Friday, May 28, 2010

The 7% Solution

Wednesday night I ran 5k in a charity relay on a team that Ironhusband's company put together. It was my third time I was included in the event and, occurring after work, in an unseasonably hot May - it was challenging. The only chip is on the final runner so I've never had a time before for my laps but this time I used my Ironman watch to get an approximate lap time. Comparing that with 2 chipped races on our running cruise in Barbados I found I have pb'd by 2 minutes or so. It was about as hot and both courses are flat so I think they are comparable. That 27 minute 5k came out to be a 7% improvement. And that 7% improvement is about what I have been wanting to do this year in my two half iron races. 7% at the Bracebridge half iron  distance takes me from 7:33 last year to 7:01 (and I'm going to run myself to the med tent to pick up those 2 minutes for a sub 7), 7% at Muskoka 70.3 takes me from 7:53 in 2009 to 7:20. If I was doing Ironman this year that would put me with a 15:20 goal.

Assuming I do 7% again next year that puts me at a 14:16 Ironman Arizona in 2011. Feels unbelievable for me right now but after I did my first half Iron in Bracebridge in 2008 at 8:11 I never thought I could make the 17 hour cut off at a full.

So, these are the goals. It's going to take all my awesomeness and a lot of vasoline. And my new Skirt Sports workout wardrobe, especially the hot pink running skirt.


While I have your attention the very awesome Bart and Laura Yasso (whom I am proud to call friends - I'm not sure what they call me) are running the Comrades Ultramarathon on Sunday in South Africa. Bart and others have paired up with World Vision to promote child sponsorship in Africa. Using a race like this to promote such a great program and give a hand up to some wonderful needy kids, well, it feels like a great investment in the human race. Check it out.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Triathlon: A post modern, deconstructionist, feminist analysis incorporating chaos theory and linguistic analysis.

Actually no. Don’t worry – I’m just the product of a 1990’s art degree program. If I couldn’t get all the above into one of my papers then there just wasn’t any sense in handing the thing in. As an aside, during my time at university I determined that 2 beers was the perfect alcohol consumption level for me to illuminate my thoughts on anything while still able to include the above. Less than two and I could realize how silly it all was, more than two and I had a hard time getting chaos theory in there.

But, a little of the skill and desire to break things down and look at them in a different light seems to have be retained.

When I was growing up in the wilds of Canada, small town Canada, there was just one sport. Can we guess what that was? Yes - it was all about HOCKEY. I hated hockey. Hockey to me was an endless punishment – as the youngest with 4 older brothers I had to accompany everyone everywhere for tournament after tournament. I can still smell hockey arenas – I can still hear the sound that the bleachers made as I ran endlessly around and around in absolute mind numbing, resentful boredom.

As a girl I could, and did, take figure skating but figure skating was all about pretty outfits, pretty girls and a lot of money for coaches. It was, and I still think is, the sport of cliqued femininity. (Although I love to watch ice dancing still, my post modern, deconstructionist, feminist education has slightly ruined it all for me.) There certainly wasn’t any cash left over for coaches for me, even if I had shown any talent, which I didn’t, and I never looked pretty in any of the outfits that I ever got my hands on. So somewhere around 14 or so I stopped skating. That was the end of my athletic life. That, after all, was the end of my parent’s athletic vision for girls. I think I was expected to then learn to cook and sew so I could get me a good husband; I just got a job and started working.

Now, in small town Ontario, there was an endless succession of young men from other small towns who were signed up for the local Junior A team – their proving ground for the NHL. If I could sum up these boys in one word that would be – sleezy. Actually I need a second word – violent. Sleezy and violent. Most probably just needed to grow up and missed the firm hand of their parents. They were, after all, only 16 years old, living with foster families or in local small motels, playing hockey, partying, and passing a select few girls (often figure skaters) around. I was smart enough to stay out of that scene and combined with a far too intimate knowledge of the habits of my youngest brother’s hockey friends it left me with a distinct disgust of team sports – especially hockey.

Which was too bad because that meant that I wasn’t open to the joy of sport.

My journey into individual sport started in 1981 with Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope. Inspired by him, a friend and I started running in the morning. I have a vague memory that some sort of run was held but no memory of actually doing a formal event. I do remember the training and how much I enjoyed it. Yet somehow, even though my best friend in high school ran on the track team, I never even considered doing that. I won’t lie, I would have sucked but that’s not what kept me from it. That, very simply, was because no one ever said, “hey, why don’t you try running on the team”.

