Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Louisville Triathlon Race Report

 First race back after the pandemic.  I'm an experienced triathlete, what can go wrong?  

 Lousville Triathlon  June 6, 2021

This is a flat fast course and it's very well run.  Very compact and easy parking and access for races and volunteers and spectators.  I'd recommend it to anyone as a great training race.  They had Sprint, OLY, individual, and relay plus two duathlon distance options.  Awards included Athena, Clydesdale, Masters, Beginner, and Age group awards plus Overall winners in each distance. 

I dithered for several weeks about whether to sign up, what distance to do, etc.  I finally pulled the trigger in early June and paid the premium price for a late signup.  My concern was whether I should do this race so near to my half iron race and if it would work into my training plan, and what distance to do.  

I finally decided I needed to do the OLY so it would be a demanding race and give me some indication of my readiness for the half Des Moines 70.3 on June 20.  I think it was a good decision but it didn't go as well as I planned but there is reason to celebrate anyway.  

We were requested, but not required, to rack our bikes on Saturday for the race on Sunday.  They promised to have security all night.  I chose to rack on Saturday.  I admit I was still ambiguous about the race event on Saturday but feeling confident in my training.  I had some trouble getting to sleep that night, not because of the race, but because I couldn't find my wallet that afternoon.  Fortunately, I had my USAT card and they accepted that for check-in.  

Got home and started setting up the tri bag, got my tri tattoos on and the bib on the race belt collected my favorite goggles and a red silicone swim cap to use instead of the latex one they gave me.  (I'm allergic to latex). I used my AFC Team to End AIDS cap.  

I spent a couple hours hunting for my wallet instead of packing my tri bag that evening and still didn't find it. I was worried I had dropped it somewhere and was struggling to recall the last time I saw it, imagining all the horrible things that could happen to my identity and finances if I had lost it...etc etc etc.  Finally, I decided to focus on the race and trust my intuition that I hadn't lost it.  In visualizing my race, I thought about putting my nutrition into my little cooler bag in the morning and suddenly realized that was where my wallet was.  I had put it into the side pocket of the cooler when I went for a bird hike with dad on Friday morning. So at 11:15 PM I walked to the pantry, pulled out the cooler, and found my wallet.  Then I went to bed and slept until 5:10 AM. 

I had packed my bag and set up all nutrition so my morning was just to make coffee, grab a small breakfast bar and head out.  I can never eat much that early or before a race.  I've been training a lot without eating in the mornings to try to drop a bit of weight so I'm used to not eating until after my workouts.  I did put on my HR strap but it was loose so I tightened it a bit that morning.  This would prove to be a problem later.  

I got myself into the car with all my gear by 5:30 AM and drove to the race site.  I parked at the marina and walked the .2 miles rather than look for a closer parking slot.  I might've been able to park closer but that walk wasn't a big deal.  I wore my flip-flops that morning because the temp was at 70F already.  No need for a jacket.  Water temps were cool enough for wetsuit legal.  

Got my transition set up in about 10 minutes (experience helps).  I had stuffed my hat, water bottle, race belt, and sunglasses into my running shoes, with laces loosened.  I had stuffed my riding gloves, socks, and spray sunscreen into my lace loosened bike shoes as well.  So all I had to do was put my glasses in the case into the helmet on the handlebars.  

Got my nutrition onto the bike (One bottle of Base Rocket Fuel and one bottle of water with ice) and an extra water bottle plus my bottle of iced tea on the transition towel.  

Stuffed the cooler with my phone and car key into the tri bag behind my shoes.  (Glad I did because it rained so this kept them dry) Didn't have plastic bags for my shoes so the rain meant I had wet shoes for the ride and run, but socks and bandaids helped prevent blisters. 

Normally I don't wear socks but I had worn some new shoes that week and had a huge blister on my right heel. I was a bit worried about this but had put a bandaid on it and the one toe that always seems to get a blister the night before and I had extra bandaids in my running shoes. 

All set! 

I grabbed my helmet sack, wet suit, goggles, coffee, and swim cap and walked to the Louisville Landshark tent.  The Landsharks offered to take flip-flops, and other stuff at swim entry so I planned to use the helmet bag to put my stuff in to make it easy to identify and grab later.  This worked well.  No extra bags needed!  

At the tent, we hung out, took morning photos, and ate nutrition.  I still had my coffee with me so I drank my coffee.  I set up my Garmin for the multisport function.  I haven't used this in a long time so was worried I'd mess it up.  I did later but not the way I normally do.  

We walked the .2 mi to the swim-in and waited for the start.  As we stood around, it began to rain.  Not storm, just rain. So we began the race with light rain.  I had been seeded near the front of the race but it was a time trial start so the swim began as a fairly non-challenging process.  We had to slide off the dock into the shallow water and walk in the muck to begin the swim. I hit the start on the Garmin and started my swim.  I wasn't expecting the swim to be challenging at all.  I'd swum in the river several times the last few weeks so was used to swimming in the river and the current was a nice boost.  However, I immediately was experiencing what felt like constriction on my chest.  I later realized this was due to the HR strap I had tightened.  I had to swim breaststroke many times to get through that swim.  I loosened my wet suit, loosened the tri top, but it would have been tough to fix the HR strap so had to just tough it out.  It was tough.  It took me 35 mins to swim .9 miles.  This is NOT what I expected and I was annoyed at myself in a huge way.  I wasn't panicked, just breathless often on the swim.  DAMN!  The current did help a lot so I got a nice kick to reduce the effect of this problem, fortunately.  

