SwimLabs–Swim Analysis. Always Improving!

I’m a fairly good swimmer and I’m among some of the faster swimmers out there.  I’ve been a swimmer since I can remember.  Hot summers in Minnesota and spending time at the Community Pool in Minneapolis somewhere.   I was a tall skinny guy but loved the water, I was a natural at it.  I was a swimmer in high school but mostly a sprinter, and never really got into it past then in terms of competitively.   Looking back I probably should have, but I was young and stupid.   Then when I came across triathlon I didn’t anything about it, I thought I could freestyle.  Noticed how I used the word “thought” instead of “know”.  I read some books on swimming and looked at countless YouTube videos on how to improve my stroke and even started to learn this “High Elbow Catch” and I knew I had some issue’s the mechanics of it all but I was getting faster.   But you can’t really see how your body is while in the water.  So I always wondered, I know I’m fast but am I efficient and just cause I’m fast am I actually “good”.

Then one of the guys in my Oceanside training group who’s also the runner in my Triathlon Relay Team went to this place called SwimLabs in Encinitas, CA.   He wrote a great e-mail about this place to the Tri Club we’re both in and he told me about everything including a DVD to take home that goes over some of the findings all for 100 bucks!   Now I always thought this type of stuff was super expensive and only for the professionals so I never even thought of it.   After hearing about this though I was interested and started to look into this.   Then I heard at our club meeting that they are now a sponsor as well!  I had no reason not to go now.  Then just as I was about to call I saw that because I’m one of Julie Dunkle’s athletes I get special pricing as well which sealed the deal.  I had no reason not to go and see where I can improve…  Yes even at 38 I’m still learning, but how can you improve if you don’t find out what you’re doing wrong.

Earlier that day I swam 1.2 miles as part of a race simulation for Ironman Oceanside 70.3 but didn’t worry about it since 1.2 miles is easy as pie.  Walked into SwimLabs and could see the pools along with Mason and Julie who was working with another athlete of hers.  I got to admit I was nervous.  I think being nervous is healthy it’s part of overcoming your fears and I don’t like hearing about things that I might be doing wrong.   I know it’s needed but that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it right?   So anyways it’s my turn in this pool with a current generator so that I don’t need camera’s to follow me through the pool.   Starting out it was a bit awkward cause I’m used to actually moving but it’s a treadmill for the water.  Well right from the go we were recording and I could clearly see some errors in my stroke and we worked on drills to do so that I’m crossing my arms in front of my face as well as working on my early high elbow catch with my left arm.  It seems that my left side of things really needs some work.  The upside was that the right side of things was perfect and didn’t need any improvement..   I have the ability to do everything I just have to do it more in the pool to get that muscle memory down so that I can do it in races without having to think about it.

SwimLabs Analysis Video

Conclusion:
This was awesome to go through and I will probably do it a year from now to see how I’ve improved.  I can’t say enough good things about SwimLabs at this time.  I got a DVD with the videos of my session along with drills that I need to do to correct my stroke and videos of pro’s doing it properly and notes taken during my session.   I highly recommend going to SwimLabs if you are concerned about your swimming.

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First Race Down–Tritonman Race Report

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About the Race:
This is a small triathlon mainly to help support UCSD Triathlon so I didn’t have any high expectations of a high profile race.   It was actually kind of nice to and do a small triathlon while supporting UCSD Triathlon.  Didn’t have to worry about bibs, stickers all over the bike or helmet, just show up and race.  Most sprint distances cut the swim to a 500M swim but this was a 750M Swim.  The bike consisted of 3 loops around Fiesta Island.  The run consisted of 3 loops around the park path with the final turn into the finish line.  No big finishing shoot with a carpet, no huge crowds, just the timing line, short sweet and to the point.   Most of the competitors were college kids with a few of us old timers out there showing them that you can still do it regardless.

Race Expectations:
I didn’t have any high expectations for this race.  It was about pacing and not pushing too much.  I also didn’t use any of my usual training gear, no Garmin 910XT, no HR strap, no foot pod, and no speed/cadence sensor.  I wanted to simulate something happening to my Garmin and having to race completely blind and go off nothing but feelings.  Looking back I wonder if it was the smartest thing cause it was a race!  Well the reason I signed up is because it was a race and I was hoping for water temps that should be like Oceanside 70.3 along with weather.   Since this was not an A race it was a preparation race and while it didn’t have the same flair as some of the bigger race the energy amongst the racers was just as high and I had just the same butterflies in the stomach up to the start.

