Friday, February 24, 2012

11 Things

I know these blog memes get passed around from time to time and I usually enjoy reading them and so I was happy to oblige when Donna kindly asked if I'd mind being "tagged" to answer questions that she posed on her blog. Her post contains the real rules, but I am going to skip the "11 Random Things about me" portion for now and dig right into the questions because I'm too wiped out to think of anything interesting to say about myself. For the record, Donna is a wonderfully charming and funny woman that I met at the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim after months of training together "virtually" by sharing workout info and training plans.
Donna and I before plunging into the sweltering waters of the Chesapeake Bay

1. When was the last time you went to McDonalds and what did you order?
I went to McDonalds with some co-workers this summer after I had my wisdom teeth pulled, I had a "real fruit" smoothie and soggy fries. I won't eat anything there other than a milkshake or smoothie and fries, McDonalds makes me feel dirty.
2. When it comes to food, are you a sweet or savoury lover?

I definitely lean towards the sweet side, I enjoy most desserts and grew up in a house where all treats were homemade so I have an appreciation for the real deal. 
3. Coffee or tea?

Coffee for breakfast, tea in the evening.
4. What is your favourite “go to” “easy to make from scratch” meal?

A favorite easy post-workout meal is a whole grain pasta or quinoa dish. I make the pasta or grains and chop red, green or yellow peppers and toss them in raw (I like crunch) along with tuna (sweet & spicy from the pouch is so easy and tasty), balsamic vinegar and plenty of olive oil. I add any other veggies I can find and toss them all together. Avocado on top makes this dish!  In the summer I rinse the pasta to cool it off and eat the dish cold. It is completely simple and tasty and packed with good stuff. 
5. What did you study at university and does it relate to your current job?
Oddly enough, I have a Bachelors degree in Zoology with a minor in Philosophy. It was a complicated switch from Biology to accommodate my pre-requisites for graduate school in my 3rd year that left me with that silly degree on my diploma, but it makes for good party jokes. I went on to graduate school and got my Doctorate in Physical Therapy, which is exactly what I do for a living. 
6. What is one race (sporting event) that you want to do in your life – a bucket list race, so to speak?

I don't really have a bucket list for races, I try to just do things as they come along and pick a few good ones each year. I think I'd possibly like to do a solo swim around Manhattan or part of the 8 Bridges Swim someday.
7. Can you explain to me why Lululemon is considered controversial? I thought it was just a brand of (mostly yoga) clothing.

I don't get it either!! Why do I feel guilty when I go in there and want to buy some of their clothes?! They are expensive, sometimes ridiculously so, but the clothes I do own from Lulu are really, really nice quality. No one ever seems to know why they're "so bad", but I've heard people talk about how the owner is a billionaire or whatever, but I've never seen that stop anyone from drinking a Coke. 
8. What is your most favourite travel memory?

Oh there are so, so many. The first one that comes to mind is when I was studying abroad in Ireland and a friend and I rented bikes to ride around the Dingle Peninsula, but Andrea's bike wheel broke about 25km from our hostel. We called the rental place and they told us to just leave the bikes there and hitchhike back. Being nice girls from the US, we thought he was insane so we started to hike on foot, attempting a shortcut over a small mountain when we found ourselves trapped in a muddy, mossy field with a large bull who was restrained by a small chain. We escaped certain death and promptly stuck our thumbs out to the first car that went by when we climbed out of the bull's pen. Smelling like cow pies and a day of biking & hiking, we climbed in the car with a lovely American couple who were lost and we directed them back to the town of Dingle where we promptly ate everything in sight. The sheer ridiculousness of that day, mixed with the truly magical landscape make that a memory I will giggle at forever. 
9. Airport security – a necessary evil, or just plain evil?

A necessary evil, we can't ignore the fact that this is a post-9/11 world and things will never be the same. Now, what are we going to do about those crazy Canadian geese taking down our planes? 10. Do internet and personal privacy matters ever worry you? 
Yes, sure. I am pretty open with my silly and mundane info on facebook and twitter, but I take steps to protect my  personal information from getting into the hands of those who might have ill intentions. 
11. Would you rather have time or money?

I'd rather have time, but there's no denying that time is money and it is difficult to have one without the other and not be homeless. 

