Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Along with my new swim team I am going through my first-ever complete swim taper.  Everyone who is still training (and hasn't already started their end-of-summer break) is drawing down for, shaving down for, and staring down this one last weekend.  And those left feel like crap.

Yes, that is actually the technical term for it.

I'm not even swimming this meet because of how late I came to the party, but I think the taper kool-aid has dissolved in the pool water.   Everything feels kind of easy (because the sets kid of are), but everything makes you feel so tired.  Doing a race piece is taking a gamble: it could either be a personal best or add 10 sec.  It's like having wings spread for take-off and a brick tied to your ankles.

The goal is to drop the brick off the blocks of your first race in the meet and only spread your wings wider from there.  Might as well launch a dart at a side-of-a-barn-sized map of the world with the goal of hitting Liechtenstein.

But right now it's too early to dream of Liechtenstein.  It's time for damaged corpuscles to rearrange themselves into a more perfect union (and time for readers to guess in the comments from which book that last line comes).  It's time to feel weirdly both in and out of shape every time something physical needs to be done.

It's time to feel fanhorribletastic.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

How To Be A Professional Graduate Student

Be An Organ/Data Donor

Within four days of starting class I was using my own test data to complete lab reports.  I texted my former coach Phil, who has an M.D. in sports medicine and a Ph.D. in exercise physiology, that I had to complete a Wingate test and that I thought that I was done with this sh!t since he didn't coach me anymore.  His response:

"Welcome to your new career, where you are athlete/subject/researcher."

I should have known that I would become a subject in my desk-mate's Ph.D. research on respiratory fatigue and diaphragmatic pressures.

I was like this for an almost an hour. The tubes go up your nose and down the back of your throat to your esophagus and stomach respectively.  Balloons on the end are inflated to measure changes in pressure as you do different things, like sniff or seal your lips and exhale against the seal (valsalva maneuver).

It doesn't hurt, but man, do your eyes water when the tube first makes the turn out of the sinuses and into the throat.  I had a sneezing fit when together they tickled the back of my throat. Have you ever sneezed 9 times in a row with tubes in each nostril? Until last week, yeah me neither.  It's....a complicated maneuver.

This morning found me walking around my department in a 2-piece suit so I could weigh myself underwater.

It's an easy way to determine body volume, and thus body density and composition.  The other body composition calculation methods, which we also conduct, involve pinching skin folds, measuring a variety of girths, and telling the entire class our weight so everyone can calculate our BMI.  Generally, all of the things you are never supposed to ask women to disclose.  Anyone with body image issues would be crying in the corner; this experience is not for the faint of heart.

Although if you were feeling faint in the heart, they would probably want to collect some data.

Open Your Mind

Only after I started class in June did I realize how little learning daily life normally involves.  People who know me know that I frequently say "and that is the thing I will learn today," kind of my personal acknowledgement that "you learn something new every day."  But school at this level involves learning far more than one thing per day - and you have to remember them all for, ideally, ever.

Only once I returned to a situation where I am required to learn 50 pages of textbook information every second day did I realize how our brains change to operate in a daily life where so little learning is involved.  It just isn't, for lack of an even more useless and less helpful description to offer.  The ability to sit in a room and be fed an endless stream of new information and hear it and retain it and learn it is not a skill we maintain after our education ends.

My current class is like drinking out of fire hose: a semester's worth of lecture, lab and memorization concentrated into six weeks.  One day, thankfully early on, something just flipped and I became a sponge to new things.

Ditch The Uniform

There is a uniform among female students on this campus: Nike running shorts, Nike Free running shoes, and a school-specific t-shirt.  The male students are totally all over the map, but aside from specific exceptions (camo sweatpants with boat shoes! shined wingtips and pressed dressed pants!), generally trend towards something similar to the women: workout clothes that border on pajamas.  The uniform is no more evident than in a daily 8 am class during the summer.  

A guy who sits next me in lecture said "Kelzie, you need to come down to my level."  I told him that I had lived on his level every day for four years.  I wore "DHA" sweats like the guy in this picture is wearing pretty much constantly unless I was at practice or in the theater catwalks.

That was followed by five years of this.  *Awww*  Baby Kelzie's first day on The Hill.

That was followed by five years of this.

I am an adult, or at least I play one on TV.  Grad school is a job, albeit one I pay to go to everyday.  I've done many levels and worn many uniforms, extremely formal to extremely informal.  Now I don't want to wear a uniform.  A few days later I showed up to class in these.  

Nike does not sell them.

