Thursday, 27 September 2012

Vorsprung Durch Technik

Trying out "a week's training per blog post" because I'm guessing people are tired of me cross-posting every entry to Facebook...

"When women first began to work out with weights, it was considered dangerous to have them lift anything heavy and so they were given only two- or four-pound wooden dumbbells. The fact that women lifted much heavier objects in the home seems to have escaped most of the men who designed the exercise. here two cheerful ladies work out in their street clothes in a photograph c. 1910 by Willis T. White." From Venus With Biceps.

I love that picture and quote, it makes me laugh every time - these ladies must have felt like they were lifting feathers after toting babies and coal and doing mangling! It is a good thing to remember that lifting weights which aren't as heavy as your handbag is a touch on the silly side.

So, not a post about gadgets (though I have a lot now, I should review them sometime). But advance through technical workout, rather than technology. Monday I should have been out playing D&D but it didn't go ahead for reasons, so out came the weights. I had a play about with some new lifts and bodyweight exercises, earning me two Fito quests and adding dumbbell flyes and seated dips to my roster of "things that are probably good for me" . A hundred dips hurt quite a lot, by the way.

Swimming on Tuesday was a full technical and speed session, the first I've done like this and oh boy, this had better be good for me because, well, ow. No letting the flow come with this one; it was all about living and dying in the seconds. I'm using the "How to cut 5% off your mile time" training plan from H2Open Magazine, which requires:
  • 10 min warm-up
  • 10 min drills on any weaknesses (so, everything in my case)
  • 20 mins of 100m sets at 80% effort, 1min rests
  • 10 mins of 25m sprints at full effort, 1min rests
  • 10 mins cool-down (which I abused by attempting to learn bilateral breathing - it's improving)
I'd calculated from my last mile time (about 43min) that I needed to be doing my 100m sets at 2m 35 or less. It turns out I was doing them at around 2m 05, but the chances of me keeping up that pace for a full mile right now is about nil. Still, the fact that I can do it is a good start. Overall I did 1.9km in 50mins but there was a lot of stopping (for slow people at first, and then rest breaks between the sprints).

 Wednesday was a wash. It's usually a rest day but I'm in two duels so I did try some static/bodyweight work. Terrible, shouldn't have bothered. Those dips on Monday were killer.

Thursday is usually a run but waahwaah, horrible rain, so I figured I'd grab another swim, though it would only be an hour. 2.25km (90laps) in 59mins was marginally faster than previous times - factoring in numpty-stops I'd probably have got another 4 laps in before the pool closed. TriCalc rounded it up to 2.3kph, anyway. I'm hoping to get to 2.5kph so I can do the 5km Swimathon in 2hrs (thus being significantly faster than my time when I was 18) and finish a two-miler under 1hr 30 - although I won't know if I can do that til I hit the open water again (yes, still pining). It's probably a couple of minutes faster over the mile time tonight but there's a lot of work to do, and it's impossible to get an accurate read when you're sharing a lane with six other people, five of whom are numpties hogging the ends or so slow you have to stop behind them (seriously, dude, if three or four people are continually swimming into your feet you need to switch to the slower lane) and one who's snapping at your heels. I hate that, it means I can't switch off - I had to give myself a good shake-down at half a mile and refuse to let anyone else set my pace for me. Tuesday nights are so much better for serious distance.

Friday is supposedly the sacrosanct rest day. We'll see. These duels are tough going and there's not much in it.

Oh - I've lost 5lbs over the last month! That's down to nothing but tracking to about 150cal under 2000. Still really having issues over getting enough protein but it's definitely helped me to make better choices. Not that I was terrible in the first place, but it's things like being aware of that second biscuit, and reducing the pasta later if I do have another one.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Two Wheels On My Wagon

Well, I don't recognise myself. It's Sunday. I got up at 8am - voluntarily - got out my bike, cycled to the pool, swam a mile, got back on the bike and was home before 11am. I don't think I've ever actually done that before. It says a lot for my current fitness that I'd even consider it!

