And Now, Some Aspirational Swim Caps

As we head into the first true summer weekend, please take a moment to decide whether one of these ladies might inspire your best possible poolside fashion choices. And you can’t all pick the woman on the far left.

Source: And Now, Some Aspirational Swim Caps

Some readers were likely a kid when these were a thing, and at one point even owned one with a flower or two on it…

The smell was horrible. They would fill up with water and swell up, then you’d step out of the pool and the water would pour out.

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How I Learned to Love Swimming Laps for Exercise

Swim for fitness. That sounded easy: I already knew how to swim. So one day I stood on the pool deck looking at all the other happy lap swimmers, from speedy athletes to the portly old lady, swimming slow and steady. I was about to join their ranks, but I was woefully unprepared.

When I pushed off the wall to swim my first length, I began to sink. I flailed my arms to keep from drowning, and then I started kicking, but then my legs sank and were basically useless. Then I felt like I was going to suffocate, so I forced myself to the surface, gasped for air, and dove down again. When I finally reached the end of the first lap, I clutched the edge of the pool sucking in air. The old lady glided up next to me, touched the wall with her hand and then her feet, and serenely glided away. How could I be more like her?

Source: How I Learned to Love Swimming Laps for Exercise

I took lessons when I was a kid, which didn’t go very far.  I remember understanding freestyle things I needed to do, but lacked coordination to get it right.  I didn’t fear swimming, but starting triathlon training was the first time I’d even been in a pool for a very long time.  I’d heard about Total Immersion from a co-worker, and I found it a much better experience than the lessons I got as a kid.  I highly recommend Total Immersion lessons if you can find them.

The article glosses over the length of the pool.  50 yard/meter is obviously twice the distance – it’s not what I’d recommend for beginners.  The distance is also important when you quote times for a given distance – you’re coming off the wall (turning around in the swim lane) more often in a 25 yard/meter lane, which is free speed.  Whereas with open water, there’s no push off.  Open water starts range from standing on dry land to treading water.  And there’s no walls to get free speed from in open water… but you can wear wetsuits for open water swimming.  Lots rely on the wetsuit to correct their swimming – organizers from a local triathlon the previous year restructured their race because over 25% of registrants were going to withdraw because the swim was looking to be non-wetsuit (due to temp rules).

I’ve heard stories from others about their experiences with the local Masters swim club.  Masters swimming for them seemed to be made of ex-competitive swimmers, which made it difficult for a new swimmer to do anything.  Hopefully others experiences are different/better, but a triathlon club might be a better experience.  Lots take the swim portion to address swim fears.

The article also didn’t mention water temperature.  The lap pool can be colder than some would like, but that just means you need to get swimming.  I can’t swim in heated pools for very long before I have to hop out in order to bring down my body temperature.

LED Guides in These Goggles Keep Open Water Swimmers on Course

Swimming from one end of a pool to the other in a straight line is a lot easier than trying to stay on track when swimming in a lake or open water. But a new pair of swim goggles can keep track of what direction you’re heading and help keep you swimming in a straight line using a pair of subtle LEDs.

Source: LED Guides in These Goggles Keep Open Water Swimmers on Course

Don’t get your hopes up.  It’s on kickstarter, and the video is not actual footage.  The technology has been around for years now, why hasn’t any of the big names come out with something?

Having swam numerous open water events this past season, the first thing that sticks out for me is that the goggles only let you set one direction.  Nothing in the description says “waypoint”, an actual fixed point that you would navigate around.  Most open water triathlon swim courses have at least two buoys to navigate, so you’d have to stop your swim to reset/calibrate for every additional buoy.

Another experience that will render the goggles useless: getting them knocked off, or at least enough that you can’t see out of one goggle.  Happened to me for the first time this season.  Loosing a $20 pair of goggles isn’t a big deal, but ones that run $200?

My call: avoid, at least until the product matures.  Being able to sight in the water is very important, and you don’t need to see the buoy when you can follow the people in front of you.

Race Report

This was another triathlon I did the previous year, so I can review my time to see how or if I improved.  By my count, this also marks the 8th triathlon for me this season.  I only have one more left after this for the 2015 season, and I have to admit – I’m looking forward to “off season”.  Though for me, “off season” means cyclocross.

