Saturday, May 30, 2009

Swim Workout: Rotating Intervals of Doom

I like to put a good swim workout title like that up on the board, just to get the blood flowing in all of the Master's swimmers. When the first thing out of their mouth is "oh shit" when they look at the board, maybe that's a good thing? Then again, our Master's group could sometimes be renamed as the "Swim, Bitch, and Sandbag Club" and I'm threatening to order swimsuits with that embroidered on the butt. Sometimes I feel like half Den Mother and half coach.

In any case, I think this workout is a fun one. Not too complicated and the yards go by fast. The key is to keep the non-fast intervals at a medium pace, not a slow one and you'll be working your endurance as well as your speed. In the main set, you switch up which one of the intervals is your hard one (first one is the 25, next one is the 50, and so on) and do the same with the 2nd part of the main set (first the 125 is hard, then next time through it's the 100, and so on).

Warmup: 350 Swim 250 Pull
4 x 100 Swim/Kick/Drill/Swim by 25s

Main Set:

4 x (25-50-75-100) – Rotate Hard, rest are medium @10 sec. rest

50 Active Recovery

4 x (125-100-75-50) – Rotate Hard, rest are medium @15 sec. rest

Pull 2 x 200 - Build

4 x 50 All Out/Cruise by 25s @ 1:15

100 Cool Down

4150 yards

Friday, May 29, 2009

There's Not Much Better

There aren't many things better than getting to swim outside in the sunshine. Unless your daughter decides to come with you and swim laps, that is. We had a great time in one of the first truly hot days of the year. It's cool when your kids get old enough to do these things together. When they were younger, finding time to work out was about finding babysitters or using jogging strollers. Now we just do it together. Love it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

You Know You've Done a Hard Workout When...

Your hubby phones and your arm muscles literally can barely lift the phone to your ear, and then the whole time you're talking your arm is shaking like a leaf trying to hold it there. Guess it's time to find the charger for my bluetooth headset if I'm going to keep doing workouts like this...

Friday, May 22, 2009

Crossfit Update #4 and The Inadvertant Monster Hill

As I've maybe mentioned before, one of the things I like about Crossfit is the ability to measure and track your progress over time. So when I saw that yesterday's workout was going to be "Grace" (many of the Crossfit workouts have women's names), I was excited because I did Grace in mid-March and knew what my stats were. Grace consists of 30 reps of the Clean and Jerk at a weight you can manage to complete that, and it's done for time. Coach Jeremy puts a slide on the wall showing our stats from the last time we did this workout - in Crossfit, all stats are written on the whiteboard in the room, and then photographed by the coach. Additionally, many gyms use Beyond The Whiteboard to track stats online, with graphs and other cool features. In March, I was able to lift 60 pounds and it took me 8:47 to complete. Yesterday, two months later, I could lift 70 pounds and it took me 4:28. Ten more pounds in half the time! Yet I remember back in March being completely tapped out trying to complete it in 8:47. Now that's amazingly cool! Can't wait to see what I can do next time. I'm reasonably sure this newfound core, arm, and shoulder strength is behind some of my swimming gains lately.

On the other hand, in the afternoon I went for a bike ride and headed out on a new road I'd never explored before. It was really lovely, one of those roads you want to just keep going on and never turn around. I was hoping to find out that it looped around to one of my favorite rides. After a couple of miles, it started climbing what looked like a small ridge. My legs were a bit toasted from the morning's Crossfit, but no worries I just took it easy and spun up the hill. Then it started climbing some more. No problem, I still wanted to take it light on the spent quads, so since there was no traffic I zigzagged across the hill. Then the grade REALLy went up and I was standing on the pedals AND zigzagging and my quads were screaming but by that time I could see the top of the hill above me and no way was I going to give up at that point.

