Saturday, January 30, 2010

Well the Good News Is...

Word coming in is that a lot of our swimmers hit PRs in this meet. Though bummed not to be there (even being up walking around for very long is still quite painful for me at this time, so cheerleading from the deck was unfortunately out), I'm happy that they all did so well. I'm lucky to get the opportunity to coach such a fun and hardworking bunch of swimmers!

The rest of the good news is that I saw the orthopedist yesterday and it looks like a clean break. Though it's right on the end of the bone adjoining the elbow, he says no pins or surgery needed, no tendon or joint damage. Although the 6 weeks off will be a b*tch, I should be good as new when it's all healed.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Then Again...

I think the doctor's office should start giving me frequent flyer miles. How long has it been since my hand was out of a splint, 5 weeks??? And yesterday I broke my arm, and possibly messed up my elbow joint as well, we'll see what the orthopedist has to tell me.

And I can cry here right??? Because honest to God the first words through my brain as I lay there on the pavement were "The swim meet!". Well, after a few other choice words that is. I spent yesterday morning doing some block starts, I've been tapering off all of my Crossfit workouts and was feeling so strong and ready. My stroke has just felt so good lately, like I found a perfect groove and rhythm. I was really looking forward to hanging out with my teammates and taking part in this meet!!! And then karate, I'm entering the home stretch for my black belt and no I have no idea now what's going to happen with that. wah wah wah. It would be easier to be a couch potato at times like this.

I guess it's a good thing that the only magazine in the waiting room had an article about Chad and Darfur because if there's one remedy for feeling too dang sorry for yourself it's looking at a photo of a mom and her children living in a tent a thousand miles from their home. In the grand scheme of things, this is a minor thing.

Still it comes down to.... why me? What did I do in a past life that in this life I get to learn about all the nuances of different kinds of pain? Broken bones and dislocations, burns, abrasions, puncture wounds, concussions, and what it feels like to chop the end off of your finger with gardening clippers. No wonder I can't watch mob movies... I'm like a one-woman self-wrecking crew and sometimes it just pisses me off, at myself mostly.

Oh yeah, how did this happen? Out for a nice little run with the dogs and just like in that movie "Up", dingbat dog #1 sees a squirrel, loses her mind, and goes right between my feet, clotheslining me with the leash so fast that I was on the ground before I knew what hit me. Sigh.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Hardest Arm Workout Evah: Photography

I'm supposed to be tapering for my swim meet this week, especially laying off any kind of lifting, Crossfit, or arm work. So I was not prepared for how Saturday's gig as a professional photographer would give me an arm workout that left me more sore than any Crossfit workout to date (and that's sayin' something!)

I was shooting this terrific dance performance where 15 - 20 of the region's best dance companies come together to perform as a benefit (this year for the local Humane Society animal shelter). I got to use a rented lens which is better than anything I own as it can shoot in very low light and still allows me to use a fast enough shutter speed to capture the fast-moving dance action (at least in most of the dances, some of them were lit so low it was still a challenge). The thing is, this lens weighs a TON! And as a photographer, you're holding it steady out in front of your face while moving and trying to capture the action. Between the tech rehearsals and the performance, it was about an 11-hour day of shooting. Crazy!

Lots of fun, but lots of sore.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Saturday Swim: Race Prep

This Saturday's Masters swim workout was all about getting ready for the first Masters meet of the season. So the skill we were working on was the butterfly kick (especially useful when you push off of the wall), and the drill was to kick butterfly on their backs, head up and looking at the feet, hands down by hips (sculling gently is okay to keep body position), concentrating on flipping water UP with their feet. We also worked our starts and turns in a couple of sets, then settled in for some time trials of various distances.

Good news for me is that the time trials at least confirmed I was in the right ballpark for most of my races. I estimated 6:35 for my 500, and swam 6:44 from the wall in this set. I guessed 1:27 for my 100 Fly, and swam 1:30 in this set. So I think I should at least be able to make my estimates in those events. My 200 was not so good, I estimated a 2:21 and swam a 2:35. Hmmmm, we'll just have to see what happens with that one.