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Race Day:
I had a work call wake me up at 2AM which didn’t help matters and it lasted for 2.5 hours so I just went straight to getting my pre-race protein shake /carbs and got everything ready to head over to the venue.  It was foggy and it was cold, but it’s the end of February so I expected it to be cold.  Thankfully they gave us some beanies as part of the swag cause I used it all the way up to entering the water.  I got everything setup really nice in my transition which I’m sure paid off with my T’times but I won’t know till the results are posted.  Walked down to the bay fully expecting the water to be utterly freezing but it wasn’t bad at all, in fact I was relieved that it was not cold.  Got a good warm up swim and tried to remember to reach for the corners of the pool to assist with my stroke during the warm up (this will take some work).

Swim:
As the Male AG’s lined up we were off, even with the jelly fish around us.  Stayed to the outside of things and worked my way to the inside just passing people left and right and couldn’t find any feet to draft off of.  Thought I had a few but I quickly eclipsed them as we got father from the start.  Even around the first turn it was bunched to no end and thankfully I didn’t get caught in that washing machine and made a mad dash to the final left.  I didn’t sprint the last 200M or so like I usually would have, I had to remember to keep a constant pace.  I think I got a sub 12 minute 750M but who knows.

Bike:
My transition went pretty smooth and I even mounted the bike in a pretty good fashion.  Since this was around Fiesta Island I figured there would be a huge headwind on the backside of the island like usual, but NO WIND!   At this point my feet were back to normal and I must have been pushing 22-23 MPH who knows except I know I was passing people left and right and only had a few college kids pass me on their super duper fast bikes.  the only real issue here was the people on bikes who failed to stay to the right if they are going slow.   The slowing down aspect of people who can’t follow simple instructions really annoyed me and another guy behind me who was yelling as well.  My dismount was good as ever except I have a feeling I took too much time getting out of my shoes moving up to the dismount line.  So don’t know the time at all but maybe a 30 minute bike.

Run:
Rushed T2 a bike and my feet were frozen and number again from the cold wet grass so putting on the shoes was a hassle.  This run was going to be interesting cause I would have no idea of how fast I was going.  I think I maintained a 9:30-10:00 mile pace but it was hard to tell when you can’t feel your feet.  I kept seeing a bunch of people passing me but who know what lap they were on and I kept telling myself to keep my race pace, I’m not here for a podium finish.  Through most of the run I felt great although my quads were starting to get a bit sore at this point (I didn’t do anything for nutrition) I had a salt stick on the bike but I think I should have popped 1 right as I got on the bike and another coming off the bike.  The 3rd lap was getting boring at this time but I picked it up going into the final shoot and saw the gun time of 1:23 so my total finish time should be around 1:13-1:15.  I’m pretty happy with that, although it was hard to keep telling myself to go at an even pace that I would at Oceanside.

Takeaways:
1. I need to put rubber bands in my transition bag.  I keep forgetting them for my shoes.
2. Sunglasses, I need to make sure they stay in my pockets.  They fell out and I lost them.
3. Practice sighting with my strokes.  Since adjusting my stroke from SwimLabs assessment I need to practice sighting.
4. Salt Sticks when I jump on the bike and then right before getting off.
5. Hat!  Even though this was a short race I need to get into the habit of running with a hat with this bald head.

Over 150lbs Lost–Now What?

It’s hard to believe that this morning I finally was under 230lbs (229lbs to be exact).  I didn’t think I’d ever be under 300lbs again back in 2009 when I was over 380lbs.  It was an unexpected moment as I stood there looking at the scale and I thought maybe I should get a picture to mark the occasion, but I didn’t.  I jumped off and looked at myself in the mirror and even though I’d physically changed how I looked.  I still had a mental picture that I was still “fat”.  I searched for answers as to why this popped into my head and I had to step back and tell myself that I’m not “fat” I’m “fit”.  I see more muscle definition, less love handles, and not a big ole belly, so progress is progress.

Fighting that fat mentality is a much more difficult fight.  Years of looking in the mirror at the old you has ingrained this image of you that doesn’t just go away over night.  I still see some of the extra skin which is always hard to over come.  You feel it when you’re running and you have to wear compression gear so that it’s not painful during activities.  It affects your self worth and confidence and it doesn’t come back over night.  So why is it that even after losing so much weight people still feel mentally fat?   Well I don’t know I can only speak from my experience.  We turn on TV and see infomercials with “fit” models demoing equipment.  When we are in the gym we see guys and girls who have devoted their lives to being “fit” so we start to associate the 2 that in order to be “fit” we need to have this certain physique about us.  For men it’s we need to have big arms, pecs, and a 6 pack.  Ok some lat’s don’t hurt either.  We (fat people) are brought to believe that there is a singular one-size fits all body type.  When in fact that just is not the case and I’m starting to realize that.  I’m an endurance athlete whose body physique will not be what you see on those commercials or any of the brands that the fitness industry is promoting on their products.  At least not at a competitive level.  It’s just not possible for certain people’s body to do things when they are not built for it.   Just like an endurance athlete could not go out and powerlift at a competitive level.

