8.20.2014

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?

8.16.2014

Night Swim at Jordanelle


Lisa and I were talking on the way home from Jordanelle last week about night swims. She said she had never done one, so I knew we needed to get one together.  After posting on Facebook, we decided to go Friday night.

Before I get into how our swim went, let me just offer some tips and precautions about swimming at night.
1) NEVER do it alone. You really need to have someone in a kayak with you to make sure you don't get lost.  Your kayaker should wear glow sticks or other lights so they are easy to see.  You can also attach glow sticks to the kayak.
2) If you are swimming in a group, adjust your speed so that you can all stay together, or agree to re-group at regular, short intervals.
3) Wear some glow sticks or other lights so you know where the other swimmers are.
4) Leave you tinted goggles at home. Go for the clear lenses.
5) When the sun isn't out, the air and water feel colder. Be prepared for it.

Now that that's out of the way...on with the story!

We met at the PWC ramp at Jordanelle around 10pm.  It was already really dark when we got there.  After hauling the kayak down the ramp, we broke out the glow sticks.  Sarah joked that it looked like we were going to a rave.  My new glittery silver speedo looked like a disco ball in the flashing lights, and the others made sure to let me know how ridiculous I looked.  Jim, Tim and Kris floated out near the buoys and hung out there.  Steve (Sarah's husband who was paddling for us), Lisa, Sarah and I headed out along our normal buoy route.

It is a pretty cool thing to see the glowing bracelets of the other swimmers, flashing through the dark around you as you swim.  I was wearing a couple bracelets on each wrist and it was cool to see my hand, the water and the bubbles light up with each stroke.  Steve did an excellent job directing us.  He was wearing a headlamp and was easy to see.  He also pointed a light at each buoy as we got close so we knew where it was and didn't run into it.

At the end of the buoy line, we floated on our backs and looked at the stars.  There were no other lights around and the moon was not out.  It was an incredibly beautiful view.  We swam back the other way to the opposite end and then back to the ramp.

On the way in, Lisa suggested doing backstroke so that we could enjoy the stars again.  It worked great until I smacked Sarah in the head.  Jim, Tim and Kris were gone by the time we got back.  We cleaned up quick and hit the road.

We ended up with 1.5 miles in the dark.  It would be fun sometime to do a long swim at night and time it so that you finished the swim at sunrise.  There were several people who wanted to come, but couldn't make it.  I think we are planning to do this again, maybe on the next full moon.  Watch the Facebook page for details.

8.12.2014

Beautiful Morning Swim at Jordanelle

Lisa messaged me earlier this week asking if I wanted to swim at Jordanelle.  Today worked out to be the best day and she offered to pick me up and give me a ride.

We met Goody and George Halow (who came from out of state to swim the 10-mile Deer Creek swim) at the boat ramp and got going.

I didn't take a water temperature, but it was pretty warm.  Lisa, Goody and I set out to do two laps (3 miles) and George only had time to do one lap before leaving to catch his plane home.

We saw a couple triathletes part way through our first lap. There was a bit of little chop, but it soon settled down. I was swimming at a pretty good pace on the first lap and Lisa and George were right there with me.

The second lap felt slower.  It's always hard when the sun comes up over the mountains and you are swimming into it.  It makes it really hard to see the buoys.  We saw Goody heading west when we were heading east on the second lap.  I was going to try to catch him after we turned at the last buoy, but the bar I ate before leaving the house wasn't sitting well and I didn't want to encourage it to come up.  The water was glass on the way back and it was quite beautiful.  After finishing, Lisa and I hung out at the ramp for a bit and enjoyed the scenery before heading home. What a great way to start the day.

8.08.2014

USMS 5K Postal Swim

This morning I met Goody at the Salt Lake Sports Complex to swim the USMS 5K Postal.  He was my timer / lap counter and then Gords came to be Goody's timer / lap counter so that I could get to work on time.

For those not familiar with the 5K Postal event, it is a 5000 meter swim for time.  A timer / lap counter records your splits and final time and you submit the results online.  USMS has a series of five postal swims (1 hour, 5K, 10K, 3000 yard, and 6000 yard) throughout the year.  It has been a goal of mine to complete all five postal swims this year.

