Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Summer of Open Water Swimming has ended

My summer of Open Water Swimming ended with Hurricane Irene. I did not have any swims scheduled for the weekend of the hurricane but I had agreed to volunteer for the SheROX Tri in Asbury Park. Obviously it was cancelled and I ended up dealing with a basement full of water (I am still dealing with it).
Spending the summer competing in the Ocean Miles that each NJ Shore Town has was a fun change up. The bikes stayed in the back of the garage but I have found that changing up the workout routine is a great way to keep the training intensity high without experiencing the extended breaks that I used to have. The swimming hit some new muscle groups and I was also able to spend some more time in the weight room.
For the summer of 2011 I competed in the following swims (Rays Notebook has a full Calendar):
  1. The Nav E Sink or Swim in Rumson, NJ on May 29, 2011 - This one did not go too well
  2. Swim-Palooza at Lavallette - June 5, 2011 - This was my redemption swim
  3. The Asbury Park Ocean Mile on June 25, 2011 - My first encounter with the folks from the NJRC. The 1st of the NJRC Trilogy
  4. The Bradley Beach Ocean Mile on July 2, 2011 - This was probably the first swim I had fun doing. The course was not well marked and we had to walk back on the beach to the finish
  5. Avon by the Sea Ocean Mile on July 10, 2011. Do you really remember much about this race. The Spring Lake race was scheduled for July 9, 2011 but it was cancelled.
  6. The Manning Sea Bright Ocean Mile on July 16 - The second of the NJRC Trilogy - I remember this one being a perfect day. Water was perfect and it was a good crowd. Close to home as well.
  7. The Manasquan Ocean Mile on July 23 - I think this was a good swim at all. Funny that I know I did them and it was a good experience but the details are getting kind of hazy.
  8. The Ocean Mile Swim at Sea Girt Beach on July 30, 2011
  9. The Shana Ocean Mile at Monmouth Beach on July 31, 2011. This was probably the best run off all the races. It was definitely a fun one an will make sure I do it in the future as well. This was also the 2nd swim of a two race weekend
  10. The John Boyd Memorial Swim in Seaside Heights on August 7. This was an evening race and was the furthest that I traveled to swim. The water temp was 64 degrees but the swim went from south to north with the current. This was my fastest swim. The is a party on the beach after the swim. Keg of beer with hamburgers and hotdogs. Lots of fun. Met some new people.
  11. Belman Ocean Mile on August 13, 2011. This was the 3rd in the NJRC Trilogy.
  12. The Long Branch Ocean Mile (Ray Licata Memorial Swim) was rescheduled for August 20. This was a tough race against the current swimming from south to north. This was well run but they did have an issue with the bus shuttle from the registration area to the start. I walked the boardwalk as warm up.
  13. The Ocean Mile for Smiles at Bradley Beach on August 21, 2011. This is a new race promoted by the Red Bank YMCA. I was not going to do this race but decided to make it a 2 swim weekend. The water was rough and the lifeguards disappeared. I felt all alone when I made the turn around. The guards stayed with the leaders. My time was not that great but I was happy to finish.
There was a swim in Atlantic City today (September 3, 2011) called the Pageant Swim but I have decided to end my open water swimming season. Time to get the bike out again and move back to the pool. Still worn out from the hurricane.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Summer of Swimming Continues

What started as a new way to train in the winter has now continued through the summer. The bikes have been ignored. Instead of 2 to 4 rides a week I have been getting out about once a month.

Instead of riding I have been racing in the Ocean Mile Swims that have become a tradition in the Jersey Shore towns of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. There may be only two or three weekends that I have missed swimming in a race since the Nave Sink or Swim on May 29.

The Ocean Miles are community events and are usually put on by the local townships or by one of the competive swim teams in the area like the NJ Racing Club. The teenagers that show up are really good and for the most part the only time I see them is at the start and maybe hanging around at the finish. This is the real Jersey Shore!

Check out Ray's Notebook for a complete listing of area open water swims.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Open Water Swim Update

I have a 1.2 mile open water swim under my belt now. Unfortunately it was not the Nav-E Sink or Swim but was the LavaSwim in Lavellette, NJ.

The Nav-E Sink or Swim was a disappointment for me. I decided against getting a wetsuit and I had no open water swimming before the weekend of the race. The Sandy Hookers Tri Club has Monday and Friday swims in the Navesink River and I was able to attend one on the Friday before the race. Being out in the open river was scarier than I expected. Especially after I got a foot cramp that just would not go away. I ended up turning around and heading back to the beach on my own. Not a good start. Rather than make me feel good about my prospects in the race I now had some serious doubts.

