Saturday, April 19, 2014

On learning to love the pool

At first, swimming was just that thing I had do so I could make it through the triathlon. Last year, though, I found myself loving open water swimming.

But the pool was still the pool, and up until recently I equated lap swimming to running on the treadmill.

I'm down injured right now (still.) Since February, swimming has been all I've been allowed to do.

(It stinks.)

(One tiny upside: It's an excuse to wear sneakers to work every day.)

(But it still stinks)

(Occasionally I miss my heels.)

(Just occasionally.)

But in the past two months I've really embraced swimming, and brought myself to a point where I look forward to getting in the water.


Last year, I just wanted to get good enough to make it through the race. But since the running shoes are hung up for the moment, I might as well learn how to do this correctly.

That's by no means knocking the people who taught me how to swim. Randall's tips ring through my head to this day.

A friend from work and I signed up for a master's swim program in March, and this was really helpful. The coaches helped me with my stroke. I wasn't bringing my arms far back enough, making too small a circle, not reaching far enough, focusing on this was a godsend.

Then they told me that I was picking my head up too high to breathe. This was and still is harder to master, but I'm working on it! A woman at the Y gave me a good tip: try to keep one goggle in the water (don't actually do it, but try). It's working!

In the master's class I learned the proper way to do breast stroke, I learned the fly kick, and the back kick (which I love and use for all my cool down laps.)

I've gotten a lot faster, which has made swimming much more enjoyable, because I feel like I'm actually getting good at it instead of flailing around in the water counting laps.

The lifeguard at the Y even asked if I was on the swim team yesterday.

(Perhaps we all look like we're in high school when we're wearing swim caps and goggles.)


When I step out of the pool, I feel so cleansed, even though the first thing I want to do is shower.

The mental health benefits of running and cycling are wonderful and I miss it, but swimming is different somehow. The New York Times even wrote about it.

The pool is the only place where I'm forced to detach myself from my iPhone. If there's a chance work or someone might need me, they get the message that they're probably getting used to seeing by now: "I'll be off the grid for an hour or two. I'm going swimming."

Sometimes I even tweet it, so there's no question, I'm inaccessible to the outside world when I'm in the pool.

Swimming in itself is so mechanical. There's so much to the stroke and the kick. There's so much counting involved, laps and strokes. As a result, everything else in your head gets pushed out.

Then, when you get out, you're thinking clearer. That lede I didn't know how to write? That thing I couldn't think of before? That's when it comes to me.

It's good to get a break.

(Usually no one misses me.)


After seeing someone else with it at the Y, I ordered this book for myself: Swim Workouts for Triathletes by Gale Bernhardt and Nick Hansen.

The book has 75 swim workouts, drills, training tips and plans. Right now I'm not following a plan but have been doing the endurance workouts and really like them. They're anywhere from 2,200 to 2,600 meters and take me a little over an hour. Yesterday there were sets of 3-5 laps, alternated with drills and kicks.

I really only have one speed in the pool, so I'm not that good at doing the workouts that require you to vary speeds, but I'm getting better. Having workouts broken up really makes them go by quicker, and the tips in the book have made me a much better swimmer.

(I really hate that buoy.)

(The book's authors love it.)


I can't wait to brush the dust off the Asics.

But I can deal with the pool for now.

High elbows… catch… follow through…

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Injured :( Means one month off the road, and in the water

I have an epic post coming, the tale of a fabulous weekend with some wonderful friends and an amazing race. It's halfway written.

I'm posting this first though, because I want that post to be on top. I'm back on the DL. I can't run for a month.

My lower back has been pestering me lately. Not intense, serious, killer pain, but instead a lingering "maybe I should take care of this at some point" discomfort. I had tried two different chiropractors here, didn't like either of them (crack crack crack that'll be $20 goodbye), but with a half marathon Sunday I figured it wouldn't be a bad idea to get adjusted. I ended up in a small family chiropractor's office, and the doctor spent more time with me than the other two combined, and after running several tests with that hammer they use to test reflexes and this scary pinwheel torture device, he concluded something was wrong with a disc in my fourth lumbar (medical term over my head).

He told me no running for a month. "But I have a half marathon Sunday." Negotiation ensued. I could run it if I agreed to see him the day after.

Despite this, I wasn't very happy, and wallowed in my own pity Friday night.

Saturday morning, Facebook presented a solution.

This New York Times column perfectly describes why I love swimming. In this smartphone ridden world, there's no chance to get away from screens, from people, from noise—except when you're under water. When I'm swimming I think about nothing except counting laps and my stroke, and I come up relaxed and clear headed.

But I haven't had any swim training since I took lessons at the Y more than a year ago. Since then I've practiced, slowly working my way up to the point where I did the Musselman 1.2 mile swim in less than 50 minutes. But I haven't had any more formal training, I figured I can get by, do the distance in a reasonable amount of time, so I'll focus on the other two sports.

On Facebook that morning, I saw an opportunity to join a master's swim program.

It starts Sunday, and it is four days a week through the month of March. The water will be good for healing my back, and a nice distraction from not being able to run.

