Friday, April 28, 2006

Friday Rested & Ready 10: It's a shame the way she makes me scrub the floor Edition

It is the day I have been waiting for--the beginning of my taper! Only we are not calling it a taper, I learned mid-week. We are calling it Getting Rested and Ready. My friend who is coaching me through big weekend workouts and helping me think about getting ready for a big meet pointed out, "you're either rested and ready, rested and not ready, not rested and ready or not rested and not ready. Those are the only options I know."

Well yes, he's right. Let's hope I achieve the first option.

The idea is that you back off some of the quantity of swimming, so that by the end of the 2-week period you're swimming only the amount of yardage you expect to swim on a race day. I'm figuring 2500 as my raceday yardage: that allows for 1000 warm-up, 500 more warm-up as I get closer to my event (it's a big enough meet that there will be a gap between the warm-up period and my swims), 200+50 or 100+50 racing (depending on the day), and a total of 800 cool-down (including 200 between events and 600 at the end). Presently my workouts range from 3300-3700 on weekdays and 4000-6800 on weekends. It is going to be nice to bring the yardage down a bit.

But that is only rested: you also have to get ready. Doing that means lots of very targeted fast swims, which you treat as "rehearsals." By the end of the GR&R period, I will only swim fast the amount of swimming I'll do in competition on a given day. Ionly get one shot a day at the 200 BR, for instance, so I learn to get it right the first time.

I celebrated this morning by sleeping in to 5:30, then lounging in bed a little more than usual, and then heading to the pool for an easy 2000 yards. It felt really great to swim easy like that, focus on technique and efficiency and not ever look at the clock (even though I could have). Today, in addition to being the beginning of GR&R, was my recovery practice, between my 3 days of weekday masters practices and my 2 days of big weekend swims. This week I have been TIRED: heavy legs, tight shoulders, low capacity for speed. I know, then, that it is time to start getting rested and ready.

So, in the spirit of same, here is my Friday Rested & Ready (and also Random) 10:

1. "You're Making Me High," Toni Braxton, CD single
2. "Maggie's Farm," Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home
3. "Driving in My Car," Geggy Tah
4. "Dusic," Brick, Old School Volume 3
5. "Aspettanno," Pietra Montecorvino, Napoli Mediterranea
6. "Il dritto," Enzo Jannacci, I Miti Musici
7. Vivaldi: Largo from Concerto for flute in g-minor, Op. 10, No. 2, "La notte," RV 439, Trevor Pinnock and the English Consort, 8 Concerti
8. Dvorak, arr. Kreisler: "Humoresque," Fritz Kreisler (v), Franz Rupp (p), Original Compositions and Arrangements
9. "Alright Hear This," Beastie Boys, Ill Communication
10. "The Family and the Fishing Net," Peter Gabriel, Security

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The continuing saga of my vision.

No, no, no, I don't mean that I'm having visions, or that I have completed the work on the book I've been editing.

I mean, it's freakin unbelievable how much detail I have been missing. For instance, I have never seen anyone's facial expressions during swim practice, except the people in my lane. Everybody else just looks like stylized stick figures with blobs for heads.

(Whoa, warning: I was going to put an image in here, and in looking at google for stick figures I came across a link for "all nude teen stick figures." I don't even want to know.)

Anyway, now they all have facial expressions, and I can see the second hand on the pace clock, and the ceiling tile that is hanging precipitously over lane 2 looks all the more menacing.

Last night when I took the contacts out to go to bed, I was aSTONished to remember how little I see through glasses compared with contacts. Peripheral zone in focus? Forget it.

But my face looks funny and naked. I suppose that is a small price to pay.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Look closely, you'll see luck in my eyes.

So one of my greatest annoyances at swim practice is not being able to see the pace clock. Yes, it's true: although the clock is giant, with its big old analog face there on the wall, not more than 10 feet away, I can't see it.

