Posted by: realifemermaid | November 13, 2013

Thoughts on Longevity, Clearwater-Tampa 8 Mile Record

I swam in a local race on Sunday, the Clearwater to Tampa Trifloyd 8 mile swim. I won first for women (tied 3rd overall) and set a new women’s record with a time of 3:34. Yes, I’m happy with that swim…it was a great swim and like all the others taught me a little more about myself as a marathon swimmer and prepared me a little more for TBMS. But like all things in life it got me thinking!
Of course I am thrilled to have my name attached to a course record. But I know there are many people out there that can swim faster than me! Not just regular swimmers (there are tons of those people) but distance swimmers too. It was easier to set a record because this was only the fifth year of the event and the event is still a little, local race.
The record reminds me of win I set a 500 freestyle record for the 11-12 girls with a time of 6:15. 6:15 is not really all that fast…I don’t think it was even an A time for the US time standards. I had the record because no one else would swim it!
Sticking with something and actually doing something in the first place is half of the equation to being successful at it. I could have quit swimming many, many times. When I was 13 and plateaued, when I was 17 and had a horrible coach and had to swim on a different team for a year, my first year of college when my asthma did NOT agree with Pennsylvania, and of course, as an adult and swimming was supposedly “over”.
My training partner Magoo says that marathon races are not over in the first half. The leader of the TBMS last year ended up hours after the ultimate winner. He advises me to swim my own race, not worry about what is happening around me, and to just keep going.
I don’t think he has realized that his advice for how to race a marathon is the same for how you should approach a lifelong career in swimming. There were several swimmers who were faster than me when they were younger, but they haven’t been in the pool in 10 years….and miss it. There are people who have had to quit swimming due to injury or shifting priorities.
Being ready and present for a marathon swim is just like actually swimming it. You have to
1. Show up!
2. Be persistent.
3. Be determined.
4. Be optimistic about all horrible circumstances telling you to quit.
5. Ignore everything. Just swim your own race!

“The only yard stick that measures success is longevity” –Tom Hanks

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Posted by: realifemermaid | November 7, 2013

The darker waters

Just a fair warning.  This post is a little darker than my general optimistic happy tone, but not without reason. 

My (parent’s…she lives in Maryland) 6 1/2 year old golden retriever, Maddie, was diagnosed with a cancer near her eye a few weeks ago.  They tried to treat it, ultimately they are going to have to take her entire eye out. 

In case you missed the new about Maddie, we got her right before I graduated college, the same time I was very sick with severe, uncontrollable migraines and cluster headaches.  Maddie took care of me, helped fill the empty nest, and is a volunteer “touch dog” at the nursing homes, schools, and libraries.  When I still lived at home and started swimming again, she would try her hardest to keep up, walking along side my mom and then jumping through the waves to swim with me for a little, before growing tired (after about a mile!) and getting back out to run with my parents again.  In short, Maddie helped bridge my college years into adulthood and eased the transition to empty nesters for my parents. 

Don’t worry.  This post does have more to do with swimming.  Just wait for it.

The news about her eye really disturbed me.  Of course I am sad for her, but I really am glad that she is going to live a healthy, full life after the surgery, and from the sound of it get even more attention than she already receives. 

The problem is the idea of imperfection, decay, growing older. 

When I am swimming really long swims, one idea that gets me through it is the idea of “It’s all going to be over.  No matter how painful this is right now, five hours DOES end!  Twelve hours ends!”  Hey, even twenty-four hours ends, so why not go longer than my currently planned agenda?

This mantra I have chosen for myself of “No matter what, it is all going to end” along with a scary anaphylaxis episode last summer…along with my impending 30th birthday (okay, that one is still 18 months away, but still…) has given me pause to eerily reflect. 

After a few months of strange reflection, I think I’ve come to the conclusion that I am simply in awe of how much we can and can’t control in life.  Time has always eluded me….as a regular pool swimmer, I chased seconds and hundredths of a second.  Now, time has become my mortal mental enemy, a stalemated rival in a staring contest.  Who can last longer….swimming or time? 

Time continues to wear down on everything.  I came to this conclusion as I got out of the pool today and was still disgusted at the scar on my right knee, which is only there because I fell down the brick stairs in the front of my house.  It has company, though…two surgery scars and another scar from a silly accident when I was nine years old. 

