At the end of my second lap of the course I felt better than I had at the end of the first. By this time I actually was getting a little bit of a feel for the course. When I passed the last turnaround buoy I thought  I would try to pick up the pace on the long straight stretch towards the finish. It was exactly then that my calves told me quite firmly that if I tried to kick any harder they would cramp up and cramp up hard. My stomach then spoke up. It spoke of a cavernous, gaping, empty feeling, and threatened that if I did not do something to remedy this gnawing painful hunger it would instigate a work slowdown and my shoulders would definitely be on board with this. So I said to my stomach "look, there is food at the finish line. As much as we need. The faster we get there the faster we eat" 

I can't actually be sure that I swam any faster on the home stretch. I did pass a lot of other swimmers, but according to my calculations they might have been from a later wave on their second lap of the course.

I finished in good form, meaning I did not trip, or knock over any of the officials despite feeling slightly dizzy from suddenly being vertical.  Someone handed me a bottle of water, someone else took the timing chip off my ankle, a third person took a numbered bib out of my cap.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Jim McDonnell Lake Swim

So first the basics

Who: Reston Masters
What: The 25th annual Jim McDonnell Lake Swims
When: Memorial Day Weekend (May 26-27 2012)
Where: Lake Audubon
Why: Why not?

Lake Audubon is a pretty fantastic venue for an open water swim. The lake drops off sharply. The only time I ever got a look at the bottom was at the start/finish line.  Of course, I couldn't see the ropes below any of the turn buoys either, so water clarity was very limited. The only thing I could see below me while swimming was a fairly uniform shade of green.
The course consists of a rough perimeter of the lake. From the starting point the course (and the lake) doglegs to the right, then the course returns to the main body of the lake to follow the shore not quite to the far end and then back to the start, which is also the finish.
This year (2012 for anyone who just arrived) The event consisted of a 5K race on Saturday, followed by an open water clinic that included a 1 mile practice swim. On Sunday there was a 2 mile race followed by a 1 mile  race. Naturally since this was to be my first open water event I signed up for everything.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Thursday, May 24, 2012

ready or not

Today I got in a yoga class and about nine miles on my bike. Tomorrow I'm heading for Reston VA. Road trip! Turns out I had more of a taper than I planned for this weekend. Looks like it is going to be a big event.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

in the lake

Did an out and back with wifey kayaking. Total distance about three quarters of a mile.  This was our first attempt at actual navigation. I only swam into the kayak two times. I think perhaps I am trying to swim too close to the kayak. Water temperature measured 71F which seems unbelievable. Could the lake really have warmed up 11 degrees in only 6 days? It did feel a lot warmer. After getting out I was warm almost immediately. And when I got in I didn't need to flip over on my back to breathe. There were definitely some colder spots though. I'm glad I got one more lake swim in before this weekend.


The heat sheets are out for the JMLS. This is just as exciting as I thought it would be. Just a few more days till my first event of the summer. On the downside there are supposed to be scattered thunderstorms all afternoon today. So it look like I'm going to miss my lake swim. One more pool swim before the event.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


My tuesday workout includes 50 burpees. I say includes but I probably spend more time on those burpees than anything else I do in the workout. So far I have not been able to do more than twenty without stopping to breathe for a minute. One day when I can get through all 50 in one go I will have to celebrate in some way.

Monday, May 21, 2012


I keep checking the Reston Masters site. The heat sheets for JMLS should be out sometime today. This is silly because It makes no difference if I find out how the the event is seeded this morning, this evening, or even (gasp) tomorrow. But I there it is. I am doing it anyway.

gone fishing

As I was leaving the Y after my swim today I saw a man lounging in the grass by the little pond, fishing.  Then I saw another guy walking up and shout something in an authoritative voice. I thought "oh no he's gonna give the other guy a hard time about fishing there." Private property, no fishing, whatever. Then I saw that he had has own fishing pole and I grinned because everything was right and good in the world again.

