Doing More With Less Since 1972

Tag: swimming (Page 3 of 4)

Trusting the Training Plan

Right now I’m about 6 weeks out from Haines City 70.3, and almost everything is pointing to a much better performance than the last time I did this distance. I credit this to sticking to the training plan much more strictly and actually listening to people who get paid to spout information about endurance training. I’m not saying I haven’t missed workouts…I have. Two separate sinus infections hurt me pretty bad. But I haven’t missed a single long workout, and I’ve done a much better job prioritizing workouts. For instance, most of what I’ve missed have been swims. If I’m going to miss something, I want it to be a swim.

I’ve also been reviewing my logged workouts from my last 70.3 as I go, and I’ve noticed a few differences. First of all, I never trained on heart rate before…I just did the distances. Also, it looks like my training was much more sporadic than I remember. This hurt me pretty badly last time around. In fact, I distinctly remember treading water right before the gun went off hoping the race would be cancelled because of lightning and wondering if I could really pull off that distance. I ended up having a pretty good race and hitting my goals, but I had no confidence going in. This time around, I know covering the distance isn’t a problem, even if I had to do it tomorrow.

So I’m expecting a PR this time. I do have a couple of doubts, but I’ve done my best to rationalize them away.

1.2 Mile Swim

This is no problem. An afterthought. I did a 40 minute swim last time, and I expect to go no slower than that this time. There’s a good chance I’ll go faster, but if I do it will only be by a couple of minutes…no real difference. I’ve done enough 1500+ meter open water swims since 2006 that I won’t be intimidated looking at the course itself. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.


I’m not sure I’ll be any faster here, but I doubt I’ll be much slower. No wetsuit to remove like last time, so that should save me 3 or 4 seconds. I will have to apply some sunscreen, so it’s probably a wash.

56 Mile Bike

Here’s where I feel confident in gaining the most time. Last time around I trained at around 18 mph on hilly courses and raced at 19 mph on a hilly course. These days, I’m training at ~ 20 mph in windy conditions on flat courses and will be racing on a flat (hopefully less windy) course; being 50 miles inland should help with the winds a little, right? Also, looking at my logs from 2006, it’s safe to say I was reasonably rested every time I went out on my bike, which wasn’t often. This time I’m already tired before I even get on the bike. My weight will be about 18 pounds below what it was last time as well.

I’m hoping for 21.5 mph. I have some test data here to back up my projection. Two years ago I did an Olympic distance race where I trained at just below 20 mph and raced at 22 mph. And this was on the coast, so winds were a factor. My weight was about where it will be on race day in May, but conditions weren’t as hot as I expect they will be then. Heat will be the big X factor here. If all goes well, I hope to pick up ~20 minutes here.


I can guarantee an improvement here. I don’t plan on actually sitting down and eating a sandwich this time. I’m going to go ahead and get back out on the course. I should pick up at least 2 minutes here.

13.1 Mile Run

I really have no idea what’s going to happen on the run, but I’m trying to convince myself it will go great. And this is where I have to trust the program. Last time around, my training paces were waaaaaaay faster–sub 9:00 miles. I expected to go under 2 hours, but I ended up running a 2:14. That tells me that, again, I was running rested during training and was not really prepared to run 13.1 tired. This time around I’m training on heart rate, much slower pace, but I’m hurting pretty bad at the end of my long runs. Last week I did 100 minutes (10.25 miles) and was really struggling at the end.

The difference is that, just like on the bike, I’m running tired all the time now. The paces I’m running at are much closer to my training paces for my first marathon. That’s encouraging, because I raced at a pace 45 seconds faster than I trained for that race. If I can even get 35 seconds faster per mile on race day, I’ll be at 9:10/mile, and that will bring me home at 2 hours.

I’m working on a strategy to handle all possible situations for this run. I’m breaking it down into two five milers and a 5k.

  • First five miles at 9:30/mile
  • Second five miles at 9:15/mile
  • 5k at 8:30/mile

Starting off at 9:30 shouldn’t be a problem. If I don’t have 9:15 in me for the second 5 miles, it will take some pressure off because there’s no way I’d be able to accelerate to 8:30s for the final 5k. I can back it down to the 9;30 pace and still make it under 2:05. That’s still a 9 minute improvement. Not optimal, but not bad either.

