Sunday, December 25, 2011

An Epistle From The Great White North

At Christmas time the Austin Energy company erects an O Tannanbaum - wie treu sind deine Blätter! - in Zilker Park, centered around a scaffold tower that the rest of the year supports the tornado and severe weather alert sirens.

The weather outside may be less than frightful and a delightful fire means we have another drought-caused forest fire on our hands, but people flock to Zilker to evoke the Merry of Christmas (and have a taco out of the food cart operating in the parking wouldn't be Austin without a food cart).

But Christmas Day approaches ever faster and faster, and errands and errands pile up, so that not even an Angel of the Lord coming down and shining his glory around can help ease the mighty dread seizing my troubled mind.

And then I travel half-way across the country with my bike in the midst of the holiday rush, so it feels like I am away in a strange bed, asleep on what might as well be a straw mattress.  What am I?  A king of the Orient that bears gifts as I traverse afar?

All the while I'm thinking to myself, Kelzie, this is what they were referring to when someone said rest ye merry gentle(wo)men, let nothing you dismay.  And I'm all like, YEAH RIGHT!...

Amazon has lost my most expensive package, I'm running outside in weather that requires a HAT!, and I still have to deck the halls with boughs of holly.

Finally I cry out, overcome with stress, "I do not need even one more loud drummer disrupting my sleep!  Tomorrow they had better come with a gift receipt so I can take them back!  Isn't it the thirteenth day of Christmas YET?"

But eventually sitting with my parents on Christmas Eve, I hear the first strains telling me that all is calm, all is bright, and I finally feel a silent night.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!  -KEB

Friday, December 23, 2011

Operation: Homeward Bound

'Round about the first week of January, this scene is going to play out on the border between Illinois and Wisconsin, heading north.

Although we're doing it in much more style: there will be a bike on the back.

That's right, the Beebe's are moving back to Madison!  Ok, just The Support Staffers; I will be terrorizing the neighborhood on occasion and selected holidays.

It turns out that when your two hobbies are farming - which requires you to be in the same place every day - and motorcycle riding - which is best done in a different place every day - one hobby is soon to be no longer.

The sale of the farm was somewhat anti-climactic - long-awaited and then over as suddenly as it began - but the disbanding of The Menagerie was bitter-sweet.  One dog went to perma-doggie-daycare across the road this past summer; the cats had each gone a-huntin' one night and never turned up the next morning; Willy and Wee Willy were hired out as trash recyclers and general lawn care professionals on another farm; Brownie went to the young daughter of the cattle farmer who must soon remove his cattle from the grazing pastures he rents from us; this season's sheep and lambs were sold; and the second dog will remain on the farm with the new owners.  Which leaves...the guineas.  What to do with 15 - the new owners want 4 of our 19 - of the stupidest animals on the planet?

Sell them, of course.  For free.

You would think we selling (ok, giving away) illicit drugs.  Dad put out the word along the electronic fence line that our guineas were for sale for the bargain price of zero dollars, and the phone started ringing immediately.

A furtive female voice: "I hear you got guineas to sell."

Dad: "Yes."

The furtive female: "How much?"

Dad: "They're free."

Furtive female: "How many?"

Dad: "As many as I can catch."

F.F.: "My husband will call you back."  {click}

It was like they were casing the joint to make sure the phone wasn't being tapped and traced by the DEA.  Or maybe the USDA.

I am only sorry that I had already returned to Austin after Thanksgiving, by the time my parents used fishing nets and dog cages to catch the guineas.  I asked Mom how it went.

"The new owners are getting 5 guineas and they are just going to have to deal with that."

Here's to guinea-free living in Wisconsin!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Guru On The Mountain-Top

Sometimes, when you want something done right, you go to an expert.  Because when it comes to fitting my bike, I have tried to do it myself.

