Archive for the ‘Swim’ Category

It has become one of my habits now to set a few goals through the off-season to work towards and which, ultimately, serve as benchmarks leading up to the accomplishment of the master plan being Ironman.  One of these regular goals is the completion of the Frank & Friends 10k Swim for Strong Kids at my local YMCA.

This has been my fifth year participating in and completing this charity swim and it has become the hallmark of my off-season training program; not to mention my motivation for getting my ass out of a warm bed at 5:00am on cold winter mornings.

Here are the particulars of my 2017 swim plan to date:

  • 182,025m covered in total (2,500m more than last year)
  • That’s an average of 14,205m per week for an average of 4 hours and 33 minutes (per week)
  • Which equates to 61 hours and 34 minutes spent in the pool
  • Over 47 different workouts

That’s not too shabby if I do say so myself.

17952595_10158536214270113_3324792525232267637_nI was particularly motivated this year as I was sharing the task with a friend and past training partner Steve, whom I met back in the early days of my triathlon quest.  I don’t necessarily remember how this partnership came about but I know there was definitely a beer in hand at a Christmas party where he actually committed to do the swim with me.  How many were consumed by that point is anyone’s guess but, true to his word, Steve took up the gauntlet and launched into his own preparation for this year’s event (click HERE for a little deeper insight into Steve’s rather “unique” training plan).

Besides getting to share this experience with someone it also meant that I wouldn’t have to deal with the hardest part of long distance swimming as far as I’m concerned:

B-O-R-E-D-O-M.

Seriously, when you’re spending the better part of three hours staring at the little hairs floating on the bottom of the pool, your brain tends to liquefy and slowly drain out your ears.

Let’s just say that it becomes very tedious indeed simply watching the black line endlessly pass underneath you and there’s a reason why I use this event to build up my overall “mental toughness”.

Believe me.

Usually, the last hour or so is just me – alone – simply trying not to go crazy.  So having someone to keep me company and share in the tediousness and general pacing was a huge benefit and I couldn’t really have been luckier in who offered to join me.

In past years, my 10k swims have clocked overall times of 3:22:50 (2016), 3:11:05 (2015) and 3:11:57 (2014), and 3:16:31 (2013) respectively.

Clearly, last year was a real struggle.

This year: 3:00:40.

That’s a difference of 11 minutes and 25 seconds over my best time.

Boo-yah!

Different from past years where I went it alone, Steve and I stopped every 500m  for a sip of water and a quick glance at one another before pushing off the wall again.  All in all, each break was only 4-5 seconds each.  Over the course of three hours, we only spend 4 minutes and 59 seconds resting and refueling.  Again, this represents a huge improvement over the 10 minutes or so between longer intervals in previous years so this plan seemed to work out much better.

Likewise, since we were splitting the pacing duties out front every 1,000m we managed a better average pace of 1:49min/100m and, really, it was only in the last 2,000-3,000m or so that our pace began to fade.

Some other interesting statistics for those of you who care:

  • I covered the distance in exactly 4,302 strokes
  • For an average of 23 strokes/minute
  • Burning exactly 2,400 calories in doing so

So what now?

Well, from here I begin pulling back on the distance and begin focusing more on speed and tempo work at the 4,000m  distance given my next swim goal is directly aimed at being among the first few out of the water at Hudson Valley (click HERE).  I will also be doing the Lake Okanagan Swim with HRH on July 15th (2,000m) – but that’s more of a fun bonding thing than it is any significant challenge.

Steve, however, is going to continue with the distance with – hopefully – designs on competing in a few open water events around Ontario meaning, of course, that we can both continue to motivate and train together in the open water come next month.

Well, that and getting rid of the pull buoy.

(Sorry Steve, couldn’t resist)

Anyway, seeing as how the Frank & Friends swim has now been reassigned to November we might even be doing this same swim again sooner than anticipated so there’s always that motivation to keep going as well.

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The Harpy

Posted: March 17, 2017 in Swim
Tags: , ,

The ancient Greeks and Romans believed in mythical creatures called Harpy’s.  Harpy’s were thought of as a female monster in the form of a bird with a human face.  Their purpose was generally to wreak havoc on their victims by stealing food and otherwise antagonizing and tormenting them throughout the day.

Their name literally means “snatchers”.

Most famously, Harpies are remembered in the Greek legend of Jason and the Argonauts, where they were sent by the god Zeus to torment the blind seer Phineus.  Here they were portrayed as winged demons; voracious, malodorous, and snatching away souls to carry off to Hades (click HERE).