But I hustled out of the water once I got to the ramp, hit the lap button on the Garmin to advance to transition and got help to get my wetsuit off from a couple of volunteers, and jogged to my bike.  I was still out of the water faster than many as the majority of bikes were still there.  I think a lot of folks did the sprint which started later.  

I took my time in transition because I was still breathing heavy and frustrated. I moved my Garmin from my wrist to the bike holder and in doing so hit the lap button twice advancing to the run phase. DAMN! I had to change to the bike so I had a speed measure as I rode and lost my timing for transitions this way.  I was able to estimate my time pretty closely though, despite that.  I talked to myself and said "shake it off, do your best bike, not trying to catch up, but doing a speed you planned" so I set out easy, caught my breath, and did the four laps, increasing my speed with each loop.  It's a flat course except for 6th street hill.  On the return down 6th street, I gradually got faster on the downhill, knowing I could make the turn safely with higher speeds.  In the last loop, I hit speeds of 20-23 MPH several times.  I was happy with how I did on the bike.  1:25  for the ride.  

I got into transition and saw that many bikes were already back, but didn't let that upset me.  I switched to running shoes, got my cap and race belt.  It was cloudy so didn't need sunglasses or more sunscreen.   I knew that many were doing the sprint so likely they were the bulk of these.  The run is along the river so fairly flat, a few long rises to navigate and one area that is quite tilted which my knees did not like at all.  Two loops for the 6 miles.  I switched the Garmin back to my wrist and set it up for the run as I exited the transition area.  I had set up the run for a 5 min run and 1 min walk.  I think I need to use 2.5 min run and 1 min walk instead because I was doing that essentially.  This resulted in about 14 min miles for the 6.2 miles.  I was actually happy with this.  My HR was staying pretty low, under 150 for much of the run which I wanted so I mimicked the half iron run plan.  I let it rise to 160+ the last couple of miles to get a negative split.  I got a 13 min mile on a couple of those.  Run time was 1:27.  Almost the same as bike! The blister on my right foot did not trouble me at all fortunately. 

My plan for the race was to mimic my plan for the half for the race.  I wasn't worried about placing or racing anyone in this race.  I just wanted to check my current condition and shake off the dust of not racing for over a year.  I think I accomplished my goal.  The final official race time was 3:37.  I think my best Chicago OLY has been 3:40 so I am in as good a condition as I have been when I was doing 2-3 70.3 races per summer so I'm happy.  I'm glad I decided to do the race.  It helped to work out any kinks.  

The result was that I got third place in my age group so that was a very nice outcome.  I wasn't too tired the rest of the day and swam the next morning but I think I didn't get enough post-race hydration and Tuesday had a migraine that took all day to let go.  I took it as a rest day and will switch to run tomorrow so I feel like I'm still on track for the race.  Maybe better than in the past.  

I have two weeks before my A race.  Hoping this will help me focus and get ready.  First and second place ladies had times of 2:40.  On my best day, I'd never get close to this.  Their swims were about what I predicted I'd do with any issues which I am confident I can do and their bikes were only slightly faster than mine.  However, their runs were much faster, like 9 min miles which I've never been able to get close to.  Still, I'm happy about my results.  

I'd love to drop some weight to look better in photos and reduce the weight I have to drag around, but this has proved tough to do despite my efforts.  Age is a factor for sure.  

Monday, February 1, 2021

Planning your race season

Image result for people planning How to plan your season

I know you want to sign up for races, they're cheaper now and you're anxious to set your goals so you can start training to them. Before you go crazy and sign up for a lot of races, do a few things to help yourself set up a successful plan.  When you've read this blog, come back for the discounts on BlackTriday
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1. Last year review  Review your race results from this year.  What went well?  Did you have some PRs?  What do you need to work on most?  Did your season go well?  Were races too closely spaced?  Were they too widely spaced?  Keep these issues in mind as you plan.  For example, if your swim is slow, you might want to include a swim focused event in your training.  That will force you to focus on the swim to prepare for the event and give you some practice at swimming hard during an event.  Or you might want to include a Century Ride to prepare for the longer bike course or a half or full marathon to work on running.  Or you might want to focus on weights, HIIT, yoga, pilates early on to improve flexibility and strength. 

2. Budget Review your budget.  Set a $ figure for your races.  Include travel, bike shipping fees and accommodations as well as race fees.  Add 15% to be sure you have enough. 

