Sunday, September 8, 2013

Week 11

Week 11: Mon- 1,500yd swim, 25 mile bike
Tue- 2,500yd swim, 6 mile run
Wed- 40 mile bike
Thu- 1750 yard swim, 5 mile run
Fri-20 mile bike
Sat- 10 mile run
Sun- 60 mile bike
Total: 169 miles
Total mileage so far: 1,251. Equal to driving from Austin, across the Wyoming line, and almost to Casper!

              I'm sitting on the couch icing my right knee and fending off two dogs who would really like a share of my pita chips and hummus. They're cute, but after that 60 mile ride, I am starving! 
               This week's workouts took me back in to Wyoming, the only place that's ever felt just as home to me as Texas. While I wish more than anything I had the funds to get back up there for a real trip, it's an exciting motivator to pretend I'm riding down the switchbacks and across the plains rather than sweating it out on the black asphalt in Texas, where it won't stop being hot until November. 

            One of the things I realized I haven't talked about yet is the swimming portion of the race. I've been a swimmer my whole life- from being a pool rat as a kid, to swim team during grade school, to life guarding and teaching swim lessons through both High School and College. I can swim 3-4,000 yards without stopping and not get very tired. 

              So when I began this triathlon training, I was confident that the swimming portion would be a no-brainer. However, as you read when I wrote about the triathlon in Marble Falls, the open-water aspect took this fish by surprise. The current, the people, and the murky water added up to a freak-out and I swam my slowest 1,000 in years. Since then, I knew I had to amp up my swim workouts and get out of the safety of a lap pool.

                 Thankfully, Lake Pflugerville has it's open-water course set up at all times. It's a 550m triangle, and although it features a LOT of hydrilla in some parts, it works perfectly to build up open water stamina. Really, the hydrilla just makes me swim faster because it's icky so I suck it in and skim over it as fast as I can. I'm already back to swimming at my pool pace in the water, and feel so much better about the race's first leg, knowing now that I'm comfortable, I'll be able to stay relaxed and focused. 

The swim course at the lake, 550m from the beach and back.

              However, many people who are starting out in Triathlons do now have the swim experience I do so that they can take to the lake with ease. This causes a tremendous- and understandable- amount of anxiety. Don't stress! Just as I've gone from never riding anything but a hybrid to riding over 50 miles on a road bike, you can learn to swim and gain confidence in the water. 

              First, invest in a comfortable pair of goggles. Before you spend a ton on so-called anti-fog goggles, know this- they all fog. I got a decent pair of Speedos that fit my face well and were tinted so that they make seeing inside and outside easy. They were fine the first time, and then they fogged. I got the anti-fog spray, and they still fogged. I was super bummed and went to the swim shop here in town to buy some new ones. Thankfully, I got to talking to the girl who works there, and she said the problem was two-fold. First, the inside of my goggles got wet, stripping them of their factory anti-fog coating. I said, OK, but seriously who can keep goggles dry forever? She understood, and suggested the spray. When I told her I already had it, she asked me how I used it. Turns out, I was only doing it half right. You need to spray it in the goggles and then let it dry on it's own, rather than wiping it out. I tried this on my next swim, and it worked! I haven't had any more than just a hint of fog during a 2500 yard swim ever since. Whew!

              Now that you'll be able to see clearly, it's time to slip in to the water. If you are a new swimmer, definitely begin in a lap pool. If you are not much more than a doggy-paddler, fear not! There are plenty of instructional articles out there. I'll save everyone the time of reading them word for word here, but when I was an instructor, the most common problems I had to correct were head position and body alignment.

Head position: you want to keep your head level and between your shoulders. When it comes to tris in open water, breathing to the side is not super important because normally, you're going to raise your head to the front in order to "spot" where you're going. (Do this- I've wandered all over the darn lake letting my pride get ahead of me and trying to breath to the side as I would in a pool!) Even though you might not need to worry about that too much, it's still important to put your face back in the water and straighten back out. If you keep your head up, you're going to cause your body to sink, and you're going to waste energy and get tired much more quickly, and also risk tweeking your neck and causing unnecessary pain.

Body Alignment: Married in to this idea is body alignment. While your head is level and your arms are going around, make sure to engage your core and keep your back straight. Doing so will keep you close to the surface of the water and keep your legs from sinking. Think of guiding your bellybutton toward the sky. You don't want to let your legs sink, because then you'll be kicking to raise yourself up, rather than just propelling yourself forward. Don't create extra work for yourself! 

              This is a super-short tutorial that won't fix a complete beginner, but these two things are good to keep in mind because they'll save you a lot of frustration and wasted energy, so you can focus instead on staying calm, spotting your direction, and staying efficient. It just takes practice and time in the water, and you'll be ready in no time! Remember to keep it fun and enjoy what you're doing, even when it's stressful, because the results are worth it!

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