Snorkle Power

Posted: April 20, 2015 in Equipment, Swim
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Recently, I’ve been noticing that a lot of my training peers have been showing up at the pool with snorkel as part of their standard swim bag of tricks and, up until recently, I’ve just brushed it off as a “nice to have, but not necessary” novelty item to play with.  Before this, the only other people I ever saw using a snorkel were those weirdoes, old people particularly, who spent their time doing this strange dead man’s float thing from one end of the pool to other.

In my pool specifically, there’s a guy older than time itself, who uses a snorkel along with his fancy aquatic gloves and booties to do this odd limp movement that makes him look like a bloated flog struggling to make it to the other end of the pool without drowning.

Oh, and of course, there’s always this pop culture classic to consider (click HERE).

So, yeah, a snorkel never really weighed as an important “must have” tool for my own swim bag of tricks.

However, as I mentioned before, when I started to see other swimmers showing up and utilizing their snorkels I admit to becoming a bit curious especially when those swimmers started swimming the 100m quicker than I could.  Now, in all honesty, I’m still focused on distance over speed at this point in my training given the Frank & Friends 10k Swim for Strong Kids coming up but, still, their speediness in the pool were no less significant so I started to reconsider my stance on the whole snorkel issue and soon enough I was curious enough to actually consider investing in one.

A quick Google search on triathlete and swim boards revealed that a snorkel is actually a pretty handy thing to enhance your workouts; basically, adding the ‘zippidy’ to your ‘doo dah’ in the pool, so to speak.  Apparently, a snorkel has the ability to improve body position while maintaining a smooth breathing pattern, as well as enhancing your V02-Max as it strengthens your lungs by making them more expansive.  It seems that the restricted airflow creates a hypoxic effect (and, seriously, who enjoys hypoxic drills?), mimicking the decreased oxygen in every breath that an athlete would experience during, say, training at high altitude.  Even when swimming easy, the snorkel might improve breathing by encouraging the swimmer to maintain a steady exhalation between inhalations.  Okay, that makes sense to me.  The main reason swimmers feel out of breath is that they hold their breath with their face in the water (something I definitely used to do and had to work hard to correct), and a snorkel can help with that.

The most basic application though is that it helps improve your technique.  And, as you all know, technique is everything when it comes to swimming.  By removing the necessity of turning your head, you can simply relax in the water and focus on the small details of your stroke like the single-arm drill, the catch, the pull or even the finish phases of each arm, and even to help maintain a streamlined position while doing your dreaded kicking drills – definitely my least favorite.

Sounds to me like the total shit, right?  Sold!

I want me a snorkel too.

So got me a snorkel I did.

A humdinger of a snorkel if I do say so myself: a flashy, hydrodynamic, center-mounted “Freestyle Snorkel” by Finis, the gods of all things swim equipment related (fuck Speedo).

Apparently, this was the same snorkel endorsed and used by the US Olympic Swim Team and a favorite tool by Olympic champions Dara Torres (a twelve-time Olympic medalist and former world record-holder in three freestyle events) and Eamon Sullivan (three-time Olympic medalist, and former world record-holder in two events).  The package boasted using centrifugal forces during flip turns to greatly restrict water from entering the tube, the ability to maintain a natural, rhythmic breathing pattern due to easy body placement in the water, and a purge value to increase lung capacity to clear water from the tube.  Shit, ask it nicely and I’m pretty sure it will make you a decent stake of pancakes in the morning.  Unfortunately, it ended up sitting in my swim bag for approximately two weeks before I even considered using it.

You see, it also scared the living bejesus out of me.

The whole concept of breathing underwater seemed about as counter-productive and ass backwards.  It was like considering running a marathon on stilts. I like my air…a lot…especially when I swim.  But, eventually, I knew I had to justify this $40 purchase (not to mention the long drive to Team Aquatics in Burlington), so it was with great reluctance that I eventually strapped it to my head and prepped myself mentally to do a few laps.

Okay, snorkel: amaze me.

Now, I’d like to say here that my first few laps were graceful and fluid, a true thing of beauty to behold in the water, but they weren’t; far from actually.  In fact, I made it (maybe) 5 meters from the shallow end wall before I was sputtering and geysering like a dying sperm whale.  I just couldn’t wrap my lizard brain around inhaling underwater and when I made the initial effort I did so through my nose like I might if I was running or cycling.  In the water, though, this is not good and I almost drowned – quite literally.

I felt let down for believing the hype.  And that was that, I put it away in my swim bag and didn’t touch it again for another month or so.  But, it continued to taunt me from the pool deck until I decided to give it another go.  This time, however, instead of strapping it to my head and just launching myself off the wall willy-nilly ‘Hunt for Red October’ style, I decided to spend a few minutes at the end practicing inhaling and exhaling with my face in the water until I was confident enough to attempt to swim a lap or two.

I definitely found a new appreciation for the whole breathing process that beginner swimmers tend to stress over (I know I did), that’s for sure.  I mean, seriously, how often do you really think about breathing when you roll out of bed in the morning? It’s not even on your day’s Top 100 list of things to accomplish. But jump in a pool and it’s suddenly priority #1.  Get that figured out to the best of your ability and then throw in a new monkey wrench into the whole process and, voila!, you’re almost back to square one (click HERE).

Eventually, I got a bit more comfortable with the snorkel so I got cocky and attempted a flip-turn.  Again, I almost died and returned to the surface coughing and sputtering.  Doh!  I decided then and there to fuck flip-turns altogether for the time being and simply add that to next years’ list of goals.

Instead, I decided to use it while doing some kicking drills in the streamline position as I’ve seen and read on many a swimmer on-line tutorial.  Now, this was fun; especially with my fins on. I felt like Aquaman, gliding effortlessly through the water with my marine buddies (even if that’s only Grandfather Time in the other lane).  At the end of the lane, instead of flip-turning, I executed this 360° turn with my face still in the water just as I’ve seen Grandfather Time do countless times in his Slow Lane.  Who knew that I’d ever be taking swim tips from some guy in aqua booties?

That’s fucked up, I know.

Anyway, after 200m or so of joyous streamlined kicking, besides counting every stray hair, random fuzz ball, spec of grit and water-logged Band-aid (an unfortunate drawback to using the snorkel I’m afraid), I began to realize that my sinuses were beginning to this, shall we say, ‘full’ feeling (lest we forget: click HERE). So at the next wall, I stopped and as I raised my head and removed my snorkel a complete deluge of pool water poured from my nose.

