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.
As 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.
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.
- 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”!]
Actually, I’d spread SwimVacation love even without swag, but I’m not going to pass up a cool t-shirt!
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.
Last I posted, I had just completed a 3-mile swim at the end of June. My first! Now it’s the end of August and I can check a couple more things off my Summer to-do list.
SWIM! I swam a 2-mile race in CT in July. It was an interesting event: one could swim 1, 2, or 3-miles, or any combination of 1, 2, and 3 miles! I opted for doing only the 2-miler due to time constraints. I was happy with my time – just under 53 minutes – which was good enough for a 3rd place finish overall AND in my age group (40-59). The water was perfect: no need for a wetsuit. Ahhh! Maybe next year I’ll do a couple of the swims. Or all 3! We’ll see how my shoulders are doing before I commit to that. Oh, the best part? The buoys were big yellow rubber duckies! How cool is that?! ALL races should have such fun buoys. I wish I had a picture.
After that, I took a break from distance and swam 1/2 mile in a triathlon relay with my sister (on bike), and another Team EnVision member (for the run). We won! The award was a pint glass. Can’t have too many pint glasses, right?
And finally, the swim that got me thinking about competing in open water races in the first place! This past weekend, August 23rd, was the Race for Swim and Fin in Salem (MA) harbor.
I was worried it would be too cold. It wasn’t – I was comfortable in my wetsuit. I was worried it would be really rough. It was pretty choppy, but not awful.
What was tough was the sighting. The buoys were far apart, so it was too easy to sight on the wrong buoy, which I did for a little bit but figured it out before it was too late. Phew. There was another small mishap, but I still managed a 1st place
finish for women 50-54 (w/wetsuit). I can live with that.
BIKE! In July, some friends and I took part in the Rapha Women’s 100, a worldwide event promoting women and cycling. Our event was hosted by The Ride Studio Cafe. We had a choice of distances – 100km or 100 miles – and speed. We did the 100km at a leisurely pace. It was a great day of riding with friends. Next up? The Honey 100 in mid-September: 100km on cross bikes! It’s an off- and on-road adventure, thanks, again, to Ride Studio! I heard such good things about this ride last year, I decided I HAD to do it. And it was a good (?) excuse to buy a new bike!
After that, I’m joining some friends from high school for a charity ride in CT. The Calhoun Cancer Challenge Ride and Walk takes place on October 5th. Some of us are doing the metric century (that would include me) and some team members are opting for the 1/2 metric. 90% of the money raised goes to the cause, so I feel good about taking part. I don’t usually do charity rides because I don’t like fundraising, but the obligation for this one is very manageable. Thanks to everyone who helped me reach my goal!
READ! I’ve read a lot this summer. LOVED Chris Bohjalian’s newest: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands. But then again, I love everything he writes! I’m currently reading Sally Ride, by Lynn Sherr, and Love Letters to the Dead, by Ava Dellaira. Both are great.
and EAT! Unfortunately, I have discovered Ben & Jerry’s Salted Caramel Core ice cream.
My older brother said I was bad luck since I was born on Friday the 13th (he wanted a brother and ended up with me, another sister). Scarred for life. Both of us!
This Friday, December 13th, I turn 50. Wow. How did that happen? And what’s it supposed to feel like? I don’t feel 50 – that sounds so…, well, OLD. Where do I go from here? Oh no, am I having a mid-life (or later) crisis? Does that mean I get to buy a mini? Um, pretty sure I’m not getting a mini.
What I think I’ll do is go to spin class in the morning, work for 3 hours and then get beat up (in a good way) swimming with Cambridge Masters. Sounds like a perfect birthday to me! Who needs all that mental anguish about getting older anyway?
If anybody is interested in a really fun read (much better than this drivel), check out my brother-in-law’s blog post about signing up for IM Mt Tremblant. Warning: sarcasm and humor!
