Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Tiki Swim 1.2 Mile Edition (Success!)

I decided two weekends ago, that I wanted to try swimming the Tiki Swim this year.  The second half of the 1.2 mile race course is the same harbor as the entire Oceanside Half Ironman swim course, so it would be an awesome preview for me to check out the water and swim it.  I know I wasn't too excited about the surf start, but I know and can execute the move to dive under waves, and I was more worried about nerves, but was convinced I could get that under control if I just got enough practice at the HB Pier surf diving.

Saturday surf conditions.  Not so bad.
I went to the area on Saturday to pick up my race packet and also to preview the area again.  The last time I saw it was at the Oceanside Half Ironman in March and HOOBOY, there were some pretty big waves!  I was pleasantly surprised that on Saturday, conditions didn't seem that bad at all.  Also, I saw surfers standing by the second breaker, so it looks like a pretty shallow water entry.  Diving was no problem if I had a foot hold, so that's even better.  The race volunteers told me the surf is expected to be even calmer in the morning.  So I drove home feeling pretty good about starting the race the next morning.
So I get to the course the next morning, found a pretty good parking space and walk over to the start line to see the staff putting up the 1.2 mile start markers and drank my coffee as I studied the surf.  To my dismay, there was light surf of 2-3 feet with intermediate moderate surf of about 3-4 foot sets. O_o  I was not expecting this, but at least the sets were well spaced and the water was pretty clean in between each surf crash.  Also, I was more confident that I could tackle this since I survived 5 footers in Huntington Beach the very Tuesday before, and that involved some pretty messy waters.  

First buoy!  Deceptively far away!
 I got back to my car to relax a bit, to calm down a bit.  I wasn't nearly as nervous as when I did the HB Pier Swim since conditions were better and I had much more practice in surf and rough water.  I was feeling better than on Saturday (Saturday morning I woke up and was feeling a little bit like I was coming down with something, ugh.)  With 40 minutes to the start, I started to suit up and headed back to the start line to drop off my bags and warmed up with a quick dip in the water.  

The race staff with the megaphone told us about the surf conditions, and told us we could strategically wade out into the water, wait for the surf to die down and sprint past the breaker as a strategy.  My strategy was to go all out, dive under any surf that comes my way since waiting will just lower my confidence level even more and I needed every bit.  I tried to calm myself down, eyeball the surf and tried to recognize what type of surf is what.  Then we started.

So I let pretty much everyone else start ahead of me on the sand, but once I got into the water I was going to get ahead of them if I could.  There were a couple of 4-5 footers on the way out, but I read each wave correctly and executed the dives as well as I could have done them and made decent forward progress.  There were a couple of late ones even after quite a bit ways out, but I did a silent cheer once I got past all the breakers and surf.  But where the heck was the buoy?  I knew it was out there since I saw it from the beach, but for the life of me I could not spot it from the water.  I was concerned I passed it and was off course, so twice I stopped and looked all around me to see if I missed it and had to backtrack.  Alas, it was just REALLY really far out XD .38 miles according to my watch.  It looked much closer from the shore! After I spotted it again 10 minutes from the race I felt a lot better.

The rest of the swim was average.  I got into some contact with some swimmers and almost kicked in the face once while heading for the buoy, but overall it went as well as could be expected.  I did get a bit of an injury on my way out of the water since it was a boat ramp and I had not expected bumpy concrete and I might have bruised the ball of my toe on my foot while climbing up the ramp at the finish.  This is on the same foot that's already in recovery mode.  Can't my left foot get a break? 

And MAN, I missed placing in my age group by one spot!  The times weren't even close, but so close!  Though I was 3rd place out of 4 people in my age group... so really nothing to be proud of XD though it would have been nice to get an age group award for the first time!  I'll keep working hard for next year!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Race Report: Long Beach Triathon!

Gee, I had no idea I signed up for the Silent Hill Marathon!
This past Sunday was the Long Beach Triathlon!  The swim portion was an 880 yard (half mile) swim through the usually calm waters of the Alamitos Beach in Long Beach.  I swam an abbreviated part of the race course in a meet up swim clinic hosted by the LB Tri Club.  So I was pretty confident about completing the course.  Unfortunately, after I dropped off my bike at the transition area, the fog had rolled on in!  Visibility was extremely low.  My friend and I walked the half mile from T1 to the start area.  After a frantic search for an unlocked bathroom (and my friend lending me her shoes, since I really REALLY did not want to go into the toilet on my bare feet and I had to leave my flip flops in T1), we were busting out bottoms back to the start line a half mile back down the beach.
Putting on the Wetsuit :3

After I got sort of close to the start line, I started putting on my suit on.  Good thing I was in the 7:12AM wave, since I was still putting the suit on when the elites wave started!  XD 

I did a quick warmup  dive into the water and a couple of strokes.  The water wasn't really that cold so I was satisfied with a 2 minute warmup and trotted back to the start line to see the two waves in front of me start.  I was surprised how wide to the left people were standing to the left of the first turn buoy. 