Dis-gust-ing!

And for the record, I think I’ve forgotten how to do long division.  Maybe it was washed away along with the pool water.

With a little more practice I learned that it was more efficient to inhale through the snorkel, yet exhale through my nose just as I do when I swim freestyle normally.  Why this didn’t occur to me at the beginning I’m not too sure; again back to the thinking of breathing, or the lack thereof.

Now, having figured this out, it’s actually helping me reinforce what I’m already apparently doing well in the water which, when it comes down to it, is the number one continuous need that trumps everything else: breathe.   When that need is satisfied and natural, the ability to relax in the water is ultimately achieved.  And believe me, when you’re spending upwards of three hours plus in the water, 3-4 times a week, the ability to relax is important.

So while I’m not exactly Eamon Sullivan yet, I definitely am beginning to see some of the possibilities for future improvement in my on-going swim development.  I certainly plan on continuing to learn how to utilize my snorkel after this 10k business is over and I start to shift gears back to speed and form.  My ultimate goal being to turn myself into a born again speed demon in the pool heading into competition season, and if that means mastering this whole snorkel thing, flip-turns and all, then so be it.

Family Cycle

Posted: March 31, 2015 in Bike, Lifestyle
Tags: ,

I have recently taken on another challenge as the next stage in my on-going triathlon-slash-athletic evolution.  A challenge so daunting and arduous that it baffles the melon just to imagine it; a challenge so fierce and grandiose in execution that it makes all my other successes and endurance tests to date seem like a mere walk in the park.  What is this challenge you ask?  Well, get this: I have now agreed to lead a weekly 30 minute Family Cycle class for parents and kids, ages 8-13 years of age.

Is that some scary shit or what?

You’re probably thinking, “So what’s so scary about a spinning class for kids”, right? That was exactly my thought process when I suggested and then agreed to take this on as a weekly commitment. The idea occurred to me as the result of HRH  becoming a bit more reluctant recently to tag along with me to the gym to participate in the kids’ activities as I do my own thing; be it teaching or participating in a spin class, lifting weights, swimming or whatever.  Before, she enjoyed sitting in the  corner of the spin studio after her “Kids Club” had let out and watch me have my ass handed to me on a silver platter.  She was content to sit quietly and observe for 30 minutes until my class had finished.  A year later, however, well, not so much. I guess seeing me tsunami out in a huge tidal wave of sweat and agony grows old eventually – go figure.

Furthermore, the other kids in her “Kids Club” are now significantly younger so she doesn’t quite have the same connection she once did to be completely engaged yet, unfortunately, she’s also not old enough to participate in any of the adult classes like spinning, water aerobics, etc., so she’s bored.  Who could blame her?  So providing opportunities for kids and families to try this whole spinning thing seemed to be a good idea; something for her to get excited about as well as other kids for whom their parents also have the same challenges.  It something the family can do together to provide a fun and safe introduction into a new possibility as an interest in maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle.  Sounds great, huh? And seeing as coaching and supporting kids programs has become a bit of a passion for me after becoming a step-dad (click HERE) this opportunity seemed to be tailor made for me.  How could I go wrong?

But as the date grew nearer, I became more and more stressed about it.  Making matters worse, I was worried that the kids might sense my nervousness too; like the way a king cobra senses the panicked heartbeat in a nervous kangaroo rat.

I mean, seriously, what do you do with kids exactly?  For all intensive purposes, what do I even know  about kids?  At best, I’m just fudging my way through this whole step-dad thing and hoping, at best, to not seriously scar HRH in her later adult life.  On any given day I’m the kind of boob you might otherwise see spinning (no pun intended) a sign outside a Verizon store.  I know as much about spinning and children as Lucrezia Borgia knows about gourmet cooking.  I knew I wanted it to be fun while still providing them with an opportunity to get familiarized with spinning and, hey, if they get a decent workout as well, awesome!  In short, I wanted it to be the kind of thing that Ron Howard would eventually make a movie about.  But what I have learned, however, is that coaching a kid’s orientated spin class is very, very different than coaching adults…like, apples and oranges different.

For example, you can’t too be too tough.  Unlike the adult participants in my Monday night Masters Spin Class, I can’t exactly stomp them into the ground like a late season gewürztraminer.  No, it’s not that easy; it has to be a real hoopty-doo if you know what I mean.  It has to be “fun” and kids’ do not immediately associate “suffering” with “fun” the way my adult spin masochists do.  Nor, is there any pleasure in it for me. I mean, I admit to being totally into my ‘schadenfreude’, but watching kids pummel the pedals until they’re ready to puke is not really what I would call a good time.  Nor should it be.  I want them to enjoy themselves and come back, not ultimately give them another reason to hate going to the gym.  So I had to invent ways to keep their fragile eggshell-like minds off the “activity” itself, and more on something that was deemed as “entertaining”.  And believe me, given that typical kids has the attention span of a grapefruit, this is harder to do than one might think.

So, to accomplish this, I had the brainwave to – after giving them a brief instruction on how to use the spin bike features properly, of course – lead them through a game of “tag” just as they might play on the schoolyard at lunchtime.  What kid doesn’t like “tag”, I ask you.  The difference here being that when the person was tagged as “it”, they had to then either stand up into a light climb, or spin faster with a higher (yet controlled) cadence, or “sprint”, until the next person was deemed as “it” until we had worked our way around the room.  They seemed to enjoy this.  In future classes, I aim to incorporate other such schoolyard games such as “Eye Spy” and “Simon Says”, but geared towards spinning of course.

The second major difference is that in keeping things “fun”, that also means using and playing music that they like; and as it happens, the kind of stuff that might also get me laughed at and ridiculed if any of my training peers should happen to find them on my iPod.  Now, let’s get one thing straight, I prefer to keep my iPod “pure” (click HERE), in that all the music contained within is the kind of manly stuff that I might also listen to while hammering out swords shirtless in my medieval iron forge and, you know, Taylor Swift is not part of that formula. Now I know that “haters gonna hate, hate, hate” and that inevitably I just “gotta shake, shake, shake, shake it off” but, still, it’s not cool and I feel slightly less of a man for it being there.

The good news is though, that HRH, seeing as she’s into records and developing her own taste in music these days (click HERE), helped me put together a decent playlist, which along with the popular kids music on the radio, also included tracks by the Cars, Michael Jackson and the Bee Gee’s (click HERE) so that at least the parents brains didn’t 100% melt out their ears as I’m sure they tend to get enough of the radio pop pabulum shoveled at them throughout the day as well.  God knows I do.  So I tried to find the happy middle ground.