The Swim

I don’t believe it – my swim time was identical to last year.  16:14…  I know I swam without a wetsuit last year, but I don’t remember if it was a non-wetsuit swim last year.  The weather this year has been quite warm for months, so even the local clubs were advising people to train for swimming non-wetsuit.

This year was a different start.  The organizers separated us by swim time into two groups, where people who claimed 15 min or less were in the first wave.  I don’t remember providing a swim time, but I was in the first wave.  I definitely could have been faster, but this was the first race I remember dealing with congestion for the entire swim.  The first buoy was so bad, I started breast-stroking to let the crazy go but it was still pandemonium getting around and I was very thankful to get on the outside so I could swim around people without running into someone elses feet.  I guess part of this was due to the race being a championship event – there might have been 4 in my category last year, this year it was 12.

Got lost in T1, took a moment to find my bike.  First time that’s ever happened to me, but then I usually spend a lot of time reviewing the transition setup and how I’d attack it.

The Bike

The start felt good, but eventually I lost the people I was trading places with.  Bike time was 43:10, compared to 37:26 last year.  5 minute deficit…  The last real hill on the course, I dropped down to small chainring.  Which is something I never do.  I do remember grinding that hill out last year, but that doesn’t account for 5 minutes difference.  I know I got good speed where I could, so I’m wondering where I lost that much time.

The Run

I believe last year on this course I got my personal best.  I knew early on that I was not feeling in a position to do better or as well.   I drank too much on the bike just before T2, felt it on the run.  But I got a lot of compliments on my finish because I actually sprinted this time.  I didn’t think I could get from my run form into a sprint, the motion feels very different.  But once I was in, I’m flying because my 100 m sprint times were typically under 13 seconds.  Nothing stelar with respect to track & field, but faster than most.  Run time was 33:44.

Total time this year: 1:33:08

Part of what I’ve noticed is my lack of enthusiasm about doing the my last triathlons of this season.  After doing the three back to back, I’m more burnt out than I would have given credit.  Not physically, but mentally.  Part of that could be about the challenges to reclaim fitness in less time than the previous year, and little to no improvement anywhere.  Couple of weeks until the last one, and then three weeks afterwards – first cyclocross race of 2015.

How Learning to Swim Changed Over the Course of American History

Now that the dog days of July have arrived, you’ve probably given some thought to taking a dip. But first, you might consider some beach tips from a pair of books—both from the historical medical collection here at the New York Academy of Medicine, published in 1818 and 1918—once used to teach swimming. Of course, some advice has aged better than others.

Source: How Learning to Swim Changed Over the Course of American History

It’s an interesting read, to see how complete the instruction books were for the time period.  I do think swimming is one of the life skills you need to learn.  It was highlighted for our local community recently because there were a few drownings in the past year by tourists.  The local lakes and parks haven’t had lifeguards for as long as I’ve been a kid, but then drowning is silent (contrary to TV/movie/media).

Lots of people I’ve met have used swimming training for triathlon to address & conquer their fear of the water.  To my knowledge, they are largely successful.  One found out they loved open water swimming – they just waited for everyone to leave before starting off.  This person was finding that swimming in a pool was triggering her anxiety now, but she still doesn’t quite understand what the trigger is.  Lots I know do not like swimming through weeds, which can happen in open water.  Meh – it’s unnerving for a moment when you touch one but it’s not likely to get tangled & cause problems.

Study: Beaches Are Literal Human Litter Boxes

Bacterial organisms gotta tan, too.

“No swimming” signs have already popped up this summer along coastlines where fecal bacteria have invaded otherwise inviting waters. Some vacationers ignore the signs while others resign themselves to tanning and playing on the beach. But should those avoiding the water be wary of the sand, too? New research in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology investigates reasons why the answer could be “yes.”

Source: Attention beachgoers: Fecal contamination affects sand more than water

This means that soon after you take that dip in the ocean, you’ll be greeted with even grosser bacteria once you lay your beautiful body down in that sand.