In my mind, there are four bike-fitters in the U.S. that are worth a special trip, one for each major region.  David Greenfield of Elite Cycles in Philadelphia, PA; Mat Steinmetz of Retul in Boulder, CO; Dan Empfield of "I only just invented the triathlon-specific bicycle, as well as the F.I.S.T. fitting system, and know a thing or two about putting a unique human body on such a device" [and that's reality, not bragging]; and John Cobb, formally of Blackwell Research, now of Cobb Cycling (and some of the most commercially applicable research in aerodynamics and comfort inducing research in saddle design) in Tyler, TX.  Each of these men has his own approach - rider feel vs. numbers vs. a trained eye and tinkerer's ingenuity - but some of them have been fitting riders longer than the other fitters have been alive, so...

I was fit by Davey G. back in the spring of 2010, and for 18 months the result of his organic approach to fitting felt great, until, as I aptly described in a previous post, it didn't anymore.  But what was a special day trip from DC would be a special weekend trip from Texas, and I just so happen to now live much closer to John Cobb.

Having identified and located the Guru, the parable of the truth-seeker seeking the answer to the meaning of life - or a bike fit - begins.

As per the parable, the trip to the mountain-top is arduous.

Just me, East Texas, and the occasional semi-truck.

Maybe there will be something to see if I turn on the brights...

As per the parable, the mountain-top is desolate, or more favorably described, under-stated.

In this case the answer to the meaning of a bike fit is found in the back of a used car dealership.  And before you laugh or jump to an under-educated conclusion, I can now say that the best bike fit I have ever received in my life took place in the least auspicious place I have ever received a bike fit in my life.  Don't judge the Guru simple because you find him in simple surroundings.

Unlike other Gurus, especially those in India, this one does not have a sacred cow.  Here is John uncovering and hacksawing off a piece of a saddle of his own design so that said piece would no longer be around to bother me.

But just as his own creations are not sacred, neither are those of others.  Here is John blithely hacksawing off a piece of my bike - yes, of my bike - because it was preventing the correct positioning of my seat-post and saddle.

And that is the answer to the secret of the bike fit: a basic, solid, supportive fit of a body in its most powerful position is everything, and no limitation - aside from ingenuity and the necessary structural pieces required to make a two-wheeled bike not collapse beneath you - should get in the way.

Just because some geek in a back office decided that aero extension arm rests should not attach directly to the aero extensions without a spacer doesn't mean your aero extension arm rests cannot attach directly to the aero extensions without a spacer.  If this means drilling new holes in non structural pieces and chiseling out plastic-in-the-way-of-progress with a hacksaw, so be it.  Hacksaw, please, Nurse, stat.

Here I shall digress a moment.  To all the women and applicable men out there who have not yet tried one of John Cobb's saddles, I ask a single question:


Think about the softest, most vulnerable parts of your body and what it feels like to sit on them, on a really uncomfortable surface.  Like straddling the top rung of a fence with no where to rest your feet.  Now imagine if someone fit people - five billion variations on a single theme - for decades, listening to their likes and dislikes, and then invited a ton of those variations to sit on temporary molds fashioned on those verbal cues, and only then designed a saddle - a line of saddles! - with the express purpose of protecting those parts and providing support through the solid, non-nerve ending parts around them, no matter how unique it looks.  And then is entirely willing to take apart and cut up his creations to meet your specifications exactly, or to support you doing the same thing at home, with a six month guaranteed return policy.

Now imagine if someone imagined a saddle the way it is "supposed" to look (or how the "next big break-through" will look) - whatever the heck that means; my crotch doesn't need a big break-through, it just needs pain-free riding - and only then having you try how it feels.  Oh, and once the seat clamp has scratched the rails, it's yours for eternity.

The former describes John's long-standing, and on-site, R&D; the later describes pretty much everyone else's.  For once, you have permission to think entirely on behalf of your genitals - and they will thank you for it.

John does not lie when he says that every fit is learning experience and R&D opportunity for him.  I described some pretty-painfully-obvious-to-me discomfort, something he said he had never heard before.  Off came the cover, out came the knife, and goodbye offensive foam. 

Then some surgical staple gun action and good as the factory floor!  Only custom!

Later John showed aero extension arm rest makers just how necessary some of their plastic was.  Pretty darn unnecessary was the verdict.

