Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Swimming: The Secret Sport

As a swim coach, I do a lot of reading about the sport.  I don't do it because it is my "job", I do it because not only can I pass on relevant tips to my swimmers, but I also try and continue to improve.

Swimming is an enigma to most.  In a lot of ways it a very much a "secret" sport.  Most practices go on while other people are still sleeping and they are usually contained to a rec center.  You don't see swimmers along the side of the road like you see runners or cyclists.  Swimming is not a sport that you can do anywhere, you have to seek it out.

There is very little "glamour" to swimming.  Nobody has ever posed for Playboy wearing a cap and goggles, and there is no way to look sexy in a Speedo.  Recently, I read an article that described swimming as zen mixed with masochism.  I laughed and thougth about how this is shockingly accurate.  Swimmers voluntarily get up early, very early, to jump into a cold pool and swim up and down and up and down for hours all while depriving ourselves of oxygen.  And why do we do it?  Because we like the challenge, we like the feeling of a hard workout, and we like the "high" we get from doing something the majority of people can't do.  It is a feeling of accomplishment, pride and a continued quest to achieve goals.

You know that joke about how you don't have to ask someone if they ran a marathon, they will tell you?  Swimming is the opposite.  I think it boils down to the workout itself.  Everyone has tried running.  Running is hard.  Most people know the kind of energy that goes into running a mile, let alone the thought of running 26.2 miles.  If I tell someone I swam 4000 yards it sounds like a lot, but they don't have anything personal to compare it to.  If I were to say that 4000 yards is actually 160 laps, you can almost see the little lightbulb go off on top of their head and it starts to make sense.  When you tell them you did all of that in 75 minutes, it makes even more sense and their jaws start to drop.

But swimmers don't do that.  Why?  Because it doesn't matter.  I don't swim for other people.  I don't do what I do in order to have something to tell people, or a picture to post on facebook or instagram.  I swim because I love it, and so do the other weirdos who swim with me.

And within our secret society we talk about what we love, we talk about our workout and we are able to relate to each other about something that other people don't understand.

The secret sport of swimming.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Struggling with recovery

I am now 4 days out from the marathon and my soreness has decreased.  At the same time though, it has changed.  I am no longer actively paralyzed from the waist down, but I have some muscles that just do not want to loosen up.

I attempted to go out for a trot today.  I planned on not taking a watch and just seeing how I felt and doing 4-5 miles depending on the legs.  They were loud and clear:

I think it was too soon.  My hamstrings, namely my right hamstring, is just screaming.  Additionally, I am having a strange issue with not being able to keep any food down today so I left work to go home due to not wanting to vomit during our weekly meeting.  I have no idea what it could be from.  Don't worry, not preggo.  The world isn't ready for more gingery Boylans just yet.

When I got home I immediately went to down on the foam roller, but it doesn't seem to be helping.  I know what most people would say, just rest.  But my issue is that I have a half in two weeks and I feel like I need to get back out there in order to push through.

The voices in my head while running today were saying "who give a shit about the half, let us rest" and I am going to listen.  I am hoping another day or two off the legs will be the final boost I need to be fully recovered.

Until then...

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Revel Rockies Marathon: Race Review


I did it!  My goal of completing two marathons in three months is complete!

When I made the decision to sign up for another marathon a few months ago I wasn't sure what to expect from my performance.  It was fresh in my mind how bad those last few miles were and, of course, I want to be able to do better.  So, one day while browsing facebook I saw an ad for the Revel Denver Marathon.  The race was all downhill (4500 ft of loss) and around the right timeframe I was looking for to do this again.  I love running downhill.  And I am actually kind of good at it.  I think it has to do with gravity finally working in my favor.  This was the inaugural year for this event.  Sometimes that works in your favor, and other times it is bad.  Very bad. (Ahem...Xterra Aspen anyone?)

Fat Kid Rolling Hook

So let's get down to it.  The race was Sunday morning and packet pickup was downtown Denver on Saturday.  Saturday morning I went out for a two mile run just to stay loose, and did our usual weekend stuff, went to Costco, etc.  Before we knew it we had to head down to the expo.  The hours were 10AM to 8PM, so they definitely catered to everyone's timeframe.  We rolled downtown around 5PM and it was practically empty.  There were a few vendors, but nothing fancy and we were in and out within 10 minutes.