I can’t control time.  I can’t control the way it marches forward, dictating how much of my day might be spent in sleep or work or swimming.  I can’t totally control a lot of unfortunate events…car accidents or cancer or skinned knees or bad breakups.  Time and accidents unfortunately seem to be best friends, skipping away, placing bombs along the paths of unsuspecting lives. 

I can control perspective.  I think I have always had an optimistic attitude that has helped me through a lot in life, but controlling this perspective takes optimism to a different level.  It is understanding when to rationalize when something is happening, and when to just do it. 

When to just keep swimming, with blind faith that it will end, and not question how many minutes or miles or strokes you have done. 

When to understand and accept that something just is because it is. 

Not to stop thinking and questioning, but to have a deeper understanding and appreciation of time.

Posted by: realifemermaid | November 4, 2013

8888

Gotta figure why my phone eats all my phone posts!

I made this entry the day we swim EXACTLY 8888 yards…thought it was amusing.  I only remember the main set now….

500

5×100

400

4×100

300

3×100

200

2×100

100

1×100

Repeat (6000 total).  First time: 100s get faster.  We did 1:30-1:10 taking five seconds off each time. (4×100 1:25, 3×100 1:20….1×100 1:10) Longer distances stay on 1:30 base.  Second time: longer distances get faster.  Sets of 100s stay on 1:30.

The other 2888 yards was warmup, warmdown, a sprint set of 50s, and a kick set.  Warm down was 388 yards (300 then we realized we were at 8800 so we did almost a 100then we walked to the wall).

Posted by: realifemermaid | November 3, 2013

You swim when? Where? How much?

Somehow what I posted last night (via iPhone..) got all deleted.  Oops.  So here I go again….

I was inspired by another blogger and by the conclusion of the cross country season to post about my training schedule, because it is a frequently asked question with a somewhat complicated answer.

I swim with two teams:  a US swim team, much like one I grew up swimming with when I was younger, and a super awesome master’s club located an hour and a half west of where I live: Windfall Aquatics.

The US team has nine practices a week: five afternoons, three weekday mornings, and Saturday morning.  During cross country season, I spend more time running and coaching and less time with morning practices.  After cross country season is over, I have more time and energy to make it to a few of the morning practices.  Practices with the US club are two hours long, a good variety of sprinting, stroke work (hence the butterfly!) and trying really hard to keep up with amazingly fast swimmers who are half my age.  Which is good for me.  I love how practices are organized, too…we have a low-key masters group and the fastest adults swim in a lane right next to the fastest kids….usually, but not always, doing the same workouts.  It is a fantastic layout for someone like me! I like to swim with the kids, but after teaching high school all day long, not necessarily socialize with them during the entire practice.  Most other adults get out after the first hour, but lately a few masters swimmers have been staying later.

I usually miss Saturday practice to swim with Windfall Aquatics.  This group is a bunch of crazy, whacked out people who swim way to long and have enticed poor innocent me into joining them.  Workouts with Windfall Aquatics (TW) are generally 10-12,000 yards or a long open water swim….either way, I can plan on swimming for at least 3 hours, being in quite a bit of pain, and loving every minute of it!  The TW crew is quite accomplished, boasting top finishes of the TBMS, local distance swims, and hopefully some of my teammates will be going to the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim.  We are part of the Greater Tampa Bay Open Water Swimmers (I totally just made that up, but it is true)…swimmers from other teams that will also get together to train with us, including Ron Collins, recently crowned Triple Crown swimmer who introduced me to the group in the first place after I refused to swim the Tampa Bay Frogman without a wetsuit.  Also my friends Amy and Ann, from other area teams but are consistent swimming buddies of mine that have been doing this marathon swimming thing way longer than I have and are super awesome ladies!!!

Having such a strong community of supportive swimmers is the only reason why I am still swimming in the present moment.  When I first moved to Florida a few years ago, it was difficult to swim without feeling like I was part of a bigger picture.  Even though my big crazy marathon family lives far away from me, they helped redirect my purpose every time I got into the pool, and really got me to mature as a swimmer.

Last year in the TBMS, only six people finished.  I don’t think it was coincidence that five out of the six finishers were from Tampa Bay (yes, it was a Tampa swim…but people came from all over for the race).  Even the two Tampa area swimmers that did not finish were very close under some of the worst conditions for that swim ever.

l I am proud of the people that I get to swim with every week, both at home and over on the west coast, and grateful for being included into both teams.  There is absolutely no way I could try to achieve my swimming goals without just even just one group, or even worse, neither!