I was in the indoor pool at 5:30am and warmed up for about 45 minutes.  While I was warming up, Goody got set up outside so that we could start right at 6am.  I had been sipping on some Perpetuem all morning and ate a Buzz Bite right before starting the 5K.  I wasn't planning on taking any other feeds and just swimming straight through the 5K.

I felt pretty good the whole way.  I thought about stopping to take a drink and fix my leaking goggles between the 3000 and 3500 meters, but decided to just plow through.  Goody did a good job letting me know where I was by walking up and down the deck every 1000 meters.  At about 3500 meters, I though I should start trying to pick it up a little bit.  The last 500 meters I was swimming pretty hard with the last 100 meters as fast as I could.

I'm not really sure how to pace a 5K.  I have been working up to the 11-mile Dam 2 Dam swim last weekend and all my pacing work was based on an 11-mile pace.  In hindsight, I could have pushed a little harder on the 5K, especially between about 1200 and 2200 meters.

I was shooting for between 1:20 and 1:25 and finished at 1:21:24.19.  Not bad.  I think next year I will shoot for under 1:20.

One of the funnest parts of postal swims for me is looking at the data afterwards.  You have to record your splits anyway, so you may as well analyze them.

Here are my splits:


5K Postal Swim - 2014
Lap
Meters
100 Split
500 Split
1000 Split
Cumulative
2
100
01:30.47
0:01:30.47
4
200
01:37.34
0:03:07.81
6
300
01:37.28
0:04:45.09
8
400
01:36.65
0:06:21.74
10
500
01:37.42
07:59.16
0:07:59.16
12
600
01:36.43
08:05.12
0:09:35.59
14
700
01:38.19
08:05.97
0:11:13.78
16
800
01:38.10
08:06.79
0:12:51.88
18
900
01:38.37
08:08.51
0:14:30.25
20
1000
01:37.13
08:08.22
16:07.38
0:16:07.38
22
1100
01:35.25
08:07.04
16:12.16
0:17:42.63
24
1200
01:37.33
08:06.18
16:12.15
0:19:19.96
26
1300
01:38.08
08:06.16
16:12.95
0:20:58.04
28
1400
01:39.34
08:07.13
16:15.64
0:22:37.38
30
1500
01:39.17
08:09.17
16:17.39
0:24:16.55
32
1600
01:37.71
08:11.63
16:18.67
0:25:54.26
34
1700
01:38.62
08:12.92
16:19.10
0:27:32.88
36
1800
01:40.12
08:14.96
16:21.12
0:29:13.00
38
1900
01:39.55
08:15.17
16:22.30
0:30:52.55
40
2000
01:38.90
08:14.90
16:24.07
0:32:31.45
42
2100
01:42.03
08:19.22
16:30.85
0:34:13.48
44
2200
01:39.52
08:20.12
16:33.04
0:35:53.00
46
2300
01:39.22
08:19.22
16:34.18
0:37:32.22
48
2400
01:38.49
08:18.16
16:33.33
0:39:10.71
50
2500
01:39.01
08:18.27
16:33.17
0:40:49.72
52
2600
01:38.68
08:14.92
16:34.14
0:42:28.40
54
2700
01:38.29
08:13.69
16:33.81
0:44:06.69
56
2800
01:38.84
08:13.31
16:32.53
0:45:45.53
58
2900
01:37.91
08:12.73
16:30.89
0:47:23.44
60
3000
01:39.10
08:12.82
16:31.09
0:49:02.54
62
3100
01:38.80
08:12.94
16:27.86
0:50:41.34
64
3200
01:37.82
08:12.47
16:26.16
0:52:19.16
66
3300
01:37.69
08:11.32
16:24.63
0:53:56.85
68
3400
01:37.93
08:11.34
16:24.07
0:55:34.78
70
3500
01:38.16
08:10.40
16:23.22
0:57:12.94
72
3600
01:38.44
08:10.04
16:22.98
0:58:51.38
74
3700
01:37.69
08:09.91
16:22.38
1:00:29.07
76
3800
01:38.84
08:11.06
16:22.38
1:02:07.91
78
3900
01:38.79
08:11.92
16:23.26
1:03:46.70
80
4000
01:40.26
08:14.02
16:24.42
1:05:26.96
82
4100
01:37.48
08:13.06
16:23.10
1:07:04.44
84
4200
01:38.37
08:13.74
16:23.65
1:08:42.81
86
4300
01:36.26
08:11.16
16:22.22
1:10:19.07
88
4400
01:36.21
08:08.58
16:20.50
1:11:55.28
90
4500
01:37.29
08:05.61
16:19.63
1:13:32.57
92
4600
01:35.43
08:03.56
16:16.62
1:15:08.00
94
4700
01:35.59
08:00.78
16:14.52
1:16:43.59
96
4800
01:36.44
08:00.96
16:12.12
1:18:20.03
98
4900
01:35.24
07:59.99
16:08.57
1:19:55.27
100
5000
01:28.92
07:51.62
15:57.23
1:21:24.19
Average
01:37.68
08:10.13
16:22.18