When I finally puffed out on top, I realized that I had inadvertantly climbed up the back side of one of the most killer hills around these parts. Ha ha, joke's on me. So much for a nice light afternoon ride. Still all told, my legs felt okay and didn't even hurt too much at today's Crossfit workout where we got to squat with big heavy weights. Yeah, that's me on the right saying "oh my achin' hamstrings!":

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ride of Silence Reminder

Just a reminder that the annual Ride of Silence is this Wednesday all across the U.S. and in many other countries as well. You can find rides in your area at:

DATE: May 20, 2009
TIME: 7:00 pm
WHERE: Hundreds of locations world wide
Join cyclists worldwide in a silent slow-paced ride (max. 12 mph/20 kph) in honor of those who have been injured or killed while cycling on public roadways.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Race Report: Lebanon Sprint Triathlon

Remembering last year's heat-fest, with similar projected temps for this year, I decided to take proactive action and bring along a little neck cooler. By the way, many of the links with directions to make these also mention that soldiers serving in desert regions need them, so if you're a person who likes to sew, make a few extra and help keep some soldiers cool! They really work, and I had a much, much more enjoyable run this year than last.

But I'm getting ahead of myself in the race report. This is a small local race that nevertheless draws a really fast crowd, including a lot of the local university's triathlon team, so it's fun and competitive at the same time. I felt pretty good about my training going into the race, I've been averaging about 8 hours a week of tri-specific training, and 5 - 7 hours a week of extra stuff like Crossfit and Karate. I thought I had a good taper this week (more on that later, hah!), although the weather was so beautiful (after so much rain!) that I inadvertantly rode a little bit further on Thursday's supposedly "easy, short" ride than I should've (the beautiful road beckoned and I answered).

The race started at 8:00, but since it had a pool swim, my wave wasn't until 10:00, I had plenty of time to ramble around. After racking my bike, I got settled in to warming up, and satisfied Section 1.0 of Robin's Race Code, which goes something like this:

1.0 Always find at least one first-timer and encourage them
2.0 Give verbal encouragement to everyone on the course that you have breath for
3.0 Thank every volunteer and police officer on the course
4.0 Congratulate fellow athletes (especially first-timers) after the race

I got to chat with Tri-newbie Will, a first-timer who had a great time in his inaugural triathlon. Also, my daughter's piano teacher Becky was doing her first race with her husband and son also in their first triathlon, and they all finished with smiles to go around. Since there were so many heats, I had plenty of time to cheer the folks in the earlier waves. My own cheering section was absent since Asa had another dance performance back at home and Wayne was on costuming and transport duty.

Here's my goals, from an email to my Crossfit coach:

Last year I did the same race in 1:14:23. Splits were:

7:30 Swim
36:30 Bike
27:45 Run
2:40 Transitions (total T1 & T2)

Ideally this year I'd like to be:

<7:10 Swim
36:30 Bike
<27:00 Run
2:30 Transitions (total T1 & T2)
For somewhere around 1:13

Onto the race: My wave of the pool swim was the fastest swimmers. I was 2nd in my lane, the guy who was in front of me had estimated 6:40 for his swim, I estimated 6:55 for mine. He was a big guy so I was hoping for a great draft! No such luck, he petered out quick and kindly let me pass in the first couple of laps. I had to lap the girl who was swimming behind me as well, and felt strong and smooth in my swimming. As I climbed out of the water and glanced at my watch, I was really really happy to see 6:44. Then I remembered that I started my watch when the first wave went, which gave me a time of 6:39. Niiiiiiice..... As far as I could tell, there were only a couple of guys who got out of the pool before me.

