Thursday, May 30, 2013

St.John Beach to Beach Power Swim

We did it!  A 3 1/2 mile relay swim with two great teammates (Tad and Rebecca) and two great cheerleaders (Jason and Marissa).

This is going to be very long, just to warn you.  But it will have pictures and bonus guest bloggers!

Jason and I got to St. John on Friday, and on Saturday we went to the beach.  I was going to swim the second leg of the swim, from Cinnamon Bay to Trunk Bay, around Windswept Point at Peter Bay.  I wanted to get in a test swim anyway, but even more so after looking at my particular route and realizing that we would have to swim out pretty far to get around a shallow reef.  I put on my goggles and SwiMP3, and started swimming, only to realize that missing the reef was going to be tough.  I didn't really want to swim out too far all on my own since I wasn't exactly sure where the course would go, so I just swam around for awhile to get the feel for the open water.  Swimming in the clear, warm ocean with the sun on my back is so infinitely better than swimming in the dank pool at the Y.  I can't even tell you how pleasant it is.  I miss swimming outdoors so much.

Later in the afternoon, while I registered us, got our goodie bags and sat through an orientation meeting, Jason picked Tad, Rebecca and Marissa up from the ferry from St. Thomas.  He brought them back to Cinnamon Bay and we all decided to go swimming.  Tad, Rebecca and I did a little test swim, and I think all three of us felt a little more confident about the open-water part of all of this.  It's tough when it's been almost a whole year since you've actually been in open water!

Sunday morning dawned a little cloudy, but that cleared up, and despite the dire weather forecasts for the preceding few days (thunder!  lightning!  wind!), the day was absolutely gorgeous!  There was a bit of a swell, especially out around the points, probably from some storm activity in Puerto Rico or elsewhere, so the waves were a little bigger than the day before.  Still, gorgeous!
We went to Maho to get our color-coded caps (silver for relay!).   There were 6 waves of swimmers:  long swim (3 1/2 miles, green caps, hardcore people), long swim assisted (3 1/2 miles with fins and/or snorkel, light blue caps), intermediate swim (2 1/4 miles, pink caps), intermediate swim assisted (tan caps), short swim (1 mile, yellow caps), and short swim assisted (we can't remember their cap color...).

Rebecca started us out with her mile swim from Maho Bay to Cinnamon Bay.  I took the hand off at Cinnamon and swim 1 1/4 miles to Trunk, and then Tad swam 1 1/4 miles from Trunk to Hawksnest.
Here's our mighty team, waiting for the race to start:

Rebecca did a little warm up swim along the beach, then we all stood around, adrenaline pumping, for a final briefing from the race organizer.  After that the long-course and unassisted relay swimmers lined up at the starting banner, a guy blew on a conch shell, and they were off!

We watched the next couple of waves of swimmers leave and then the organizers told the relay swimmers it was time to hustle over to Cinnamon.  We hopped in the car and Jason drove us to the next beach.  I got in the water briefly, defogged my goggles, and waited at the Relay banner for Rebecca to swim ashore.

Here's an account of each leg of the swim from me and guest bloggers Rebecca and Tad.

Rebecca's Swim
Compared to my teammates, I had the easiest route by far: wait for the sound of the conch, race into the water, swim across Maho Bay, around the point, and toward Cinnamon Bay, where Kelly would be waiting.  My route was the shortest and the least choppy.  Still, this was my first open water swim, and while I was fairly hopeful that I wouldn't need to be rescued (!), there were a few unanticipated surprises.  First, I hadn't considered what it would be like to begin an open-water race.  I've only ever competed in pools, where lane lines separate swimmers from one another, keeping competitors neatly in their places.  This time, when the conch sounded, I found myself in a tangle of arms and legs, unable to move freely or breathe regularly.  We swam like that for several minutes before the faster swimmers broke ahead.  I was with the slower, and that was (mostly) fine with me.  My consciousness in the ocean, where I had to remain aware of an unfamiliar course, marked only by the occasional buoy, was very different from my consciousness in the pool, where it is almost impossible to go off course. I lifted my head out of the water every 30 seconds or so in an attempt to remain aware of the course--and as a result, I didn't see very much beneath the water.  I hadn't anticipated the sun in my eyes or the taste of salt in my mouth.  I likewise didn't anticipate the burst of energy I felt at the end of my race.  As I rounded the point and turned toward the finish line at Cinnamon Bay, I noticed a competitor in a silver cap.  My killer instinct would not be quashed!  In a burst of power, I passed her and headed toward the finish line.  Unfortunately, my power finish came to an abrupt and premature end: once standing on solid sand, my wobbly legs refused to run.  I walked across the finish line and give Kelly a tired but triumphant high five.

