Monday, January 7, 2013

you can't schedule these things

So, waaaaaaaaay back in December while I was home and at sea level and had enough red blood cells, I think I had a bit of a breakthrough.  Only a tiny one, but then I got sick and my life was crazy bananas for a while and I haven’t really even had time to sit down and try to process it.  And no one has breakthroughs in December, those should be scheduled for March when you actually might be able to make it useful.  

I stopped talking about specifics of training here on the blog such a long time ago, because for the most part, the numbers don’t matter.  And it (sometimes) irritates me when other people spend so much time focusing on the numbers, so I didn’t walk to talk about this because I felt like I was being a hypocrite but something happened in the water and oh for pete's sake just type already.
It was a boring Thursday afternoon (it was a dark and stormy night...).  I had a swim workout I’ve seen a few times before, broken 250s.  (Sorry, Sonja, if I am giving away state secrets here).  100 fast, 75 cruise, 50 HARD, 25 easy.  Main set, ten times through.  When I’ve done it before, I don’t usually pay attention to the clock, I just work on effort and make sure that my 250 send-offs are consistent.  And the thing that has been happening in the pool lately, well, in all my workouts lately, is that I’m coasting.  I’m cruising, I’m just getting by, and that is probably why I’m afraid of going to master’s swim because then someone will beat my little ass with a hammer called OUCH.  So anyway, the set is broken, the 100s and the 75s are on 1:35, the 50s are on :55 and the 25 slash the whole broken 250 is on 5:00 to make it easy.  I figure in my head that I’ll aim for 1:30 pace on the 100s and slightly faster on the 50s because ehhhh, I’m out of shape I’ve just gotten back into training, I think the last time I did this the 100s were on 1:40 blah blah blah.  BLAH.  I work through the warm-up, wait for the (digital, thank god) clock to grab a double zero and I go.  First 100 feels smooth and only a little hard, and I pop up and see that it was a 1:25.  And the immediate thought in my head is, well, NOW you’re screwed.
So I cruise through the 75, smash myself on the 50, float through the 25.  And the thing that I like about this set is that there isn’t a lot of time to think except after the 25.  I’m telling myself, back off, you have nine more of these suckers to go and YOU ARE OUT OF SHAPE and 1:25 pace is going to be 1:34 touch-and-go on the last four if you aren’t careful.  I rest, clear my goggles, push off and go.  1:25.  FFFFFF.
I think, out loud in my head, the way you do when you're under water.  I’ve been having fun these past few weeks swimming, being at altitude plus taking five weeks off from the pool means that I’ve taken all the clock pressure off myself, plus since I’ve only been a swimmer for a few years I never really put that much pressure ON my swimming anyhow.  Sonja and I talked about it last spring, if I have a bad day in the pool I don’t give a crap, but shovel me up a bad run and I’m pissing and moaning and having a cow about it.  And if only I could detach from running like I do with swimming, maybe I might be able to actually make some progress or at least stop making both of us crazy with it.  
So, sometimes it’s good to be detached, but I think it’s turning into me being generally lazy in the pool, because I worked so hard last winter and made so much progress and I feel like I’ve been stuck on a plateau even since so why bother trying to smash through?  (The paradox of the off-season athlete).  But these 1:25s scare me, and only one more rolls by before my brain starts in with the excuses, with the cop-outs.  It’s starting to hurt, why don’t you just throw on some paddles, or take an extra minute of rest after the fifth one, actually you are running late so maybe just do eight instead of ten and then swim an easy 500 and get out, why the crap are you swimming in the 1:20s in December anyway, maybe just ease off the effort, no one is standing on the deck with the stopwatch, it’s the holidays, go eat some more cookies.  And after another 1:25 rolls by and it’s really starting to hurt, I realize that this is the voice that I need to face.  So instead of backing off, I grit my teeth and dig into the water, I am throwing it backwards away from me.  #4, 1:25.  #5, 1:26, and that pisses me off so much, that I backed off for one second, that I decide that I’m going to hold the 50s at :40 and descend the 100s for the back half of the set.
I have never heard so much screaming, inside my head, in my life.  I suppose this makes me sound crazy, but it was ugly and I couldn’t escape it.  I couldn’t distract myself with music or chatter or trees or birds or a movie like I can on the bike or run, I had nothing but my brain and the black line and fear.  And how much my muscles hurt to swim hard was nothing compared to the pain of standing up to my stupid December self and screaming, no, I will NOT back down.  1:26.  The 50 is burning, I need more rest.  1:25.  Come on, descend, goddammit.  1:24.  1:23.  1:21.  And when I finally pushed off the wall and into the cool-down, there was nothing but silence.

What I sat down to write about, really, was a race report on the meet I did this weekend, and how all I can think of when I look at the times (500: 7:28, 200: 2:49, 100: 1:16) is ugh, and how the excuses want to pile up inside my head.  Altitude pneumonia 6 extra lbs time off blah blah blah.  BLAH.  But the fact of the matter is, this is where I am, right now, today.  This is the body and the set of circumstances that I have to work with, right now.  I can roll those excuses around in my head over and over and keep letting myself off the hook during hard workouts, or I can grit my teeth and throw water.  Those are my choices and those are the ONLY choices I have.  

