Swimming Breakthrough

April 30, 2009

Last night, at the group swim practice, I had a breakthrough.

To properly tell the story, I need to start waaaaaaay back at the first practice.  Jim, the coach, explained that during a triathlon swimmers get crowded together and lots of splashing can occur.  For this reason, it is a good idea to be able to breathe on either side of your stroke – it’s called bilateral breathing.  It goes like this:

Stroke with right hand, turn head to the left and breathe

Stroke with the left hand

Stroke with the right hand

Stroke with the left hand, turn head to the right and breathe.


I got this down and had been swimming this way ever since. 

Last night, Jim asked if I was getting enough oxygen with the bilateral breathing.  I said, “What are you talking about?  Isn’t that how we’re supposed to be breathing?”

See, what I thought was the rule of tri swim breathing turned out just to be a drill.   In reality, it’s supposed to look like this:

Stroke with right hand, turn head to left to breathe.

Stroke with left hand


A lot more breathing this way equals a lot more oxygen to the brain equals a lot more stamina.  It took me a few lengths of the pool to get used to this “new” way of breathing but once I mastered it, I could feel a huge difference.


Some pictures

April 28, 2009

Here are some visual aids for the last post:

Our hotel

Our hotel

Ocean Shot

Ocean Shot

In our wedding finery

In our wedding finery

Waffle House at 4 am

Waffle House at 4 am

Broken down car!

Broken down car!

Back from Florida

April 28, 2009

N and I returned from Florida last night.  All in all, a great trip.

We took a red-eye flight on Tuesday night, arriving in Orlando Wednesday morning.  We rented a car, drove out to Daytona Beach, checked into our hotel and spent the rest of the day resting. 

On Thursday, we spent most of the morning/early afternoon on the beach.  Our hotel was right on the water and had a really nice patio/tikki bar area complete with fire pits and Adirondack chairs.  After lazy beach time, we went for a run along the water.  Then, we went to a casual dinner at the bride’s family’s house.

Friday, we drove back to Orlando and spent about five hours at the Magical Kingdom, one of the parks in Disney World.  We saw some truly amazing temper tantrums.  Then, it was back to Daytona Beach.  We had a really good dinner at the hotel restaurant and then joined a bunch of people in the wedding at a bar.  We stayed there until three in the morning and by the end, there was some serious drunken emotion flowing.  I love you, man . . .

Saturday morning, we ran some errands, including checking out the Daytona Beach farmers’ market.  Books about decorating with vintage stuff always gush about what a great place farmers’ markets are for finding one-of-a-kind treasures, but all I ever find are lots of cheap new goods.  Lame.  

When we returned to the hotel, I donned my racing suit and headed to the beach for a swim workout.  It didn’t go so well – the tide was coming in so the ocean was too rough for swimming.  Then, I tried the hotel pool and it felt like bath water.  It was SO warm I couldn’t keep it up.  It wasn’t refreshing at all – I can’t figure out why anyone would want to swim in it.

That night was the wedding that took us out to Florida in the first place.  Everything was beautiful in a very typical wedding way.  The reception was pretty tame despite a well-stocked, hosted bar.  We left by 10:30.

Our flight back to Seattle left at 6am the next morning, so we woke up at 3am – it takes about 90 to drive from DB to Orlando.  At about 3:15, we were stopped at a stop light and our rental car simply turned off.  We tried to start it again but the engine wouldn’t turn over.  N wound up pushing the car into a nearby parking lot.

We called the rental car company – Thrifty and told them what happened.  They had to send a tow truck out from Orlando to pick us up because the one they contracted with in DB only had room for one passenger. The dispatch person at Thrifty was in Oklahoma somewhere  and not in the same time zone as us.  He kept saying, “We’ll try to get you to your flight on time.”  We kept responding with, “Um . . . that’s impossible.”  The guy persisted in being foolishly optimistic.

