Wednesday, February 28, 2007

R.I.P. Long Freestyle Sets: 2/01/07 to 2/28/07

Oh how I mourn when February comes to an end.

I treasure those early morning drives to the pool during that wintery four week period--drives during which I can rest assured that my bare and freezing toes will not brave the elements only reach the pool's edge and be told the workout consists of a flurry of 25 yard Breaststroke sprints (or anything less than pure unadulterated LONG FREESTYLE).

Of course, I might be less aggrieved to see the month end if I had significantly stepped up the hours I spent in the pool. I might have even come to dread my next swim (egads, could that ever happen to me?). But, unlike some of you (commendable) nutsos, I swam well below 100,000 yards for the month. (Around 65,000 to be generally exact.) I'd like to say this is all part of my Master Smartplan to prevent burnout and reach optimal fitness, but truly I just couldn't get any more time off from my two kiddos and one kid-husband to spend at the pool. Perhaps if I hadn't taken the kids to Disneyland, if my youngest hadn't come down with pneumonia, or if I hadn't made the trip down south for the Oscar party, I might have squeezed in some more yards. But probably not. Somehow I can get "time off" approved by the hubby for larger events, but not for a simple swim. Hmph. I think he's just jealous of swimming. It does occupy a big space in my heart.

I did try to get more time in the pool. Lots of times. Most recently, this past Tuesday night I attempted to lure my husband into a "morning switch" so that I could swim Wednesday (usually his morning to work out, but in this case the last day of February, on which I knew we'd be swimming lots and lots of yards) instead of Thursday (usually my morning, but in this case one on which I knew we were going to "break out the kickboards and tone it down". Ewwwwwwwww.). My attempted switch did not fly (or swim).

And thus, I missed yesterday and swam this morning, the first day of March. I have to give Mad Props (I'm practicing my hip hop lingo) to Tim for (as always) surprising me by making something I wasn't looking forward to, fun. Besides a good workout (below), I particularly liked his instructions/explanation before the main set. "So as you increase by 25, you're building these blocks," he said. "Or. Whatever they are."

It seems even Tim takes a day or two to readjust to sets that require actual explanation as February comes to a close. I hope it takes him longer though. I love his casual sarcasm and occasional hint that maybe it would be okay if we didn't take the set too seriously (unless of course, and here comes my daily beating of the dead horse, we're talking about long freestyle. Total seriousness and concentration is then required).

Workout (everything with about 10 seconds rest in between):

*7 x 100 (each 100 consisting of: 50 swim, 25 kick, 25 stroke)
*4 x 100 (first 100: 75 kick, 25 swim; second 100: 50 kick, 50 swim; you get the picture, down to 100 swim)2 times through (total of 8 x 100) 4 freestyle, 4 something else
*Blocks or "whatever they are" with first distance of each "block" kick, second distance 3 count drill, third distance moderate, fourth distance brisk swimming:
25, 50, 75, 100
50, 75, 100, 125
75, 100, 125, 150
*6 x 25: first 25 underwater for 6 lines on bottom of pool, second for 5 lines, down to 1. Brisk swimming (any stroke) when you come up for air.
*6 x 25: first 25 6 strokes of fly, brisk swimming for rest of lap.

*Recover from all the thinking required to keep track of short sets and take a shower.

Sarah's Friend's Trainer's Spinach and Black Bean Polenta

I'm not a health food nut, but I'm nuts about the healthy recipe I made last night. A dear friend of mine (who does triathlons) hired one of those snazzy trainers that does workouts and meals with you/for you, and I'm enjoying some of the benefits: second hand recipes already tested by my dear friend the gourmet triathlete.

You won't find me making anything difficult (ever) but this one is just about the easiest thing I've ever done and I loooooooved it. My kids even ate the polenta and beans and cheese (the non oniony, spinachy parts).

If you have a recipe to share send it along and I'll include it in a post. Give your name so we can all praise you for your recipe at the pool.

