Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Head Games

For the last two months, I've had a lot going on in MA HEAD.

Each race has brought out more feelings of frustration on one level or another.

I have an amazing team of coaches that I work with. I am so genuinely taken by how much they care about me and my performance.

I decided it was time for me to write about some of this.

I'm going to speak in general terms because in races there are tons of nuances and small things that take place that can affect pace or time. These are things we cannot control. I don't worry about them.

I have been swimming faster (in the pool) than I have ever swam before. This speed has not been translating to open water.

It's been making me a little crazy. I haven't been able to figure out why. In open water with wetsuit or with a swimskin, I should be swimming substantially faster.

After my first race of the year, I went back to Coach Liz. We talked through some issues. She felt that the cold water impacted my speed. (Especially since swim times across the board were very slow for an oly, and I got out of the water with a 5 minute lead).

She set up my training with with open water swims that would help me translate pool speed to open water.

I went to my swim coach. At masters, he started spending more and more time with me (which he tends to do in the Summer) correcting some minor things in my stroke.

In my most recent race, I had my best swim of the year (3 minute lead getting out of the water), but I STILL wasn't doing what I am capable of doing.

I went back to Coach Liz. She recommended that I stop killing myself on the swim since I'm getting out of the water with such a huge lead.....I should put my energy into my bike and run.

I chewed on that for a bit.

I relayed this conversation to my swim coach, "But I'm not killing myself. That's the problem. If I finished feeling completely wiped out, it would be one thing. But I'm finishing, and I'm like, "LET'S DO THAT AGAIN"!

I knew it was something about open water. Something was happening in open water that was causing me to slow down.

I had to figure it out.

I had another race coming up.

As I was racing, I remember thinking "I'm moving really quickly".

When I finished, I'd had my best swim so far, but I was far from "moving quickly".

After the race, I realized what was happening.

Then, I remembered something my swim coach had said months ago.

He had me do a long course meters 900m time trial. When I finished, he asked me, "How does swimming fast feel"?

Breathless.....I said, "Good".

He stared at me for a second and said, "Let me know when you figure it out".

For months, I thought about that conversation. I had no idea what he was talking about.

Then, a few weeks later he made the comment, "Swimming fast is different. It feels different. People swim differently when they are swimming fast".

I started putting two and two together.

Because I work by "feel", this can be hard to explain.

I realized that the difference was the controlled environment of the pool versus the very uncontrolled environment of open water.

When I swim in a pool, the water is nice and calm. When I am swimming fast, my breathing is labored and (this is the important part).....the water is moving over my head very fast. I know I am moving fast because of these external factors.

The water is moving fast AND my breathing is labored.

When I get to open water, I am dealing with other people, the current, wind, sun.....etc.

I start swimming in open water, and the water is already moving past me very very fast. That led me to believe that I was actually swimming fast. But the effort (on my part) was not there.

It was the external factor of how the water felt, that fooled me into thinking I was swimming fast.

Could that really be it?

I had to try it. I was looking forward to my next open water swim. My goal was to ignore how the water felt and pay attention to every aspect of my stroke (diversion technique) and most importantly constant do a system check, "How do you feel"?

For my first interval, I noticed right away that YES the water was moving FAST.

How do you feel?

I'm not struggling at all.

I paid attention to every part of my stroke: Hand entry, PULL, PUSH, LIFT. Entry, Pull, Push, Lift. I ignored the people I was passing. I ignored the water speeding over my head.

All of a sudden, I realized I was swimming very fast. My effort was much harder than normal but sustainable. I felt efficient. Which each stroke, I felt a power that I had never felt before.

When I finished my swim, I looked at my interval paces. For 3:00 intervals, I swam the following paces :59, 1:06, 1:13, 1:16, 1:13.

Considerably faster than my races.

I was so excited that I couldn't wait to talk to Liz and my swim Coach.

When I went to masters the other day, the first thing I did was call him over to tell him about my mental breakthrough.

He smiled and said, "You get it. Now you know what swimming fast feels like".

Now, I'm never fooled by ONE good workout. One good workout can happen for any reason: a great night of sleep, great fueling, proper recovery.

As I told Coach, this will take some work on my part. Now, I know what the issue is, and I know how to work through it.

The timing couldn't be better with my next triathlon coming up and an open water swim race coming up.

Get ready.....there's a Head Games parts 2 and 3 coming up that deal with the bike and the run.