3. ABC Ranking  Choose your A race.  Some really ambitious folks might choose two A races, but I suggest you make a single selection for an A race.
 Here are the criteria
  A  most important race, the one where you want to do well and possibly PR or qualify for nationals or worlds.  OR the first time you do this distance. 
B Challenging races that you want to do well at but are using for training to the A race.  Or a race you've always wanted to do in a locale that is new or special to you.  Or a race where friends will be there to cheer you.  This is a race that could be an A race but isn't. 
C Training races, distances you have done before, or shorter distances that keep you fit and work into your training plan well.  Training races can include swim events, running events, aquabikes, duathlons, etc to focus on a specific training area. 

4. Your Plan Set up a calendar in excel so you can see the whole season at once.  I use weeks on the first column and days across the top.  I include a column for race name and color A races red, B races Yellow and C races blue.  I include a column for the race link and a column yes/no to indicate I have registered for the race.  Saving the link is really helpful when you are getting ready to go.  You have immediate location for the athlete guide, race schedule and you can check the courses as you plan your training. 

Image result for people winning triathlon races5. Packaged Plans  Download or enter a prepared plan on another worksheet.  Using a prepared race training plan is tricky.  They are often developed for a single race day.  If you have multiple race days, you need to plan for those races with taper weeks if needed, recovery weeks and spacing the races to coincide with the peaks and recovery weeks of the program.  If they don't you have to adjust the training to work for your racing plans.  As a coach, I'm trained to work on those issues.  I can spot the problems with a training plan pretty quickly.  As a novice, you may, and most likely will, set up a very aggressive plan with minimal rest that will take you into your A race overtrained and fatigued.  It's not a criticism, it's the effect of human optimism.  It's called optimism bias.  A coach can help you keep your training plan realistic. 

6. The Plan After you have plugged in your races on the days in your worksheet, start cutting and pasting the training plan into your worksheet one week at a time.  Check the goal of the week's training.  Is it Build?  Recovery?  Taper?  Peak?  Do the demands of the race in that week support the goal of the training plan or are they opposed?  If you have a fast Sprint planned with a BUILD, that would work better than a RECOVERY week.  The link is to Training Peaks which is a great way to build your training plan.  They include helpful hints like considering geography and the likely weather for races since that can have an effect on your race and your recovery. 

Image result for people winning triathlon races7.  Register for races  Once you are satisfied with your plan, use the links in your spreadsheet to go register for those races feeling confident you have built a training plan designed to succeed.  I like to also get hotel, flight, and car reservations at the same time and load then onto my racing/training spreadsheet.  That way I have everything in one location. 

8. Put it all on your calendar, with reminders!  I use my google calendar and google docs for everything.  I put my races on my calendar and put a reminder at least 2 weeks ahead so I'm reminded about any B and C races well in advance.  Yes, you're using your plan but I find those races can get forgotten since I'm just looking at my daily training plan and not that far ahead when life gets complicated.  I also load any hotel, car, flight and race links into the notes for that race onto that calendar entry.  That way I don't have to get to google docs, it's all there.  It's very helpful when you arrive at the hotel and they ask for confirmation numbers. 

9. Do the plan!  Now you have a plan and you can relax and just train, knowing you will be ready for each race if you execute the plan.  I advise having a coach to keep you accountable and to help you make mid-course corrections since there are times when a great plan can get disrupted and you'll need to adjust.  Illness, work travel or stress, family crises, over training by going too hard when you feel great...it all can cause adjustments to be required. 

Image result for old people winning triathlon races10.  A note for older athletes  Typical training plans are for 20-40 yo racers.  You may want to include an extra recovery day or week for larger, longer races than what is recommended in the training plan.  You may want to more slowly build on the training hours each week than what is recommended.  For even the fittest athletes, a 10-15% increase per week is recommended.  Advancing too fast can cause shin splints and stress fractures.  Make sure you include weight training throughout the whole season.  Even 10-15 minutes is better than none.  The reason is that endurance training does not provide pressure on the bones to keep bone density and muscle tone on older athletes.  Younger athletes are not losing muscle tone and bone density as quickly as older athletes and can eliminate weight/strength training toward the major race.  But after 2-3 days, the losses begin to affect your fitness.   Stop weight/strength training 2-3 days prior to your races to avoid DOMS during the race. (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Virtual Races for everyone

H guys,

Saw someone ask about virtual races today on FB.  I've done a few. They can be a lot of fun and some of these even offer medals!

I thought I'd suggest a few places where you can find virtual races tonight. Hope this helps you get through any isolation or cabin fever.  Stay fit and keep on keeping on.

Connect on Apps
Sometimes you want to race with friends. These apps allow you to connect real-time with others as you train.  To access all the functions you will need to subscribe.  However, it can be helpful to have your friends interacting as you train when you can't get out with them physically.

Peloton Digital

Train alone but race against yourself and others: Virtual Races

Find Virtual Races of all Kinds 
Find Virtual races by distance below. Each Virtual race has links to its marketing page and registration page. Whether you are looking for a Virtual running event, Virtual cycling, or a Virtual triathlon you will find your race experience listed below. If you are a virtual race organizer, add your race to our calendar.