T1 was about 1:20, so far so good. Out onto the bike course. This course is so pretty, I really love it. All intersections well monitored by local police (thanked them as I zoomed past, taking care of RRC 2.0) Out into rolling countryside with beautiful pastoral views. Normally the bike is kind of a no-brainer for me, I just pedal away like mad and enjoy. It wasn't going so smooth this time. Big-time quadriceps cramping going on. Has never happend to me before, very confusing. So I had to back my gear off a notch and take a bit faster cadence, dropping my speed slightly. A little bit of worry about what this means for my run, but other than that I just tried to enjoy the course. Out and back course means I get to see everybody else. Confirm no women from my wave in front of me, two guys from my wave smoke past me but that's it! A couple of women about 3 - 4 minutes behind me, must try to put some more room behind me. Although quad cramps a mystery, I cruise into T2 in 37:30, a bit slower than I wanted to be but at least legs feel okay.

T2 is just under 1:00, I remember to take my neck cooler with me and I'm off on the run. Quads feel wooden, but miraculously start to feel better. Still don't know what's up there. Had a nice run, but my left foot starts to hurt, look down and see I'm running kind of funny I think still due to the quad cramping, I'm turning my left foot slightly out. It will probably hurt tomorrow but it's only 3 miles so I just carry on. Only one woman passes me, but she's on a relay team, so no women from the my wave have passed me, yay! Forget to get my run split on the watch, but cruise in with a total time of 1:12:39. Doing the math gives me a run time of 26:09, which is an 8:25 run split. Not too bad for this early in the season.

After I got home, I took a look at my training log to see if I could pin down the mystery quad cramps, and I think I have the culprit. Although I tapered off well on all of my workouts (no Crossfit last week, reduced volume in tri workouts, etc.), because the weather got nice I was doing all of my running around town on my commuter bike instead of the car, and I used the tandem to take Asa to her dance and theatre rehearsals. So though my tri training tapered off, my bike volume actually DOUBLED last week. Commuter miles and especially tandem miles are very quad-heavy because there's a lot of stopping and starting with heavier loads (plus I live on a hill, so doing the hill every time I come home). That's not a good way to taper! I'm making a mental note to taper not only my tri training but to make sure I don't overdo the bike commuting before a race. I rolled out the quads last night and they feel just fine this morning, no knots just a little tired.

All in all I'm happy because I beat my time from last year AND my goal time for this race. Not a PR, but a good time for an early season sprint!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Annual Mother's Day Swim, Sans Wetsuit

Seems like I'm making it a bit of a yearly tradition to go to a lake on Mother's Day and swim, and this year we had the extra incentive of wanting to launch Mackenzie's Christmas present kayak for the first time. My mom came up for the weekend and brought her kayak, and the two of them had a grand time on the water together. Somehow in all of the fussing around trying to get the kayaks loaded, I forgot my wetsuit.

Well, let's just say that I swam anyways but that water was C-O-L-D!!! Probably mid-60's if I had to hazard a guess. I had an immediate vagal reflex reaction (which means water was definitely below 70 degrees) where I just suddenly felt like I couldn't breathe and had to take a few breaststrokes just to work through it and get my heartrate back to normal. For those of you who haven't experienced this, if you do a swim or race in cold enough water and feel a panicky can't breathe kind of feeling immediately, just stop and let yourself adjust. You can often circumvent this response by making sure you get your face wet with cold water first. I did move past the reflex and then it was cold but tolerable and I probably swam for about 15 - 20 minutes before I got chilled enough that I had to stop. Oh, and I forgot about one other fun thing that happens when you swim without a wetsuit in lakes that are frequented by geese... swimmer's itch! It's driving me mad today.

Since the beginning of my Mother's Day weekend was fairly horrible, it was nice to end it on a good note doing what I love the most. Well, actually it ended with a yummy salmon BBQ when we got home, courtesy of my grill-meister hubby. So all's well that ends well.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Tabata Swim

If you've never heard of the Tabata Protocol, here's a great little article from Men's Fitness Magazine that explains the basics and a little bit of the history. Crossfit utilizes Tabata intervals in their workouts, and originally the Tabata Protocol was developed for speed skaters, but very few triathletes I know have ever heard of them. I did find an article on's triathlon section on utilizing Tabata intervals with a bike trainer, which is a good way to ease into trying Tabata, if such a grueling workout could ever be "eased" into. Though it only lasts 4 minutes, the puke-factor is really high with this workout. It's Intense, with the capital "I".