I was still excited about the race on Sunday and Saturday ended up being a rest day.

On Sunday I got to Rumson, NJ about an hour before race time. I was feeling good but I still had some doubts. As I looked around at all the experienced swimmers with their wetsuits I started to feel like I was out of my element. I was one of the few that had bare arms and torso (I wear the now banned by FINA swim tights so my legs were lightly covered). My plan was not to be competitive but to swim my race and if I came in last it really did not matter.

At the start of the race I tried to line up in the back. I figured I would let the fast swimmers go ahead and I would drop to the back and maybe make up positions as the race progressed (I have learn from my days of running 10ks and doing centuries that the folks that go out fast often fall to the back later on so it is often possible to pick up positions).

One thing I did not count on was how much getting knocked around by the other swimmers would bother me. As I was heading out of the start area to the first turn I kept getting hit. Finally a father and son team swam right over me. That was kind of the last straw and I had a moment of weakness were I decided that I just did not need this and I again turned around and went back to the beach. This was a huge mistake for a couple of reasons. From a personal safety reason I had forgot that the women's 1.2 mile heat was lined up on the beach and I could hear the count down. I knew that I was going to be in their way as I got back to the beach. While I was trying to avoid getting in the way of the women I was feeling a great sense of disappointment.

I ended up watching the finish of the 1.2 men's race. The whole time thinking that I should have been out there and that I had wasted a good opportunity.

Since Monday was Memorial day I was not sure if the Sandy Hookers would have the Monday training but I has determined to show up if they did so that I could try again. Once I got the invite that the swim was on I decided to show up and swim the course again. I ended up having a good swim on Monday so I now needed to find a race that would allow me to get some redemption.

I found a race in Lavallette, NJ called the Swim-A-Palooza or LavaSwim. The only problem was that it was scheduled for next Sunday and I had already agreed to ride up Bear Mountain with one of the groups I sometimes ride with. After some thought I decided I really needed to complete an open water swim race ASAP. I signed up for the race and told my friends I would not be joining them for the ride.

The weather forecast for the LavaSwim was not great (The conditions at the Sink or Swim were just about perfect) but as I loaded up the car for the 40 minute drive down the Jersey Shore I was pleasantly surprised how nice the day was looking. It was cloudy but the sun was out. It was not warm but not too cold either. Maybe the storms would hold off until I got out of the water.

The LavaSwim is a square course in the Barnagat Bay. The start is off shore since the beach is a sandy shallow area that leads a quick drop off. The race starts with everyone treading water. There was a good turn out but not as big a crowd as at the Sink or Swim. Again I found my place in the back. When the start came I again felt the self doubt creep up on me. I was being bumped but I kept telling myself to just hang in.

The first leg was not really that much fun. I was having a hard time finding the rhythm that I usually get in the pool. The head down freestyle technique has some issues in the open water since there is nothing to guide me. I would think that I was head towards a maker only find out that I was way off course. I did a lot of breast stroke (I hate the breast stroke) in order to aim at the markers. As the made the turn at the first buoy I started to feel good. I was able to swim my own pace and I was comforted by the well placed life guards.

Once I knew that I was going to be able to finish I started to have fun. It did not seem as strenuous as my long swims in the pool but there were some other challenges. Mostly related to navigation but the currents and waves factored in. I also had some lower back pain as well.

The 2.4 mile leaders caught me on the third leg (they started 20 minutes before 1.2) but since I was happy just to finish I did not let it worry me.

As I saw the finish line I started to pick up my pace. I eventually hit the shallow part and stood up to run in. My legs were not really happy about this and almost refused to hold my weight. As I came across the line I heard the announcer yell "Patrick McMillan of Holmdel, NJ getting it done at 50 years old". My first thought was I am not 50 am I but then the excitement of finishing took over and I knew that I had a big smile on my face.

I hung around the race finish for a bit and watch the last of the 2.4 swimmers come out of the water. I decided that I would have breakfast somewhere to reward myself. I ended up stopping at the Dunkin Donuts in Pt. Pleasant, NJ.

I ended up placing 86 having spent about 47 minutes in the water. Not a great time but OK. I think I could shave off 7 minutes easily but I might have to wait until next year since I have not been able to find any more local races this year. I do want to get a 2.4 mile swim in as well.

