Elaine: All Things Tri
Here are some of the surprises the open water swim has in store for a first timer:
· It’s dark.
· You can’t touch the bottom soon after starting to swim.
· It’s challenging to swim in a straight line.
· It can be difficult to navigate around a crowded turn buoy.
· You get breathless due to heightened anxiety and colder water temperatures.
· Sometimes you get a mouthful of water instead of air when you go to breathe.
You can deal with these factors, with a little practice. The first two are givens—open water is dark and deep, but that doesn't matter. There is nothing under the water that you need to see in order to be able to navigate the swim course, and you don’t need to touch the bottom to be able to swim.
Swimming Straight and Navigating Around Buoys
In the open water you navigate by swimming towards the swim buoys that mark the swim course. You can do this by peeking forward occasionally while swimming--sighting on the next buoy or landmark behind the buoy. However, sighting by lifting up your head and chest, causing your legs to drop lower in the water, can waste a lot of energy and slow down your swim considerably. So practice efficient sighting in the swimming pool and in the open water. Begin by exhaling completely into the water, breath to the side as you would normally do while swimming, but then turn your head forward keeping you chin low. By the time your head is facing completely forward, you have gotten a panoramic view of what is happening to your side and can sight on the buoy or landmark that is your target. Remember to only sight as often as needed to swim in a fairly straight route.
As you approach the turn buoy, avoid the temptation to swim close to the buoy. While this is the shorter route, it can get crowded at a turn buoy (think toll booths during rush hour). Instead, take a path a few yards from the buoy. This will avoid crowds and allow you to use a more normal freestyle stroke while turning.
Dealing with Anxiety
Breathlessness is related to anxiety and a panicky type of swim stroke, and can be exasperated by cold water. While you cannot control the water temperature, you can work on controlling anxiety and maintaining good swim form.
During practice swims in open water, consciously inhale bringing the air deep into your lungs and then slowly and completely exhale the air into the water. Focus on achieving long, rhythmic swim strokes versus short, frantic ones. The “catch up drill” is a good approach for elongating your stroke as it exaggerates a hesitation between strokes. During the catch up drill, swim your regular freestyle stroke but wait until you touch one hand on the other before beginning your next stroke. This means for a moment, both your arms will be extended in front of you. Incorporate a minute or two of catch up drill into your open water swim if you are feeling breathless. It’s less taxing than regular freestyle plus helps to eradicate a short, panicky swim stroke. If you cannot lessen your anxiety while swimming, temporarily resort to a “panic stroke”, the stroke that you will use to help you relax. Breast stroke and side stroke are popular panic strokes because they allow you to get your face out of the water and breathe whenever you want. Try to avoid floating on your back as you cannot navigate in that position. As soon as you start to feel calm, switch to freestyle stroke, even bargaining with yourself that you will do 25 strokes of freestyle before resorting to your panic stroke again.
Finally if a mouthful of water causes you to begin coughing, slow down, take a gulp of the water to try to wash down what is in your throat (I know lake/ocean water can be gross but it beats choking), and switch to the side stroke or breast stroke for a minute or so in order to relax. Then proceed with your swimming. You may need to make adjustments to minimize the chances of taking in more water. Breathe to the other side if it’s waves or a splashy swimmer that is causing you to take in water. Roll your body a little more on its side when you are going to take a breath which should get your mouth closer to the surface, making it easier to reach for the breath.
In addition to the open water swim practice, incorporate mental training into your open water swim preparation. Come up with a brief phrase for how you want to view yourself as a swimmer. (“I am a strong, confident swimmer” is the phrase that works for me; "Just keep swimming" is the phrase that works for one of my clients). Repeat the phrase while you are stuck in traffic, when you swim laps at the pool, as you cook dinner, etc. The more you repeat it, the sooner your brain will believe it.