As for next summer’s triathlon season: I can’t believe my sister has already signed me up for a Team EnVision relay (I swim, she bikes, and we beg another team member to run). I guess she didn’t hear me when I said no races. I guess I didn’t hear me, either!
And that’s a wrap. My season is over. Can’t say I’m sad about that. I’ve been struggling with the whole competing thing all summer, and was kind of dreading this race. I was irritable, stressed, cranky. So maybe not too much different from my usual self… (Just kidding?)
Race day Sunday: I had eaten a delicious chocolate espresso brownie a little too late on Saturday, so my sleep sucked, but I don’t sleep well before a race anyway, so it probably didn’t make much difference. That night I just happened to have caffeinated bad sleep instead of just regular bad sleep. Moving ahead… Up at 4:15am, out the door at 5. The weather seemed good, although it was dark, so I couldn’t be sure. I saw stars though, a good sign. An hour drive to the Ted Williams Camp in Lakeville, MA for Sun Multisport’s Cranberry Trifest. Set up, stress, wander around, stress, talk to Team EnVision teammates, shiver in the cold, stress some more. There were 4 TE women doing the aquabike (25 women aquabikers total), 4 doing the full olympic tri and 2 joining together to do a relay. A good team turnout!
The race: .9 mile swim, but most people agree it felt short. Last year the pond was really shallow and a lot of folks ended up running (swimming?) aground, but the water seemed a little deeper this year. There was only one, well-marked, problem area that was easy to avoid. I was in the last wave: aquabikers and relays. It was a small manageable wave, and by the time I started swimming through the group ahead of me, it was easy to weave in, out, and around flailing arms and beating legs. The longer races are nice that way – athletes get spread out. Out of the water in 19:18 (first of the aquabikers, thank you very much!), skipped up the stone stairs without falling, phew!, all the way to the back of transition and on to the bike. If I do this again (what?!), I should probably get different bike shoes. The tongue gets in the way, and it’s hard to pull out when it gets mushed down there trapped by my wet foot. Ran the bike out of transition, kept running by the people stopping to get on their bikes and HURLED myself on the bike. Pedal, pedal, pedal, get moving! Only to be held up after maybe a mile or two – HEY! – by a police officer letting the accumulated traffic go. ARGGHH! Frustrating, yes, and it probably cost me a place (no doubt I would have been 4th for the women instead of 5th), but you never know what will happen on race day and you just have to go with it.
26.2 miles of mostly flat terrain with some rolling hills. If I was more leisurely about it, I would have noticed the beautiful ponds and fields we rode through. I hear it’s very pretty in the Lakeville, Marlboro area! Gasping for breath, trying to inhale a gu (yum, salted caramel), occasionally taking a sip of water, I finished with a bike split of 1:23:47 (good for 15th out of the 34 aquabikers), for a total time of 1:45:22 and 5th place (by a second). All of my splits were faster this year than last – that was my goal, so yeah for me! And no run. Double yeah! I’m sure my shorty wetsuit helped with the swim (I didn’t wear it last year), but faster is still faster! Another goal was to finish no more than 15 minutes behind my sister, and I did that, too. She’s a solid swimmer and kicks ass on the bike – she placed 2nd. I believe she caught up and flew past me at around mile 11 (she says it was closer to mile 13, but whatever).
Will I race next year? I’m not sure. I’ve been so ambivalent, and even negative, that maybe I should take time off from competing. I really enjoy swimming and biking with my friends and teammates, so perhaps I’ll leave it at that for a while. I want to keep it fun.
Special thanks to Greg M Cooper Photography for use of his photos. Thanks, also, to Paula and Trinity for their pictures.
A Day at the Races, Ironman Lake Placid.
My friend and tri team director, Kristi, raced in Ironman Lake Placid this past weekend so a few of us from Team EnVision went to cheer her on. I had never been to, or even considered going to, a race of this magnitude prior to meeting Kristi. I had no idea what to expect.
