Monday, 30 December 2013

Using the Tempo Trainer

I am a big procrastinator. I had the Tempo Trainer for 3 months but was just to "scared" to use it. Now what are there to be scared of? That was what I start asking myself. So I just tackled it- read the instructions and start swimming with it.  Now I can kick myself for not using it sooner.

The important thing is that I must increase my stroke rate gradually so that I do not loose efficiency. I do not know how a swimmer can do this without the Tempo Trainer. In the beginning the beeping sound was very irritating, but I got use to it very quickly. Now after just a few sessions I  depend on it.

In competitions this aid is not allowed so I will have to be able to keep the pace myself and will need some training sessions without it though.

In his ebook- Outside the box, Terry Laughlin explained how he use the Tempo Trainer to swim faster.  Terry reminded me not to chase a quicker stroke rate at the cost of efficiency. Speed or velocity is obtained by the length one travel with each stroke multiplied by the number of strokes per minute.

It is difficult for me to force myself to swim at a higher speed. It is tiring and after a while of increasing my tempo I again fall back on my leisurely pace. The tempo trainer with its regular beeps force me to swim at the preset pace.

My research on this topic makes it clear that to become a faster swimmer one do need to train correctly. Swimming the distance as I have been doing the last month will not necessarily lead to improvement in speed. Interval training where I need to swim at a faster pace for short distances with sufficient rest in between will be far more beneficial than just swimming 2-3 kilometers at a leisurely pace.

I borrowed my brother's Garmin 302 to measure the distance I swim in the farm dam. To my astonishment and delight I swam 3 km in 42 minutes. After checking my pool time on the clock it seems that the Garmin did not track my distance correctly- I am still swimming 50 m in 55 seconds and according to this it will  take me at least 55 minutes to swim 3 kilometers.

I have never learned to do a tumble turn and my turning time might lead to a slower time over 50 meter, but for the Garmin to be correct I need to swim 50 meter in 42 seconds. The swimming pool at Sunningdale Virgin Active where I swim do not have a pace clock on either side of the pool so I cannot check my time for 25 meter.

I saw that FINIS has a Hydro Tracker GPS that one clip onto your goggles' strap. This is far cheaper than the Forerunner that is my other option. I plan to purchase this because it is important for me to track my distance in the dam- I need the feedback of how far and how fast did I swim . This motivates me and inspire  met to try and do better in my next training session.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Swim at Eikenhof dam

My first Open water competition was on 30 November 2013 at Eikenhof dam. It is a beautiful and quite a large dam. My children and sister and her husband went with me. We planned to have a picnic at the dam. We arrived in the rain. Although the rain cleared up the wind was blowing stronger as the day went on.

We were just in time to see the winners of the 7,5 km race completed their swim. One could barely see the buoy that they had to swim to from the land- so how they saw it in the waves I do not know. Then it was the 3 km race. The first person- a young boy to pass the buoy on the first lap did so in 12 minutes. His swimming style was like I presume Johnny Weissmuller swam. He lift himself half way out of the water. Shaun Mason finished in an impressive 38:31.31 minutes, .

When one  believe in the Total Immersion way then a swimmer like Shaun is even more impressive. He is braking the laws of Physics and everything Total Immersion teach about being balanced in the water and "lengthen the vessel".  He is successful and not only on a short distance!

I was so glad that Sandra Reynolds the organizer advised me to swim the 1 km race and not 3 km- I think I would had to quit after the second kilometer. The waves was huge and in the water it was even more scary than standing on the shore.

Then it was our turn.

I started last and slow. I was trying to keep my head down for as long as possible. In the beginning with the other swimmers still near me, I could just watch where they were going. The distance between us grew and I had to do some sighting. If I wait for more than 3 breaths I was off course. Every time I lift my head to search for the buoy I lost my comfort in the water and start to struggle to regain my balance. This became even worse when I went around the first buoy. Now I was in the big waves and could only breath to the right if I did not want  mouths full of water. I lost all ability to keep my stroke as practice. The waves was just throwing me every which way.

The life saver on his board to my right was reassuring and helping me when I could not see the buoy above the waves. I concentrate to keep my head down as far as possible to be more balanced and streamline in the water. I was feeling like a puppet that the waves was throwing around. When I turned around the last buoy the water was calmer. I still had difficulty with sighting- something that I need to practice. I was swimming zig-zag adding more meters to my swim- something I definitely did not need.

I was so glad to touch the final buoy. In spite of a difficult swim, I was not too tired, just cold and need to get dressed as quickly as possible. I completed the 1 km in 26:37 minutes. This was 8 minutes later than the winner of the women 41 and older, Lauren Honeyman but I still end in the second place with 4 competitors in my age group.