 Conditions were slightly choppy, but at least the fog started to lift a little bit so we could see two buoys ahead.  I had a whole strategy of starting a little to the left of the buoy and then going wide since I didn't want to get entangled in some arm/foot/face fight for position as my A goal was to swim well, and B goal was to complete the swim, so I played conservative
Warm Up in the Water!  A little choppy...

 I checked out the waves before me but with the excitement I forgot to keep a closer eye at how the people actually swam when they went out, so I missed signs of there being a pretty strong current going north along the shore.   No bueno! 

Strolling into the water :3
Our wave finally started.  I was lined up pretty to the left and strolled into the water behind the other races.  I was immediately caught into the current and had to backtrack a good number of yards back to the first buoy >_<  Lesson learned about really paying attention to the waves ahead of me instead of zoning out!

Action Shot!  There's my right arm :3
Aside from that, and having a life guard point me back on course later in the race (the fog rolled back in again and it was very disorienting.) everything went very well.  I swam wide outside the buoy line so I didn't get much swim contact from the other races, which worked to my advantage and well worth the extra 50 yards to the swim.  I should have also pre-walked the swim course along the beach to see how the buoys were positioned (but I was looking for a bathroom!) since the part where I pointed back on course by a lifeguard was when the buoys took a diagonal from the straight, and that was this weird loop thing I was not expecting for the end part of the course (probably because they pulled the race buoys inside the regular swim buoys due to the fog and they needed a slight loop hook to make it a half mile swim.)
Run run to T1!

I walked up the beach since I aggravated my foot injury running in the sand after the swim.  I think this may have thrown off my swim time.  I stopped my watch when I got out of the water so it looked like the LONGEST T1 ever as I walked the 100 yards back to transition.  Once I hit the concrete I started running :3

All in all a great race :3  The bike was a bit difficult what with the random fog rolling in, but the run went well and when  you do a first race, you always PR :3  I learned a lot about race swimming here so I'm glad I entered.  (I also learned a lot about transitions, too. UGH, same thing happened with T1 an T2 about plans going out the window due to the excitement XD) 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Open Water Swimming Adventures: New Aquatic Creature Encounter and New Swim Location!

I'm still not fully training for a triathlon yet as I'm not following any plan, just kind of seeing how I feel and splitting the days between swimming, biking, resting, and a random run here and there (short ones only, I'm still being very careful with my foot.)  I think I'm finally starting to feel like I'm getting better at swimming in open water, though data wise, that's showing up very very slowly, but I'm not discouraged.  I remember when I started I would have to stop once or twice before I got from one buoy to the next XD  Last week I did nearly 3000 yards in one swim workout and going in a record time for me of 1.2 mph!  Oooooo.  (Ooooo for me, I'm slow!)

Last Saturday I had an engagement with my friends so I had to squeeze in my swim early, at 6:30 in the morning. I was alone in Corona Del Mar save for the people staking out their places at the fire pits even earlier than me!  (Note: I knew for a fact that there would be swimmers from my regular group coming at 7am for the regular Saturday swim, so I called it a swim alone exception.) I get in the water and notice these clear, jelly things with brown spheres in the just floating in the water.  They're about the size of a nickel to a quarter just... floating.  They didn't look like jellyfish, so I thought maybe they were some sort of, egg or something.  After I adjusted to the temperature (did I mention it was COLD?!) I swam out towards buoy one.

The further I got out, the more of these creatures I saw, and now not only were they floating around as I saw them before, but they were strung together in a chain formation, ominously dangling in the water.  I was doing some aquarobics to twist out of the way.  I meant to swim the outer buoys but about 3/4 of the way out from the first to the outside first buoy I saw a SWARM of them.  I freaked out (controlled freak out as I was very much alone, and I still need to swim 300 yards back to shore since there is no one here to rescue me except some very exhausted people who really really wanted a fire ring.) and swam the heck back to the first buoy.  In the process, my hands, feet and face hit some of these things.  They didn't sting, but I didn't know that and I hoped I wouldn't find out to the contrary later, so just kept avoiding them, did one and half laps on the inside set of buoys, kept hitting more of them, and decided to just get out of the water.