So here's the workout:

Warm Up

200 Swim
6 x 50 Drill/Swim (w/ good fly kick on push off of the swim)
200 Pull
6 x 50 Drill/Swim
200 Swim/Scull by 25s

Starts and Turns Set

10 x 50
Start Hard, Good turn, cruise back

Main Set:

100 EZ
500 Time Trial (TT)
100 EZ
200 TT
100 EZ
100 TT
100 EZ
50 TT
100 EZ

10 x 50 Starts and Turns

4 x 75 Pull Concentrate on Distance Per Stroke
100 EZ

Total Yardage: 3950

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sunday Hikes and Dog Duties

In case you couldn't guess from that last post, we went hiking yesterday. Yes, even though it was raining we still got out there. We've made it a routine now to go for hikes as a family every Sunday, and another family from our neighborhood has been joining us. Even when the weather's not so great, it feels good to get out there in the woods and it's fun to share that with our friends. We're so lucky where we live because we have trails just a couple of miles from our house. This trailhead is only 3.5 miles away but taps into a ridgeline trail system along the hills behind our city and also has a spur that climbs a local butte.

Yesterday we did 4 miles including the climb up the butte. You can see that my tiny little puppy from a few months ago is now almost a full-fledged dog. Isn't she lovely? That's Sophie, aka Adventure Dog. She loves to go hiking and exploring and I think she'll be the best running dog ever. She's already the smartest dog I've ever known. As a sheepherd/cattle dog mix, she definitely needs to have jobs to do. One of her jobs is to go down to the chicken coop every morning and evening while we let the chickens out, and to guard the door to make sure no chickens come out the side door to the coop while we're in there. She takes this very seriously.

Yesterday morning, when Wayne asked Mackenzie to go down and let the chickens out, Mackenzie replied with the 13-year-old refrain "In a minute". But as soon as Sophie heard Wayne's request, she went into Mackenzie's room where he was working on the computer, and pawed at him until he got off and went to do their job. How smart is that? I'm so in love with this pup!

Sunday, January 17, 2010


You often hear a forest described as "like a cathedral", but I think they've gotten it all wrong. Long ago, the people who designed those medieval cathedrals must've known how sacred a forest can feel, and created the cathedrals to invoke the same sense of height and space, with light pouring down in beams from above.

When you hike in a forest, it's not hard to feel you're in the presence of God.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I just mailed off the entry form for my first swim meet in 23 years. Yes, I'm not just going to stand on the deck like a coach, I'm going to get on the starting blocks (gee, hope I remember how to use them and not fall off into the pool). I am WAY nervous, even thinking about it. These pics are from 1987, the last time I got on a starting block wearing Oregon's Green & Yellow.

For some of the events in this meet, I had no idea what times to put down. I haven't really gotten in the pool and checked what I could do, but here's what I put on the form:

100 Fly: 1:27 - This one I really have no idea on the time, it's a very wild guess. I actually haven't even swum a 100 Fly in years, but I'm reasonably sure I can complete it without drowning. The reason I chose the 100 over the 50 is that I'm more likely to get points for the team since many more people swim the 50 Fly (for good reason!) so my chances are better. This one could get ugly.

200 Free: 2:21 - I might be able to swim this faster than my estimated time, who knows. Again, chose the 200 because it's a tough bitch of a race and no one wants to swim the 200.

500 Free: 6:35 - I think I can go faster than that, but we'll see. I swam a 6:38 in the 500 in last year's Sprint Tri but I got some drafting from the guy in front of me for the first 200 of it. Then again, I also knew I had to bike and run afterwards so I wasn't going all out at the end.

100 Free: 1:05 - I think this is probably the most accurate guess of all, because I have swum some 100's for time in the pool. I figure if I can do a 1:07 from the wall, I can probably go 1:05 in a meet, yeah??

1000 Free: 13:55 - Gulp! Don't really want to swim this, but again neither does anyone else so it's a good possibility I can take 1st in my age group. This time is a ballpark estimate, I don't usually swim this far without biking and running afterwards.

Other than that, hopefully I can swim in some relays too. I'm hoping we'll have enough women swimmers to have a women's relay.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

How Many Cyclists Does It Take To Run a Hairdryer?

I posted a link to this article on my sustainability blog, but I thought it was also really interesting to read from the standpoint of a cyclist. Think about how much energy we generate and how that translates to the real world. Also, wouldn't it be really cool to be part of an experiment like this??? What a workout, sign me up!

How many cyclists does it take to power a hairdryer? The answer's 18, as one family discovered in a unique TV experiment

As a side-note, here's the best instructions I've found online for building your own power-generating bike trainer.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Kaizen Meets Flow

If you're an athlete, you know what Flow is. You're either in it, or you're out of it. Like a current in the river, you know when you're moving with it or just in an eddy by the shore going nowhere. But how do you grab hold of it and wrestle it to the ground and make it yours? Now that's the challenge. It reminds me of the lyrics to that wonderful song from Sound of Music about Maria, "How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?, How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?" Achieving Flow can feel just that elusive.