Kelly's Swim
I ran into the water at the same time as another relay swimmer and my competitive side took over as I tried to keep up with him.  Then I made myself slow down and pace myself because I would never make it 1 1/4 miles at that pace.

I'm on the right; the guy is on the left:

Reluctantly, I slowed down and let him pull ahead of me. I concentrated on pacing myself and breathing.  I felt on my own for most of the swim, probably, as I would discover, because I was way too close to the shore.  The day before at orientation, they had given us a landmark to site to on the way out from Cinnamon, but as I discovered, it would have worked better for me to site just to the right of that landmark.

When I finally saw the first buoy that I needed to take on my left, it was well to my right and I needed to correct by swimming almost perpendicular to the point of land on my left.  I grew to hate that buoy because it never seemed to get closer.  For a very long time.

Out  along Windswept Point, I'm not going to lie, I struggled a bit as the waves were a little bigger than I had expected.  To the point where I would occasionally feel myself lifted up on the crest of the wave, then dropped down with a little swoop in my stomach.  Course correction was even tougher as I ran head-on into some of those waves.  I felt a little justified later when I heard some long-course swimmers talking about how the surf was kind of tough around Windswept.

At one point, my energy was flagging and I thought, as I swam over the reef, it would be really neat to see a turtle out here while I'm swimming (they're my favorite).  Then about 30 seconds later, not even kidding, I saw a turtle swimming under me.  He swam right by, but he made me smile, and gave me a little push of optimism.

I kept swimming and eventually got around that first buoy, then the next one and the next.

When I finally (FINALLY) got around the point, and turned to swim toward shore I did get a boost because suddenly I was swimming with the current.  Every time I took a stroke with a wave, I felt a little push.  Lovely!  Plus, I could finally see the finish line banner in the distance!  And as an extra bonus, below me was an awesome sting ray, big enough to have its own remora.

Then some other swimmers started swimming alongside me and my competitive side took over again.  I finished my leg, huffing and puffing, ran up the beach, high-fived Tad, and he took off.

Tad's Swim
Before Kelly rounded the point and came into view, Rebecca, Jason, Marissa, and I arrived at Trunk Bay; and I started to scout my trajectory.  I knew that the first leg of my swim would cross Trunk Bay far from the shore, and I wanted to be sure that I knew where I was going.  I clarified with race officials where the first buoy was.  Feeling relatively confident, I warmed up a little and waited for Kelly's approach.

The adrenaline started pumping when I saw Kelly headed for the beach, and after our high-five I sprinted to the water and once knee-deep dived in.  I raced through the gate (ten yards out) and pointed myself in the right direction.  After thirty or forty seconds, I realized that I needed to calm down and slow and lengthen my strokes.  It was about half way to the first buoy that I realized it was harder than I thought it would be to stay on course.  And as I moved further out into the bay it got more difficult.

When I passed the first buoy, I couldn't see the next one in the swells that had grown to several feet.  Knowing that the course eventually ran close to the shore as it rounded into Oppenheimer and Hawksnest Bay, I sited the visible point.  Several minutes later an official in a kayak caught up to me to tell me that I was way off course and that the next buoy was two or three hundred yards straight out to sea.  That meant that I had to swim across the current (running right to left/east to west) with the waves running in the same direction.  In all it felt like I probably lost five or more minutes and a lot of energy before rounding the buoy and heading back with the current.