This adorable little girl and her mom were just getting to the water and asked me if I knew what these things were.  I had no idea but explained I made contact with them and so far I didn't suffer any ill effects.  We poked at a couple that had washed ashore (one had some baby shrimps near it... as I found out later, they eat krills!)  They looked like they were breathing! EEEK!  The lifeguards weren't there yet, so we had no one else to ask.  Meanwhile, I had just missed my regular swim group as they went out when I came in, so I couldn't ask them either.

I googled these things when I got home an found many people who misidentified them as jelly fish eggs or fish eggs.  Someone in my swim group later told me that they're actually harmless bottom feeders called salps!  They filter feed plankton and krill!  If I ever see them again, I won't have to be so afraid!  They're actually kinda cool to look at <3

Zuma Beach!  Look at those waves!
This Saturday's adventure was a practice run through the Malibu Triathlon Classic Course with the Pasadena Triathlon Club and Tri Pacific!  This was held at Zuma Beach in Malibu so it was quite the drive for me (nearly an hour and a half!)  Since this is a swim blog, I will just talk about the  swim portion. 

The waves were 1-3 feet, one major break and one set right by the waters edge, so really not so bad, and the depth of the water increased gradually.  The group broke into three levels: Long Swim, Short Swim, and Open Water Clinic.  I opted for the short swim of 500 meters (okay, I originally was going to go for the 800 meter swim, but was intimidated by the waves!)  I eyeballed the waves and waded out there tentatively with a couple of other people.  Something about the peer pressure of having other people there made turning back not an option.  I know I can swim the distance easily, those waves didn't look nearly as bad as the ones in HB, but I just dreaded having to deal with all these waves and keep having to worry about making forward progress and not getting face smacked by a wave. 

 At one point I turned to the woman I went out with and said "I'm starting to think I should go back to the beginner clinic!"  But I didn't drive seventy miles to turn back in failure, so I went for it!  I dove under a couple of waves to get past the first one easily since I still had solid footing.  The second one was a bit tougher since I didn't have footing, but I dove under and quick check look, and took a couple of strokes, picked my head up to check the next wave, and I seem to be moving forwards.  At one point I realized I was no longer in the break and the waters were calm!  I took a minute to figure out why my watch's multisport mode didn't start and to slow my heart rate down a bit (It was still terrifying, even though I didn't get tossed around since I dove deep enough)  Soon I saw the long swim people catch up to our group, and followed them to the turn buoy and went in for the finish!

Surf Swimming: Level UP!
I felt really good about the swim, and the group wasn't so big that I got kicked in the water, though I did make contact a couple of times!   Swimming out against surf with no landmark to swim for was scary but I'm glad I had the chance to reach a beach that is a good training area and go with this group of people!  Physically it was just a short swim, but mentally waves don't have that paralyzing affect on me as it did before.  Oh, if it's big enough, I'll be afraid, but I'm coming for you, Huntington Beach Pier Swim!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lap Lap Paradise...

I discovered I could not do swimming drills in open water as it becomes really disorienting with the waves that I cannot really feel if I'm swimming right or not, so back on the super cranberry pills I go and jumping back into the pool for drills!  So far it seems to be working, but maybe only once or twice a week since it itches my skin very badly ;_;

I definitely feel less tired flailing around, but my stoke rate has gone down and economy is up, and that is continuing.  I put my wetsuit on for the first time in two weeks (I was swimming with just a swimsuit for a bit since it was warm) and I swam the farthest so far 1.28 miles and at 2:55minutes/100yards.  My fastest time in open water thusfar, but still horrifyingly SLOW. Some glimmering moments in the water I would feel like I'm going really fast, but those are fleeting moments.

I decided to check out how I did in my FIRST triathlon back in 2009.  I still remember the swim portion.  The last event (it was a reverse tri). Just me, and this lady backstroking down the first 50 meter stretch of a 150 meter swim.  I knew I had to beat her. I can't really tell if I could tell if I was going fast or slow, but I caught up and finished (barely) before her.  My time for at 150 meter swim was 6:52  (FYI, I finished behind six hundred and fifty some people... there were less than ten competitors with slower times than me.  Oh MAN!)