Of course, we don’t believe in Harpy’s any more, unless you consider politicians as those who were put upon the earth for the sole purpose making our lives a living hell, but I digress.

Myself?

I absolutely believe in Harpy’s.

In my view, Harpy’s still have the same purpose and effect as the ancient mythological ones in that their main mission in life is to antagonize, torment and other otherwise annoy the living shit out of me.  I further believe we all have one and in my case, my own Harpy visits me every morning in the pool.

Yes, I know, I complain a lot about the different types of schmucks you encounter in the pool (click HERE  for a few reminders).

It’s true.

But in this case, it’s not some random moolyak who I happen to cross paths with.

No.

In this case it’s every…freaking…day!

Now for the sake of anonymity, I will refrain from using this particular person’s name (*cough*cough*BILL*cough*cough*) and simply refer to him them as “the Harpy”.

The Harpy has been a long standing regular at all the local pools over the years and the Port Colbourne Aquatic Center is simply his latest hunting ground, however, to call him a “swimmer” would be a bit of a stretch.

I’m sure outside of the pool the Harpy is a nice enough guy.  I mean, sure he has that rather odd look about him that simply screams any number of lonely and angry lighthouse keepers from Scooby Doo, but don’t all old dudes?

Be that as it may, when the Harpy enters the pool 40-50 minutes into my swim, all those misgivings I have about him being a harmless guy go right out the window and I begin to see red.

I literally begin to go all Bruce Banner as soon as he steps on the pool deck.

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You see, the Harpy’s main mission is to get in my fucking way as often as possible.  For the last half of my swim (an hour or so), it’s all I can do but stay out of his way.  No easy feat I assure you!  And it’s not like there’s a lot of people in the pool at that time either.  In fact, there may be one, maybe two  other people there at that time meaning that between the 3 or 4 of us we more or less have the entire pool to ourselves.  So how then the Harpy manages to get in my way as often as he does is a mystery right up on par with the Pyramids, Stonehenge and who kidnapped the Lindbergh baby.

For example, the Harpy likes to choose the lane right beside my own and then proceed to do this weird sideways swim right down the middle so that his feet are kicking squarely in the middle of my lane.  On several occasions I have been scratched by his gnarly, sabre-like toe nails.

But does this deter him?

Fuck no.

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If I move over to another lane to avoid him, he will inevitably cross over to the lane beside me again and proceed as he was.

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It’s maddening.

If I’m doing 50m  sprints, he will decide that this is a great time to go into the opposite end of my lane and begin to bob at the wall.  Never mind that he has the whole fucking pool in which to do this, but he has to choose to do it in my lane!  Sometimes I do flip turns so close to his head that my heels are practically grazing his ears and the sheer force is all but parting what few hairs he has on his head …but does he take the hint?

Of course not!

If I’m doing long continuous swim sets, he will decide to change lanes – in the middle of the pool – at the exact moment I’m passing by.

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As it is, he changes lanes about a kajillion times and each and every time he somehow manages to get in my way or interrupt my workout.

In essence, in true Harpy fashion, he literally “snatches” away my focus and motivation.

There are times I have actually stopped my workout outright and glared at him expecting to see him snickering to himself, but then I look into his eyes and this is what I see:

The lights are certainly on but, clearly, nobody is home…if you catch my drift.

FML.

So what other option do I have but do my best to ignore him?

I mean, trying to explain my frustration to him would be like climbing a tree to catch a fish…

Pointless.

Fortunately, in most cases the regular morning lifeguard will step in and promptly restore order whenever she notices that he’s becoming erratic or beginning to get under my skin.  Either she’ll chase him out of my lane, or lure him somewhere else so that’s he not in my immediate path.

I love her.

But when she’s not there to act as a buffer (as has been the case all this week), it’s all I can do stop myself from having a nuclear-sized meltdown and bludgeon him to death with my kickboard.

The Shark

Posted: February 15, 2017 in In Transition, Swim
Tags: , ,

I first started swimming at the Port Colborne YMCA and Aquatic Center about 2-3 years ago.

Now, it’s never easy being the new guy on deck at a new pool.  Here the swimmers were typically older (seniors most of them) and had obviously been swimming together in the mornings for quite some time.  Before that (I have since learned), they swam at the now closed Centennial Pool in Port Colborne.  In other words, they were all very familiar with one another as well as each others swim pace and specific routines, and they already had a predetermined order to the way in which they organized themselves in regard to who swam with whom, and in what lane, so on and so forth.