Kristi had rented a house – a big house – in Upper Jay, NY, and invited family and friends to give her logistical and moral support for the couple days before, during, and after the big day. Wise decision. She had time to make the 5-hour drive to Lake Placid, settle in, have a couple days to relax (?!) (there was tubing practically right outside the door!), take in the super-charged atmosphere, and deal with the logistics of the race.
And wow, talk about logistics. 2700 athletes, 3000 volunteers, and who knows how many friends and family members, all descending upon a rather small town in upstate NY. Picture 1970s Tyrolean ski chalet-themed kitch and you’ve got Lake Placid. I thought it was kind of cute, but the town has definitely seen better days.
Members of our group had been arriving since Thursday, We (4 of us) got to the Navajo Lodge late Saturday afternoon in time for a nice pre-race dinner with Kristi, her parents, girlfriend, and friends. All of us were ready to cheer her on through the race the next day. All together, there were 11 of us + a very well-behaved baby. By Saturday evening all of the details, big and small, had been attended to. Gear had been dropped off including 2 “special needs” bags full of race-day nutrition and things that might be needed during the race. These bags were available to participants on the course: one bag at the end of the first bike loop and the other at around mile 11 on the run. A far cry from the tris I do where I only need a water bottle and maybe a Gu in addition to my swim/bike/run stuff.
I can’t believe how calm Kristi appeared. Everything was in place. She had done the work – and more work – throughout the previous 9-10 months. Up early to train, eating well, figuring out what worked and didn’t work for multi-hour bike rides and runs, inviting friends to keep her company on all or parts of her workouts. Focus, clarity, dedication. Through all sorts of weather, and personal ups and downs, she put in quality effort and rarely complained. The day was finally here and she was ready. I guess there’s a calm that comes from knowing you’ve done everything you should have and could have, and you just have to see how it will play out on that one day where it all has to come together.
Kristi was up and out by around 4:15am. I was going in a car leaving at 5. Another car of supporters was heading over a little later, say 6:30, and the final part of the entourage left the Lodge by 8 or so. Parking, while not a total nightmare, could have been better marked. We parked on a side street rather than in a specified lot, since there weren’t any signs for the lots… Maybe it was because we were so early. At any rate, the town was already crawling with people. We had our team tent set up where we could hang out and watch the swim (from a little distance), and see the cyclists pass twice and runners pass 4 times. Perfect. Kristi knew where the tent was and could expect to see us at certain times during the race. AND, since the weather was calling for rain, we had shelter.
The pros went off at 6:20am followed by the age-groupers at 6:40. The rolling start was new this year: participants self-seeded based on estimated swim time. I think it made for a much safer, and probably quicker, swim although the purists grumbled about tradition. I don’t know. If fewer swimmers suffer concussions and avoid drowning by toning down the melée, is that a bad thing?
Our day, as spectators, was largely spent hanging out at the tent, napping, estimating the times Kristi would pass by, and cheering everybody on. Cowbells clanging! The Team EnVision tent was one in a long row of team tents so it was a very busy place.
Between Kristi’s bike loops I had time to get in the water and swim the course. The coolest thing about the swim is the permanent cable marking the route. Just follow the golden thread for 1.2 miles. And, if you’re doing the race, do it again. Once was enough for me – I had more cheering to do!
13:34.26 after the event started (official time: 13:27.47), Kristi ran down the chute to hear those very important hard-won words: “Kristi, you are an Ironman!”
We (partner, family, friends, and teammates) couldn’t be more proud of her.
Very short post.
I’m going up to Lake Placid, NY to watch a friend take part in that little race called IRONMAN on July 28th. I cannot believe or fathom the dedication, determination, and focus involved in getting to this point. Kristi is an amazing athlete and I’m super proud of her – and in total awe. A bunch of us from our triathlon team are going to be there to support her and cheer her on. I hope to have pictures and a story to post next week. And of course I’ll be cheering everyone else on, as well. I’ve got cowbells to clang!