I managed to squeeze out ten 100 yard repetitions on 1:35 each. It became less than 20 seconds of rest pretty quickly. I'm going to be working on this interval for a while, no doubt.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


I don't usually spend a lot of time sweating nutrition. Eat food, train. If my training stalls then it is time to examine my diet. But sometimes I have doubts. What if I am eating the dreaded SAD? (standard american diet) You know the diet of all processed sugars fats and protein. I say to myself: "Self, you should eat more fruits and vegetables. Stop eating so much white flour and sugar" But here's the problem. I really like white flour and sugar. All the fresh baked bread, muffins, cookies, cake, additional cake, doughnuts, biscuits, pancakes, waffles, and did I mention cake? So I'm going to go one more day of not worrying about it too much. Start by eating food. And then later when I'm still hungry maybe I'll eat some of those baked goods.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

the big reveal

OK Let's get this out in the open right now. I'm planning to do the Jim McDonnell Lake Swim in Reston VA. Confirmation, information and suchlike is appearing in my email box. This will be my first actual, official open water race. I'm a little nervous.

Friday, May 18, 2012


I've just got to love cross training. My focus is on swimming and it absorbs a lot of work. But I am a believer in cross training. I do my run once a week. Same loop every week. Four point six miles. It goes something like this:
Run to the end of my road
Hang a right
Run uphill for about a mile
Run downhill for about a mile
Run about 350 yards up a steep hill
Run down a steep hill neighborhood of 400 yards
Hang another right
Run home

I think this run has character. And the cool part is even though I am only running it once a week I seem to be getting faster. Of course since I am not that fast to begin with there is plenty of room for me to get faster. Which is actually kind of a bonus. I could keep my run going all year and keep getting faster at about the same rate I have been for the last two months. And at the end of that time I might qualify as moderately fast.

that awkward depth

I enjoy swimming in my local lakes and I've been doing so as long as I can remember. Lake swimming has some great advantages. It doesn't dry me out as much as a chlorinated pool, and it lacks the jellyfish, surf, undertow, heavy chop that you find in the great blue sea. By far the most dangerous thing in a New England lake is a teenager with a ski boat. A kayak escort offers pretty good protection from that guy though. There is one more downside to the lake. Lakemuck. There's shallow lakemuck and deeper lakemuck. Now I find that I can handle the shallow stuff pretty well. The stuff that starts just off shore and stays more or less the same until a depth of about six feet or so. Then comes the awkward depth. Where the actual bottom disappears and all you can see under you is long strands of weeds stretching up in your general direction. Now the fact of the matter is there is nothing down there that is all that dangerous. An old fishhook, maybe. An old glass coke bottle hidden away since long before I was born (I have in fact found a few of those) Maybe, maybe, there there could be a snapping turtle hiding out down there but even that is not terribly threatening. So then what's the big deal? Well the fact of the matter is lakeweeds are icky. Slimy and icky. I want to get past that awkward depth as quickly as possible.

back in the lake

Hopped back into the lake yesterday. It felt just as cold as last week but I managed more than half a mile back and forth near shore and I felt pretty good. Turns out the water was 60 degrees and I did about 24 minutes. Maybe there really is something to 60 as the magic number.

 If I can swing it next week I'll definitely go out to the island and back. Wifey got some practice kayaking with me, but we still need a reliable way for her to get my attention when I'm swimming. Also we need to see how well we can track when we actually have a target in mind.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


This is only the second time I manages to ride my bike into work this month. I managed better than that in march. Oh well, I've been hiding from the rain. Hoping for a lake training session today.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

the trick works

The theory goes: if you want to swim faster you have to practice swimming faster. Apparently there is something to this. Today's long swim turned out to be my fastest so far. Is this because of my consistent speed work on Mondays. Or is it because I've built better stamina on my longer swims. Either way it is really exciting to find myself swimming faster.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Five more

I finally decided to slap five more pounds onto my deadlift today. It was harder. Noticeably harder. But my knees and my back seemed to tolerate the load. I coughed on my sixth repetition and it totally screwed up my breathing. I almost decided to pause and reset before finishing the set but I would feel ridiculous bailing less than halfway through a set because of one little cough. So I managed and it was ok and I only feel a little silly.

Open Season

For  me, open water season officially starts in eleven days. Tomorrow I'll be able to see possible weather on the forecasts. This is all pretty exciting. Of course so far I have managed one actual training session in open water. And really that was more about seeing how the water feels at 59 degrees and less about getting in some serious training. Very soon the real show begins.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Ninety five

Ninety-five seconds. Or 1:35. I promised myself I would go for it today. I figured 17 on 1:40  would translate to about 5 on 1:35 maybe 6. I managed 8 and I am delighted. When I first attempted 1:40 back in february I managed only five. I expected this to be an even harder jump. I'm thrilled with my improved conditioning. I'm going to keep pushing this progression as long as I can. If I can manage to keep it going through the summer I'll see how it affects my times in the pool. All my races this summer are open water and I know the extra conditioning will help me there too.