I've never been much of a cyclist - did a few big runs when I was a teenager, but mostly poddled round to friends' houses. Sometimes I biked to uni when I could be bothered to drag my overly-heavy bike up from the cellar and tackle the traffic down Oxford Road, where the buses play "splat the student" all day (given how much of my second year I spent hung over, asleep, or hiding under the covers from the black dog, it's a miracle it ever came out at all). Other half and I upgraded our knackered old post-student racers for a pair of sturdy town/wannabe mountain bikes before we got hitched, and...never used them. We had all sorts of good intentions but since we only passed our driving tests in our late twenties it took a long time for the novelty of having a car to wear off. And then there were children and a new home in a hilly area, and the poor old bikes have languished in the shed for years.

Anyway. I bought The Bike Owner's Handbook at the back end of May, along with a cycle computer and fixed it all up - very useful book. I'd barely so much as pumped up my own tyres before, and this had me taking an entire wheel off to replace a cracked tyre! It was certainly challenging but I do feel more competant. And then I locked it all back in the shed, whereupon it rained all summer. It took a trade-off to get me out on it, but I'm glad - my running kit made a decent set of clothes to wear; I had a reason to go somewhere, and although I felt like an absolute dork it was worth it. I did have to walk part of the way back because this is effectively a new bike to me, and it has 13 more gears than I'm used to, so the return uphill was just too much for now. But I will crack it (preferably when the road isn't being resurfaced!). It also had the joyful knock-on of the kids wanting to go out on their bike/trikes, so we had some fun in the park this afternoon. Eldest is very close to being able to cycle by herself now.

Swim was ok. Very run-of-the-mill; I'd squeezed in a couple of chapters of Total Immersion last night and was trying to remember all that - it's very similar to what I learned from the coach at USwim so far. Didn't seem to increase my speed at all but I was more mindful of my body roll (I tend not to roll enough to the right) which I guess is the point. I need to do the maths - I usually swim a longer distance so working out my average speeds would be useful.

Embrace The Suck

Big props to jhrunning on Fitocracy for the pep talk earlier this week (loads of luck with your tri!), and mentioning the phrase "embrace the suck" - he was talking about running through bad weather, but I used it a lot to get through the burning shins and marshmallow knees phase of my run this evening - and to get up the last rise on my way home (I pictured that belly from the old Reebok ad as "the suck" and ran after it, chanting "I'm going to hug yooooou!!". In my head. Yes, I'm well aware that's weird).

Something I have definitely learned tonight: at the moment I can't do without a big warm-up - a mile walk uphill seems to be about the right amount. Less than that and I'm hurting and discouraged very quickly, so I'm going to drop that short warmup/2.5km route off my list and always do the long warm-up first. It's a pain because it adds 20mins or so to the time I'm out, but if that's what it takes I guess that's what I'm doing. I started out more slowly, using my last warm-up song (India Arie: Video) to start running to rather than my usual kick-off tune (Barenaked Ladies: One Week), and that seemed to give me a more confident pace. I also gave myself permission to walk up the horrible hump-backed bridge which is my nemesis, and that gave me more energy to go further at the other end, which I'm pleased with. So I'm feeling more positive despite noticing the frost appearing on the grass verges...! Overall it was nearly 2k in part one, a 2min/200m walk up the bridge and then about 1.5k for part two. That's much better, I feel more optimistic about adding back my favourite, totally dark moor section now and trying for the 5k again sooner rather than later.

I spent a lot of the evening chatting on Fito and Facebook to various other swimmers (Iron Fish FTW!), which was lovely - really feel like I'm starting to find a bit of a tribe, people who really get the whole open water thing. I'd been somewhat low and bitter to be going back to work today (which is saying something as I love my job) instead of doing the last session at Salford, but it was cancelled due to issues with the water quality - and USwim announced their "polar sessions" this week. So with a quick date shuffle of classes and a sincere (but I must admit, slightly gleeful) apology to my families, I am delighted, excited, and a little scared to be going to the November session. Man, it is going to be COLD, and I think I may invest in some neoprene socks. But it will be awesome, even if I'm only in there five minutes.

Hoping for good weather tomorrow. YaaL on Fito challenged me to get my bike out in return for her run, so I'm thinking of cycling to the pool first thing. Fingers crossed! I have done some lifting also and am leading one of my duels...somebody, mentioning no husbands, has been sneaking in the weights after hours so with that and a horrible chunk of roof mending logged as "yard work" (which, to be fair, deserved the points), I've dropped back a bit on that. Guess I'd better to remember to log all the absent-minded calf raises and get little D to do weighted bridges with me this week...:-P

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

You Can't Take The Sky From Me...