Practice the open water swim segment for your triathlon in the comfort of your own home by visualizing it. Imagine lining up with the other people in your swim wave. Hear the race director signal the start of your swim wave. Feel the cold water envelope your body as you make your first few strokes. Accept the darkness and depth of your swim environment as you focus on your deep breathing and long, swim strokes. Imagine occasionally having trouble sighting the buoy because of the hordes of swimmers and rough water, but being patient knowing that the next time you take a peek you will see the buoy a little closer than it was the last time you looked. Stay calm and patient while boxed in by other swimmers knowing that you will find space for swimming soon. During your visualization, steadily make your way through the swim segment all along thinking, “I am doing a triathlon!”.
Today my family and I attended a mass for my father who died four years ago. When I got home, I dug out this essay that I had written a few months after his death. It's called "Let's Go to the Midway".
Most of the time, triathlon plays a positive role in our lives—feelings of accomplishment, improved health and wellbeing, and the sheer fun of swimming, biking, and running. However, there are times when triathlon brings frustration, disappointment, and even physical pain--bad races, equipment problems, and injuries. Learning to deal with the downtimes can help our overall experiences with the sport and with life.
Through example, my father taught me how to deal with the sport’s letdowns even though he had never trained for or competed in a triathlon. I’ll dust off the old cliché for this article, because when life gave him lemons, he made lemonade. And he did this through his final days.
A situation that clearly illustrates my father’s determination to enjoy life occurred this past January. My father had been battling mylodysplasia for years, and the disease was progressing. My sister brought my father to a doctor’s appointment and the prognosis was not good. When my father and sister came out of the examination room, my mother asked my father how it had went. My father responded, “I’m fine. Let’s go to the Midway”. (The Midway was one of my father’s favorite restaurants). Shocked, my sister asked, “Dad, Did you understand what the doctor had said to you?” My father replied, “I understood what he said; now let’s go out to lunch”.
My father had understood; his prognosis was dire. There would be no more holidays, no more birthdays, and no more anniversaries. He would not live to see his youngest grandchildren grow to adulthood. My father only had weeks left to live. But at that moment, he was feeling ok. He was with his wife and his daughter, and he was a little bit hungry. So rather than wallow at his failing health, he decided that the best thing to do at that time was to enjoy lunch at his favorite restaurant with his family. He wanted to go to the Midway.
There were plenty of times during his final years that my father felt sadness and anger and fear as he battled mylodysplasia. He acknowledged and dealt with those feelings. Yet, he knew instinctively to make the most of the moments given to him, to embrace the simple pleasures that life has to offer. And we should do the same. So when faced with feelings of frustration or disappointment about training and racing, let’s acknowledge and accept those feelings. Then as soon as possible, we can make the most of the time that has been given to us and let’s go to our “Midway”.
Usually all goes well when a person makes up their mind to lose weight. The positive reinforcement from the number on the scale dropping each week and clothes fitting better help to keep motivation high...at least initially. Then it hits. The scale won't budge or edges a bit in the wrong direction. Oh no! A weight loss plateau. When this happens (and it does for almost all people who try to lose weight), take a deep breathe and say, "I can do this!'. Because you can. You just need an approach for tackling this.
Here are four tips for breaking through the dreaded plateau:
1. Think through the food choices you have been making around the time that the plateau hit. Look for calorie creep: slightly larger portion sizes; more meals outside the home; mindless grazing on junk food; more alcoholic drinks, etc. It takes a caloric deficit of 3500 calories to lose one pound. Calories multiply quickly when your guard is down, making that 3500 calorie deficit a thing of the past.
2. Recognize that if you have lost a few percentages of your body weight, your daily caloric needs have probably dropped. If you weigh less, your Resting Metabolic Rate (energy cost of doing nothing) decreases. This is exacerbated if you lost some muscle during those early weeks. Muscle is metabolically active, burning more calories than plain old body fat. You may need to take in fewer calories than before in order to continue to lose weight. Don't get drastic. Just dropping by about 200 calories a day (or exercising to burn an extra 200 calories) from the point you were before the plateau should do the trick.