Part of this is because some genius designed the pace clock so that the minute hand, which no one uses for anything, nice and big and visible from a great distance. Then the aforementioned genius made the second hand, the only hand anyone ever looks for, nice and thin. Thanks, genius.

But the other reason is that my vision is BAD. I'm near-sighted and I have increasing astygmatism in both eyes, especially my left. I used to wear contacts before the astygmatism got bad, but before long the nice cheap lenses just didn't work anymore, adn I decided I would rather be able to see well, even if I had to wear glasses all the time.

So for several years--maybe 5 or 6--I've only worn glasses. I even have prescription sunglasses, which, you may recall, saved my butt when I was in Italy last summer and the left arm fell off my regular glasses.

But back to the point: the last time I did an open water swim, I forgot that I no longer wore contacts. If you are an open-water swimmer, you know that one of the great challenges of such a race is spotting the buoys efficiently, and so staying more or less on course. The trick is to learn to spot the buoys while you breathe, so you can more or less not break your stride--I mean your stroke--to allign yourself. (I personally do not recommend the method of simply drafting off someone else and hoping they know where they are going. In my experience, they do not.)

So you can imagine my surprise and dismay when I realized that, thanks to my contact-free eyes, I could not see any of the buoys, even if I came to a dead stop. And then you may sympathise with me as I paddled directionless around Lake Hartwell, hoping I might find a buoy. This might not have been so bad were it not a race, and were it not a 5000-meter race. Or, for me, perhaps a 6000-meter race.

But enough of the self-pity. I had pretty much just gotten used to this as something that would make my swimming life tricky. I try for the wall lane when I'm swimming alone, so I can be closer to the clock, and during masters practice I'd come to rely on the kindness of strangers and teammates to tell me when the interval had come around. If someone I'm training with wants me to help with their stroke, I run and get my glasses. And at meets I just wear my glasses between events, tucking the little arms behind my ears under my cap. Looks dorky, but it works.

I've been thinking about swimming again in that open-water meet, though, and about the fact I can't buy cheap sunglasses and expect to see out of them, and I decided to try the contacts again. Turns out the technology has improved quite a bit, and the astygmatic lenses are a lot cheaper than they used to be, and supposed to be easier to use.

Today, my friends, I am wearing for the first day my new test pair of lenses.

I had forgotten how much clearer the world is through contacts. Sure, my glasses were great, and they're easy-on easy-off. But as I was driving home today, I could see all the little individual leaves on the trees from the road. I had to be careful not to drive off the road looking at how different trees have different shaped leaves. And as is always the case with a new prescription, or a switch from glasses to contacts, my depth perception is a little wacky. Driving along in my 1993 Honda Civic, I felt so much closer to the ground than before.

So tomorrow morning will be the big test. Will I be able to get the things in my tired eyes at 5 a.m.? And then will I be able to read the pace clock?

Stay tuned.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Somebody's gotta go back and get a whole shitload o' dimes....

A few years ago a friend of mine suggested that we tax our vices. Spend an hour aimlessly surfing the web? $5 in the tax jar. 30 minutes blown on a computer game? $2. 2 hours in the evening surfing TV channels, but not finding anything worth that wasted time? $5. Her goal was to save up for laser eye surgery. I was saving to pay for my half-pay full-year sabbatical. The funds never did pay for the high ticket item, but it was an easy way to save money to do something constructive with, and somehow attone for the wasted time.

Katie P. on Basic Juice recently suggested a similar way to indulge your palate when it exceeds your means: the "wine fund." I don't have the designated jar she mentioned, but I do have a change cup, so what the hey.

When I called the PP at work to ask where the coin rolls were, he pointed out he had a change cup of his own on his dresser, that I could add it to the mix.

Then you're in that inevitable situation where you're close to a full roll on a few denominations, so then it is time to scrounge through the change pockets on purses, bookbags, and then out to the car to raid the ashtray collection of dimes and quarters.