So far the swimming has been a good change up from the workouts I was doing before. My overall muscle tone has increased and swimming seems to hit all the muscle groups. I will have to thank all of my Tri friends for inspiring me to get off the bike and into the water.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

One Week until the Nav E Sink or Swim

It is almost here. The Nav E-Sink or Swim is one week from today. Unfortunately, my swimming training has kind of fallen off. Might be a good thing though. I may very well have been in danger of over training. Was doing several 1 hour plus swims a week. I have definitely cut back on the time in the pool. Still getting the same number of days in but I am now only doing 15 to 30 minute workouts after strength training sessions (lots of lower body work).

The big decision is whether I should do the race in a wetsuit or not. The biggest concern I have is that I will spend $200 on something I am not using enough or kick myself for not spending $400 because I am using it more than I thought.

The Sandy Hookers Tri Club has Monday and Friday evening training swims at Victory Park in Rumson, NJ. I checked it out a couple of Friday's ago. It looks like a lot of fun but my current work schedule does not really allow me to make it on a regular basis.

I have decided that I am going to do the 1.2 mile as my first open water swim. The 2.4 mile swim was probably a little too ambitious. I know I am risking some disappointment in not having attempted the 2.4 swim but I know that it is the right decision.

My bikes are definitely being neglected in 2011. Only 4 rides in 2011. Yesterday would have been a good day to get the 5th ride in but I had lots of errands to run. I am thinking of doing a long swim today and maybe doing some hill climb sprints on some local hills. The biggest problem I am having with riding these days is the amount of time it requires. By myself the rides are usually about 3 - 4 hours long. With the group I am finding that I am on the bike over 5 hours. With my work schedule this is a lot of time to devote especially since I am usually wiped out for the rest of the day after I get back. I need to find a closer job or one that pays as well but requires less hours. Good luck!

There is a planned group ride up Bear Mountain in New York on June 5. I am planning on doing that ride. Lots of climbing. Will definitely be a struggle but I do find pleasure in suffering. I will be going to Miami for vacation a couple of days later so I will have some time for recovery.

Watching Stage 16 of the Giro d'Italia. I may not be riding myself but I can watch others ride.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Just an Update

I bought a new camera since my old one broke but I have yet to have the opportunity to take any pictures. I like blogs that have some pictures. In fact that is the main reason I read them.

Just for the record the new camera is another Cannon. I was going to buy a digital Nikon that looks like an SLR but isn't. It seemed to bulky and I was about to give up when my co-worker who went to Best Buy with me found the Cannon PowerShot SX210. I would like to be able to report on it but I cannot at this point. I took a couple of test photos and I ran some video but not really much else. Was supposed to be used for a College Vist but the weather was lousy and there were not any good photo opportunities. I am sure something will come up.

So far 2011 has yielded two rides so far. Both were on the Langster and both were with the Dorbrook group. In the past I have been able to ride the single speed in the group until April or May but they all seem to be in pretty good shape (Must be the PX90 because there was not a lot of riding going on this winter). Both rides were about 70 miles but I am just guessing because the battery on the computer died. For the first ride I did a lot of suffering both on the way out and on the way back. It just hurt. The second ride was much better. I felt good on the way out with the wind in my face but when we made the turn and the wind was at the back I ran out of gear and just got dropped.

The suggestion was made that I switch to the Tarmac since the winter rides appear to be over. That is probably going to be my strategy going forward. I checked the weather and it looks like I might be able to get two good rides in this weekend. The big problem is that a 5 hour bike ride really takes a lot out of the day. Free time has been in short supply lately.

The swimming is really going well. The form is really starting to take shape. Still only breathing to the right but I am in no real hurry to change at this point. I feel fast and I have been trying to either keep pace with or lap the swimmers in the other lanes. Gave up count and now swimming for time. Workouts are 30, 60, 90 and 120 minutes in lenght. No longer using the two float or the paddles because it is all about endurance now. Even bad days in the pool are good workouts now.

The strength workouts have been less consistent. Had a good legs workout on Sunday. Squats have been more for balance lately and the weight has not been all that exciting. I have been leg pressing 1000 lbs but the squats have been kind of weak. Decided to really start driving the squats and I was excited by the new weight levels. I am visualizing squating 400 lbs. I think it is well within my reach now. The other excercises have not been as much fun lately. Other than the leg workouts everything else has been misery. I guess that is the advantage of cross training. You can get excited about something new when the excitement for the old wanes.

As we head into the spring and summer hopefully I will have some pictures as well as some interesting stories to tell.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Something New - Open Water Swimming

I have not put up a new blog entry in sometime. I actually think that joining Facebook along with a new job resulted in my low Blog Output over the past couple of years. It has been an interesting couple of years some of which would have made for some interesting reads but most likely would have fallen under the category of Too Much Information.