As long as I can stop off for coffee and cake every once in a while, I'm there.

 I can't actually imagine missing my Tuesday swim now, it must be nearly a year since I started and I'm starting to recognise the same people each week. There's a chap I share a lane with after 9pm - by common consent we split it lengthwise and don't get in each other's way; he's usually doing a couple of km so it's a pleasant way to get the space we both need. A member of staff has started to ask my distance when I get out and pulls "impressed face" which makes me laugh - I can't be the only one to do a reasonable distance, surely?

The first mile was the hardest tonight, not because of anything to do with my body but because firstly everyone seemed to be on go-slow - people poddling up and down trying not to get their hair wet. I don't care if you want to do that but in the lap lanes it's most frustrating to give someone a whole length's head start and still be catching them up. And secondly my brain was SO annoying: "This is crap, it's too hot, it's so boring, I hate that black line, it's so noisy, all these bloody people, I'm fed up of turning at the ends, I can't get a rhythm, I miss the sky, it feels horrible, blahblahblahblah". On and on and on. I felt like I was wrestling a monkey. Eventually a stern self-lecture on how lucky I am to a) have experienced open water and be able to go back next year and b) have this excellent new pool open when it's convenient for me FOR FREE got it to pipe down. 

But oh, god, I miss the cold and the air and the sun and the smiles and the lousy hot chocolate....sigh. It's not even been a week and I'm pining.

Anyway. Misery aside, I pulled off two miles in 1hr 30, which is ok. Not great, but probably delayed by 5mins or so by the aforementioned numpties and fiddling with my cap and headphones. It felt a lot faster than Saturday, like I was working so much harder - but it was a slower speed. I guess you can't really compare pool with open water times; all that stopping and turning. I can work on getting my pool time down, if nothing else. Right now I'm waiting anxiously for an email about Great North Swim next year - assuming the stars align, I'd like to do the two-mile wave at Windermere in 2013 for the challenge, as well as Great Manchester just because that's effectively my "home ground", I know the course and it was a ton of fun this year. The recommended two-mile cut-off at Windermere is 1hr 45 - that is, you should be confident of doing two miles in less than that time. So I'm already under it by a nice amount; I'd like to take another 15mins off over Winter. Lots of work to do and I have no idea if it's achievable, but as I've said a few times lately: I'm nothing if not overambitious.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Mrs Pitiful

Round and round we go, back to the beginning. Well, not quite; tonight's run wasn't as bad as say, the first week I did C25K, where I could barely manage a minute, but it was pretty pitiful for someone who ran (most of) a 5k just last week. Started out ok but it turned out to be one of those fidgety runs where your mind just isn't on board, fussing and flapping, and your knees turn into hot lumps of custard atop a pair of burning twigs. All told I managed about 1km sustained of an easy 2.5km route. So: rubbish. But: 1km is 1km and next it'll be 2km and I'll just have to grit my teeth and build it back up again.

I am tired, probably a bit left over from Iron Fish and since it's the beginning of the school term, we've all had a shiny new cold to deal with - I've mostly got over it quite quickly other than the headaches, but little D is really suffering, poor thing. My Fitness Pal tells me I didn't eat anywhere near enough today before I went out, which can't have helped. Guess I can scoff that left-over rhubarb crumble now, eh?

I picked up my Winter running kit yesterday - long-sleeved top (bright blue) and wind jacket (fluorescent yellow), both Ron Hill, both in the sale. And they're great, the jacket in particular - it poured down for the last 0.5km and I was bone dry underneath; it really cut the wind out too. It'll take a while to get used to long sleeves and the rustle of the fabric, I think. My kit is entirely mismatched now, but what the hell. I run in the dark for many reasons ;-)

My head's settled down a bit now (so it was worth it despite the pain and weather) but beforehand I was winding myself up something chronic about getting faster. I really want to improve over Winter - bring my running back up to scratch for distance and cut my mile times for both running and swimming, but so far I haven't managed to put anything coherent together. I know I probably need to be doing drills but I don't know where to start. What I want is an MOT - someone to take a look at where I am, and all the clunky bits of my body (like, why do I always feel more pain in my right shoulder/hip/knee?), and work out a programme I can stick to whilst still having a life.

