5000y for Halloween!

This morning’s masters practice was notably better than the previous one! I showed up on deck at 7am or so and swam the following (shortening the intervals that were on the board):

20×50 @0:55
100kick (25k fly, 25k free alternate)
20×50 25 fly, 25 free @1:00

At the end of this sequence, the coach walked over to my lane and we had a brief conversation, that went something like this:

“You doing short intervals.”
“Yeah, I don’t get tired.”
“Your free look good. Your fly, something off. Don’t know what.”
“Would you like to look at a 25 and tell me?”
“Already look. Need to think about it.”

Which didn’t leave me with a lot to work with beyond confirming my intuition that learning fly from YouTube videos, even if it gets one from Alcatraz to SF, does not a flawless stroke make.

Then, everyone left and I moved on to do the following on my own:

500 free
4×200 @3:55
3×200 @3:45
2×200 @3:35
200 cooldown

for a total of 5000y.

This is the longest workout I’ve done since the Tampa Bay days, and it feels GREAT! The 3000y workouts always leave me feeling as if I haven’t quite done my lot for the day, with a chest not fully open, whereas now, despite the chlorine, I feel fantastic. I also have to say that the showers, while a bit akin to a barracks/prison experience, have incredible pressure and temperature, and are such a treat after these long sets.

Happy Halloween!

Joined USF Masters!

I’m back from the USF Koret Center, where I did my first masters workout with the new team and coach. In other words, I got in! Huzzah!

I was hoping I’d have a heroic story for you all, akin to the classic tryouts scene from Bring It On:

Alas, what actually happened was far less dazzling. I showed up at 6:10, after having been told to show up at 6:45. I met the coach, filled in a form, explained my spiel (experienced marathoner, slow but cheerful, need to work on kicking and starts and legal turns but can go on and on till kingdom come). Coach approved my form and shipped me to the slowest lane, where the order of business was as follows:

2*200 @ 4
100 kick IM
100 drill IM
100IM, 2*25 fly, 50 easy
100IM, 2*25 back, 50 easy
100IM, 2*25 breast, 50 easy
100IM, 2*25 free, 50 easy

Yep. You did the math right. 1400y.

Obviously, after the monster sets Suzanne gave me last year, this was kind of a joke. I swam an extra 200 (total 1600), the persuaded my lanemates to repeat the main set sequence (total 2400). Then, stayed around after they all left and did another 1600 for a total of 4000y. No one blinked or bothered me, and as a bonus, I got to see the water polo team practice.

My remarkably inexpensive annual membership mandates that I show up for two masters practices a week, which is not hard given that practices are held every morning and every evening. Other than that, I’m on my own and I can use the facility, uncoached, whenever I wish. I consider the whole thing a win, save for the chlorine, which I confess is a problem for me. But I suppose I’ll have to suck it up and swim.

Sea of Galilee Lengthwise Crossing, 12.21.2013

Aaaaand… we’re on!

I’ve just confirmed the details for my lengthwise crossing of the Sea of Galilee, which will happen Dec. 21, 2013. I have a motorboat to accompany me.

The swim will start before dawn at the Amnon Beach, at the most northern point of the Sea of Galilee.

Winds during the winter should be calm, and my boat pilot, Lior Eliyahu, has every faith that we can make it south in a straight line, reaching Tzemach Beach, at the most southern point of the lake, by early afternoon.

I’m in the process of putting together a donations page; I’ll be raising money for Beth Dror, a center and refuge for LGBT youth. All expenses for the swim come out of my own pocket; 100% of donations go to Beth Dror.

More on this in the next few days!

Tonight: Tryouts for USF Masters!

Following the pool conundrum, I took the plunge (dreadful pun not intended) and canceled my membership at the Sports Club. It was sad–akin to a breakup, albeit one I initiated–because I love the staff there very much and adored the creature comfort of a well-stocked, sparkly-clean locker room. I will also greatly miss the salinated pool. But the pool schedule has become impossible for me; the pool is full at all hours, and even when I showed up yesterday at 2:00pm I had to interrupt my workout twice to wait outside the pool for 15 minutes and get back in. That’s no way to train for marathons and channel crossings, and the place can no longer support my goals. USF, by comparison, is a very spartan facility–chlorinated pool, very basic locker rooms–but it is also 14-lanes wide, and each lane can easily accommodate a split as well as circle swimmers. Enormous facility with pace clocks everywhere; exactly what I need.