Even then my directional woes were far from over.  The next buoy had been "lost" (whatever that meant), and we were to site on a kayaker.  While it seemed to me that the kayak kept moving, I'm sure it was just my inability to swim straight.  When I got all the way around the point and into the protection of the next bay the swimming got a lot easier.  Near Oppenheimer Beach a final gate marked the turn along the shore toward Hawksnest Beach.  I was feeling good--though kicking myself for all the time I'd lost.  Shortly after making the turn, in about twenty feet of water, I swam over a nurse shark sunning itself on the bottom and cursed my luck at not having a camera with me.  With the finish in sight, it was time to see what sort of finishing speed I could muster . . . as I swam past the finish gate and had to cut back to stumble across the finish line.

(Kelly again...)
After the race was over, everyone headed to Oppenheimer Beach for a BBQ and awards ceremony.  I won an adorable glass turtle suncatcher for being the 2nd highest fundraiser (thanks so much to all of you who donated!), and everyone who finished got a medal.
Sadly, we didn't get any team awards because in the end, we took 4th place.  We finished the race in one hour and fifty-two minutes.  We were pleased with that time.  If Tad and I hadn't both gone off course a bit, we might have been able to shave several minutes off of that, but it still wouldn't have been enough to place.  We came into the race hoping to take 2nd, because last year, while the 1st-place team was super fast, the 2nd-place team had a time we knew we could beat.  Alas, this year there were 3 amazing relay teams whose times we couldn't touch and we know that.

However, if we do it again next year and we decide to do the relay, we've talked about doing it assisted.  The first place time for the assisted relay wasn't too far away from our time and we are all powerhouses with fins!

I have to say, we caused quite a splash in our shirts.  Early on, I rallied for us to come up with a team name, both for solidarity AND because I planned to make us shirts.  We wanted something ocean-related and tied to Rhode Island, so we settled on The Rhode Island Quahogs.  I checked out a couple of online shirt design places, and came up with the bright blue shirts we wore.

All day long, people were calling out, "Hey, Rhode Island!" or striking up conversations.  We met a guy from Bristol, Rhode Island.  I even heard a couple of comments about Family Guy inspired by our shirts.

The best was when a freelance journalist/photographer took our pictures and interviewed us for a human interest article he's going to pitch around the area.  Not a lot of people from Rhode Island doing the swim, especially not with bright blue T-shirts showing off their Rhode Island pride.  He took my phone number and email, and will let me know if anyone runs the story.

All in all it was a great experience!  I loved that we could do the race as a relay team, and I've had such a fun time training for the swim with Rebecca over the last couple of months.  We're already talking about what we need to work on for next year (bilateral breathing and siting).  Not that we'll definitely be back, but wouldn't that be fun if we were?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Pre-Vacation Jitters

Does anyone else have that dream where you're supposed to be on a flight in a half hour for a very important/fun/exciting trip, and not only are you not even at the airport yet, but you've completely forgotten to pack?  I put it in the same category as the dream where I realize I have a final exam today for a class that I completely forgot to go to all semester.  Usually it's a Spanish final.  Because I might be able to fudge my way through an English or History final with some good BSing, but there's no way to fake that I have no clue how to work the Spanish subjunctive anymore.

I love to travel, but I always get a little nervous beforehand because I'm convinced I will forget something vital.  Truth be told, I usually forget something, but it's usually not something vital, and I can usually buy whatever it is wherever we are.  The one time I really triple-checked the suitcase was when we went to India because I had no idea what India would have in the way of, say, Oral-B floss, and whether we would even be anywhere close to a place where I could pick some up.

My mild pre-trip anxiety is exacerbated today because the swim is on Sunday, and given that I was kind of pooped after a 500 this morning, I'm a little nervous.  However, I ate some junk food yesterday (office mid-afternoon snack break + BBQ and pie at a friend's house) and I definitely noticed I didn't feel my best this morning.  Or last night, for that matter.  Motivation to eat healthy on Saturday!

I'm also a little nervous about the yucky weather forecast next week.  Fingers crossed that it's just an island thing and while it will probably rain a little every day, it won't deter us from any of our fun plans.  Or from getting a tan. 

