The Hard Push

For a very long time, I have carried around arbitrary numbers that would prove when I am a “real” athlete.  A kind of litmus test.  Mostly, there were just things that I thought I would never be able to do and would therefore continue to prove what a joke I am.  One is breaking a 30 minute 5K (3.1 miles) run.  Another is swimming over a mile.  The third is completing a century bike ride (100 miles). 

I am very proud to say that I complete two of these this weekend! 

On Saturday, I was feeling grumpy for backing out of the insanely tough Spartan Super in Virginia (crawling up a black diamond ski slope, in deep mud and rain, under barbed wire…) so I decided to push myself in other ways, as recompense. I started with an hour long boot camp class which featured a billion variations of burpees and a ton of squats.  I then went directly to a spin class which featured a ton of hills. Finally, LR and I attended our tae kwon do class (where I finally was approved for my belt-level fitness requirement.  About time!)  To say my legs were toast was a bit of an understatement.  I spent the rest of the day rolling and wrapping and icing. 

The Stick, a Voodoo band, and two lacrosse balls taped together
The Stick, a Voodoo band, and two lacrosse balls taped together

Sunday, I was a bit stiff but wanted to get a run in.  Our neighborhood is pretty hilly and, as usual, I started out way too fast (9:10).  I was still feeling decent so I decided to push a bit harder.  I slowed down at mile 2 for the monster hills (10:00) but then decided to see if I could break 30 minutes.  And I did!  By 12 seconds 🙂 

There it is!
There it is!

I also scared a few old ladies that I passed on the last mile.  I was huffing and puffing to beat the band!  Two things that I noticed – I have lost most of my shuffle and I’ve stopped kicking my ankles.  I also wasn’t completely empty when I finished. Quite a few shockers there!

I spent the late morning repeating my rehab treatment and I took Little Runner to the pool for some cannonball action.

His first time off the diving board
His first time off the diving board

I then loaded up the car and made the long trek out to Pasadena, MD (between Annapolis and Baltimore) for open water swim practice.  We did a lot of drills and some straight swimming and, before I knew it, my watch was showing that we had swum 1.37 miles!  With no freak-outs!  In fact, I actually forgot to panic even when I was hit by an unexpected wave from a passing boat. 

Don't sight on cargo ships :)
Don’t sight on cargo ships 🙂

Today, I can hardly walk from the muscle soreness (my foot is okay but everything else is screaming bloody murder) but I am very glad that I pushed hard and just let my body do its thing rather than imposing my own limits of “oh, I could never do x”.  It may be awhile before I hit my century ride and I have set new speed/distance goals, but I know that I will get there in time.  And maybe I feel a touch more like a “real” athlete today. 

Keep working until you are ready to finish your story.
Keep working until you are ready to finish your story.
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Needing a “win”

I’ll be honest, I’ve had a really tough year, training-wise.  I’ve had to defer two big races and wound  up pulling out of my last triathlon mid-swim.  I’ve been getting my ass handed to me weekly in roller derby training.  I have been battling a lot of nagging injuries. It’s just been a tough season to swallow.

After the Montclair Tri breakdown, I cried and pouted and then decided to fix what I could.  I have spent almost every weekend since then driving way the heck out to the Chesapeake Bay so I could do open water training with a group.  I have been working hard and seeing progress but I was still worried about my upcoming experience at Nation’s Triathlon.  When I learned about the HarborFest event, I knew I had to do it!  750 m, with support, in the Potomac. Perfect training opportunity.

It was originally schedule for last weekend but was rescheduled due to the potential of bad weather.  Of course, the weather didn’t happen and that just left me feeling nervous for another week!

I arrived around 7:20, signed in, picked up my shirt, and proceeded to try to figure out the course.  They were offering a 5K (!), 2.4 mile, 1.2 mile, and 750 meter option.  Unfortunately, the buoys were not quite set so none of it made sense until just before we started. 

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Can’t get any calmer than this!

We began in waves, with the longest distances going first.  There was about 10 minutes between waves so I had quite a bit of time before my wave began.  It was a water start but we had to enter from a pier.  I was worried about jumping in so I took the weenie route and climbed down the ladder.  I was not alone and I am not sorry I did it!  The water was 82 degrees but it still took a minute for me to acclimate.  I did some bobs with deep exhales under water, per my swim instructor’s advice and that helped.  Before I knew it, we were off! 