And this young buck in Speedo’s with the Santa’s sack of fancy swim toys shows up and everything is completely FUBAR-ed.  It’s made only worse that he also happens to swim at double the pace of those currently using the Fast Lane.

Needless to say, we didn’t necessarily all get along well in the beginning.

However, over time they grew to know me, and I them, and I have more or less been accepted into the common collective of local swimmers in Port Colborne and we have reorganized ourselves accordingly in that we can all successfully get to the business of swimming without it feeling like Mortal Combat.

It took some time but we eventually did it.

During that initial “getting to know you” phase though it was, well, let’s just say that it was ‘awkward’ at the best of times.

One of the first swimmers to make an effort to get to know me was an English woman named Margaret.  One morning, out of the blue, she invited me into her lane which we then proceeded to split down the middle so that we wouldn’t be in each others way.  To me, this was kind of like Diane Fossey being accepted into her troop of mountain gorillas on some remote mountainside in Rwanda somewhere.  At last I was accepted as one of their own.

Well, with Margaret anyway.

The others?  Maybe not so much (at that point anyway).

We continued sharing a lane for some time after that and even started chit-chatting at the wall periodically between sets.

She was curious about the kind of workouts I was doing, the distances, and of course all the weird-looking pool toys (pool buoys, fins, paddles, etc.) I brought with me (click HERE for but a small sample).  She even became a little interested in how they worked so I invited her to try using some of them which she did before politely nodding her head that, “yes, that’s definitely different, isn’t it?”  in that adorable English accent before going back to doing whatever it was she was doing.  However, I did notice sometimes that while I was doing my sets she would occasionally reach into my bag of swim tricks on the wall and help herself to a pair of small paddles, or maybe my fins, do a few lengths, and then replace them again carefully.

I was only too happy to oblige.

Sometimes we would even race each other.  I would try to complete a 100m interval in the same time it took her to swim 50m.  It was a way of pushing ourselves through a little friendly competition.  She usually completed her interval seconds before I could finish mine, but I was getting closer.  And of course there was just the proper amount of egging one another on at the all as well.

“You just got beat by an old lady!”, was her favorite.

Funny that my swim partner would turn out to be an 70+ year old lady with penchant for trash talking.

Rather appropriately I think, I nicknamed her “The Shark”.

But then Margaret stopped showing up altogether.

Now it’s not terribly unusual for one of the old timers to go AWOL at some point.  Usually, one at a time it seems, they will inevitably head off south on vacation for a few weeks at a time, but they all eventually come back eventually looking like an old boot; such was the ebb and flow when swimming with seniors.  So I half expected Margaret to come waltzing back onto the pool deck as some point as well all tanned up.

But she never did.

In fact, months passed and no Margaret.

I figured that maybe she had moved onto something else, or moved away altogether.  It happens.  By this time though I more or less owned the Fast Lane and the other regulars stayed out of my way (except Bill, who I am sure has been sent here by the gods like some sort of a Classical pool harpy, to interrupt all my workouts by getting in my way as often as possible).

More months passed.

Then this morning, low and behold, there she was.

She looked a little confused and proceeded to plop herself into a completely different lane (not ours), but when she saw me she smiled broadly and announced “I remember you!”

Umm, hey…thanks?

She mentioned to me that she hadn’t swam in two years and, again, there was that confused look.  When I congratulated her for being back, she just shrugged her shoulders and started swimming…zig-zagging down the middle of the lane…without her goggles on.

Long story short, Margaret has developed Alzheimer’s and recently lost her driver’s license and therefore, her ability to get to and from the pool every day.  This morning, however, her husband must have brought her so that she could finally get back in the pool.

She didn’t immediately recognize everyone else but I am thrilled that she remembered me and our “workouts”.  She even started to ask how my swimming was going, what distances I had gotten myself up to and if I was still planning to race again this year.

In other words, it was as if we had just picked up where we left off…trash talk n’ all.

It was a real joy for me to see her swimming again and, clearly, she both loves and misses it judging by the HUGE smile on her face.  And while we might not have shared a lane this morning, I will definitely be sure to return the favor and invite her into my lane (whether she remembers me or not) with me if she continues to show up in future mornings, just as she originally did with me.

Welcome back, Margaret.

And for the record, in her absence I’ve only gotten faster.

As she said this morning:  “I see I have some work to do”.

You bet your sweet bippy you do, Shark.

So here’s a bit of a progress update on my Frank & Friends 10k Swim for Strong Kids training program.