I miss being tan...

Wish us luck!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Review: SwiMP3

Jason gave me a SwiMP3 for Christmas 2011, and because I'm a horrible person, I just used it for the very first time a week and a half ago. 

Actually, my conundrum has been that pretty much for the last year and a half whenever I swam, I was either with the Masters team, or with a swim buddy, and it seemed rude to just flip on the music and tune out.  However, the Saturday before last I had scheduled a long swim and I knew my swim buddy couldn't be there.  So I charged up the SwiMP3, loaded it with some songs, and tried it out.

I love it!  First of all, the SwiMP3 uses bone conduction, rather than headphones.  I've heard swimming headphones can be tricky, so this seemed like a useful innovation. The only thing is, when the music is on, for some reason it really amplifies the noise of the water rushing by my ears, and the sound of blowing out water when I breathe.  Maybe because I happen to be listening harder, so I notice ALL the sounds...?  When I do backstroke, it's less noisy because there's no blowing out air prior to breathing and my head is in the water for the entire length of the pool.

That's a minor quibble, though, since I quickly adjusted to the ambient noise and focused on the music.

The two side pieces hook onto each side of your goggles, and set on top of your upper jawbone/cheekbone.  When I tried it on the night before, I was worried that the plastic would dig into my face and give me a headache after a long swim, and if I loosened the goggles anymore, I was afraid they would leak.  I needn't have worried.  I don't know if its a buoyancy thing, but I didn't even notice the plastic pieces resting on my face after a bit.   

The sound quality is a bit tinny, and I miss my bass beats, but, seriously, I'm listening to music underwater through MY BONES!  That's pretty awesome.

I definitely need to make a new playlist.  I've used it twice now for long swims (20-25 minutes) and have discovered that some songs just do not work for me and swimming.  It seems like repetitive, intricate music and beats, with simple words get me in a nice groove.  Think "Lift Me Up" or "Bodyrock by Moby, or "Right Here Right Now" by Fatboy Slim.

My conundrum now is that I really want to use the SwiMP3 during our St. John swim, because wow would that make that 1 1/4 miles go quickly!  I think I'm going to call the organizers and see if I can.

(This is in no way a sponsored post, though that would be pretty sweet if Finis decided to give me another SwiMP3.)

Friday, May 10, 2013

Shin Splints

I'm pretty positive I have shin splints, which has happened before when I've started running.  My buddy and I were still planning to go to kickboxing tonight, and I was going to tell the teacher I couldn't run, only it turns out she pulled something in her back the other night.

And she's 22 and teeny, so it's not just because I'm old and decrepit and overweight.  This is some intense stuff and we need to be careful.

Which begs the question, what kind of ridiculousness does he put his "Elite Training" class through?  I can't even imagine.

So we probably won't go tonight, which is a shame, because I wanted to get in the workout and, despite the pain, I am really enjoying the kickboxking/Cross Fit experience.

Here's a couple of questions for you:  have you had shin splints?  How long did it take you to get over them?  When you started running/walking again, did they come back?

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

So Basically I'm Doing Cross Fit...

I think I signed up for Cross Fit Lite without realizing it.  Not that I'm opposed to that.  I've been intrigued by Cross Fit for a few years, but never signed up because the locations aren't that convenient, it's really expensive, and, frankly, it's pretty intimidating.

However, kickboxing definitely incorporated some Cross Fit elements last night.  We showed up and the teacher had us run around the parking lot a few times.  He got on my case for walking part of it, but, the fact is, if my shins are hurting in that splinty kind of way, I stop running.  Since I've managed to injure myself enough to have to stop working out for a few weeks each of the 4 or 5 times I've tried Couch to 5K, I'm probably excessively cautious when someone asks me to run. 

(My feet are the flattest ever (as told by a man who has fit many, many feet with running shoes).  Even in specially-fitted shoes, my alignment is just wrong.  So I walk a lot, but I don't run.)

Anyway, then he had us do sets of walking lunges and suicides and butt kicks.

