2015 USMS 1-Hour ePostal

It's that time of year again...time for the annual USMS 1-Hour Postal swim.

I got my buddy Goody to meet me at Kearns Oquirrh Park Fitness Center this morning. I got there a little later than I planned, but still got in a warm-up of about 700 yards before Goody got there.

My goal was 4,500 yards, but I thought I would probably end up somewhere around 4,400.  I think I could do 4,500, but I'd need a watch or someone on deck to help me with pacing (which is against the rules of the USMS postal).

Anyway, I finished at 4,452 yards, rounded down to 4,450.  Not too far off of my goal and a 30 yard improvement from last year. I'd like to do it again later this year and see if I can make it to 4,500.

I felt pretty good the whole time. My goggles were leaking towards the end and I thought about stopping to fix them, but just kept going. I started trying to pick up the pace at around 3,500 yards and pushed hard on the last 500 yards.

I kind of like to nerd out with the data after the swim is over.  Here's a graph of my 50 yard splits with an added trend line.

My average 50 split was 40.44 and my average 100 yard split was 1:20.95.

Next time I do this swim, I need to remember to make and effort to pick up the pace from about 3,000 yards to 3,500 yards. That was where my slowest splits were.

I love this event because it gives you a good idea of where you are with pacing and training early in the year so you know what to work on the rest of the year.

Next up are the 5K and 10K ePostals from May to September and the 3,000 and 6,000 yard ePostals in September to November.


2015 Goals

It's a new year and time to start thinking about what I want to accomplish in my swimming life this year. Here are some things on my list to do:

Complete the Utah Triple Crown
I've done all three of the Utah Triple Crown swims in the past, just not all in one year. In order to get the Utah Triple Crown award, all three must we done in one year. The plan is to swim Bear Lake the day before the Bear Lake Monster Swim with Chad. I haven't decided if I am going to try to swim GSL as part of the race, or on my own. I've even been thinking about going from Black Rock to Antelope instead of the other way around. I'll shoot for the 10-mile Deer Creek swim on the day of the race.

Dam 2 Dam
I had a blast at the Dam 2 Dam swim last year. I'm planning on swimming it again and hopefully finishing with a better time. I'd also like to get a bigger group from Utah to make the trip and swim.

Double-width Bear Lake Crossing
I'd like to earn my Monster Hunter patch and certificate from the Bear Lake Swimming Association. Chad is going to do a double-width swim the day before the Bear Lake Monster Swim and I'd like to try to do it the same day.

Official Meet Time for all USMS Short Course Events
I'd really like to get an official meet time for all USMS short course pool events. For those who are wondering that includes: 50 free, 100 free, 200 free, 500 free, 1,000 free, 1,650 free, 50 breast, 100 breast, 200 breast, 50 back, 100 back, 200 back, 50 fly, 100 fly, 200 fly (ouch), 100IM, 200IM and 400 IM (ouch again).

Complete all 5 USMS ePostals
This was on my list for last year, and I just didn't get it done. I did do the 1-hour and 5K last year. It can be tough to find someone willing to sit and record your splits for up to 3 hours (10K ePostal). I'd like to make these postal swims a more social experience and get a bunch of SLOW swimmers together on the same day to do them.

On top of these things, I'd also like to get more involved in coaching (pool and open water) and continue to try to get more people to try open water.

What goals are on your list for 2015?

2015 SLOW Awards Dinner

We had our annual Salt Lake Open Water (SLOW) awards dinner on December 30th at the Great Salt Lake Yacht Club.

We had a pretty good turnout and some great food.

Here is the year-in-review video that Gordon made:

There were a lot of awards given out this year!

Utah Triple Crown
Sarah Jones
Lisa Gentile
Joelle Beard
Stacey Schluckebier
Charles Doane
Chad Starks

Most Improved - Sarah Jones
Best Sportsman - Chad Starks
Best Sportswoman - Lisa Gentile
Goodwill Ambassador - Sue Frehse
Volunteer of the Year - Gordon Gridley

Bear Lake Swimming Association
Monster Hunter (double-width crossing of Bear Lake)
Lisa Gentile
Kelly Gneiting

Monster Slayer (lengthwise crossing of Bear Lake)
Chad Starks
Goody Tyler

Congratulations to everyone on your accomplishments! We had a GREAT year and are looking forward to even greater things in 2015! Our club welcomes swimmers of all abilities. Come swim with us this year!


Swim Clinic with Joe Dykstra - U of U Swim Coach

On Saturday I went to a freestyle clinic with the University of Utah swim coach, Joe Dykstra. The clinic was hosted by South Davis Masters and was only $25 to register.

The clinic started with some dryland instruction with in-water demonstration by on of the assistant coaches. Joe did an excellent job explaining the new school of freestyle swimming.