3. Track your daily food/drink intake and exercise amount using a food/exercise log. This holds you accountable (goodbye calorie creep), and gives you a clear indication of the calorie intake/exercise amount that you need to achieve to lose weight. MyFitnessPlan.com and fitbit.com are two of the easier logs to use.
4. Boost your activity outside your workouts. You know what I mean. Triathletes will pop off a two hour run, but will circle the parking lot at Target until a spot opens near the door, or will wait for the elevator at work instead of using the stairs. Wear a Fitbit or a pedometer to track your steps and then set a goal to boost them.
Hang in there. You are an endurance athlete. You don't quit when a workout or a race gets hard because you expect it to be challenging. That's what draws you to the sport. Use that same mindset as you work towards your weight loss goals.
he repetitive motions of these drills train your body to do these specific movements during your run.
Jog easy for about ten minutes before doing these drills to increase your body's core temperature. Then spend about one to two minutes on each drill.
Drill #1--Tapping on Hot Coals
Use a very short, quick stride. Strike the ground with your forefoot, allow your foot to roll down to the heel, then immediately pop to your next stride. Take tiny steps with almost no knee lift, and minimal time with your foot on the ground--like you are touching hot coals with your feet.
Drill #2--A Spring in your Step
Jog forward with a very short stride, and a light, bouncy movement. Emphasize landing near the ball of your foot with a level footstrike under your center of mass, then quickly lift your foot up. It's a light, bouncy feeling, not a forceful, pushing off feeling.
Try to experience the feeling from each drill during various parts of your run workout.
Triathletes tend to sacrifice sleep in their quest to squeeze more and more into over scheduled lives. Are you guilty of this? Well, then you are probably undermining your training if you are not getting the 7 to 9 hours of sleep needed by most healthy, active adults each night. Research has shown many impediments to athletic performance caused by inadequate sleep including impaired ability to use glucose, delayed and/or inadequate post exercise tissue repair, and weight gain. Fortunately, now technology is available to allow you to conveniently measure and track the quantity and quality of your sleep, an important step in your pursuit of adequate zzzz's for your training and racing.
Fitbit is a wireless-enabled, wearable activity tracker that makes it easy for the user to track and see trends in various aspects of a healthy lifestyle including physical activity, food, weight, mood, and sleep. While each of these components are important, the novelty is in Fitbit's ability to allow you to track and see trends in your sleep quantity and quality.
The data displayed above shows that on this given night, the user only slept for 3 hours and 34 minutes out of the 6 hours and 20 minutes that he was in bed, a sleep efficiency of 57%. Plus he woke up 13 times during the night. For years, he had known that he didn't sleep well, but it wasn't until he started tracking his sleep that he realized the extent of his sleep inefficiencies.
So what's a triathlete to do when he or she gets data that signifies big sleep inefficiencies? Fix it. The same way you would attack a lousy swim stroke, bad bike fit, or heel first foot strike. You find out what you should be doing differently, speak to experts if necessary, and work at it.
There are a lot of tips out there on how to sleep better. With the Fitbit, you can track your sleep trends to figure out which changes improve your sleep. Some areas to explore include:
Set realistic goals for improving your sleep. If the person in the example above sets a goal of in a week improving his nightly sleep by just 30 minutes, after 4 weeks he will have increased his sleep to 5 1/2 hours a night which is a lot better than 3 1/2 hours a night.
So as you work through your training plan for 2014, be sure to consider how improving your sleep can do more to improve your triathlon training and performance than most of the gizmos, supplements, and triathlon training tips combined.