Who wants to build a sand castle? 😀

Race Report

7th sprint triathlon of the season, and this another race I’d done the previous year.  I remember the bike course being the easiest of all that I’ve done to date, and the run being one of the more challenging.  It is supposed to be a 500 m open water swim, but last year people (including myself) wondered why the times were so high & the organizers adjusted to say the buoys got mixed up.  We’d done 750 m instead, and I’ve been able to reproduce the time for 750 m swims.  Just not consistently.

The Swim and Transition (T1)

Same as last year, this open water swim was non-wetsuit.  The water temperature was 24.7 C.  People were saying it was warmer in the water than standing on the beach.  Unlike last year, this was a 500 m swim.  But speaking to someone afterwards, who said their Garmin put it at 600 meters.  Last year, it was to be a 500 m swim but when people complained about the swim times being way off so the organizers posted an update to say it had been a 750 swim due to a misplacement of a buoy.

Last year, my swim time was 13:19.  This year?  12:10.  If it was really 600 m, and I know I was wide (more on that later) sometimes, that puts me a tad over 2 minutes/100 meters.  Which is almost back to form, but as I mentioned there were some factors to consider.

My start was terrible.  It was a mass start for men, women, and relays.  I found myself behind people who were slower than me.  I was desperately trying to find a way around without getting kicked, and did not get out unscathed.  While I didn’t make skin contact, someone’s heel dislodged my right goggle.  I swam with one eye the entire time, which made me see (heh) how much I rely on my right eye for sighting.  So getting stuck hurt my time, as did not being able to see properly.  I did manage to find an opening to get out, but between adrenaline and a desire to get away from the pack – I was struggling to reclaim my breathing.  All this before the first buoy…  I worked at pulling back on the speed, and ran into some trouble after the first buoy when I swallowed some water.  I did not need something messing with my breathing, but I’ve had good success with recovering from swallowing water while staying in motion.

MY T1 time this year was 1:55, compared to 1:46 last year.  I was breathing heavy coming out of the water, so I don’t know if I was as fast as last year.  In addition, I had trouble putting my cycling shoes on because the boa enclosure was not open.  I definitely lost a couple seconds working with the boa buckle.  First time it’s been an issue but I will be more vigilant about the shoes in the future.  I still highly recommend boa equipped shoes vs anything else.

The Bike and Transition (T2)

It rained the previous day, so I opted to swap my bike tires for something better suited to wet roads.  I usually run Schwalbe Ultremo’s, but in the wet – they feel like the tire pressure is too low.  So for wet conditions, I use Continental Grand Prix 4000.  It was a good call, as the first thing I noticed when I reached for my shoes in T1 was that it had rained while we were in the water.

My bike time this year was 30:10, vs 28:12 last year.  The bike I’m riding this year has disc brakes, but I still didn’t take chances in the corners.  It was a shame to loose the speed, but someone did crash on the bike course, and this was a course with a few 90 degree corners.  The conditions are what I’m chalking the time difference to, but I did bring a water bottle this time so I was carrying more weight (bottle + cage).

Out on the bike course, the nearest competitor I could see was part of a relay.  It was a dead giveaway because of the gear they were wearing and the fact they were dry.  That guy had some sort of tri/aero bike, and he was putting distance on me as we passed people.  But I almost overtook him when we hit the one and only hill on the course.  I got within about 10-15 meters, he’d lost the lead on me of at least 100 meters.  But he made the crest, and the bike course suited him so off he went.

In my experience cycling, I’ve come to know when people are actually faster than me.  They don’t just pass you, they continue to put distance as they are in front.  Someone tried to overtake me, and it was clear to me they were burning matches they didn’t have.  Technically, I should have dropped back as the wheel over took but the person saw that I didn’t – they tried to respond but it was over within 30 meters.  More to the point, they were nowhere to be found when I turned the corner.  I deal with that mentality a lot in my bike commute to/from work, and I have no patience for it.  To have followed the rules, I’d have lost speed and would have still overtaken the person.  What I did was not right per the rules (which may be changing to drop the stupid rule in the future), but it was not unsafe – we were two abreast, and I was in the shoulder with no overhang on the road.