Those of you that have read my postings know that my current obsession has been road cycling. I started out riding a Specialized Langster Single Speed and then added a Specialized Tarmac Comp. I have been averaging around 5000 miles a year riding by myself and with some local A/A+ groups. It has been a lot of fun and I have met a great group of people. In this group are several Triathletes who obviously do a lot of swimming. Specifically open water swimming. The more I heard about it the more I thought I might like a little change up in my routine. So I ordered 8 pairs of swim tights, 5 pairs of swim googles, 5 swim caps from The Finals , found how to get in to pool of my gym (even though I have been going there for 6 years) and officially added swimming to my weekly workout.

When I was young and in middle school I was a member of Boy Scouts. For me the highlight of the year was the Summer Scout Camp and the annual mile swim. Basically the goal was swim a mile nonstop in the lake after 3 days of working up to it. On Monday was 1/4 mile attempt (one lap), Tuesday was the 1/2 mile attempt and Wednesday was the 1 mile attempt. It was always fun and definitely a challenge. I even had a favorite navy/red speed that I always wore. Most of it was done using the side stoke but I would break into freestyle just to pick up the pace. I was always proud that I one of the faster swimmers. From my stand point I would rather be one of the swimmers than one of the rows that would follow along with the swimmers for safety.

My high school did not have a pool or a swim team so Boy Scouts, some lifesaving classes at some of the country clubs that did have pools and taking lifesaving as my gym elective in college was the extent of the swimming that I have done since middle school. I read about the Dolphin Swim Club in San Francisco and have toyed with the idea of competing in a Triathalon but I was never really thrilled with the idea of getting wet as part of a work out. Not really sure what has changed but the weather on the East Coast of the US was not going to allow for much winter riding so I need to do something keep up my cardio fitness. My last ride was a 66 miler on my birthday in December on my Langster.

So armed with some new swim gear and an invite to swim with some local folks over the summer in Manasquan I decide to jump in and give it a try. My goal was to work my way up to a mile but I had trouble making it a single length of the pool (25 yds). Maybe I could get 2 lenghts but it was not pretty. I would start out freestyle and then have to go into breast. I pushed myself to try to spend at least an hour in the pool the first day. I think I made it about 45 minutes. Time really dragged. Since I had a goal and I had made a small investment in gear I was going to give the thing a fair shot. The next day I was able to get an hour in the pool but I was definitely going to need a plan.

Of course the best place to look for a plan is the Internet and typing "swim workouts" into Google I found the this well written and informative site by Ruth Kazez. The 50 workouts listed are tough and definitely not for a beginner like me but I did find the 0 to a mile workout. This was perfect even though at first it was really tough. The plan is based on swimming at least 3 days a week. Each workout is broken up in to drills with the first set increasing each week. The first week was 4 x 100, 4 x 50 and 4 x 25. Since I found this at the end of my first week of swimming this was a tough workout. The 4 x 100s especially. The goal of the workout is to make sure you are uncomfortable for every set so the there is only a couple of breath rest between each 100, each 50 and each 25. The lack of rest is very important and helps out during the next week.

I suffered through the first week but since I could get the prescribed workout done in about 20 minutes I made sure I did other things to make sure I was in the pool for an hour. This usually meant doing additional sets. By the end of the 3rd week I was able to swim a 400 without too much trouble so I decided to go for an 800. I got to the 800 mark and felt really good so I decided to keep going. I hit the 1000 mark and decided to push through for a mile. After I got done with the mile I was tired and very excited. It was the first time I have swam that far since my Boy Scout Days. Unfortunately there was no one in the pool area to share my excitement. In reality I am not sure anyone but maybe my mom would even care.

I have to say my joy was short lived. The next trip to the gym/pool was not as productive. I had not allowed enough recovery time and I was definitely not eating right. I ended up bonking on every working for the next week.

So now I have been swimming on regular basis for almost 3 months. I can try to do a mile every time I hit the pool and I have done more than 2 miles once. Generally I try to do drills after my long swim. I a tow float and resistance paddles that seem to really help with my form. I try to use the kickboard as well but I find kickboard drills to be really boring.

I have two main goals now:
  1. To swim 1 mile with the Manasquan group once the warmer weather gets here.
  2. To swim the Nav-E-Sink or Swim on May 30 (Hopefully the 2.4 mile swim)
  3. To swim from Alcatraz to San Franciso on September 4.

Since my bike has not been touched since December 24 I do feel like I am cheating on it but the nice weather will be here and it is nice to have something that I can do mid week or on rainy weekends.

I will post here with any progress or news.