Double down

I've been on staycation all week because it is February break for the kids I work with and I've been using the opportunity to get in quality workouts. The weather has been fantastic, yesterday it was 58 degrees and sunny. If I have to be stuck in NYC for a week, I can handle this weather. Today is rainy and cooler, but it is not a run day anyway.
Monday morning I went to the pool with Sally before she went to work and we bumped into our Wednesday swim buddy who was swimming long because he had the day off. We joined Paul for the tail end of what was 8,000 yards for him.  Wow. We swam about 3700 yards before Sally had to leave for work and I was starving. I was hungry and tired after that, normally I don't have time for more than 2000 yds in the morning before work. I had it in the back of my head for the rest of the day that I was planning on going back to the gym later that night for a yoga class at 8pm. Sometime around 5 or 6pm that began to seem impossible, but with some encouragement from running friends on twitter I hopped on the train and went to class. As usual I was glad that I did. I can't take that class normally, it gets out at 9:15 and takes me about 40 mins to get home at that hour. That is too late for me when I need to be up at 6:00 the next morning. I slept like a log that night and was sooooore the next few days from some new yoga moves and attempted binds.
Tuesday was busy all day without enough time to sneak in a workout, so I used it as a recovery day from the day before. Wednesday morning I swam again early and got in another 3,000 or so yards. I had ideas of running later that evening, but I spent the whole afternoon playing with a friend's new baby and didn't get home until late.
Since I didn't get to run on Tuesday or Wednesday, I took advantage of the magical weather and ran twice on Thursday. The sun was bright on Thursday morning and my run through Washington Heights and Harlem was perfect. I was in shorts and a long sleeve tee, but I pushed the sleeves up as soon as I turned off of Riverside drive and wished for short sleeves the rest of the run. I couldn't believe how nice it was, it was like an April day. I got in exactly 5 miles in the morning, but at a fairly easy pace (8:58 avg pace) with some big hills mixed in here and there. It was fun to see how many people were out and about on their way to work but also enjoying the sunshine. I hit the road again in the evening with my regular Inwood Hill crew for a solid 6.2 miles of tough hills with the 187th St stairs up to Fort Washington to top it off. The stairs have really gotten easier over the last few weeks, but they still leave us sucking air at the top. 120 stairs, damn. I was famished when I got home, which made me realize I should have eaten way more during the day to balance out the double runs. I pretty much stuffed my face from the time I got home until I went to bed. In fact, I still feel like I'm eating for it.
I did my usual Friday workout today but with less yardage in the pool because I was SO TIRED. I woke up from a deep sleep this morning and dragged myself to yoga (great class, as usual) and it took half of the 75 min class to wake up! Luckily, everyone else is also sleepy in that Friday morning class. I could barely lift my arms to swim butterfly this morning, but we still swam  a strong 2500 yards including 5x200 IM's. Typically we do a set of 200 IM's but they are 25 stroke/25 free instead of 50 stroke, but today we did that for 3 200's and regular old 200 IM's for 2 of them. WOW, those are hard. I can't believe I used to race that distance like it was nothing. Whew.
Needless to say, I am completely wiped out from this whole week, but in a great sort of way. I love going to bed completely exhausted from physical activity and sleeping like a rock. I did wake up with soreness in my quads and calves this morning, a soreness that I wouldn't normally have felt from doing either of those runs by themselves. It is only 5:30 and I'm already wondering when I can go to bed for the night... I have a big run in the morning, Shamrock Half is only a few weeks away!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

On not being a wimp.

I mentioned in my New Year's post that one of my goals for the year is to step it up and not be a wimp when it comes to my training. I felt like everyone around me was challenging themselves constantly with their running while I was always tentative and afraid to push it, opting for rest over an extra workout, etc. I know it had a lot to do with my ankle injury and fear of reinjury, but after a certain point I had to stop letting that hold me back. It became habit to take and easy or off day when I wasn't sure what to do, so I vowed to fix that and I think I have. Now, every time I start to think about how to spend a little free time one evening or a day off, I think to myself "don't be a wimp, do some yoga tonight." Even this morning during my run I started to think thatI should just continue at my current pace even though I had a nice, flat mile ahead and I glanced at my Garmin and told myself "pick it up, don't be a wimp." It is working. 
I've changed my training schedule to include several tough days of running or swimming and instead of taking a day off each week, I've been working on more of a 10 day training "week". I think that the variety of training in my week (running, yoga and swimming) allows me to do that because I am really working different muscles on any given day. I'm not feeling tired or overworked at all, in fact I've been running with more energy and pep in my step than I have in months. Even my running group has noticed. Luckily they're all game for joining me on long runs when I have too much energy. Thanks guys. It has been incredibly helpful to have my favorite people along on my long runs the past few Saturdays. I'm averaging 10 miles on Saturday mornings thanks to my nearly 2 mile run just to meet the group- it's perfect half marathon training.
I've also been averaging between 6,000-8,000 yards in the pool each week (that's ~3.5-4.5 miles) and at least 1-2 yoga classes. I was on a roll with hitting the gym for strength training once a week after work, but I fell off the wagon a bit because it was leaving me really sore for my runs and swims on the following days. I need to sort that out. I was at 12 pull ups at then end of January (3 sets of 4) but have only done a few in the last two weeks, oops. 
I had two really great, strong runs the last two Saturday mornings, one up the nice, flat Putnam trail to Tibbetts Brook Park in the snow and the other through the rolling hills and trails of Riverdale and Van Cortlandt Park. I'm hoping to get in another 10 miler and a 12 or 13 miler before the Shamrock half on March 18th. I've been really trying to follow up the long runs with a shorter run on Sunday, and today I finally just got up early and did it. I ran 5 this morning through the hills of Fort Tryon park and around Inwood and though I feel tired now, I don't feel like a wimp. 