All in all things seemed to go well, even if it was the longest yet probably the most rewarding 30 minutes I think I’ve ever spent coaching on a spin bike. Afterwards, we even had some favorable comments from the participants (kids and parents alike) and everybody seemed to enjoy themselves and left with a smile on their face.  Maybe this won’t be such a bad thing after all.  The best part is that HRH  dropped almost immediately into bed upon getting home without so much as a fuss.  Who knew that having so much fun would be so exhausting?  That alone made the whole stress worth it and I’m looking forward to future classes and working with these amazing kids as they discover the – hopefully – exciting world of spinning.

So it seems to be, that every few months or so, I tend to encounter some sort of bizarre behavior at the gym as I document as acknowledge with a ‘Gym J. Bullock’ (click HERE) award, or as simply another story in my on-going ‘Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…’  series (click HERE and HERE).  Oh, and lest we forget the Black Mamba (click HERE).

And as far as weird-ass behavior goes, today was definitely the day.

Now, for matter of reference sake, I recently just moved my gym membership at the YMCA to the more local branch since HRH  is no longer taking swimming lessons through the original branch.  It’s all good though as I genuinely love this new branch. I like their approach to creating and supporting the local community, I like the people who work there, and I like that they let me yell at people for 60 minutes every Monday night as a spin instructor.  The only downside is that they don’t have all the frou-frou amenities that the other gyms provided, like a “Member’s Plus” change room to use; it’s “gen pop” all the way.  Now, a locker room is a locker room at the end of the day with all the usual assortment of wacko’s, weirdo’s, and people for whom there are really no words, but now that I’m without the beloved safe haven of the “Member’s Plus” change room, I have about a dozen pre-pubescent boys staring at my junk every time I change and get showered.

“Hey peanut, quit staring at my lunch box.”

Awk-ward!

Anyway, it is what it is and usually I’m there early in the morning or later in the evening so it’s not so bad. This morning, however, the gates didn’t so much ‘open’ as they completely and epically failed on a grandiose New Orleans levee scale and a total watershed of imminent craziness flooded out all over the place. I guess that didn’t sound so good, so allow me to explain…

I finished my morning swim workout as per usual without incident.  Of course, there were all the usual “swim types” to deal with as well as all the typical issues as they relate to lane swimming, but I just consider  these things now as an occupational hazard of being in the pool.  I like to think it teaches me patience.  Anyway, after I finished I made my way into the showers – as you typically do – and that’s when all the craziness started.

In the shower already was an old guy who looked as if he’d already spent the better part of the morning there.  He didn’t seem to be washing, rinsing or any other of the standard things you might expect to see someone doing in the shower.  No, he was just kinda standing there…passing time.  Even more disconcerting was the big shit-eating grin that he had spread over his face as he stood there loitering away under his stream of water.  Seriously, he was the kind of guy that my teachers in grade school warned me about getting into vans with.  Had there been anywhere else to shower at the time, certainly, I would have been there.

As it is now, the shower area is pretty small with only 5 shower heads so even if you’re at opposite ends of the shower area, you’re still in close proximity with anyone else who might also be sharing the vicinity, as this guy was.  So I returned his creepy ass smile politely (and modestly I might add) before immediately casting my eyes to the floor and started making with the suds.  Now it also needs to be mentioned here that the showers at this particular gym also utilize a “water conservation” approach, where the facet shuts off after a minute or so and therefore reducing the amount of water waste.  That potentially means that mid-suds, you might have to reach over and reactivate the shower head should it turn off in order to resume your rinsing.  No big deal though, right?  And it’s usually not.  However, as I was “sudsing up” on this particular occasion the flow of water on my shower temporarily cut out, and out of the corner of my eye I see the creepy old dude in the corner come hustled over to reset the water flow for me.

Did he….just….???

Yup.  He did.

And now he was standing there grinning at me like a total psychopath waiting for some sort of friendly acknowledgement.

Great.

“Umm, thanks?”, I offered nervously.

Strange behavior as it was, I tried to pretend it didn’t happen and simply returned my eyes to the ground and proceeded with the business of scrubbing my privates.  He genuinely looked very pleased with himself though, as if he had just something incredibly noble like assisting a helpless turtle cross a busy highway or rescue a kitten from a tree, and so he continued to harbor that weird ass grin on his face as I returned to my shower.

Usually – in my experience anyway – heterosexual naked men don’t like to go anywhere near other heterosexual naked men and we approach these situations very delicately, as if coming in too close to another man’s nekkid bid’ness will result in our automatically becoming gay or something, like one of those Reed frogs who will spontaneously change  sexes for whatever reason.  Clearly, this old guy has never read the “Man Code” as it relates to these types of exposed situations.  Hopefully, though, this was just one of the “one off” circumstances that I could just laugh off (later of course) and carry on with my day.

However, in another minute or two he did it again. The water cut out and before you could say “rub a dub dub”, he comes over to reset my water…UH-again!

The fuck?!

The water  cut off as I was scrubbing my ball sack and there he was, coming to my apparent “rescue” again with that helpful expression that seemed to be fishing for some sort of acknowledgement like he had just done me this huge favor.  Bizarre!  This time, I was less cordial and gave him a strange look and proceeded back to tending to my sack.  Clearly this was not the reaction he was hoping for…not that it stopped him any.

It’s also worth noting here that, for the record, I wasn’t actively seeking this specific reaction by purposely allowing my water flow to cut out.  No, sir!  It’s just that after 90 minutes to a few hours in the pool, and I like to give myself a thorough lathering so I don’t go home smelling like the battlefields of Ypres so I often opt to let the water cut out as I’m lathering up and then just restart it when I’m ready.  Besides, I’m all for the water conservation thing anyway, so it’s no big deal.  So, for whatever reason, this guy now felt like it was his civic dude to help out when I didn’t really need or want  it.  Suffice to say, I was less than thrilled about it.

Usually, I am big advocate when it comes to “love thy neighbor” and “be kind to strangers”, but this was fucking ridiculous.  Now the guy was simply standing there desperately waiting for the opportunity to present itself so he could rush to my aid and lend a helping hand.  On the third and even fourth time, I awkwardly smiled appreciatively, but by the fifth time, I stopped acknowledging him altogether as this was beginning to get out of hand (no pun intended) and I was getting pretty aggravated, if not completely freaked out.  Clearly this guy isn’t dealing with a full deck if his morning is spent in the Men’s showers helping other dudes with their shower facets.  That’s some fucking strange ass shit!