An hour later: $80.50. Now to decide how to spend it.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

T-minus 5 days, and definitely counting.

If you're wondering what the T stands for, then you haven't heard me whining as much as the PP has. In fact, the PP lives with a whole crew of whiners. The cats whine constantly, and I whine almost constantly.

So getting back to the T: it stands for TAPER, which is what I get to do starting Friday. I CANNOT WAIT.

These last several weeks have been my biggest weeks of the year, when you combine yardage with intensity, which unfortunately I have been doing. I did not beat my weeklong yardage record (21,200) this week, but I only missed it by 600 yards. (Actually, had I been aware of that, I might have put in an extra 700 today, just for grins. Actually, not for grins: for pain.) That means that my weekly average (last week was short thanks to the rec center closing for Easter) for the last 4 weeks is 18,900, which is just what it should be. And my weekly average since I recovered from being sick (7 weeks) is 17,650. That is OK too. I don't have the strength in my fingers to punch enough calculator buttons to tally my yardage since the season began last August, or I'd bore you with that information, too.

But the point of all this is, I'm tired. Tired of playing the game. Ain't it a freakin' shame?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Friday Random 0: PHEW! Edition

No tunes for your imaginative delectation today. Sorry about that.

Why, you ask? Because I had a computer FREAK-OUT today. Basically, there was a corrupted index on my drive, which "disk check" found and repaired when I ran disk check upon restarting the machine. Then, when it finished powering up, the files in that index, the files which contain the results of this entire academic year's labor, the files that include the output of a lot of annotating, proofreading, reproofreading, contemplating, reproofreading, e-mailing with my collaborator about, and reproofreading, were . . .


So that sound that you probably heard even where you were at about 8:21 a.m. EDT was the sound of my gut falling out of my body and into the center of the earth.

And, so that you don't need to spend even another minute feeling (you are so empathetic) as I did for about 6 hours of my day, I'll tell you everything was recovered with no loss of data. Nevertheless, I spent the intervening hours figuring out what parts of those files I had in recoverable form elsewhere (on my memory stick, in printed form with or without written comments on them, on my collaborator's hard drive, etc.) and saying YOU DUMBASS!!! WHY DIDN'T YOU BACK UP YESTERDAY? OR LAST WEEK? OR THE WEEK BEFORE THAT?

Because sometimes I am an dumbass, that's why. And this was one of those time.

So now it is 5:43 pm EDT, and I am sighing great relief. The files were recovered. The files now exist in at least 5 places. I have printed clean copies of things. I have purchased a new external hard drive to use for backing up my files. I have not had as many scotches as I would like to have, because in about 20 minutes I'm going swimming, but that's OK. The scotch will be here when I get home.

Meanwhile, I'm going to go extra-random on your asses by presenting this Friday's Random 10 on some other occasion--it will be a surprise, and perhaps (as a result) even more random.

I know you are hanging on the edge of your seats.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Spiritual Death

Ian Williams wrote:
To which part of American culture do you assign "spiritual death"? And I don't mean the obvious ones. For me?

- Dockers™ pants
- all-afternoon happy hour at Ruby Tuesday's
- Kevin Federline listening to his own music
- the Lice Aisle at Wal-Mart

Maybe these are the obvious ones, but I'd say:

- Tooth whiteners
- Cosmetic vacations
- Payday advance service
- televised poker
- Weekend at Bernie's 2

How about you?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Psych sheets are up!

The folks at USMS have posted the psych sheets for the 2006 SCY nationals. After a lot of anticipation and fretting (let's be honest) it is exciting to see who and how deep the competition will be in the W 30-34 category--who has entered, who has aged up, etc. There are 1,270 swimmers registered in the meet, and 55 women altogether in my age group. And in my events: 16 in the 50 FL, 9 in the 200 BR, 25 in the 50 FR, and 15 in the 100 BR.

You might think that seeing that I am in pretty good shape in my target events would make me calmer, but it doesn't. It freaks me out.