Speaking of Tibbets Brook Park, boy do I wish I were a Westchester resident- check out the new saline water park- you can see it from the Old Putnam Trail. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

More photos from swimming with Nathan

I received an email with the photos taken during my swim with Nathan, many of them are action shots and people are making goofy faces in a few, but here they are. I am waiting for the video to be edited so you can see how amazing and fast Nathan is in the water. Enjoy!

Between sets
 Wow, Nathan is a big guy. 

Nathan catching up to Ashley (pink) and me trailing behind him

Tip from Coach Nick Folker

 Nathan doing kick drills, he flips with the board in his hand
Yes, that is chocolate milk on the deck

 What a great guy (and cute!)

Nick giving me tips on body rotation

 Me trying to keep up with Nathan during sculling drills, ouch

Sunday, February 12, 2012

An Olympic Splash

I have water in my ear as I write this, but not just any pool water- it was splashed there by a gold medal Olympic swimmer from my attempt to keep up with him for an hour. Tonight I was given the opportunity of a lifetime and the chlorine in my ear is my souvenir. Thanks to the really generous folks at the Refuel with Chocolate Milk campaign, I got to swim for an hour in the bubbles from the kick of Nathan Adrian. Nathan is a member of the US Olympic swim team and a gold medal winner from the 2008 games in Beijing in the 4x100m relay heats. If you followed the Olympics at all, you're probably not as familiar with Nathan as you are with his fellow team member, Michael Phelps. Nathan is finishing up his studies at UC Berkeley right now and gearing up for the Olympic trials this summer in Nebraska and hopefully the games in London. Nathan is currently the American record holder in the 50 (18:66) and 100 freestyle (short course- Yards), and I'm stunned to write that his 100yd time of 41.08 is just  seconds faster than my 50 yd sprint. Do the math, if you must.

I was really excited to meet Nathan since I've been following Olympic swimming since I was a kid and always dreamed of being there someday myself. It wasn't in the cards for me, but I have always watched the Olympic Games with a little pang of jealousy in my heart. Someday I'll get there in person to watch, but for now tonight was enough to tide me over.

I owe the whole experience to my friend Elyssa who was invited through her blog to an event involving an Olympic swimmer and thought of me. The very generous folks from the Team Refuel campaign invited me to not only attend, but to actually get in the pool to swim with Nathan and that is exactly what I did.

Monday night at 6:30 pm I met up with Ashley from Healthy Happier Bear at the YMCA on W14th St and we threw on our swimsuits, not knowing what to expect. When I got out to the pool, Nathan was hopping in and he was ready to get moving right away. Kelly from the PR group told me that he'd been goofing around for most of the day but turned completely serious when he hit the water. He began his warmup with an easy 200 yards and I joined for the last 150 when I got in.  Immediately I noticed that he came out of his flip turns like a rocket, about 10x faster and farther than I do. As an open water swimmer, I never really take the time to work on my flip turns, I can do them just fine and that's always been good enough for me. I was probably stronger when I competed in the pool, but now I'm simply "fine" at them. For most of the hour I spent my time following Nathan in as many drills and intervals as I could while staying out of his way. I listened to what his coach Nick Folker, a former Olympian himself (he swam in Sydney in 2000 for South Africa), told him after each set and tried to get an idea of what he was doing next or absorb any tips he offered. I tried new drills including a head-up catch drill to improve the front end of my stroke and several sculling drills to improve arm and shoulder strength. The sculling drills were tough but great because you hold your legs up in a tuck and therefore engage your abs at the same time. Coach Folker gave me a few tips re: my body rotation and he felt that the head-up catch drill really helped me keep my hips from moving side to side and allowed me to rotate on a transverse plane like I have a skewer through my head and body. It was a helpful tip that I'll keep in mind. I really appreciated the time he spent talking to me about it between reading out sets for Nathan. Between sets Nathan was nice enough to explain the upcoming sets to me (they were super complicated short sets) and he even stopped to chug a little bottle of chocolate milk. I passed on mine until I finished swimming because I'd rather not barf in front of so many people, I stick to water and the occasional gel while I'm actually in the water.

After the hour was up, some folks started hopping into the lane to try to do their own swims and it was time for us to get out of the way. I was sad to get out of the water for many reasons, but mostly because I enjoyed watching Nathan's strong, smooth stroke and trying to replicate it myself. I wished him luck in the upcoming trials and in London and hit the locker room. While I was changing I overheard two women talking, one was asking the other why she was still there and her response was "because I've been spying on this Olympian in lane 1, like a REAL Olympic swimmer." I smiled because I felt exactly the same way.

The Refuel team sent me on my way with a great new Lululemon bag, lots of chocolate milk and some fantastic memories. I also have a folder packed with the science behind using chocolate milk as a recovery drink, I'll put them together for a future blog post!     The rest of my pool pictures have gone MIA from a glitch in my SD card, but hopefully I can track them down and post soon. :(

*Olympic image courtesy of BBC Sports