So, now, here I was showering with someone who, for all I know, is also picturing my genitals as a potentially nice addition to his basement rec room as a lamp shade or something equally decorative.

“Yes, that’s it buddy. Get all sudsy and smooth. Here, let me help reset that water for you. Yes, that’s it.  Go on, get all sparkly clean and baby-smooth.  Boy is your nut sack going to look nice on my trophy shelf.”

Or, worse yet, he was going to come at me with a chainsaw a la Scarface.  Now, where he might have been hiding a chainsaw exactly is totally beyond imaging but the point is, had my shower not ended right then and there I was forced to spend a single moment longer with Joe Creepoid, I might have gone all Norman Bates right there and ended up beating him mercilessly within an inch of his life for violation of space, not to mention shower privacy.  After all, I’ve seen too many grizzly bathroom shower scenes that didn’t end so well in B-movie horrors (click HERE) as a kid to not take this lightly so, now, I’ve added a new rule to my ever-growing list of Locker Room Commandments:

“Thou shalt NEVER fuck with another man’s shower facet…EVER!”

Dear Roberto

Posted: February 26, 2015 in In Transition, Swim
Tags: ,

I documented once before my successes in “swimming” as a kid (click HERE for a little reminder).  Now, I put swimming in quotations marks there because, well, it wasn’t really swimming so much as it was a full body seizure 25m  at a time, and what I thought I knew about swimming wasn’t really swimming at all; enter the weekly TryForce Masters swim and my progression from the “Advanced” lane directly to the “Beginners” lane six years ago.  I mention this all again because, the coach in that Beginners lane was a guy named Roberto.

The Man.  The Myth.  The Legend.

The Man. The Myth. The Legend.

Sadly, I received an email a few weeks ago that Roberto will be temporarily stepping down as a swim coach for the TryForce Group.  I had to reread the email a few times for it to sink in as I can’t imagine TryForce swims without him.  And although I don’t participate in the group swims as much anymore given it’s a bit inconvenient and far for me to travel, I still consider Roberto in many ways to be my swim coach.  With that in mind, I made it a point to show up last night and participate in what had been identified as his “last official coaching session”.

Roberto has been with the TryForce coaching team since its genesis.  A quick browse of the TryForce Niagara website will tell you that Roberto comes from a “swimming background”  and “instructed youth programs while in Mexico and has been instructing with TryForce for (seven-ish) years. He truly enjoys teaching the fundamental swimming technique for those looking to become comfortable and efficient in the water especially those new to the sport.”   I will expand on this to say that he’s one of the nicest, most patient people to ever walk the planet; and then there’s that smile.  Besides swimming, I’ve also had the pleasure of riding and running with him from time to time, and participated in a few workshops he hosted on basic bike maintenance and how to change a bike tire.  So, yeah, Roberto has been pretty instrumental in my development as a “triathlete”.

But back to the swimming…

When I was moved to the Beginner’s lane all those years ago I was mortified.  Hey, I won a Bronze medal as a child, remember?  Of course, there were only three people in my heat but that’s entirely beside the point.  For the next few weeks, Roberto patiently explained the proper mechanics of really  swimming and ran me (us) through some drills to help develop those skills.  It turns out that wind-milling your arms through the water at 100rpm  doesn’t generate speed.  Huh.  Whatyaknow?   My confidence in the water was shattered.  After all, as a kid, the swim coach at the local Lions pool had screamed “swim faster, Terry!”   at all those swim meets, not “make sure to properly utilize your catch in order to pull yourself comfortably through the water Terry!”

The bastard.

I recognized quickly then that I was basically starting over from scratch and relearning how to swim and I took it my new challenge. Roberto was a huge part in that.  Each week, we were given some instruction on the different parts of the stroke and then given “homework” (drills) to practice in the pool later on our own.  I took this homework seriously, often going back to the pool the very next morning for 20-30 minutes at a time and practicing my drills.  After a few weeks of practicing my technique, my form improved enough that I was ‘graduated’ to the next lane with another coach; but that didn’t end my relationship with Roberto.

While I continued to practice all the “shark fin”, “single arm”, “doggie paddle”, “zipper”, “catch-up” and God-knows-what-else drills the new coach gave us (most of which I still use and practice regularly today), I always made sure to sidle up to Roberto during our post-workout coffees to glean as much as I could about ways to continuously improve my form in the water.  I recognized that it wasn’t exactly a strength and I was determined to make it just that.

Eventually, Roberto even invited me to join him and another TryForce peer once a week for their workout and, honestly, this scared the bejesus outta me.  I knew there was no way I would ever be able to keep up with these two during their workout (and I didn’t), but I considered it an honor just to be asked and I couldn’t pass it up, not to mention the opportunity for a little extra tutorial. It was largely through these sessions that I learned that when it comes to swimming, it’s definitely quality over quantity when it comes to swimming.  It’s not how many lengths you accomplish, but the quality of the time you spend in the water to benefit your overall form and technique. This is the basic fundamental principle that I subscribe to today.

Also, it was during these sessions, on top of the usual drills I would do on my own, that Roberto gave me added advice on how to develop my kick which was practically non-existent and ugly even at the best of times (click HERE), he explained the benefits of and then made suggestions on how improve my bi-lateral breathing (click HERE).  He introduced me to the Swim Smooth website (click HERE) and taught me how to use an Aquapulse Heart Rate Monitor (click HERE).  Shit, he even tried to help me with my Butterfly Stroke (click HERE), something I have still managed to fail miserably at I might add.

But more than all this, Coach Roberto taught me something I have come to value above all else: a real LOVE of swimming.

Where I used to hate it and thought only of it as a necessity in order to compete in triathlon, I genuinely have a real passion for swimming now and I am continually developing it be my true strength in the sport.  I’ve become something of a real “Aquaholic” in that regard.  I now see long distance swimming as, potentially, my new future if/when this whole triathlon thing falls by the way side.  I already participate in one 10k charity swim per year (click HERE) and I would love to do more, even seriously compete at that distance – and longer.  I even have a future lake crossing in the back of my mind.

Yeah.

