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Trying not to drown

It occurred to me that writing these things first thing in the morning and talking about the previous day is kinda dumb; it’s better for me to post them in the evening and talk about that day, so that’s what I’ma be doin’ from here on out. I also realized that links aren’t getting posted to Facebook and Twitter, so I’m fixing that; if this is the first post you see, you might wanna go back to the first day of this week and, you know, catch up. ‘Cause it’s getting real around here.

We had a last minute lunchtime meeting at the office today so I wasn’t entirely sure if I’d be able to get over to the Y for my usual swim, but that bad boy let out a few minutes after noon and I sprinted for the door. Still a bit pressed for time, I decided to just swim until I either reached 1500 yards (60 lengths of the short course pool) or started to drown.

Something that bit me in the ass a little bit during my International-distance (aka Olympic) triathlon from last August was the fact that I always breathe out of the left side when I swim. What I hadn’t anticipated was that we were going clockwise around the 1500 meter course, which meant that I couldn’t see the buoys I was meant to be passing unless I stopped to pick my head up and glance over to that side. It wasn’t a fatal issue (not nearly as badly as the current that added 10 minutes to my usual 1500m time, or the fact that I’d been eating horribly in the week prior which bit me hard while biking through the hills of northeast Maryland), but a bit concerning. I’d read of folks having issues during a swim because the waves came from one side and they couldn’t breathe to that side without inhaling water, which would be really bad if it happened to me and I wasn’t trained to breathe to the other side at all. Plus, it’s just good swimming form to breathe every 3 or 5 (or even 7) strokes because it helps keep your stroke more ambidextrous.

So I decided that the fall and winter I’d teach myself to breathe to both sides. Actually, the hard part wasn’t learning to breathe to the right; after getting used to rotating properly to that side (I have a tendency to under-rotate anyway, so this was a good thing to get used to), I can swim more or less endlessly breathing to just one side or the other. The part that was killing me was breathing 33% fewer times over a given distance, which reduced the oxygen available, and increased the carbon dioxide I had to get rid of. At first I could barely swim one length of the pool before having to switch back to breathing every two strokes.

When I first began training myself to swim freestyle in 2013 (after completing a couple of triathlons using nothing but breast stroke), I found a program online called “Zero to 1650 in 6 Weeks” (a “swimmer’s mile” is 1650 yards, or roughly 1500 meters). It aims to take someone who can barely swim 100 yards to being able to swim that full mile, swimming just three times a week. I could only allocate 2 swims a week, so I spread it out over 9 weeks, but it worked a treat. I went from being able to barely swim 4 lengths of the pool, to handling a full 66-length mile in under 40 minutes. After struggling to add bilateral breathing to my regular workouts, I figured I’d go back to the 0-to-1650 well.

It worked fantastically, even fast than six weeks. After completing the 1000 yard week, I found I had solved the problem; it was just a matter of setting a reasonable pace, and not stopping. The next trick is going to be improving my speed. While one of my goals is completing an Ironman (which starts with a 2.4 mile swim), my preferred distance will always be sprint races, because you can bang them out in a morning and be home in time for brunch, and the training requirements are much more reasonable. The guys who are competitive at the sprint distance can swim a true half-mile in under 10 minutes; it takes me closer to 18. This is obviously somewhere I can improve a great deal. (The same of course goes for my cycling and running, but swimming is where I’m least comfortable).

Today I managed 1500 yards in a bit over 31 minutes. Next week I’ll probably work on some speed drills to see if I can keep breathing every three strokes will pushing hard with good form.

Yesterday’s activities: 30 chins, 30 pushups, about 3 minutes of planks throughout the day.
Today’s activities: 1500 yards swim, 30 chins, 30 pushups, about 2.5 minutes of planks.

What I eated yesterday: I polished off a leftover pesto pork chop for lunch, with vegetables; dinner was eggs, ham, turkey bacon, and a nice bed of spinach. I was trying to avoid carbs but couldn’t resist a few crescent rolls.
And today: Lunch was the last 1.5 pork chops, with some broccoli. For dinner, Sarah threw a big pork roast in the crock pot with apples and sweet potatoes, and there were green beans as well. (The kids also had mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce, I couldn’t resist having a little of that as well.)

Today’s weight: 230 (-1)

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