I’m not sure why, but I suck at swim meets. Maybe it’s a holdover from the stress of competing as an age grouper, but when I show up at a Masters meet and get that swim meet vibe, I get all tense and stressed out. My shoulders turn into bricks and my calves try to cramp on flip turns. Whee.
I did the 1500 at Nationals last week, which was intended just to be a bit of a speed warmup for the 10k next weekend. It went about how I expected it to, which is to say, not nearly as fast as I would have liked. But, I did split it pretty evenly, so thats something. And at least this time I was in a middle lane and one of the faster swimmers in the heat, instead of on the outside lane getting my butt whooped in demoralizing fashion.
So. Last event before the 10k is done. Starting to get a bit nervous, especially since I just realized I’m procrastinating on all the planning I need to do to get myself squared away for the road trip up to Lake George and for the race itself. Maybe I’ll just go to bed and worry about it tomorrow at work.
After a full year of doing exactly nothing athletic – I barely swam, and I trained BJJ maybe once every month – I decided in the spring of this year to sign up for the US Masters Swimming 10k National Championships. I needed something to break the inertia, and there’s nothing like a big race to get me moving again.
And hey, no biggie, right? I can whip my flabby ass into shape in time to swim 6.2 miles at the end of August.
To that end, I have been focusing almost entirely on swimming and am on hiatus from BJJ until September. I have discovered that I am ridiculously impatient about how long it takes me to get back into fighting shape. I made some maybe not entirely realistic goals for myself regarding how fast I would go in that 10k, all while not having swum more than 3,000 meters in a practice since…well, probably the ‘90s.
My first real test came at the Steelman 5k swim, a choppy lake race that totally trashed my arms. I came in at a time that, if I split evenly, would just about meet my goal time for the 10k. I placed second in my age group, but I was toast, and I know realistically that I wouldn’t be able to hold that pace for another 5k.
Then, I did a training swim in a 50m pool . I came within 300 meters of meeting my goal of swimming 10,000 meters in 2.5 hours. I would have finished the last 300 if they hadn’t started switching the lane lines from long course to short course. It was just too much for me to start dolphin diving between them. Once again, arms were toast, this time extra crispy.
We’re now coming in to the final stretch of getting ready for this thing. I have Masters Nationals (of the pool sort) this week, and the 10k is the following weekend. I’m hoping I can find some speed in the pool and still be able to crank it out for hours in a lake a week later.
But whatever the result, it’s good to be back.
…is how I feel lately. Just as soon as I start to get back into the BJJ swing, I end up with further structural issues wholly unrelated to the previous and still unresolved structural issues. In other words, I fell down the stairs, and I now have a bad ankle.
No, I wasn’t drunk! Sheesh.
But its bad enough that it has been uncomfortable to walk or put weight on and unpleasant to do things like lock my ankles in guard. After a visit to two doctors (the first of whom was simply too busy to let me finish a damn sentence – never went back to him) I am embarking on physical therapy and bracing methods to manage the issue. If this doesn’t work, it’s surgery, baby.
I have not trained BJJ at all for a year and a half due to structural issues, but I have decided to make a comeback. It’s not that I’ve really healed, it’s just that I missed it too much.
I have realized in my first few classes back that quite simply I don’t remember half of what I learned before I stopped training. Is there such a thing as a belt revocation ceremony? Urgh. This is not going to be easy.
After a year of exile, I once again claimed a spot in the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim, the annual aquatic trek from Sandy Point State Park to Kent Island. I was really excited for the race this year because of my enforced absence last year, and the nerves kind of kicked in a bit the day before.
Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t really interested in helping me out. I’m a serious pansy when it comes to hot weather, and hot weather combined with really warm water temperatures in the bay (78 degrees! Holy crap!) combined to make the day a huge challenge for me. The first problem came when I failed to keep water with me during the wait for the first wave to start. I’d already sent my bag (with my water) off to the other side of the bay, so there I sat for at least 30 minutes in the heat, waiting for the first wave to get started. Then, after crossing the timing mats, the wait for the second wave dragged on and on… I was dehydrated before even getting in the water. The first 2.5 miles were terrible. I felt weak and listless and had no energy.
Due to the really warm water and the long wait on shore, I stopped for water at both aid boats on the course this year. That’s a huge change, since I usually trek on through without stopping at any. Around mile 2, the current really seemed to kick in, and a lot of swimmers were fighting to avoid getting swept under the southern span. I did my share of diagonal swimming until about halfway through mile three. I think the tide was turning at that point and bringing in some cooler water from the south. The water never got anywhere close to cold, but the temperature seemed to ease up from ghastly hot to somewhat warm, with a few fabulously cool spots that made me want to stop and tread water for a while.