The book Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi should be on every athlete's bookshelf as the author studies the state of flow (you might refer to this as being "in the zone") among many different people, some of them athletes. He comes to some conclusions about how people achieve flow that are, I think, useful to those of us who would like to be there more often.

For me in swimming, flow is more elusive than just its mental component and is tied directly to technique and my ability to hold that good technique through the fatigue and intensity of a workout. In a sense, I lost the flow of my swimming when I pursued the high-elbow catch two years ago. I managed to nail the catch, which definitely brought a lot more power into my stroke, but at the same time I lost some elusive groove in my rhythm, with the net result that I ended up slightly slower. If there's anything more frustrating to a swim coach than tweaking your stroke and ending up slower, I'd love to know what it is!

But in the spirit of Kaizen, which you may remember from a previous post is a Japanese term for "constant never-ending improvement", I have been trying to find that rhythm ever since. I've tweaked my kick, my hand exit, my hand-entry, my timing, but all to no avail. I am no faster than I was in December of 2007 when I started mucking with my stroke.

That is, UNTIL LAST NIGHT!!! I changed one more thing, one more little tiny thing, and BOOM, it all fell into place again. I changed the angle of my head when I breathe, just slightly more forward, and that was IT. My old rhythm came back, swimming felt effortless and free and beautiful and gliding and all of the things I remember it could be. I did a set of descending 500's and the last one clocked in at 6:51, despite massively fatigued arms from a morning workout of bench presses and pull-ups and a 1.5 hour karate class in the mid-day.

So today I am celebrating, not just because the flow and the groove came back to my swimming, but because I never gave up trying to find it, trying to change and improve what I'm doing there in the pool. Today I'm signing up for my first swim meet in over 20 years, and I think now I'm actually excited to see what I can do. I know the times won't be what they were when I swam in college, but I think they'll be good for where I'm at now, and that's all I need.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Saddling Up the Wrong Horse

I must've stood outside the grocery store for more than a couple minutes trying to get my panniers to slide back on my bike, I just couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong. Then again, mechanical things often defeat me so I guess it's no surprise that I married a brilliant mechanic. On the other hand, Mr. Mechanic was nowhere in site, and I definitely wasn't going to cycle home with my panniers balanced on my head.

That was when I realized I was putting the panniers on someone else's bike.

In my defense, it looked a lot like my bike (especially in the dark) and had a similar (though not quite the same) rack. Also in my defense, I had just gotten finished swimming for an hour, after teaching my swim conditioning class, commuting by bike, and also today had and hour and a half of karate and an hour of Crossfit in the morning. So I think I have at least a wee little excuse for being a mite tired and out of it.

Plus, I'm blonde.

That's my excuse for the day. At least I made it home. Oh yeah, and had a brilliant break-through in swimming, but more on that later. I'm going to bed now.

Best Article on Long Course Training Ever

If you are training for marathon, half-Iron, or Iron distance (or comparable distances in other sports), read THIS ARTICLE NOW!.

This is the best summary of what it takes for a real age-grouper athlete to really train well for a long-distance race without sacrificing their life, their relationships, and their health to their workout schedule. It's really good!

Kudos to Endurance Nation for putting such wisdom out there, and Trifuel for posting it.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Makin' The Yards Fly By

The day before my Master's Swimming, I try to spend some time coming up with workouts that are new/exciting/different/challenging/technique-enhancing, etc. Then I type it up, print it out, and take it to the pool with me on Saturday morning. Except every now and then it doesn't make it into the swim bag and I get to the pool realizing that my nice pre-planned workout is now residing on the dining-room table. At times like these, I just have to pull something out of my head and hope it works out okay.

Yesterday was just such a day, but the main set I came up with on the fly ended up being a pretty darned good one if I do say so myself. Although it was 2200 yards, they seemed to zoom by, and in a pretty challenging manner. In the workout, instead of doing an interval by the clock, we did them by breaths instead. So a "9 breath interval" meant to take 9 breaths as the interval at the wall, then leave on the next set.

The skill we were working on was body position, using two drills. The first was to use zoomers (small fins) and kick face down in the position that you're in when gliding in the crawl stroke. One arm extended in front of you, and for the drill the other hand is resting on your thigh, body slightly turned toward that open side. The arm in front is holding a pull buoy. This keeps you from sculling that hand to maintain balance in the water or to push yourself up to breath.