I start my taper on the 28th of April. I leave for Coral Springs on 10 May. I train and check things out on 11 May. On the 12th and 13th, I race.

Now, if I could just get my nerves settled in the meantime.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Where were YOU?

Tim asked: "So I have to ask: where were you when you discovered Arvo Pärt?"

I remember distinctly, Tim: I first heard his music on a tape from you, By the Waters of Babylon. If you have forgotten what was on this tape, the way I have with many a mix I have made, it is a beautiful collection of contemporary classical music, probably the some of the first of that that I had heard. It includes "An Du Wassern zu Babel" and "De Profundis" and "Pari Intervallis." In the liner notes, you recommended Te Deum, which I went out and bought.

But now for the where part, which stuck with me, even though there obviously were some "wheres" where I listened to your tape first.

I brought home the Te Deum CD, and I was very excited to listen to it. Then it was one of those Ann Arbor afternoons that broke out in a tremendous thunderstorm, and I was absolutely conflicted about whether to listen to the beautiful storm or the beautiful CD.

Pärt won out, and now that music always has violent weather in the background.

And incidentally, in those liner notes you also said, "You must get a copy of Górecki’s Symphony #3. I did, and you were right.

This whole story means, though, that really this question comes back to, where were YOU?

And Dear Reader, if you’re a Pärt listener, where were you?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Friday Random Rules

Joe asked: "What is the origin of your strange and wonderful 'Friday Random 10' lists?" and I realized I had gotten sloppy about posting the rules.

It is a strangely addictive game I heard about from a few places, but mostly from Jarrett House North, who plays religiously--now estaminet does, too. Although I do not know the exact origin of the game, here is some speculation.

I am a fan of ritual, especially communal ritual. This one helps me mark the end of the workweek--hallelujah.

Saturday, I mean Friday Random 10: buh Bah buh, buh Bah buh Edition

So even though my university does not recognize Good Friday as a holiday, the PP's company does, and I don't teach on Friday, so we get a long weekend. How great for us--could not come a moment too soon.

So I'm doing the Random 10 on the early side, so I can get on with my holiday (which, unfortunately, does not include skipping swimming).

Do you know, it is supposed to reach 88 degrees here each of the next 3 days, and maybe 90 on Monday? In April. This is the part of global warming I could do without....

1. Pärt: Berliner Messe: 5. Veni Sancte Spiritus; Tönu Kaljuste, Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir (Te Deum)
2. "Bieggarajorri" (Weathervane), Wimme (Nordic Roots: A NorthSide Collection)
3. "Fair," Ben Folds Five (Forever & Ever Amen)
4. "The Wild Wild Sea," Sting (The Soul Cages)
5. Stravinsky/Auden: "Recitative: Nick," John Cheek (bass), Orchestra of St. Luke's Robert Craft (cond) (The Rake's Progress)
6. "Jingo," Santana (The Best of Carlos Santana)
7. Vivaldi: Concerto for 2 mandolins (RV 532): 3. Allegro, Trevor Pinnock and the English Consort (8 Concerti)
8. "Remember the Mountain Bed," Wilco and Billy Bragg (Mermaid Avenue, Vol. 2)
9. "Over the Moon," Pere Ubu (Worlds in Collision)
10. "Verso il terzo millennio," Giorgio Gaber (La mia generazione ha perso)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

What doesn’t kill me almost kills me, or Why An All Breaststroke Practice Is A Bad Idea.

Yow. Our swim coach is still on spring break, so it was yet another create-your-own-practice day. I did not make my practice up, but instead did an old favorite from SWIM magazine, which used to be a membership benefit of USMS.