Here's the Polenta Deal:

Serving Content: 1/4 of recipe
Servings: 4 (Riiiiight. I ate at least half of this, but even so it's healthy)
Calories/Serving: 316.44
CPF Ratio (what the hell is this anyway?): 57-25-17

1 t Olive Oil
2 Garlic cloves, minced (I used two frozen Trader Joe's garlic cubes)
1/2 Cup Chicken Broth, Nonfat Reduced Sodium
1/4 Cup Sun-Dried Tomatoes (packed in oil, drained)
1/2 t Cumin
1/2 Cup Sweet Onion, chopped
1 Can Black Beans
1/2 Bag Baby Spinach
4 Cups Water
1 Cup Polenta, Dry
1 T Smart Balance Light Spread
1/2 t Salt
4 oz Cheese, Cabot Cheddar 75% Light (from Trader Joe's. But I used full fat sharp Cheddar and I DO recommend it :)

1. Heat oil in nonstick skillet over med-high heat. Add garlic; saute 1 minute
2. Stir in broth, tomatoes, cumin, onion, and beans; bring to simmer. Cook 2-3 min, stirring occasionally.
3. Remove from heat. Add spinach, tossing to combine.
4. Bring water to boil in medium pot. Add polenta, Smart Balance, and salt; stir well w/ a whisk.
5. Reduce heat, and simmer 3 min or until thick, stirring constantly.
6. Spoon 3/4 Cup polenta into each of 4 bowls (or put it all into your bowl. you earned it while swimming after all). Top each with 3/4 Cup bean mixture and 1 oz. cheese.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Before you think this is a misspelled golf reference, let me just say I'm talking about the nine four hundreds we did this morning. When the warm up was 3 x 400 there weren't any groans from the liquid peanut gallery. But the announcement of 5 x 400 as the main set seemed to "set" some folks off.

Me? I was smiling. Sometimes it seems as if the workout was written just for me, or as if those $20 bills I slip Tim once in a while really pay off. Not only is the 400 my favorite distance to swim in practice, but I love doing them with no gear, and over and over and over. Just putting my head down and swimming is my kind of morning. That's basically what this morning was, and I'm already getting teary-eyed thinking about the end of February tomorrow.

Here's the entire workout:

Warm up with 3 x 400
Main set: 5 x 400. switch leaders every 400
Warm down with 1 x 400 broken at the 100 for 5 seconds.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Ah, The Oscars

I didn't get to swim this morning. I love my Monday morning swim and I hate to miss it. But every year I go to down south to my best friend's house (along with my other best friend) for a women-only Oscar party. For this, I miss a swim.

I did get a good workout, as you can see, posing on the red carpet. There were also great healthy food options at the party, like salad, which I had some of just before I hit the shrimp wrapped in bacon platter, the salmon and brie crostinis, and the enchillada casserole.

Ah, the Oscars!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

No Whining

Here's what I battled this morning (from last night of course) at 5:30AM. My head hurt (probably more from the three homemade frosted brownies I ate than the glass of red wine) and I was tired.

Sometimes the wine and chocolate doesn't seem worth it...for about five minutes. I do love it so. And I loved this morning's workout nearly as much. I'm a glutton for long sets of freestyle.

Here it is:

400 easy free
400 moderate free
add pull gear for the following 3,000 yards(!) of freestyle:
1x500 then pull apart and do 2x250
1x400 then pull apart and do 2x200
1x300 then pull apart and do 2x150
1x200 then pull apart and do 2x100
1x100 then pull apart and do 2x50
warm down with another easy 400 and call it a 4200 yard day!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Eat, Sleep, Swim

Some people don't understand why I (we) get up at 5:15 am to jump in and swim for an hour before the sun is up (it's effin' cold and dark!). For me though, it's as natural as eating and sleeping, but that's because I'm used to it and I love every minute of it (much like I love every bit of eating and sleeping). I couldn't/wouldn't do it if I didn't. I also have to give big kudos to coach Tim for being the kind of guy you want to show up and perform for. Yes, he's a hottie and thus serves as early morning eye candy for many of us (just keepin' it real here), but he also has a certain uber coachy, fun, inspirational something that makes you want to "do good" for him. It takes me back to high school--all that drive to succeed in sports, and I thank him for that.

One of my greatest wishes is that all of my dear friends would swim too. I just can't get over the idea that every one of them would gain as much mojo and good energy from it as I do. I know that's not correct--those that run long distance (and I know a lot of you do) probably feel the same way about running and I'll be damned if I'm going to run more than five miles at a time on a casual basis (and every mile is painful for me).