I suppose that's called a personal trainer, isn't it.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Iron. Fish.

My last session at Salford Quays this morning, and I decided to go out with a bang, if I could. I am not a morning person, but I knew if I wanted to achieve anything significant I needed at least a couple of hours, so I was in the water at 9am today. My confidence was quite high - no messing about, no worrying about form or fretting about getting in peoples' way - just get in, and get it done. Find the flow.

One lap of the long course is 750m. My PB there was two laps, so 1.5km. I gave myself a range of options depending on the conditions and the fact my arms were still fairly sore from resuming lifting the other night - 2 laps was "maintenance", 3 laps an open water PB so "acceptable improvement", 4 laps "pretty good" as that was 3km equivalent to my pool PB, 5 laps "don't stop now!!". Anywhere between 4-5.5 laps was in my sights when I saw the weather was calm and the Quays still pretty warm (the water was 17oC but an intermittently stiff wind and cloud cover made the air temp around 11oC, and you really notice the difference). It all depended on how well my body, particularly my shoulders, held up at that point. I really wanted to track my time over two miles because Great North Swim at Windermere has a cut-off of 1hr 45 for that distance, but if I had the time and energy I wanted to get to 2.4miles or 3.86km - the swim distance for an Ironman Tri; known on Fitocracy as "Iron Fish". According to Total Immersion, a distance of 3.1 miles or 5k is equivalent to running a half marathon, so I guess Iron Fish is like a 10km run.

It was...not easy, but surprisingly far less painful than I'd thought it would be. No doubt I'll feel it tomorrow! As people have said to me about running, the first mile was the most difficult physically, but I felt settled in after two laps with plenty in the tank and little pain. Laps three and four were significantly easier, I got a great little earworm to keep me going and I was generally doing ok. Checked my watch for "time elapsed" at the end of lap four and was startled to see it was 1hr 26, same as my pool 3km time - and better still, I had a good 40mins of the session left. Knowing my average laptime was about 21mins today, I set off again to complete one more lap and a lap of the short course to make absolutely sure of hitting the Iron Fish distance. It felt a lot slower but actually didn't vary a great deal from previous times, and the last short course lap had to be pushed out pretty quick - I wasn't the last out, but the safety boat had parked itself across the course to stop anyone trying for a long course lap! At no point did I get my stupid "you can't do it" voice in my head and I am really pleased about that because now I have serious fuel to shut it up with next time I go for a run. I found lots of flow - not for long periods, but enough that I'd suddenly think "ooh, my arms are just flying along without me doing anything there" and noticing that my legs would take over for a while when my shoulders needed a rest.

And done. I was definitely weary and a bit wobbly when I got out, and I'd had an odd sensation of tingling lips over the last 0.5km or so - I thought some of my hair had escaped my swimming cap at first, but I read later this can be a sign of low blood sugar. That would make sense as I just grabbed a cereal bar in the car this morning rather than face a bowl of porridge. I'll know to stoke up better next time - I don't handle breakfast well and worry about being sick, but I can manage some porridge usually. I snagged a brioche and a hot chocolate after getting changed and it went straight away, so I'm not worried.

I'm guessing a handful of you reading this will tease me about swimming the Channel - let me say here and now: NEVER HAPPEN. 90% of people who try it fail because of the currents and it doesn't make sense for me, as a mum of two little girls, to even think about it. I'll just admire from a distance (and maybe wonder idly about taking part in a relay...). But there are long distances out there that I want to try - next up is 5km, of course, which I'll knock out in the pool for Swimathon next year, if not before, and Great East has a 5km open water wave if I can get down there some time. I may attempt all five Great Swims in the same year. The next Fitocracy quest for swimming is "Marine Marathon", that's 10km, and there are several lake swims available (one being Bala in Wales, which I've always loved). And there's cross-Windermere, of course, at 10.3 miles. I may never manage any of those past 5km, but they're within my range if I work hard. Before any of that, though, I need to get my speed up to be within the cut-off times, and that's going to take quite some work.

One thing's for sure. I may never be competitive. I may never be fast. But I can endure.

Oh, you want to know what my earworm was? Have a laugh...:)

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Do You Even Lift?

Why yes, yes I do, apparently.

I have no idea where that shirt comes from - I love the composition of the picture and the set of his shoulders. He just seems so competant.

