Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pool Problems Persist

Since my last post I've switched up my swimming routine: I've started swimming after work. I get up at my regular time, eat my breakfast and head into work early. That allows me to leave before 4:30 and hit the 5PM lap session. It's been a remarkable difference from the mornings; instead of circle swimming with 2-4 others in a lane I now generally have my pick of lanes, in fact I sometimes have the pool all to myself. It's been like a little slice of heaven. Unfortunately, my visit to the promised land will be coming to an end. For the two weeks from August 9-23 my pool will be completely closed for its yearly maintenance, leaving me no good choices for swimming. Last year during this yearly maintenance I tried swimming at one of the outdoor pools after work: I was really looking forward using their 50m pool. Unfortunately, when I arrived I discovered that it was not possible to swim 50m laps because the pool was broken up into sections for general swim. The lap area consisted of lanes across the width of the pool, down at the end by the diving board. I ended up swimming lap, periodically being splashed by divers, and having to do turns next to the couple making out against the wall. I hated it. However, it looks like this or nothing. I guess I just need to HTFU and swim.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Where will they all fit?!?

For the last several week the pool has been a mess, with too many swimmers for the eight available lanes and nobody bothering to try to match their swimming speed to the others in their lane. I just looked at the summer schedule (starting June 13) and we'll be down to only 4 lap lanes for morning swims on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. I just don't see how this will work at all. My only hope is that with the outdoor pools opening and school finishing on the 16th that some swimmers will disappear for vacation or find somewhere else to swim.

Last year I was able to flee to the pool near work where there are 16 lap lanes in the morning. However, that is not an option this year since that pool is closed through October for renovations.

I just don't know how it will work this year!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Caving to my Demons

In my last post I said "I'm now at a point where swimming feels really good and my swim confidence is at an all time high...if I have a poor swim at Sunday's tri I'll be very disappointed." Well, I am disappointed. I had some concern going in, mainly with wondering how I'd handle the water temperature. Last year I freaked when I put my face in the cold water and had an awful swim. I did well at my OWS practice so I thought I'd be OK, but this was still sitting there in the back of my mind. I was also concerned with forecast of high winds that could kick up swells on the lake. The winds ended up being quite mild and the lake was calm and the water temperature was a "balmy" 69 degrees and was not a factor. Still, I had a poor swim. So, what happened? I don't exactly know, but I just couldn't relax and kept feeling like I simply could not keep the effort up. I swam decently on the out leg but after making the first turn I gave in to my demons and started doing side stroke. I tried switching back to free style a few times but kept giving it up and going back to side stroke. When I made the second turn and was heading back towards shore I forced myself to stay with free style and finished up decently. Last year I did most of the swim side stroke, back stroke, and breast stroke, just trying to survive and get out of the water; the swim took 20 minutes for 750 meters. My goal this year was to do freestyle the whole way and to cut the swim time to around 16 minutes. My official time was 15:10. I should be ecstatic...but I'm not. Sure, I beat my time goal but I failed in my other goal, to give my best effort. I should probably cut myself some slack and go woohoo over my time improvement but I was hoping for something more. I've lost some of my confidence. Give me some time for the disappointment to fade and I'll be fine but right now they are my wounds and I want to lick them a while more.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Swimming by Numbers

I grew up on Long Island. I was in, or near, water pretty much all of my adolescent years. I took some swim lessons at various times but was never on a swim team or anything like that. I generally have no fear of water. Imagine my surprise when I started triathlon training and discovered that I was a really lousy swimmer! As soon as I tried lap swimming for the first time it was obvious that I needed help; my kick was terrible, I could barely turn to breathe, and it turns out that my stroke was completely old school (not sure when the stroke mechanics all changed).

I've always been good at learning things by reading and I've gotten a long way in triathlon by figuring out things by myself. Swimming is a big exception to this; I knew I was overmatched and needed help. I started doing private lessons with a coach at my pool and pretty much had to start from scratch. I definitely did not take to it like a fish to water. Gains came only through expert help and a lot of hard work at lap swimming. It took me from January through May to be able to swim 300 meters straight, the length of the swim in my first tri in July, and that took a mix of crawl and side stroke. I was able to do that first tri (a pool swim) all crawl, but the 1000m open water swim (OWS) for my August Iron Girl tri was a fairly ugly mix of crawl, side, and back stroke.