My (our) annual charity swim has been planned for April 15th at the Port Colborne YMCA and Aquatic’s Complex and my training has been going well.  On the average I am swimming anywhere between 15,000 to 17,000 meters a week with my long consecutive swims on Saturday’s (after riding 20k out to the pool on my mountain bike no less) so far stretching to 5,000 to 6,000 meters without any breaks.

And it feels good.

Also, I have just recently just set a bench mark personal best at the 100m  distance by finally getting my time down under a 1:30.  Probably not a big deal for other swimmers but for me, this is HUGE progress.  My daily core workouts are inevitably helping to make all this possible and all things considered, right now I’m feeling very strong in the water…more so than where I have been in previous years at this point with my 10k program.

In other words, things are going great.

What is different this year, is that I have enlisted some help in a friend who will be joining me in this whole 10k swim madness, Stephen Apps.  Steve was one of the first people I met through the TryForce club years ago and was one of the big motivators and inspirations to train for and complete my first Half Ironman distance triathlon in Welland (click HERE), culminating with my competing in Cancun (click HERE) the following year and eventually the full Iron distance Wales (click HERE).  So, although he may be surprised to hear it, Steve has been a major influence on my life over the past 8 years or so.

Now, we usually just bond over beers with is significantly more fun.

Anyway, this year Steve has graciously offered to join me for the Frank & Friends swim and has jumped back into the pool and launched into his own training plan for the April 15th event date.  However, this week he has been taking a bit of a much-needed break from the program and relaxing somewhere in Costa Rica.

(lucky bastard)

I’m envious.

Of course, I figured the only training he’d be doing this week might be the one arm curls he performs every time he hoists a tequila shot to his lips, but then this video pops up in my Facebook feed suggesting that Steve isn’t actually relaxing at all:

I just don’t know what to say.

Here I am up at stupid o’clock every morning suffering through endless intervals and grueling paddle workouts, and here is Steve doing obscene things to a floating crocodile in a tropical paradise.

Clearly, he has the better training program.

Good on ya, bud.

I’m sure it’s happened to every swimmer at least once before.  In fact, it’s happened to me on a number of occasions actually, just never on such a grandiose scale or under such inauspicious circumstances.

But, hey, at least it’ll make for a good story at my expense.

Today is our family Christmas seeing as how HRH  is home again after spending the Christmas weekend with her father.  So while Kelly was off making “the exchange” and dropping off to visit the grandparents I decided to slip in a nice, relaxed long swim seeing as how I didn’t have any real time constrictions today as I’m still on holiday leave from work.

Part of my planned workout this afternoon was a series of 200m interval sets in the pool which, after a lengthy warm-up of drills, I launched myself into.  I practically had the pool to myself.

Beautiful.

The first few intervals went by relatively easy and uneventful.  Everything was turning over great through the water and I felt smooth, sleek and powerful; just the way one likes to feel when doing their swim intervals.

I was reveling in this feeling when my mind started to wander a bit to other things (as happens).  What should I have as a snack when I get home?  I wonder what I’m going to get in my stocking later on?  Did I remember to wrap everything I meant to?  What on God’s green earth is that weirdo doing over there in the corner?

The usual.

Anyway, around the 4th or 5th 200m interval I began thinking to myself that my swim trunks were feeling kind of loose.  Which at first I was happy about.  I mean, after all this working out who wouldn’t to lose a little weight after the holidays, am I right?

But by the sixth interval I realized that I hadn’t really done much working out in the past three days other than drink and eat my fill of holiday indulgences and there was likely no way in hell I had actually lost any actual weight.  In my Speedo’s, my ass probably looks like two raccoons fighting in a sack of corn as it is.

So by the next interval I started to worry.

Something definitely wasn’t right in the state of Denmark.

It’s probably best at this point if I break down my thought process over the next 200m for you lap by lap.

The first 100m :

“Huh.  The water suddenly feels a little cooler.  I wonder what’s up with that?”

100m :

“Oh shit.  I wonder if I have a hole in my swim trunks.”

150m :

“Please Lord don’t let there be a hole in my swim trunks”.

I knew I needed to quickly assess the situation.  So on my next flip turn at the 175m  point I reached down between my legs for a little feel around and what I felt wasn’t good.

To put it bluntly:

Nothing but sack!

Oh.

Shit.

In truth, I didn’t feel any material at all.  Just a whole lotta bare ass and, well, you get the idea.  In other words, I had been mooning the entire pool each and every flip turn…seven of them to be exact.

