and eat!

swimming with music: a product review

My Finis Inc. Neptune (which I was never that crazy about design-wise) was starting to fail and I wanted to replace it.  I started noticing which  waterproof audio devices people were using in the pool and did  some research. I didn’t want another Neptune, and I kept seeing people with little ipod shuffles clipped to their goggle straps. Seemed like a good idea. Until I got one (see review below).  Then I looked at the Finis Inc. site and HEY! they developed a new device, more like the low-profile SwiMP3 that I used to have. And since I had an old Neptune, I could send that  back and upgrade to the DUO   (for a small fee, of course – $75).

Here are my completely unscientific, totally subjective findings, written in a  somewhat stream of consciousness fashion.

Finis: I’ve been using their devices  for years, from bulky to sleek, back to bulky, and now the sleek DUO (I don’t have a picture of the original unit, but it was cumbersome, even bulkier than the Neptune.  I like the blue one below best).

 

  • Pros for the DUO: comfort, nothing in my ears – ear paddles rest on your cheekbones and conduct sound through bone, short cable  between ear paddles, good  sound quality, I can still hear what’s going on around me, fine  customer service.  Holds plenty of music.
  • Cons: the clip (where it attaches to your goggle strap) on the ear paddles seems like it’s designed for flat goggle straps.
    DUO on round and flat goggle straps

    DUO on round and flat goggle straps

    It works on round straps  but it’s not as easy to attach or  adjust, for in-water use only, notification lights are not quite as advertised – blinking green when charging?  No, I only saw  solid green when charging – or nothing.  Blinking red when low on charge? No, I saw steady red and it was still  playing.  Whatever.  When I asked about charging, I was told to plug it into a wall charger for best results.  It doesn’t say anything about a wall charger in the info and doesn’t come with one, so … really?  The connection on the charger might be a little iffy.  I say that because when I had it plugged in (using the wall charger), the light was green and then blinked a little and went off, indicating a  lost connection. It actually seems to work better plugged into my computer.  A charge is supposed to last for ~7 hours of playing time.  The red light came on after 2 swims (a little over 2 hours), but the device  was still playing, so I don’t know how long it will really hold a charge.  I’ll be sure to charge often just in case 7 hours is optimistic!

Underwater Audio: I was skeptical because I don’t like things in my ears, but I’ve been seeing so many more of these lately.  I thought I’d give it a try (pictured below with upgraded earbuds).

Underwater Audio

Underwater Audio – came with a lot of stuff

  • Pros: IF a good seal is obtained, I imagine the sound would be great.  Small waterproofed lightweight genuine ipod shuffle, can be used in or out of the water, short earphone cord doesn’t get in the way, comes with an extension to lengthen the cord, many earbud options, great customer service.  Holds plenty of music.

    ipod shuffle on goggle strap

    ipod shuffle on goggle strap

  • Cons: I couldn’t get a good seal so water pretty quickly got in my ears and rendered the  device useless – I couldn’t hear the music.  When I spoke to a customer service rep, I learned that the earbuds that come with the unit apparently AREN’T that great when doing flip turns (although the info says they’re fine), and upgrading the buds supposedly costs another $70 (I fought not to pay – like I said, great customer service).  The better earpieces still didn’t  work for me.  Vaseline is recommended to get a good seal.  I feel slimy just thinking about that, but I tried it.  Yuck, and it didn’t help.  I just ended up with gooey ears. The function buttons are stiff due to the waterproofing process – not a huge deal, but worth being aware of.

The takeaway:  I really, really don’t like things in my ears, and I really, really do like hearing what’s going on around me.  This type of device is not a good choice for me, but it appears to be good for others.  It’s not returnable so now I have a waterproof shuffle that I don’t need.  The DUO is a better option for me.

[*update:  the charger that came with the DUO is crap.  After some back and forth with customer service, I was informed that there is now a charger that attaches more securely, and one is being sent to me.  Isn’t this something the company would know without me bugging them?!  Like a recall that owners are contacted about?  We’ll see how the new one works… an annoyance, but I still like the DUO well enough. 7/12/16]

Can this old dog learn new (swim) tricks?

Do I even want to learn new tricks?  I’ve toyed with the idea of swim lessons off  and on  (mostly off), and  although I know they can  be helpful, I wonder if it’s worth it.  Lessons are  an investment – both time and money – and there’s that  annoying  part where you change something and feel slower and less comfortable for a while… Do I want to go through that?  I wouldn’t mind being faster (duh).  I wouldn’t mind avoiding shoulder pain (now THERE’S a concept!).

Enter Winning Swimming.  I got a coupon for a “swim test” and figured I’d  check it out.  A couple of women on my tri team have gone to Coach Caron and report that  she was helpful.  What did I have to lose?  I was curious:  what would she say?  I’ve been swimming since I was 4.  That’s not to say that I know everything about swimming, more like my stroke is pretty well ingrained by now and it would  be hard to change!

