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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Fall back, spring forward: a race report of sorts, and a silver linings playbook

  Last Saturday, I rode my bike for ~2/3-3/4 of the time that I would have considered a "real" long ride in the past, at ~90% of what I would consider a "good" power for the HR.  But I had been given the "take power off your garmin" gentle "suggestion" earlier that week after multiple HR zone transgressions leading into that, so I did something that I'd never done before on the trainer: watched a movie that I'd A. never seen before and B. wasn't aimed at 7 year olds in its entirety.  The Silver Linings Playbook (yes, I recognize that I'm about three years behind the times here, but I never watch movies).  Somehow, this was a far more enjoyable way to ride, and it all turned out ok, too, given the preceding weeks.

  But more on that later.  First...I have a swim meet report to write.  I guess there isn't too much exciting stuff to say about a swim meet, but now that it's been almost six months since I've been able to write sarcastic stuff about a completed race, I'm going to take that opportunity.  Back in November, I swam in my first ever masters swim meet (and first swim meet, period, since my ill-fated season of swim club when I was 12).  I had fun with my friends, but other than that, it all involved a whole lot of freezing and having to jump into the water repeatedly, so I swore that I was once and done with swim meets.  This proved to be a bad idea.  Because no other races are in my foreseeable future, I wanted to compete in something, and I had a fair amount of confidence that I could handily beat my November swimming self, I found myself back at RIT last Sunday.  Sigh.  But, while swim meet #1 had fallen on "fall back" day, swim meet #2 was occurring on "spring forward" day.  While normally I despise losing the hour (again, more on the significance of this week later), I want to believe that there has to be some sort of good symbolism in that.  Time will tell.

  Back to the meet.  I decided to sign up for every single free event, just because-so, I swam the 500, 200, 100, 50, and 1000.  I also ended up swimming a 50 breast in the 200 medley relay.  The last time I legitimately swam breaststroke was when I was 12, so that was interesting.  Anyways, the 500 was first.  I learned from my first swim meet that swimmers all totally underestimate their seed times, so I ended up getting crushed in all of my heats at that meet despite swimming my actual seed times.  This time, I got smart and underestimated my seed times as well, but still somehow ended up as one of the last seeds on the end in every heat.  Oh well.  I'd be swimming directly next to Dave in the 500, so the goal was to stay within 25 of him.  I was successful in this endeavor-he only beat me by 14 seconds, which is within my Dave handicap.  I was successful in the "no open turns" endeavor.  My splits were also pretty dead even.  I was unsuccessful in remembering to take off my watch before starting (tool).  I tried to judge how fast I was going by the wall clock, but just got confused, so I swam hard enough to struggle to get out of the pool afterwards.  Then I stood there bent over and panted for several minutes afterwards, so I figured I had tried hard.  Somebody told me that I made it look like a lot of fun.  I don't think that I was last in the heat, but I don't really know for sure.  As for the times?  Might as well report them, to avoid anyone who might care from having to google.  No one likes that. IM times are what they are.  There's no need to hide here.  Last meet time: 7:06.  Seed time: 7:05 (aim high).  Secret reach goal: sub-6:50.  Actual time: 6:47 (this is a PR.  Bring it, 7 year olds).

Hansen vs. Hansen
   After a break in the meet, the 200 came more quickly than I was hoping.  For someone who spent her formative years racing the 800 in track, a race that used to take me approximately 2.5 minutes, the 200 has grown to be my nemesis in swim meets.  I actually sort of like 200 repeats while training, but doing them all out sucks.  Anyways, I was still sort of out of it from the 500, but I was again placed in the end lane, but this time next to a 71 year old man, so my main motivation was saving face and not losing to him by too much, given that he probably started swimming before my parents were born.  He's also my new hero.  I really wanted to open turn, but I also didn't want to look like too much of a non-swimmer next to him, so I made it 2/2 on the all flip turns, as bad as they are.  He beat me, but only by a second.  I'm not sure if I beat anyone in that heat or not, but I did beat my seed time by over 10 seconds, so if I didn't, then they're all liars.  Last meet time: 2:45.  Seed time: 2:45 (swam faster repeats in training 2 days ago, but that means nothing for me).  Secret reach goal: 2:32 (PR from 2013).  Actual time: 2:34.  I'd be a decent JV swimmer for a small school.