Live Your Own Lifestyle

In my memory my undergraduate years seem laid out like a path to follow, and contained so many "this is the way you are supposed to behave as an undergrad" or "these are things you are supposed to do as a undergrad."  Check this box, check that box, learn this lesson.  For all the different available clubs and majors and opportunities, everyone was moving in the same direction and everyone's daily grind was so similar.  At Harvard, everyone even lives together; there is no real off-campus housing option.

As a senior I took a seminar with a G10 (Harvard-speak for the fact that he was in his 10th year of grad school) who was married with two kids, 5 and 7.  At the time I couldn't really imagine that life because I was one of a million salmon all swimming in the same direction in the same river.  He was in an entirely different body of water.

I am now much closer to the age this G10 was, and I can't imagine being one of those salmon.  I've figured out what's important to me and what's not, what my best daily grind looks like, and how little I like to drink.  So have all (most) of my grad student peers.  We are all swimming in different directions in different bodies of water, and maybe for short periods of time each day, we kind of swim in the same direction together, but the time for living the same lifestyle as everyone else is over.

Thank goodness.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

And I Thought I Knew What Pain Was, or A Hurricane Of Lactic Acid And A Sea Of Acidosis Nausea

It is amazing how many different types of pain there are.  I have experienced quite a few physical ones and here I am learning a new one.  Currently on tap is the exquisite discomfort of repeated, short-duration maximal (supra-threshold) aerobic efforts.  Not quite truly anaerobic (although a big component of it is), but definitely well above lactate threshold.

Goodness, give me two weeks and a mid-term of graduate-level exercise physiology and my blog starts to sound like a science journal.  Beg your pardon.

Basically work so hard that your oxygen consumption can't meet your body's needs (aka above lactate threshold).  Everything starts to burn.  It's a lactic acid* hurricane whipping up the sea of acidosis nausea.  Eventually acute muscle failure ensues.  Muscle failure in this case being the inability to lift my arms out of the water to take the next stroke.  Short-term rest (even 5 seconds) reverses it to some degree, but the damage is done.  

I would say that I am reaching that point in about 90% of my swim workouts these days. 

This is me.  Ok, maybe not actually me.  It's Brandon Bass of the Boston Celtics learning to swim at age 28.  The idea is the same for me.

These kids, my teammates, are fast in absolute terms, and the entire goal of age-group swimming is to be absolutely fast.  By comparison, masters swimming takes into account fitness swimmers and triathletes for whom the goal is to have fun or be "endurance fast"...yeah, we just took a sharp turn away from legit exercise physiology with that terminology.  Longhorn does a Fun Fast Friday...every Friday.  

CCiST does Fun Fast Friday...every single day.  Every practice works on absolute speed.  The type of swimming where not consuming enough oxygen to meet your body's needs (and not interrupting your race to breathe) is sort of the point.  This after years - decades! - of physical activity and training where not going (much) faster than the point where oxygen needs surpass oxygen consumption was the entire goal.  Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore.

I'm still waiting for my first practice where I don't feel like I'm going to vomit. 

Today was not that day.

* Actually not lactic acid, the red-headed bastard step-child of exercise physiology.  It's an increase in H+ ions and decrease in muscle cell pH, both of which are caused by the disassociation of uncleared lactic acid, but that doesn't meet my rhetorical needs.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Music Dump: The I'm Gonna Have To Take Your A$$ To Church Edition

One of the best things about the invention of the iPod is that people can listen to NSFW music in the midst of other people.

A friend asked me to put together a couple of spin class music line-ups for her.  I realized how much of my best workout music CANNOT be played in a group spin class.  No way, no how, do not pass Go, do not collect $200, go straight to "fired".

A good deal of the blame can be placed squarely on the shoulders of Eminem, Royce Da 5'9, and T-Pain, but there are other offenders. I'm looking at you, Lil' Wayne.  Don Omar might even beat Eminem for most sexually suggestive, but he sings in a foreign language, so.

Yet some of it is so good for hard training.  This is exactly the type of pump-up music Grant and I have been trading back and forth.

So this music dump edition is my best training music that *must* be listened to on head phones.  Do not even think about pushing play on these Youtube videos without first checking to see if your toddler, mother, religious leader, or boss is standing behind you.  Better yet, throw them on your iPod and go do some hard intervals. 