Yes.fit  Running

Dozens of races of all distances.  You pay a fee, like a race fee and log your runs until you complete the challenge.  You get a medal and a tee if you like.  I did the Ring of Kerry 100 mi race.  Many of these individual races are also part of a series that you can do to get a set of medals for the group.

Yes.Fit is flexible and a fun fitness challenge app that anyone can do. Start with shorter events and manageable workouts then progress to longer events and more strenuous challenges. Your new workout routine is based on your own pace and time frame that fits your lifestyle, schedule, and individual goals.

Virtual Triathlon
This is free, sponsored by USAT.  Sign up and get started on your own triathlon competing against other teams or join a team.
This FREE and convenient triathlon allows you to be a triathlete on your own time at your own pace.
Indoors or outside. Day or night. On a stationary bike and a treadmill or on a trail. All at once or broken into one leg per day. You decide. That’s the beauty of virtual racing – swim, bike and run where you want and when you want.
Regardless of your familiarity with a triathlon or your fitness level, anyone can participate in the #DreamingSeason Time to Tri Virtual Triathlon.

Tri to Triumph
Prices from $39 to $99
Tri to Triumph is a virtual triathlon that allows you to complete the triathlon distance of your choice, on your own time, in your own location.  No costly entry fees, no travel expenses, no race-day hassle or pressure, there are really no drawbacks!  Register for either a Sprint, Quarter, Half, of Full distance triathlon and receive an awesome Tri Tro Triumph super-soft blended shirt, custom-designed race bib, and epic heavy-duty finishers medal!  We will also have a duathlon option for any "non-swimmers," out there (see distance breakdown below).  With Tri to Triumph Virtual Triathlon, you can complete each segment of the triathlon on your own schedule!  Do it all together on the day you choose or break it into individual swim/bike/run days it's entirely up to you.  Furthermore, you can complete each part in the location of your choice, and YES... trainers and treadmills are absolutely acceptable!

Don't feel up to a solo triathlon? NO PROBLEM!! You can also get together with your training buddies and crush each discipline as a RELAY!
You can complete the Tri To Triumph anytime between January 1 and December 31, 2020! Or JOIN OUR VIRTUAL TRIATHLON COMMUNITY and complete your event on November 30, 2020.

The Trilife
Pledge to swim / bike / run your chosen triathlon distance throughout November.  You don’t have to complete it all in one go, that’s the joy of a virtual triathlon! And you can choose to swim indoors or in open water.
Sign up to the distance you fancy and start your journey towards earning yourself a piece of thetrilife.com virtual triathlon bling!

thetrilife Middle Distance – 1.9km (swim), 90km (bike), 21km (run)
thetrilife Standard Distance – Standard (Olympic) distance: 1500m (swim), 40km (bike), 10km (run)
thetrilife Sprint Distance – 750m (swim), 20km (bike), 5km (run)
thetrilife Super Sprint Distance – 400m (swim), 10km (bike), 2.5km (run)

The challenge is to complete your chosen distance during the month (and within a 48 hour timeframe).
It’s your race, your rules, so you do the disciplines and the distances in the order your choose and when they fit in with your schedule.

Kerrville Virtual Triathlon
Free, must be completed September 26, 2020 until October 17, 2020
Have you dreamed of completing a triathlon but haven’t been able to fit it into your schedule?  Or maybe you can’t make it out to Kerrville Tri this year.  Or maybe you’re just too nervous to do the swim, bike and run all in one day.  If this is the case – then The Kerrville Virtual Triathlon is for you!

With this virtual triathlon, you can complete each segment of the triathlon on your own schedule.  For example, you can do part of the swim on Monday, part of the run on Wednesday and part of the bike on Friday.  You can do each part in a location and time that’s convenient for you.

You’ll have from the actual Kerrville Tri event day September 26, 2020 until October 17, 2020.  That’s 3 weeks to swim, bike, and run. Results must be submitted by midnight on October 17th

The Kerrville Virtual Triathlon offers a Sprint, Quarter & Half Distance.
Debra Zapata Sprint Distance: 500m Swim, 14.5 mile Bike, 5 Km Run.
Sprint Distance Aquabike: 500m Swim, 14.5 mile Bike
Quarter Distance: 1000m Swim, 29 mile Bike, 6.4 mile Run.
Quarter Distance Aquabike: 1000m swim, 29 mile Bike
Half Distance: 1.2 mile Swim, 56 mile Bike, 13.1 mile Run.
Half Distance Aquabike: 1.2 mile Swim, 56 mile Bike.

The Conqueror Events
$30-$60 depending on whether you want both medal and t-shirt or one.   Races of all distances.  You'll need a connection through garmin, strava or other to report progress it appears. 

Transplant Games of America
Transplant Recipients, Living Donors, Corneal & Tissue Recipients,
Bone Marrow Recipients, and International


On being older and an athlete

Hi guys,

Last week I got back from the Base Performance Camp.  It's four days of training and I loved it.  Here's the link for the camp in case you're curious.  The schedule pushes you as hard as you want to push.