We met up with some of our friends at the expo and headed over to dinner together.  We had a lovely carb session at Macaroni Grill and by the time we were done we headed over to our hotel.  We decided to get a hotel because my wakeup call was at 3:45 AM.  If I had left from our house in Boulder it probably would have taken about 45 minutes to an hour to get there....getting up at 2:45 to run a marathon just doesn't sound good, so we opted for a hotel about 3 minutes from the race finish.  The race parking lot was right next to the Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, CO.  This was a point to point course, so we parked at the finish and took a bus to the start.  Also, I was the only one running the full out of our group, so the other girls who shared the room with us got to sleep awhile longer and Patrick hitched a ride with them.

We checked into the hotel and got our things together for the morning and went to sleep around 9:30.  It was one of those nights where I felt like I didn't sleep at all.  I would lay there, look at the clock and an hour would pass.  I know I did sleep, it just wasn't very satisfying.  So the last time I looked at the clock I had two minutes till the alarm went off so I got up and snuck out of the room without making too much noise.  I drove over to the finish and got on the bus within 15 minutes.  And then we were off.

The drive seemed to take forever.  It took over an hour to get to the top of the course (which was about 2000 ft short of the peak of Mt. Evans).  We basically stopped in the middle of the road, and there were about a dozen porta potties.  This is when I realized how small this race really was.  There were only about 400 people signed up for the full.  So looking around, it seemed like a joke to have a dozen bathrooms, but I was able to use one before the race so I was ok with it.  They did delay the start by a few minutes to allow everyone some extra time.

Before I knew it the race started and I was wedged between the 4:10 and 4:25 pace group.  I started a comfortable, slow trot and I was enjoying the immediate downhill.  As we started to descend further, the pack spread out and I was keeping pace with the 3:55 pace group somewhat easily.  What was really weird to me is the 3:55 and 3:45 pace group were right next to each other, so I sped up a bit and went with the 3:45 pace group.

I was cruising, it felt good, I couldn't believe the fact that I was holding a pace under 9 minutes.  In fact, for the first 6.9 miles I held an 8:41 pace.  So I just went with it.  I stayed with this group until the halfway point where I looked down and saw my watch at 1:51.  I crushed my half PR by 12 minutes!  I was still holding an 8:40 pace.  Up until this point it was a smooth downhill.  There was only one tiny uphill.  Well, right after the aid station at the half there was a giant uphill, followed by another giant uphill.  Moving this much solid muscle mass (BAHAHAHAA) up a giant hill is hard work, and my pace slowed down considerably.  I waved goodby to the 3:45 group (just kidding, they left me in the dust without saying anything.  Dicks.) and decided to walk for a bit to eat a gel.

At this point is where I saw something strange in the road and jogged up to it.  It was a giant brown dildo.  I kid you not.  I looked around to find someone to laugh with and realized I was all by myself and made a sad clown face and pressed on.  Truly a highlight of the race for me.

It was at this point I realized I had been a little too aggressive with my pace at the beginning.  Between the uphills and the flats during the middle section my pace increased to 10:10 (yeah, told you) but I was still ahead of the 3:55 pacer and she was my target to stay in front of.  At mile 20 I hit the wall.  My left hip was aching and sending pain up and down my left leg and I started to walk.  Until this point I hadn't walked at all except for that first uphill for a bit and through the aid stations.  And once I started to walk I knew it was the beginning of the end.

I started to do a walk run and I was compensating for my left hip through my right leg, trying to propel myself forward.  I was holding about 11:00 minute miles through the walk/run method and around mile 23 is when the 3:55 pacer passed me.  This was also a very slow uphill section.  I was driving the pain train.  I watched my under 4 hour dreams pass me by and I realized I was still crushing my previous time of 4:40.