Posted by: realifemermaid | November 2, 2013

Nutrition Facts

The USMS Magazine Swimmer came in my mailbox today, with an article in it about fueling for marathon swimming.  Yay!  It actually turned out to be a slightly disappointing article, giving advice that pretty much whatever works for you goes, and seriously put down maltodextrin and similar super-carbohydrates.  But….it got me thinking about making a post about my own nutrition. 

I don’t really know why the article bashed gels and Maxim so much.  My training partners love Maxim.  I do not tolerate liquids very well, but I love gels and even though I have a favorite brand and flavor (Power Gel’s Kona Punch…I like tropical punch stuff anyway and it reacts with saltwater to make a nice mouth-taste after eating!) I can eat pretty much any brand and flavor without serious digestive stress.  I like solid food after three hours of swimming because I can feel it filling up an empty void in the pit of my stomach…it just feels so satisfying! 

Swimmer usually publishes an article about nutrition in every magazine.  They have addressed the low-carb verses low calories verses Paleo verses every other diet under the sun.  Just recently though, I read an article from Runs on Plants about how most endurance athletes do not follow a specific diet plan, but follow “agnostic eating”.

 

Agnostic healthy eating has no particular rules, but there’s a simple guideline that makes it easier to practice consistently.

Agnostic eating:  (From Active.com):  There are 10 basic types of foods: vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, high-quality meats and fish, whole grains, dairy, refined grains, low-quality meats, sweets and fried foods. The first two types are classified as “mandatory,” the next four as “recommended” and the last four as “acceptable.”

The one rule of agnostic healthy eating is this: Each week you must eat each of the two mandatory foods more often than any other food type; you must eat any of the recommended food types you choose to eat more often an any of the acceptable food types; and you must eat any of the acceptable food types you choose to eat less often than any of the mandatory or recommended food types.

Out of all the nutritional articles I read (including Swimmer stating to never eat a doughnut or candy…not even after swimming the English Channel!) I think this is the best, most simple, practical advice for fueling grueling workouts.  

I also do not eat meat by choice…fish occasionally….and am allergic to casein, the protein in milk, as well as shellfish.  So with dairy and meat taken out of my diet, it can take some careful planning to make my diet meet my training needs. 

I am frequently asked, “What do you EAT??” Just a few examples because this entry has Friday night ramblings all over it.  (Sorry for that.  Hope the info is at least interesting).

Currently I am obsessed with Whole Food’s dairy and meat free butternut squash (eggs though…not suitable for vegans…). 

Quinoa with fruit and vegetables (like pasta salads)

Peanut butter…too much peanut butter on lazy weeks…

Salmon, tuna, or “fake” meat…but I try to limit this.

Pasta.  I love pasta. 

Sweet potatoes.

Curry.

Comments on this entry will be eaten like candy!  Thoughts on nutrition or your meals/recipes if you eat like I do!!

 

Posted by: realifemermaid | November 1, 2013

FLY!

I ran in a 5K last week for Halloween and I went dressed up as a butterfly.  Whenever I passed someone, people cheered “Go Butterfly, go!! Use those wings!!”

I was fine with the cheering for butterfly last Friday, and actually got my best 5K running time ever (27:49!! almost like a real runner!!) but for most of my life, BUTTERFLY has been associated with feeling of dread…anxiety….fear….HORROR. 

Perfect topic for a Halloween post!!!

Also perfect because I have had larger than healthy helping of fly at practice this week! I have grinned and bore it.  I am always careful to not sacrifice any fly set for perfect technique, lest my shoulders end up giving out and falling pray to an orthopedic surgeon’s operating scalpel.  The coach at the US swim team that I train with during the week had the theory that fly is an excellent training tool for distance swimmers, and, well…I can’t exactly argue with the results!  Butterfly and running have been so cardio-bursting, leg-burning, mind-blowing that everything else, including sprinting in open water for one or three or twelve miles, seems pretty darn easy! 

As a nice side effect, I have more or less come to enjoy swimming butterfly and running. 

Here are a few samples of my favorite SPOOKILY SCARY workouts that I never ever in a MILLION years thought I would enjoy.  It is scary how fun they have become!