On my Saturday visit to USF, I enjoyed my workout very much, and felt invigorated and fast. The spartan showers didn’t depress me at all; hot water, bathing suit drier, and I was on the move (I’m becoming much less vain and fussy about my shower routines in my late 30s, apparently.) However, a visit to the front desk to find out rates, etc, left me disappointed, as their “neighborhood rates” were reasonable but did not include my home address. Fortunately, at Sunday’s Alcatraz crossing, I ran into a friend who trains at USF, and who told me that masters team members get a $70-a-month membership and can actually come in to train uncoached; the only requirement is to attend two team workouts a week. I’ve felt the need to train with a team, and it might not be bad for me (albeit not necessarily enjoyable) to train with a traditional team, which will force me to become a competent pool swimmer. I’m an abysmal kicker and my turns are a disgrace. Which is probably what I’ll be told tonight at 6:45, when I audition for a spot on the team with the coach. These people mean business; they just won the USMS long-course championship! I like competing, but pools are not my thing, and I’m going to be the slowest of the slow anyway. It may very well be that I’ll turn out to be too slow for them, in which case I may take my business to the Chinatown YMCA. More on all of this tomorrow.

Alcatraz no. 9 with the South Enders

“Watch out! Boat!” Someone yelled behind me. We all hopped to the sides of the hallway, and a woman in a big red parka pushed a giant wooden boat out of the gates of the South End Rowing Club.

It was 5:30am, and I somehow made it out of the house and to the club despite feeling a bit feverish and the allure of staying in bed. I saw an announcement on the club’s Facebook page about the swim and decided to join.

By contrast to the big events of last month, this was an intimate club event with 80 swimmers or so. We all signed in and got our shoulders marked; it was a refreshing sight to see so many people swim in skins, side by side with folks in suits, vests, and fins.

It was still dark when we got to the Rock. The light from the watchtower gave the vista an eerie quality; it made me think of how terrified the Anglin brothers and Frank Morris must have been when they escaped. It was so dark that we could only sight on the Ghirardelli square lights; the boats, Aquatic Park, the lot of it, was invisible in the dark.

You’d think that, on my ninth crossing, I’d be used to the shock of cold upon jumping in the water. I thought to myself that it’s a good thing to practice leaping into cold water in the dark; it’ll come in handy for Catalina. And nonetheless, I felt a rush of panic and breathlessness, and only recovered once we stood behind the starting line. Gradually, my body eased into the cold; NOAA reports that the temperature today was circa 56, the coldest in which I’ve swum this year. Then, the sun rose. We couldn’t really see and enjoy it, as it was very foggy and dark still. But I noticed a distinctive swimming cap next to me. A lovely woman called Rosemary (as I later found out) swam in fins next to me, and we proceeded to swim with each other, stroke-by-stroke, like synchronized swimmers, till we found the opening to Aquatic Park. Then, Rosemary fell behind and moved to a more relaxed pace, and I pushed on to the finish line.

I also had the pleasure of running into some online friends from the Marathon Swimmers Forum and talking shop with them. Everyone got excited about the Sea of Galilee plan. I emailed Lior, my trusted boat and currents guy, and hope to put the plan into action very soon.

We all ran into the showers, which were not piping hot, and into the sauna, where one of us, who had her 70th birthday today, had a chorus of twenty naked ladies sing Happy Birthday to her! That was followed by a party and Halloween feast. I really like these folks.

Now Auditioning Pools

As the Bay is getting colder and the yards are getting, well, yardier, I’m beginning to search for a pool that will support my training for this year’s enterprises. My current pool, at The Sports Club LA, is salinated and lovely, the facilities beautiful and luxurious, but it is a dark, indoor pool, and what’s much worse, pool attendants have begun sitting by the deck with stopwatches getting people out of their lanes after 30-minute workouts. Given what I’m trying to do here, 30 minutes won’t cut it, and neither will 60 minutes broken into 30 and 30 (which is what I’ve done this week.) The new pool attendants don’t know I’m a marathoner, and when I pleasantly tried to explain my swimming schedule it was clear that they were not swimmers themselves and could not distinguish the seriousness involved in planning a Catalina crossing from a sprint triathlon or an Alcatraz crossing. I’m tired of this; I don’t want to argue by the poolside or wait long minutes in the middle of my set. Also, the lanes are narrow, which stands in the way of fly and IM sets. So, what to do?