The course was a right angle triangle with the pier and the shore making two sides.  I did okay sighting on the shore going out and even across the hypotenuse but was way, way off along the pier. I have no idea why it was so hard!  Oh, maybe it’s because that is where the weeds were the thickest and I was constantly stopping to scrape them off!  Seriously, that was some junky water!  I saw two snails floating on the water that were the size of a peach and I somehow managed to cut my thumb on something!  Gross!

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Maybe I was too distracted, sighting off the Ferris wheel.

I had absolutely no freak-outs during the swim.  I had to cough once because I felt like I was getting choked up like last time but I didn’t stop.  Honestly, this wasn’t as heavily supported as I thought it would be.  There were just a few kayaks and they were for rescue only, no breaks.  If I had known that going in, I might have canceled.  As it was, I’m thankful I didn’t need to use them.  I just focused on moving from buoy to buoy and then it was over!

When I exited, I saw that the elapsed time since the first wave start was 48 minutes. I don’t know what time I entered but, if the scheduled ten minute waves were accurate, then I swam it in 18 minutes.  I am more than happy with that!  Heck, even if it turns out to be 28 minutes, I’m still happy because my main focus was just completing the swim. 

At the end, I did not feel overly tired or queasy.  If someone said, “okay, now go and ride for 16 miles”, I would have been okay with it!

I desperately needed a “win” on my books – something where I trained hard and then performed as expected – and this definitely fit that need!  There is still more work to do before next month but I am not positive that I can finish my race!

Back to Work!

So, after my major funk following my DNF,  decided to put on my big girl panties and get back to work.  I am now signed up for an open water swim session every weekend until Nation’s!

My first session was two weeks ago, in a somewhat secluded river off from the Chesapeake Bay.

swim1 A coach was there with a paddle board and a helper in a kayak.  I attended with two of my runner/tri friends and another gentleman was present – a nice small group with good support.  We did some warm-ups to the various boat pilings and I was fine.  Then the coach said “let’s go out to that buoy and back” and I fell apart.  I made it maybe 75 yds before I started choking and coughing again.  Couldn’t get my breath at.all. and thought I was officially a non-swimmer.  The coach was right there and had me kick while hanging on to the paddle board (after I calmed down) for quite a bit and then I finished going to the buoy and headed back to the group.  On the way back, I had the same freak outs so I rolled to my back and did elementary back strokes until I could get it under control.  I just watched the clouds and focused on calming the F down.  I made it back but I was beat.  We did a few other little drills, some sighting practice, etc. in the shallow water but I was wiped.

On Saturday, I attended an OWS clinic with the same coach.  This time we were right in the shadow of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge at Sandy Point State Park.  We did some straight swimming but we working on sighting, cornering around buoys, and various stroke issues.  I felt much better after this session and didn’t have any “issues”.

On Sunday, I was back with the same coach AGAIN (she is going to get so sick of seeing me!) – but this time we were at another, wider creek that had much more chop due to increasing winds.

At the start. Things picked up as the session progressed.
At the start. Things picked up as the session progressed.

This was a larger group and it was pretty much straight swimming.  The coach set up a triangle course with the long side running parallel to the shore and completely stand-able with the point of the triangle further out (but I guess still stand-able in some spots due to the sand bars).  I decided to just stick to the shallow side and just keep looping it.  Each length was a bit over 100 yds and I was able to successfully go out and come back without standing or losing my mind.  I did not have to recover even once and that is with some decent movement in the water – there were times when I lost sight of the buoys due to the waves. I was slow as molasses but I just focused on my own swim and keeping it together.  I was able to successfully complete 5 loops.  I count Sunday as a huge success!

I know I still have a lot of work to do but I am not quite as anxious about September now.  I am also trying to remember how far I’ve come this year.  I have to remember that I have only been swimming freestyle, with my head below water, since January!  It’s not fair to my body to expect it to suddenly become some world-class swimmer overnight.  It’s working hard and I need to respect the process!

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