Church, by T-Pain feat. Teddy Verseti

Before the end of the night I'm gonna have to take your a$$ to church

You ain't doing nothing but running your pie hole
You're gonna make me do something that'll get your eye swoll
I don't wanna be a rude dude man
Why you gotta [  ] up the park I'm gonna put you in the dark clap on clap off

Fast Lane, by Bad Meets Evil (aka Eminem and Royce Da 5'9)

Living life in the fast lane
moving at the speed of life and I can't slow down
only got a gallon in the gas tank
but I'm almost at the finish line
so I can't stop now
I don't really know where I'm headed
just enjoying the ride
just gonna roll til I drop and ride til I die 

** Skip this track if you don't understand how offensive Eminem can be.  If you're not sure you understand, skip it.

Remember The Name, by Fort Minor (side project of Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park) feat. Styles of Beyond

This is ten percent luck, twenty percent skill
Fifteen percent concentrated power of will
Five percent pleasure, fifty percent pain
And a hundred percent reason to remember the name

** The clean version of this track has been used in commercials for the NBA play-offs and swimming for the 2012 London Summer Olympics.

Danza Kuduzo, by Don Omar feat. Lucenzo

Y Ese Fuego Que Quema Por Dentro Y Lento, Te Convierte En Fiera

'Till I Collapse, by Eminem

This is your moment and every single minute you spend trying to hold onto it
'cause you may never get it again.
So while you’re in it try to get as much shit as you can
And when your run is over just admit when it's at its end. 

** Very tame swear words in the grand scheme of things.  Don't let Fast Lane turn your off from this Eminem track.

Turn All The Lights On, by T-Pain feat. Ne-Yo

So I’m going hard
I need some lights, it’s way too dark
Oh yeah I’m going in
And now I’m with my friends
Let the party begin!
Turn all the lights on! 

** Would have been a radio-worthy edit if T-Pain had just refrained from telling his boss exactly how he felt about him.

We Takin' Over, by DJ Khaled feat. Akon, T.I., Bird Man, Rick Ross, Fat Joe, etc etc.

If you want to, we can supply you
Got enough work, to feed the whole town
They won't shoot you, unless you try to
Come around and try to stomp on our ground
'Cause we takin' over, one city at a time

Drop The World, by Lil' Wayne feat. Eminem

I got ice in my veins, blood in my eyes
Hate in my heart, love in my mind
I seen nights full of pain, days of the same
You keep the sunshine, save me the rain

I know what they don't wanna tell you
Just hope you're heaven sent, and you're hell proof
I walk up in the world and cut the lights off
And confidence is a stain they can't wipe off

** This track wins for percentage of swears per total lyrics.  Which shouldn't surprise considering it is sung by the two of the dirtiest (but best) rappers in the business.  However, as a soundtrack for low-cadence, seated climb intervals, it can't be beat.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

"Raise Your Hand If You Were Alive For This Music"

One of the best ways for me personally to put my central governor to rest is to train.  My brain has a better chance of feeling normal when my body feels normal, and normal means tired and dehydrated, and not in the I-just-got-off-a-transatlantic-flight kind of way.

Replacing Longhorn Aquatics was my biggest concern, because swimming has been my activity of choice for the last six months, and provided me with focus and an outlet throughout all of the planning for these recent changes.  It took trying out several different groups and with one, experiencing the single most toxic swim practice environment I have ever had to suffer, but I have found a team that I can be excited to call mine for the next few years.  

It's a age-group team.  I am the oldest swimmer by 13 years, and I am the oldest person at practice by 4 years.   That's including the coach.

My first practice was all sprinting, much of it with a parachute.  The coach put on an 80's rock/metal/hair band playlist - "because that is what you listen to on sprint days" - and I said "raise your hand if you were alive for this music."  The head coach and I raised our hands, and then I found out he wasn't even in pre-school when the 80s ended.

My teammates don't seem to care that I am more than/exactly/nearly twice their age.  I'm sure that is probably helped by the fact that I can keep up with them.  We did 30 x 100 best average on a descending interval as the *second* half of a workout (Welcome to 2-hour practices, Kelzie) and the times I was holding put me in the top half of the entire group (although there was a gap to a few guys holding :58-1:04).

It's when we do anything longer than a 50 involving absolute/true speed that they spank me six ways to Sunday. 

The girls in the group welcomed me with open arms and are quite fascinated by my triathlon background.  A few parents I met at a meet this weekend said they liked the idea that their daughters could have a serious female athlete role model because most of the group's coaches are, and have been, male.

I have been sharing a lane with a 17-year-old named Grant.  I keep picturing the day I got my drivers license and realizing that that day - when I felt quite adult - somewhere in the world there was a *baby* Grant.  Now I swim with the teenage version of that baby.  Suddenly I know how my TXLA friend Sally felt every time she would shake her head and say "I am old enough to be your mother."  However, he and I like the same music so we've been sharing a USB drive back and forth to trade psych-up songs.

That hasn't stopped him from nicknaming me "Mom."
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