Monday, June 09, 2008

And another week begins!

The weekend has come and gone. Just like that. When my head hit the pillow last night, I think I immediately fell asleep - really - it must've been no longer than a minute before the lights were OUT.

I was utterly exhausted.

Last week was a tough training week for me. I started following a new plan from my friend Tim the Coach, and I could really feel it by the time Saturday rolled around.

Saturday was the annual Lake Berryessa 2 mile swim. I decided at the last minute that I would do it. It would be a good opportunity to just practice more open water swimming, a chance to get to know more Santa Rosa Masters swimmers, as well as visit with old teammates from Berkeley who would be there.

When we arrived at Lake Berryessa Saturday morning, the wind was howling and the water looked incredibly choppy. It was freezing out! We all hoped the wind would calm by the time it came time to swim. No such luck for the 2-milers who started at 9:30 a.m.

Sure enough, as I made the turn for the 3rd leg of the swim, this 'lake' swim turned into what felt like a bay swim! In some ways, I was glad, if only for a change. To be totally honest, swimming for longer than 30-35 minutes in the open water just plain bores me.

My mind continues to focus on my stroke while simultaneously searching for other things to think about: "Should I run after this? Make sure your elbows are up. I wonder where our ride is going to be tomorrow. Keep the rotation going. Maybe we'll do something out toward Sonoma Mtn. Rotate those hips, Sarah!"

Okay, maybe it's really ADD - do other people do this? I can't help it. I try to keep my thoughts on moving forward and JUST focusing on my swim, but then my mind wanders on to other things, too.

So the swim - meh. It was a slow 2 mile swim for everybody who did it. Between the incredible chop, the current pushing us away from where we were trying to go and the course being longer than 2 miles (not sure why but it was) - everybody had slower times. In spite of that, I was still horrifically slow.

It's funny because in the pool I can hold a much faster pace, and I don't think it's only because of flip turns. I seem to be able to feel okay about moving faster. But in the open water, I tend not to push myself as hard. I don't know if it's because I'm afraid of pushing too hard and then not having enough left to finish, or what.

The other thing is that with any of these longer swims - 2 miles, 2.7 miles (Donner Lake) - my hip flexors start to hurt about 45 minutes in. Then sometimes my wrist starts to hurt (my right wrist has some slight repetitive strain injury from the mouse - on a side note - if anybody has mouse issues at work, I HIGHLY recommend Evoluent's Vertical Mouse. It has saved much of my wrist problems and I don't have any more wrist pain; I was to the point where I could no longer use a regular mouse, so just FYI).

So usually around an hour, I'm just ready to be done. My 2-mile swims have historically been about 1 hr 5 minutes or so. Not today. Tack on 10 minutes to that. Yipes!!! Like I said, everybody was about 10 minutes slower because of the crazy water and longer course. But I just didn't enjoy being in that much longer.

I also realized that when I do open water swims that don't involve triathlon, I tend to just take my time more. I'm never going to place in a swim-only event. I'm just not that fast and I never will be. It's not a priority for me. So I tend to think "I'm just going to enjoy this and focus on my form and use this as a training swim."

Why do I do it then? Well - really for the training. Swimming is a real challenge for me. I didn't swim as a kid and really came to masters after college. Swimming takes time, hard work and dedication. It takes a willingness to keep practicing the same thing, over and over and over until your body finally adapts to doing it without thinking about it. When I swim in the pool, I count my strokes on every single lap. I think the ENTIRE TIME about one thing or another. I'm always trying to improve, and yet, I'm still not that great at it.

Yet...I just enjoy it a lot. Even though those longer swims kind of get boring for me and make me hurt, somehow I still enjoy it. I love being in the water. I always have!

So, I was slightly disappointed on Saturday but not too much. It just motivates me to work a little harder in the pool and talk with my coach more about my stroke and what else I really need to work on.

After the swim I changed and went for a 25 minute run to stretch out my legs and hips, and that felt great! The wind died down and it had turned out to be a gorgeously warm sunny day out on the lake.

I don't even remember much of the rest of Saturday. I got home, relaxed a bit and then pulled the bike out into the backyard for a nice cleaning. I love cleaning my bike on a sunny afternoon!! It's like cleaning the car but better.