I started swimming competitively in high school, which was about 20 years ago (YIKES!). We were taught the "S" curve, finger-tip drap, and flipping the water at the end of the stroke. All of these things are now outdated. I've gotten rid of some of these old habits and have been working a lot on my catch and pull. After attending this clinic, I still have a long way to go on my stroke.

Joe talked a lot about body position and reducing drag. Ideally, you want to keep your body as flat as possible. I need to work on keeping my head in the right position, with my eyes looking at the bottom of the pool.

He also talked about the catch and pull. I feel like I'm making progress here. I've been working a lot recently on keeping my fingertips pointed to the bottom of the pool, the shape of my arm, and pulling straight back. These were all things that were brought up.

The idea of "setting an anchor" with the hand that enters the water and then pivoting your body around that anchor was new to me, and is going to take a lot of work.

The recovery is where I need a lot of work. I have a classic high elbow, fingertip-drag recovery. I learned that I need to modify this to be more of a "swinger" recovery. This is not only better for your shoulders, but the swinging of the arm on the recovery helps rotate your body around and past the "anchor" that is set with your other hand and arm.

We were given a lot of drills to help practice these things. At the pool this morning, I spent 45 minutes working on just these drills. It is going to take some time to correct these things, but I think it will pay off in the end.

Here is the handout from the clinic:


Early Morning Adventure at GSL

This morning I got up EARLY to meet Sarah and Chad at the Great Salt Lake.  Since we knew the gate to the marina would be locked until close to 7am, the plan was to meet at 5am at Saltair and then walk down to the beach and swim toward the marina.

It was really dark outside of Saltair as we sat in our cars. Luckily Sarah brought some glow sticks so we could keep track of each other in the water.  We didn't realize how far we were going to have to walk to get to the water.  Once we finally got to the edge of the water, we stripped down and greased up.  The water was very shallow and it took us a while to get to where it was deep enough that we could swim.

By the time we got going, we had limited time to swim.  Chad and Sarah both had to be out by 7.  We decided to just swim straight out into the lake for 15 minutes and then head back.  It was kind of disorienting to be swimming straight out into the lake, in the dark.  There was nothing to sight on, so I felt like I was all over the place.  The water felt great.  I didn't take a temperature, but gslmarina.com reports 74 degrees.  After about 15 minutes we stopped and floated in the water.  We talked for a while about recent and upcoming swims at Bear Lake.  There is a lot going on up there in the next few weeks.

Sarah likes to put her grease/sunscreen mix under her nose.  Chad and I had a hard time taking her seriously with her white mustache.

It was much lighter outside on the way back and we had lights and other landmarks to sight on.  After getting back to shore, we walked back up to our cars.

We were all over the place on the way out because there was nothing to sight on.  The way back in was much straighter.
Today's swim wasn't about distance or training, it was about having fun.  I had a blast floating in the dark talking and joking with my friends.

I would definitely try another swim this early from Saltair, but would plan extra time to get to the water and back.  Sue and I talked last year about doing a SLOW club swim from Saltair to Black Rock.  I'd love to do it.  Anyone interested?


Sunrise, Salt, and Sunken Ship

It's been a few months since I last swam at the Great Salt Lake.  I was talking to Lisa about it and we decided to go out today to check on the conditions.  Also, it has been reported that a sunken boat was discovered near the marina and we wanted to check it out.  Goody called me yesterday and I invited him to come swim with us.

The Great Salt Lake is awesome! It get's a bad rap with the locals, but it really is a great place to swim and explore. I typically stay away during the summer months because that is when the flies and spiders are really heavy and the water temperature is too high. During the Spring and Fall, it is beautiful.

The gate is supposed to open at sunrise, which would have been about 6:45am this morning. We got there around 6:30, expecting the gate to be closed. To our surprise, it was open! When we got to the parking lot, there was a photographer there who already had his equipment set up to capture the sunrise. The gate must have been open around 6am or so. Had we known that, we would have started much earlier.

After getting greased up, we headed down to the ramp. The water inside the marina is still a bit sketchy. There are a lot of flies on the water. Once you get outside the marina, however, the water is perfect! In the future, we'll start from Silver Sands beach so that we don't have to swim through the bugs.

I've forgotten how different it is to swim in the GSL. You feel so FAST out there. It's a great feeling. As we got outside of the marina, we caught just the beginning of the sun rising over the mountains. It was incredible. Pink mixed with the white of the clouds and the blue sky, reflected off of the surface of the smooth as glass water.

We decided to do a Gridley Straight (marina to Black Rock, 1 mile distance) so that we wouldn't ruin the photo that the photographer was so patiently waiting for. The water was super calm, and I just cruised down to Black Rock. We floated and chatted for a bit. I really think you could take a nap just floating on the water. It's the ultimate water bed. We took some photos and headed back to the marina.

Lisa hanging out near Black Rock

Goody doing some butterfly near Black Rock.
I was feeling good and decided to try to push it a bit on the way back. I started my timer and took off. I touched the buoy at 21:47. Not bad.