I still can't convert swim pace in my head with ease, so I plugged in my time... and discovered I was swimming 4:11min/100 yards, in a pool!  In a pool I can swim 2:30 now.  Jesus, what was I doing, running these?  How not aerodynamic was I back then? (okay, I was thirty some pounds heavier :p ) 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Total Immersion Swimming Book

Decided to go back to square one, and the swimming pool, to do some drills from the Total Immersion Swimming book.  Unfortunately my skin and I disagreed about the chlorine in the pool after the second pool visit, and I'm sitting here drinking monumental amounts of cranberry juice (and missing some nice 4th of July fireworks since I'm not feeling well) as I write this.

Even from the two sessions I feel like I'm starting to learn how to swim and balance better, but I need at least a couple more hours of drilling to get it down to be able to use it without thinking about it so hard (because I will have other things to worry about in open water than just stroke mechanics!)  Since I can't keep swimming in chlorine, I'm going to have to hope for really calm conditions when I practice drills at Corona Del Mar (inconvenient since I cannot review the drills pages after a couple of laps) and also for the lack of walls indicating how long I've gone.  So my best bet, really, is to either swim really close to shore, or in between buoys. 

The drills break down when each body movement is supposed to occur, and reinforces it with repetition.  I like this much better than me just going "DAAAAA!" and spinning my gears really fast and tiring myself out in a couple of minutes.  Also it appears my head has been WAAAY to high up in the water.  I'm actually supposed to be sinking that sucker in and hiding it by tucking it a bit, leaning on my lungs or "buoy" so that naturally my hip raises and I'm "swimming downhill". 

Looks like it's Corona Del Mar and some drill work (about half an hour) plus maybe a small inside lap for me tomorrow!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Crystal Cove State Park: Pelican Point

After the failure of my first swim race at Huntington Beach, I decided to add more practices with wave conditions more active than my usual practice location.  I decided to try swimming at Crystal Cove State Park Beach since that's where the Pacific Coast Triathlon is held, so I went out on a sunny afternoon to check out the site.

First thing I should say is the this beach is VERY VERY long with more than one entrance to separate area parking lots (each with separate lots) that lead to at least two very very different swimming conditions.  I went to the wrong one for open water fitness swimming.

Before leaving for the beach, I checked out the map at the Crystal Cove State Park website and saw that most of the beach area was marked good for swimming and body boarding, including Treasure Cove and Pelican Point (the north end of the beach, accessible from the Newport Coast Drive at PCH entrance).  Of course the area of Moro Beach looked like it had more icons for swimming on the map, but I could not find the parking entrance for that part of the beach.  I originally tried the second entrance off Pacific Coast Highway, but that turned out to be just a drop-off location with no parking unless you were staying there overnight.  So I drove back to the first entrance and asked the park ranger who took my parking money ($15) which part of the beach I should go to for swimming, and he said "any part" but recommended I take parking area 2 since there's a board walk to get to the beach.

I park my car at parking area 2 and walk all the way down the boardwalk and trail (10 minutes?) and get to the beach.  I put my goggles and the rest of my wetsuit on and a nice lifeguard came and asked me where I planned on swimming I told him I was going out maybe 150 yards, swimming down right past the lifeguard tower (and giant rock formation) and then back in.  He told me about the water current and then went back to his tower.  I have to mention, I've swam at several southern California beaches and this was the first time any lifeguard has asked me about my swimming plan.  Makes both our jobs easier.  Kudos to the lifeguards, but I hoped I would not need them for the swim.

The waves were indeed moderate, kind of a low split between no waves and Huntington Beach waves, so I waded out and checked out the terrain underwater and found a good, sandy part of the beach where it was safe to duck dive (always check underwater before diving!  No good for anyone to crack their head on underwater stuff!)

I head out for a swim out around the giant rock, but when I tried to come back in I encountered what seemed like an endless array of underwater rocks covered in plants.  I had expected the way back to be similar to the way out, so the rocks were a surprise.  I didn't want to swim in face down and get smacked by a wave face first into a rock, so I tried to step my way in, but found the rocks very very slippery (also I'm not sure the plants/creatures crushed by my foot would appreciate more of this.) and I DID NOT want to get my foot stuck between two rocks, so I eventually went back out further in the ocean and  swam a bit north along the beach more to finally find a sandy part that's ideal for coming in.