When I look at the photos my sister took I am quite ashamed. I presume she photographed me when I lift my head to try and see the buoy. In none of the photos do I demonstrate any of the Total Immersion principles that I practiced the last year. I realized that I should review my practice and go back to my basic drill sessions. The neuro- muscular pathways were obviously not well enough established  to be sustainable in the rough conditions. I need to practice in waves and with buoys that is on water level and difficult to sight in windy conditions. I have a month to prepare for the next open water swim. My aim will be to complete it with more ease and hopefully in a better time.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

In my Element

I have just received a copy of Theodore Yach's book In my Element. This is a beautiful book with wonderful photographs. It describes his swimming life, with details of his open water swims in the Cape water. I hope to find a lot of good advice for my planned swim from Robben Island in a few years.

To find your life's passion like he did (and also described by Ken Robinson) makes a truly wonderful story. I am so lucky that I found my passion, quilting early in life. I devoted my life to become the best and most knowledgeable quilter that I could be and found a lot of joy through the years in quilting. This is a sedentary occupation and two years ago I realised that I will have to become more active or will loose mobility and health.

I lost 27 kg and start walking daily. A year ago I took a weekend course in Total Immersion swimming and my life was changed again. I am so lucky to have two passions in my life now, quilting and swimming. It complements each other nicely.

Today I read Be more with Less- one of the blogs I subscribed to. She advised that one should not waste time seeking that one passion but rather be curious and under took new things. That is how I discovered swimming as a passion. I was not looking or searching for it- because I have a full filling passion in my life. It rather sneaked up on me.

I need to swim daily. I am also reading my Total Immersion books and blogs daily to gain more knowledge. I am inspired to come the best and most knowledgeable swimmer that I can be. I am thankful I have found a second passion that is just as full filling as the first. I have a blessed life and I appreciate it.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Our Farm Dam

This is my new "best place to swim", our farm dam. This dam is on the farm where our dairy is. I have managed the dairy for 8 years. Now we have a manager and I just provide some input. So this work perfectly- I can combine a swimming session with a visit to the dairy.

I am a slow swimmer and have never learned to "turn" in the swimming pool. My focus is on open water swimming and I realized that I need to practice in the type of circumstances that I wanted to swim. I knew that there was worms in the dam so for years I did not swim in the dam. (I and my small children swam in the dam 20 years ago when it was newly built). It was with trepidation that I  went into the dam after so many years.

The red pressure tanks on the opposite dam wall is my marker and I use it to "sight". In my break I have the beautiful surrounding mountains as my view.

To the North East there is the Winterhoek mountains.
In a South Easterly direction is the Du Toit's kloof Mountain

To the west is Kasteelberg where the two towns Riebeek Kasteel and Riebeek West nestled at the foot of the mountain.

I can swim through a 25 m pool with 20 strokes (SPL) So I counted my strokes swimming towards the red pressure tanks and did it in 140 strokes- so figured this equal 7 X 25 m and swimming there and back would be 350m. So I practiced swimming three of this double lengths without a break to make sure that I would be able to swim 1 km in an open water competition. I was impressed with my time of 7 minutes there and back. I thought I would be able to swim a kilometer in 21 minutes.

I wasn't prepared for the absolutely elation I experienced swimming in the muddy water. The water has cool and hotter patches. In certain areas of the dam the wind quiet down and in other areas I got mouthfuls of water when breathing to the left. Swimming will never be the same again!

This was experiences that was necessary for my swim at Eikenhof dam.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Swim the Total Immersion way

I am a passionate quilter turned into an enthusiastic swimmer. Quilting is a sedentary occupation and at 55 I realised that I had to get active. I started to walk and still do that every morning. At the end of 2012 when it was getting very hot in Riebeek West I decided to start swimming again. I found out that I could make use of RPC swimming pool in Riebeek West.

Some one mentioned Total Immersion swimming and I investigate the possibilities. I saw that we have a South African coach, Georgie Thomas who come to the Cape to teach. I booked a workshop with her in January 2013 and was immediately hooked. I can get bored very easily and did not know how I will pass the 6 hour workshop without being completely bored.

Swimming the Total Immersion way do not allow any boredom. It is taught with focal points. The beginning drills has one focus point at a time. As drills become more complex you focus on one aspect for a time and then focus on the next aspect. This has changed my life and swimming forever. Every moment in the swimming pool (and now in dams) is pure joy. The impact it has to be completely focused and immersed in what I am doing is something that I could only have achieved with quilting in the past.

As a child I grew up on Planet Water. In 1960 we were one of a few families with a swimming pool, one my father built himself. I was like a fish in the water. After school the pool was the only place we wanted to be. My mother took all of her 6 children for swimming lessons. When we were bigger she decided that since we was terrible in other summer sport, we needed to join a swimming club. She drove us twice a week for 30 km to Newlands in Cape Town to swim with the Dolphin club.

We also owned a holiday home at Buffalo Bay near Knysna. Although I never learned to surf with a surfboard, I was a very accomplished body surfer and I can still catch the smallest wave.

Whenever I swim I feel 12 years old again. Perhaps that is why, at 57  I can now not stay out of the water?