It’s not a joke or a myth that your mind controls your body in every single facet of real life.  It’s been a slow transformation for me in believing that I’m no longer that 350+lbs guy or 250+lbs guy and as I start doing more and more things that I at one point thought impossible to me (Half Ironman, Ironman, under a 2 hr half marathon, running a 6 min mile) and embracing the mentality that it’s not about what I look like with my body, it’s about what I can achieve with my body.  So as I approach what will most likely be 220lbs of racing weight it will be interesting to see where the journey takes me.  It’s starting to move from not losing weight but losing fat, so soon I’ll be back to some weight training on a more regular basis.

Travelling for Triathlons: Another Job by Itself!

So as you’ve seen from my schedule I’ll be travelling over the summer for a few races, ITU Chicago, Minneapolis, and New York City.  The logistics of making sure that your flights, hotels, and travel to and from airports can really go crazy with the schedule.  It’s always one thing to sign up for a race but it’s another to actually get to the starting line when you live on 1 coast and you’re flying around.  Once you get the obvious scheduled (Hotel and Flight) it then falls on getting your gear there!   You spend thousands of dollars on this bike and if you’re like me you certainly don’t want to take it apart.  You need to get the rest of the small stuff together to check so that you aren’t doing a full blown transition clinic for the TSA agent.

I’ve had to extend my Chicago stay flights from Thursday to Monday were the only ones that made sense.  So that mean’s my hotel stay is Thursday – Sunday.  I decided that I’ll just stay centered around my hotel instead of dealing with the hassle of getting a rental car and dealing with staying at a cheap hotel till race night and check in to the hotel a couple blocks from the start only to rush and check out after the race.   Race day transport I just heard back from about getting my bike from San Diego to Chicago so I won’t have to deal with that fiasco of getting it shipped to my hotel and then me having to deal with it onsite.   I think having that Friday/Saturday though to see some friends and then have all afternoon Sunday to hang out will be great instead of trying to rush through it all.  Total Cost so far is $1100 bucks.

My trip to Minnesota will be really simple because my family lives there so I just have to worry about flight and getting my bike there… less than 2 weeks after Chicago.  So far though there is no bike transport for this race so most likely what I will do is take my bike to my local shop and have them back it up for me and then ship it to my Uncle and Aunts place that I’m going to stay at and then bring it to a shop to have them assemble it.  Since it’s at my hometown I might stick around after the race for a couple days to spend some time with everyone.  Total Cost so far will be around $600

The New York City Triathlon which is the race I’m more excited about because I got in via lottery and I did it on a whim is all paid for now.  Flights, hotels, and bike transport is all taken care of so it’s just getting all the small stuff taken care of.   I won’t have spare time to really spend with friends but I will have Friday and Sunday evenings and I’m right in midtown.  Total Cost so far is $1400 bucks.

So for a little summer weekend getaways it’s not that bad I think.  Pay for a vacation to get out of town and still pay that much and not get to race seems like I’d be missing out on things.  I know for 2015 though I won’t be travelling so much.

Confidence Building 6 Weeks and Counting!

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Got to meet the Women’s 2013 Ironman World Champion and the US Top Men’s Ironman Finisher Mirinda “Rinny” Carfrae and Timothy O’Donnell at our Tri Club meeting how cool is that!  I have to say that joining the Triathlon Club of San Diego has been the smartest choice I’ve made since deciding to jump into the triathlon community with competitive goals in mind.  The people are awesome and are always nice regardless of your walk of life.   That’s been something that I’ve noticed amongst triathletes.  It doesn’t matter what you do for your career or the distance you race.  You’re a triathlete and you’re an equal and everyone is treated as equals regardless of your speed.  So anyone who is thinking about doing a triathlon and enjoys doing them afterwards go out and join your local triathlon club.

6 weeks out and counting down, YIKES!   It’s hard to believe that I only have 4-5 weeks of hard training before the taper down to race day.  Physically I feel that I am prepared for what race day is going to have in store for me.  I’m confident I’ll be amongst the top swimmers and I’ll be able to hold my own on the bike.  The run I now feel that I will be in the top 50% compared to bottom 50%.  I’ve started mentally preparing for the race and spotting my mental low points during the bike and the run and how I can conquer that evil voice telling me that this was stupid and why did I sign up for this?  I’ve made some adjustments to my nutrition preparation/plan, but I still need to execute it properly.  I’ll have 2 sprint triathlons before race day along with 2 more race simulations for the distance so I’ll have a solid stance on where I will be race day.  Speaking of races here is a list of my official race schedule for 2014.   Sadly they had to cancel the Jump Aquathon so I am looking for an April race.