So yes, no run tonight as it's cold and drizzly and I don't have anything beyond a t-shirt to go out in right now - having got soaked on the school run multiple times this week we're all off for new wet weather gear at the weekend. It really is time to pick up the weights again since my shoulder seems mostly better, so it was back to basics with dumbbell bench press, deadlift, pullover (I just really like that one), planks and static wall sits (I happen to be fairly good at those). Pleased to see things haven't degenerated too much since mid-June - I just started out at 10kg in each hand and went up to 12.5kg for the bench press, always my most comfortable lift, and my PR at 15kg is not all that far off. A way to go to get back to deadlift and pullover form, though, PRs for those are both 20kg.

Best plank clocked in at about 90s, halfway to PR - I'd really like to get to five minutes on that; just went for a couple of 60s wall sits (PR 240s) so as not to stress that clicky knee out too much (it's still going on after ten days, no idea what's happened). Total fail on push-ups again...annoying because I feel strong enough to do it now but my back keeps collapsing and I'm not sure how to fix it.

It'll do, happy enough with that - I need to do some research over the next week to try and work out the best programme to support endurance sports. Getting stronger made such a difference to my swimming very quickly earlier this year and it's really important to me to do everything I can to support that development. Also I seem to be losing weight slowly but steadily; it makes sense to help that along.

Besides, lifting gets you loads of Fitocracy points and one of the first things I did with my new Hero status was to challenge my OH and a good friend to free-for-all duels. :D

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Paddling On

And that would be why I was the pool tonight, ploughing up and down even though I've felt like the sweepings off the floor all day and not much in the way of targets right now. Well, that and the fact that taking the girls earlier in the afternoon lightened me up sufficiently to say "ok, well, I'll go and do 2km, taking note of my half-mile and km times and that'll be enough". I've felt pretty good after Salford - icing your legs really does work, I guess - but the sorest part of me has been my shoulders. I'm not sure if that's an after-effect of Saturday's swim or tension or what, but it has been achy, and combined with a late night on Monday I just felt rubbish today. I am liable to slip off the wagon quite badly if I skip sessions of any sport, though, so off to the pool it was. Consistency is a big deal to me.

What's local pool has just announced it's signed up to Swimathon 2013, so as soon as it's listed I'll sign up for the 5k swim. That should be easily doable by April, net me the Fitocracy Quest "Iron Fish" (3.9km - it's the Ironman Tri swim distance) in the process and give me the option of doing the Great North Swim 2-miler at Windermere in the Summer.

We've been considering the new Rochdale Kingsway Run the week after next, which has both 5k and 10k components, as well as a kid's race K was quite interested in doing - but given that it's 40mins drive from here and then park & ride, for a 10.30am start (or 9.45 for the kids), it all sounds a bit hellish to get everyone up for. It's also a bit dubious on the chip timing, which will only happen "if there are enough participants". We feel that's important to us so we'll probably leave it this year and see what reviews it gets. Babysitting is an issue too - most events we do for the next *mumblemumble* years will have to be as individuals, trading off weekends unless they coincide with grandparents being around.

I do want to do another 5k quite soon - my confidence has taken a knock from Salford even with the solid reason that it was just too damn hot to cope with. So I, at least, am looking for an event to do in late October or November, and I have a feeling my dear heart is also tempted towards another quiet 10k before Christmas. As he said over teatime this evening, "What on earth has happened to us?".

Oh yeah. I decided to become a Fitocracy Hero tonight. :) The site's given me a lot over the last year, I figured it was time for a little thank you. Also I want a t-shirt. :P

Sunday, 9 September 2012

City of Salford 5k/10k

Funny, we don't look like we just ran through a few circles of hell.

So yes, that's me and my better half wearing our "you didn't die out there, well done" t-shirts. Dear heavens, that was hot - 23oC or something. Probably hotter than it's been all flipping Summer, and given that we both train at night it really took a lot out of us both. I could really have done with some water.