Thursday  Short run, 3000-meter swim, 12 mi bike ride easy
Friday 3000 meter swim, Ride to Sugar Loaf for hill repeats Bike/Run short tough bricks and ride back.  (toughest day)
Saturday Choice on Bike ride 2, 3, 4 hours
Sunday Run clay trails up to 10 miles and swim 3000 meters

It's at the end of February and I've done it three times.  Love the NTC swimming pool and the bike rides around Clermont are pretty traffic-free, mostly on good trails.

I did well for the first two days.  I kept up and pushed myself hard.  However, this year I couldn't take time off from work so I ended up working late at night to keep up with my telecommuting job.  By Sunday I was pretty fried.  I decided I had to step back.  Sadly I let myself sleep in a bit and then ran 3 miles and swam a mile in the pool at the park where my house is located.

While that was less than the planned workout, it was also still a lot of training in four days.  I had a lot of travel the next few days and by the following Friday, I was pretty done and needing to sleep extra.

This is what an older athlete deals with.  While the heart may be willing and the mind is all excited about the training plan, the body just can't keep up with the demands any longer.

In my 20s, I was in Tae Kwon Do.  That was before we knew about periodizing training.  I would train 7 days per week, 2 hours each night after a full day of work.  I could usually keep this up for about a month before I just couldn't do it for a whole week.  I noticed back then that I was a LOT BETTER the week I returned after a good amount of rest.  While my TKD career ended with an injury at work, I did learn something about training that stayed with me.  Rest can allow the body to do a lot of repairs and actually jump-start your ability if you return after a short break.

Now at 62, I find I need to rest about 2 days per week.  I can sometimes get a yoga class or light weights in for one of those days but normally I'm needing about 2 days rest for each week of training.  For the Base Camp, I rested about 3 days in a row.

I won't say I was easy in my mind about that.  It doesn't make me happy to have to skip training even though I know my body is doing a lot of repair and building work...it still feels like doing nothing and skipping out.

THE DEAL  15 minute check out
Later I became a bodybuilder and I made this deal with myself:
On days when I just don't feel like training, I'll get up and go anyway but my deal is that I can leave after 15 minutes if I'm not feeling it.  Usually, I feel better as the endorphins kick in and I begin to enjoy the workout.  However, on the days when the 15 mins feel too hard to go on, I let myself leave and get the rest I need.

So I guess what I want you to think about is how do you feel in your training?  Classic signs of overtraining are
1. Loss of emotional control
2. Fatigue
3. Loss of interest in training...feels more like work than fun
4. Minor injuries, clumsiness, falls, tripping, bumping into things
5. Loss of appetite
6. Insomnia (which makes everything else worse)

Eventually leading to major injuries.  On those days when you just don't feel like it, try my 15 min deal with yourself.  I think you'll find you learn to avoid injury and your training stays on a positive upward trend rather than cycling between extreme fatigue and exhilaration.

For an older adult, these symptoms can be compounded by the other physical issues we experience.  Less mobility, tendency to pull muscles or cramps, Less balance, and Inflammation.  It's important to know when to give yourself a break as you age.  Sure there are the older athletes that appear to be superhuman, but for the normal human, rest is important.  Get a good healthy meal, enjoy a good book and sleep a full 8 hours on those days.  I like to go walking the dog and bird hiking.  That way, I'm still outside and moving, just not with the same intensity as my triathlon training demands.

In a perfect world, you'll enjoy all the workouts and know you've accomplished something, but your body is also dealing with stress from mental and external sources and that can affect your ability to deal with the training stress.

So be kind to yourself.  Do a mental check and see if you are still feeling happy to train or if it's become overwhelming and like a dreadmill of one more chore to do.  Find that balance so that you can keep your training mojo and age and race gracefully.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Why am I doing that drill?

Hi Athletes!

I recently did a swim clinic with USMS.  I have to tell you that not only did it help my stroke and speed a bit, but it helped me to understand WHY I've been doing those drills!  For a person like me, knowing what I'm supposed to think about when I do a drill is important.  Doing a drill incorrectly or just doing it and not getting any improvement frustrates me.

So, I thought I'd share what I learned about the swim drills we do all the time.  These were done in the order listed to reinforce the learning from each with the subsequent drill.
The USMS stroke clinic was great because we had the coaches who had just gone through the training the day before at each lane and we got immediate feedback from them after every length.  We were in the pool for four hours that day.  Two hours were dedicated to Freestyle, the remaining two hours were for Breaststroke, Backstroke, and Butterfly.

I improved my swimming for all four strokes and felt like I knew what I needed to focus on for improving my freestyle swimming for Triathlon.  It was a lot of fun  I hope these help you to improve your stroke!

1. One goggle in, One goggle out
This is to focus you on good body position and breathing.
Swim as normal and when you breathe, make sure only one goggle is above the water.  If you have two goggles out, your head is lifting up and your legs will drop, losing momentum.  Keeping momentum, once you have developed it, is very important for smoother, faster swimming.  Keep your eyes open to know if you have one or two goggles out.  Caution: don't over-rotate!