I guess I just belong in the water. There's something about being buoyant and largely submerged for an hour first thing in the morning that does much more than work my muscles. Somehow, it works my soul. I flow, things around me and in my mind are fluid. I think about the set I'm swimming, what length I'm on and how much rest I'll get when I touch the wall, and where the big hand should be on the time clock when I push off again. These technical thoughts mix together lap by lap with work ideas, inspirations for kids activities, large psychological and political issues, and just plain noodling about the meaning of life and how I feel about my own life. When a thought gets too heavy, I'm pulled back into the set and I concentrate on my stroke. Lengthen. Rotate. Recover. And then the set is over and I can banter sarcastically with my lane mates.

Swimming is a workout for me yes, but largely it's a watery meditation, and I can no more live without it than without food or rest. On the days I don't swim I feel "off". I work on not feeling that way, because I can't, with two small children and a husband that needs to get to work as well, swim every day. But it's hard to feel right without my swim. It kick starts my day like nothing else.

And that's not all. It's been such a wonderful family activity - swim races and events - where my kids get to see me compete (and yes, lose gracefully).

I owe so very much more than my good cardiovascular system, to swimming and everyone I swim with in the mornings. And I'd (we'd all) love to hear your swim story. Share the watery love: leave a comment about your own swim routine or experience!

A Morning In The Life

Everything starts to look gosh darned rosey when my coffee is poured.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Cans and Yards-A-Plenty

For most people, this past month is been February. As you all know, for us it's Can-Do February. And boy are we doing some swimmin'.

This Can-Do February has been a Menlo Masters "thing" for years. This thing was originally started because Coach Tim firmly believes that one can change and improve one's swimming, and of course overall fitness, with about 5-7 hours of swimming per week. This translates to about 100,000 yards for the month. Yah. I'll say. That's a lot of swimming (and I love it!).

Over the years this aerobic training has evolved into an “event.” Tim added the 100,000 and 50,000 yard club for motivation. It's amazing how much allure being able to say "Yah, I'm part of that club" can have. Swimmers are fans of clubs.

Then Tim added something even more inspiring than the promise of bragging rights: swimming for a cause. These days, for every 2000 yards each of us swims, we donate a can of food. In past years the team has donated up to 3000 cans at the end of the month. This year is the first year Menlo Masters as an organization will be matching the canned food donations from the individual swimmers. The beneficiary of this food will be the Senior Center in East Menlo Park.

When it's all said and done, I'll post a wrap-up of the yards and cans we accumulated, but I can go ahead and tell you right now: we rock.

I'll leave you with this. Here's what I'm talkin' about: donated frosting. Now that's giving.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Watch this movie. Now.

I'm prepping for the Oscars but I took time out to watch a documentary film about swimming today, and I'm glad I did. If you swim, are a woman, and/or are Jewish (I fit all three categories), or you just plain have a heart (usually I'm good there too), watch this movie. It makes you feel proud to be a swimmer and lucky to be alive. The following is from an review. I second it!

"Watermarks" is a remarkable documentary, as remarkable as the women whose stories it tells. It harkens back to early 20th century Vienna, Austria, a time when the Jewish community was well-settled, prosperous, and largely assimilated, and tells the true story of Hakoah, a Jewish sports club, the largest membership sports club in the world. We mainly learn about the women's swim team: they are charming, intelligent, high-spirited, and as independent as the times allow them to be. These women were athletes, and in the old footage, you can see that they just loved to swim: there's even a lot of footage of their happily diving into the Danube River, which, at that time, must have been as unpleasant an open sewer as most of the world's other major urban rivers.

During the 1930's,three of these women were ranked the numbers 1-2-3- Austrian swimmers. They had to make a choice about participation in the 1936 Olympics, in Hitler's Germany, and chose not to attend. The Austrian Sports Board thereupon stripped them of their titles. Of course, there was worse to come, but these Viennese women were quite sophisticated enough to recognize that: they,and their families all got out of Austria in time. They follow their motto "Say yes to life," in exile, and prove every bit as remarkable as they were at home. Finally, as part of the making of this documentary, the remaining women who were able to travel reassemble in Vienna, and take one more swim in the great and beautiful sports hall of their youthful triumphs. There's sheer joy as they slip into the water again; and not a dry eye in the house."

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Early Morning Safeway Run

In all my years of swimming I have never arrived to hear the coach say "We can't get in. The chemicals are off. It's just not safe."

