Saturday, December 31, 2011

Best of 2011

Here are a few images from throughout the year, a quick recap of racing/training in pictures.  It was a great year, but 2012 will be even better!  I'm excited to be racing a 26.2 in a couple of weeks (Jan. 15, 2012), and I can't believe it's almost race day!  Where did the time go?  After the marathon, I'll probably take a little down time from running to recharge the batteries, and will switch the focus back to swimming and biking for awhile.  I'll be back in the pool this week after a couple week's hiatus from swimming, which was just what I needed to rekindle the motivation levels.  After a few weeks of easy aerobic workouts in January, I'll start adding in some faster, harder sets so I can build my speed back, as right now it is definitely non-existent!  

As for biking, I've been doing one easy trainer ride per week during the past couple months, and I'll focus on more rides per week and more volume after Phoenix.  I'm still working on finalizing my race schedule for 2012, but I am planning for some new exciting races this year, as well as some old favorites.  More on that to come...

Race morning for the Vancouver First Half 1/2 marathon in February- ran a PB of 1:39!

With mother-in-law Deborah after the Phoenix triathlon in April- we were both age group winners!

Enjoying a glass of red in Arizona

Little bro Donald's graduation from U of Calgary med school - May 2011 

June 2011: Big Island trip to Kona for Hawaii 70.3 

The last painful 400m!

Happy to be done! 

Post-race with hubby - a lil' sunburnt

Deep sea adventure - snorkeling on the Big Island

Akaka Falls, HI

With BFF Bonnie celebrating my birthday on June 17

Ironman Canada trip to Penticton - Aug. 28, 2011

Bonnie and I all the way up in our condo at Apex 

Carnage on the marathon course

Barrhead Queen of Hearts triathlon - Sept. 17/11 - as the overall winner, I was Queen of Hearts!

Alice and I at the STARRT X-mas party in December- as you may have noticed, it was a hat party!

Christmas 2011 - with Geoff

Boxing Day puppies with auntie Alice:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

How to become a faster swimmer

For some triathletes, the swim portion of a triathlon can be a source of anxiety and frustration.  But it doesn't have to be!  I have been swimming for a great number years and was a competitive swimmer in a past life.  I've stared at the black line on the bottom of the pool for many hours, swam thousand's of kilometers, and had my fingers turn to prunes on many occasions.  I like to think of myself as a strong and experienced swimmer.  Here I've come up with a list of guidelines and tips so that you too may become faster, stronger and improve your swim times.

1.  Get flexible.
-Improving the flexibility in your shoulders is very important if you want to become a better swimmer.  More flexible shoulders equals a bigger range of motion, which directly affects the mechanics of your stroke.  With better flexibility, you will be able to reach further, pull deeper, and not drop the elbows on the catch phase.  So start stretching your shoulders/chest muscles regularly, while watching t.v., brushing your teeth, or working at the computer.  Every bit helps!

2.  Get thyself to a pool.
-This one may sound obvious, but if you don't put the time in, you won't see the results.  You can maintain fitness on 2 swims a week, but you'll be able to improve your fitness and times on 3 quality swims a week.  If you really want to see results, aim for 4 swims a week (doing proper quality sessions, of course).  Normally, all my workouts are somewhere between around 2200m and about 2600m (except when I was training for Ironman, then I did one long swim a week between 4000-4500m).  

3.  Do kick - and lots of it.  
-Contrary to many triathlon coaches' beliefs, it is my philosophy that the kick is a very important part of the overall stroke, and therefore time must be spent practicing it.  A strong kick allows you to achieve a higher body position in the water and more efficient stroke.  I don't buy into the theory that you need to 'save your legs' in the swim portion of a triathlon, so that you will be able to bike and run better.  You are using different muscles while kicking in the water compared to on land, and you are non-weight bearing in the water.  In most workouts, I include a specific kick set (usually between 400-600m, sometimes with swim mixed in; e.g. 4 x 150 as 50 side kick/50 fly kick/50 swim or 4 x 100 as 25 kick/50 swim/25 kick).

4.  Use gadgets properly.
-A lot of triathletes will use a pullboy or fins as a 'crutch', and start to rely on them on when they start getting tired.  These types of tools should always be used with a purpose in mind - fin sets should be hard, and specific to working on kick and body position.  Pullboys should be used for specific sets as well, including longer aerobic sets, hypoxic breathing sets, pull with paddles, etc.  DON'T grab for your pullboys or fins when you are in the middle of a hard set and you are struggling - you certainly can't slap on a pullboy in the middle of a race!  Also, if you are pulling, make sure to wear a band around your ankles - you should not be kicking at all when using a pullboy.

5.  Ask a coach.
-Find a knowledgeable coach or experienced swimmer and ask them to critique your stroke, in order to learn what you should be focusing on to improve stroke mechanics and efficiency.  If you didn't come from a swimming background, it's difficult to know what may be off or what you could change in order to improve your stroke.  Getting a pair of trained eyes to check out your stroke can be very beneficial. 

6.  Socialize!
-If possible, swim with your local Master's or triathlon swim group.  Swimming all on your lonesome can be tedious and boring, and it's always more fun with a group.  Also, if you are meeting others at the pool at a scheduled time, you become accountable and less likely to skip your session.  However, there is such a thing as too much chatting - you still need to put the work in!