Beyond that, I am also now sharing and creating this same passion for swimming with HRH, who is turning into quite the water baby herself (she even used to ride in the canoe with Roberto during our open water workouts a few summers ago – something that she still fondly recalls from time to time now).  And it’s this overall drive and passion for swimming is what I am most grateful to Roberto for instilling in me.  Thank you for that, buddy.

Sincerely.

And even though it’s only temporarily you will be sorely missed and I am looking forward to the next time we can get in the water to simply, swim.

Brakes Are For Sissies

Posted: February 12, 2015 in Bike
Tags: ,

Now, I must confess that when the initial suggestion went out amongst my TryForce group to try the new Velodrome in Milton, this is immediately what popped into my head:

..and this:

Yeah, fuck no.

Pass.

Then I learned that a “Velodrome” was just the fancy term for the special arena that houses track cycling.  Okay, so no one’s ever accused me of being smaht. Count me in!

So with a little maneuvering around the Mattamy National Cycling Center website which included my providing everything just short of a stool and hair follicle sample just to login successfully (all to be accomplished between the precise hours of 10:14 and 11:37pm by the light of Harvest Moon), I was all booked in to “Try the Track” for this past Saturday at 2:00pm along with about a dozen or so of my peers.

I’ve never cycled on a track before so, of course, I did a little preemptive investigating on the Interweb to see what this whole track cycling thing was all about.  My only familiarity with track cycling was watching Canada’s Curt Harnett silver medal performance at the 1986 Los Angeles Olympic Games in what was known as the 750m Match Sprint.  I liked the whole “cat and mouse” game between the two riders which inevitably would start out at a snail’s pace and gradually lead over into both cyclists sprinting for the finish at light speed. It was awesome.  Later, I discovered the Tour de France and avidly followed Steve Bauer’s days in the ‘maillot jaune’ in the local Standard newspaper in 1988 and 1990.  Both became heroes of mine and I remember imaging myself sprinting for glory to the end of my street with my buddies during any one of our daily bike rides around the neighborhood.  Likewise, I am fortunate enough to cycle now in the same area that Steve Bauer grew up in and every time I climb Saylor’s Hills in Pelham, I still image myself racing against him to the top of the mountain summit so, yeah, I guess you can say I never really did grow out of that childhood hero worship. So a chance to try the track was exciting.

Anyway, my initial research taught me that a velodrome is a steeply banked oval track, consisting of two 180° circular bends connected by two straights. The straights transition to the circular turn through a moderate easement curve.  Banking in the turns, called “superelevation”, allows riders to keep their bikes relatively perpendicular to the surface while riding at speed.  When traveling through the turns at racing speed, which may exceed 85 km/h (52.8 mph), the banking attempts to match the natural lean of a bicycle moving through that curve.  At the ideal speed, the net force of the centrifugal force (outward) and gravity (downward) is angled down through the bicycle, perpendicular to the riding surface. The $56-million velodrome at the Mattamy National Cycling Center features a 250m long, 7m wide timber track constructed of untreated Siberian Spruce (well, la-di-da) which is renowned for its hardness, stability and long, straight lines. The track has 42° banked bends and 13° banked straights.

Does that sound like fun or what?

The bikes used in velodromes are also completely different than the typical road bikes of which I am accustomed to riding. For example, they have no brakes.  Pardon?  I had a full stop at that point. Not that I ever had any chance of reaching 85km/h but, no brakes?  Fuck.  Seriously?  Furthermore, they are fixed wheel bikes that employ a single fixed rear gear, or cog, that does not freewheel. This helps maximize speed, reduces weight, and avoids sudden braking while nevertheless allowing the rider to slow by pushing back against the pedals.  I mean it makes sense I guess but, still, no brakes?  Really?  It sounds like a perfect recipe for disaster.  I can see the morning headlines now: “Ridgeway Man Dies in Horrible Velodrome Accident”  and, underneath it, a picture of a perfect Terry-shaped hole in the velodrome track floor where my body had passed through it at Mach 3.

Oh joy.

So two months later, following a reschedule with the Center requiring us to reregister on their website, add our next of kin and answering the mandatory skill testing question – don’t even get me started on the list of required equipment specifications – Kelly and I were finally in the car with the Coach heading towards Milton.

Upon arrival, we headed upstairs to get our first gander at the track itself. First impression: it was gorgeous – all shiny wood and slick running surfaces.

Seriously, how cool is this:

1

It was like a Valhalla for cyclists.

There were riders already on the track and they seemed like they were enjoying themselves. I followed the riders as they rode around the track on a blue band at the bottom, or what’s known as the “côte d’azur”, aaaaaaaaand then I saw it…the embankment at the end of the track.

Ho-lee shit.

The End Embankment.

The End Embankment.

I had to get a better look so Kelly and I walked around on the running track that circumnavigates the velodrome itself to get a better look at this, this, this…”wall”. I don’t know how else to refer to it. Standing at the top looking down it was certainly steep, like impossibly steep. All that was missing was maybe a Sherpa, or some dude in lederhosen blowing on an alphorn. But, seriously, from my particular vantage point at that exact moment here is how I viewed it:

Here it is in actuality but, believe me, the picture doesn’t really do it justice.

Looking straight down.

Looking straight down.

I decided that this was doing nothing for my confidence so I figured I’d go and get changed into my cycling kit, all the while wondering why they hadn’t included either crampons or an oxygen tank on their lists of required equipment.

Shortly afterwards, we were all herded into a small classroom for our “track orientation”.  After a short wait we were introduced to a guy named Christoff with tree trunks for legs and an accent so thick you could cut it with a cheese knife. “We are going to ‘av vun ya?”, he said in his East European accent.  Also in the room was an unassuming guy seated in a chair that I instantly recognized as Steve Bauer himself, Head Coach of the Milton Cycling Academy.  Sure he was a little older and not wearing his yellow jersey but, still, you could have knocked me over with a feather.

I admit: I was a little star struck.

After a short info session which, truthfully, I didn’t catch a lot either due to Christoff’s accent (or possibly my stargazing at Steve Bauer), at least nothing I hadn’t already gleaned from my own research – it’s true – there were no brakes – we were ready to pick up our bikes and make our way to the track.  Goodie.

Certain death, here I come.

Can't you just sense my excitement?

Can’t you just sense my excitement?