First I did our usual masters warm-up, which is 600 yards, broken into 300 swim, 200 kick, 100 drill/swim. Then I did the breaststroke practice from [I don’t remember the date of the issue, but I’ll fill it in here once I look it up]:

700 WARM-UP (yes, I know—2 warm-ups!)
200 swim, alternating free and breast by 50s
300 scull: 6 x 50 scull drills with freestyle kick (windshield wiper drill, etc.)
200 kick, on your back, breaststroke kick in streamline

4 x 50 body dolphins: “press the T (i.e., your chest)” on each dolphin kick, keeping your hands in front and at the surface
4 x 100 body dolphins, but with a fast, powerful breaststroke pull every 3rd kick
4 x 100 body dolphins, but with a fast, powerful breaststroke pull and kick every 3rd kick
8 x 100 breaststroke “kick to a glide,” keeping your arms extended for 1 full second before beginning the next stroke
8 x 25 breaststroke sprint, trying to keep some glide at the front of the pull


That means 3700 yards all told, and MAN is it a tiring practice. I had gotten halfway through the 8 x 100 and I said to the PP, who was getting out of the pool to go to work, “I don’t think I can do 4 more.” He looked all sympathetic at first, like he might say, “That’s OK, honey. You’ve worked your ass off already,” but then he said, “Yes you can,” and enlisted the other swimmer who was there this morning to motivate me by cheering for me during the rest of the set. She was terrific and did just that. Then I was so proud of myself for not being a wuss that I had to go ahead and do the 8 x 25.

Anybody want to guess how ready for breakfast I was when I finally was done showering and dressing and driving to work? Peanut butter and jelly never tasted so good. And coffee!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


So yesterday evening the PP and I were heading out to a reading at a bar in town, and while I was waiting for him to come out of the house, I was standing there looking at my azaleas.

My azaleas, as will come as no surprise to you, look like this:

So I'm standing there, looking at them and at the bumblebees who are doing their Flight-Of-The thing around the blossoms, and then I see something that initially is playing along with the "I'm a Bumblebee" routine, but the more I look, the more I see that it is not. It almost looks like a hummingbird, but smaller--very different body shape from the bees. But with a distinctly striped tail. And hummingbirds don't have antennae. And then, when it flew away, it buzzed close to my head, and I could tell that its buzz had a very different pitch from that of the bumblebees.

I've been wondering since then, what in the world this could be.

Turns out that a call to my mother was all I needed. I had barely launched into my description of the miraculous creature I had seen in my garden, when she said, "Oh. That's a hummingbird moth."

Of course.

Specifically, it was a Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth. Here is what it looks like when its wings are not humming:

That photo comes from this page, where you can also see a photographic narrative of its life cycle. Here is an even cooler photo narrative of the emergence of a White-Lined Sphinx Hummingbird Moth.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Ow ow ow.

MAN, did swimming feel bad this morning, or what?

Here's a hint: it's not what.

I guess the big yardage this weekend (6200 Saturday + 5000 Sunday, for a week's total of 21,200--my biggest swimming week since I started keeping track 9 years ago) is still with me. I know I was still feeling it yesterday--for instance when I was driving home from the post office and had a hard time holding my arms high enough to steer. And that was far surpassed when I showered and had to wash my hair. Ow!

But I thought maybe by this morning I would be recovered.


The kids' swimteam is on break this week, so we don't have a coach. We're starting later (6 instead of 5:30) which rocks, and since we're not doing as programmed a practice, I was able to knock out 3000 yards in less than an hour. Makes a big difference not to take much rest--but that is only possible when the intensity is low, which for me Oh Yes Oh Yes it was.

Monday, April 10, 2006

No place for beginners or sensitive hearts.

A while ago I remember Cooks Illustrated did an article about perfect smoothies. Unfortunately for me, their perfect recipe was made with milk, and my insides can only tolerate so much dairy. I like to use yogurt in my smoothies, so there is some protein, but if I add milk to that, I have a miserable day.

Sorry. More information than you needed, I know. But the point is that ever since I started making smoothies for breakfast four or five summers ago, I have been trying to figure out what liquid to add so that they don't have the consistency of oatmeal.