Fly:  8x150s @2:20  25FR/25FL

1650 FR pull, 200 FLY sprint (repeat till you are speaking from the grave!)

40×25 @ 25, 3 FLY, 1 FR

16×75 @1:15 50 FLY sprint, 25 BK

Running:  Anything longer than 2 miles is now okay instead of trying to avoid it like the plague like I did in college. (hahahaha)

Seriously.  A good 3-4 mile run on a cross country course.  It’s like OW without the water.

Hills…sprint up, easy down. 

Posted by: realifemermaid | October 29, 2013

Re-Boot the Blog!

I guess writing and swimming are two things that I just do not seem to quit. No matter how many times I attempt and fail, I seem to have an inheritly stubborn side of my that wants to just keep trying and trying again.
I was sure I had seen the last of this silly blog a few months ago…but here I am having another go at it.
I was sure I was done with swimming…tried a few other activities, including aquatic ones, before finally admitting that I was as inseparable from swimming as pee is in the pool.
Ok, I admit. I’m all fannish from reading Bethany Bosch’s “Miss Adventures of Swimming” and totally jealous of the longevity and fanbase of her blog, her adorable doggie, and numerous successful swims.
But I have also been bugged to start writing again and posting about the fun times I have training because the snippets I put on facebook are mere teases to those who think swimming endlessly for hours is actually fascinating and mindblowingly interesting.
Bloggers and distance swimmers do have quite a bit in common. We retract into our own little universe, stubborn that if we keep going at our task, then inevitably something will come of it. We are also quite certain that, even though no one can see or really cares about what we are doing, this AWESOME AMAZING THING THAT IS SWIMMING AND/OR WRITING is so worth it that I will just continue doing it anyone and I DON’T REALLY CARE WHAT YOU THINK!!

Oh. On that note, I am not participating in NaNoWriMo this Novemeber. My efforts and minimal storage of B12 are too focused on training for Tampa Bay Marathon Swim (TBMS), initiating a Poetry Slam League, resurrecting Key Club, and teaching 7 classes of Enlgish with NO PLANNING.

OMG I miss my planning period.

Posted by: realifemermaid | May 3, 2013

USMS Open Water Nationals

Last weekend, I swam in USMS Open Water Nationals in Ft. Myers, Florida. After years of swimming as a sprinter, where a “long” race was 100 yards, and I would rarely swim a 200 (that was omg so long!) it has taken awhile to adjust as a uber long distance swimmer. I have rediscovered my favorite sport. I swam the 5K in the morning (5,000 meters…100 times longer than my old favorite) and then the one mile race that night.
During my swimming hiatus last year, I had a hard time justifying swimming. Determining why it was okay for me to put so much effort into the pool, just to try to swim a little bit faster. I had a hard time justifying it.
At the race last weekend, I saw all types of swimmers. There were some incredibly fast ladies, former top collegiate champions and Olympic qualifiers. I got beat by a 60 year old that fit one of those categories…that calibar of swimmer can still be quite fast when they are 60!
But then there were a few other swimmers that were there just for the fun of it. This included a woman in her 70s that took about twice as long as everyone else to finish. My teammate and I stood next to her before we started, and Amy took notice to her and was especially impressed at this lady’s longevity and committment to the sport.
That is what I really love about open water swimming. No matter what place you finish in (although I still love to be competitive…) you win! You can continue winning your whole life, even if you are the last person to finish. It is about you and the open water…the big fluffy clouds and the fish that are a little creepy to touch but still make the whole experience that much more fun.
This weekend is a much more laid back race with a lot of friends and people just trying to complete the 2 1/2 mile distance. I will feel just has happy and am looking forward to the starting line just as much as any other event.
And please excuse the lack of “good writing” in this entry…it is Friday afternoon and I am looking forward to the swim tomorrow and tired from a week of teaching!