Upon getting on the bikes for a quick test drive it is very apparent that fixed gear fixes are very different by design.  Once you start pedaling it’s not so easy to stop, impossible actually. You have to use your quads to slow your momentum and that takes some getting used to when you’re accustomed to simply reaching for the brakes. Upon taking our first few spins around the inside of the track (the safe zone), I will admit it, I didn’t like it.  I didn’t like that loss of immediate control. We quickly learned that in order to avoid any possible, shall we say, “Oopsies” (oopsies like colliding with another cyclist at 50km/h), you had to focus your attention on the person ahead of you, but the other riders waaaay ahead of you.  That takes some getting used to, let me tell you, when you’re more accustomed to focusing your attention on the wheel of the rider directly ahead of you in the pace line.

Eventually, we were allowed to ride on the blue côte d’azur I saw the previous riders cycling on, which is typically about 10% of the tracks surface.  The blue band is not technically a part of the track; although it is not illegal to ride there, moving into it to shortcut another rider will result in disqualification.  For our purposes, it was the first tentative steps to actually riding the track. Kelly referred to us as “baby deer” in the way we cautiously weeble-wobbled our way around the track trying our best not to fall off or collide with anyone else.  She’s definitely not far off in her assessment either as that’s exactly how I felt and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.

Finding our baby track legs.

Finding our baby track legs.

Shortly, with each passing lap of the track my confidence grew but, hey, we were still only riding on a relatively flat surface so, yeah, whoopee.  What I mean is that I was getting more accustomed to using my quads to control my speed and keeping my focus well ahead of the rider ahead of me.  Soon, we were allowed to ride a little up on the track itself and back down again to practice looking over our shoulders for other riders; not the crazy Grand Canyon embankments at the end, mind you, but just along the sides of the tracks.  By doing this we were gaining confidence little by little. But there was still that monster 42° monster at the end to contend with.

Getting the feel of the track.

Getting the feel of the track.

Between turns riding around the track (there were two groups of us) we were eventually given permission to ride between the black and red lines (the red being known as the “sprinters line”) which is known as the “sprinters lane”, the optimum route around the track.  This zone may only be comprised of a mere 90cm in width, but by the time you get to that huge angle at the end, suddenly that 90cm looks rather menacing – believe me.  In fact, it’s hard to image the bike sticking to the track at that angle and it wasn’t until I had completed a few circuits around the track that I actually managed to stay securing in this zone the whole time around without pussying out and dropping back to the safety of the côte d’azur.

My biggest fear was my having to hear Christoff say:  “ve vill ‘av to call you an ambulance now, ya?”

What I eventually learned is that it had nothing do with power and everything to do with cadence.  By bringing your cadence up you could power around the end embankment up on the sprinter’s line and then surge back down again into the straightaway. It was neat to be able to look over your left shoulder and see the floor whipping past you at an impossible angle.  Okay, now I was hooked.  I might have even let out a “Weeeeeeeeeee!!!” as I went flying around the track.

Riding the "Sprinter's Lane"

Riding the “Sprinter’s Lane”. “And a little bit faster now…”

Although we weren’t really allowed or encouraged to, I gradually brought my bike above the sprinter’s line at the ends up to the blue “stayer’s line”, a whole 250cm above the floor.  Now the adrenaline was really pumping.  By keeping my cadence fast (95-100rpm) the bike navigated around the bend smoothly and easily and then I could slow the bike just a little into the straight away to be not to ride headlong into the rider ahead of me.

I’m sure I was giggling like a schoolgirl.

Testing the "Stayer's Line".

Testing the “Stayer’s Line”. “…a little bit faster now…”

Feeling the leg power required to rise higher on the track gave me a whole new appreciation for the leg strength these Olympic Match sprinters must have. It’d be akin to riding a bike – slowly no less – up a vertical wall.  I shit you not!  I also remember seeing these cyclists doing what’s known as a “track stand”, or simply balancing there motionless high up on the track.  It’s little wonder their bodies are 99% comprised of leg muscle.

Unfortunately, our time on the track came to an end. But it wasn’t before we got an excited two thumbs up and a “you did great, ya?”, and maybe a “ve vill see you again soon, ya?”  from Christoff himself.  I have to say, once you grasped the concept of the fixed gear bike it was addicting and I could really enjoy track cycling if this triathlon thing doesn’t work out so well. So will I be back?

Ya!

Lord knows that the gym is a literal breeding ground of schmucks. From your typical bevy of weight room goons (which are many – click HERE), to the girls who monopolize the machines in order to take selfies of their boobs, to the guy who likes to trim his pubic hair on the changing room sofa, and lest we forget the Black Mamba.  Shit, you can probably even add me to this cast of characters as well given I’ve had my own fair share of awkward moments (click HERE).  And now that it’s winter and most people are taking to the indoors for their workouts, never mind the influx of current New Years Resolutioner’s, that pool of schmuck’s is a-plenty for sure.

For me, part of going to the gym is the morbid attraction to scope out these schmucks in their natural habitat.  I consider it as something to do between sets on my mat, and such was the case yesterday on a recent visit to the gym to complete a short functional strength and core routine after work. To say the gym was “busy” would be like suggesting that Miley Cyrus is merely a bit “off”.  Suffice to say, it was fucking crazy.  I could barely squeeze myself into a corner without also rubbing asses with either the tweener in neon spandex and the scary looking bearded guy in the gnarly, stained “Tap Out” t-shirt who looked like he’d sooner eat me than offer me a little room to workout out.  So, while the schmuck-watching was great, it was with great haste that I ran through my series of planks, push-ups and crunches to get the fuck out of there…which I did.

Now, if you think the actual gym floor has its fair share of wacko’s, than the locker room would be the Ground Zero from which all the imminent wackiness emanates, and yesterday proved no different. My basic strategy on any given day is to get in and get out as quickly as possible without making eye-contact, or being forced into any “howdy do’s”, etcetera and so forth; less is definitely more when it comes to the locker room in my opinion.  But, every now and again, you see something that will suddenly make you freeze in your tracks and gape in bewildered astonishment.  And such was the case yesterday, when I spotted this years’ winning recipient of the “Gym J. Bullock Award” for total and complete gym buffoonery.

It has to be said, it’s a total crap shoot each and every time you walk into the showers. It’s like blindly walking into a crime scene in that you’re never really going to know what you’re going to witness. It could be something mundane and ordinary, or it could be a total bloodbath.

And yesterday was a total bloodbath.

Upon walking into the showers and retiring to a corner showerhead I quickly and discretely took stock of my surroundings as men are prone to do when naked and, therefore, feeling vulnerable. In there with me at this specific time was the requisite old guy, some dude on the opposite side of the showers minding his own business, and…that’s it.  Perfect!  And so it went for a few minutes or so until another guy entered and sidled up to the showerhead directly next to mine.

