Friday, October 31, 2014

Trick or Treat

Happy Halloween to all! Tricks and Treats abounded today at practice. One treat was the discovery that the majority of my lane (2/3) was from the metro C-Bus area. For all of you not from the Midwest, that is Columbus, OH. Even better, we were from rival high schools (Upper Arlington and Worthington). We bonded over our love of Ohio and set aside our petty childish rivalries. I must point out that I was nearly out of high school by the time this kid was born, though he played nice with me and BB and pretended we were not that much older. The trick was that coach Bill made us do relays at the end of practice to earn a zombie bar. Special props to Solly who went in to the locker room to try to find the scary monster who is spraying the Axe aerosol deodorant at 6:50 every morning. He was a minute too late, but we think we have narrowed the window to 10 minutes and he shall be found. Our lungs and general health thank you, Solly!

9 x 75’s on :10r
  1-3:  are all drill
   4:  breast
   5:  back
   6:  fly
   7-9:  free descend

4 x 150 free pull hypoxic 9, 3, 7 on 2:25
5 x 200’s broken going: 75 on :60, 100 on 1:15/1:20, 25 on :40

4 x 100 IM

Relays: One 200 free, One 200IM, One coaches choice.

200 warmdown

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

To the Bridge and Back: Recap

My last race of the season was a fun one, a five mile swim in the James River in Richmond called "To the Bridge and Back."  It was a nice bookend to a bridge-themed season which started with the Great Chesapeake Bay Bridge swim in June. I happen to have some very hard core open-water swimming friends who would not think 5 miles is a big deal, but for me it was a foray into trying out a long swim, and it didn't disappoint.

I picked this race because my family lives in Richmond and it was a perfect excuse to visit. I had also heard good things about the race organizer, Jay Peluso, from my sister and brother-in-law so I felt like it was a good fit. The evening before I was thrilled to find out that I was assigned my own escort kayaker, a high school student named Caroline who turned out to be my niece's swim coach. That day I must have exchanged 238 text messages with my friends Elaine and Rachel about the weather and whether to wear a wetsuit. After my practice swim on Friday, it was an easy decision not to wear one as it was balmy.

Race day was ideal with 60's air temps and 70 degree water - simply perfect. Turns out most people did not wear a wetsuit given the conditions. They started us out in waves of 10 and I was in the second wave. The course went out 2.5 miles and then (surprise!) back. I got out strong and then just started swimming. And swimming, and swimming. We were against the current, which appeared to strengthen as we rounded a corner and saw the infamous bridge. I didn't wear a watch but the first leg seemed to go on forever.  There is a huge mansion on the shore and I thought "oh, what a pretty house" when I first saw it. 10 minutes later, "wow, the house is still there."  Another 10 minutes went by, and still that damn house. By then I had the chance to really critique it and it wasn't that great. We finally rounded the buoy at the bridge, I drank some energy drink and off I went. It probably took me 1:20-1:30 to go the first 2.5 miles. The way back was awesome. That house? It went by fast and was pretty again. I had been chasing a guy from the first wave in a purple cap the whole time but never caught him. My stroke count dropped but I tried to keep my pace up. My sister Carrie surprised me by coming out on a jet ski to take pics and then Ryon, Carrie and the boys all came out on a boat to cheer me on with about 1.5 miles to go. I was happy with my swim and it gave me a good baseline for more, possibly longer races. Unfortunately my mom videotaped my exit, which consisted of me knee deep in river mud stumbling like a drunk zombie towards shore. I shall make sure that video never sees the light of day.

Overall, it was a really fun event and adventure, very well run and a perfect way to end the season. Thanks to my support crew on land - mom, Carrie, Ryon, Celia, Jake, and Mason - and to Caroline in the kayak. And fun to see Courtney Paulk, Boston Light Swim alum and open water swimmer extraordinaire, in her natural habitat! And to my awesome training partners at MIT Masters who pushed me this season.
Best support crew!

The kiddos and a dolphin

Monday, September 29, 2014


I rarely regret making the decision to get up to swim in the morning, and with few exceptions I always enjoy the workout and the camaraderie that comes with being on a team. But there are some days and workouts that are extra special, where the challenge factor and the good lane karma factor collide to make it the perfect workout. That was today! So I want to capture the workout to replicate it if I ever want to swim on my own. Thanks to my lane mates for kicking butt today, especially Joe K and BB.