Posted by: realifemermaid | April 22, 2013

One Year Later….Still Swimming

Well now. I have successfully neglected this blog. I suppose that is because I have been busy. REALLY busy. About this time last year, I was having a love/hate relationship with swimming. I wanted to swim, but I was tired of chasing times and also did not want to be a washed up lap swimmer. I needed something more. I swam occaisionally last spring and focused on running. Last July, I entered the Dave Reynolds Biathlon in Rehoboth, DE while I was home visiting my parents. I have always done this swim/run and thought I would do pretty well this year because of all the running I had been doing. Had not been swimming much at all. Well, wouldn’t you know it, my swim split and finish was one of the best ever for that race! I was one of the first out of the water, and this was always very competitive because there is a relay option and there are also tons of lifeguards from out of state (or out of country!) that spend their summers training and working as a beach guard. Sadly, during the run, I did not do too well. But that event was a wake up call for me. I could use running to make me a faster swimmer, but I was MEANT to swim.
So as of July I’ve been swimming more seriously again, but this time for open water. I started training with a group of amazing people in St. Pete Beach area in September. I entered a 2.4 mile race in October and did decent. I actually came to swim practice and did not care if I swam with the high schoolers if that meant finishing an entire 2 hour practice. The fall was a lot of building back, and by December I was feeling like a swimmer again!
I entered the Frogman Swim in Tampa Bay in January, but only under the condition that I could swim without a wetsuit. Then I submitted an article to USMS Swimmer Magazine about how wetsuits took away the accomplishment of swimming on your own, which was crazy to consider when I spent my entire life trying to go just a teeny bit faster and a wetsuit would essentially help me do so! I got sixth place/32 in the swim and my article was published. The US swimming coach looked at me and said “Well, I guess we better start training you up for this open water stuff!”
Late January, February, and March have been devoted to increasing yardage. Or mileage. My biggest accomplishment during this time was a 9 mile swim in 60 degree water. The following weekend Chris and Magoo (don’t worry, his real name is Mark. And he calls me Space Cadet or Girlie Whirlie) went 12 miles in similar conditions, but I went 8.
April 6th I swim in a huge 10K in Miami, placed 1st in my age group and 4th overall. I was really feeling like a swimmer again!
Now I am totally psyched for this weekend and maybe (now that my blog is caught up) will be making more posts again. This weekend is the USMS National Championships (5K) but according to the entrant list, the Miami swim had more of a national showing…at least for my age group (I think younger people are more inclined to travel to Miami than Ft. Meyers).
So that is where I have been! Some scuba and surf has been happening still, but swimming is back in it’s rightous spot as number one in my life. 🙂

Posted by: realifemermaid | April 22, 2012

Lessons from the Sea

Not the best surf conditions this weekend.  It was a little choppy, blown over, and the worst (or best) part was this great big table top sandbar right where the swell was breaking.  The waves would get really steep before the sandbar, and anyone who was still on the wave by the time the break reached the sandbar was consistently and inevitably dumped right off and into the shorebreak. 

In its own way, this was some of the best swell for me.  One of the hardest things in surfing is learning how to do a good pop up.  Right now, I would sum my pop ups as 20%  of the time spot on, great timing, great everything…60% of the time everything is where it is supposed to be  (but hey I am on my cool longboard and nothing is going to happen if i take my time, so I will)…and 20% of the time some sort of strange crawl or my left knee stays down instead of popping up correctly.  I’ve been working on making my pop ups consistently great, by working on balance and practicing them on a yoga mat a little every day, and of course practicing them in the surf.  It is helping. 

But today, the ocean decided it would help me along even more. 

Along with anyone else that needed some help with their pop-ups.  Or anyone else who was being anywhere even NEAR lazy or sloppy with them. 

Thanks to the conditions with the sandbar, if you did not pop-up immediately and commit 100% to the wave you were on within the first millisecond of the wave catching you, then you were done. 

Pile driven into the sandbar.  Slammed.  Wipe out zone.  It’s over. 

So there is nothing like a little negative reinforcement from a something to be respected as much as the ocean to *really* get you to focus on one aspect of your surfing as much as I did in the last three sessions of the last 24 hours.  Out of it, I had some of the sloppiest wipe outs in months…but also some of the most perfect pop ups ever

It all comes down to the situations and conditions that you put yourself in.  If you are always in an easy situation, then that is going to be your capacity.  You may do fine, maybe even excel there.  But as soon as the pressure is on, then how well will you do? 

That statement sounds a little work-ethic-y, but if you are trying to succeed in something (life, for that matter) that will give you an indescribable thrill, then it is not working just to go higher up some ladder.  It is just swimming…surviving in whatever ocean you may find yourself in at the moment.  You can just swim in a pool…or you can go out and find some oceans to swim in.

If you are really up to the challenge of living life, I suggest finding the oceans that have deep drop offs for the swells and table top sandbars before their beaches. 

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