If I can make it through the second 5 miles according to the plan, I’m pretty sure I will be able to mentally push myself for that last 5k.

Goals–Good, Better, Best

I don’t see any way I’ll be over 5:44:59 if I actually finish. Anything can happen on race day (flat tires, temps over 95), and a DNF isn’t ever out of the realm of possibility for anything over 10k. But I can’t plan on things like that. If I beat 5:45:00 I’ll consider that to be “Good”. It’s still a PR.

I’d really like to hit 5:29:59. If I can pull a 2hr run and 20 mph on the bike it will come down to those couple of minutes on the swim and fast transitions. I’ll even give myself some buffer here….I’d be really happy with anything under 5:35:00. This is my “Better” goal.

If everything goes perfectly equipment wise, I have no serious injuries between now and then, weather cooperates, and my run really pans out, I think I have 5:14:59 in me. This would be “Best”.

Pretty cool photo of a “plus-sized” swimmer  George Blagden courtesy of UIC Digital Collections

The Hardest Part of Lap Swimming

Swimming Bear

Deciding who to ask to share their lane.

Our gym has a four lane, 25 yard pool, and it’s very rare to show up there and find an empty lane. If you do, chances are you won’t finish your workout before someone else comes in and needs to share with you. No big deal…I don’t mind sharing a lane. But I’d rather be the one who does the asking instead of being asked. The reason is simple–if I’m doing the asking, I get to decide what kind of swimmer I’ll be sharing with, and who I’ll be accidentally punching in the face. If I get asked, I’m obligated by the social swimming contract to say “sure”, but whether or not I’m about to get accidentally punched in the face is a crap shoot.

Choosing lanes is a little like choosing urinals. There’s an art to it. Today’s swim put all of my lane choosing skills to use.

  • Lane 1: a pool walker. This lane was automatically ruled out since the first lane is supposed to be reserved for walkers anyway. Plus, I like to avoid swimming next to the wall if possible. It doesn’t have any give to it when you accidentally punch it in the face.
  • Lane 2: a swimmer. Not going fast, but an able swimmer.
  • Lane 3: a swimmer. But not a freestyler, a breast-stroker. She was getting into the pool just as I showed up and seemed to be stroking as wide as she could (and eyeballing me the whole time). Obviously, not the choice.
  • Lane 4: a swimmer. Going about the same speed as the Lane 2 swimmer.

So the dilemma was Lane 2 or Lane 4. Again, I’d rather not swim on the wall, but Lane 4 is extra wide, so that usually isn’t a problem in this lane. So I watched. Even though they were going the same speed, the Lane 4 swimmer was working harder than the Lane 2 swimmer to maintain the pace. And her form (I may not be able to lay an egg, but I can tell a good one from a bad one) wasn’t nearly as clean as the Lane 2 swimmer’s. Finally, the clock is directly in front on Lane 2. I don’t like to wear a watch while I swim and depend on that clock, so I prefer having it right in front of me if possible.

I chose correctly. Not only did I avoid making contact with Lane 2 swimmer during my workout, there was only one time during the session that we were side-by-side. I must have walked in during one of her rest sets because she picked up the pace with some sprints while I was in the pool. In fact, even when a lane became open I opted to keep sharing Lane 2 instead of jumping over to the empty lane and taking the risk that I’d end up sharing again with an unknown entity.

I need to do a post soon about choosing where to line up for the start of an open-water swim. Note: the decision is heavily skewed if you’ve already caught someone moving your stuff in transition set up and would like to kick them in the face.


Photo Credit

I skipped this morning’s swim, and I’m not even going to think about making it up. It’s a recovery week anyway, and I definitely needed the rest. If I have to choose between making a swim and making a run, I’ll choose the run every time. I’m considering even waiting until late tonight to do that, just to soak up more rest.

I thought you were supposed to get better when you practiced something? I hadn’t spent any time in the pool for a good stretch up until a few weeks ago, so I wasn’t too tough on myself for swimming like a fish out of water. But it’s been 3 weeks…I should be getting better by now. My technique is so jacked up I don’t even know where to start to fix it. I just know that it’s bad all over.

Think I may be headed for a masters class or a swim clinic next month. This is supposed to be the easy leg of the race, and I want to keep it that way.

On Missed Swim Sessions

I know the general rule for missed short workouts is to just move on without worrying about picking them up. I usually follow this to a fault.