Immediately, I was like:

Nevermind that there were any number of showerheads available elsewhere that he could have easily chosen from (seriously, choosing shower facets is like choosing urinals, you select the one as far away from everybody else as possible), it’s what he did next that completely freaked me out, earning him this years’ award hands down.  No contest.

At first, he just stood there under the cascading water, dousing himself as one typical does, but then he proceeded to fondle his junk for the next few seconds or so.  And not just “fondle” fondle, but literally tugging at himself like he was playing with a Stretch Armstrong (click HERE) or something.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I realize your frank and beans need a thorough cleaning as well – they get sweaty too – but there is a very specific point at which it becomes too much. When it comes to washing your privates, I like to observe the “five second rule” similar to when food falls on the floor; providing it’s retrieved within the allotted five second time frame, it is still safe to eat.  Well, in this case, after five seconds of scrubbing your junk, it’s no longer cleaning…it’s just fucking weird.  And this guy was the epitome of weird in the way he was pulling at it, rubbing it, and whipping it around like he was going to lasso a steer.  Honestly, it was very disconcerting.

But then seconds turned into, well, minutes, and there he still is…thwacking at it like he was trying to punish it for some misdeed or other.  Although it seemed like hours, I’m sure it was only three to four minutes he was doing this but, still, that’s a fucking long  time to spend playing with your genitals in a public shower!

But he wasn’t done yet, oh no.  After the initial round of yanking and tugging during which I was sure he was going to rip it off, he proceeded to get a fistful of soap from the dispenser and started to lather it all up…like, seriously lather up.  Okay, weird just turned to extremely awkward as, suddenly the shower area turned into an Ibiza foam party.

At this point, I had to vacate the premises…quickly. The sounds of slapping and flapping were simply too much to bear.  It was freaking me out to be perfectly honest.  And I wasn’t the only one either, as just about every other guy in the shower decided to join me in my exodus, so, clearly, I wasn’t the only one who thought this behavior was inappropriate.  Hey, when you actually manage to scare old dudes out of the showers, you just know that whatever it is you’re doing is fucking bizarre.  And this guy brought it in spades.

I think I may actually need therapy now.

I admit that – like every other triathlete on the planet I suppose – I absolutely LOVE my gear.  I bond with it; I name it; I build meaningful relationships with it.  Of course, this is all well and good as long as we’re talking about shoes and bikes, but when the subject suddenly turns to technology (i.e. gadgets and gizmos), well, not so much.

You see, I’m a technology Neanderthal.  Seriously, I’m about as close as one can get to actually being anti-technology in that I have never owned a cell phone and the digital clock on my microwave flashed 12:00am  for approximately 10 years when I lived on my own.  Now setting the clock falls under Kelly’s umbrella along with updating the computer software, programming the cable box, adjusting the settings on the tablet thingee and locating addresses on the GPS in the car.  Me?  I bitch.  That’s pretty much my jam when it comes to technology.

Now, I have been using a Garmin Forerunner 305 (which, for the record, is practically obsolete) for running and biking for about six years now, but I really only use the most basic time/distance/pace features.  In other words, I only use about 10% of its overall capabilities.  In other words, if you ever dropped me off in the woods somewhere and asked me to only rely on using the GPS coordinate tracking features to get out I’d be fucked; total bear bait.

For swimming (both in the pool and in the open water) I have been using the Polar F6.  This too, is a pretty basic device.  It tracks my heart rate, total time, calories burned and…that’s it.  It has no GPS feature so I have to manually calculate all my distances and then do the required math to figure out my pace which, of course, I never do.  It’s just a way of logging my total time spent in the water and the amount of calories I burn.  And if I should ever forget what lap I’m on, I’m pretty much screwed.  The real downside with the Polar monitor however is that it comes with that blasted chest strap which I have had to replace now at least a zillion times as the chlorine tends to eat through it like battery acid given the amount of time I spend in the local pool.  Plus it’s annoying as hell; nevermind that it makes me look like a dinosaur.

However, I have just recently taken a huge step forward in my embracing of technology by purchasing the new Garmin Swim device.  My Coach has one and she sure loves it and I see some of my training peers on Garmin Connect using one and their data is pretty cool to look out so, yeah, I was certainly tempted.  I figure I have to get with the times sooner or later and Lord knows I love me my swim workouts and I am looking to improve even more so it appeared like a good investment.  So I reluctantly slapped down the $140 on my credit card (at Giant Tiger no less!) and five days later, there it was sitting on my front door step.

Bedhead not included

Bedhead not included

Now, I won’t lie…at first, it scared the bejesus outta me.  So much so, that upon arriving it sat in the package for at least three swim workouts.  You see, I am not necessarily what you would call an “Ambassador of Change”, particularly when it comes to anything resembling modern technology.  I tend to look at new technology – specifically the “wireless” kind – the same way a mid-16th century pioneer might view, say, a 3D hologram – it’s witchcraft.  I just don’t have a very good track record when it comes to these kinds of things.  Will it work?  Will I be able to make it work?  Will it be accurate?  Etcetera and so forth.  It all kept me up at night.  But finally, I opened the package and decided to give it go.  It’s a brave new world after all.

My first course of action was to attempt to figure what the buttons – all six of them – actually did.  By comparison, my Polar only has one and I only ever use the ON/OFF and Start/Stop features (two buttons in total) on my Forerunner.  SIX?!  Fuck.  I might have to take a night course to figure all this shot out.  Furthermore, the direction manual is only a whopping four pages…FOUR!  It’s madness.  The user manual for my Forerunner rivaled a Chinese telephone book and that learned me how to use two buttons…so what are four measly pages going to teach me?  I wanted to package it back up then and there, admit defeat and ship it back.  It seemed hopeless.  Fortunately, a buddy linked me to a website by a guy named DC Rainmaker (click HERE) who featured an “easy” step-by-step review of the Garmin Swim device.

Easy, eh?  I’ll be the judge of that.

As it turns out, programming the initial settings (you techies might refer to this process as “presetting the data”) was pretty easy.  So, yeah, I got the date and time and even my weight (never you mind) programmed successfully.  Yay me!  Take that blinking microwave.  I was feeling so confident that I even programmed the pool size (25m) as well.  Booyah bitches!  Take that you nerds.  So, okay, so far so good.  I was actually ready to start swimming.