We spent the next hour and a half at Waffle House while we waited for the tow truck.  Interesting place at 4 in the morning.  The truck finally showed up and drove us and the car back to the rental car office.  We then had to wait another 30 minutes for a manager to show up since the guy on duty was not authorized to give refunds and we certainly were not going to pay for a car that broke down and made us miss our flight.  Luckily, when the manager did show up, he immediately refunded us the full cost of the rental.

Delta was pretty great about getting us on another flight.  We wound up home just five hours later than we would have if we made the original flight.  We finally got home at about 6pm west coast time, 18 hours after we started traveling.  Not surprisingly, we slept like logs last night.

I read a customer satisfaction study once that concluded the end of a transaction can color the whole experience for a person.  For example, if I went to a restaurant and had a great bowl of soup, an amazing dinner and then an awful desert, it would negatively affect my recollection of the whole meal.  Likewise, if I had so-so soup, a mediocre entree but the best dessert I’d ever tasted, I would remember the whole meal as better. 

I think the same must be true of travelling.  I logically know that I had a lot of fun on the whole trip, but when I think of it, mostly I just feel tired.

All that Glitters . . .

April 20, 2009

Anyone familiar with Facebook knows that there are a gabillion different quizzes you can take.  They reveal all sorts of interesting things about people, such as what Starbucks drink or Muppet they are.  I recently took one titled “What type of librarian are you?”  Big surprise, it determined I am a children’s librarian.  Here’s the description:

You are a classic bookworm who started reading at an early age and never looked back. Unfortunately, you can’t let go of your childhood memories, so you ended up as a children’s librarian. You’re peppy and upbeat and full of creativity, but “real” librarians want to poke you in the eye with a sharp stick and you’re tired of parents using you as a daycare. When a little kid comes up to you with your latest recommendation and says “I want another book like this,” it makes up for everything.
All in all, a pretty apt description (except for the implication that we aren’t “real” librarians) but it really should mention glitter.  I think any children’s librarian worth her (or his, but usually her) salt is covered in glitter (and or glue, felt scraps, pom pom fuzz) half the time.  Although in my current position, I have no programming, and therefore no craft or storytime, responsibilities, I am still drawn to glitter . . . mmmm, sparkly.
As I mentioned a few posts ago, my fundraising master plan includes a Kentucky Derby party.  I made the invitations this past week.  Pretty simple – a blank card with a brown horse stamped on the front.  On the inside, all the relevant information with a border of red glitter on the side edges.  I learned a trick from good ol’ Martha Stewart for getting even lines of glitter – double stick tape! 
Good idea though it is, my project turned out much messier than the pictures in the book.  On a side note, one day I plan on starting a blog called “#$%&* Martha Stewart.”  This blog will feature, side by side, the example from the magazine and how the real project turned out.  Of course it will also feature funny commentary about how difficult it is to find shoelace licorice.  Anyhow, back to the invitations . . . I used extra fine red glitter so it would stick to the tape better.  Red glitter got everywhere – on my hands, in my hair, on the table, on the wall; you name it, it has glitter on it.  I even got glitter in my food, so I wouldn’t be surprised if even my poop sparkles!  (Apologies for the bathroom humor, but that joke would be a bit hit with the preschool storytime crowd.)

N and I are experiencing a brief window of the jet-setting lifestyle.  On Easter, we flew down to Monterey for a quick visit with N’s brother and his family.  They are moving overseas in a month and we wanted to be sure to see them before they left.

On Monday, I cajolled N and his brother into going for a run with me.  We ran from the little downtown area along the water to Lover’s Point.  Along the way, we passed seals, otters and a whale.  It was great running weather, as well – sunny with enough of a breeze that I felt a bit chilly when I stopped running.  I asked N’s brother if you become numb to the beauty of the area when you see it every day.  He said no and that made me glad.