Well i worked that out. I have officially gone mobile.


Wifey and I went away for the weekend and I found I couldn't get my shmancy new phone to work with blogger. I need to work this out so I can review all my upcoming swims.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Open water

I finally got into some open water. I didn't check the temperature until I was done. I also didn't swim all that far. About 250 yards maybe. Probably not more than 5 minutes in water altogether. But I did go for it. I walked right in till is was just past knee deep and then flopped forward and got the rest of me in the water. And then I flipped over onto my back so I could breathe. When I started actually swimming I thought for a moment that I wouldn't be able to breathe, but it worked just fine. Breathe out, turn head, breathe in. It's a small victory but it is a victory. When I did check the temperature it turned out to be 59 degrees. For me that's pretty cold.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Afternoon Sun

Tomorrow we are supposed to have some. Here's hoping. If I can get that sunshine I say I've just got to go for it. In my pool swims I have found that is takes me about 14 strokes to find my rhythm and around 15 to cross the pool. Every time I feel like I'm moving I have to turn around and swim the other way. I know that pushing off the wall should mean that I'm swimming faster but somehow I find my flipturns to be the most exhausting aspect of a long swim. My legs feel at least at tired as my arms. Then again maybe I have a stronger kick than I realize. In any case it really makes me want to swim across a lake.


So I cut my long swim short so I could go see the Avengers with my little sister. I'm not sorry. I swam for two hours and thirty-seven minutes.  Lately my long swims have been more like three hours and ten minutes. I figure this can't be a terrible loss to my training. Plus I got to work on my pace. I went a little faster than usual on my long swims. Also Avengers was a lot of fun.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sets for the rest

I read about several groups of swims in my swimmer magazine a few months ago. Like the triple crown of swimming, ocean's seven. And then I started reading more about the specifics of those swims. A runner could aspire to qualify for the Boston Marathon. This is a very impressive feat and probably beyond the ability of the majority of people who have completed a marathon. And yet the majority of the people who have accomplished this goal are not world class athletes. Any outdoorsy type might try to climb every mountain over 4000 feet in NY state (of which I think there are 40) This a far cry from climbing the tallest mountain on every continent, but still a nice goal that gives you 40 potentially great hikes with all the accompanying scenery and greenery. The point here is that I'd like some sets of swims for guys like me. I might never attempt a channel crossing but what if I could complete a 10k in every great lake? Anyway, since there are no such groupings, that I can find so far, I plan to make them up as I go along.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Getting out

Rumor has it that the local lakes are 55 this morning. And friday looks like sunshine. Fingers crossed, maybe I'll have a shot at getting out of the pool and into some open water. Races coming up with water temperatures unknown. I'd like to have at least one swim outside before my very first official open water race.

lifting heavy things

I haven't added any weight to my deadlift in several weeks. Every time it feels like such a struggle I just can't see putting any more weight on the bar. Maybe it's hard to build that strength at the same time that I'm stretching distance in my long swims. Maybe I'm having trouble getting enough quality nutrition. Or maybe I'm just being overly cautious. But I really do think that I'll be able to slap a few more pounds on there soon. At least I know that I'm not backsliding and losing strength.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Monday not sucking

How do you make your Monday not suck? Me I actually enjoy my job tremendously and it holds no dread for me at all. But, of course, that wasn't always the case. So my theory is: make your monday workout the most fun and exciting. Make it a workout that you just can't wait to do. Such that you are just itching to get to the gym or out on the road, or into the water, or wherever. That is my monday workout for me. The fact that I made the magic number 17 today is just a bonus. Why is 17 the magic number? Well it has worked so far. If my progression holds 17 on 1:40 should mean I can squeeze out maybe 4 or 5 on 1:35. I'll find out next monday. Something to look forward to.

