I think this is in response to the deaths that have occurred… I think it’s a wise choice to be proactive about educating folks on the anxiety of the swim start so they can be aware and try to plan for the experience. It won’t end up a complete surprise, even though you don’t really know until you’re in the thick of it.
I am actually a professionally trained classical musician… Throughout school, we would PUT ourselves into anxious situations, or run up and down a flight of stairs to get the heart rate going, and we would have to perform. What it did was teach us how to manage the stress and anxiety of the situation and perform so the audience had NO idea we were nervous… Because they were paying to see a performance, not us sh*t our pants!
So, this is why I am able, with my 2:05 ish IRONMAN swim (hopefully faster this year!), to be on the very start line of the swim start - HECK NO AM I SWIMMING AN EXTRA 50-100 YARDS! I just know to expect that I’ll have to hold my breath for 4+ strokes and that it’s going to be cray cray. And, I remind myself that it’ll all calm down… Especially as I begin going off course!
I musta been kidding myself when I thought I was gonna keep a blog.
Nevertheless, here I am with an update after a couple months when,at that time, I was telling you all about my DQ and how I was pulled out of the water during my first triathlon.
Because that was my first triathlon (sprint) and first open water swim (EVER) , I went ahead and took the bull by the horns and began doing open water swims like crazy before my upcoming olympic distance.
I needed to build confidence in the open water. I needed to be okay without having the ground so close to save me. I needed to not have the wall there to rest on each length. I needed to be able to be okay with being blind in the water and begin sighting in order to make my aquatic journey.
I did it.
The hard work paid off when I got to the Olympic distance triathlon. I had done a few 1 mile dry runs at Chicago’s Ohio Street Beach in preparation… 59 mins, 68 mins, 54 mins.
Mentally, it’s good to know that I can cover the distance. Next, is doing it within the cut off times.
For cutoffs in swimming, I always think in relation to the 70 min half Ironman cutoff and 140 min full Ironman cutoff.
The Olympic distance I did was completed in about 43 minutes. Sh*t! I covered JUST shy of a mile in the water in under 45 minutes! WOOP WOOP!
That was just 2 weeks before my 1/2 ironman distance at Racine… So, all I had to do was a little over two tenths of a mile more… Piece of cake!
It wasn’t really a piece of cake but I did get it done! It took me about 54 minutes to complete that swim!!! The hardest parts?? Just two things…
It was point to point… So, seeing that line of buoys line the shore was a little intimidating. We had to walk pretty much the whole distance from transition to the start line.
It felt like forever… I started getting bored and tired and just wanted it to be over.
I got it done though!!! And, once I hit dry land, I can survive the rest (knock on wood!).
So, another mental boost… I just gotta swim double in about 2 months (now exactly 4 weeks away) from then.
Then, we get to last weekend where I was out with CES for a training weekend in Mad Town. It started on Saturday morning with a swim in Lake Monona (race site).
It was really early (by my standards) and at 6:15 I already saw several people swimming about in the lake. WHOA! COOL!
I get there… I start getting into my full wetsuit… Folks coming out say to me, “you’re going to regret that. It’s hot!”
I tell them, “I’ll suffer through with it because I’d otherwise just drown. Amd, in my head I was thinking I’d be just fine!
We started with a little clinic where we had to tread water while listening to the coach… Umm… KEN DOESN’T TREAD H2O!!!
Well, Ken had to keep calm and make it seem like he could. And, he did for about 10-15 minutes. Go Ken!
Ok, time to swim… We were going to do 45 minutes.
HOLY HECK THAT SWIM SUCKED!!!!! I was hotter than the cake that I was craving in the oven at the local bakery!!! I could not believe how HOT that water was! And, my wetsuit just made it worse!
When I checked the water temp, it said 85 degrees! Whoa! Now, I know why 83(?) is the cutoff for wetsuits for safety reasons!
83, degree water temperature plus body temperature plus insulation properties of a wetsuit just equaled disaster!
Needless to say, I didn’t get very far… I only got from the jetski ramp (race start line) to the end of the terrace parking entrance and back while most everyone else was way off in the distance.
How did I survive?
Well, I tried not to panic too much. And, I went to my back a few times to just relax, float and breathe. Oh, and I kept sighting for the most direct route back to the boat ramp so i could get out as soon as possible!
When I got out, I was relieved. But, I was also really worn out from that short little swim because of the heat. Even when I was just out of my wetsuit and only in my jammers after drying myself off, I started to sweat like crazy!!!! I was POOPED!!!
That hot swim haunted me mentally during my first of two loops on the bike course.
Some of the many thoughts:
What if the race isn’t wetsuit legal? What if it doesn’t cool off? If it’s hot but wetsuit legal, will I go for it? Or, will I just spectate? How the heck am I going to do this without a wetsuit? Swim buoy to buoy and hang out to take breaks? I wasn’t able to complete the prescribed swim by my coach because it was so damn hot- am I in trouble?
Fast forward to today…
During the week, I found the USGS site that reports water temperature. And, the charts, showed the downward tend of the temperature. In fact, the temperature read just 72 degrees yesterday!
So, I was put at ease. I went to the pool (in lieu of choppy, gas filled, stinky Ohio Street Beach) to swim my 2 miles for the day. And, I did it in about 1:50.
Here, I admit that I use a pull buoy without gripping it hard just so I can get a little help with the buoyancy. Don’t worry, I’m still kicking from the hips and have the chafing from the pull buoy to prove it!