The arm rests did need some minor shimming to effect the correct angle, and so he made some.  I mean, of course, doesn't everybody, right?  A few small washers and an electric drill and my forearms were once again happy campers.

All of this was not because John enjoys dismantling bike components (although I certainly found the process had a unique speak-truth-to-power feel) but because some not-so-subtle changes needed to be made so that my body in its most powerful position could fit on my bike, while maximizing comfort.  And John was not trying to fit a square peg - me - in a round hole - my bike.  I am short and have some strange morphologies, and somewhat by chance, the bike I walked in with is only one of three made by any company anywhere that could accommodate - and even then, only after all of the hacking and drilling and cutting described above - the fit I walked out with.  If anything, he was trying to further square out the corners of the squarest hole available so that the square peg could get through.  Others, it seems, had been rounding off my corners - limiting the use of my own body - to better fit a round hole.

For someone of my analytic take on things and own tinkering background, the experience was made truly engaging by the education to be gleaned from the one-liners dropping left and right.  Basically, you are in the presence of a man who has done more wind-tunnel testing - on pretty much everything - and functional comfort fabricating than, well, a whole slew of the people who try to sell you popular triathlon gear on a daily basis.  One sentence and an entire sub-industry of almost universally adopted bike gear is marginalized - with data to prove it!  Another and whoops, well, I might be doing some seamstressing on my tri kits.  With two fingers he touches the side of your leg while you ride to palpate a certain point.  He found this point through two years of physiological testing with 12-channel EMGs; now he can tell if you are in the proper position, muscularly, just by touching it.

Some people, as they gain education, are "closed," become narrow and limited.  Others are opened, far wider than many of us could ever hope to be, and learn to think without limitations.  A mere few of that number know how to bring others along for that experience.   John Cobb is one of that number.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Enemy Within

A lot of the content I post here is witty, or tries to be, or entertaining, or tries to be, or educational, or tries to be, while also accurately portraying the ups and downs of my job and life(style; but admittedly without much style).  But some things you just can't make witty or entertaining, some things are just plain confusing and icky and drive you to pull your hair out - or in my case recently, lose it.

Back in early October I was preparing for my third and final IM of the season, anticipated to be in Cozumel.  I wasn't breaking any land speed records, but I was getting the day-to-day done, although some sessions were truly ugly.  Several weeks in a row I was at the gym on Sunday afternoon, doing the same session, and thought I would try this new-fangled idea of weighing oneself on a regular interval, on the same scale, to track weight.

Coincidentally this was at the same time I gained 20 lbs in two weeks, without trying.  I topped out at the heaviest I have ever been, even counting that winter I learned to lift weights alongside my high school's football team, and tri kits purchased for racing season no longer fit.  Hauling around all that extra weight made running painful, and soon I was in no shape to continue training, let alone build to IM training.  I have never really wanted to be pregnant, and this particular transformation pretty much cemented that sentiment. 
Clearly things were not as they should be. 

I have said before, in this space, that a human being in training is a machine delicately balanced, a balance with which the human involved is intimately familiar.  Bonk coming on?  Period a few days away?  Muscle about to pull?  Chiropractic adjustment needed?  I for one, can feel these before they happen.  Many of the reasons the machine becomes unbalanced are external, which while frustrating, are, at least, "see-able."  When something inside becomes unbalanced, it's not only frustrating, but also "un-see-able."  So ends the season and so begins the hunt and so crops up the road-blocks.  

One simple blood test and it became obvious hypothyroidism is the likely culprit.  Something PubMed, Google, and I had already diagnosed.  Who needs an MD when the internets clearly have all the answers and never lie? 

But getting an MD involved wasn't all rainbows and unicorns. 

The problems I ran into were 1) not having health insurance, and 2) doctors who did not see my problem as being "big" enough - some weight gain and slightly-off test results wouldn't be as big a deal to someone who works at a desk - and 3) doctors who did not understand that tests completed after three weeks on the couch did not accurately represent my "normal" life.  