Sure, you can use rice milk or soy milk, but those always make the flavor just a little odd. Though if you don't mind the slightly odd flavor, and the slightly brownish tint (which I think tends to ruin the bright freshness of the smoothie), then soy milk is your answer, given all its nutritious goodness. Rice milk doesn't seem to add much, I've found, except a little milki-that-is-not-milk-ness.

But apple juice (and probably white grape, though I've not tried that) keeps the fruit emphasis, and you don't use enough to mask the flavor of the real fruit in there. Also the juice adds a little sweetness so you don't need to add sugar.

Also, using frozen berries (that you buy frozen or freeze yourself) means you don't need ice, which can thin out the whole thing.

Here is a decent mixture. I often double it.

1 banana
1-2 cups frozen berries (blueberries or mixed)
1/2 cup apple juice
3/4 - 1 cup plain yogurt

Then blend the hell out of it. Feel free to play with the proportions to suit your preferences. Play with seasonal fruits. Play with frozen fruits (frozen mango chunks were disappointing un-mango-ish). When it's peach season around here, then peach is the answer.

Because I could not decide between Sade and Rob Thomas, there is no musical accompaniment. Sing to yourself.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Garden Update. NOW! with a picture

More stuff in the ground. Plants growing. Very exciting.

The plants I put in in mid-March are growing well. The buttercrunch and romaine lettuce is starting to look like lettuce instead of seedlings. The buttercrunch heads are getting all wavy but rounded, and the romaine heads are starting to coalesce, too. Even the arugula that I planted from seed has progressed to the point where there are real arugula leaves visible, not just the seed leaves. I have tried watering those seedlings more regularly than I have in the past, in the hopes that they will take off. We shall see.

The bad news is that nasturtiums are not that cold-hardy, and a low temperature one night mostly did them in. Two pulled through, and have sent up new umbrella-like leaves, but the plants are way behind where they were when I planted them in March. Sigh.

On Friday as I was driving to work, I was think, "Hmmm. The last frost date for this zone is 15 April. The weather forecast looks clear of frost until then, though, so I should be getting some more things in the ground." Usually the PP and I drive out to Park Seed to buy tomato plants and herbs and random other things, but it is a bit of a haul: really the errand eats the whole day. And with planning to swim both days this weekend, I could not see how that was going to happen. But they have such good plants, so I was having a dilemma. But then, when I came out of my workshop, I found that the horticulture students were having a plant sale. Hooray! I buzzed over there and a few minutes later I had spent $18 for 18 plants: 8 tomatoes, 2 bell peppers, 3 basil, 3 arugula (in case the seed-planted stuff doesn't work), and 2 cilantro.

Yesterday it rained like mad, so today I planted. All but 2 of the basil went in the raised bed, and it is now full for now (until the lettuce, cabbage and broccoli is harvested). There are 2 each of 4 kinds of tomato: Park Improved Whopper, Brandywine (the best tasting tomato ever, but an heirloom and a little vulnerable to South Carolina weather), Mr. Stripey (also an heirloom--I have never tried this kind before), and Carolina Gold (a yellow tomato). I'm interested to see how those all do.

Some of the plants are still a little tippy from the transplant + watering shock, but this gives you a sense of things:

(And that's not a bad looking white azalea back there either!)

Precisely how my ass was kicked yesterday.

I should be doing some grading, so I'll have a jump on that but let me just say this first: ow ow ow ow ow.

I slept so well last night, because of my big swim yesterday and also I am using a brand-new set of earplugs, which means, What outside world? Snoring, meowing, car engines, meowing--all are outside my world. That rocks.

But STILL, I am hurtin'. Not so much that my muscles are sore, but I just still feel tired. So much of my training usually happens in the morning, and having a big afternoon swim means I still feel it the next day. I hope I will be over by 2:30 when I go and do it all again.