Sunday we had a group ride - 40.7 miles and 3200 feet of climbing, which was far more climbing than I really wanted to do, but I stuck with it. It was one of those days where, 15 minutes in, the guys are all doing about 19 mph already and I'm thinking "oh sh**. I should just turn around and go home or do my own ride. There is no way my legs have it right now." I kept mulling it over in my head and knew they wouldn't have that and they'd feel bad for me, so I kept my mouth shut. I was just going to 'man up' and suffer through it.

I made the decision to just climb at my own pace and keep my HR balanced so that on the flats I could really do some speed work and push it a little.

I was glad I stayed. Even though it was more climbing than I'd really intended, each climb had its own reward of GORGEOUS VIEWS (really gotta get a small camera to bring along...) of Sonoma County and all the green vineyards and hills, as well as FANTASTIC descents with very little traffic to worry about. It was heaven.

I had one more moment of self-doubt. We were leading up to a big climb and I had been pulling the group while I practiced keeping a nice high cadence and good pace in my aero bars. When the trees appeared I thought it was the beginning of the climb, so I immediately downshifted into the small ring and sat up.

Bad choice.

The guys all zipped past me and as I rounded the turn, I was dismayed to see that no, in fact the road stayed pretty flat (about 1% grade). I just didn't have it in me to catch them and at one point, I really considered saying "you know, I"ll just wait for you guys at the bottom here" (it was just a big climb that dead-ended at the top so you came back down it).

Yet again, I thought "no, I need to push through this and find my rhythm and just deal with it."

So I did, and it all came out okay. Somehow I found my second wind about halfway up the climb and finished it strong. After our descent, it was pretty flat all the way back to Brian's. We were all hanging together for awhile and then Scott, Brian and John all pulled out from the back and led an attack on Roddy (who was pulling) and I (right behind him). WTF?!?!?

I didn't have the strength to haul-ass after them so I tucked down and just did my thing. Pretty soon we regrouped and I just kept moving, leading the train for a few more miles at a nice clip. Then John took the lead the rest of the way and I stayed right on his wheel, eating up the fantastic draft as we FLEW down the road back to Brian's.

It was great to finish strong like that on such a high note!! I was really happy I'd stuck it out.

After that, the rest of the day ended up being one thing after another and I didn't get to go to Soda's BBQ , which I was pretty disappointed about. Sometimes there just aren't enough hours in a day!!

That's a wrap. Next weekend: Vineman ride!!


Paul said...

Sounds like a lot of swimming!! You're braver than me.

Rainmaker said...

My mind does the same thing during swimming. I think I average about two strokes with useful swim-thought, and about 1-2 strokes non-useful thought. It all evens out though.

And needs to bring a camera along! That's what those pockets be for!

Eileen Swanson said...

Way to brave the choppy waters! I love that swim! I think I told you I did it in 2005. It was a warm sunny, breezy day then. But not choppy like you mentioned. Great work out there. I too let my mind wander more so these days than in the past. Not sure why. I am working on that! I used to be able to focus way more last season and even more so several years ago. Hmmm, I will let you know what helps when I figure it out.

By the way, I am so glad you had a great ride on Sunday with the guys! We have to hook up soon.


rocketpants said...

You remind me that I need to just suck it up in the pool and focus more on the details. I totally space out in swimming in open water if I'm not fighting something like a current or chop.

Nice bike ride!

Mel said...

I wish I could think some nice thoughts out in the water while swimming...all I do is cuss at myself and try to keep myself from quitting :( Thank you for your email and those tips did help!!!

Good riding sista...way to hang with it as you would have kicked yourself in the butt if you would have quit!!!!

Kelly said...

swimming open water IS really boring, all you can start to think is when is this ever going to end.

glad you had fun/got through it

Anonymous said...

Awesome way to get in some extra open water swim training! Next time you face choppy water during a race you'll be way more comfortable and relaxed.

I agree, open water swimming is REALLY boring! I am always trying to play mind games with myself just to pass the time. Sometimes I just want to dunk the people swimming around me to add a little fun. =)