So I did say a little bit of ugh, just a little, maybe even a few times because I'm never going to be perfect, but then I looked for the work.  That meant cooling down properly instead of stomping into the locker room, getting into warm clothes and eating a recovery meal that actually had protein in it and wasn't made up of cupcakes and then sending a video of my scary off-season-weight'd self off to some of the biggest swimming brain trusts I know.  And some I didn't really know but offered to help anyway.  This is why I love this community.  These people, the ones that mostly exist on my computer screen, watched my wriggly little booter go up and down the lane and then sent me videos of my video and drills and sets and links and more videos and I am eating it up, I am soaking up every second and it's changing my time in the water.  I'm more focused on what I'm doing, even when I'm tired and it all goes to hell, I'm still thinking, reaching pushing digging rolling, trying to put the pieces together, trying to find the fitness I have lost.  The fitness I have never had.
So yup, I've been coasting, these past six months or so.  I've been just getting by, but no more, I've been letting myself off the hook, I've been okay with just being okay.  That's over.  I've had enough of being my own mediocre.  I am ready for this work, I am ready to settle into the stuff that isn't exciting, it's just work, I am ready for this year.  That is the choice I have made.

25 comments:

  1. Think of it as the end of the offseason and how much better you will be when IMLP arrives? You are still doing that race right? Now you have a baseline...on those 250s for whats to come in the rest of the season. Think about it in a positive way!!

    Nice job on the swim meet!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm still hung up on that "beat my little ass with a hammer" thing. It might be more accurate to say "my oft-photographed ass" instead. Thoughts? Go, swimming. Good for you. I fucking hate swimming for exercise. Is it okay to use the f-word here?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Those moments when it's "nothing but my brain and the black line and fear" are why I fell back in love with swimming after such a long post-burnout absence. That, and the fact that sometimes, nice people like you call me part of a swimming brain trust. (Blush). Keep up the good work facing down your brain, the black line and fear, my friend!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow!!! Way to push through the water! I hate swimming - probably because I suck at it!!! Great job!! (I do that yelling at myself thing - sometimes it is even out loud at the end of a run!)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Those pictures are awesome and way to get through the swim set :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Whew. That's one hell of a stream of consciousness. You were starting to sound like the old over-analytical Katie but righted the ship there at the end. You have a coach and a plan - follow and you will get there.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I love the photos! Now I want swimming photos!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Dude. There are people who would KILL to swim the way you do. You have natural talent missy. Don't let your brain keep getting in the way. Swim on little fishy.

    ReplyDelete
  9. You are awesome. Can't wait to see what this year brings for you in the water!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Do work! that sounds fantastic. Great set, great practice, great meet, great attitude. I'm so ready to get back into regular training and get some work done too. Love it! xx

    ReplyDelete
  11. btw, I love your breathing form in the 3rd photo. Your head might still be tilted a bit high, but it's a great photo and textbook breath technique.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I know nothing about swim times but those all sound fast to me.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I actually find it much easier to push myself in the pool (and keep pushing when the going gets tough). I'm still trying to figure out why and carry that over to running.

    ReplyDelete
  14. You have an incredible number of photos of your swimming!!!

    And your times seem fast to me...you have plenty of time to get even better before the big race!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Let's hear more about this Hammer named "OUCH". That b*tch sounds like a good training buddy... ;)

    (Awesome photos, btw.)

    ReplyDelete
  16. Please keep having these thoughts because I need to see this. This is what I need to learn this year. I haven't hurt on a swim in forever and I keep convincing myself it's the least important part of the triathlon and as such I really haven't improved much.

    Also, I'm facing a bunch of Zone 1/2 work this next month so I'm hoping I'll be foaming at the mouth for a hammer called OUCH when it's time to pull it out later this year.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I can relate to this a lot. When I swam, it's like the voice to be better, faster, stronger is so much more maginified then running because you are staring down at a black line. This is a great post though and those are absolutely stunning shots.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Fantastic photos! And, damn, your swimming puts mine to shame. I am sloooooow and since I'm doing IMCA in August, I better get my butt to the pool and get to work. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Also, have you read Urban Ninja before? He has some great posts on mediocrity and moderation :)

    ReplyDelete
  19. That's awesome! Those kinds of mental breakthroughs are exactly why I love swimming, even when it seems too hard and I just want to get out and leave. Good for you!

    ReplyDelete
  20. This is not a helpful comment in any way, but those are incredible photos. I particularly like the splash one. Good luck with your training!

    ReplyDelete
  21. I was thinking about you a lot on my run this morning for some reason, but maybe it's because I was feeling your brain waves from this post. I did a lot of yelling at myself to hit my times on my 5-mile MP tempo this morning and gah, it was awful. But also awesome to be done. (Obviously I can't relate in any way swimming-wise, but I'm glad to know that we're still connected, 1500 miles apart.) Also sometimes I drive by your old house to see the progress. It's not weird, I swear. So far, nothing.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Just saw you on Training Peaks http://blog.trainingpeaks.com/posts/2013/1/10/meet-our-newest-new-guys-and-girls.html congratulations on the new job.

    Nick

    ReplyDelete
  23. I am digging this post. BTW - 1:25s is flying to a person like myself BUT I have been there in the just get out, your running late, etc.

    Way to fight through it and improve upon yourself. We are always trying to figure that out aren't we?

    ReplyDelete
  24. We aгe а bunch of vοlunteers аnԁ starting а brand new ѕcheme in our cοmmunіty.

    Your site offered us with usеful informatіon to work on.

    You've performed a formidable process and our whole group can be thankful to you.

    my homepage; Stun gun
    Here is my web blog :: smart stun guns

    ReplyDelete
  25. Its definitely the little things. I need to follow your lead and try to shut the voices in my head up! Way to go on kicking your butt into gear!

    ReplyDelete

COMMENTS. ARE. LOVE!