2. Rhythm Drill
This is to focus you on proper breathing timing.
Swim with one arm forward, the other along the body.  The forward arm is the stroking arm.  Breathe only on the side opposite the stroking arm. Rotate the head keeping one goggle underwater when you breathe.  Keep body position neutral.  Practice breathing as the stroking arm pulls backward, recovering faster than the arm recovers.

3. Top Hat Drill
This is to focus you on proper head position.
Using a hand paddle, put the paddle in the tip-top of your head and try to swim normally without losing the paddle.  You may use flippers if you like and just use your arms in a  torpedo position to practice keeping the paddle on the top of the head.  Then add stroking to see if you can keep it there for a full length.  Keep a high elbow during the pull phase underwater.

 4. Head Tap Drill
This is to focus on breath timing.
While swimming freestyle, during recovery of the stroke, before putting the hand in the water again, touch/tap the head.  Your hand should be tapping the head after the breath cycle is done and the head is down in the water.  If you are breathing when the head tap occurs, you are breathing too long or too late.

5. Verticle Kicking Drill
This is to focus the kick on both sides of the kick, up and down.
Treading water upright in the water, keep the ankles floppy and work on getting a push from both directions of the kick.  If you are having trouble staying afloat, you are not kicking with both directions of the kick.

6. Streamline Drill
This is to focus you on your body position and learn how to streamline your body.
Stand on the pool deck and raise your hands above your head.  Place both hands one on top of the other and squeeze your elbows to your head.  Pull yourself up very tall, trying to get 2 more inches of height.  You should have your arms slightly behind your ears and your shoulder blades pulled together.  This is the best streamline position. Now get into the lane, and push off getting into this same streamline position for the push-off. Get your body tight very quickly to get the farthest distance from the push.  See have far you can coast in this position after the push-off.

7. Catch Up Drill
This is to focus on body alignment and breath timing, delaying the stroke slightly to get a glide benefit before the pull.
Push off in streamline position and glide before you begin your stroke.  When you do begin the stroke, leave the front arm out front until the stroking arm recovers to the streamline position, then begin the next stroke.  Keep your body long throughout the swim, working to reduce the number of strokes per length by 2-3.
Note: triathletes practice this for open water swimming to protect the head and goggles from stray kicks and slaps from other triathletes swimming closely during racing.

8. Paddle and Fist Drills
This is to focus your attention on catching water on the stroke with your whole arm.
Grab a paddle with the straps facing away from the hand.  Grab at the bottom of the paddle and hold it against the wrist.  Swim using the paddles in this position focusing on pulling water with the whole arm, using the paddle to feel the catch at the forearm.  Next, swim with the hand in a fist focusing on high elbow catch to get the whole arm nearly 90 degrees to the direction of the swim early, pulling through with the arm.   After two lengths with paddles and fists, swim half a length with fists and then open your hand and swim the balance of the length with open hands.  Notice if you are using the whole arm for the catch now.

9. Stroke Count Challenge
This is to focus your attention on swimming long, easy strokes.
Using what you have learned from all these drills, swim a length and count strokes using no fins or paddles.  From the first length count, swim 4 more lengths, trying to reduce the strokes per length by 1 each time.  Notice what worked.
Keep your body streamlined, tight and your stroke focused on high elbow and full arm catch to get more propulsive force.  Keep your ankles loose and get the full propulsion from both sides of the kick.

Being more efficient in your stroke, more streamlined and getting a better kick can really be helpful for older athletes.  As strength declines, efficiency can make up for that loss in many ways.  Getting a good body position with a neutral head is the first thing to work on because nothing is efficient without good body position!

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

My life as a female athlete..you can be one too at any age.

Hi Athletes, 
Women in Sport
 Women in sport have been limited in opportunities and limited in encouragement and limited by public opinion.  I've seen changes that have helped more women become athletes at younger ages than ever before.  I see young fit, athletic women enjoying that awesome feeling of being in the best shape of your life and competing with the joy this can bring.  Giving women choices and encouraging women should not be a special thing.  It should be as equal and open as it is for men. Ask yourself why shouldn't women be competitive and athletic?  USAT and Ironman activities to support women in the sport are great, but still not quite enough.
I reflect on how things have changed as I have aged.  It's been an interesting ride through several sports for me.  In 9th grade in high school, I joined the gymnastics team.  One of four choices for women in sports in my high school  Gymnastics, Basketball, Volleyball or Track.  I had always suffered from low blood sugar and I think perhaps I had some gluten or sugar issues because each day I'd get sick about 10 AM if I had eaten cereal, which was often.  I wasn't very good at any sport and I was very skinny and uncoordinated.   I often had trouble with my endurance.  I was almost always last to be chosen for any team throughout grade school and high school.  