The last few miles are a blur of running/walking and pain.  I was just ready to be done and I knew it was close when I got to downtown Morrison.  A nice policeman told me that I had one more turn and then the finish line.  I started to book it toward that turn and that's when I saw a hill that looked like Everest.  I was walking again and at the top of the hill I saw my cheering section:

Patrick looking regal as can be.
So I did the best I could and managed to get back into a trot...
Oh haaaaaaayyyy.
Green shirt guy had no chance.
And I finally crossed the finish line at 4:21!  A 20 minute PR!  Thinking about the race now I always try to analyze what I could have done differently.  I suppose I could have taken it out slower, but I am not really sure I wouldn't have been that dead at mile 20.  Regardless, I proved to myself I could go under 2 hours in a half, and 20 minutes off my time is nothing to feel bad about.

After I went through the finisher chute I sat down.  I think my face says it all:

I felt kind of faint so I just sat for a few minutes before we went back to Boulder to go to breakfast.

And that's the end of it.  My mission is complete and I am proud of myself.  If anyone were to ask about this race I would say they have to like running downhill, but the race itself was smooth, the aid stations were filled with great, smiling people, plenty of gatorade and the necessities.  The course was beautiful.  I give Revel Denver an A.  I have a feeling I will be back next year.

By the way, everyone in our group fucking crushed their half.  This course is a PR dream.

And now, I am DOMS-ing hard.  My body is more wrecked than after the last marathon.  All the downhill was brutal on my legs.  I took yesterday off, I don't think I would have been able to do anything.  I am walking around like Frankenstein.  I rolled last night and this morning I felt better, good enough to go swim at the Rez.  I think all the goose poop provided some healing elements because I feel better already.  I am not sure when I will be ready to run again, but it will be this week because I have the Chicago Half Marathon on September 7th!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Going Back After a Race

Recovery is different for different people.  And how do you know when you're ready to go back to working out?

A lot of recovery is a mental game.  And recovery is different depending on what one is recovering from.  Sometimes, after training for something for so long, and then the race happens, you are so mentally burned out from thinking about the race you just need to take somet ime off.  I think when you have a lot riding on the result of the race (making a cut) or if you have put a significant amount of time into the training where it took away from other aspects of your life, you have felt the mental burnout.

From my experience, recovery after a long swim is minimal.  Swimming in itself is very low impact, which is why when people get injured you will often find them at the pool.  This is not saying that some aspects of swimming are not rough on the body - anyone who has swam butterfly will assure you of this.  But for the most part, swimming freestyle is not all that taxing on the joints.  This is also why people are able to swim their entire lives without injury, and why swimming is the greatest sport in the world.  But that is a different topic.

Last year I started to feel some pain in my right shoulder.  After going through a circle of nonsense through Kaiser, I was left with the diagnosis of a micro-tear in my rotator cuff.  Basically I had to learn to live with it, or wait for it to tear completely before a doctor would do anything about it.  So I continued on with my life.

Every once in awhile after a hard workout I will feel some pain in my shoulder, and sometimes at night I feel a gentle throbbing.  But really, there is nothing I can do about it so I always just let it go.  After the 10k my shoulder was really sore.  Towards the end I felt like my right arm was totally failing and I was doing as much with my left arm as I could without starting to actually swim in circles.  Additionally, my neck was so sore from breathing because I only breathe to the right.  The tightness I was feeling was surprising to me, because I don't ever feel that from any other practice.  So my recovery from the swim included not swimming for two days. One day because my neck was sore, and one day because I would rather lay in bed with my husband than get up for swimming  :-)

Also, recovery between activities is totally not related.  Monday night I had to do my last long run becuase I didn't do it on Sunday.  I ran 10 miles and didn't feel any sort of tiredness as a result of the swim on Sunday.  The muscle groups must vary enough that I wasn't able to associate the soreness from the swim to running. Another thing that is totally different is that during a swim practice, you swim at different speeds the entire time.  I mean, you warm up, then do a set, then do a different set, then cool down.  The stroke is changing all the time, the speed is always different.  If I do a really really hard swim practice, I usually don't need to take a day off to recover. I just don't swim as hard the next day.  With running, some days my run is so hard and/or long, you couldn't pay me to run the next day.  Not even skip.   