The most interesting/weird thing that happened was that after the turnaround, I suddenly found myself unable to switch into a portion of my gears.  There were three gears I could not use – the chain kept skipping.  Top gear or 4th were my highest options.  I was annoyed that this happened to me again – the last time was due to old cables.  So I was bordering on livid…  It wasn’t until I got home that I noticed there was something on the cassette.  There was a bike sticker, as usual, that I put round my seat post as usual…  Apparently, the water destroyed the sticker (happens) but that the remains got deposited in my cassette.  And for only two adhesive patches, the remains were quite sticky.  It took a little effort with a paring knife (flat blade screwdriver would have worked).  Glad I didn’t get to chewing out the mechanics at my local bike shop 😉

Even my T2 time was slower this year, 0:57 vs 0:44 last year.  A couple of seconds were due to me unclipping my helmet (not removing), and an official made me stop & clip before traveling the remaining 6 ft to my stuff.  One of the sillier rules that adds time (and potentially congestion as people stop) for no value when someone has finished the bike portion of the race.

The Run

I remember this feeling terrible last year.  That I had to really work to keep myself going, because I was breathing so hard at the beginning as the run route started us off with a hill.  It might have been my worst run at 34:41 for all of last season.

This year, my time was 33:45.  It felt good – my breathing wasn’t laboured as it has been in the past, and I thought I was moving faster than I really was.  I am happy that my time is better, I just was hoping the improvement was more noticeable.  At times, I thought my stride was doing OK, and the experience was misleading.  It took a while before people overtook me, some apparently were too timid to pass on the trail run, and two people I closed in on before they managed to pick up speed.  In that aspect, it reminded me of the bike portion of a race about a month ago – passing numerous people gave the illusion of speed.

Conclusion

This year, I did the sprint in 1h 18 min 55 seconds.  Last year?  1:18:41.  Part of that is due to weather, which can’t be helped.  Even if my swim were similar, my run time is always what makes the difference.

I am feeling a little disillusioned about my running.  Long before I took up triathlon, I was running for fitness/exercise.  I was closing in on 5:15 min/KM, but now I struggle to get under 6 min/KM and I’m not very consistent.  It doesn’t help that some co-workers have been making fun of me for doing sprints, saying sprints are not “real triathlons”.  I do want to do intervals at the track, but everything is about recovering from the broken rib – my times are coming to par with what I did last year, starting from scratch.  All I do is look forward to “next year”.

Race Report

This was the second tri in a series of three, one per week.  I log my stuff in Google Calendar, but still managed to schedule myself like this.  That said, this makes triathlon #6 of the season to date.

This was the first time the triathlon had been held at this location.  I wasn’t feeling great or particularly enthusiastic, and arriving to get setup didn’t help.  As the course is public, in a well-used area, it was understandable the organizers would not want to encroach.  We were lining up to get into transition, watching as they constructed the bar to hang the bikes.  I really did not care for how they envisioned processing us into transition.  They assumed we’d all be suited up, so they could check us off, bodymark, and finally time chip us before we entered transition.  There was a lineup over a block long at points…  Why they couldn’t let us in to rack, and then proceed to bodymarking/chip like every other event I’ve been to?  But I digress…

The Swim

The course was nothing like the diagram – they only setup the buoys for the turns.  Maybe they ran out of the little yellow ones?  I don’t remember seeing any kayaks either.

Open water, 500 m swim, and the water was over 25 C – making it definitely a non-wetsuit swim.  It was an in-water start, which no one mentioned that you could not stand.  So there I was, treading water while waiting for the horn….

Nothing much to say about the swim.  I train without a wetsuit (though I have two), So I saw some ahead of me that I could no longer see once past the first buoy.  I swam with one other person that I could see for the majority.  I don’t think I was especially fast, but someone I’ve seen at a number of tri events this year said they saw me heading out of T1 as they were entering T1.  My T1 times are roughly 2 minutes, so that infers a lead on this person of upwards of 3 minutes in the water.

Swim time: 17:24.  It didn’t feel like swimming 750 meters, but the times certainly suggest this was the case.  Even at 750 m, my time sucks.  But part of that is likely because the timing mat was at the entry to transition, and it was not a direct path.  So, chop off a minute or so for actual swim time?  17th place overall, coming out of the water.