Friday I'm going to go swim the 1.2 miles as a benchmark. We'll try it again at the beginning of April, to see how much faster I get! :)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The weather is finally warming up... and this is why I'm a little bummed about it

I know I'll get some backlash for this one.

I haven't been quiet about my hatred toward this winter.  Exhibit 1Exhibit 2. It has been dark, depressing, terrible and COLD.

This weekend it'll be a tropical 40 degrees, with nature's free car wash pattering down from the sky just enough to save me $10 and melt some of the snow. Perfect running weather, and I'll be headed to Syracuse to meet Allison and Tara for the Lake Effect Half Marathon Sunday.

So why am I secretly just a little disappointed that it's warming up this weekend?

Because I like having a story to tell.

Less than 6 months from now I'll be cursing life as I run up and down the hills of Geneva in the Musselman half ironman, July 13. I'll recall how I survived last horrible winter as I'm sweating buckets, wearing a tank top and shorts and stopping in front of every kid with a squirt gun or, if I'm lucky, a garden hose.

As I tag back and forth with the other weary runners, starved for any conversation to help us through the miles, what would be the better story?

"Gee this winter was really horrible wasn't it." "Yea, I'd kill for some of that snow right now." "Hey did you do the Lake Effect half marathon?" "Yea, we really lucked out because it warmed up that one weekend. It was a little wet but not bad."


"Gee this winter was really horrible wasn't it." "Yea, I'd kill for some of that snow right now." "Hey did you do the Lake Effect half marathon?" "Yes!! Oh DEAR GAWD! One would think it would get warmer through the morning, how did the temperature drop from -2 to -4." "And yes! There was that freak blizzard that hit around mile 7. I couldn't see anything." "Oh and then those kids threw snowballs at us." "Dude, a polar bear chased me for like a mile, fortunately he got distracted by a penguin." "Remember how everyone's eyebrows were white and frozen?" "I totally PR'd because I wanted to be done."

OR just the basic reaction from non-runner folk.

"What did you do this weekend?" "I ran a half-marathon." "****puzzled, quizzical look**** ****sly grin**** "You're bats#$t crazy."

I always say I run for me. I do it because I enjoy it. I do it because it changed my life. I do it for that great feeling of accomplishment.

But I must confess, sometimes I also do it for the stories.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Several quick "WOO-HOOs"

I don't have time to tap out the many posts I've been plotting, but hate that my last post was SO negative, so I need to quickly counter that...

...The weather warmed up, went up to 40 degrees this weekend. Yea it snowed again but at least the bitter cold is GONE (for now)!
...In the nice weather I ran 10 miles and felt great, my first double digit run since Dirt Cheap!
...Two days later I swam a full mile for the first time in awhile!
...Tuesday I held a plank for 1:10!
...I've been lifting again, following the New Rules of Lifting for Women.
...I launched my first major project for Capital New York, a bill tracker, and we've been getting good feedback.
...I ate two oranges and a banana today, and made a delicious beef and broccoli dish. #freggies
...I'm making homemade granola this weekend. #yummmm

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Fighting winter madness. I'm losing.

I'm feeling pretty defeated right now. I'm ok writing that, because I know I'm not alone. 

This winter has been cruel. The bitter cold temperatures have not only made it nearly impossible to be outside, but has made us all cranky and anxious. 

We all know it's going to get better. One day a few weeks ago the weather broke. I ran 7 miles around downtown Albany and it felt amazing. But now running means a choice between the bitter cold, an endless moving belt or a dizzying indoor track.

But when it's so cold outside, getting up and out is a challenge. Being out in the cold takes it out of you, after making it home from work all you really want to do is curl up under a  couple blankets and watch dumb television. 

I'd like to write about how Musselman is in six months but... I just want to bum on my couch instead. 


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hey winter: You win

Taking screenshots of the weather is the thing to do.

It's cold out.
Warning: Do not read if you're sick of people whining about the cold.

Normally I put on a tough face when it comes to winter. I'll run in the rain and the snow. I'll bundle up and show up to races despite conditions. I'll admit to being a baby about extreme triple digit heat, but I've lived in Maine, Cleveland and Rochester. Winter I can do.

But today I'm crying uncle.


Normally I reliably get one or two colds a winter. That's throughout the entire thing, ya know, April or something like that. I'm currently on cold #3 (including my bronchitis bout.) It's January.

I'm down from work with less than half a voice, hacking up a storm and can't breathe. I pumped my heat up to 70, am huddled up under three blankets and I'm still freezing.

I'm mindlessly working on a database for work, but Scandal is my escape. And man, it's gotten good.

It's thrown off my routine because all I want is to be indoors. Every time I get into a good routine a cold spell hits and I get thrown off my game.

So winter, ease up a bit. Double digits. That's all I ask.

Monday, January 20, 2014

A delayed post for the new year

Happy 2014. Now that we're 20 days in I'm way belated in looking at the year ahead.

My big goal this year is to complete two half ironmans, the double Mussel and REV3 Poconos, with one of them under 7 hours. I also want to settle on a **gasp** full ironman to do in 2015, and volunteer this year for preferred entry. I'm between Mont Tremblant, which would be a cool trip, Lake Placid which is close to home, and Chattanooga, which is late in the year and benefits Crohns and Colitis.