   Next up was the 100, then the 50.  I don't have too much to say about these races, because when swimming and sprinting are combined, my body gets really confused, because both of these things are foreign to it.  Also, they make things like the dive off of the blocks and the turns more important.  My swimming is far superior to my turning, which is far superior to my diving-this should be a healthy dose of perspective as to where I stand on these things.  Even going off of the blocks was a game-day decision.  In the end, I sacrificed my pelvis to fit in, although my chest later stung and itched a bunch from my dive form, and I was rather gimpy the next day.  Anyways, because I was so focused on trying to turn well, I almost missed the wall on every single turn of those races.  Oh well.  For the 100: Last meet time: 1:14.  Seed time: 1:15 (swimmer style).  Secret reach goal: sub-1:10.  Actual time: 1:11 (still a PR, but I want that sub-1:10 still!).  For the 50: Last meet time: 33.  Seed time: 33.  Goal time: who cares, it's a 50, I do 9 hour long races.  Actual time: 33.

   After that, I had my breaststroke relay leg, and the 1000.  I was starting to get tired by that point, and I hated the meet for having a 1000, because that meant that I was obligated to swim it.  I downed some rocket fuel caffeine gel, and then basically just stayed in the warm up pool, swimming a couple of lengths of breaststroke to make sure I remembered how.  Our relay consisted of Kelly (swimmer who knew what she was doing in the backstroke), followed by me (who didn't know what she was doing in the breaststroke), followed by Greg Danner (ridiculously baller swimmer who won a bunch of stuff there and was recognized because of his upcoming induction into the section V swimming hall of fame), followed by Matt (now holding his own in swimming).  Anyways, I swam a 45 in that 50 breast (although, I might have one-handed the finish-not up on my swimming rules-luckily, I was far back enough that no one cared), which I believe bested my 12 year old self.  Screw you, Sea Dragon Jennie!!  My foot also cramped when I dove off of the blocks there, which boded well for the 1000.  Greg contrasted me with his ~25sec fly leg, while I basically walked down the bulkhead and got on the blocks for the 1000.  Balls.  I was NOT enthusiastic about that one.  I started internally whining about how tired I was, and how my foot was about to cramp.  Not to mention, our heat consisted of five swimmers seeded under 12:00, Dave, and Jennie.  On a good day, Dave doesn't lap me.  By that point, though, I really didn't care about holding up the meet, given there was only one heat of the 1000 left after us, and I just wanted to get it over with.

Recipe for embarrassment.  I got all excited when they announced that they'd reseeded the 1000s, until I saw that someone had scratched, so they just combined the final two heats.  
   Anyways, I spent the first 400 of the 1000 worrying about my foot cramp.  Then, I realized that I was sitting just barely above 14:00 pace, which, dammit, meant that I had to try harder or something, so at least I'd know that I had tried as hard as I could to get it.  The guy next to me lapped me just before that 400 mark, so I made it my new goal to not get triple lapped by him.  By 600, I could feel things starting to get ugly.  I lost another second or two to that 14:00 pace.  At 750, I heard the bell go off, and I was really jealous of the guy who was about to quadruple lap me and be done (side note: the winner sometimes swims at the JCC while I water run.  I've watched him in admiration before.  And yes, I've completely timed his workout splits for something to do.  He was back at the pool the next day, lapping me).  At 800, I thought about open turning for the first time all day, but I didn't want the people working the swim meet to think that I was delusional and thought that the bell was for me and I thought that I was finishing, so I sucked it up and flipped.  I then open turned at 825.  At ~890 yards, the guy next to me only double lapped me (small victory!).  I celebrated with another open turn at 900.  Sweet, sweet oxygen.  I was a little over 13:40 at the final wall, so I knew that sub-14:00 wasn't happening, but I still tried to finish as quickly as I could so that the rest of the meet could proceed.  Seed time: 14:30.  Secret reach goal: sub-14:00 (I've only done that once, during my golden time of swimming in early 2013).  Actual time: 14:04.  Close enough.  I wasn't even swimming 200s at that pace last fall.  Also, Dave only swam 13:52, so although the rest of our heat double to quadruple lapped us, I wasn't too alone in my last-ness, and avoided any pity claps.  Winning!

