18 January 2011

Ominous sign to start the morning

Based on my informal poll of how many swimmers are in my lane each morning (yes I keep track), swimmers like to get their exercise out of the way early in the morning. That means, alarm clocks and groggy marches to the pool while it's still dark out.

I'm not complaining, it actually feels good to start the day with 60 minutes of swimming. Sort of invigorating. Definitely eye opening. A good way to start a day.

Until, ominous signs start greeting you just as you're waking up. The first sign I saw today as I walked up to the pool?

Danger. Chlorine.

How the heck am I supposed to stay motivated with that staring at my face at O Dark Thirty? Danger. Chlorine. Hey wait, I'm about to jump into a freakin' pool loaded with this stuff. I've been reading a lot of Greek Mythology (OK OK the Percy Jackson series) and the Gods are always throwing out signs to the heroes. Is this a sign? Is swimming dangerous? Will a freakin' minotaur be sitting poolside when I try to get out? Or will a half man half shark beastie be swimming laps when I hop in?

I thought long and hard about not swimming when this "sign" confronted me this morning. But then I realized that I'd already made it through the alarm clock, if I could do that I could probably deal with Danger. Chlorine.

13 January 2011

Swimming bobbleheads

OK, I know, the whole point of swimming is keeping your head still and bobbleheads just defeat the h3ll out of that purpose. But, why aren't there promotional swimmer bobblehead dolls?

The World Series Champion San Francisco Giants just announced their 2011 promotional schedule and as is required by state law, there are 4 bobblehead giveaways (Cody Ross, Aubrey Huff, Gerald Posey and Tim Lincecum).

Intrigued, I decided to check our friend EBay to see how much last years' Lincecum bobblehads go for. Seems like $10-200 is about the range. Wow. That's cool, except that I don't have one to sell. So, I guess bottom line it doesn't really matter.

Well, if a Lincecum bobblehead costs that much, how much for a Phelps bobblehead? That guy is a LEGEND. Quick EBay search reveals? None for sale. No Coughlin bobbleheads or Lochte bobbleheads either. Maybe people are just holding on to these priceless gems.

Google image search? Nada...no bobbleheads for any of our aquatic heroes. This is a farce! Why aren't swimmers given equal bobble treatment? I'd even collect a Garrett Weber-Gale bobblehead if you could put a sound chip in there to remind me to eat my vegetables!

So, I made a mockup of a Michael Phelps bobblehead for all of you manufacturers reading this blog. First I made one of Natalie Coughlin, but she's my daughter's hero and it just looked too weird and I couldn't do that to her. If somebody could just make this bobblehead, swimming would be on its way to the mainstream!

04 January 2011

Graphin' my FLOG!

I FLOG quite regularly. Honestly, if I flossed as much as I FLOG, my teeth would be much whiter and my dentist much poorer. But, alas, my priority lies with FLOG'in.

USMS provides a really easy to use online tool to log your fitness goals and accomplishments called the FLOG (hey, this is a family friendly blog, what did you think it meant). Every day after I swim, I post to it before I drive away from the pool. This FLOG powers Go the Distance, an event designed to provide me a free swim cap by early Spring. In 2010, I swam 120 miles. In 2011, I plan on 130 miles. This is easily tracked here.

But, what is even cooler is that USMS provides a fantastic spreadsheet that allows you to track additional details and provides a lot of fancy graphs and calculations. If you work this thing right, you can add other more detailed graphs as well. I won't bore you with my Excel-nerdiness but will show you two graphs that I am going to be tracking all year. I call them Free-scatter and Kick-scatter.

In Free-scatter, I will track MPH over the course of the workout against the percentage of freestyle swam. It will obviously show how much faster at freestyle I am than those "other" strokes. The interesting part will be just how much faster. Behold, my first two data points of 2011:

0.2 miles per hour seems like a lot, let's see how that changes over time.

In Kick-scatter, I will track MPH against the percentage of kick sets. The idea is the same, to see how much speed is lost when I stop using my spindly arms.

Notice the fantastic benchmark of my January 1 all-swim session? I can only go down from there I guess.

There are other methods to track progress against time but first I need to understand the correlation of speed vs. stroke. Then more graphs and more graphs and more graphs will emerge. That is the power of the FLOG.

29 December 2010

I taught my daughter something

When it comes to swimming, my 10 year old daughter kicks my ass. She's faster, she can swim longer, she knows all four strokes. And she can flip turn. She's, like, the complete package.

She is officially on her December break, which runs from the end of JOs to the first Monday in January. But she never did her swim-a-thon to raise money for the Oakland Learn to Swim Program so she had to get those yards in somehow.

On Christmas Eve off to Campolindo we go for open swim, hop in the water and I find out that she does about 8 laps to my 5 or sometimes 6. What she doesn't know how to do is to keep her mind focused while doing long long sets. This is something that she never has to worry about at swim practice because they work almost exclusively on strokes and technique, rarely ever venturing into a set longer than 100-200 yards at a time. But, for a swimathon, you just have to swim and swim and swim.

So I got to to teach her something. During a short wall break, I asked her what color the band aid was about two-thirds of the way down the lane. She had no idea. So I told her my secret, as I swim, I look for something like that, some small thing at the bottom of the pool that I try to learn as much about as possible in the brief moment when I can see it each lap. Usually, it's a hair elastic or a band-aid or an unusual leaf. One time it was a living salamander.