In the middle of all of this, I started speaking with prospective new coaches.  "Hi, I race professionally, but will likely be diagnosed with a chronic illness, not to mention I weigh more right now than I ever have before.  I swear I am doing everything I can to fix this situation with all haste, but it will still take some time.  So...any chance you might interested in coaching me?"  There is a reason I don't sell cars.

I chose the path I did partly because he is an MD (but not my MD) and he offered an apt analogy that put things into realistic perspective.  
"Everybody owns a station wagon.  They are really familiar with their own station wagon, because they live in it, literally.  They know which door handle sticks and which window doesn't roll down all the way.  Doctors are familiar with the users manual for station wagons.  Then you walk in with a Ferrari.  A Ferrari operates generally the same way as a station wagon - engine, four wheels - but its tolerances are different, its up-keep is different.  You need to find a doctor who understands Ferraris."

Six weeks after I had pulled the plug on my season - the week before Thanksgiving - I had Googled to the ends of the Earth, learning more about my body than I ever thought possible, and started a forward-looking treatment plan.  The PCP I finally found proved to be the problem-solver with which I had hoped to work: someone who understands my particular needs and is willing to say "we will try until we get it right, and within the context of your normal life."

Now, a synthesis of things I have learned, because this sob story had to at some point turn witty, entertaining, or educational [DISCLAIMER: Please do not misconstrue what follows as actual medical advice.  Find your own MD.]: 

Hypothyroidism is like diabetes, but of the thyroid rather than the pancreas.  The thyroid system - which regulates energy creation and metabolism - doesn't have as much of the hormone, and various in- and out-puts, as the body needs and the body's metabolism slows.  A slow metabolism means that a 3 hour bike ride burns the calories of a 30 min bike ride, for example.  The symptom list includes: fatigue and weakness, swollen joints and muscle aches, bloated face and constipation, hair loss (women are particularly likely to lose the outer half of their eyebrows) and brittle nails, depression and sensitivity to cold, abnormal menstrual cycles and sudden, unexplained weight gain (bingo!).  I also had more-than-usual hair loss (though not my eyebrows), and I *think* some joint pain and maybe fatigue, but being knee-deep in IM training who can say they weren't just what I deserved.

Estimates vary, but some researchers think 10 million Americans - many of whom do not know it - suffer from low thyroid.  As many as 10% of all women may have some form of thyroid hormone deficiency. 

It's treatable, but not curable.  Once the thyroid in unable to make as much hormone as necessary, you will always have to replace some or all of it via pill.  Unlike diabetes, people with thyroid conditions take one pill per day, and complete blood tests anywhere from every four weeks to once a year, depending on how stable their medication and physical symptoms are.  Because every human body requires a different amount of thyroid hormone even when the gland is working perfectly, every bum thyroid is circling the drain at its own unique rate, and synthetic hormone is available in numerous increments, the general approach to treatment is "start low and test often," until such time said lab results and physical symptoms become stable.
Interestingly, the list of things that can make a thyroid start to circle the drain is long, but does not include increasing amounts of physical training stress, per se.  Meaning, my thyroid did not stop working just because I train "a lot."  Some people are born with under-functioning thyroids (think Type 1 diabetes) and some go bad because of an under-active pituitary gland, pregnancy (or significant shifts in reproductive hormone balances...hello, 30!), radiation exposure, severe iodine deficiency, or auto-immune-induced inflammation.

This last one is particularly notable in light of recent diet fads and gender-specific responses to these diet fads.  An auto-immune response means the body fails to recognize its own tissue, and attacks it, with T-cells and whatnot, and causes tissue-damaging inflammation.  So hypothetically, a body can - and sometimes does - attack its own thyroid just because.  However, some foods - gluten, dairy, some nuts - are "inflammatory" because they engender an auto-immune response (an allergy; i.e. celiac disease) in the human body.  When someone with an allergy, even a mild one, eats the offensive item (say, gluten) their body's auto-immune function kicks in and attacks the food culprit and the greater digestive tract.  Unfortunately, other delicate parts of the body get caught in the cross-fire: the thyroid becomes inflamed as well, its cells get damaged, and the gland starts circling the drain.