400 warm up
400 going 25 stroke – 25 free
300 free drill
200 reverse IM
100 free each 25 gets faster
Main Set:
6 x 150 free on 2:15 hold pace
4 x 25 ez
5 x 150 free on 2:05 hold pace
4 x 25 ez
4 x 150 free 1:55 hold pace!
4 x 25 ex
4 x 100 descend 1-3, easy 4

Monday, August 4, 2014

Subs Gone Wild

I have good memories of substitute teachers, and they mostly follow the "oh, we're going to get off easy today" narrative. They were all nice, probably a bit scared, but they pretty much stuck to the script of not rocking the boat. Here at MIT Masters, we have had a series of substitute coaches on deck this summer, something that all of us appreciate very much. And while they are all nice (important trait #1 for a sub), they are definitely not scared of us and most assuredly did not stick to the script, particularly in the first couple weeks. In fact, there was a strange competition between the subs as to who could provide the most outlandish workout. 800 fly? Yep. A matrix where you had to be able to count and swim? That too. A pace-line catch-up thing which was meant to build lane camaraderie? Fun times. I'm frankly surprised that we did not have a drone dropping off a set and then zapping us when we didn't make the interval (it's MIT: anything is possible). Thankfully, things have calmed down quite a bit and substitute favorite Derek was on deck today, with special thanks to E for writing up the workout and Coach Bill for preparing it. I will say that the past few weeks have served to reenforce why I love swimming at MIT Masters: Wonderful lane mates/teammates and coach Bill.

Long Course Meters:

200 swim :20r
200 stroke/swim :20r
200 drill swim :20r

6 x 100 on 1:40 working on various parts of your stroke

Twice thru:
100 going 50 fly, 25 back, 25 free
100 going 50 back, 25 breast, 50 back
100 going 50 breast, 25 free, 25 breast

Main Set: Five times thru:
100 on 1:25
50 easy on :60
50 hard on :40
100 easy on 1:50

Monday, June 9, 2014

Great Chesapeake Bay Bridge Swim 2014

I was fortunate to compete in the 2014 Great Chesapeake Bay Bridge Swim yesterday. The event is a 4.4 mile swim across Chesapeake Bay, under the double spans of the bridge. The event has been running for over thirty years and is a benefit for the March of Dimes. 600 swimmers compete each year and must enter a lottery and then submit a qualifying time to participate. After several years of getting shut out of the lottery, I finally got in this year. My MIT Masters teammate Rafael also got in, so I had a veteran of the race to guide me, along with all my other swim friends who have done this race in the past.

I soaked up advice from coach Bill and the others who participated. Two themes emerged: One, have fun during the swim because it's long; and two, when you think you are done and reached land, think again. Both proved to be worth heeding!

The day was warm (80) and so was the water (74-75 at start and finish, 72 in middle). My training plan included a wetsuit, and the race directors recommended a wetsuit, but a wetsuit did not seem necessary given the warm temps. Still, I didn't know how cool it would get in the middle so I opted for my wetsuit. Many others did as well but there were quite a few who did not, including Rafael. At the pre-race meeting the race director said that the conditions were ideal for the day, and looking out at the water it was hard to argue with that. The race went off in two waves, mine being the second with about 300 swimmers. It was a scrum for the first 30 minutes but once we got under the bridge I was amazed at how much room we had. Driving over the bridge it looks like the two spans are nearly touching, but under the bridge it seems like a mile!

I tried to follow the advice of the director with regard to the currents and stayed to the left initially, then in the middle, then to the right. But the truth is it was much rougher than I ever imagined, and at certain points I felt like I was surfing the waves, and not always riding them in the right direction! I wasn't able to pick up a group but tried to draft off of a couple of swimmers when I could and helped others when they needed a draft. This is one thing I love about open water swims, that the swimmers are conscientious of other swimmers and, in my experience, do not try to swim over or purposefully elbow other swimmers.

Toward the end of the race as we left the bridge I expected it to be tough and it was. It almost felt like swimming in an endless pool and it was a struggle to get through the current and towards land. I was dizzy upon exiting the water but it was all worth it to see my sisters, brother in law, and niece and nephews there to greet me. I was very happy with my swim and met my goal, finishing in one hour, fifty eight minutes and six seconds. Full results are here.

Yet there was tragic news from the race. A 58 year old man died during the competition, someone who had done this race dozens of times. This was not the case of an amateur getting into something too much to handle. It sounds like he had a medical incident and was unable to be revived. I am sure the race support did everything they could. I'm so sad for his family and they are in my prayers.

This was a very well run event, from the initial lottery entry to the race execution. The support on the course was unparalleled, from the coast guard, private boats serving as rescue boats for tired swimmers, kayakers, feed stations, even a helicopter. They shut down the shipping channel during the race as well. I recommend it as a destination race to all open water swimmers. Most thanks goes to my family for being there, which made the experience so much more fun!
My swim wave

Awesome support crew!

Rafael and me relaxing at start

Hot times in the wetsuit!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Elusive Hotel Pool

A hotel lap pool with palm trees overlooking Oriole Park. Really?
Someday I am going to look back on this and laugh. You see, two weeks ago I fell in a shower. As falls go it was mostly unremarkable and left me with a few bruised ribs and a cautionary tale to tell. To their great credit, my family and close friends have been nothing but supportive, with only a few mentions of my middle name (Grace) and an acknowledgment that it's just really painful. But as I heal I fully expect for things to get back to normal (read: someone sending me the YouTube video of the 'falling and can't get up' lady). The truth is that I feel so fortunate that it was not worse, and I will heal.