The pool in the picture, where I swam today, is at the USF Koret Center. The pool has 14 wide lanes, many of which were open. It is deep, the gutters are fantastic, and it exudes an atmosphere of seriousness and excellence. Their masters team is fantastic. The water is heavily chlorinated, which is why I only did 3000 in lieu of my planned 5000; I may get used to it in time. The locker rooms are rudimentary, but clean. The university students are FAST and they make you want to go fast, too. This would cost me $81 per 15 visits, which adds up to $160 if I swim every single day and about $110 if I swim in the bay on weekends.

Then there’s the brand new salinated pool at the Chinatown YMCA. The facility is sparkly clean and in a gorgeous building. I love Chinatown and always have. There are five wide lanes, but as you see in the schedule, they are not all available at all times, and the pool is closed between 2 and 4. It’s probably pandemonium during the weekends.

There’s always the option of returning to Club One, where I swam six years ago. The pool there is chlorinated, and they utilize an odd system of registering for lanes, but it seems to work. The problem is that they limit the reservation to 60 mins per person, which will NOT work for me.


Back in Business at the Pool

Concerned about the need to bring up yardage if I want to cross the Sea of Galilee in late December, I decided to go back to the pool for at least four times a week. I have a ten-week plan that brings me up to 25-30k a week while still accounting for running as cross-training. So, I started with a wee 3k in the pool today.

I have open water swimming friends who find pool swimming incredibly tedious and boring. After swimming in the bay for two months, I can’t think of a more boring workout than just going back and forth in the pool. Unless one has something truly interesting to think about, or can zone out and meditate in motion, it is also a fairly fruitless activity.

I never go in the pool without a plan in mind. There’s always a thing or two I want to work on, in terms of new skills or technique, and there are speeds and targets to hit. This means I don’t swim any yards in vain. Everything is geared toward improving flow, stroke, and skill.

Today’s plan was as follows:

500 warm-up. Emphasis on breathing smoothly, turning head completely to the side, and keeping one goggle in the water at all times.

200 IM. Stretching and perfecting stroke on the way down, speed on the way back. (700)

400 IM. Same thing – first 50 of every stroke emphasizing technique, last 50 speed. (1100)

9X200 free, descending a few seconds every 200. (2900) Fastest time was 3:30 (before my injury, fastest was 3:11.)

100 IM cool-down. (3000)

This is not a heavyweight workout by any means; for Tampa, I pulled much longer workouts, and will do a couple of 10k workouts before the Sea of Galilee swim. But one has to start somewhere, and with a business trip coming up this weekend, I’ll only have an hour every morning, which translates (for me) to no more than 3k per day. I’ll start racking up more yards upon my return.

Training for Lake of Galilee

For prior swims, I’ve trained with Suzanne Atkinson of Steel City Endurance. This enterprise is less stressful to me than the Catalina crossing or Swim the Suck, so I think in the two months I have I can be in decent shape and complete it.

The complication is that I’m also running two races, a 5k and a 10k, while training for this. I’m going to see this as a blessing, rather than a curse, and incorporate runs as cross-training for the swim.

The farthest I’ll swim in a week for this is 25km, which should be more than enough, and the longest workout will be a 10k swim in the pool. I’m also going to continue swimming at least once a week in open water, even though it’s salt water, because being outside makes me happy and introduces some variation into the mix.

Crossing of the Sea of Galilee Lengthwise: December 2013

If there’s one thing I can do off-season, it’s swimming in the Kinneret lake. Fresh water, reasonable temperatures year-round, and easy logistics because of my family.

The length of the lake is 21 km at its longest point. Whether to do it north-to-south or south-to-north depends on currents and times of day; I imagine it would make sense to start very early in the morning to beat boat traffic. And, the accompanying boat should be able to house two people in addition to the captain, so that my support crew (Chad/parents) can join.

I’ve emailed a guy who has a boat and can pilot, which is terrific. It turns out I don’t need any sort of permissions from the coast guard for a solo swim, which leaves the optional kayak possibility, if Chad can take the vacation days and wants to kayak for me. Alternatively, I know several folks in the local open water swimming community who might want to help kayak or SUP. If my folks are gracious enough to drop us off before dawn close to Dgania Aleph, they can probably be reached by cell phone and pick us up near Almagor in the afternoon.

This sort of enterprise should take me something like 8-9 hours. To be on the safe side, that means 25 feedings of Vitergo, apple juice, and ginger powder. As far as sunscreen and other health concerns, a thick layer of lanolin layered with zinc oxide should do the trick, and a nice seafood restaurant at the end should take care of recovery quite nicely.

Other than that, I think this is a fairly easy enterprise to put together. Now, to train seriously and send some emails!