Now I’d like to say that this last 25m sprint back to the wall was my fastest ever and I set a new PB but given the added “drag” I was now pulling through the water (ie. my dick) this wasn’t likely the case.  By the time I got back to the wall and really checked out the damage, I was dismayed to learn that the hole was freakin’ huge.  My swim trunks had pretty much burst at the seam at the back from the waistband all the way down and around my taint and even up into the front.

Really, I was now wearing a pair of nylon/elastane chaps.

FML.

But then I realized something else, even though I had made it back to the wall without anyone seemingly noticing my shameful display of buttocks, my embarrassment was only just beginning.  Now I had to get out of the pool and over to my towel way over on the far wall…

Way.  Over.  There.

FML x 2.

And by now the pool was full of screaming kids and parents, whereas when I had started the workout I more or less had the pool to myself.

This wasn’t good.

I carefully hopped up and sat on the pool deck with my legs still dangling in the water.  Okay, so far so good.   Nobody had noticed.  But I still had to get over to the towel on the far wall and if I stood up my cock and balls were surely going to drop out and expose themselves like a boxer’s punching bag.

Instead, I started to scooch backwards on my ass to the wall.  At this point, the female lifeguards (who aren’t exactly personable to say the least) started to notice my peculiar behavior and all three of them suddenly fixed their gaze solely on me inch-worming my way backwards across the pool deck on my ass.

Uh, ‘Hi‘?

I probably looked like one of those little dogs dragging it’s ass across the carpet.

Not exactly my finest moment to be sure.

I tried to give them my best “there is nothing to see here” look, but nothing doin’…they keep their gaze firmly locked on me.  I decided that, hey, maybe I could get a little help over here so I tried to casually motion for one of them to come over and, you know, possibly just hand me my towel.

But, nope.

They just ignored my pleading looks and continued to stare.

Thanks girls.

(Bitches)

Thanks for nothing.

I wasn’t about to call out across the pool deck and call more attention to myself so, fuck it, I stood up, turned around and casually walked back my towel with my bare ass clearly in full view of God and everyone.

I hope they enjoyed the show.

Lord only knows if I’ll even be allowed back in the pool again.

So if anybody should ever hint to you that I have any shame, I want you to kill them and do it slowly.

Very, very slowly…

I think everyone has obsessions of some sort, whether it be simply collecting things (of which I have many different collections ranging from vinyl records to bread clips), or Cacodemonomania (the constant belief that you are possessed by a demon, if only so you can say, “Don’t blame me.  It’s Cthulu’s fault I’m running late”).

Whatever it is, it completely consumes you to a certain degree.

Triathletes are no exception.  We are the Batman of the sporting world with absolutely no limit to amount of technological gizmos that we will own and use to enhance our racing and training programs.  As such, we are easily obsessed with these different nuances of our sport; especially given the extreme amount of data, information and equipment that is readably available.  Some of us will obsess over our bikes and biking paraphernalia, insisting on having the most state-of-art aerodynamics and performance-enhancing devices, others will obsess over the amount of data they record during their different blocks of training as a means of evaluating their progress.

While I don’t necessarily have all the latest devices and gizmo’s and, truthfully, I am beginning to lean more towards the “less is better” methodology of training, I am certainly guilty of having a few obsessions and when it comes to swimming, it seems that for whatever reason, my obsession lies with owning swim paddles.

In fact, you could consider this post then as “my life in swim paddles” as certainly, this weird obsession with paddles is very representative of my own development over the past six or so years as a serious swimmer.

It’s true, my swim bag is cram-packed with stuff so that I likely look more like Santa lugging around his toy sack between lanes.

All I’m missing is the beard and a reindeer leading the way (which, now that I think about it, might be a novel idea on how to better pace myself through long intervals).

This obsession all started innocently enough about two years into my journey as a triathlete-slash-swimmer (click HERE for a taste of those early days).  Our swim coaches at the time Bill and Roberto used to talk about the importance of incorporating some “paddle work” into weekly swim workouts.  Of course, at the time I was just lucky to not drown so I never paid it a second thought.  Eventually when I became a little more proficient in the water, a fellow TryForce member (Hi Chantelle!) mentioned that she was going to the Team Aquatics store in Burlington, Ontario to pick up a pair of paddles and offered to grab me a pair as well.

“Yeah, why not?”, I figured and readably agreed.