Min
01:28.92
07:51.62
15:57.23

Max
01:42.03
08:20.12
16:34.18










I'm happy with my overall pace (I will push it harder next year though).  My slowest splits were right around the 1400 to 2500 meter marks.  Now that I know this, the next time I swim a 5K postal, I will make an effort to stay strong during that part of the swim.

I have mixed feelings about my fastest splits being at the end of the swim.  On one hand, I'm glad I could finish strong.  On the other had, it means I probably could have pushed harder earlier on in the swim.

This all makes me wonder what the ideal racing strategy is for this event.  Go out easy and negative split each 500 or 1000 meters?  Go our hard, level off and finish hard?  Go out hard and try to hang on to the end?  Try to swim right at your goal pace the entire time?

Anyway, I'm happy with the swim overall.  If nothing else, it gives me some things to think about and some insight into where I am weak in my pacing.

Next up is the 10K Postal.

8.04.2014

Product Shout-Out: Solrx Waterblock Sunscreen



Last Friday I participated in the 11-mile Dam 2 Dam swim just outside of Boise, ID.  In preparing for a 5.5 hour swim, I thought a lot about sunscreen and wanted to be sure that I put something on that would keep my back from getting fried during the swim.

A year or so ago, I read something by another swimmer about Solrx, which claimed to be waterproof for 8 hours. This swimmer swore by it and it's kind of been in the back of my mind since then.  I looked around online for it (because it's not something that is carried in most retail stores), but couldn't seem to find the one that lasted 8 hours.  After doing a little digging on the Solrx website, it looks like they had to change their label because of the FDA, but the product and formulation is unchanged.  With that, I ordered a 3 ounce tube of SPF 50 Waterblock from Amazon for about $12.

I was telling Chad about this new sunscreen, and found out that he has already been using it. He likes it so much that he got the dive shop he is affiliated with in Tooele to carry it.

The morning of the big swim, I covered myself in the stuff. I assumed it was going to be thick and greasy if it lasts 8 hours in the water, but it was smooth and was not greasy at all.

The weather was a little overcast during the swim and I didn't really feel the sun beating down on me.  When I got out, the only spots that were event remotely sunburned were a couple spots around my armpits and neck that I didn't cover very well.

I'm pretty impressed with this stuff and plan to use it on all my long swims.

8.02.2014

Dam 2 Dam - The Great Moose Migration

Chad and I at the finish of the 11-mile Dam 2 Dam swim in Idaho.
Yesterday I participated in the 11-mile Dam 2 Dam - The Great Moose Migration swim just outside of Boise. Because of the new baby, I didn't participate in some other events and this was my one big swim of the year.

Chad and his crew picked me up Thursday morning and we drove to Boise.  We made it just in time to get to the pre-race meeting at the hotel we were staying at.  Oscar "Moosie" Williamson is the race director and he did a great job explaining the course, what too look for, safety procedures, etc.  I was so tired when we got there that all I wanted to do after the meeting was go to bed.  I would have like to meet and talk to some of the other swimmers. I think Chad and I were the only not from Idaho.


Oscar "Moosie" Williamson giving the pre-swim instructions.
I slept better than I thought I would and woke up a little before 4am to start getting ready.  I had done a lot of the prep the night before, but still had to put on my suit, sunscreen, etc.  We met Chad in the hotel lobby and left for the reservoir.

When we met the other swimmers at the beach where the swim would end, it was really windy.  I thought we were going to be in for a rough day of swimming.  By the time we drove to Arrowrock Dam, where the swim started, it was much more calm.