I’m rethinking this a little right now though, at least for the swim. I usually don’t place a huge amount of importance on the swim anyway…those are definitely workouts I don’t stress about missing since it’s the shortest leg of the race by far. This time around though, I’d planned on concentrating more on the swim for no other reason that it provides low-impact time training. I’m thinking of them as heart workouts as much as they are swim workouts.

But due to my inability to buy tickets for weekend youth hockey games in advance, I’m one week into a training plan with no access to a pool.

Long story.

What I’ve been doing instead is jumping on the spin bike and knocking out very light and short rides in place of the swims. My logic here is based on three ideas:

  1. Swim workouts are short periods at low heart rate, so I can ride the bike for 20-30 minutes at this low work rate without burning myself up and still get the heart benefits I’d have gotten from swimming, even if I’m not getting the swim technique benefits.
  2. The spin bike is available to me 24/7 and I don’t have to drive to it. It’s no problem to get on it at 2 am for 30 minutes if I have to.
  3. I’ve never (Ever!, EVER!!!) reviewed my performance in a race and concluded I spent too much time on the bike in training. Ever.

I still plan on abandoning scheduled short rides I miss, and definitely short runs. Missed runs are usually the result of being so whooped and beat up that I legitimately need the rest.

Image Credit


Correct Swimming Pool Temps

I’m going to break this down to levels beyond scientific, based on my test data.

I’m proposing a “bust-yer-aise” scale similar to the wind chill factor or the heat index. 80 feels like 88, provided you’re working hard enough.

If 80 degree water in your backyard pool is too cold for you to cool off in, you need to increase the intensity of your run/bike/walk/row/rugby/training. Or mow/landscape harder. Whatever.

And the max temperature for a lap pool should be ~78. If you can’t make yourself sweat buckets in 78 degree water, consult a physician.

Link Dump – I Think The Debt Ceiling Is Causing Global Warming

Five Facts About the Debt

“When it was Chrysler secured bondholders objecting to getting defaulted on by the president’s auto task force, Mr. Obama denounced them as “a small group of speculators” who were “hoping that everybody else would make sacrifices and they would have to make none.” Where was Mr. Obama’s newfound respect for bondholders back during the Chrysler deal?”

NASA Data Blow Gaping Hole In Global Warming Alarmism – The hell you say! Can we go back to regular light bulbs now?

Tips for overcoming fear of open water swimming – Good stuff here on overcoming your fears. Now I just need to find out why I feel like I’m going so much slower in the open water so I can calm down.

How to Migrate Your Facebook Account and Data to Google+ – Making some assumptions you actually want to move all that stuff, but useful!

Ironman Lake Placid Race Report – @emilysweats has written of the best race reports ever. Worth your time

‘Mad Men’ Begins Streaming on Netflix – Cracking open a single malt scotch and settling in for this one.

Why Leaders Need to Exercise – I’ve found this to be almost exclusively true, and not just with leaders. People in general seem to be more productive, less affected by stress, and more pleasant to be around when they are fit. I know I am.

A Short “How To” Link Dump

Lot’s of “How Tos” were read around here in the last week or so, and I’ve linked to some of the best ones. I was pretty excited to get Spotify too. This one may be worth paying for!

I’m also playing around with Post Formats in WordPress, which explains the drastic change in the way the blog looks. I switched to the Twenty Eleven theme and I’m going to be building off of that. The obvious change I’d like to make is to have a “Link Dump” format and change the way that appears here. I only post about 1/10 of what I read, and if I had a better format, I think these posts could be way better. Anyway…here are the links.

Got Spotify? Here’s How To Use It – Great guide to getting started.

How to Swim Straight in Open Water – One mistake I’ve made in ocean swims is not accounting for the current enough. Even though I started out beyond the break I found myself eventually getting tumbled by surf.

Was the Space Shuttle a Mistake? – You can begin throwing rocks and insults at me in 3, 2, 1…

How to Stock a Home Bar – Another part of the 5 year plan.

Learn jQuery & JAVASCRIPT for free – Can’t wait to finish my current project and dive into this.

“Download map area” added to Labs in Google Maps for Android – Very nice. Very fast. Thanks Google!