The Tabata basics: 6 - 8 intervals consisting of 20 seconds going ALL OUT followed by only 10 seconds of rest. Yeah, it's a killer. But Izumi Tabata, Ph.D., a researcher at Japan's National Institute of Fitness and Sports studied the effects of this workout and discovered that not only are those 4 little minutes of extreme workout effort and minimal rest better than traditional intervals (with their 1:3 workout-to-rest ratio), it's better than aerobic conditioning itself at improving your aerobic condition.

I decided to try to have a little fun with Tabata intervals in the pool and my Master's swimmers this week. Whenever I decide to unleash something new and different on them, I always try it out myself first (see, I'm not totally heartless), so I did this workout myself last week, and with my Master's folks on Saturday. Tabata intervals lend themselves pretty easily to most sports, everything from bodyweight exercises to punching bag workouts to running on the track can be done Tabata-style. But swimming is a little different because it's hard to stop quickly and you have to keep turning around. With 4 - 5 swimmers in a lane, logistics were the hardest thing to overcome in planning this workout.

What I decided to do was just have each swimmer start in a different part of the lane, and have everybody circle-swim. I was the whistle-blower for the 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off routine. Now with swimming, I wouldn't try this workout unless your technique is already good. The main reason is that speed and endurance in swimming, unlike almost every other exercise you might do, is about 90% good technique. So swimming Tabatas with poor technique might improve your aerobic conditioning, but it also might make you slower in the pool. If you're already a reasonably good swimmer though, give this one a go.

In the warmup of this workout, and the earlier intervals, focus hard on good, good, good form. That way when you get to the Tabatas, you're set up to keep form and add power.


Tabata Swim

Warmup: 8 x 100 Odd Free, Even Choice
4 x 75 25 Drill, 50 Swim
2 x 100 Powerup
50 Swim Golf


6 x 200 Desc. x 3 Int. = 1st 200 + 15 s.
6 x 100 Desc. x 3 Int = 1st 100 + 1- s.


Tabata Swim x 8
Tabata Kick x 8
Tabata Pull x 8
Tabata Swim x 8

150 Cool

4150 Yards

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Unburying the Abs Update

Back in December, I posted this about trying to work on my core and staying accountable for healthy food choices. Since then, there's been some ups and downs. I never did manage to go sugar-free for very long (the siren song of dark chocolate proved too strong), but on the whole I've moved from eating pretty darn healthy to eating much healthier.

Most of my focus has been on getting my carbs from nutrient-dense fruits and veggies instead of from nutrient-sparse grains and trying to eat more protein, which keeps my blood sugar stable and keeps me from feeling spacey every few hours. It has the added benefit of reducing packaged foods (which tend to be mostly grain-based) and bringing my eating ever-more-local, which is always a goal of mine. All of our meat, eggs, milk, and most of our fruits and veggies are bought locally, and in the summer all of the veggies come from the garden, so this also saves money, packaging, food waste, etc. As with so many things, what is good for the body is also good for the environment, local farmers and merchants, and the community as a whole.

Also, I committed to working out my core every day, via a challenge over at TriFuel. I haven't been as religious about it as some over there, but making it part of my routine has really helped. Between adding Crossfit and keeping my karate training going, now at a brown-belt level, I'm working my core muscles more anyways. My back feels a TON better than it did over the winter, totally recovered and stronger than it was before.

With all of this, I started noticing that everything was fitting looser, and lo and behold I've lost about 4 pounds, and about 2% body fat. Not something you really notice on a day to day basis, but it all adds up. So I took an updated photo and wow, I could really see the difference.

Photo #1 is from December 2008, Photo #2 is from April 2009.