By the time I reached mile four, the energy gel I’d tucked in my suit and the water I’d gotten at the aid boats had kicked in, and along with the cooler water, I was able to put in a bit more of a push. By the time I got to the turn out from the bridges, I was actually feeling somewhat strong and was able to sprint in to the finish ahead of another swimmer. I wasn’t happy with my time, but I’m glad I finished (the first goal of any open water swim), and that I was able to finish relatively strong. I also managed to place second in my age group and finish in the top 15 overall for women, so it really could have been a lot worse.
So, lessons learned for next year…and here’s hoping for water temperatures in the 60s!
My first open water race of the 2011 season came in the form of the Potomac Sharkfest, the inaugural Sharkfest race in the DC area. This race is a 3k swim across the Potomac, starting in Maryland and following the 301 bridge to Virginia. The organizers are the same ones responsible for the Alcatraz Sharkfest, a hugely popular “escape from Alcatraz” swim in the San Francisco Bay, and their experience with open water races seemed to hold them in good stead.
Inaugural races usually have their share of challenges, for the organizers as well as the athletes. In this case, any issues the organizers may have had were relatively transparent to the swimmers. We met in a designated parking area and took a school bus to the other side of the river for the start – our bags were transported back to the finish for us.
The course was a straight shot across the river. The water was is the low 70s, with almost zero chop, and the ebb tide made for an easy crossing. The only concern we swimmers had was the preponderance of crab pots dotting the river. Thankfully, I didn’t have too much trouble avoiding them, and the big river boat the organizers thoughtfully parked near the finish line made for easy navigation.
A few observations on this race – the organizers and volunteers were friendly, cheerful, and helpful. They had someone walking through the crowd, picking up bags for transport to the finish, so that the swimmers wouldn’t have to lug them to the collection point. There was a bit of flotsam collected in the water near the start, and I think I saw a kayaker cleaning it out so we wouldn’t have to swim through it. There were no bouys to mark the course, but the bridge and the riverboat were enough to keep almost everyone on course (you know there’s always one or two who can’t swim straight to save their life…).
This was a really good race, especially for a first time event. The course was long enough to be a bit of a challenge if you wanted it to be, but simple enough to be accessible to swimmers who are not as strong. The atmosphere was laid back, the organizers competent, and the venue provided a nice place to relax after you finish. There were only about 80 swimmers this year (although that’s pretty significant for an inaugural event), but I expect that next year it will pick up considerably. I highly recommend this race – give it a go before it becomes so popular they start a lottery!
the property of matter by which it retains its state of rest or its velocity along a straight line so long as it is not acted upon by an external force.
It takes serious effort to break through the inertia that sets in when you get sidetracked from your usual training schedule. In my case, my matter (read: ass) retained its state of rest or (lack of) velocity on the couch so long as it was not acted upon by an airplane taking me on yet another 10-hour flight for work.
I’ve had a rather long stretch of hardly training BJJ, and only this past week was I able to break through that state of rest and make it out to train a whole two times. Gasp. Don’t pull a hammy, Grappledunk. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel quite as out of synch as I expected to. My timing was a bit off, my technique not quite right, but all in all, not as bad as I was afraid of. I was allowed to keep my belt, at least.
The best part is that there are new girls training, one of whom just got blue, and several of whom want to compete. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I am just too broken and too busy with the rest of my life to ever compete well, so I just train for the pure enjoyment of it. But I’m excited whenever a new girl wants to give competition a shot. I regretted not competing as a white belt, and I’ve been trying to encourage them to go for it.
It’s strange to me to be the one giving advice and encouragement to the new white belts. I clearly remember my first class and how horribly clueless I felt. And as bad as that first class was, it only got harder when I tried to roll the first time and realized that all I knew how to do with any skill was the doormat position (i.e., flat out on the mat with some big dude walking all over me). Since that day, BJJ has been a series of ups and downs, and frequently it feels like the downs outnumber the ups. It’s easy to get lost in the day to day frustrations of trying to figure out this complex sport and forget where you started out.
So the inertia is broken, and partly because I’m seeing BJJ with the eyes of the new girl again – and then I realize exactly how far it is I’ve come. And I want to keep going.