Training Swim With Manatees

I jumped in the river with my buddy Ryan on Saturday for a training swim. It was his first open-water swim, and my first swim in a long time. We’re lucky to have a perfect spot to swim at his parents’ condo with no boat traffic and a loop course that’s about 400 yards or so. The water was nice and calm, except for the occasional manatee poking its nose up to get a whiff of whoever was manning the paddle board. I think they were pretty curious about what we were doing. Ryan bumped into them a couple of times during his session, and I got bumped by a few when I was in the water before we started.

Here’s the thing…manatees feel like sharks.

Not that I’ve ever felt a shark in the water, and I know manatees are really gentle. But when you can’t see exactly what it is rubbing up against you under the water it’s kind of freaky; lots of incentive to swim fast and try to avoid them. It’s actually good race training in a way. It simulates getting bumped into by other swimmers without getting punched or having your goggles kicked off.

Just as we were getting out of the water a couple of dolphins showed up. As fun as it sounds to swim with dolphins, those things are freakishly strong, and they aren’t nearly as gentle as manatees. And while I can out-swim a manatee that’s leisurely goofing off in the water, I’m not quite as fast as a sleeping dolphin…yet. Getting unexpectedly bumped by a dolphin would not only be a little alarming, it would actually hurt.

We’re going to try to do this swim at least once a week, and hopefully we’ll get some choppier water next time to change the conditions up a little bit. And hopefully the critters will keep their distance.

Man Attempts To Swim The Atlantic. Fails.

If you’re going to dream, dream big. Any idiot can run from the cops or get involved in a car chase with them. It takes a special person to attempt to swim from them.

“He just took off, and he got a good head start,” DeMorat said. “He was in a foot chase for a few blocks. Then he ran straight into the water.”

Usually, the mugshot section is the best feature on the FloridaToday website, but the stories behind the violations are pretty boring. Today the tables have turned.

Training For a 6 Hour Half-Ironman

NOTE (2.7.2014):  What you will find below is one strategy. I don’t think it’s the best strategy. In fact, three years after originally writing this, I don’t even think it’s a very good strategy.

This is not the way I currently train for 70.3s.  I’ve gained mucho experience and knowledge in the last three years, and you can read most of that in the articles listed here.

There are much more effective ways to train, even with time constraints. And I’ve realized that setting time goals for a 70.3 is maybe not the smartest thing to do, at least for me. A time range is reasonable, but race day is full of unexpected events and factors you can’t control. Read on, but at your own peril. 

Ok. I’ve noticed a lot of people are landing here looking for the answer to that one simple question…”What is the best way to train for a half iron distance race (70.3 miles) and finish in under six hours?”

I wrote a longer, more detailed post about one strategy to do this a while back. But if you’re looking for a simple (and logical) approach, I’m going to summarize it here. I’d advise going back and reading the whole post, which contains a little more detail. Keep in mind, I’m not a certified triathlon coach. I have absolutely no credentials other than the fact that I’ve actually done it while weighing over 200 lbs, eating higher quantity and lower quality of food than I should, and skipping a workout here and there.

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Here’s my strategy: Prioritize the race (and your training) in the order of time spent in the race itself. That means concentrate on bike first, then run, then swim.

The bike is going to be about half of the race, right? So make biking the main focus of your training. That means you are probably not going to get a PR for your half marathon during this race. So be it. If you wanted to PR a half marathon you’d be training for that exclusively anyway, right?

Running will probably benefit from having a really solid base before you start training for the race. Build that up in the off-season, and you can put the running portion of the training on auto-pilot. It probably isn’t necessary to rack up a ton of miles running, but it’s a good idea to be mentally prepared for 13.1 by making sure you still hit a long run every week, preferably on tired cycling legs. For me, I did that along with a 10% brick of my rides, and it worked out. Again, I was a long way from PRing the 1/2 marathon in my race, but I’d banked so many minutes on the bike that I had a huge cushion.

Swim–fuhgetaboutit. If you can swim the distance, you will be fine. No need to spend hours in the pool so you can shave off 3 minutes of swim time when you could spend those hours biking (or resting). If anything, spend your swim time in the open water so you are comfortable with it.

Keep in mind, the point here isn’t to “do your best” or “run the perfect race”. If you want to do that, you should hire a coach, measure everything you eat, take vitamins, etc. Not knocking anyone who wants to do that either, but that’s a different (and very worthy) goal than just trying to arrive at 5:59:59.