The gender-specific response - and this next part is the most adamantly not me providing medical advice - relates to the insidious inclusion of soy in the modern American, high-protein, low-carb diet.  Soy naturally contains lots of estrogen, which women already have enough of, and isoflavones.  Some researchers say "great, bring on the isoflavones!"  For example, how many dry cereals, historically made of grain and full of carbs, now boast (inexpensive to manufacture) soy-based protein?  Other researchers believe that, in abundance, estrogen and isoflavones attack thyroid function directly and/or build up to levels so toxic the thyroid's function is suppressed through a chronic imbalance of its in- and out-puts.  The jury is still out on what, if anything, soy does to thyroids, especially in women, but both sides have enough ammunition to fight a civil war for some years.  Until then, my nutritionist and doctor have me off the (soy) sauce.  My nutritionist actually referred to tofu as "flavorless chunks of lard."

Of course, the rest of the body tries to cover for the failing thyroid and right the ship.  Some, but not all, testable levels will be off.  [It is important to understand that "normal" levels are just ranges, designed to include a decent number of the five billion variations on a single theme.]  Some doctors are unwilling to treat thyroid issues in these cases, but their hesitation can mean that we station wagon owners never learn that something we think simply comes standard with a used car, is really something a little spit and polish will fix.

Another aspect of hormonal - thyroid, insulin, estrogen, etc - imbalance is what "normal" truly means, especially with regard to test ranges.  It is far more important for a single patient to be "normal" relative to themselves - meaning, to their own previous test results - rather than relative to a range dictated by who knows who and how many of them.  In this respect, my own general good health has come back to bite me in the ass.  Before this fall I had never had comprehensive, in-depth blood tests.  Before this fall, my last true, non-gynecological physical was...twelve years ago? fifteen?  although more likely, never.  So instead of numbers from previous blood tests, the only basis for "normal" my PCP and I have to go on is that before this fall my hormones were balanced enough to keep me from gaining 20 pounds on a whim (although my metabolism may have been off kilter somewhat).  The only reasonable short-term goal for a return to "normal" we can have is reaching my pre-fall weight and regaining an appropriate weight control mechanism, meaning I lose what I burn and I gain what I don't burn.  The simple idea that supports New Years resolution makers the world over, but an un-checked thyroid condition makes even that a pipe-dream. 

Over the years, who knows what will happen in me, and in others.  My thyroid may never get any closer to the drain, or it may takes years to get there, or it may fall in tomorrow.  And it could have been getting ever closer to the drain since I turned 3, for all I know!  Not to mention that each of these scenarios represents a completely different treatment and testing plan.  Which is why I was so determined to find a problem-solving doctor and a coach with an MD.  Essentially, it's the educated guessing game of medicine on top of the educated guessing game of training, and I wanted people on my team who know how to make educated guesses.

But the message I want everyone to leave here with is this:

** Thyroid conditions are not a death sentence.  Heck, the longer I "have it," the more people around me I find out "have it" too.  My training partners, my massage therapist... Karen Smyers doesn't even have a thyroid! 

** Thyroid conditions and elite-level athletic function are not mutually exclusive.  See: Karen Smyers...and probably a lot more people than you or I think.  If fact, admitting you have a problem and getting treatment, will probably bring about higher level athletic function because your body will finally be operating in balance.

** You are not alone and you are not diseased.  I will admit that when I first seriously considered the reality of having a thyroid condition, I felt alone, the extreme over-abundance of internet chat-rooms and forums not withstanding.  "I broke myself and now I am doomed to regular blood tests and a daily pill...for-e-ver."  Add to that the alienating language and terminology involved in applying for health insurance - "pre-existing condition" my a$$, I bet I am still healthier than 95% of all Americans with health insurance - and I felt not only alone, but also mere steps from uselessness and the grave.  You are not alone...because I am here!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Lost The Plot

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Einstein was a smart guy.