Swimmers and paddlers getting ready to get in the water, just below Arrowrock Dam.
We finished getting ready and slid the kayaks down the steep hill to the water.  I was still putting on grease when everyone else was ready to go.  Almost as soon as I stepped into the water, they started the countdown and we were off.

The water felt great.  I don't think anyone got an official temperature, but it was probably in the high 60's.  My goal was just to finish the 11-miles so I started out at an easy pace.  After a while I found myself towards the front of the other swimmers and moved to pass a guy who was ahead of me.  As soon as he saw me, he came right up to my side to draft.  I'm not really a competitive guy and, as I mentioned, I was just in it for the experience and to finish the swim.  I really don't mind if someone drafts on me, but he was right up against me.  I could have tried to ditch him but I didn't want to waste that much energy so close to the start of the swim.  I stuck it out for a while until he dropped back and then I was pretty much on my own for the rest of the swim.

The first few miles were beautiful.  The water was calm and I was in zone.  Every once in a while I would see one of the three support boats go by, but I didn't really see any other swimmers or paddlers (other than my own).

About 3 or 4 miles into the swim it started getting really choppy.  This was the darkest point in my swim and I let thoughts of doubt get into my mind and I honestly thought about quitting.  The waves weren't really big, it just felt like I was in a washing machine and half of my strokes I grabbed air instead of water.  This was the only point in the swim where I kind of felt cold.  I told myself I would stick it out until the sun came up and see how it was going.

The chop seemed like it lasted about an hour or so.  Once it calmed back down and the sun peeked over the canyon, I started getting my confidence back.  I stopped thinking about quitting and started thinking that I was going to finish.  In my mind I planned out my feeds and about how many feeds I thought I had left.  Focusing on just making it to the next feed made a big difference in keeping my mind in the right place.

Speaking of feeds, mine consisted of almost entirely of Perpetuem that I drank every 30 minutes after the first two miles.  I added applesauce packets and Buzz bites here and there and took 800mg of Ibuprofen (more on that coming up) but that was it.

I saw one swimmer pass me.  She was wearing a wetsuit and was swimming pretty fast.  She ended up being the first solo swimmer to finish with a time of just under 5 hours!

Not long after we got through the chop, my right collar bone, that I have had trouble with, started hurting.  It wasn't bad to start.  I thought about taking Ibuprofen at the next feed, but decided to ride it out and see what happened.  It retrospect, I should have taken it when I first noticed the problem.  It got progressively worse and I took 800mg of Ibuprofen at the next feed.  It took about an hour for it to kick in, and then I was fine the rest of the way.  I also took a Buzz Bite at this feed.  This was a risk because I had never tried one before and I didn't know how I would react to it.  I was at about 6 miles at this point and wanted some extra pep, so I took it.  It took me a lot longer than I thought it would to chew it and get it down.  It tasted pretty good though and I kind of felt it "kick in" after about 30 minutes.

At this point the wind felt like it was pushing me in the right direction and I felt like I was cruising.  I saw the second set of docks and remembered from the meeting that I was getting to within about 3 miles of finishing.  This was a huge boost to my confidence, and I just kept plugging along.

After a while I looked up to see what I thought was the dam and I got really excited.  I started imagining the walking up onto the sand at the finish and how good it would feel to complete my longest ever open water swim.  As I got closer, I realized that this was not the dam, but tall cliffs.  This was kind of a mental blow.  About the same time, I started feeling pretty fatigued.  I wasn't sure what I was aiming for at this point and it took Ryan (my awesome paddler) and I a while to figure out where we were going.

Once we figured out where the beach was and I had a landmark to sight on, I just put my head down and swam.  As we got closer, I looked at my watch and saw I had about 10 minutes to make my goal time of 5:30.  I swam HARD for that whole 10 minutes.  I didn't quite make my time, but pretty close.  I finished in 5:32.  It wasn't a race, but I finished hard.  As soon as I hit the sand, I jumped up and ran across the finish line.


Finish line!

My GPS died right before the finish, but here is the course I swam.
I waited on the beach for Chad to finish. He and almost all of the other solo swimmers were about 30 minutes behind.  He finished strong.  He had been teasing me the whole trip telling me no to beat him by more than an hour. I told him he had much better endurance than me, and he was right there close behind me.  This was also Chad's longest open water swim to date.