These are what I was handed a few days later:

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These little babies are aimed at allowing you to focus on your catch and your pull and vertical forearm.  Likewise, they are good for lengthening your stroke and overall keeping good focus throughout most phases of the stroke.  In other words, they are perfect for developing your “technique” and, yes, they can also be used for backstroke but, seriously, I didn’t do a lot of that anyway so who cares?

These worked great as I was in my development stage by that point.  But fast forward a year later and I’m swimming with The Coach and she suggests we do some paddle work.  So upon pulling out my teeny weeny paddles she begins to laugh uncontrollably.

Mocking definitely ensued.

It was kind of like that moment in Crocodile Dundee when a street hood decides to pull a knife on him:

It was some time before I lived that one down.

So, I decided to up the ante and invest on what I figured were the next level up paddle.

These beauties:

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Tech or technique paddles are designed mainly for aiding water-feel.  They have a nice, comfortable clam-shape to them that were easy to put on and comfortable to wear.

They kind of looked like what this chick is riding on:

clam

They are designed to aid catch, early vertical forearm (EVF), strength and pull; a bit of a Jack-of-all-trades as swim paddles go.  They are useful for building up shoulder strength primarily and I used these semi-religiously leading up to my 1st and 2nd Frank & Friends 10k Swim for Strong Kids.    I largely credit these for having the strong shoulders I developed over those two years.  I still use these from time to time but then I noticed that they weren’t quite as difficult to use as they once were and started becoming a little, well, bored with them.

But then one day Kyle Jones jumped in the lane beside me and he was using a pair of these:

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These Finis Agility paddles are now my favorite paddle and I regularly use them regularly.  They have no strap and fit on each hand using a simple thumb hole.  In order to keep them on your hands during the stroke you must keep a good catch and pull through on every stroke.  Everyone who has tried these has felt the immediate technique feedback and, likely, these may just be the best paddles on the market. And if you want just one paddle, I’d recommend these.

But did my obsession stop there?

Oh, HELLS NO!

I still wanted to incorporate regular strength building into my weekly routine beyond what my old Tech paddles did so, recently, I made another trip back to Team Aquatics and purchased these bad boys:

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Specifically, these Speedo Power Paddles are designed to create enough water resistance to build up your upper body strength.  They also help encourage you to keep your elbows high as you work through your stroke, for a faster, more powerful swim.

Plus, they look pretty bad ass.

There is absolutely nothing fancy-schmancy about them.  It’s basically a flat, plastic swim paddle that is fitted over your hand by mere pieces of rubber tubing fitted through small holes in the paddle itself. In other words, there are no bells and whistles to these things which is keeping to my more minimalistic “no frills” approach to training these days.

But am I done yet?

Not likely.

Not even close.

Now I’m eyeing these paddles for the very near future.

finis-freestyler-hand-paddles

Specifically designed for freestyle training, the Freestyler Hand Paddles plane the hand forward through the water, improving reach and distance-per-stroke.  With a long fin shape and unique “skeg design”, the Freestyler Hand Paddles promote a strong pull through, better hip-rotation and increased efficiency. An adjustable finger strap offers a perfect fit and the narrow surface area helps prevent shoulder strain.

Maybe Santa will be good to me this year.

**fingers crossed**

Bang the Drum Slowly

Posted: October 17, 2016 in Injuries and Owies, Swim
Tags: , ,

I get that injuries and ouchies are a part of triathlon.  I get it.  Really I do.  I have an entire category dedicated to them in this blog alone (click HERE).  But worse than the stupid self-inflicted injuries that come of my either doing too much, or doing it too soon, or just my being a dumbass, whatever, are those injuries that I unfortunately incur at the hands of someone else; another dumbass, if you will.

Those injuries, well, they tend to really bug me.

I have recently fallen to one of these types of ouchies which is now threatening to set back my regular swim training.

It began about two weeks ago when after one of my pool workouts, my right ear became plugged with water.  This in and of itself, is nothing to freak out about and I have long become accustomed to it happening periodically.  I figure that when one tends to spend stupid amounts of time submerged in contained bodies of water it’s bound to happen eventually – and it does.  What typically happens then is that a day or two will go by before that little pocket of water in my ear shifts and drains out my ear canal in a teny tsunami of warm fluid which, truthfully, feels awesome.  I figure most swimmers will liken this to a total “eargasm”.  Once this happens, usually after we’ve been lying down on that blocked side for a spell, all is right with the world again.