There are plenty of theories, anecdotes, and cautionary tales about plans, committing to them and changing them, in sport: Allow for a certain amount of time with a new plan before deciding how smart that option was to choose.  Allow for a certain amount of time when things aren't working before making a decision to change them.  Don't follow the Coach-Of-The-Moment.  Follow the Coach-Of-The-Moment.  Don't ask questions about how exactly the plan works, just complete the plan.  Ask as many questions as necessary to understand fully the plan (while also completing the plan...)  Absolute faith in the plan is necessary, otherwise it won't work.  Continue to educate yourself about alternate ways to train because absolute faith in any one plan is unnecessarily limiting.

But sometimes, perhaps inevitably, things that were working no longer work, for whatever reason, even an unidentifiable one.  Just ask anyone who is divorced.

And there are no rules for that situation.  Often it is about listening to your gut, and then taking your toys and going to a different playground.  It is about questioning your own sanity.

I recently decided to no longer be insane.

I worked with my now-former coach for three years.  I made a commitment, I had faith, and for a long time, the plan worked.  But then progression slowed, stalled, and maybe even back slid a little.  There is no blame, other than to say that I think we each have a share to shoulder, but what had worked before no longer did, and maybe hadn't, in a constructive way, for a while. 

So in my sanity I'm going to try something different, a pretty significantly different approach actually, and have faith in the plan and see where it takes me.  The decision was a long time in the making, but my first line in the first email in the new partnership pretty well captures my feelings about the whole thing:

{spits into palm and holds out hand}  Let's do it.

Because when you finally find the plot, I figure you should grip it tight and with conviction.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Hard Reset

The annual Christmas Church Choir Concert of off-season blog posts has begun.  "I'm stepping back, reevaluating things. Changes are afoot."  "I'm researching things so the problems of this year won't impact the success of next year."  "I've identified the key to success next year, just you wait and see."

These refrains are not disingenuous, nor are they out of place, as off-season is the time to address problems and changes.

They are just vague as h*ll.  No one ever outlines exactly what they have done, researched, identified, kept, and discarded.  It's certainly a personal quest individual to each athlete, and the to-dos on the list don't reinvent the wheel, but the possibilities are vast and the search for exact solutions can be over-whelming.

As an example, here is everything I did during my (truly off) off-season, which was abnormally long and lasted from mid-October to just before Thanksgiving, and my subsequent return to training:

** Picked the brain of a sports nutritionist.  Then followed up a gazillion times.  And then asked if he would simply live with, and cook for, me.   

** Got health insurance.  An expensive luxury now that I don't work in an office.  Does this make me part of the 1%? 

** Had in-depth physical(s), with lots ($800 worth!) of blood work.  To quote my PCP: "Most of the things that could be wrong with you, I can't see."  A truism for most athletes, pro or AG.
** Annual bike maintenance, which is more in-depth than the maintenance I do or I have the shop do at any another point during the rest of the year.  I learned my lesson earlier this year and would prefer to avoid that debacle in the future. 

** Over-hauled my position on the bike.  My previous fit was still about 90% correct, but that 10% turned me into a pretzel in Cedar Point.

** Shortened my cranks.  This required sending my entire crank arm-chain ring-powermeter set-up back to SRM, so I had the battery on my powermeter replaced as well.

** Tested(/ing) other racing kit manufacturers.  Winter trainer riding is the best time to try new shorts/chamoix: you will never be more uncomfortable than you are on the trainer because you never change position.  Plus you can take off really offensive shorts without the downside of being naked by the side of the road. 

** Tested(/ing) new bike shoes, new running shoes, and new aero-bar extensions.  If it ain't bolted down, super-glued on, or zip-tied together, or even looked at me wrong, it's fair game.  It's not that "My Preferred Equipment" was no longer preferred by me, but instead that I wanted to make sure they still should be My Preferred Equipment.

** Bought an up-dated GPS for running.  It told me I'm in Texas.  Wha? 

** Got a new coach.  And he didn't prescribe any of the previous items (although he would have if I had not already initiated some of them).

Just about the only things that were safe were my powermeter, sports bras, socks, orthotics, swim gear, and saddle.