It is a bit befuddling that triathletes who regularly get up before the roosters to complete a swim workout with buddies, bang off intensive bike intervals alone on an indoor trainer after a 12 hour work day, and endure two hour runs on a treadmill to avoid missing a workout because of a freak snowstorm, cannot figure out a way to consume a few veggies each day. The benefits for athletes to consume veggies each day are well known so there is no need for me to list the "why eat your veggies". Instead this article will focus on the "how" to eat your veggies.
1. Consider eating veggies each day as an integral part of your training. Put it right up there with getting in your specific workout(s) and foam rolling, because that's how important it is.
2. Have a weekly plan for how you will get those servings of veggies in. Each week, you know which workouts you are doing each day, and then you plan your life around getting those workouts in. Do the same with the veggies because winging it doesn't work just like it wouldn't work with your workouts.
3. Start slowly. You wouldn't expect a person new to exercising to be successful long term if right out of the gate he/she tried to workout for 60 minutes a day, seven days a week. If you haven't been regularly consuming veggies for years, then schedule in one serving per day for the first few weeks. You are more likely to be successful achieving that than immediately trying to get in four or five servings in a day. Slowly increase your target number of daily servings over the course of a few months until you take in four to five servings each day regularly.
4. Go with the familiar. Just because you can't read a triathlon article without someone hailing kale or beets as the must have vegetable for epic performances, doesn't mean that's a good place to start. Eat a tossed salad with dinner, a bowl of vegetable soup with lunch, or a glass of good ole V8 as part of a mid morning snack. These are simple and familiar items to add in.
5. Frozen vegetables are fine, and often times retain more of the nutrients than fresh. Stock up in your freezer. Cook a bag in your microwave at dinner, and then bring the leftovers with a sandwich for lunch.
6. Don't love vegetables? That's ok. Eat them first at meals when you are really hungry, and you'll be amazed at how much yummier they taste than after you have wolfed down a complete meal.
7. I mentioned vegetable soup earlier. This is a wonderful approach especially this time of year. Make a big batch of a vegetable soup on the weekend, and freeze some for handy lunches, dinners, or post workout fueling.
8. No more excuses. When it comes to your veggies....just do it.
ation to training and racing on the holidays, the numbers shouldn't be ignored--a 5500+ calorie day can set back any athlete's weight management efforts.
Let's look at the Thanksgiving math for a person who's daily caloric need is about 2000 calories. 5500 calories consumed minus 2000 calories needed equals an excess of 3500 calories which is equal to a gain of one pound in body weight. Yes--One day. Plus one pound. So what's a person to do? A quick Google search will give you a whole bunch of strategies for dealing with the holiday meal. I think anything more than three steps becomes info overload. So here are three steps to lessen the Thanksgiving calorie damage.
1. Portion control. Yup....decrease by 1/4 to 1/2 your portion sizes. I know this can be tough with a heavy handed grandmother doling out the servings, but use your speed and dexterity to take control of that serving spoon and manage your portion sizes.
2. Choose wisely when it comes to the nibbling on appetizers. Pick one or two of the higher calories appetizers to sample, and then go for the lower calorie choices like the selections on the veggie or fruit platters.
3. Burn some calories. Squeeze in a workout that morning or convince a few relatives to join you for a post feast walk or hike.
Thanksgiving is just one day, but there is no reason you need to let one day damage your hard fought weight management efforts. Here's to a happy, no regrets Thanksgiving.
Losing weight requires putting your body into a caloric deficit. Your body, being more intent on surviving versus your interest in being at a better race weight, is going to send you signals to eat--growling stomach, light headedness, obsessive thoughts about giant slices of pepperoni pizza. These signals are meant to make you uncomfortable so that you stop what you are doing and go eat something. This was a very useful survival mechanism in the times when food wasn't readily available lest a caveman get so intent on his cave drawings that he forget to slay something for dinner.