Sometimes, however, that blockage is a bit more stubborn and simply refuses to give up its stored up bounty of fluid – this is what is referred to as “Swimmers Ear”, or acute otitis externa.  This is highly annoying and exactly the case I found myself in exactly one week after that original blockage.  The symptoms can stem from echoing, itching or clogged feeling in the ear – and lots of discomfort (often a signal of an inflammation of the skin within the ear canal that occurs when water gets trapped there).

I my case it was “all of the above”.

Of course, I could have been doing lots of stuff during that week to be proactive (click HERE) but, as I’ve stated before, I’m a dumbass, and often when the opportunity to be smart and act accordingly comes along, I tend to fold like a Renaissance triptych.  I figured it would just unblock itself eventually.

It didn’t, and so a week later, on a Thursday morning, bright and early, I got up at 6:00am, poured myself a coffee, grabbed my book and headed to the local Urgent Care to have tie issue, hopefully, sorted out.

After about two hours, I was met with by the attending physician in an examination room who proceeded to attempt to flush out the blockage with a syringe full of warm water; not an altogether pleasant experience, believe me.  What he was trying to do was wash out a build-up of excessive wax that had gathered in my ear naturally, as protection against moisture and infection.

In this case, though, my bodies wax manufacturing system was working on overdrive and had instead build it up to the point that it was not allowing what water that did manage to breach its defenses, back out again.  I guess when it comes to wax manufacturing, by body runs with the efficiency of a Japanese auto factory.

What came out of my right ear as a result of the doctor’s “syringing” looked like something you might place on top of a birthday cake and light except, well, much nastier.  Almost immediately afterwards, I was rewarded with that warm gush of fluid out my ear and – low and behold – I could hear normally again.

Winning.

But then it all went horribly wrong and downward spiraled into a total Yakov Smirnoff opening for the Spin Doctor’s at the Iowa State Fair-like shit show.

You see, we decided that, hey, we may as well do the other ear while we’re at it.  After all, if one side is totally gummed up with wax then the other side can’t be too far off, right?  So we opted to give my left ear the same working over with another syringeful of water.

Unfortunately, this did not go as smooth as the other ear.  Within seconds of blasting the water into my ear I experienced an intense pain that was on my Top 5 of all-time painful moments.  Ladies and gentlemen, over the course of my life I have shot an arrow through my hand, subjected myself to being tattooed (click HERE) and endured being kicked square in the Charlie Brown’s by a scorned Eva Roditis on the schoolyard playground back in Grade 3, and this pain was definitely worse than any of those.

Much worse!

If the pain wasn’t enough, hearing (well, barely hearing the doctor that is) the doctor mumble “uh oh” definitely didn’t help matters any.  I definitely felt warm fluid coming out my ear but, but this fluid ended up not being water or another wax build-up, but blood…lots and lots of blood.

“I think I just perforated your ear drum”, he says casually.

FML.

Not winning.

A ruptured eardrum is a small tear in the thin membrane that separates your outer ear from your inner ear.  That membrane, known as the tympanic membrane, is made of tissue that resembles skin.  The eardrum serves two important functions in your ear.  It senses vibrating sound waves and converts the vibration into nerve impulses that convey the sound to your brain.  It also protects the middle ear from bacteria as well as water and foreign objects.  Normally, the middle ear is sterile, but when the eardrum is ruptured, bacteria can get into the middle ear and cause an infection known as otitis media.

Yay.

The doctor then informed me that I wouldn’t be able to swim for at least a week.  Shit sticks!  Furthermore, I would also undergo injecting four drops of antibiotics (which, as an interesting side-note here, my loving wife would place under her boob to warm up for me prior to dropping them in my ear – meaning my drops would now become affectionately known as “mommies boob juice” – how emasculating is that for an aspiring Ironman swimmer?) into my ear every morning and evening and then see my family doctor for clearance before getting back in the pool.

FML x 2.

Anyway, another week goes by of being injected twice daily with “boob juice” and I’m back at my family doctor’s (yesterday) to learn that a) there’s still wax in both ears, b) my ear drum is likely not healed yet, and c) I still can’t swim for approximately another two weeks.

FML x 3.

Needless to say I’m pretty discouraged at this point and now looking for viable options to protect my ear temporarily while it heals so I can at least get back in the pool, meaning, I need ear plugs.

Yay, again.

Remember this idiot (click HERE)?

petal-swim-cap-multi-retro-flower-bathing-cap_1

Yeah, I just took another colossus step to becoming them.