Finally, we went back into the gym and had a good look at what were obviously 3 sets of stations he'd set up for us to do.  No kicking, no boxing.  For the first 35-40 minutes of the workout, we did weight lifting and body weight exercises.

First circuit:

- 10 box jumps
- 10 push ups
- 50 jumping rope (slightly humiliating fact I confirmed last night - I cannot jump rope)
- 10 100-lb deadlifts
- 1 lap around the parking lot
- 10 tricep dips on the punching bag base
- 30 rope bounces(?), alternating arms (I don't know what you call them.  You pick up 2 giant ropes like they use on big sailboats and swing your arms up and down, making the ropes bounces in waves)

Repeat.  I got through two sets of those because I was in the 2nd group to go, whereas my gym buddy only had to do 1.  Which means I'm better than her, right?

Second circuit:

- 20 step ups and toe taps (20 each leg)
- 50 bicycle crunches
- 50 jumping rope (again, humiliating)
- 10 rows per arm (picking up one end of the 100-lb barbell)
- 1 lap around the parking lot
- 5 incline push ups (with our feet up on the base of the punching bag)
- 20 rope bounces, arms together

Got through that circuit once.  Everyone was pretty dead after that, but then he rolled out the punching bags and we did some boxing, which is fun.  Though, even then, he's all about the cross training.  Because we did  3 minutes of jab-cross, followed by a minute of burpees.  Then did 3 minutes of backhand-hook-hook, followed by a minute of mountain climbers.  Which, ow.  Plus, we did a lap around the parking lot following by toe taps on the base of the punching bag, twice.

This morning, as usual, I'm not really feeling it yet, except my upper back muscles are really, really tight.  I expect the pain to show up at around 3 PM.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Not Eating Enough?

I've read a couple of posts recently about the similarities between signs of adrenal fatigue and starvation.  A lot of people are being diagnosed - or self-diagnosing - with adrenal fatigue.  Here's a tidy definition:
Adrenal fatigue is a collection of signs and symptoms, known as a syndrome, that results when the adrenal glands function below the necessary level. Most commonly associated with intense or prolonged stress, it can also arise during or after acute or chronic infections, especially respiratory infections such as influenza, bronchitis or pneumonia. As the name suggests, its paramount symptom is fatigue that is not relieved by sleep but it is not a readily identifiable entity like measles or a growth on the end of your finger. You may look and act relatively normal with adrenal fatigue and may not have any obvious signs of physical illness, yet you live with a general sense of unwellness, tiredness or "gray" feelings. People experiencing adrenal fatigue often have to use coffee, colas and other stimulants to get going in the morning and to prop themselves up during the day.  (Source)

I think I might be unwittingly starving myself, ever so gradually.  After this past weekend, these articles have really hit home as I try to figure out what the heck is wrong with me.  This weekend was ridiculous.  After 7 hours of sleep Friday night, I dragged myself to the pool and swam a crappy 2500 yards. I felt so, so very tired.  I got home and prepped some things for a party we hosted Saturday night, and then I took a 3-hour nap. 

I don't nap unless I'm sick.

Sunday I woke up after 8 hours of sleep, feeling ok.  I made it through church and then Evensong, but by the time we got home, I was dragging. I fell asleep on the couch at 8:45 PM.  Jason told me to go to bed and I protested that it was too early.  Then 15 minutes later I decided he was right.  I woke up on my own this morning at 5 AM, had a good swim, and so far today I'm feeling pretty awake

So we all know that I had the flu, followed shortly by shingles.  Suffice it to say, my body has not been at its best.  I think I'm well past the shingles fatigue period, since I think I had a pretty light case of the shingles.  I think my issue might be lack of fuel, especially as I'm starting to get more regular with my workouts (and adding more intense things like kickboxing).

My nutrition guru friend has told me before that if I'm not losing weight and I'm eating clean and working out, the problem might be that I'm not eating enough.  Logically, in my brain, I know I have to eat enough to fuel whatever I'm doing.  However, I also know that my job consists mainly of me sitting on my bum typing on the computer.  So I'm much more apt to follow the adage of keeping my calories low, even while I amp up my workouts.