I walked a lot. :( More than I've walked on a run in ages. And yet, personal best (38.33). Go figure. If it hadn't been so hot who knows what I could have managed. Maybe 35min, maybe even 30min - I have no idea what I can really achieve on flat ground. I can do so much better than today, though. I have to say I'm overall a bit disappointed, but on the other hand, I listen a lot to people around me, and there were plenty of scarily competant-looking folks (lots of club runners today) saying that they'd found it much too hot. One poor guy was covered in blood from a nosebleed. There was a part of the route with absolutely no shade, where the sun was bouncing off the industrial units by Rank Hovis (about 2km into the 5km course and 7km of the 10km) and we both said that's where we'd flaked out. But...I was still running when I spotted OH coming along the other side of the road, and I finished it running - bit of a sprint over the line, actually. I learned about a mass start - I suspect I was ok where I was today but too near the back for the future, it was hard to hear we'd actually started the 5k after the hoo-haa for the 10k. I learned I need to work out how to deal with hydration. I learned I probably need some *gasp* shorts. I learned that spectators don't necessarily stay off the bloody course.

I also learned my inner voice has got to shut the hell up. It was super-hard to tune out today, saying "don't you think you should stick to swimming? You're not very good at running, are you? And you don't get sore* and sweaty, swimming, and nobody notices you making a fool of yourself. Wouldn't it be looooovely to be in the water right now? It's just over there, you know". Urgh. Nice going, self. Way to sabotage.

Still. I said all along this was about learning and given that I only started C25K in April, had a few glitches, and ran 5k for the first time only a month ago, I think I did ok and picked up a few tips for the future, things I will absolutely need to know before taking on a 10k. Not great, but it's a start. And with a bit of luck I'll remember that course layout and maybe have another go at it after swimming sometime.

Now I'm away to collapse for a few days.

Oh, Ron Hill was there - I couldn't hear well but I think he and the mayor started the 10k. All I could think was "Gawd. That man's name is on my boobs."

* beg to differ, brain - I have butt DOMS from my Saturday swim. So there.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Swimming In Place


People often talk about the sporting challenges of pushing themselves harder, faster, further. We don't often hear about the challenge of not pushing - of holding back from overwork, or the frustration of "taking it easy" when you have an injury but the joy of sport is pulling you ahead. I had to fight hard to get out of the Quays this morning after two laps (long course, so 1.5k) of holding myself back. I'm ready to work a bit harder, go a bit faster, do some more form correction. Instead, I had to tell myself over and over again: you are not here to compete against yourself this morning. You must hold something in reserve to run tomorrow. You cannot risk an injury, deplete yourself, or do anything but stay calm and cool today. Slow down and look at the fish (yes, Virginia, the Quays really do have fish in and goodness, that was very weird to look down and see them swim underneath me, 3m deeper). Enjoy the sunshine today and hope it's breezy tomorrow. The water's still very warm, above 17oC, I'd guess.

It's hard, and something I'm really going to have to watch out for in a Tri. Last run I shouldn't have pushed for that faster last mile, really, not on a downhill - it left me with a clicky knee that's had me fretting all week; not painful but not something I wanted to be worrying about . It seems to have disappeared today but it's been a close thing. I skipped running on Thursday - again, hard to do - but it looks like it was the right tactic. I feel ok. Nervous now; I'm sure I'll be overexcited and silly when we get there in the morning. I tend to be a bit ratty the day before an event and perky at the start line!

It all got a bit real when I spotted a banner for tomorrow hanging on the railings at Dock 9 this morning. The races start at 10.15am (10k) and 10.30am (5k). Fingers crossed for cloud. Looks like it's going to be a busy one and I'm worried about where to put 5k time is nothing to write home about, but I do intend to run the distance, aiming for 40mins or so, and I know there'll be a good amount of charity/fancy dress/walking participants. I don't want to get tangled up in that but I also don't want to get in the way myself. Anyway! That's why I'm doing this, to get some experience before doing a 10k.

And breathe...

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Lap Follows Lap


3km or 120 laps of the pool tonight; 30 laps more than last week and another freestyle improvement. I wasn't quite aiming for that. I'd expected 2.5km to be more in the ballpark, but I managed to get in early enough and not have too much competition for space. I have to - as they say on Fito - give props to the staff at Darwen Leisure for looking after me by rigging up a lane I could have near enough to myself for an hour, and for bearing with me as I thrashed out the last four laps at two minutes to ten. I'd have been pretty gutted to stop at 118 laps, wouldn't you?! I must be dead boring to keep an eye on, though, just ploughing up and down all night.