Beyond that, no big goals, no New Years Resolutions that I'll no doubt abandon in a month. Instead, I wrote out three things I want to accomplish this week. My goal is to take one week at a time.

I'm taking the long-ramble-y approach to blogging today. Lots of stuff swirling around I've been meaning to put down. Actually I have about four unfinished drafts. I deleted all of them. Starting anew.

So, first, how are things going? Leaving Rochester was a tough decision, but overall the move to Albany has been positive. Living on Center Square suits me. I'm finding new haunts and getting better at that parallel parking thing. The job is great, I'm learning a lot, and I've met some really great people.

But, I fell of the wagon. I fell out of shape with the move and put on a few pounds that I'd like to get off. After Christmas, it was basically one excuse after another. Not that some weren't valid. Starting a new job is always taxing, and as awesome as tri training can be, the day job must always come first. Plus, getting my apartment together was a chore in itself. Crippling single digit temperatures (we did dodge the polar vortex) and a couple snowstorms did not help the situation.

Once you're off, it is so hard to get back on.

I thought about running after work for days and ultimately it didn't happen. The first thing that finally got me off my lazy butt was so entirely random, but you can't argue with what works. After it played on a loop while I was curled up in my favorite Lark Street coffee shop/hiding spot, I ended up on a Death Cab for Cutie kick. Most of their music is perfect for winter, lethargic yet cozy at the same time. But as I'm at work with my head in a database Spotify pulls up this gem:

My normal not-being-a-fan-of-dance-remixes aside, all I wanted to do was run to this. So, after work, I did. That was the first push I needed.

The second push came when I was in the middle of something and my Facebook starts blowing up. Who are the morons who included me in their frantic conversation, breaking my concentration?

Tara, Allison and Kim!!!!!!!!!!! Yay! (You are welcome to distract me anytime.)

The first thing that came up when I Google imaged "happy dance". 
Our previous Facebook conversations had ceased. My initial plan had been to run a race sometime this winter somewhere in New York with these ladies, but while I was in laid-off-no-money-land the race sold out. (Sad face.)

As I was busy not-running, though, I secretly thought "I am sure glad I'm not on the hook for a (longer race) right now."

But as I quickly discerned from the back and forth I was sneaking glances at while pretending to pay attention to something else, Kim had a conflict and couldn't make the race. There are no bib transfers, so somebody needed to pretend to be Kim.

I think I can look like a Kim.

Hence my vagueness on the race, which will be revealed after "Kim" runs this longer race somewhere in New York sometime this winter.

I was a little nervous that I couldn't run like a Kim though. I've been slacking. But Saturday I pulled out (half the race distance) on my own. If I can pull out (a longer run) then (an even longer run) I should be ok. Not fast. But able-bodied enough to crawl across the finish line.

Sad Kim can't make it, but I'm so excited to catch up with my other Rochester friends!

The second thing that came up when I Google-imaged "happy dance". 
Then my third motivation, which actually came before the second but I was more excited about that so I wrote about it first. I joined the Capitol District Triathletes! There hasn't been a lot of club activity, it is January, but it's a very big and very active group that I'm convinced will serve me well as it warms up and I'm looking for long distance bike routes and places to swim.

So, I'm feeling better. I swam and lifted today. I feel like I have something that resembles a plan.

Bring it, 2014!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Recalling the one year anniversary of the West Webster tragedies

On Facebook today, my former Democrat and Chronicle colleagues are posting their recounts of Christmas Eve 2012 and the tragedies that happened in West Webster. I will follow suit.

It was a day that was hard to forget.

That morning I figured I was in for an easy day at work and thought I could sleep in a bit. Then I checked my phone and leapt out of bed, barely took time to put myself together and went to the office. I saw the footage of smoke streaming up over Lake Ontario on the various TVs as I headed into the building.

As we'd later find out, a man named William Spengler had killed his sister, set the house ablaze and waited to ambush first responders. Two were killed. Two were injured.

"Don't take your coat off," my editor said when I got to the fourth floor. Beats aside, all hands on deck, I was going to Webster.

I stood out in the cold for several hours with the other reporters trying to gauge what was up before I was tasked with community reaction. Normally we were a chatty, social bunch but today things were tense and worried.

I went to a Webster bar. Instead of catching up and blowing off steam from shopping and cooking, people sat quietly around the tables, jumping and crowding around the television whenever a reporter cut in.

It had gotten late in the newsroom and people were working hard on a day they should have been cutting out early. Very apologetically, I was asked to cover the vigil back in Webster. I assured them I didn't mind, I had celebrated Christmas with my family a week earlier, but it was still hard standing there knowing those outside the fire house surely would rather be doing something else on Christmas Eve, but felt a pressing need to be there instead.

The fire chief hadn't planned on making a statement, but seeing the overwhelming crowd he came out, but barely choked out a few words.

One week later I covered the funeral of Tomasz Kaczowka, a 19-year-old who had volunteered for duty that day. Firefighters from across the state and beyond came to honor him.