Next Tuesday, after my group swim workout, we are catching a red eye flight out to Florida for a friend’s wedding.  We also plan on a day at Disney World and a day doing nothing on the beach.  I am hoping to do my swim workout in the ocean and my run on the beach.  Fitting workouts in while traveling can be a challenge, but the change of scenery makes the workouts more enjoyable.  As an added benefit, after a workout, you feel more entitled to enjoy the extra calories that often go along with traveling!

The Arm, it is Messed Up

April 11, 2009

Last week, the sun finally decided to grace the Pacific Northwest with several consecutive days of sunshine.  The first days of sun unfailingly bring several things: flip-flops (way too early – it may be sunny, but it’s still below 60 degrees), an unnecessary amount of shockingly pale skin (see note about flip flops) and the constant drone of lawn mowers.

After plenty of rain, a few days of sun makes the grass grow at lightning speed.  The sun also allows the grass to dry out enough to mow the lawn, for many for the first time since October.  Such was the case with our lawn – it looked quite jungle-like.  My number-one-fan, also known as mower-of-the-lawn was away on a business trip and wouldn’t be available to mow it for at least two weeks.  The appropriate course of action immediately presented itself: I would mow the lawn myself.

For the first time in my life.

I know, shocking, isn’t it?  How did an independent person such as myself get to her mid-thirties without ever mowing a lawn?  I grew up in a house where the weekend chores fell along lines of gender.  Boys did yard work, girl helped mother with cleaning the house.  Whenever girl would grumble about this, mother would ask, “Do you want to mow the lawn?”  Girl, looking at the 110+ degree weather forecast, would grumble, “No.”

After moving out of my parents’ house, I lived in a series of places (dorm, apartment, ship) that either lacked a lawn or had landscapers to mow it.  By the time I finally had a lawn, I also had a mower-of-lawn, also known as my number-one-fan.

Voila, thirty-four years without mowing a lawn!

There comes a time for everything, though, and last Sunday was the time for me to finally mow a lawn.  First, I de-winterized the mower by putting in fresh gas with a carburetor-cleaning additive (thanks, guy at  Home Depot.)  Then, I pulled the cord and the engine roared to life.

I did a decent job with the lawn, considering.  Mistakes were made – I didn’t realize the edger had a guide until I nearly finished and I forgot to put the clipping-catching bag on before I started.  Then, I was afraid the mower wouldn’t start again if I stopped to put the bag on, so our lawn is covered with bits of dying grass.  The biggest mistake I made; however, was allowing my arm to make contact with a part of the mower (the air filter?) that turned out to be very, very hot.

I now have a second degree burn the size of a misshapen silver dollar on my forearm.  The blister broke instantly, so I have had to keep it covered to prevent infection.  At first, I covered it with gauze and tape but then I had an allergic reaction to the tape so now I have a burn surrounded with a rash something like poison oak.  Awesome.

Our swim coach was out of town on Tuesday, so they set up a swim clinic for us with a master swim instructor.  Wow!  I think my form really improved in the one hour she spent with us.

Jim, our regular coach, is great at designing workouts and encouraging us but when he would suggest ways to improve my stroke, I had trouble implementing the suggestions.  For example, he told me I needed to use my legs less while swimming.  This makes perfect sense, since the swim is the only sport in the tri where you use your arms but you need to keep your legs fresh for the bike and run.  But logically knowing something and making your body do it are two very different things. 

I told Wendy (the master swim instructor) that I knew I was supposed to use my legs less but I didn’t know how to make that happen.  She explained it to me in concrete steps – lengthen your legs and make your kicks as shallow as possible. I still have to work on breaking my muscle memory but now I have something on which to focus.

To be fair, perhaps Jim would have explained it the same way but for some reason I had trouble asking him.  Maybe I felt like I ought to be able to figure it out on my own.  I think, in the end, the greatest benefits of a “guest coach” are:

a) you hear a different perspective

b) you aren’t afraid to ask the questions you secretly fear are stupid because chances are good you’ll never see them again!