So, that’s a huge accomplishment for the day. And, next week I get to cover a full 2.4 miles in Lake Monona as part of a race. Just don’t get bored, right?!?
When did I ever think I would be BORED while swimming?!? I NEVER thought I was ever be in this place now! Just a tiny bit over a year ago I signed up for Wisconsin without knowing how to swim. Now, I’m getting bored?!?
I’m ever so thankful to those that have gotten me this far today! My coaches that continue to teach me, my friends, my co-workers and my ever so awesome partner, Anthony!
I’ve become a ball of emotions in the past couple weeks because of all the rigors of training, the mental battles from missing workouts, and just every day life. Apparently, this is not uncommon as I near the peak of Ironman training.
Since I became active in 2007, I have continued to prove to myself that I’ve got more in me to give physically and mentally. The road isn’t always paved like fresh blacktop, but the feeling of accomplishment, especially as i reflect back on the past 11 months of training, is huge!
I always thought Ironman athletes were crazy! Well, I’m going to soon become one of those crazy ones!
SNIPPET OF MY MSG TO MY COACH TODAY:
so…i felt great about being pro-active with getting my swim in a day early because of my schedule on wednesday. i thought i was on a great track. then, wednesday night, it was a later than preferred night at the office so i didn’t get my run in. instead, i did it yesterday morning…
This is the first time I’ve gone numb…”down there”…
It was the oddest of feelings… it’s like when your foot falls asleep…
Do you get the point?!?
Maybe, this is my cue to add to my to do list “look for another bike seat to address numbness.”
Other than that and my contact folding up on me, it was a great ride at Vision Quest!
And, I ran into my coach (Dan Litwora) on his way out and my way in. I sum up his plan for me in the pool…”You will run in the pool what you aren’t swimming!”
Awesome conclusion to an otherwise stressful day!
after quite a few random drills that were probably laughable, I decided to say, “FUGGIT! JUST GO!”
so, that I did.
1×25 no stopping and only breathing to the left.
1×25 no stopping bilateral breathing…WAS OK WITH OCCASIONAL WATER SWALLOW!
REPEAT LAST 2 STEPS TWICE!
3X25 BACK TO BACK!!! WOO HOOOOOOOOO!!!!!
THAT! IS! ALL!
…that’s comforting to hear especially because I almost cancelled this morning’s swim lesson because I wasn’t confident and my left shoulder hurts!
The lack of confidence comes from my frustration at the work I put in at the pool this week.
However, after I got the ‘kudos’ from Marcia this morning, it reminded me of the frustration that I had when I was training as a professional musician.
A lot of the time, you think you’re not making progress. However, the time (EFFICIENT AND FOCUSED TIME) you’re putting in provides several baby steps toward the goal in mind.
The baby steps only make your thinking more in tune with the task at hand and you begin to pick everything apart…often to the point of driving yourself crazy… So, as you think that you’re not making progress, you probably have! It’s just that you’ve become hyper aware and are continually fine tuning.
The analogy I often heard in conservatory was this… peeling the onion piece by piece, it is practically never-ending because there is a lot of surface area to address in each of those layers. There is always room for improvement and there is practically NO such thing as perfect!
That goal was this morning’s lesson!
Nevermind the anxiety I had from being late because I timed my morning ride poorly.
Honestly, I thought that the fatigue on my legs from the ride (which involved 25 sets of strength and endurance intervals), the total 1.5 hours in the saddle, the sore shoulder, AND the 30 minute tardiness all were a recipe for disaster. Yet, I had that “throw your hands in the air” feeling that said to me, “What else can go wrong?!?”
This is often the point where we think less…or do less over-thinking…and we surprise ourselves. We hope/trust in the work we did and can only control so much.
So, there it was… a quick and efficient lesson where I seemed to surprise Marcia by the numerous 25 meter laps I accomplished with okay breathing.
We re-introduced catch up drills with the kick board to work on my bilateral breathing (aka WSB); the “bug” motion with my stroke so I didn’t reach too far down into the pool; and a wing type motion when my arms are coming out of the water and re-approaching their entrance.
I’m hoping the “wing thing” will solve this soreness I’ve been having in my anterior shoulder. Otherwise, I’ll beg for a break from the pool and/or recommended strengthening to address it.
I actually notice the soreness more so when lifting my arm up, particularly laterally, or when pushing myself up from laying down with that left arm… SO, not so much, if at all, during swimming!
Yeah…this randomness of a blog will now end because my train stop arrives. But, don’t blame a guy for being efficient and logging all this geeky data out of his head…
Yes, I’m sending this to Coaches Dan Litwora and Marcia Cleveland for further analysis!
Thanks for reading and supporting me on my journey!!!
Extracted from my note to my coach:
I was able to do the first full 25 meters with minimal panic and didn’t have to stop.
I went into this swim thinking that I was going to consciously think of a minimal kick “within the box” and from the hips.
I think focusing on that helped me through the first 25.
I started to think about breathing and other stuff and had a harder time not stopping once to quickly catch my breath for most of the subsequent 25 meter laps I attempted.
I was able to do 2 more, not back to back, 25 meter lengths…but they weren’t super comfortable and required fight especially toward the end of each as I would begin to panic.
It’s definitely difficult!!!
FIGHT, KEN! FIGHT!!!