A second lifeguard saw I was struggling to get in so he stood by watching at the beach, orange flotation device at the ready,  in line of my position in the water.  I was not actually drowning and I'm assuming I did not look bad enough to be considered in trouble, but still struggling a bit so he wanted to keep a closer eye on me instead of waiting at the tower (Again, KUDOS for lifeguards) We talked about what happened and he said I looked like I was struggling a bit, I told him I had no idea there would be so many rocks under the water surface and he warned me that every time I see one big rock out of the water, many smaller ones could be under.  He then explained I should try swimming at the SOUTH part of the beach, at El Moro (where the Pacific Coast Triathlon swim happens), which is in an entirely different parking lot on the other side of PCH relative to the water, or hike up to the middle of Treasure cove (I didn't see any more lifeguard towers that way).  I decided to just go straight out and straight in for the day, and finished the day off with some runs down the beach to test out my healing foot (Foot's answer: "Too early to run!")

I drove my car to parking lot 4 and saw that I was still nowhere near the beach that's good for swimming, so I headed home for a shower and decided to leave the rest of the beach's exploration for another day (and another 15 dollars in parking!)  Also it turns out, I cut my foot in several places (shallow cuts, but it could have been bad) trying to get back in. ;_;  They're healing up nicely now, but still kind of annoying I made this stupid error in recon XD

Next time, I will swim at the El Moro part of the beach!

Since then I've swam a couple more times at Corona Del Mar, and I finally had my first decent swim 1.15 miles since the disaster at Huntington Beach Pier Swim.  It was ego deflating to need rescuing, but the worst part was the doubt that I could actually swim.  It's stupid, but out 200 yards from the beach is nowhere to start having even the tiniest bit of doubt if you're going to need rescuing again.  It took a surprising amount of time to recover from the doubts and I still kind of think about it sometimes. 

I finally got a road bike so that will cut into the swim time in the afternoon a bit as I practice long distance cycling... of course, this means I will have to start swimming in the mornings, in a pool. -_- I am not looking forward to this. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

First Swim Race! (Fail)

My first swim race shirt :3
I toed the line for the 62nd Huntington Beach Pier Swim this morning at 8:45.  I was pretty nervous looking at the much more sizable (okay, really just, "in existence") waves at the north and south side of Huntington Beach Pier. 

Also of concern, the temperature.  It was 62 degrees that morning, but thankfully the water temps was actually higher than the air temp and not an issue at all.

The biggest problem for me, though, was navigating through the waves.  The half mile distance is not so bad since I was swimming upwards to 1 mile in practice, but for the last two months, this has mainly been in very very cooperative waters of Corona Del Mar State Beach and a very not surfy Santa Cruz Main Beach.  I stood there for about half an hour staring at the waves, trying to find an "in" to navigation, but was mostly numbed by the terror of the surfs themselves.

Uh oh... wtf are those? (What, WAVES?!)
The start was basically the extent of the race for me.  I got in the water, waded for a bit, dove under probably eight or nine medium sized (looked like 15 feet to me, but probably mostly 3-4 footers and one or two 5 foot waves) when I finally told the lifeguard (who lucky for me decided to hang out with me) that I was calling it quits.  I made barely any forward progress whilst swimming and could not face the certainty that I would have to navigate at least one more breaker going out and a whole bunch of crashing surf on the way back.  I got maybe 1/5 of the way through the race. ;_;

The rescue itself was kind of amusing now that I'm thinking back to it.  The lifeguard handed me the orange rescue flotation device, and I got knocked off of it through a crash (but I hung onto the rope for life!) and he scolded me for letting go, then apparently I was holding onto it the wrong way... all while I was trying not to get strangled by the rope connecting him to the flotation device, and finally two more life guards on a jet ski came around and I got on board for the short and ungracious ride back to the beach before they went back to to do their job.

Crossing the fantasy of getting rescued by hot lifeguards off my list.  One because I did not actually notice if any of them were hot since I was busy being saved, and two, the romance is out when you get dropped off with no good night kiss (just kidding!)  Lucky for me they were there, and I was thankful I did not have to flail/swim back instead.

Discouraging, indeed.  Two people consoled me back on the beach but I still felt quite deflated.

I will have to change my training strategy if I am to succeed at the Tiki Swim (also has a beach rough water start).  One is to swim faster, and two, to actually swim at Huntington Beach to navigate the waves.  I was not actually SINKING before I asked for the rescue, but it was evident to everyone that I was not actually moving forwards and the waves (as small as they were) terrified me.  I would have to get a lot more comfortable rough waters....