The last lifeguard on the side tonight asked if I was still enjoying it and I had to think for a little while before I answered that one. Yes, it's great to be kicking out a longer distance every week still - I probably won't plateau on endurance til 5km or so, all things being equal. But I can feel I'm reaching my speed limit - there's little more I can do to improve my form by myself because I simply can't see what I'm doing, and I will have to wait til I can get some coaching before that improves. It's also not a patch on open water. It feels like purgatory sometimes...too warm, too busy, too loud, chlorine burn in the back of your nose; something you have to suffer through to get to the good stuff.

But. The work must go in to get the result out, and if the work in the pool translates to improvement outside then yes, I'm still happy.


Monday, 3 September 2012

Eyes On The Prize

Go straight to Fitocracy. Pass Go. Collect Awesome.

Said the above to myself quite a bit tonight - just a bit of pre-race brainwashing to keep me on track. Haven't been up to the moor route for a couple of weeks and it was lovely out there - scudding clouds over a just-past-full moon, warm breeze, no hazards. I did get honked at for the first time ever, that was a surprise - usually it's my other half that gets the sass for some reason.

So that was a nice solid 4km-ish altogether - 1.6km warm-up walk (one day I will run up that hill and barely feel it, but not yet); 2.5km at my usual pace, and the devil on my shoulder said "I wonder if you can get that last mile a bit faster than last time, go on, I bet you can, there might even be a Fito quest in it...give it a go." So for the last 1.6km I upped the pace a bit and then really pushed the last 200m or so into a sprint (ahaha, for me anyway). Took a minute off my last time, but still not under ten minutes'll come. Overall it was something like 25mins for 4km so if I can stick to that on Sunday I'll be looking at a respectable newbie time.

I have given myself a clicky knee now, though. Will have to watch that when swimming tomorrow.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

There And Back To See How Far It Is

My grandad used to say that when you asked him "where are you going?". I am a bit like that with running and walking - I can't just "go out for a walk" and wander aimlessly, I need a destination.

 Salford Quays a few weeks ago - look at that skyline. 
This is about the midpoint of the first leg of the long course.

Great swim at Salford today - twice round the big course, 1500m total and just over 20mins/lap. I never, ever thought I'd manage that in freestyle. Before doing a coaching session with Uswim I'd get completely exhausted after a single 25m lap of the pool, flailing all over the place. That training session was on 21st July, just seven weeks ago, and now I can pull off 1.5-2km happily. Good, eh? It's not fast, I will grant you that, and I know I have plenty more tweaks I can make to my form to improve on that. From today I can say I do need to look at the head position/breathing/body roll again because not only my right shoulder was aching but into that side of my neck too. I'm really happy with how my endurance is coming along, though.

Crappy cameraphone pic from today just to prove you really can swim in there :P

I really, really wanted to go for a run straight after swimming today but couldn't due to family stuff happening. I went tonight, though, and knocked out 2.5km, including conquering my bete noire of the hump-backed railway bridge and some uphill I don't usually tackle. That's ok, I feel more or less on target for next Sunday. For which I have my race number now. Gulp.