In this pool, it was a blue band-aid with some sort of holiday motif living 10 feet under the surface. It took us about thirty laps to agree that it was a polar bear fishing but it made those thirty laps go a lot faster and less painful.

Now if she could just teach me to swim butterfly.

22 December 2010

12 Days of Christmas set

OK, you know the song:
  • 12 Drummers Drumming
  • 11 Pipers Piping
  • 10 Lords-a-Leaping
  • 9 Ladies Dancing
  • 8 Maids-a-Milking
  • 7 Swans-a-Swimming
  • 6 Geese-a-Laying
  • 5 Gold Rings
  • 4 Colly Birds
  • 3 French Hens
  • 2 Turtle Doves
  • And a Partridge in a Pear Tree
But what about the set? Well I don't exactly know it either but I sure as heck swam it this weekend...and I hated it. But that's only because I don't believe that the "other strokes" should be allowed into a civilized swimming pool. Each number represents the number of 25 yard laps in that part of the set and then, from there, the coach would make up something painful and seemingly arbitrary about how to interpret the lyrics. He
  • 12 Drummers Drumming
  • 11 Pipers Piping = something to do with Indiana IM and FYI, the leader in my lane made us do 13 of these, some Christmas spirit
  • 10 Lords-a-Leaping = 5 50's with 5 "streamline jumps" in the shallow end
  • 9 Ladies Dancing = 9 laps of backstroke
  • 8 Maids-a-Milking = 8 laps of breast stroke
  • 7 Swans-a-Swimming = 7 laps of butterfly
  • 6 Geese-a-Laying
  • 5 Gold Rings = 5 sprint 25s of freestyle
  • 4 Colly Birds
  • 3 French Hens = 3 laps of descending freestyle
  • 2 Turtle Doves = 2 laps underwater
  • And a Partridge in a Pear Tree = 1 lap of sculling while singing a Christmas Carol
When, and if, I remember the rest, I'll edit this post to benefit future generations and general internet knowledge.

Now, here's the funny part. I consider myself a smart man; truly, it's the only thing I have going for myself but sometimes I have to wonder about even that. Two days after swimming this set, I was in the middle of a 300 yard freestyle set, just the sort of swim that's long enough to let your mind wander (in the hopes that you make a mistake and only swim 250), when it occured to me why the 8 maids a milking were doing the breast stroke. Seriously, the coach on deck even pantomimed milking while describing it and I still didn't get it. Sheesh.

Merry Christmas and to all a good swim.

02 December 2010

Eyes in the back of their head

While having lunch with my daughter's swim coach a few weeks back, he mentioned that the best coach he ever had made him feel like he saw everything in the pool. Like the coach was only watching one swimmer and that was him. Thinking about it, that's a pretty cool trait to have as a coach, especially when you have 15 swimmers in a pool.

Then I realized that my coach has that. It actually freaks me out a bit because my stroke (especially breaststroke) has been known to crack the lens of a camera when it tries to focus. It's so ugly, I routinely ask to be last in my lane so nobody has to see it.

So far Brian has only commented on my freestyle but he's pointed out most of the things that I do wrong. Every time I explain to him how I'm going to fix some problem he diagnosed or my plans to get my hips up or something, he reminds me of something else I'm doing wrong that would just make it all worse. Seriously, it's like there is a list of 15 things he needs to fix.

Anyway, I got lucky today. My two lane-mates were having him watch their freestyle and he gave me that look that we was going to critique me too. So, I did the only smart thing, swim really fast right up on my lane-mate's heels so that he wouldn't have time to watch my stroke at the end! I got away with it, too.

Some day my stroke will be better and I won't have to worry about these critiques but without the critiques my stroke will never be better. The true paradox of swimming.

19 November 2010

Officially official

This past weekend, I attended an officials training session for 3 hours. I learned a few things, most notably that I cannot see a breaststroker's legs on a small TV from 5 feet away; at least not well enough to DQ them. It's better at the pool, but it doesn't bode well for instant replay in swimming. I also got to quiz a veteran official about every single DQ my daughter has ever had and challenge him on the audacity that a complete swimmer like Chopstick would ever turn non-continuously. He backed down but for some odd reason, he didn't go and reverse all of her undeserved DQs.

Anyway, at that point, my main concern was, where the heck am I going to get blue pants? But I pressed on and took the online test on Monday. I got one wrong and continuing in my theme of challenging authority, can't tell how it was wrong. Please review:

"In the butterfly: At the turns and the finish, is it permissible for a shoulder to be dropped after the final arm pull and prior to the touch?"

I say no since the rules clearly state that "at each turn the body shall be on the breast.....once a touch has been made, the swimmer may turn in any manner desired." So, according to the question, the swimmer needs to be on the breast because it is prior to the touch. How can you be on the breast if you have dropped a shoulder? Sounds like the swimmer is somewhere less than parallel to the water surface to me.

I'm sure there is more to it but I need an answer on this one. And I will get one this weekend because I am officially "shadowing" at Chopstick's meet. I think I need four days of shadowing and a recommendation and I become an official. At which point, all swimmers must refer to me as Doctor DQ.