Unfortunately, the abundance of food in our society and the habit of grazing has made it so that many of us are not used to feeling hungry. Hunger in the times of food insecurity is never a good thing. However, for an athlete looking to reach a more optimal body composition for racing, feelings of hunger are ok and might as well be embraced. So first, accept feelings of hunger as a normal part of weight loss. Then at mealtimes enjoy how good food really does taste when you sit down for a meal feeling a bit hungry. Finally, do some things to mitigate the hunger feelings a bit especially when just starting down a weight loss path. Drink lots of water each day or water with Nuun All Day for variety. The fluids provide a feeling of fullness. Also, eat more veggies as they fill up your stomach without adding lots of calories to your daily tally.
When thinking about giving up or giving in, remind yourself that once you reach your desired body composition, the need to be in calorie deficit is gone. By that time, you may have found that you like sitting down for meals feeling a little bit hungry and that new outlook may just make it easier to stay at your new weight.
How to Do the Tarzan Drill
Swim freestyle with your head and face completely out of the water. Focus your eyes on a spot at the end of the pool to keep your head pointing forward, shoulders square, and don't rotate your neck to breathe to the side. Arch your back to keep your legs and feet near the surface of the water and engage a strong, fast kick to keep your lower body from sinking.
Beginner swimmers and people new to the Tarzan drill should keep it to no more than 25 yards at a time; intermediate and advanced swimmers can up it to 50 yards.
Sample swim sets
Beginners: 4x50 as 25 Tarzan Drill/25 Swim (rest :15 after each 25); after the rest is complete for the last interval go right into a 200 steady swim where every 4th 25 is fast-pace Tarzan Drill.
Intermediate/Advanced: 8x50 done as 25 Tarzan Drill/25 Swim (rest :20 after each 50), alternate the pacing for the Tarzan drill with the even ones building in speed, and the odd ones including a few slower strokes of freestyle halfway through the lap; after the rest is complete from the last interval go right into a 400 steady swim where every 4th 25 is fast-pace Tarzan Drill.
1. When did you start in triathlon and why?
In 2007, a friend said "hey there's a tri in your yard, you should do the Danskin with me".. I told her to go to hell. Then 2 days later I signed up, because why not? I trained then fell off my bike 3 weeks before the race and broke my elbow. I had to wait another year to complete my first tri then I was hooked.
2. What do you like most about the sport?
Something to do, staying active, and the friends! I just love it! I also have had the most awesome time with my blog. Everytime someone tells me they read my info and decided to go 'do' something, it inspires me to keep going.
3. How do you stay motivated?
I have a Type A personality (what triathlete doesn't?) . Iset goals and HAVE To achieve them. There are days where I just want to give up, but I read my blog comments and it keeps me going. I am slow, overweight, and have a genetic disorder where I shouldn't be able to do this, but I keep it going. I like to do things that others don't do!
4. Why did you choose to do an Ironman?
It was 'next'. I recall telling a friend that was doing a marathon that she was crazy and I would "never do that unless chased"-- careful what you say! I finished Providence 70.3 in 2012 and was inspired, so I signed up for Chesapeakeman aquabike. I not only finished the 2.4 mile swim and 112 mile bike in a time that would allow me to WALK a marathon, I also won the Athena category. *note I'm always DFL, so this was surprising**. I knew when I had that time that I had to go sign up for Florida!
5. How long did you train for it?
Since 2007 :). I've had a coach for the last 2 years and it makes all the difference in the world. I am a 'special' case, my run is pathetic, but I could do the volume on the bike and swim. No 'out of the box' training plan' would accommodate that!
6. What were some obstacles you overcame to complete it?
I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. It is a connective tissue disorder that affects each one of us differently. My issues are chronic migraines and multiple subluxations or dislocations. The weather affects me beyond belief. I could go for a ride and manage 11 mph one day with LOTS of effort, then the next day do a century at 16 mph with ease. It is like "any given Sunday" for my body!
Another issue that was pretty difficult for me is finding training partners. I do long distances, but I'm molasses slow! I have just a handful of friends who are willing to go for a long ride or run and deal with my slowness. Those that are as slow as I am, tend to only do 15 miles at a time. I've done 8 centuries this year (including IM in that), a few of them alone.