Logging Workouts For Posterity

I first started running in 2003. Not that I didn’t run before that, but that’s when I became “a runner” (arguably). That’s when I started running with running performance as the end goal instead of running with rugby as the end goal. The first thing I did was seek out some people who were already runners and drain their brains of whatever info I could. One of the best pieces of advice I got was to keep a training log. Back then, lots of people who logged their training did so in a hand-written training diary, but I was lucky that I was beginning at a time when CoolRunning was already available. This meant I could have all of my training logged online without having to go back and re-enter old information.

CoolRunning was great–nice analysis tools, kept up with miles on shoes, etc. But then they sold out to Active, and I didn’t like the interface as much. So I started trying other sites like MapMyRun and Livestrong. It’s great to have the ability to map training courses, but they are all lacking something. There are either too many ads, not enough analysis tools, whatever. As a result, I have training data spread out across multiple logging sites, and what I really want is one place to keep all of my data.

Now I’m the one who has to re-enter old information when I find a logging tool I like.

I recently started using DailyMile, and I like it a lot. Sure, there are a couple of issues with it too. The analysis tools and interface are great. It’s also social–sort of like the “Facebook for training”. But you can’t go back and do analysis on lifetime data (yet). It’s also difficult to import old data. They have an API, and some guys have started a Java client library, but there’s still a lot of going back to the sites I used before and collecting the data.

What I’ve been doing is entering my new workouts as I do them, then going back and entering the data from the same date on previous years. If I have time, I’ll go back and enter some other old workouts as well. This seems like a hassle and something that would be best to do automatically.

But there’s an upside to doing it manually too. As I’m going back, I’m actually reading my old training logs and doing mental analysis on them. It’s helping with my current training. For instance, it’s encouraging to see how far I’ve come in the swim compared to the first swims I logged back in 2005. And holy crap…I was on a training tear in the summer of 2004. And while I feel like I’m so much slower right now than I was when I was marathon training in 2003, it’s nice to see that my times and splits are comparable to what they were then.  I’ve also noticed that I was much more negative about my training back in 2003 (maybe pressing too hard?). I expected every outing to be a PR and to feel great all the time. That’s funny to me now, knowing how “normal” it is to go out and have crappy training days every once in a while.

What I’m getting at is that it’s great to keep a training log, but it also may be worth your time to go back and review it periodically so you can see your growth and improvement. That isn’t always going to show up in the calculated pace from the workouts. A big part of it will show up in the notes you kept. Even if you have hand-written training logs, it may be a good idea to spend a few minutes each day going back and reviewing your logs from the previous years on that exact date, just to help keep things in perspective.

Keeping a training log is a good tip. I’d say reading your training log is a good tip too.

Image Credit

Better Swim, Worse Swim

Ok…I like seeing the improvement. This is the exact same workout I did a few of weeks ago, but the 100s were all faster and most of the kicks were faster. The only thing slower in the Devil Workout this time around was the swim down.

I think it’s supposed to be that way.

Warmup: 10:04

  • 300
  • 100kick
  • 100


  • 100 – 1:34
  • 50kick – 1:16
  • 50kick – 1:45
  • 100 – 1:37
  • 50kick – 1:23
  • 50kick – 1:29
  • 100 – 1:39
  • 50kick – 1:26
  • 50kick – 1:25
  • 100 – 1:38
  • 50kick – 1:20
  • 50kick – 1:28
  • 100 – 1:40
  • 50kick – 1:25
  • 50kick – 1:25


  • 250 – 5:01

Keeping Your Own Training In Perspective

The next time someone thinks you are crazy for going on a “short” 10 mile run or spending three hours on your bike, let them know about Charlie Wittmack’s World Triathlon.

12,000 miles total, beginning with a 275 mile swim down the River Thames and ending with a climb of Mt. Everest. And sandwiched in between:

The 9,000-mile bike ride might seem relatively easy compared with the swim and the climb up Everest, but even there Wittmack has his work cut out for him.

“I have to get to the border of China and Kyrgystan by the end of October in order to get over the Tibetan plateau to India,” Wittmack said. “I’ll be riding over harsh deserts through areas with political instability.”

So…(talking to myself now)…you probably can squeeze in that workout today you’re not sure you have time for.

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