What’s it be like to swim in an endless pool?  I’ve never tried one and was intrigued.  I’d have to drive about an hour to Merrimack, NH – land of the outlet mall! –  so I figured if it was a bust, at least there was an opportunity for  post swim-test-trauma retail therapy! (I’m not a big shopper, but we did  need to replace a pyrex…).  I decided to take the plunge (that was bad.  Sorry).

I contacted Coach Caron about how to get started.  The first step was  to fill out some paperwork and take the “swim test” – what the coupon I got referred to.  I made an appointment.  Road Trip!  My husband and I drove up to look at the facility, talk about my goals, and try out the pool.  Coach Caron had me swim so she could see what she was working with and determine how best to align her coaching skills with my swimming ability and goals.  My husband got to hang around  and take pictures – thanks, Shady!

The facility is a converted garage with an endless pool taking up roughly half  of the space. Up a few stairs is the bathroom/shower/changing and waiting area.  It was  nice and warm.  That’s one thing that was different from swim lessons in a pool – I always get  cold at clinics and lessons.  Not a problem at Winning Swimming.

DSCN2088 DSCN2091As I mentioned, I’ve never tried swimming in an endless pool.  I told Coach Caron my 100 yd pace, she got the jets going, and I entered the current. Whoa, wild!  She played around with the speed until it was about right. I was kind of  stressed out at first thinking I had to keep up, but was eventually able to relax (a little) into my swim.  I expect I’ll be better at getting into  my usual rhythm  when I do it again.

The pool setup:  There’s  a mirror on the bottom of the pool  so the swimmer can see their  body position and hand entry (totally cool), and there are 4 camera  views  projected  onto the wall so Coach Caron  can watch what the swimmer is doing from various angles.  DSCN2098

Video analysis is offered (see “improve your swim” on the website for the full range of services).

The upshot?  Coach Caron really listens.  She wants to know your swim goals and will work with you to achieve them – not only freestyle; she can help with the other strokes, too.  I only had the short swim test, but I feel  really comfortable that she can  offer some technique tips to help with my goal of swimming longer distance events  without destroying myself (and maybe even go faster!).  She already suggested a few  things that I’m trying to incorporate into my stroke.  I  plan  to see how the next month or so goes, and then schedule a more in-depth lesson.

DSCN2117

we traded caps!

Oh, and although there was no swim test* trauma, we succumbed to the call of the outlets and bought a new pyrex (among other things) on our way home!

[*silly me, it was a “test swim” not a “swim test”!]

Will work for swag

Actually, I’d spread SwimVacation love even without swag, but I’m not going to pass up a cool t-shirt!

swimvacation2

Working the Team EnVision booth, promoting TE and SwimVacation

Hopper, the owner of SwimVacation sent out an email asking for “ambassadors” to wear SV gear, pass out SV caps, and basically talk about the awesomeness of SwimVacation while at swim-related events.  It just so happened that I was due to represent my tri team at the yearly expo, Tri-Mania Boston, around the time his email went out.  Score!  I could do double-duty while working my hour at the Team EnVision booth.

So…  if you have any interest in swimming in amazing places, check out SwimVacation.  The trips are small, so every swimmer can swim as much or as little as s/he wants. Sign up for a trip you won’t forget or regret.  My husband and I went to the British Virgin Islands, but there are also trips to Hawaii and Turkey (new in 2016).

Every trip has it’s own feel depending on the makeup of the group, of course, but you can look at the SwimVacation Blogs to see what generally happens on a week in swimming paradise.

Next opportunity to pass out caps?  Hmm, there are some 5k swims I might do this summer.  That’s just the population I need.

swimvacation1

SwimVacation!

That thing? They call recovery? D’oh!

Huh.  I took  a week off swimming while on vacation and now my shoulders don’t hurt.  Who knew?!  Well, I did, but chose to ignore that fact, apparently.  Live and learn (maybe).cabo 2016 pic for blog1.JPG

December swim escape

 

SWIM  I get this  email in early October:  SwimVacation needs to fill their December trip to the British Virgin Islands and  they’re offering a discount to alums as incentive.  My husband  and I went  on a short SwimVacation trip to a lake in Maine a few years back (see old blog post) thus the email in my in-box.  Lucky us!  We had been  talking about  doing SwimVacation BVI someday, but the trip isn’t cheap so we were dragging our feet and saving some money.  On a lark, I brought up the possibility of signing up – hey, discount!  To my surprise and glee, he said “sure, let’s go”.  So we did.  And here are some pictures to prove it.