Yet it turns out that there are things you can and can't do with bruised ribs. You can, with enough pain medication, help officiate a wedding, attend a conference, and drink wine (not with the medication though, kids!). You can't, even with pain relief, swim, sleep, belly laugh (at least in the first week) or be cheerful all the time. All of that is temporary and no big deal. But it was a bit tortuous to find that my conference hotel, the Hilton in Baltimore, had an actual two-lane 25 yard pool. Yes, this hotel had a real, live, lap pool. With a lifeguard! When does this ever happen? Never! We swimmers are always searching for the nearest pool or nearest master's practice, but it's never on the 4th floor of the building you are staying in. So, just like I did when I was a kid, I sought out the pool when I arrived (old habits die hard I'm afraid, injury or not). What a mistake. Not only was it a real pool (where you can swim swim, as swimmers say), it was nice. And did I mention you can see Camden Yards out the window? I ruminated about it the whole conference. I'm even planning a return trip to see the Red Sox play the Orioles just so I can swim there. My lessons learned are twofold: 1) don't fall in the shower; and 2), if you are a swimmer and going to Baltimore on business, stay at the Hilton.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Not What it Seems

Fraud in a bowl
I occasionally make assumptions about things and then am surprised when my truth and the truth are different. For example, take two news stories from this week. The first was that Captain and Tennille are getting divorced after 39 years of marriage. Thirty-nine years! What? Then, as if that did not rock my world enough, it turns out that Fruit Loops are - wait - ALL THE SAME FLAVOR! What a charade of horrors! I tested those as a 8 year old and swear the red ones were best. Anyway, it turns out that lots of things are not as they seem, and swim coaching is one of them. Today I filled in for coach Bill as I have done a few times. But I always forget how hard it is. From the confines of your lane, it seems easy - get the workout from the coach and swim. But from the deck it is a different story. You need to wear many hats: traffic cop, psychologist, mediator, cheerleader, and mind reader. We had five lanes going and they all needed something different. I honestly thought I would give out the workout and leisurely sit around and chat with the lifeguards and other swimmers. Not a chance, but it was awesome. I have a new found respect, not only for Coach Bill but for my teammates who I never get to talk with or see while in the pool. Great job everybody.

400 warm up
25's on :10r, 75/50's on :15r
3 x 25 drill
75 breast
3 x 25 drill 
75 back
3 x 25 drill
75 fly
2 x 25 drill
2x 50 breast
2 x 25 drill
2 x 50 back
2 x 25 drill
2 x 50 fly
1-4 hold pace 1:30
5-8 stroke/free 1:45
9-12 DESCEND on 1:35
3 x 200 IM (choose interval 10-15 rest)
Six times thru:
50 sprint on :40/25 easy on :40
4 x 150 pull hypoxic on 2:20 (ran out of time)
100 easy
75 ascend by 25
2 x 50 easy on :60

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Winning the Lottery

That looks far
They say that winning the lottery changes people, and as a recent lottery winner I hope that this is true, in a positive way. Yes, I am happy to announce that after three years of being on the losing end of the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim lottery, I FINALLY got in! Winning this lottery enables me to pay $250 for the privilege to swim the 4.4 miles across Chesapeake Bay in June, and I can't wait. I will also try to avoid the common mistakes that many lottery winners make, like quitting my job or spending all the money I didn't win on that fancy wetsuit. I have noticed, though, that since my big announcement (I heard it was carried on the local news here) I have been surprised at how completely respectful and silent my friends and acquaintances have been considering my big windfall. It's good to know they aren't hanging out with me because of this lottery victory. :)

300 warmup
10 x 50 on :50 count strokes
3 x 100 breast/free
3 x 100 back/breast
3 x 100 back/free
4 x 400 on 6:20 going:
1. last 100 stroke
2. third 100 stroke
3. second 100 stroke
4. first 100 stroke

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Okay, 2014, Let's Do This!

My sister rolled her eyes every time I said this phrase, which annoyingly for her was almost daily during our family holiday gathering. It was usually said as I was heading out to the gym, or store, or Christmas Eve service. Typically it was said with enthusiasm because I was looking forward to my destination. This morning, though, my tone was more cautious than excited as I headed to the pool for my first masters workout in about six weeks. The holiday fun was over. I'm not one for resolutions, but getting back into a routine again is important. I've realized how interconnected my daily routines are - from fitness, to work, to my relationships. Get off kilter in one, the others are impacted. Coach Bill was kind to us today, and I appreciated that!

Long course:(no intervals - all on rest between :15 and :25)
200 swim
8 x 50 going drill/swim; stroke/swim
3 x 100 stroke
400 swim 
6 x 150 pull
4 x (4 x 50) going:
1-4 IM order on 1:05
5-8 Free descend on :60
9-12 IM order on :60
13-16 Free descend on :55
3 x 100 on 1:45, 1:55, 2:05