Here are the two big main sets from yesterday (in yards):

6 x < 150 (50kick/50drill/50swim) + 100 swim fast
odds = breaststroke
evens = freestyle
[these were on a rest interval: 20ish seconds after the 150 and then 30ish seconds after the 100]

6 x < 100 smooth free swim + 3 x 50 swim descend
odds = 3 x 50 breaststroke
evens = 3 x 50 freestyle
[these were on a 1:40 for the smooth free and then 1;05 for each of the 50s]

These were excellent training sets for me, as both emphasized quality swimming into the second half of the 200 breaststroke, which is the event that I need the most work on before May. In the first set, the 150 of mechanics (which are the same stroke as the 100) kind of simulates the fatigue you feel from the first 100 in the 200. Then you can really work to keep the pacing and stroke quality up in that fast 100. In the second one, 100 smooth free is kind of a recovery but kind of not, since I had to keep up at least a moderate pace in order to have a little rest before the 50s. Then the 50s descending are like the 2nd 3rd 4th 50s of the 200.

In all it was a great workout. Total yardage 6200, which was enough for me, thank you.

So now to see what the pain is like today....

Saturday, April 08, 2006


Last night I noted that I am certifiable, and now I can tell you I am committed.

Specifically, in addition to having made my hotel reservation a few months ago, and having registered online a couple weeks ago, the PP and I have now also purchased our airline tickets to Fort Lauderdale and made a rental car reservation.

In short, there is no backing out now of my plans to compete in the US Masters Swimming Short Course Yards National meet.


I'll compete on two different days: on Friday, 12 March I'll race the 50 fly and the 200 breast. Then on Saturday, I'll swim the 50 free and the 100 breast. The 50s are in there as warm-up events, so that I can get my jitters out before the events I really care about.

Check out the aquatic center:

The downside is that my swimteam is mostly an age group team, and based on the public school schedule, they are on spring break for the coming week. So that's when our coach gets a much-needed week away. But that means I'm on my own during one of the more crucial weeks of my training.

The good thing is that I think I have roped a fellow swimmer into helping me through this stint, so that is good. He was our masters coach briefly, before our present coach could arrive but after the previous coach had left. I also swam with him some a couple years ago, before I was swimming with the age-groupers but when I wanted a little extra than our 3-days-per-week masters practice was offering. So I like him, and he is very knowledgeable. I go swim with him in about a half an hour, so before long I will be exhausted, but also more fortified with a plan about how to handle the next few weeks.

Wish me luck.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Friday Random 10: OMG! Edition

OMG! OMG! I almost forgot one of my favorite things to do of a Friday--and not just because pressing "RANDOM" on my mp3 player (or secret device, as I prefer to call it) allows me to see the word QUEUING, a word I don't get to see enough.

My excuse is that today I was at a workshop getting certified. It is kind of like Black Angus Beef. For some reason waitstaff at our favorite restaurant always insist on saying that the steak special is "Certified Black Angus Beef." Who certified it? And does Black Angus beef really taste different from other kinds of beef that I don't know that name for?

But anyway, like the beef, I am now certified to be something I already was, but that's OK, because the workshop itself was a pleasure, and that's not a bad way to spend a Friday afternoon.

But OMG! OMG! I had almost forgotten the Friday Random 10!

1. Patrick Doyle: "Let this acceptance take," Sir Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Orchestra (Henry V soundtrack)
2. "Speed the Traktor," 2 Mustaphas 3 (Play Musty for Me)
3. "Mamma Mia," ABBA (Priscilla, Queen of the Desert soundtrack)
4. "You and Me and the Moon," The Magnetic Fields (Get Lost)
5. "Miracle," Swati Natekar (Essential Asian Flavas)
6. Arvo Pärt: "Pregando (Lamentate - for piano and orchestra)," Alexei Lubimov and the SWR Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, Andrey Boreyko (Lamentate)
7. "Rainmaker," Maura O'Connell (Stories)
8. "High 5 (Rock the Catskills)," Beck (Odelay)
9. "Nortada + O Malhao," Rui Junior o o que som tem? (Exploratory Music from Portugal, a Wire sampler)
10. "Whenever, Wherever," Shakira (Laundry Service)

Have a great weekend, whatever you're listening to, and whether you're certifiable or not.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Musica di ciclismo.