   In all honesty, though, I have to say that the swim meet was actually a LOT of fun, despite the pain and suffering.  I have been trying pretty hard in the pool, so to see some fairly sizable improvements over November, when I was pretty down and out with my attitude towards swimming, was nice.  The swimmers there were all very, very nice and encouraging towards me, and I was told multiple times by several of them (including one of the best swimmers at the meet) that I'm selling myself a bit short in terms of how I view my own swim prowess.  At a time where I've had a lot more down than up regarding my athletic abilities lately, hearing that was meaningful.  While my times are definitely nothing special (again...decent JV girl in a small school, or maybe a stud at the 7-8 year old B meet), improvement is all relative, it's what I have right now, and it's something that I can certainly continue to work at.  We ended up grabbing some lunch (and, in Dave's case, some beers) with a group from the meet afterwards, and I was reminded of how much I enjoy the cameraderie of athletes, and the communities that develop.

First of one is still first.  How the Hansens feel about swimming.

Just a little throwback to my original competitive swimming days.

   Now, back to my silver linings, and what springing forward means.  The Wednesday after springing forward last year, we had a blizzard.  I had a work snow day.  I thought it was awesome.  That evening, I ran out of energy when trying to get everything under the sun done around the house in one day.  No big deal, I'd just come off of overload for Cabo, we'd lost an hour, and I was just tired, right?  Work and life had been sort of crazy lately, and I'd traveled recently.  I swam ok the next day, but felt run down skiing with my mom later that morning.  I then struggled to get through a 30min recovery run the day after that, and I began to worry about my key bike session coming on the follow day.  Still, I just needed sleep, right?  I could sleep in the next morning.  Well, as we now know, I was wrong.  That ride didn't happen.  Neither did all of my training for the next couple of weeks.  Neither did Cabo.  Last year at this time, I had entered that cloud of fatigue and overracing and overtraining and over-whatever it was.  Although the cloud would mostly clear, it truly has taken me until now to realize that there was some degree of fog hanging over my head for the rest of the year.  I remember still having days where I felt more drained than I should, where I would sit at the top of the stairs, trying to summon up the energy to go down and bike, where I stood at the end of the driveway, willing myself to start running.  I still had a few mini-relapses here and there (see the week before Muskoka for an example).  I spent the rest of the year living in a bit of fear, too-every bit of training fatigue, every time I felt a bit off, I was launched into a state of fear (and googling).  It took me until several weeks before Coz before I think that I truly began to trust my body again.

   The thing is, I had within me the mental willpower to hide it (and with enough caffeine, anything was possible).  I got through workouts and hard training blocks; I made gains; I had huge days and on the surface, I was ok.  I had to work for everything and I was never really all that comfortable training, but that was my new normal, so I didn't think much of it.  And really, I didn't realize that I was in that fog, that I was trudging through mud as much as I was until I broke myself and noticed that it's been more than my bones that are coming back together.  Granted, right now my training volumes are relatively low for me (peaking at 17-20 hours vs. 25-30), the only real intensity has been in the pool, and I'm obviously not running, so I really should feel better, but the subtle differences are there.  It's a bit hard to describe, but I've noticed a few things.  At some point in the past couple of weeks, I had the thought, training feels like it did in early 2013.  This, right there, is good.