7. What were the final miles like?
I made a mistake early on, I got off the bike in an adequate time to complete the run if I followed my plan 'run 2 min walk 3 min'. It was hot, and I decided to 'rest' for a bit (walking first 38 minutes of the run). Then I proceeded with my plan. About 6 miles out I had a revelation that I needed to go hard to make it. About 2 miles out a volunteer yelled to me "you can make it if you hurry." - then I rounded the bend where you could see the lights and another volunteer 'Glenn' came up to me and said I'm running you in, you CANNOT stop, you are so close - you have 4 minutes" -- I run a 15 min mile... I knew I was about .3 or .4 out! So, I ran / sprinted as fast as I could - I am told I made up 4 minutes in that last mile. I came down the chute and there is nothing like the roar of the crowd especially when you are seconds away from the cutoff. 14 to be exact. People were 10 deep along the whole chute, hands out, banging, screaming, it was surreal. I wish I had an extra second to take it in, but KNEW I had to get to that line. - And I did!
8. What went through your mind the morning of the race?
"Screw you Ironman!" -- I'm very short, and Friday had 25MPH winds. They FORCED us to rack with the seat, which makes my bike dangle about 3" off the ground. I BEGGED them to let me rack with the handlebars, one official said he'd watch it. As soon as I left, they switched my bike, it banged into the bikes next to it for 12 hours, un-trued my race wheel and ruined my brakes. I had to have my brakes released and basically ride without rear brakes all day. Thank god the WHEEL worked. Other than that I was pretty calm despite the giant breakers in the water. I never had race jitters, I was ready.
9. What are the most memorable moments from your time in Florida?
I actually loved the whole race, I didn't panic, I knew what I had to do. I really enjoyed the swim. As each roller came by a few hundred athletes would yell 'WEEEEEE'. I trusted my training and just went with it. I knew when I got off the bike that I had it, I just didn't anticipate the heart attack I would give everyone. But hey, if you're going to be after 11, might as well be in the final seconds right?
10. What would you like to say to people who want to do an Ironman but think it is beyond their abilities?
Nothing is impossible and I am proof. I have too many friends who think they need to "RACE" and ironman, that they "NEED" to get their run down to xyz pace. You do NOT go your sprint distance pace in an ironman. It is an Endurance event. Put the hours into your training and you can do it. There is NOTHING wrong with slower times, or LAST. LAST is my home :).
11. Personal info---family, dogs : ), home, work
I work for Monster.com, finance technology, been there 17 years so it gives me enough vacation time to do this sport! I have An incredibly supportive husband, John. Actually that's another point for doing an IM, don't do it if your spouse isn't on board, not if you like being married anyway! I have 2 Bernese Mountain dogs, Apollo and Athena. Athena was named for triathlon! And Apollo is almost 13 years old in a breed that lives 6-9. I swear he wanted to see me finish (and yes they were in FL with us).
12. Did you want to share with readers the condition that you have that makes you, as Don said, 'oddly flexible' and the added challenges it presents to being a triathlete?
Mentioned much of it above, but EDS is tough. A very hard thing for me is I knew that IMFL was my last run. I've figured out how to swim and bike with ease, but running is tearing up my joints, especially my hip. I like walking, and I know if I continue, that in 5-10 years I wouldn't be able to walk anymore without assistance. I probably would have signed up for another one if I could run without injury. You have to know when too much is too much. I have quite the contingent of supporters, and have given hope to EDS athletes out there. I hope to continue to raise awareness of this rare disorder.
13. What's next on your big goals list?
All Aquabikes for me, definitely Chesapeakeman again, Patriot and Mass State. I might try to swim a marathon this summer (kind of cheating though). The St. Lawrence river has a 4 mph current. Downstream 26.2.. because.. why not??
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