The second drill is called a "Rollercoaster Kick" and I gleaned this from a video taken of the Auburn swim team. You kick on your back, but both hands are over your head as if you're on a rollercoaster (you know how you put your hands up), so they're not together and not streamlined. The aim is to keep your hips up and bellybutton dry. This really works on your balance in the water.

So here's the workout:


300 Swim
4 x 50 Body Position Kick (w/ zoomers and holding pull buoy)
200 Swim
4 x 75 (50 Rollercoaster Kick, 25 Swim)
200 Swim

Main Set (All distances ending in 5 are HARD, all distances ending in 0 are moderate)

200-175-150-125 9 breath interval
50 Rollercoaster Kick

175-150-125-100 7 breath interval
50 Rollercoaster Kick

150-125-100-75 5 breath interval
50 Rollercoaster Kick

125-100-75-50 3 breath interval
50 Rollercoaster Kick

Cool Down:
4 x 150 Pull
200 EZ

4200 Yards

Saturday, January 09, 2010

The Women of Karate

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away.... okay, well in my small hometown in Southern Oregon, I embarked on an on-again, off-again love affair with the martial arts. I started off taking Judo when I was in high school, continued in Judo in college, and then stopped for several years. In 1991, I took up Goju-Ryu karate, but was sidelined by a skiing injury that pretty much halted my involvement for 15 years. Through several dojos, several senseis, and several styles of martial arts though, one thing remained a constant: very few women. There was one woman in my first Judo dojo, none in my college classes, and one in my karate class. For the most part, I trained in the company of men. I never had a female sensei, nor saw a female black belt in person.

So when another homeschooling mom recommended the dojo at ESK, I was so surprised to see it was... full of women! The owners are a husband-wife pair of senseis, many of the other senseis are women, and the dojo is full of females, from the littlest tykes to a host of teenagers, to other moms like me. 70% of the black belts are female! Let me repeat that statistic again. 70% of the black belts are female. Coming from never seeing a female black belt to that, well that's inspiring.

Originally, I started taking karate there because I really wanted to encourage my son in the sport. I had an inkling that this non-team-sports kid would really thrive in something individual and mentally focused like karate, but I knew I had to find exactly the right kind of place, one that blended discipline with grace and kindness, hard work with a patient guidance. At the time, I wasn't thinking that much about my daughter, as she tends to already be involved in a ton of activities, many of them very physical. But soon I came to see what our dojo offered to her in terms of not just the practice of karate but the role models she was surrounded with. I really count my blessings on so many levels that our family found this dojo.

So this week, our local newspaper profiled our karate dojo in their special women's supplement, and the article focuses on the girls, teenagers, and women of the dojo.

Crouching Girls, Hidden Warriors

Check it out! Both Asa and I are in the group photo, which believe it or not only represents about half of the 100+ girls in the dojo!

Friday, January 08, 2010

Exciting New Endurance Fuel

So my son Mackenzie has been learning to cook some of my recipes. This is partly in self-preservation because at age 13, he needs to eat about every 23 nanoseconds. The other night he was making cornbread, but I forgot to tell him that you're not supposed to over-mix any non-yeast breads. So there he was merrily stirring and stirring away at the cornbread batter. Of course, when he baked it the batter didn't rise at all, instead turning out cornbread that was about 3/4" thick and incredibly dense.

We called them "Cornbricks".

Then I got to thinking, that might actually be a terrific homemade endurance food. Tired of bars and gels on a long bike ride? Just unwrap a cornbrick! All the flavor of cornbread, on the go. Now if we could just figure out a way to build in the butter and honey flavor into the middle, without all the mess.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Note To Self: You're Not 17

Daughter gets skateboard for Christmas. I take her down to skatepark and help her learn to ride. I get stupid and try to teach her to ollie. I forget I spent the last 4 months rehabilitating my hamstring. I come down from ollie to shooting pains in left hamstring. I go home cursing that I am not 17 anymore. Nor am I 27, nor even 37. Sigh. Daughter is sure cute though, no???

True Story #1: When I was a teenager, my mom (ever open-minded and pretty adventurous) decided to try and ride my skateboard near the pool in her apartment complex. She got going slightly downhill and headed for the pool. I kept yelling for her to jump off but I guess she panicked. She rode my first Tony Hawk board into the deep end of the pool. It was so funny we still laugh about it today. I am now the same age as she was when she did this.