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SwimVacation BVI in a nutshell:  get to Village Cay Marina at the designated meeting time, dinghy ride to the Promenade (our trimaran home for the week), stow shoes – barefoot for a whole week ! – settle in, swim at least twice a day *every day*  in beautiful places among the islands, eat (and drink, if so inclined), make new swimmy friends…  As their logo says, “Swim. Relax. Repeat.”  Sun and 80 degree Caribbean water?  In December?  Yes, please.

Check out the SV blog  to see how  it looks  and book your next trip to BVI!  Or Hawaii.  Or Turkey (new trip).  I might write more specifics about the trip in a future blog, but if you want details before then, feel free to ask in a comment.

BIKE  nothing to report.  I haven’t been on my road bike for a while now – just spin classes ().  I plan to try out a computrainer class in January.  I’m scared.  And we’re doing a run afterward.  It just might kill me.  Wish me luck.

RUN  this is  starting to be a more common  category for me:  I’ve been doing more of it (stupid peer pressure).  I did a 5k fun run on Thanksgiving and broke a 9 min/mile pace!  Nothing like the fear of getting lost to make me go faster – I had to keep the people ahead of me in sight.  Cuteness overload warning:  mini pig in a santa suit at the end of the run.

READ  I went through a brief period of bad books, but seem to have come out the other side.  Phew!  I just ready Jojo Moyes’ The Ship of Brides and loved it.  I really like her books.  Now I’m diving into The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, by Jan-Philip Sendker.

and… EAT!  SwimVacation meant I didn’t cook or bake for a week (the food was great, by the way), but I couldn’t resist making  a  chocolate whiskey cake when we got home.

cw cake use for blog

Chocolate Whiskey Cake

I’ll blame our birthdays (mine and my husband’s).   Can’t have birthdays without cake.  I think it’s illegal.

 

And then this happened, too, ’cause, why not?!

cranapplecake.JPG

Cranberry Apple Cake

I always say I don’t run

…but I guess that’s not true. I did a 10k last weekend with my husband and some friends.  It wasn’t awful.  Except for the almost throwing up part at the end.  Wow.  I hadn’t experienced that before.

I beat my goal (maybe that’s why I almost hurled?), and wasn’t in excruciating pain afterwards.  I could possibly consider running another event.  Someday.  In the distant future.

That’s all I’ve got for now.  I hope to have something more interesting to share at a  later date.

Weekend racing frenzy

Sprint triathlon on Saturday, 2-mile swim race on Sunday?  Sure!

A couple months ago I started thinking that maybe it was time to do another triathlon.  SPRINT triathlon, that is, nothing too crazy.  Heck, it had been a couple years since I did the whole 3-event thing on my own.  Last year I stayed Escape the Cape 2015in my swimming rut and only did relays.  In, out, done, hang out and cheer.  I really like swimming on tri relays!

What changed?  Why now?  Well, I AM on a tri team after all… I guess I decided a tri was possible since I started running again a few months ago.  Not much and not fast, but enough to make it through a 5k.  How bad could it be?  As I often tell people who balk at running, you can always walk if necessary!  Would I walk?  No (although it probably looks  like I’m  walking and not running sometimes), but it’s nice to know the option exists.

The tri:  Escape the Cape put on by Max Performance on June 13th.  LOVE Max Performance races.  Really well run.  This one took place  in Onset Beach, MA, right at the beginning  of Cape Cod.  Point-to-point 1/3 mile swim, 10 mile bike, 5k run.  Other than a short hill on the run, both the bike and run courses were  flat, flat, flat.  It was a little windy this year, but not too bad (oh right, blame the wind).

I did this race 3 years ago so I could compare that race to this one.  I expected to be a little slower, and I was, but only by about 2 minutes.  I can live with that.

The swim:  The next day was sunny and beautiful.  I signed up to do a  2-mile race at Lake Terramuggus in Marlboroughduck buoy, CT.  I swam  this event last year without a wetsuit, but it was a month earlier this time around, so I decided to wear my shorty.  I was kind of sick – or maybe it was allergies – and just wanted to cruise the course as a recovery swim from the tri the day before.  Best laid plans… First loop, nice and smooth and strong, passing people here and there.  And then.  AND THEN!  I noticed I was pretty even with another woman for most of the first loop.  Well!  That just wouldn’t do.  So much for not racing, I HAD to stay ahead of her.  Damn competitive tendencies!  Granted I was wearing a wetsuit, and who knows if the course was exactly the same, but I was about 7 minutes faster this year!  Where did that come from?!

So what’s next?  I’m thinking of doing another swim event next month – Pig Iron Swim  in Vernon, CT.  Maybe more than just the 2-miler.  We’ll see.  And there are a couple bike rides coming up – the Rapha Women’s 100, and a century in the Fall, so I need to start doing longer rides.  Sounds like a fun summer to me.  Happy Solstice!


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