However, gymnastics came around about the time I began to mature and over time I began to fill out and my metabolism began to normalize a bit with exercise.  I was eating more protein and I was able to avoid cereal in the mornings as I could make my own choices for oatmeal or peanut butter toast.  In Gymnastics I gained flexibility, strength, and tone.  I was on the gym team in college for a couple of years but still not very good.  Although, practice 4 days a week for 2 hours did a lot for my flexibility, strength, and tone and taught me how to be an athlete.  

In that day and age, the years of 1972-1976, women were still not encouraged to be athletes and most exercises for women were diet and shape focused rather than endurance and fitness.  I ended up with a very muscular physique that was not "in style" back then but I felt great and was interested in continuing to feel that way.  In both high school and college, the women's gym teams had to use the periphery of the gym because the male basketball players were "more important"  We rarely had the gym to ourselves.  Women basketball players had to train at 5 AM because that was the only time the gym was available...read that the only time the men weren't using it.  

In the next few years, I had to quit the team because my education required that I go out of town every other semester for cooperative education on the way to my masters in engineering.  Once I left college I sought out ways to exercise again.  I joined the local Y and coached the girl's gymnastics team for a time and began training to be a judge in gymnastics but lost interest because I was no longer able to do gymnastics myself.  

Body Building
About that time I read a book by a woman named Lisa Lyon. 

From Wikipedia: Born in Los Angeles, California in 1953. Lisa Lyon studied art at the University of California at Los Angeles. There she became accomplished in the Japanese art of fencing, kendo, but found herself lacking sufficient upper body strength so she began weight training. This eventually led her into bodybuilding.[1]

Lyon entered and won the first International Federation of BodyBuilders Women’s World Pro Bodybuilding Championship in Los Angeles on June 16, 1979. This was the only bodybuilding competition of her career. She appeared in many magazines and on television talk shows, promoting bodybuilding for women. She also wrote a book on weight training for women titled Lisa Lyon’s Body Magic (ISBN 0-553-01296-7), which was published in 1981.[1]

Her stats as taken on October 1980:[2] Bust 37A, Waist 24", Hips 35", Height 5' 4", Weight 120 lbs, Hair Color brunette. At the time, she could dead-lift 225 pounds, bench-press 120 pounds, and squat 265 pounds.[3]

In 1980, she was one of the only women in this sport.  This type of physique received a LOT of negative reactions and when I began lifting I was advised that I would ruin my body and would become very unattractive as a result.  I ignored this advice. 

She wrote a book and I began to go to the weight room to lift weights from reading her books.  I also tried to join the master swim group but was terrible.  The best I did was swim breaststroke and at the first meet, I swallowed a ton of water and thought I was going to drown.  That was the end of that endeavor.  However, because of the gymnastics, I had a lot of upper body strength and weight lifting was easy.  After I would lift I would stretch to keep my flexibility and one of the men in the weight room started talking to me.  I turned out he was the martial arts instructor at the Y and he tried for months to get me involved in his classes.  I resisted until he offered to teach me for free for a month if I would attend.  I finally agreed.

Martial Arts
Once I began this sport a whole world opened up for me.  The instructor was correct.  I was a natural at this sport.  I began to train seriously not long after while still lifting weights.  As I got stronger and moved up through the ranks I was also competing more and more and winning almost all competitions I entered.  I began to consider what was possible for me in the sport.  I won the state championship in 1983.  I was getting a lot of flack from all sides, my work, my family, and my friends who advised me that this sport was not a real sport, that I was ruining my body, etc. The idea at that time was still that women didn't sweat and I was training 2 hours every night after work coming home soaking wet from my own sweat.  This was not "ladylike"  I was one of 2 female instructors in the school and of the students, there were about 5% females.  
This was not a place where women were flocking for classes.  

In the 1980s women were dressing up in cute outfits and doing cardio light with Jane Fonda.  I was beating up men and women every week in a ring.  I took my championship and despite needing my blackbelt (I was one rank below black at that point) I went to the national championship with a borrowed black belt from the master.  I didn't win but had I won I would not have been allowed to compete in the PanAm games anyway since the black belt was required.  I was excited however and in 1983 the Olympic Committee was planning for Tae Kwon Do to be an exhibition sport in 1986.  I was planning to train for the Olympics.  I achieved my 1st-degree black belt and I began to box with a golden glove boxer and spent most of my waking hours training or competing.  Then disaster struck.  I fell through a catwalk at work because someone had left a part of the catwalk out leaving a hole for someone to step through.  This injured my back L1, L2 and L3 were herniated and the pain became unbearable over time.  I had to leave the sport.  

