2/28/07 Channeling the Swim

Wednesday.  Okay starting to feel recovered although I can still feel my hamstrings from the weekend.  Yesterday our workout was three, easy lower loops of the park.  Was a weird to run slower than I usually do ON PURPOSE.  Charlee, Mo and I met in the park.  I knew walking up to the park with Mo that my legs were still sore (sore, is that the right word?  tight? leaden? tired?)  I wasn’t in pain, I was just acutely aware of the lead implants that had replaced my hamstrings despite a lot of stretching and resting on Monday.

We took the first loop as a very slow warmup and the three of us just chatted as I tried to work out my hamstrings.   Our goal for the three loops was to not go over a heart rate of 130.  Easy peasy I thought — slow running is what I do best, right?  Hmmm, so why wasn’t it so easy?

We were to do timed miles on the inner loop not less then 2 minutes SLOWER than our marathon pace.  Well, that can’t apply to me because 2 minutes SLOWER than my marathon pace is lying in bed eating Captain Crunch and watching Cartoons.   So we went by heartrate and effort.  The first mile we timed was a 13:35 and it was an easy effort (which is strange because it made me wonder why my 1/2 marathon effort comes out as a 13 minute mile, but whatever….)  I think once you are in the back-of-the-pack world the math ratios change quite a bit, but I also think the principle remains the same — recovery effort is required to allow your muscles to really get over the stress of the weekend but at the same time remember that they are still working.

So of course the further I went along the three loops the faster I wanted to go.  “Okay, I’m all warmed up now, we can go faster” I told Charlee.  “Oh nooooo, you don’t GET to go faster today.  This is it.  130 the entire way.  Recovery only.  Even footfall.”  She admonished.  Harumph.  Should be easy right?  Well it started to become hard to stay at that rate.  Every time my heartrate tried to creep up to 135 we had to back off.  Oh c’mon, let’s just get this over with, if you let me run faster we’d be done already and we can go have breakfast!!  (OMG, I’m channeling Melissa!!  That’s what she says to herself during races — the faster you go, the faster you’re done! Which I could never comprehend.)  Okay, okay, I’ll hold back but really, really, I could run faster if you would just let me.  “No.”  Charlee repeats.  Geesh.

Charlee told me about one of the female swimmer’s she admires is Lynne Cox who wrote the book “Swimming to Antartica.” In the book, Cox tells the story of how in her earlier swimming days she was one of the slower swimmers in her group.  By the time she finished her lap, everyone in her lane was finished with their 5 or 10 second rest so she felt obliged to keep going to keep up.  She never got faster.  Finally one day the coach told her that unless she learned to rest and recover she was never going to get faster.  She finally started taking her rests and voila!  She got faster.

This story means a lot to me, not only because the exact same thing happened to me when I tried to join the masters swim class two years ago (Everyone got a rest but me!) but because as a back of the packer, the difference between recovery pace and racing pace is so minimal that we often overlook even trying to attempt recovery pace.  Like everyone, our goals are to get faster but we feel we are so far out on the bell curve that we can’t afford to run slower.  Back of the packers often translate their frustration at running slower into run longer, run longer, run longer.  Also, we are ALLOWED to run our own pace because we are usually so far behind everyone that we don’t have people to spur us on.  So the concept of a resting or recovery pace seems irrelevent.  If I go any slower, I’ll be going backwards, I find myself thinking.  Or worse, I’ll be walking (which is very underrated.)

I guess I’ve thought over the last couple of years where I’ve been training that I have never pushed myself to the same levels of exhuastion that the other athletes so I didn’t DESERVE a rest or recovery.  That might have come back to bite me in the asphalt.  Perhaps if I had taken rest and recovery more seriously I might have become a little faster instead of using the downtime to catch up on mileage or practice more.  I often think of that line that someone said “practicing for many hours at a slow pace just makes you good at running many hours at a slow pace.”

In summer of 2006 I definitely started to try to increase my pace in my training, but I can’t say I tried to incorporate a lot of rest and recovery.  As I said, I never really felt like I deserved it.  I took rest when I got totally exhuasted but it was never calculated.  I’m sure I pressed on many weeks when I should have pulled back.   This concept of recovery pace — forcing myself to run at that pace that I have fought so hard to get away from feels counter-intuitive.  I understand the need for rest — I just figured that meant the couch, not running at a 13:30.  Run a 13:30 on purpose?  Are you nuts?  But that’s what I did yesterday.  Counter-intuitive or no.  Assignment completed — we’ll wait for the grade during the Brooklyn half.

So today we have a swim without pushups!!  Yippee!!  (I get so embarassed having to get out of the pool and demonstrate my lamo pushups but Marisol’s voice is on permanent record in my heading yelling at me so I always have to do them.)   I also don’t have to do any leg strength today, just core so that makes it a somewhat easier day.    I guess we are preparing for some over-gearing tomorrow on the bike so we’ll need our leg strength.  A nice soak in the jacuzzi sounds like something the doctor ordered so that will be on the agenda too.  I’m glad we have Wednesday as a swim day — it works nicely as a kind of recovery day (as long as we are not doing pushups and squats and lunges!)

Food is going okay.  I need to stock up on some supplies so I’m off to the store for that.  I’m really trying to focus on healthy and strong and not the “D” word.  I’m starting to feel a little shift in my attitude and focus.  I’ve been using the phrase “what is my intention with this food” for over a week now and it has really been revealing a lot to me.   I’m still working on the visualization and position intention of a healthy and strong athlete. 

My scale shows a weight loss right now, but I’ve seen that before.  A big drop when I come off a big weekend and then a slow rise back up.  Let’s see if I can just keep it down by throwing in a lot of extra fruit and veggies this week and stay away from processed foods like energy bars and the like.  The real test comes on Friday at my next weigh-in.

Speaking of nutrition.  I think I had a decent result with my new customized nutrition over the weekend.  http://www.infinitnutrition.com/ I did feel a little stomach cramping but I’m not sure if that was the formula or the indoor workout.  After the weekend I was talking about the strange amount of energy I seemed to have after my workout on Saturday, I realized the only new factor was my new nutrition.  So I’m going to give them a call and see if they can modify the formula a little to make it a little less hard on my stomach and keep that same level of energy.  I will say this — it’s a lot easier to drink my calories than eat them.  It was so easy to just line up the bottles of nutrition and drink my way through the workout instead of fumbling and fighting with opening packs and gels.

Oh yeah, one other thing, Donald wants me to remind everyone that Engineer’s DO know how Bumblebees fly — it’s just they are not telling anyone…. lol  (sorry Donald, just had to throw that in there.)

Finally, several people have asked if it is okay if they can leave comments on my blog.  Go ahead, if I don’t like what you write, I’ll delete it!  (Just kidding….. kind of…..)  All you have to do is click on the words “Comments” at the end of the blog entry and comment away!  (If it says “no comments” just click on those words).  Keep it clean though — this is a PG blog!!


I’ve mentioned Gertrude Ederle before — she is my swimming idol and the spirit I will try to “channel” in my swim in July.  In 1926 she was the first woman to swim the English Channel — and the first person to do it by crawl.  She was called “America’s best girl.”   I like how she describes how she feels out in the ocean — it made me feel better to know that she too talked to the water…

To me, the sea is like a person – like a child that I’ve known a long time. It sounds crazy, I know, but when I swim in the sea I talk to it. I never feel alone when I’m out there.” Gertrude Ederle

Nothing crazy about that Gertrude, besides, we like crazy round here!

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