7. Embrace IM.
-And by IM, I mean individual medley, not ironman! Many people think that since the swim leg in a triathlon is all freestyle, you should only do freestyle all the time in your workouts.  But doing an IM set once in a while can be really beneficial, as you're working other muscle groups in the other strokes, and not to mention it can break up the monotony!  Make sure to get some instruction from an experienced swimmer or coach on  proper stroke mechanics for fly/breaststroke.  Some examples of IM sets I use on a regular basis are: 4 x 100 IM (25 fly/25 back/25 breast/25 free); 6 x 75 as odd: 25 fly/25 back/25 breast, even: 25 back/25 breast/25 free; 8 x 50 IM order. 

8. Flip turn.
-Learn how to do a proper flip turn/push off/breakout, and do it at every wall!  There may be no flip turns in an open water triathlon, but there are flip turns in a pool swim, and lets face it - many of us Albertans will typically be doing at least one pool swim triathlon a year! Additionally, flip turns allow you to swim more soundly and efficiently, they prevent you from 'resting' at the wall, and they are much faster! A quick, efficient flip turn should take off at least a second per wall compared to a 'touch turn'.  If you're doing an 800m time trial, that's 32 seconds off your overall time right there, just from cleaning up the walls!  Also, work on your 'breakout'.  And by that I mean your push off and streamline off each wall, where you should aim to be taking a stroke before breathing and coming up for your first stroke off the wall right around the flags.  This takes time to practice and become a habit, but you'll be more efficient overall if you do so.

9. Work hard in the water.
-Avoid doing all your workouts/sets at the same pace.  If you want to get faster, some of your workouts/sets need to be really hard!  Typically the total distance of the main set in my workouts is between about 1200m-1800m, comprised of different interval distances depending on what the workout is targeting, and sometimes so hard you feel like you're gonna puke!  If you are looking for some hard, focused workouts to try, let me know and I'll be happy to send you some.

So there you have it!  Let me know how it goes... Happy swimming!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Puttin' the miles into the bank

Since my last post, which was now ages ago, things have been busy and the days feel like they're flying by.  I've been training hard for the upcoming 26.2, working like crazy, and making sure to fit in lots of essential recovery and filling up with nutritious food (well, for the most part - there may have been a few cheezie/candy binges thrown in there!).  There have been a couple of 3 hour runs, some tempo sessions, and a set of mile repeats on the treadmill earlier this week that was so hard it will make the race seem easy!  Those 3 hour runs are just killer.  I completed one 2 weeks ago (32.5km) and another one yesterday (32km), and they really take a lot out of you! 

The first one went a little better than yesterday, perhaps it was just a matter of me not being as tired or fatigued going in.  Two weeks ago, I made it through 2.5hr still feeling really great, but then started to struggle a bit the last 30 mins with soreness creeping in in the hips/legs/back.  Yesterday I was already hurtin' only 2 hours in, which made the last hour especially challenging.  The thing that really got me to the end of it yesterday was knowing that this was going to be my last 3 hour run!  [I must say that I've been extremely fortunate thus far, weather-wise, as I've only had to do one long run so far in bitter cold (which got shortened to 90min), and all the others have been in very mild temps for this time of year.  Also, there hasn't been an insane amount of snow (yet), so the footing outside has actually been really good.]  

Although the 3hr runs ended up being a struggle during the last 30-60min, the important thing is that I made it through those runs and put the work in the bank.  Following those sessions, I made sure to spend some time doing some quality stretching and icing, and relaxing on the couch, not really able to do much else for the remainder of the day!

Of course, I can't help but occasionally entertain a slight worry in the back of my mind about the actual marathon distance, just how difficult that last 10k is going to be, and how I'll be able to maintain the same pace when the legs and body start really complaining.  BUT, I really just need to push those thoughts out of mind and instead focus on getting through these last few weeks of training and be confident in all the quality training I have already accomplished.  

There are only 5 weeks left now until Jan. 15 - race day!  This upcoming week will be a drop-back/recovery week, which my legs really need after yesterday's many miles.  So the long run next weekend will 'only' be 2 hours - pretty funny that I no longer think 2hrs is not crazy long.  Then the following weekend I'll bump the long run back up to about 2.5 hours, and since there will only be two weekends remaining after that, those two remaining long runs will be tapered off in distance/time but likely done at race pace.  So in essence there are only two long runs left.  I like the sound of that!

In other news, I've attempted to tune into my 'artistic' side, if that even exists!  As part of a recent work team building activity, we had the opportunity of getting to try splatter painting, which was a whole lot of fun and a whole lot of mess!  I'm not an overly artistic person by any means, but I definitely enjoyed this activity.  But it is possible that more paint may have landed on me than on the canvas!

Here's the finished masterpiece:

And this is a really cool piece of artwork that was up on the wall in the store.  There's a hidden *something* in the picture.  I couldn't see it at first, but when I took a picture on my phone and then looked at it again, I got it!  Can you see it?  Very cool!

Stay tuned for my tips on how to get faster in the pool!  Bye for now!