Chad finishing his longest open water swim to date.
Event organizer Oscar "Moosie" Williamson after finishing his swim.
After watching some of the other solo swimmers finish, we went up to the pavilion for some food and drink.  I had mentioned to Oscar that Chad and I are both fans of Diet Mountain Dew.  Sure enough, there was a cooler full of ice cold DMD's.  We each grabbed one and toasted "Moosie".  It tasted so good!  I proceeded to stuff my face with anything that looked good: chips, candy, strawberry cake rolls.  Forget the healthy post race stuff, we deserved to indulge!


These tasted SO GOOD after the swim! Thanks "Moosie" for having them there for us :)
Beautiful beach near Luck Peak Dam, the finish of the 11-mile swim.


We hung around for a while longer before packing up to head home.  It was an awesome swim that I would definitely do again.

Here are some of the things I liked about it:
* Laid back atmosphere
* Beautiful reservoir with plenty of canyons, cliffs, trees, etc to see while swimming
* Awesome sandy beach for the finish
* Very cool event t-shirt
* Excellent post race food and drink :)
* I saw the safety boats regularly and felt very safe the whole way
* Event director who answered all our questions and was very organized

I would also make a few suggestions:
* I got my own time from my watch, but it would have been nice to have an official time from the event
* Some kind of award for finishing.  Swimming 11 miles is a big accomplishment!
* Now that I've done the swim, I could pick out the beach again. Having a bright colored arch on the shore would help make it more recognizable.
* An opportunity to meet the other swimmers. Some of this was my fault for being so tired when we got to the hotel that I didn't make an effort to introduce myself. At our Great Salt Lake swim we have a dinner the night before. Something like that the night before would be awesome.

I need to thank Chad and his family for letting me tag along with them.  If it weren't for them, I probably wouldn't have been able to do this swim.  Chad made everything easy by offering me a ride and finding a paddler for me.  Speaking of paddler, Ryan was awesome.  He stopped me every 30 minutes and happily gave me whatever I asked for. He even shook my bottles, loosened caps on the applesauce and unwrapped the Buzz Bites.  At each stop he asked how I was doing and he did an excellent job navigating the course and leading me to the finish.

I'd also like to thank "Moosie" for all his work in organizing this event.  He and I have been in contact several times since I first heard about his swim and he put a lot of time and effort into making it safe and fun.  I'd love for him to see continued growth and excitement around his swim.

I know there were some scheduling issues this year, but I hope more of our Utah swimmers will make the trip next year.  For me, it was definitely worth the trip.

Now to find some ice for my shoulder...

7.30.2014

Swimming in the Rain

This morning I was supposed to meet Goody at Jordanelle. When I stepped outside, it was raining and, for a second, I thought about going back to bed.  I figured since I was already up, I may as well drive up there and see what conditions were like.  On the way up the canyon, it started raining harder.  I told myself that if Goody's car wasn't there, I would turn back and go home.

When I got to the parking lot, Goody's was waiting for me in his car.  I pulled up and he rolled down the window. "Looks like were swimming in the rain!"

I got changed and saw Lisa and her husband Tom pull up.  Tom was going to fish, but decided to head home because of the rain.  Lisa stayed to swim and then rode home with me.

The water felt nice in the rainy air.  The temperature was 70 degrees, which I'm sure was warmer than the air. There was mist and fog over the water and mountains, it was quite beautiful.  I wish I had brought my camera, it would have been a cool picture of the three of us in the water.

I just wanted to swim one lap this morning.  Just trying to stay loose for Friday's Dam 2 Dam swim in Idaho.  The good thing about swimming on a rainy day is that you don't see the sun come up and there is no glare on the water.  It made sighting the buoys a breeze.

After we finished a lap, we chatted at the boat ramp for a while about Goody's upcoming Bear Lake crossing.  I'm really hoping I can get up there to help him.  Lisa also invited me to do a double width crossing with her and Sarah...I'll have to think about that and run it past the boss.

Anyway, it was a nice swim and I'm glad I stuck it out and didn't go home.  Easy swim tomorrow and then Dam 2 Dam on Friday.