I hope you're all sitting down as you read this because I have surprising news: I got on my bike on the trainer on Monday.

Granted, it was hard to find it under all the dust, and I almost could not remember how to pedal (forwards or backwards?).

But finally I did ride the trainer for a half an hour. I was a little worried that if I went further than that either my head would explode or the stars would fall from the sky or at least I'd end up really sore the next day.

And it was really fun! I could remember then why I used to like to ride my bike so much, and even did not mind the trainer if I had decent music. I admit it: I have this experience a lot, where I get on the bike, have a great time, remember that I like it, deal with the sore crotch, ride a few times and then don't. I am not sure why it happens. Well, I have some theories, but that is not what I am going to write about.

What I am going to write about is music and stationary cycling. For a very short time, I taught spinning classes, and apart from yelling directions at people, what I really loved was that Spinning combines sweating and DJ'ing. What a great thing! The idea is to put together a musical program to accompany the workout you have in mind, and the music is supposed to allow different paces but also encourage specific activities (climbing, sprinting, etc.)

Ever since then I keep one part of an ear open for good cycling music.

Lately, as some of you know, I cannot get enough of the gypsy rhythms, and it turns out--you will maybe not believe me at first--that polkas make great cycling music. Why? Because of the repetition of the musical theme, and the way that they often either get faster or more intense, which makes them perfect for my favorite stationary cycling game, "Another Notch!" I admit I took the name from Emeril, but it is just so perfect: you start off at a pretty easy pace, but each time the tune comes around (perhaps on the guitar), you crank you rear derailleur up ANOTHER NOTCH.

Cyboc has been thinking lately about running music. He asked me if I make running mixes, which I don't much, since I can't really run these days, but here is a cycling mix from a couple (um I mean 7) years ago. Maybe it is time for a new one.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Swimming to the Pain, Part 2

Good thing I went into this morning's practice with SPEED = PAIN AND FATIGUE in my mind because oh MAN did it kick my ass. This is par for the course for Saturday mornings, since I swim with the age-groupers, but this was a real doozy. Perhaps part of the problem is that I had skimped a bit on Saturday practices when I was sick and after, and then there were a couple of meets in there, but still.

It is the main set that is of interest, although please remember this came after 3000 yards. Also please forgive me for forgetting the intervals, but I can tell you I was getting about 5-10 seconds rest early on, until the coach took pity on me:

500 free swim
1 x 150 IM fast (which I swam 25 FL / 25 BA / 50 BR / 50 FR)
400 free swim
2 x 150 IM descend 1-2
300 free swim
3 x 150 IM descend 1-3
200 free swim
4 x 150 IM descend 1-4

Apparently this is a set Janet Evans used to do. (FYI: the kids' free swims were 600/500/400/300.) I tried to really push the 50s of breaststroke in the IMs, since it is that stroke that I'll race at Nationals. And as we moved into the descend part (where each 150 is supposed to be faster than the previous one), I tried to think about the parts of the 200 breaststroke race, and treat the 50s of BR as if they were parts of that race. But my coach was also on me for not kicking enough on my freestyle (which was a problem in my 200 FR at the last meet).

According to the coach, I managed to descend the last 4 x 150, cutting about 5 seconds each time through. I was astonished to hear that, because all I could think about was "fly back breast free" and then trying to race the breast. And trying to move my legs enough during the free to keep him off my back.

The whole practice was 6800 yards, which is plenty for me, thank you. The excellent news is that the PP got a beautiful berry tartlet from the Fresh Market yesterday, and now he's frying up some sausage. Saturated fat be damned!