I knew a guy in 1982 who was training for Kona Ironman.  He did go and I was inspired and added Ironman to my list of things I wanted to do eventually.  At the time I was otherwise focused, however, and in Ohio, I did know anyone else doing triathlons at that time.  
Body Building again
I went back to bodybuilding and spent a lot of time at Gold's Gym; the local hyper male steroid pumped gym. ( I have a lifetime membership at Golds from those days)  I had a partner for my training and she was about 5'4" and her body was pumped up pretty quickly.  Turns out it's much harder to build muscles with longer limbs. I never competed in this sport but spent a couple years at this sport until the back pain caused me to leave it as well. 
After years as a tough competitor in sports that required hard effort, going to yoga seemed like nothing.  But because the back pain had nearly sidelined any activity at all, yoga was my only possible choice.  I was having trouble sitting for longer than 15 minutes and sleep was difficult.  I would take quite a while to stand up from sitting and the pain was never completely gone.  Another physical disaster struck me from my work next.  I was poisoned by Nutrasweet at the factory and this caused me to have CFS.  I was unable to work and went on disability.  After feeling sorry for myself for about  5 for months, I decided to just do what I could.  I went to a yoga class and after six weeks, the back pain was gone.  I still had CFS with all the problems; migraines, constant fatigue, loss of appetite, mental confusion, dyslexia issues, light sensitivity, and depression.  However, solving the back pain was a positive step.  I went back to school for my doctorate (tough at any time but try it with severe CFS!) and didn't exercise for quite a few years.  In fact, I got married, had a baby and started a very demanding new job, was the breadwinner for the family and put my husband through college.  We moved to KY and I began teaching yoga at the YWCA, donating the payments back to the Y for 8 years.  

When my daughter was about 6, I was feeling better and joined a local martial arts school 

Martial Arts
Back in martial arts, I wanted to gain my 2nd degree.  While I did manage to do this, I saw that competition in Tae Kwon Do had changed quite a bit from a focus on finesse, strategy and kicks to simply landing as many physically shocking punches as possible.  I tried to compete but even when I won I was beaten up pretty badly and I realized I was not interested in the competition and couldn't sustain that level of damage to my body and function professionally any longer.  I trained regularly and enjoyed it but the loss of competition was sad for me.  The sport was still not a place for many women.  
However the idea of what a woman's physique should be had changed.  Healthy, fit and muscular women were gaining acceptance.  Also, women's sports were becoming more interesting to the public.  The Olympics with women in Tae Kwon Do had introduced really tough female athletes to the world and younger women wanted to be like them.  Title IV was also beginning to have an effect with more women athletes graduating from college seeking ways to continue to be athletic.  

Divorce and just exercising
Once I received my 2nd-degree black belt, life began to get really tough.  Divorce and a new job took up a lot of my attention and I was unable to do more than about 1/2 hour every few days at the gym.  This extended to long after the divorce and eventually a new job in Chicago.  

In 2010, I saw a sign that offered to train me for the Chicago Triathlon if I would fundraise for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.  I was overweight, stressed out, depressed and not entirely sure I could do it, but my brother had died of AIDS in 1986 and I wanted to honor his memory.  I had figured the dream to do an ironman was long gone, but perhaps I could do a shorter one and honor him at the same time and say I had done it.  That year I completed the OLY distance triathlon at 4:52.  The old thrill of being an athlete and competing was awakened again that year.  I knew I had found something I could have fun with and I could pursue it at my fitness level.  I began the journey in triathlon, yet another sport dominated by men.  I had several bad experiences along the way.  I went to a computrainer site to train and was ignored and although I asked for help I got none.  I left without training.  I tried to join a cycling ride and was left behind within four blocks, never saw the group again and finally figured out how to get home disappointed and upset.  I went for a ride with friends, all male, who met a younger woman along the way, took off with her and left me in the middle of an unfamiliar area and it took me an hour to figure out how to get back to my car.  I was upset and disappointed and angry even though I had a good ride.  I became a coach and worked with other coaches but often with male coaches, anything I say is either over-ridden with mansplaining or corrected in public.  I quit contributing to teaching/coaching groups with other male coaches.  

Now more athletes are competing later in age.  Triathlon is probably one of the best sports around (besides swimming) that attracts athletes in their 70s and 80s.  I'm seeing many male athletes in the 70+ age group when I compete, who are competitive and do very well.  I see many more women 60+ these days as well. Waves of 25-30 for age groups of 60+ or 50+ are common.  Some male 70+ athletes compete in nationals who are faster than I have ever been in these races.  I like to see what age group  I'd be competitive with at nationals.  Often they are over 75+ before I'd be competitive at 63.  

Check out the link in this title.  Women are competing into their 70s and 80s in small numbers but they are role models for me like Lisa Lyon was during my 20s.  They promote the idea that how you age is a choice.  It's not necessary to feel bad or be unfit.  However, most women over 50 have not had a chance to ever be an athlete in their lives.  Lack of opportunity and social pressures have limited their interest and access.  Even intrepid women can be discouraged from joining a sport by unwelcome behaviors I shared above.  How we encourage women is important.  Making the sport accessible and providing support for novices that express interest is very important.  Most males have done some kind of sport most of their lives.  This is not true for women.  We can't just open the door, we have to offer a helping hand as well.  
That's why I prefer to coach older women.  I want to share my experiences and make them feel they can be athletes, will be successful and are encouraged to continue when the going gets tough.  I know women can do well.  One thing most women are familiar with is persevering through adversity and pain.  That to me is the makings of an endurance athlete.