That's a surefire recipe for stressing out my body and packing on/retaining weight.  I am nothing if not metabolically efficient.  On the savanna, my people could totally outlive your people.

So the other night I found this BMR calculator. I really like that it has several different activity inputs, so you can really tailor it to what you're doing each day.  I entered my stats for today, and just to stay alive (ie, my BMR), I need 1739 calories.

I've been kind of sporadic lately with logging food, but I usually eat the same general diet, and after tracking calories for YEARS, I know I average around 1400-1600 calories per day.  Including the days when I kickbox or swim.  As other people have noted, the World Health Organization defines starvation for women as 1800 calories per day. 

(Think about that if you're only fueling yourself with 1200 calories per day...)

For the next few weeks, in addition to focusing more on being active, I'm also going to focus on fueling my body.  I'm going to be more diligent with logging my food, and my goal is to eat at least to my BMR every day.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

The Kickboxing Pain Cycle

After 3 kickboxing classes, I've identified a specific cycle of recovery pain:

1.  Tuesday night, 7-8 PM:  Kickboxing class.  PAIN.

2.  Wednesday morning, 6:30 AM: Wake up, feel a tiny bit achy, think, "Huh, maybe that wasn't so bad..."

3.  Wednesday afternoon, 3:00 PM: "...Why can't I move my shoulders anymore?"

4.  Wednesday night, 8:00 PM: "I hate stairs!"

5.  Thursday morning, 6:30 AM: "I don't remember getting run over by a truck, yet here we are."

Followed by sucking in of breath and slight shrieks every time I have to move all day Thursday. 

Remember how I was going to swim this morning?  Yeah, no.  I'm going to go for a short lunch walk and hope my legs don't fall off in the process.

Despite all of this, I'm loving the kickboxing!  Probably enough to keep paying for classes after our Groupon trial is finished.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

May! & Challenge Update

Today the weather has decided to say it's sorry.  The first of May is beautiful with not a cloud in the sky!  Growing up in Tucson, I never realized how rare a cloud-free day could be.

I went for a long walk at lunch and really didn't want to come back inside at all.  I was talking with a friend yesterday about how if I knew then what I knew now, rather than go to law school, I would have become a park ranger.  Or a scuba instructor.  Something that would let me be active and outside!  The complete opposite of a lawyer.

You know it's bad when your legs ache from NOT moving around.  At least today I'm in pain because of last night's kickboxing class.

Speaking of which, I'm long overdue for a challenge check-in.  I had kind of a bad week last week where everything kept getting in the way, but I did try to walk as much as possible. 

So here's how it's going:
  • April 19, Day 5: 1-hour swim
  • Day 6: 45-minute swim
  • Day 7: 40-minute walk
  • Day 8: 1-hour swim
  • Day 9: 30-minute walk
  • Day 10: um...nothing
  • Day 11: Nothing (was supposed to kickbox, but everything conspired against me)
  • Day 12: Nothing (was supposed to swim.  Again, fates, conspiring, etc.)
  • Day 13: Drove a lot and walked some.  We drove teenage girls to Albany and then Jason and I went to Lake Placid where we walked all along the main street and in shoppes.  So I got 8000 steps, despite spending about 11 hours of my day sitting in a car.
  • Day 14: A solid amount of housework, including carrying multiple loads of laundry from the 2nd floor to the basement and back again.  I also spent some quality time in the hammock recuperating from the previous day's trip to Albany.
  • Day 15: Over 90 minutes of walking
  • Day 16: 1-hour kickboxing
  • Day 17: 45-minute walk

All told, I think I'm at around 66% compliance with the 30 minutes for 30 days challenge.  Not awesome, but better than nothing, right?  I mean, I could have just been sitting on my bum every day, not even thinking about how I should be out there moving.

Tomorrow I plan to swim, Friday I'm planning to hit the strength training class, and Saturday I'll swim.  At the very least, this week is shaping up to be much better than last week.

(If you want to donate to my St. John swim, The Rhode Island Quaghogs' page is at