I made huge gains during the fall of 2007 and winter of 2008 because I was having knee issues and swim was just about all I was allowed to do. By then, I was swimming without a coach and figuring it all out on my own. My speed was decent (for a 48yo triathlete, sucky for a SWIMMER) but my body position in the water was not great and I was working at it harder than I should have been. In the game of "swim golf" (strokes needed to swim a 25m length) I was needing 28 strokes. Basically, if I wasn't stroking my heart out I was sinking.

This last January I joined the Mid Maryland Triathlon Club. Through them I took a one day swim clinic in March that included an underwater videotaping and stroke analysis. Before the videotaping we were put through various drills designed to teach us about balance in the water and help give us an awareness of our body position. I learned a lot just from this, but the swim analysis was eye opening. I learned that my body position and roll wasn't bad but that my stroke basically lacked any glide (as I said above it was stroke or sink), my hand entry was poor, and my catch was too far out to the side. I was taught how to do the catch up drill and other balance drills and then sent on my way.

The next few weeks were frustrating as I broke down my swim and tried to build it back up, always keeping in mind what I had seen in my stroke and what I was taught to correct it. I was slower than ever and felt uncoordinated and out of synch in the pool. I was sucking water.

I'm not sure when it happened but somewhere in mid to late April it all started coming together. It started to feel comfortable. I had glide. My stroke count was dropping (on Tuesday I had it down to 20!). I wasn't working as hard but my speed was increasing!

I'm now at a point where swimming feels really good and my swim confidence is at an all time high. I don't want to put too much pressure on myself, but if I have a poor swim at Sunday's tri I'll be very disappointed.

I am a shark among minnows!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Is religion based on intolerance?

I may kick myself later for writing about religion and politics, but here goes!

Yesterday I posted this to my Facebook wall:

    saw this in a Washington Post Article "DC protesters denounce gay marriage": by the organizing pastor to the protesters "I am appointing you to take the word far and wide and speak up for Jesus." So, he's got a pipeline to Jesus' opinions on same-sex marriage? Didn't Jesus espouse love and tolerance?
I got the typical, supportive responses I expected from friends and family, but I also got a response I wasn't expecting at all from a family friend. He said "all religion is based on intolerance." While that's certainly not stated out front in the bullet points, I suppose this statement is basically right. In its most basic form religion was invented to answer the question of why the world is the way it is. Most religions seem to take the stance that "we've got it right and you've got it wrong", with little room for accepting the differences or admission that maybe they're both wrong.

I came to the conclusion years ago that most of the world's ills were perpetrated in the name of religion and concluded that I didn't want any part of that. A religious person says that there is a god; an atheist says there is no god; an agnostic says he just doesn't know. I consider myself an apathist; I just don't care. A person doesn't need religion to have morals. When I'm forced to label myself I actually consider myself a secular humanist, holding the idea that reason, ethics, and justice can serve as the basis of moral reflection and decision-making.

A friend of mine liked to say that religion was invented by the devil as a way of dividing mankind. I believe that religion was a human invention, but it has achieved the same result.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Yellow Days

It happens right about this time every year in the DC Metro area; the whole place becomes covered with a fine yellow dust. Know who's to blame? The trees! I've never lived any other place where the trees put out so much pollen! Right now it's the oak trees that are at high pollenation status and everything, especially the cars, are tinged greenish yellow; it certainly doesn't help that I park under an oak an night. The car washes must do extra good business right about now. If we get enough of a rain to wash off the cars then there will be yellow-stained rivers of runoff in the streets.

A year or two ago I accidentally left my car windows cracked when it started to rain and the dust got dripped into the car causing yellow stains on the seats and carpets. Even a stain remover didn't get rid of it all. Amazing, just amazing!