Fast forward through a montage of me running on and off through time at school and work. Slow down the camera as you get to my husband and I dragging our fat slow bodies through life. Zoom in on his pack a day smoking habit.

Somehow we made the connection and started to get active again. I took us on death marches all over the city. We bought a cottage and started to swim. We bought a house close to a pool so we could swim there. Alex quit smoking. We started running. We bought bikes. We started racing. We never looked back.

So, where’s the post modern, deconstructionist, feminist analysis incorporating chaos theory and linguistic analysis of triathlon you ask. Well thanks for sticking around this long. That would be a whole bunch of BS and my sport deserves better. The reason I love it - short and sweet. Men and women race the same distances. Men and women race the same events. There are no enforcers, no goons, and no swim/bike/run bunnies. It’s not a male sport, not a female sport, and you can spectate and participate at the same time. It’s not cheap either financially or in terms of the time it asks from you but the payback is priceless.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Total Immersion Swimming

Back in February I had a private Total Immersion lesson with Karin and promptly didn't get into the pool enough to really remember all the tricks. She was great in leaving me with diagrams outlining the drills to do (and also a fair amount of confidence) but getting back into it I needed a refresher of what we had talked about. Below is the text of an email I sent her with questions and her responses in blue. I know that I'd read a great deal about Total Immersion but didn't really get it until I was in the pool with her. You might, however, find this helpful.

Hi Karin, thanks so much for doing this update/rehash of the great swim lesson that you gave me. I know that I had read a lot about Total Immersion and seen some videos but until that lesson I didn’t understand what a difference could be made. What I really like was the emphasis on relaxation in the water – I know all triathletes could use a little more of that come race day. So, I wanted to just go over the drills that I’m doing these days. I had told you that I’d been maintaining about 21 strokes per 25 yards and that seems to be stuck there. I was finding that frustrating as I hit 19 with you and you are targeting 15 for me (based on my height of 5”4”: remember this is a target for a comfortable swim, as your increase speed your stroke count should be higher than 15) but, as I started with 27 then I’m half way there. (that is awesome!)

First Drill – The Lengthen Vessel

This one has me on my side with the lower hand relaxed below the water in about a 45 degree angle, the upper hand in my imaginary side pocket on my thigh and, unless I’m breathing, my head is positioned down and my eyes are on the bottom of the pool. So, along with trying to ignore anything strange floating around down there, what exactly is this trying to accomplish? Head position! Body position! This position is to try and maintain a horizontal position and find a balance with your head position, your arm angle and your hips. If the head is too high, the hips will drop, if the head is too low, the hips have a tendency to come up. If the arm is too high, it affects the body position! You want to find your balance with the least amount of resistance.

I’m finding that I’m really sinking down in this – is that correct or am I too relaxed in my core stability to bring myself up? Depending on your body density, you might find yourself partially or completely submerged. I'd have to watch you to help answer this one!

Second Drill – Underarm

This one takes the Lengthen Vessel position and adds a movement to the top arm. I find I think of it as bending my elbow to bring my hand up to my face, as if I’m bringing a mirror up to check myself. Have I got that right? Yes

What should I be thinking about doing this – how does this action extend into the long relaxed stroke I’m trying to achieve? Maintaining head position, body position, careful to how you "breathe"... as your head + body moves, it affects your horizontal position.

Third Drill – Underarm Switch

I take the Underarm drill and when my hand is at my face I swap my arm positions. This actually feels very elegant when I do it but as all the action happens under the water I’m left wondering again what I should be thinking about achieving in it. Distance per stroke+ body rotation... always thinking about your head position and body!

Fourth Drill – Zipper

This is, to my mind, the old fingertip drag and I’m easily able to see it’s connection to a full stroke. Careful, finger drag is different than the Zipper, the Zipper drill you literally pretend there is a zipper on your body, high elbow, your body is on its side.

Fifth Drill – Zipper switch

Building on the Zipper this has my arms switch position when my hand passes my head. I know I should be thinking about pulling all the way at this point. Anything else I should keep in mind? Always remember, correct your head position, your body position (you want a nice rotation creating the least drag possible)

I’ve really enjoyed starting my workouts with the bobbing as you suggested. I’m absolutely going to do that when warming up for races this year. It gets me into the mind set of relaxed breathing that you emphasized. I’m also working on not deliberately/forcefully inhaling and exhaling as I can feel the tension that it creates. Good! You want to breathe as normal as possible!