2014 Race Schedule
Feb 28th – Tritonman Tri
Mar 16th – SEALSprint (Sprint)
Mar 29th – Oceanside 70.3 Half Ironman
Apr 26th – Jump Aquathon (Cancelled)
May 4th – Spring Sprint (Swim Relay)
May 31st – Bass Lake Tri (Olympic)
Jun 29th – ITU Chicago (Olympic)
Jul 12th – LifeTime Tri Minneapolis (Olympic)
Aug 3rd – New York Triathlon (Olympic)…
Sept 6th – SD Tri Classic (Olympic)
Sept 21st – TriRock Bike Relay (Olympic)
Oct 5th – Mission Bay Sprint (Swim Relay)
Oct 19th – SD Triathlon Challenge
Oct 26th LifeTime Tri Oceanside (Olympic)
Nov 16th – Ironman Arizona 140.6

I think with all the races leading up to IMAZ that I’ll be ready to take it on.  The upside to my fall race schedule is that most of the races will be a relay so I won’t be completely out of gas and I have 2 weeks from LifeTime Tri Oceanside to IMAZ to recharge the batteries.  I’ve also made the decision to move into my Age Group of 35-39 for the Bass Lake Triathlon instead of racing Clydesdale.   I looked at the results from last year and I feel that I can race competitively and get in the top 3 and possibly win the race and qualify for USAT Nationals.  Now I could go to Wisconsin and race the USAT Nationals as a Clydesdale since it’s open, but I want that letter saying that I qualified.  If you look closely you will see that there is NO 13.1’s or 26.2’s in there.  I just don’t have the desire to run any of them this year as my focus is really going to be on triathlon and preparing for November.  I realize that running is the only way to improve my run but I’m going to focus on my run training and running at least once a day for at least 3 miles.   I can put aside 30 minutes somewhere to get in 3 miles.  I’m also going to keep my treadmill runs to a minimum of incline 4.  My weight has slowly creeped down which is a good thing but I am not happy that my BF% isn’t dropping as much as I had hoped but I just need to keep on it.

Head is Back In the Game–Fine Tuning Errors

I have been spending basically the last week listening to motivation mantra’s and searching for things that can keep my head checked in.  It’s been working as well thank god.  I was beginning to feel like I was drifting away and not ever checking back in.

“You got to get up and say I want to be a champion and I’ll do whatever it takes.  Visualization, looking at motivational quotes, whatever it takes” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

I think part of the problem was that when I first signed up to do the Oceanside 70.3 I set out with a goal of “Just to Finish.”  Back in June when I signed up it seemed like an almost impossible feat.  I had just made the choice to do triathlon in a more competitive nature and not just do triathlon to finish but to actually place in the top 10 and top 5 of all the races I do.  As training progressed through the months and I’ve improved I came to the realization that yes, I am going to finish.  I think I became satisfied with the main goal of just being able to finish a 70.3 is what has caused my mind to drift.  My mindset has returned to training like a champion and doing whatever it’s going to take.

This past Saturday my Oceanside Training Group had a little race simulation.  I looked at the night before and everything just as I would the race.  Nutrition has always been a weakness of mine for my size and thankfully my coach had a little class on this with tips and how to work everything out.  I came up with a very solid plan and she approved of it.  I got my bike prepped and all my gear and stuff all set to go so in the morning I was all set to go.  Woke up and got everything in my bag ready to go except I decided to go back to bed for another 30-45 minutes so I put my liquid nutrition back in the fridge.  Well I forgot to grab them back out of the fridge.   So I clearly have an issue with plan execution and it hurt me on the race simulation.  I had the solid calories but nothing liquid other than some Gatorade.  I was short of ohhhhh about 600 calories over bike ride to get me through my run.  See, I burn about 1000 calories an hour on the bike and your body can only absorb a certain amount at one time.  You don’t want too many solids jumbling around in your stomach during an endurance race because you’re going to have all your blood going every where BUT your stomach.   So anyways, outside of that I had a great race sim.  Need to work on running off the bike a bit more and execute my race plan.   I hit some goals like out of the water in under 30 minutes, keep my HR out of the water down on the bike to 140-150.

100 free in workoutTraining wise I’ve hit my fastest times to date this week… EVER!  Who knew a 240lbs man could run a 6:39 min/mile.  We did some 25 yards at the pool in masters and I hit a 14 second 25 yard.  I was hitting my 1:14 min/100 yards.  I’ve always been strong on the bike just not climbs and I’ve decided that I need to get back into climbs and hills.  Yes I could change out my gearing but if it’s hard now why make it easy the easy way.  Hard work and sweat baby.