Not really knowing anything about ear plugs, I stopped by the local pharmacy to see what options were available.  In fact, there was a whole cornucopia of options; an entire rackful located inside an entire aisle of ear and hearing-related products.  It was like the pharmaceutical equivalent of a “Turducken“.  Who knew there was such a profound market for ear plugs?  But then again, come to think of it, my grandma probably kept her local pharmacist driving around in a Rolls Royce for the last 10 years of her life given how much stuff she had crammed into her ears on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, none looked very promising.  Most were either the variety used for noise protection, sleeping, or as my grandma used to claim, “keeping the wind out of my ears”.   I’m pretty sure one was just a little baggie of candy corn.  However, there was this one waterproof variety of which I was still a bit skeptical:

They’re essentially little wads of soft, tacky silicon that you warm up by rolling in the palm of your hand and then stuffing into your ear to create a waterproof seal.

Like so:

img_1031

I was dubious but I gave it a shot (at home) anyway and, honestly, it felt like I had just stuffed a Gummy Bear into my ear.  Likewise, I was doubtful that they would ever really stay in place in the water and, even then, they were only for a single use only.  Needless to say, I didn’t feel safe actually testing these things in the water so they were more or less tossed into the bottomless abyss of shit under my bathroom sink.

Then I found these TYR molded ear plugs at Team Aquatics in Burlington.  Besides being manufactured by a recognized swim equipment brand name, they weren’t the disposable variety. Instead they were marketed as “long lasting silicone” plugs made for swimmers, by swimmers.

img_1034

These definitely looked more promising.

Among the other benefits listed on the package was “allows hearing during use”.  I like hearing stuff when I swim, so this was a definitely bonus.  I couldn’t hear shit with the other soft silicon Gummy Bear variety in my ears.

However, they were a little more complicated to insert as opposed to just cramming a wad of silicon into your ear.

From the instructions:

“Top straight edge of the ear plug core should be in a perpendicular line with the face.  Outer rim fits into the hollow depression behind the ear canal.”

Umm, okay.

Who knew shoving soothing into your ear could be so difficult?

But then again, the instructions did also add:

“DO NOT PUSH THE EARPLUG SO FAR INTO THE EAR THAT YOU’RE UNABLE TO GET IT OUT.”

Gee, thanks.

Anyway, with a little twisting and prodding I did manage to maneuver them into what I think was the proper “perpendicular line (my) face” :

img_1035

And – get this – I could still hear fairly well.

Cool!

For good measure then, I also threw a swim cap on which I never really wear in the pool just to help keep them in place (hey, I already have plugs in my ears to I might as well go whole hog and look the part of the total swim geek) and entered the pool to give them a trial run (swim?).

Upon my first few laps they felt pretty comfortable actually.  However, that “allows hearing” thing went right out the window as everything sounded more, well, in utero I guess…which, truthfully, was very relaxing.  Maybe it was just because I also couldn’t hear the Ariana Grande bullshit they were playing on the pool deck between strokes anymore, whatever, it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would.

I was a bit worried that maybe they weren’t completely watertight and that water was now leaking into the gaping hole of my tympanic membrane and I – unbeknownst to me – going deaf with each additional stroke so I kept my swim short to a few drills only (1300m).

Upon finishing, I unstuck the earplugs and everything immediately returned to blissful normality; no muting, no sloshing around in the ear, no nothing.

Beautiful!

Besides making me look like a total swim pussy, the plugs had done their job and held tight in preventing water from entering into my ear, meaning, that I can now get back to my usual weekly swim workouts while my ear drum continues to heal for another week or so.

Back to ‘winning’ again!

Oh, and what does the remainder of this “healing” process look like?  Well, absolutely nothing for the next 10 days while the membrane rebuilds itself and then I have start adding basic cooking oil into my ears to begin loosening up whatever wax that might still be lingering around in my ear.   Doesn’t that sound like fun?

Yeah.

Not so much.

Thankfully it’s not forever.

(edited:  10/19/16)

So after Sunday’s “trial swim” I was up early and in the pool at 6:30am ready to get my swim on.  Unfortunately, after the first 300m or so, one of the war plugs slipped out and, yeah, nowhere to be found, meaning that I was now forced to abandon my planned workout and doing a stupid amount of kicking drills instead so I could keep my head above water.

And you just know how I love  my kicking drills!

After informing the lifeguard what had happened, she put out the APB to all the other bobbers and floaters in the pool.  Basically, the whole pool was not on Amber Alert for my missing plug.

After 20 minutes or so, they were found by an old lady…four lanes over…on the opposite of the pool…on the bottom.

So much for “floats in water”.

Thanks, TYR.  Great job there.

NOT!