My usual recovery routine.

Running recovery is very labor intensive.  You have to roll, you have to put your legs against a wall, you have to rest, you have to hydrate, you have to eat, and you have to hurt.  My training plans always consist of less mileage per day, but more days a week.  So at the very most, I get 1-2 rest days a week.  I was thinking back on my training for the last marathon and how much it hurt when I started to put some real miles on my trunks.  I was in a constant state of pain.  My shin splints were out of control, I was mentally exhausted, and my body was just saying "no".  Then finally it came time for taper and I looked back and thought "that wasn't that bad".  Immediately after the marathon I remember wanting to take a break.  A long break.  But after two days I found myself wanting to run again.  And sure enough, three days later I went for a short run to assess how my body felt and as soon as I felt ready I was putting in the miles again.

Figure out what works for your recovery.  Whether it be a massage, couch time, cross training, stretching, candy or weeks off.  The body is an amazing thing, make sure you take care of it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ice Bucket Challenge

I am sorry, I couldn't keep my thoughts to myself any longer.  It is my understanding that someone dumps a bucket of ice water on their head and then challenges other people to do the same.  The people who are challenged then have 24 hours to do the challenge and ask others to dump a bucket of water on their head.  If someone who is challenged does not get this done they are supposed to donate $100 to ALS research.

Ummm, what?

So, in order to raise "awareness" we have a bunch of idiots go online, make a movie of themselves participating in a wet t-shirt contest to AVOID donating money to charity?  It is amazing what people will do in order to take part in social media.  How altruistic to donate money because someone told you to.  And the bonus is getting all the praise and drawing attention to yourself.

Wow.  This campaign has really made me more aware.  If money is what they want, skip the ice bucket and write a check to make a difference. Do it because you want to, because you care about the cause.  Don't do it because Facebook told you to.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Clarification on my support system

Having a support system around me is the reason why I keep doing what I do.  Whether it be in my personal life, my athletic challenges, or work.

A few posts ago I said that my family was not really supportive of me.  After talking to my mom and sister, I realize this was not true.  In the same way that I feel I don't get support, they also feel as though I don't support them.  I thought about this for awhile and I realize this is extremely true.  I do put myself first, I do spend my time doing what I want to do as the priority.  I am selfish with my time.

My sister is an amazing person.  She is beautiful inside and out and far more funny than I could ever be.  She is one of those people who just gets me.  There are so many times during the day that something happens and I know that she is the only other person on Earth that would think the exact same thing at that exact same moment.  She is going through a rough time right now and because I am openly selfish I will say that I don't support her as much as I could.  She got married before me and has already had one baby and pregnant with her second.  She also started and operates her own business (Button Rock Bakery in Lyons, CO).  She does it all.  She has a beautiful family and no time for anything else.  To expect much more from her is wrong of me and I am sorry that I made it sound like she was sipping mimosas instead of coming to all of my races.  My sister is my best friend and I know she supports me however she can.  She and my mom are the first people I call after a race is done, when I get a raise, when I find something cool at the mall, and they always will be.

At the Say Anything concert.
Andy and Aunt Linny selfie.
Solo Andy selfie.
My mom is the greatest person I know.  She would do absolutely anything for me or my sister, and now her grandson.  My mom is the most selfless person in the entire world.  Growing up she would buy her clothes at Target and Costco so that we could have our clothes from J.Crew and Banana Republic.  She would drop anything for us and so anything we asked.  She supports me in anything I ask, and even when she cannot be at my races she is "with me".  Before my last marathon my mom and sister got me a necklace that I wore on race day so they were both with me the whole way.  Mom has and always will be my number one fan and I shouldn't expect her to come to anything else in my entire life after all the swim meets she sat through.  I am lucky that I have the best mom in the world who has gone from being my mom to becoming my best friend.  She is always everything I need her to be and more, and now she is the best grandma in the world and my kids will be able to love her as much as I do.
Nana and Andy
My shoe necklace.
I was wrong to say they are not supportive, we are all just at different points in our lives and our priorities and time are spent differently.  I know that what I do will always be important to both of them the same way that everything they do is important to me.

I love you both.