So far this Garmin Swim thing is pretty awesome.

After hitting the ‘Start’ button (I’m pretty good at that by now) in the pool, I swam a length and paused to check out the results and – sure enough – it had registered 25m.  But…but…how?  What kind of sorcery was this?  I was flummoxed.  Like I said before…witchcraft.  But cool witchcraft for sure; so I kept swimming .  And it all was all going great until I tried to do some drills, then…nada.  No distance logged.  Huh.  Then I tried to do some kicking.  Nothing.  Did it somehow loose its voodoo all of a sudden?  What gives?

Well, as it turns out, the Garmin Swim (like the Forerunner 910XT/920XT and the Fenix 2) houses a sensor, called an ‘accelerometer’, which measures motion.  With software specifically designed to analyze motion, the device will measure three basic metrics for swimming:

  • Stroke count – counts a stroke for every full cycle of the arm wearing the watch
  • Length count – counts pool lengths by detecting your turn or stop; one length count is one trip down the pool (25m in my case)
  • Stroke type – displays different types of strokes detected by specific swimming motions

Pretty neat-o, right?  But here’s where it gets even neater.

The stroke count and length count are used in combination with timing to compute other swimming data, such as distance, pace, stroke rate, and your “SWOLF”.  What is “swolf” you ask?  Well, swolf is derived from combining the terms ‘swimming’ and ‘golf’.  The swolf data adds the time and the number of strokes it takes to swim a pool length.  For instance, 30 seconds and 10 strokes to swim the length of a pool will equal a swolf score of 40.  A lower score is better, just as in golf.  So this gives me something to measure my overall efficiency with.  I like that.  Who knew that all those years caddying for my grandfather would actually pay off?  Well, okay, it didn’t really…but it’s still kinda neat.

Here’s what the drill sets look like in Garmin Connect (of course, getting to this point to view them was a completely different challenge, but I’ll come to that later):

Swim1

Pretty bad ass, huh?  But what are those blank parts between the colored bits?

Well, the problem is that without that motion, the device can’t register its distance (lengths) properly.  Crapsticks!  Not so neat.  So after returning home and scanning DC Rainmaker’s post a little more, low and behold, it turns out the device has a solution for this problem.  I learned that I can log “drill time” with the watch similar using its “Drill Log” feature the same way I would add a manual entry on the Garmin Connect site.  In essence, while in this mode it keeps the timer running and allows you to manually set the swim distance after you’ve completed that drill set; essentially an override.  So I returned back to the pool to give it a go and, well, I completely fucked it up.  But after a few swims – not to mention a ‘cheat sheet’ of instructions (thanks Coach!) – I finally managed to use all the buttons to log my drills correctly.  The real amazing thing about all this is that now I am using not one, two or even three buttons in conjunction with one another…but FOUR!

So, apparently, the watch even makes you smarter as well.  How awesome is that?

So those blank parts between the colored bits I pointed out were the points of my workout where I enabled the Drill Log, so despite still swimming (be it drills or kicking or whatever) the timer was kept running but no actual lengths were recorded by the device itself.  I just entered the drill distance manually and it then added that measure to my overall accumulative distance.  Am I kicking technology’s ass or what?

Winning.

The next challenge, however, was bit more dubious: connecting all this shit to my online Garmin Connect site.  It’s one thing to have the information, but it’s entirely a different thing to actually be able to review it.  I.e. look at the pretty colored graphs n’ shit and, hey, let’s face it, I loves me some colored graph shit.  Now I mentioned before that the Garmin Swim is “wireless” (which still sends shivers down my spine just to type it) but fortunately, despite my still running off the stegosaurus of operating programs (Windows XP) I am still able to use Garmin Express to upload my workouts to my Garmin Connect site…barely…except this didn’t go as easily as you might expect.  Ha!  Who am I kidding?  This was bound to be a disaster and it was.

For uploading from my Forerunner, Garmin Express completely blows.  I basically have to download the .tcx file (whatever the fuck that is) from the Garmin Training Center after I sync my workout, then manually upload it to the Connect site afterwards.  It’s a bit of a process but I manage to get it done.  Now, for those of you in the know Garmin has been experiencing some, shall we say, “issues” with its online site.  Don’t get me wrong, their customer support (when you can get through to them) is amazing n’ all, but the fact that I now know them all by name might give you some idea how utterly shitty their website is right now.  So my first effort to sync my swim workout to the Connect site crashed and burned and, ultimately, my workout disappeared like Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.  Even after spending an hour on the phone with Lars from Garmin, we still couldn’t retrieve the file from my device and successfully upload it to Garmin Connect.

Shitsticks!

He did though encourage me to give it another go upon my next workout suggesting that it might just be a corrupt file or something; just my luck.  But try I did two days later.  I swam in the morning, logged in my drills, swam my intervals, stroked my swolf’s and what have you, and then went to work.  Now I think it’s worth mentioning here that the Garmin Swim is just hip and ungawdy enough that you can actually wear it throughout the day as a normal watch without attracting negative attention.  Try doing that with your Forerunner 305!  Anyway, when I arrived home it wasn’t without a certain amount of trepidation.  So much so I just dropped the watch on my desk figuring I’d play with it after dinner, maybe give Lars another dingle to say ‘hi’ and simply go from there, but I hadn’t even gotten 5 ft. from my desk when my computer beeped and happily announced that my “data had been transferred”.  Really?

I immediately checked my Garmin Connect site and…AWESOME!

I almost did a happy dance right there on the spot.

More happy colored charts to peruse.  Here is what the displayed interval information looks like:

Swim3

Notice how the device recognized and listed my stroke during my warm up interval as either freestyle and breast stroke.  Notice how the second interval is listed as “Drill”.  Also listed in there is my rest periods (in grey) as well as my third interval which was actually the first interval of my main set and I can scroll down to see the rest of the intervals to boot.

Yup.  Witchcraft.

There is even a Table display that shows the data for each of my intervals, telling me the number of lengths, my times, average pace, best pace, the swolf, total strokes, average strokes and, shit, it even tells me how many calories my fat ass is burning per lap.  How fucking sweet is that?

Swim4

I wonder if Gandalf has it this good?

So, yeah, initial spooks aside, it turns out that I love this thing.  Heck, I might actually even try to figure out how to set that microwave clock next.  It’s all enough to make me reconsider my views on technology and embrace all things modern…almost.