True Story #2: I once skated with Tony Hawk when he came through town on a loosely organized skater tour. No half pipe in town so they threw together a big quarter pipe against a wall of an abandoned building. I learned a couple of tricks that I will now not ever try to replicate again. Who knows what I would injure!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

To Endure

Do you ever feel like someone is writing a script for your life, and in the margins they've scribbled little chapter headings or life lessons so that on one particular week you get bombarded with messages for that particular subject? Well, sometimes I do. Or perhaps it's just that once you start noticing something, you see instances of it everywhere, kind of like once you buy a red VW Jetta, you see them everywhere.

This week's theme seems to be endurance: how to have it, or more accurately how to practice it. I like how even the word endure has more than one meaning. It can mean " To carry on through, despite hardships, to bear with tolerance" or alternatively "To continue in existence, to last". Thus when one develops endurance, it affects more than, say, whether they can complete a marathon. I think the effects of endurance can ripple out through one's entire life into corners you might not expect.

I suppose it helps that I finally got around to reading Lance Armstrong's It's Not About The Bike - one of those books I've been meaning to read forever, but I just found a copy at the thrift store for $1 and picked it up. It's pretty much a page-turner if you ask me. Especially the chapters about the Tour de France, or maybe that just marks me as the sports/cycling geek that I am because I couldn't put it down during those parts. And of course the book details his fight with cancer and how that affected both his mental and physical self.

This week at our home gym, which we have named "The Rock", one of the workouts was a 10 kilometer row on the C2 rowing machine. If, like me, you've never rowed seriously hard on one of these human torture devices, it might be difficult to appreciate just what a task a 10k row is. All I can say is that on the day I did it, although it only took about 43 minutes, I later felt like I'd been on a 4 or 5 hour bike ride. It's very taxing and works all major muscle groups.

Some of the folks who are working out with us have never done any endurance sports whatsoever, especially since Crossfit itself is very light on the endurance end of the range, with most workouts lasting no longer than 20 - 30 minutes. Of course for some folks who come from an endurance background, the intensity of Crossfit is the new and challenging thing, so there are workouts to challenge everyone. But this week it's the 10k row that's the bugaboo.

I was watching my friend tackle this difficult workout one day and observed something very interesting. Through the middle of the workout I could just tell she was really suffering. Everything hurt, everything felt bad for her. If you've ever been in the middle of something tough, you know that feeling. But one of my mantras is that while everyone in an intense sport experiences pain, suffering is a choice that we make. Go watch an endurance event and you can pick out who is in pain (everyone) and who is suffering. The difference lies in the specific skill of endurance, the ability to endure. So I was trying to help her find that mental place where you can take yourself so that you're no longer suffering. All of a sudden, I could see it happen, that transformation from suffering to enduring. It was so cool to watch. She just got real focused and for the entire rest of the workout she was in that zone.

Then this Friday, our Master's swimmers gathered to do our annual New Year's swim workout. This year, in honor of 2010, it was 110 x 50 yards on the :45 interval. If you've ever swum intervals, you'll know exactly what that means and how tough it is! If you don't, let's just say it's over an hour and twenty minutes of swimming intensely for 40 seconds and then getting about 5 seconds of rest and doing it all over again 110 times. As you can imagine, to endure such a workout, you need a toolbag of mental tricks. I was employing lots of them - sometimes I use mental math: calculating splits and times and what time we started and when we would end. Sometimes I use mantras, sometimes I focus on my stroke, or my turns or breathing.

Afterwards, I talked with one of the other swimmers and he said that he did each 50 as a Swim Golf. Briefly, that means that you count your strokes, and then you add that number to your time in seconds and your total is your Swim Golf Score. It's a very helpful metric for analyzing the efficiency of your stroke. But what blew me away was that this guy did that for 110 50's!!! Think of the mental and physical discipline that this entails. No wonder he's one of our fastest swimmers. He said he kept them to 61 or 62 each and every time, thus he ensured that his technique did not fall apart as he became more fatigued. If you want to be even more impressed with this, go try a swim golf the next time you hit the pool and you'll see that a swim golf of 62 is a very impressive feat to replicate 110 times.

From my Masters swimming friend to Lance Armstrong, it's clear that really great athletes have the ability to mentally dominate their physical existence, including pain and discomfort. They have a toolbox (either consciously or unconsciously) that is full of techniques that enable them to step away from the realm of suffering and to manage these sensations in a way that keeps them focused. As we head into the New Year, it's worthwhile to think about our own toolbox of mental tricks and see if we can expand on them a bit. The next time we find ourselves in the middle of a sufferfest, maybe we can pull out something new!