With the workout over, it was time for some fun. I have been seeing reports of a sunken boat that was just discovered outside of the marina. The boat was reportedly built for Brigham Young to take cattle to Antelope Island. The wreck is marked with a buoy, so we swam over to check it out. It's unbelievable that no one has found this boat until now. When we got there, it was shallow enough that we could actually stank on the wreck. It is maybe 100 feet from the break wall. We played around for a while, diving down to try to get a better look. I tired getting some photos, but they didn't turn out.

Diving down to get a better look at the sunken boat.

Goody and Lisa hanging out near the shipwreck.

I swear there is a sunken boat in this picture somewhere.
It was an awesome swim this morning and I was happy to be back at the Great Salt Lake.


Panic and Mental Training at Jordanelle

Lisa and I planned to meet this morning to swim at Jordanelle.  When I was woken up by thunder and lightning early this morning, I figured the swim would probably be off.  I got up and got ready anyway and left to pick up Lisa. I pulled up to her house, secretly hoping that she would tell me she wasn't swimming today. No such luck. She jumped right in the car and seemed excited to be going swimming.

We drove up the canyon in the dark and rain. As we got closer to Jordanelle, it looked exactly the same as it did last week when we did our night swim, minus the stars in the sky. We got ready and walked down the ramp in the rain. It was a bit chilly outside and the rain didn't help. I dropped my thermometer in the water and waded in. Lisa didn't mess around and dove right in. I was actually a little surprised that the water didn't feel cooler.

It was choppy, dark, and rainy when we started swimming. I think it must have been the combination of those things, as well as letting my mind imagine the worst-case-scenario, that made me start to panic. I had a hard time controlling my breathing and went from breathing every third stroke to breathing every stroke. I have been through this before and knew that if I didn't get it under control, that it might get worse. I made myself keep swimming and forced myself to control my breathing by blowing out all of my air when my face was in the water. I knew that I wasn't in any immediate danger. I have swam in far worse conditions and made it through. I wasn't cold, Lisa was right there with me, I had my SaferSwimmer, and we were not far from shore. Reminding myself of these things helped calm me down. It also helps me to find something that takes my mind off of whatever is causing me to panic. Usually this means singing a song in my mind. My song of choice is "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall". Some people roll their eyes when I tell them this, but it works for me. I think because it is repetitive and rhythmic and I can get into a groove syncing my stroke to the words. Because you have to count down, it also takes a bit of focus. It usually takes me about 30 minutes to go through the whole song from 99 to 0, which also helps me estimate how far I have gone. This is usually enough to take my mind off of whatever is making me panic.

It didn't take long for me to get back under control and ease back into my normal breathing pattern and stroke. At the end of the buoys, Lisa asked if I was ok. I told her that I had panicked, but that I was fine, and we continued swimming.

It started getting lighter after we turned around. After passing the ramp, headed towards the anchored boats, I started to feel raindrops. It was raining the whole time, but the drops must have gotten bigger because I didn't notice them until this point. Talking with Lisa later, she experience the same thing. We made the last turn and headed back toward the ramp.

We stopped for a minute between the red and green buoys and just floated. Now that it was a little lighter outside, it was a pretty beautiful view with the rain, fog and clouds. I thought about doing another lap, but decided to call it good with just one.

I'm glad I stuck it out and finished the swim. If Lisa hadn't been there, I'm sure that I wouldn't have even stepped into the water. As we were getting out, Lisa checked the thermometer. I swore it was about 70 degrees or a little higher, but it was a solid 68 degrees. It made both of us happy that we were comfortable at 68 degrees. It ended up being a great swim, and was great mental training. I know I will be able to look back on this on other swims and remember that I made it through.

Lisa was telling me about some plans that are in the works for some of the women on our SLOW team. Exciting stuff!

Here are my quick tips for if / when you find yourself starting to panic:

1) Control your breathing. Roll over on your back, switch to backstroke or breaststroke, or stop and tread water. Blowing out all of my air when my face was in the water helped me this time. I think this is the most important thing you can do to get control back.

2) Assess the situation. Are you in immediate danger? If so, get help or get the hell out. If not, remind yourself of all the safety precautions you have taken before the swim (swim with a buddy or paddler, stay near shore, wear a bright cap, use a safety device, etc.). If you are swimming in an organized event, remind yourself that there are people on the water that can help you. Just reminding yourself of these things can help calm you down. On the other hand, if you haven't done these things, it could make things worse.

3) Take your mind off of what is causing you to panic. Start singing a song in your mind, list off names of family and friends, recite a poem, do some mental math...anything that will get you thinking about something else. I know if I dwell on the negative thoughts, things can go downhill quick.

4) Keep going. If you aren't in immediate danger, keep swimming. Chances are you will get over the panic and be fine the rest of your swim. This will make you more mentally tough for swims to come.

Have you ever panicked during a swim? What did you do to get over it?