I have changed a great deal in the last year, you know. Last September I was in bits because I couldn't pick the girls up without pain and I had nothing to wear for Dunc & Cathy's wedding. Today my first thought on getting out of Salford Quays after swimming 1500m was "Damn, I wish I had time for a run now" and I spent much of my drive home envying the cyclists out in the lovely sunshine. WTF.
I posted that on Facebook when I got back in - I am genuinely a bit baffled by this transformation and evidently so are some of my friends because one asked "How did you get to this point?". I've been thinking about it all day since and here are my ideas.
  • My husband is awesome and I'm not just saying that cos it's his birthday. :P No, he really is. He encouraged/goaded me into picking up the weights in the beginning and nursed me through the early tears and wails of "I can't do it!" in the first couple of months. He's always been a good example and role model, picking a target (Manchester 10km) and going out in all weathers to make sure he could reach it. I was so proud I nearly popped when he brought home that medal, I can tell you. And he's always given me the space to follow my joy - me running 3x a week and him twice, plus my two swimming sessions, has meant we've not had many full evenings together each week for a while (mix in my study and his work and it can get a bit ships-passing-in-the-night sometimes!). I think we've both recognised it as a fair trade for our goals and health, and hopefully we'll be able to pursue some of those together as the girls need less supervision.
  •  I found a great community in Fitocracy and Uswim. Whatever your level of fitness I've found both of these to be very welcoming and supportive to newbies, and now I'm moving down that line and supporting newbies myself (I spent a lot of time zipping up wetsuits and reassuring people it wasn't that cold today!). Community gives you not only praise and support but people to chase, too - I've got to know a couple of chaps lately on Fito who both swim at Salford and though we've not met in the flesh (and may never - the Internet is like that!) I can see from their workouts that they too were once where I am now. That gives me enormous hope and I'm not working in a vacuum - I have good examples to learn from and targets to aim for. Likewise you can't help but chat as you get changed at Salford and people there have been lovely - there is a real lack of judgement. I am fat and an obvious new starter - yet people toting Ironman bags and wearing t-shirts with enormous distance swim events on them will say "yes, you can do this"; and often simply assume I'm better than I am. People of all shapes and sizes turn up at the Quays and nobody bats an eyelid if your wetsuit is an S or an XL. Disclaimer: I may simply be oblivious to snark. Your paranoia levels may vary. Void if unsealed. Er...
  • I changed my mindset from "I must get thin" to "I want to be fit enough to achieve that". Surprisingly, my actual weight hasn't changed a whole lot over the last year (although I am now looking at nutrition more seriously and expect changes to come), but I am visibly different. I definitely have swimmer's shoulders developing! One of the best ways for me to do that has been to track my progress and enter events so I have a real targets to train for. When there's money and pride riding on it, I slack less and work out more. It's as simple as that.
  • I learn from each session. Doesn't matter if it's a flying mile in the pool or a horrible run into the wind with wet trainers, I try and take something home each time. What did I do well? What affects my mindset or feels like it may cause an injury? Which set of conditions please me best? Even if it's as simple as "that song doesn't really work on that playlist", each tiny adjustment moves me forwards.
  • I seek flow.  "Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity." I'm not looking for perfection. I'm looking for the joy. If I'm not enjoying what I'm doing it's much, much harder to keep going back and working on it. I was lucky enough to hit that early on with running and I've always had it with swimming, though it's a heck of a lot easier to find in open water.
  • Challenge is important. I need a destination, or at least, milestones along the way. That could be a race or an event, it could be achieving a distance or getting a time down, or it could be being fit enough to try something new. I love the idea of functional fitness (aka "surviving the zombie apocolypse") and one of my aims for next year is to have enough upper body strength to have a go at rock climbing. Having SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound) targets is essential to the way my brain works. Fitocracy plays into this beautifully by gamifying fitness and giving me achievements to work towards (Iron Fish, you will be mine!) as well as providing a great tracking environment.
  • Costs are affordable. I am extraordinarily lucky to live in an area which has free swimming sessions for residents. My Tuesday swim costs me nothing and running outdoors is free once you have your kit. Uswim is more than reasonable at £5 a session - and the coaching is free whenever you want to join in. This has meant I've been able to invest in good kit which pleases me and makes training easier - things like a waterproof MP3 player (that does duel duty - it's nice not to fret if your electronics get caught in a shower whilst running!); prescription goggles; wetsuit hire; a lap-counting watch; running shoes that fix my horrible pronation; comfortable running clothes; and a fantastic running bra (my mother-in-law refers to it as my "superwoman bra"!). I could do everything I do without most of those things - I think the shoes, bra and goggles are the only things I can't live without, and they're mostly to fix physical issues which would make training much harder. And I really appreciate all of these things.
  • I am privileged. I have advantages some people don't. I have reliable childcare. I have disposable income and I don't have to work excess or unusual hours to feed or house my family. I have time. I have education. I have an Internet connection. I have no physical or mental disabilities which can't be fixed easily with the application of money and a little knowledge. I have safe spaces to run and swim in when it suits me (I usually run at 10pm-midnight any day I choose and my pool is open til 10pm weekdays). I have my own transport at least some of the time. I have access to the finest health service in the world, free at the point of need (for now, anyway). I have living examples around me (my husband, father-in-law and brother-in-law are all runners of 10km+ distances). If you have all of these things it's your choice what you do with them. If you don't have these things, it may not be a choice available to you.
So there you have it. That seems to be what's kept me going for the last year. I don't know how things will change in the future.