Transition 1 (T1) Swim to Bike

Initially I scoffed at the setup.  It wasn’t the longest run between water to transition, and the mats certainly helped.  What I didn’t feel good about was that we crossed a street, and more importantly – there were gates on either side to stop general traffic from running through the intersection.  So two choke points.  Thankfully, I was alone getting out of the water.  Often I pass a few people on the way in but not this time.

The racking had numbering to portion competitors, but they neglected to mark numbers to indicate where you rack your bike.  Fair enough, that means first come first served…

I didn’t get the ankle on one of the socks right, but managed to shift it enough that it wasn’t a problem.  Add shoes and helmet, and off I went. The mount line for the bike was not far outside of transition, which was nice.

The Bike

I’d ridden the area, and honestly – never thought to pre-ride the course.  It’s not that I thought I knew it, it just never occurred to me.  I’d heard different reports from various people – that it wasn’t hilly, that there was one hill, and that there was two hills.  There were more than that, but the majority of them – if you pushed on the downhill you’d have the momentum to get over what was next.  I passed some that I knew were fellow Sprint participants, the faster swimmers, but congestion was low for me.  The last hill was nasty – it might be a 8-10%  grade but short – 30 meters?  I can see participants who were not strong cyclists having trouble with it.

Back to organization/setup, the signage and signalling was not clear until you were in most intersections.  Way too late, but I guess that’s why I shouldn’t rely on racing infrastructure.  I almost got hit at an intersection because the people watching me failed to tell the person signaling traffic.  It might have been a typical issue with people who really can’t judge cycling traffic speed, or just that they weren’t paying attention for the job they were out there for.  Whatever the issue, I hope people after me got better treatment.

Bike time for 23 KM was 46:41, an average of 29.56 KM/h.  Put me at 10th overall.

Transition 2 (T2): Bike to Run

Nothing special, but I could hear surprise as I did my running dismount.  There were markings suggesting to slow down, and people were starting to approach me as I’m sure they thought I’d blow over the line but at least no one thought they’d make themselves a marter…

Racked the bike, swapped the shoes, added a race belt and hat.  Out I went…

The Run

I struggled with the run.  I stopped for water at the start, and walked a few steps because my breathing was horrible.  What was weird about my breathing is that it was downhill to get onto the course.  All I can figure is my running into transition is blowing out my lungs.  The walk didn’t help at all – I resumed, and it still took until around the 2 KM mark for my breathing to recover.  I tried altering my stride, but with the trail run going up and down – I didn’t maintain.

I also messed up the finish.  I misunderstood where the finish was to be, so I started ramping up to find out I had to make a hard left and continue for another 50 meters.  Would it have made much of a difference?  10 seconds I figure, at best.

Part of the issue was that a major intersection of the trail, where 5+ trails combined – there was no one there to direct, and there was no markings.  Myself and a few others ran an extra ~30 meters to find out we were off course.  It’s not my worst run time this season, but I was hoping I could be a little faster.

Run time was 32:56, a 6:35 min/KM.

Conclusion

I placed 2nd in my category, but I didn’t stick around.  It’s usually just a ribbon, and I have enough of those already.  It’s my run time that I’m really interested in.  I missed first by 7 minutes, but what’s interesting is the person in first was just like me – their run was 28 minutes.  And they were slightly faster than me on the swim and bike.

My times are fairly consistent, so I’m not going to blame this on not getting adequate recovery between events.  And the next tri is next weekend…  Another aspect of consistency is the breathing on the run, that it sucks but it’s largly mental.

This was the first time for the location, but to my knowledge – this outfit has run one other triathlon for at least a couple of years.  I am really not impressed with what I saw today.  I spoke with others who had similar stories about the run, that were stretches of no one (or signage) so they’d ask general public.  But it was nice to be starting at 7 AM – it meant being done before 9.

The Real Reason You Get Red Eyes After Swimming Is Gross

Picture yourself with your very own backyard pool. There you are, drifting on an inflatable raft, wearing a cute bikini, sipping a fruity drink, wiping the urine from your eyes…wait—what now? Sometimes ignorance is bliss when it comes the germs you’re being exposed to on the regular—otherwise how would you leave the house? But the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) would prefer you actually learned something about these issues.

Source: It’s Not Chlorine That Turns Your Eyes Red in the Pool: IT’S PEE

This is why we can’t have nice things.  …and why you wear swim goggles.