I know this happens from time to time, I just thought it quite possibly would never happen to me. And on a Saturday at 6am for G-d's sake! Of course, Tim was away on a three day ride. This explains a lot. Technically, his record's still clean.

After a rare outing last night with red wine and lasagna I managed to answer my 5:30am alarm this morning, chew down my favorite pre-workout discovery of late (this actually tastes good and gets me through a swim feeling like I've already had two cups of coffee minus that post liquid need to pee), rip myself off the computer after only five minutes of checking the Maya's Mom site, and get to the pool. All this only to be turned away with extreme workout consummation frustration!

I took a deep breath and tried to see it as a blessing. Here are the things that went through my mind:

"I can get a coffee now instead of in an hour."
"I can sit in my car in my driveway and sleep so no one in my family knows I'm actually available to help with surely-by-now-awake children."
"Crap. What I really need to do is go to Safeway and buy more milk."

I went to Safeway. But it wasn't unpleasant. I love the early pre-dawn morning, and this one here in CA is glorius. Not a cloud in the sky and the day promises to be 75 degrees and sunny, just like yesterday (it's FEBRUARY by the way. This is why we pay millions to live in houses with 1.5 bedrooms and no yard).

The shopping center was dark but the muzak was just starting to come on in the center speakers and the floor sweepers in Safeway were putting away their gear. I got to shop nearly alone in a place that is usually so packed I can't keep track of my two unruly boys who attack each aisle as if they were all filled with baby crack (for some reason even the boxes of cat food have to be taken out to feel and disorganize. We don't have a cat and the food isn't appealing. This is all just part of the toddler pull-down-and-wreak-havoc response to all retail experiences I guess).

I saw a fellow teammate, a mom of four grown kids who is twice my age and swims twice as many yards a week as I do, in one of the aisles of Safeway, shopping with the same swimsexual frustration look in her eyes.

"Same idea," I said.

"Hey there," she said. "It was bound to happen someday. Good to get the shopping done at least."

"Yup. Gotta get some milk home to the waking kids."

"Ha," she said. "I'm going back to sleep after this."

"Nice," I said. "Rub it in." We laughed. The day began.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Post-Valentine's Day (Chocoholic Day) Workout

Step One: Get up when alarm goes off even though thick fog of Valentine's Day chocolate fondue hangover shouts "STAY IN BED".

Step Two: Gather things together for work in 4.5 minutes in order to arrive at practice on time (chocolate fondue plus red wine made outfit prep for this morning impossible last night).

Step Three: After arriving late regardless of speedy prep at home, do workout:

*1000 free (I missed the explanation and just swam the darn thing straight)

Add Paddles for:

*2 x 300 free on the 1:30 base
*6 x 100 free on the 1:25
*2 x 200 free on the 1:30 base
*6 x 100 free on the 1:20

*4 x 50 free on the 55, 50, 45, 40. repeat twice.

*1 x 400 free with every fourth length backstroke.

~4000 yards

Step Four: Pat self on back for getting chocolate logged butt to workout.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

2 Can Morning

Ah, it's nice to be back after a three day hiatus from swimming and the long drives to and from LA (not to mention the bouts of vomiting from my little guy surrounding the Disneyland visit).

All three of my alarms (my two sons and my watch) were weak (or kind to me) this morning and I slept a bit more than usual but got to the pool fifteen minutes late. Luckily I don't have any meetings today and I was able to leisurely finish the workout and then keep going to make up what I missed (and then a bit). To top off the indulgent morning I got to use my favorite new product for the first time after my shower. This stuff smells like the curly cued little lemon zest they put on your cocktail at high-end bars, and it makes you feel like butter. But back to the workout...

All done with fins

2 x 600
25 fly kick on back, 25 flutter kick on back, 50 two arm back, 100 regular back. stop for 5 seconds. 50 fly kick on side, 50 flutter kick on side, 100 fist free, 200 regular free. Wait for last person and repeat!

3 x 600
first 600: broken at the 150. first 150 easy back, second 150 strong back, third 150 easy free, fourth 150 strong free.
second 600: broken at the 200. first 200 strong back, second 200 easy free, third 200 strong free.
third 600: broken at the 300. first 300 back, second 300 free.

1 x 1000
regular free, every fourth length flutter kick on back.
4000 yards (2 cans!)