Again, these are all personal choices or needs, but I don't mind sharing them with you because none off them are the silver bullet.  Changing my powermeter battery isn't going to make me a world champion, but together these action items add up to better training and better performance.  They need to get done, so they get done, no matter the money, time, effort, stress...or blood and needles (gah!), involved.  For me, it's part of the job, and for everyone, it's part of the sport.  And excuse me for thinking it's part of the fun of the sport.  Yeah, I'm also one of the people who likes Christmas shopping.  So shoot me.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Today's Signs of the Apocalypse

I just paid less than $3 per gallon for gas.

The temperature in Austin is officially cold enough to shut down the auto detailing businesses.

Hell must truly be freezing over.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect

A couple days ago I suggested completing a technique-only swim workout, alone and not pace oriented, on a regular basis to teach and reinforce good swimming technique.  Here's a sample of a workout that incorporates many common swimming drills, as well as some drills I've either made up or learned along the way.  A technique swim session does not have to be 4000 scy.  It can be any length you want, as long as the vast majority of swimming done is done with good technique.

5 x 100 - progression through "side work"
  • kick on side with both arms along the torso, switch sides every 12.5 yds (or m.)
  • kick on side with bottom arm extended straight from shoulder toward the wall to which you are heading, switch every 12.5
  • 4 kicks on side, then 1 stroke with top arm (to flip you to the other side), 4 kicks on side, 1 stroke...focus on high elbow for that one stroke
  • 3 kicks on side, 3 strokes starting with top arm (ex. R, L, R to switch sides), 3 kicks on side, 3 strokes starting with top arm (L, R, L)...
  • 3s and 4s: alternate 3 strokes of freestyle with 4 strokes of back (e.x. L, R, L, flip immediately over rotating to your left, R, L, R, L as back, flip immediately over rotating to the your right, R, L, R as free....if you do it right you will be rotating different directions and won't get dizzy)....don't start start stroking until your head flips as well to reinforce your neck being an extension of your spine, and keep your hips high in the water
10 x 25 free style with band, alt fist down, regular back
  • keep the amount of high elbow needed to create an effective catch and propulsive pull in mind to inform the drills after this
20 x 50 - either in rotation or straight through, 4 each of:
  • fist - swim normal stroke but with your fists balled up
  • finger drag - dragging the tips of your fingers along the surface of the water as the arms recovers forward past the head; keep the elbow high (very bent) and the hand loose
  • thumb - swim with the thumb extended out from the hand, perpendicular to the fingers, so that when it hits the hip/upper thigh at the end of each stroke you know you have used the full length of your stroke
  • scull - elbows bent 90 degrees, pointing toward the sky; hands cupped and fingertips pointing to the bottom of the pool; move forearms back and forth from the elbow like a wind-shield wiper motion
  • Distance Per Stroke (DPS) - exaggerate the stroke, minimize resistance to the water, and go as far in the water as you can with each one
4 x 100 - catch-up
  • 2 x hands meet out front before starting the next stroke - can use the exchange of a kick board, pull buoy, or short pipe to keep yourself honest
  • 2 x the forward hands starts to move when the recovering arm passes the ear
5 x 100 - single arm
  • 2 x 50 with pull buoy, non-stroking arm extended straight from the shoulder toward the on-coming wall - first 50 right-arm-only (RA), second 50 left-arm-only (LA)
  • RA with non-stroking arm along the torso, breathing to the stroking arm side
  • LA with non-stroking arm along the torso, breathing to the stroking arm side
  • RA with non-stroking arm along the torso, breathing to the non-stroking side
  • LA with non-stroking arm along the torso, breathing to the non-stroking side
10 x 25 free style with band

8 x 50 FAST with fins on :90 
  • focus on moving the arms through the strokes faster, but without sacrificing a good catch, a high elbow, and a finish past the hip
500 moderate speed, focus on form, bi-lateral (to both sides) breathing

200 c/d

total - 4000 scy/m

When form gets sloppy or focus is lost, stop, even if it's in the middle of an interval.  Rest, and simply start again from where you left off.  Continuing to swim when form is sloppy only reinforces sloppy technique.  Don't waste your own time.
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