Spring (again)

Spring seems to be back, having come early and then left to let winter have one more kick. And Spring means flower, cut grass, riding my bike to work. This is such a short ride and I am such a low-key bicycler that it probably shouldn't even count as part of my training regimen. It is however an incredible luxury that I live so close to where I work that I can bike in whenever the weather is right and I have an extra 10 or so minutes to make the trip.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Morning swim

So I made sure to drink plenty of water before heading off for my swim this morning. It must have made a difference because I swam faster than last sunday. But I still felt like I was struggling. From the start, my arms felt sore and weak, my body position felt wrong, breathing was difficult, and there was no kick in my kick. The thing is I don't do a lot of morning workouts. Mostly I swim in the afternoon. But almost all the open water swims I've signed up for this summer happen in the morning. Several of them count as very long swims for me. So I need to know I feel swimming in the morning. The time for experimentation is short. One more sunday morning swim, two at the most, and it will be go time.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

6 weeks of yoga

Wifey and I managed six weeks of Saturday morning yoga classes is a row. By far our best run. Of course our previous best was one. Wifey calls it a yoga date. It usually entails dropping our little son off with his grandparents and then zipping to the studio while I try to retain my Yoga cool and  simultaneously not make us late to class. I hate to be late. But mom and dad have other plans this weekend. This means no saturday morning yoga, which is too bad. But it also means sleeping in on Saturday, which is nice. I hope one week away (from yoga) won't become three weeks away.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Everybody loves friday

Since it is true that everybody loves Friday I decided to embrace the facts and make my friday swim a fun swim. 3000 yards is the rule. I break it up a lot of different ways. I try to get some stroke work in. Mostly stroke work means breast with a little bit if backstroke. Which is to say that I'm being a wimp. Avoiding fly, like so many others have avoided before me. So I decided to stop being a wimp. Out of the 3400 yards I did today 300 of them were fly. Yes, the plan is to stop being a wimp. But I'll stop being a wimp slowly.

more weather

Looks like the air temp will be above 70 this weekend. There might even be a chance on breaking 80. Perhaps this will inspire me to try the lake. The water will probably still be around 50. But 50 degree water sounds less scary when the air is in the mid 70's than when it is mid 40's and drizzling.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


Every thursday since march I have been jogging the same loop near my house. I would like to claim that I am running this loop but I feel that this claim is on shaky ground. While I have been paying careful attention to my swim times and intervals, I don't even take a watch with me on my run (jog) Recently I decided to start my watch and leave it at the back door. I can then stop it when I finish but I won't be tempted to look at it while I'm out on the road because it is lying next to the back door, at home. Anyway in this fashion I can determine that indeed I am not going that fast. Still I stand by my crosstraining.

after long swims

I said before that I consider any swim over 4 miles to be a long swim for me. But here is a way to really tell if you had a long pool swim.
1. after your swim get out of the pool and take a shower
2. go home and eat a sensible if large dinner
3. Wake up at 4am to your stomach growling
4. Finally get up, take a shower, eat a large breakfast
5. Go to work (snack constantly all workday)
6. Get home by 6 and go for a little bit of a run
7. Make sure to work up a good sweat
8. Get back home, take a quick shower, and have a pre-dinner snack
If at that point you still smell like chlorine it was probably a long swim.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Feels Faster

All through my long swim today I felt like I was going faster than usual. I can't actually see the pace clock and the minute hand doesn't work right anyhow. I can only check my watch occasionally because my goggles are usually too foggy to read the numbers. So it's not until I get home and put my total distance and time into my spreadsheet (yeah, I track my long swim pace in a spreadsheet. Doesn't everybody?) that I find indeed I was swimming 40 seconds per mile faster than my average pace. It's nice to know that my feeling of going faster corresponds to reality.


I am filling up my summer with open water swims. I am signed up for 4 already. But I find that I am reluctant to mention any by name until I have actually completed one. I don't know what this is based on.

Long Swim

It's overcast and rainy again. Another day of the lakes not warming up. Will the sun come and help me out or will I just have to man up? But anyway today (Wednesday)  is my long pool swim. Which means, for me, anything over 4miles.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Rainy today. Normally I don't mind the rain. But right now all I see is the water in all my local lakes dropping another few degrees pushing my 60 degree target out another few days. But right now it doesn't matter because Tuesday is strength training. Or what swimmers often call drylands. I like to call it "lifting heavy things" and it makes me hungry.