   Then there's the powerless bike experiment.  When I first started back on my bike, I was hammering at the top of my HR zones and forcing myself into discomfort.  After my last set of x-rays weren't clear, I went through perhaps my lowest point in this entire time, and after several "f*ck it" rides where I disregarded everything and just pounded myself into oblivion, I got the Jesse ultimatum to stop looking at power while I ride, and to go by HR and feel (still recording it, but being oblivious as to what it was until after the ride).  Clearly, I complained and resisted at first (I didn't trust that I'd be anything but awful without looking), but a couple of weeks into this little experiment...I kind of like it.  I've felt mostly comfortable, and I'm starting to see numbers that would have forced me to feel uncomfortable last year.  And heck, I watched an actual movie!!  That was FAR more enjoyable than staring at a little garmin screen and getting down on myself because I didn't like the numbers.  I'd gotten so used to basically always being at least a little bit (to a lot) uncomfortable in training all of the time in order to get any decent results that I'd forgotten what it was like to, well, feel good (not to say it's all rainbows and butterflies-there's the pool, obviously).  As in, appropriate training good for the intended intensity level.  Like I's like two years ago, instead of last year.

Electrical tape over the power column.  I had been cheating by not looking at the power meter power with the computrainer power...but I stopped.
   The other differences?  Well, they're subtle and hard to describe, but I'll do my best.  As I'd posted on twitter a few days ago, "There's chasing what you want, and then there's trying to force it to be yours.  One works better than the other, and maybe I'm learning."  I've also noticed a difference in how I feel as my more challenging sessions approach (right now in the pool, but starting to get in some bike work).  There's still some fear, which I think is normal, but it's anticipation/opportunity fear, not dread fear-more of a, "how well can I do this?" approach, vs. a "can I avoid blowing this?" thought process (even if it does involve some degree of hate :) ).  I don't have to work to motivate myself or rely on 1000 outside's just...there.  I can't really put that part into words.  When I get home from the pool in the morning, it's not a giant production to motivate myself to get down to my bike-I just change, fill bottles, and get to work.  My 9:30PM to 5AM sleeping pattern is survivable.  I've actually had the energy to (sort of, by Hansen standards) organize a couple of the rooms that have been a giant explosion of disaster for the past year.  Again, I have no idea what will happen when I start training more and doing intervals and running and such-I'm sure I'll have plenty of times where I'm pulling myself off of the floor-but I'm hopeful it's going to hold up as normal pulling myself off of the floor, not pulling myself off of the floor of a cannon, dragging myself up the side, and then finally willing myself to my feet.  I found myself re-reading this again earlier this week, and a few months later, after more time reflecting on the whole concepts of physical and mental dullness, it made even more sense.   
Random specimen of something found in one of the disaster rooms.  This actually used to be in my sister's childhood bedroom.  Apparently, my parents wanted their children to have nightmares.  Dave and I contemplated throwing it out, but we realized that it would just somehow end up back in our house anyways.  Probably standing between our pillows in the middle of the night.  With a knife.
   So, when looking for reasons and silver linings and sense in all of it, I had been thinking that it all meant that I was going to be due for some awesome race result where my day came together perfectly this year.  And, obviously, I certainly would like that to happen.  But this week has been one giant eye-opener of a reason to me, when I think back to a year ago tonight, when I was about to pass out in Target after laying around on the sofa all day-and that was just the start of it.  I could have kept on with how things were at the end of last year, for sure.  I was functioning and hitting my training sessions, after all.  But, it's like when I leave my laptop on too long with 700 browser windows open and things still work, but they start to get sort of slow and freeze here and there (not that I ever do that...I'm obviously totally the most responsible person ever when it comes to computers..).  I can either continue to use it as is, or I can take a little extra time in the short term and just turn the darn thing off entirely, let it reboot, and let it start back up again crisper and less cluttered.  I don't know what will happen as training and racing advances (after all, tomorrow's my longest day in some time, so we'll see how that ends up going); I don't even know when I'll be able to start running again (although, I am feeling a little bit more optimistic on that front lately).  I do know, though, that I needed the reboot.  15 weeks (and counting) of no's not fun, but it's more than a fair trade to feel decent and get a mental edge back again, and now that I can see that, all is well.     

Random shot of Rochester from when I went to cheer at Johnny's Runnin' of the Green this morning.   I like Rochester.

A few members of my racing crew-awesome day out there!

Every single year that we've both run this race, a picture has been taken of Carolynne and I cooling down together.  Even though she's 37 weeks pregnant and I'm 15 weeks injured, we still had to recreate the picture.

I don't know, the dogs just needed to be in here somehow.