Monday, July 30, 2012

Fleet Feet Sports triathlon series: Transition 101

I recently attended a seminar at Fleet Feet Sports Chicago, Transition 101. It's part of their triathlon series covering different areas of triathlon that athletes may want to learn more about. Most of the folks who attended are participating in races in the Chicago Triathlon weekend.

I learned some helpful tips on how to rack my bike and set up my transition area. We also saw a few pictures of the actual transition area from previous races which helps to visual what race day will look like. The transition is the most feared portion for me next to the swim. I'm afraid a forgetting something important I need out on the bike or run like socks and ending up with a major blister or something ridiculous like that. Swimming for me is getting better and better, so this seminar was right on time.

I really felt more confident in my last swimming lesson. Between our warm-up and drills, I nearly covered the distance of the swim portion of the race (375 meters/.25 miles). I definitely got a good work out, without feeling exhausted afterwards.

Warm-up:
10 Bobs
Front floats 3X, face in water while exhaling (5, 8, 10 seconds)
1 lap (50 meters) freestyle

Breathing Drills:
1 lap, breath every 2 strokes
1 lap, breath every 3 strokes
1 lap, breath every 4 strokes

Kicking drill:
1 lap, with kick board and rotary breathing

Arm Drills:
2 laps, dragging finger tips on the water's surface and rotary breathing

Endurance Drill:
Tread water 3X (30 seconds each)

Total distance: 350 meters

I also invested a two piece tri suit. It happens to be a men's . . . I wasn't having much luck finding a women's bottom to well, fit my bottom. This is the Zoot tank and shorts I got (20% off at Fleet Feet for attending the seminar, holla!).

I was leaning towards a men's top from the beginning. The built-in sports bras in women's suits are not that supportive. I prefer to wear my own, and I didn't want to worry about being comfortable wearing mine underneath a built-in one. My sports bra is made of moisture wicking material, so it will dry quickly. I plan to try everything out along with a rented wet suit during this weekend's open water swim. I haven't yet decided if I want to invest big bucks in purchasing a wet suit of my own. I've started checking off items on this handy list to keep track of the things I'll need for the race. I'll use this the night before the race to avoid things like forgetting socks! I feel I'm getting better prepared each week.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Triathlon training & creative projects

Triathlon training has been going pretty o.k. I'm in my second week of advanced swim class where we're learning drills and working on building our endurance. The swim portion of the race is 375 meters which is about 8 lengths of the pool I practice in. My goal is to swim that distance at least once before the race to get a feel for what my time may be in the water. I hope to emerge without wrinkly fingers (the universal sign for being in the water too long!). I got my bike inspected and tuned-up this weekend. It's in great shape. The tires just needed to be pressurized and the gears needed some oiling. I also practiced swimming in the lake yesterday for an hour. I'm much more comfortable with my breathing, yet I still need practice to get into a rhythm. After lake swimming I went to a CrossFit class right after and nearly died. I was introduced to dead lifts (DL) and front squats (FS). I'm not a fan. It's simply not enjoyable to me. I can do squats all day, but something about bending and standing repeatedly has me concerned about my back, even with proper form. Everything else about the work out was awesome, rowing, sit ups, jump rope, ring rows, and running:

I attemped the intermediate/beginner workout on the right.

400 meters on the rowing machine
20 sit ups
20 dead lifts
100 jump ropes
20 front squats
20 row rings
800 meter run

I was last to finish, again at 33:24. It's kind of discouraging being so slow. It really has me thinking about maybe trying to better my diet to drop some wieght after the triathlon. Although I'm not a fan of the lifting portion of CrossFit, it has definetly inspired me to add more brick workouts to my tri training. I've been practicing each discipline individually, but haven't really worked them all into one workout. I'm liking the feeling I get from working my whole body with brick workouts.

In my creative world, I've been sewing uncontrollably. Joann's and Micheal's have been getting a ridiculous chunk of my paycheck lately. These are some of the bags I've sewn as gifts.



Next, I'm working on a bigger, hobo style bag similar to this:



It should be interesting because I've never worked with sewing straps before. I've drawn out my own pattern, too. I'll be sure to add pics of the finished product.

The race is a little over 5 weeks from now. My main focus is building endurance to swim the 375 meters. That will only come with more practice, practice, practice.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Introduction to Crossfit

I've really been enjoying leisurely jogs with my dog and have very little interest in attempting any long distances anytime soon. I'm really enjoying swimming, too. But one thing I've been dying to try is CrossFit. It seems to be all rage lately. Some of the workouts I've seen look a little intimidating: pull-ups, dead-lifts, and tire flipping. Sidebar - The whole concept reminds me of Rocky IV when Rocky went to the Soviet Union and trained in a shed to fight Drago for killing Apollo. He came into the ring looking like a beast!



It peaked my interest and I wanted to try it out for myself. I visited Bulldog Bootcamp & CrossFit for a free intro class last night. It was interesting. I learned I have zero upper body strength. The workout we completed was pretty simple, but I was drenched in sweat by the time it was over:

Run around the block (about 300 meters, less than 1x around the track)
40 squats
30 sit ups
20 push ups
10 rings dips (arm pull ups with those rings gymnasts use)
Run around the block again

The workouts move fast. It took me 14:49 to do all of that. The push ups were the hardest for me. And of course, I was last to finish. Our instructor said the workouts can range from 5 to 45 minutes. The average being is 30 minutes. Bulldog Bootcamp & CrossFit will welcome us back to try things out 3 more times within 10 days for free. I will definitely be back again to tryout the different workouts. UPDATE: I like the concept of Crossfit, but the lifting required in the beginner workout was a little too tough for me. I'll continue to use the interval training method in my workouts to get stronger and perhaps revisit a Crossfit Box.



Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Maintaining my natural hair while swimming

What an adventure I’ve been on these past four weeks taking swim lessons. I’m always up for a challenge, and swimming is definitely a skill I've wanted to conquer for a while. Of course one of the concerns I have is how to maintain my hair while swimming regularly in chlorinated pool water. Of all the many ways to be physically active: running, biking, yoga, etc., I think pool swimming poses the greatest threat to the health of Black hair. The chlorine can be detrimental, causing dryness and breakage. Wearing a swim cap is almost essential for maintaining a regular swim routine and healthy hair. I’m a bit of a product junkie. I like to use various products just for the fun of it. But for the past four weeks I decided to stick to one product line to track the health of my hair during swim lessons. I’ve been using the Jojoba Monoi Eden Bodyworks line to maintain my hair.

My hair is relaxer-free, but color treated. I was concerned about how the chlorinated pool water would affect my hair, but I have been pleasantly surprised at how moisturized and healthy my hair has been while consistently using the with using the Eden Bodyworks line during my swim lessons. This is my simple routine:

Before getting in the pool:
Thoroughly wet hair with water
*Apply conditioner to while pulling hair into a puff or pony (with an ouchless band, i.e. pantyhose hair-tie)
Wet swim cap inside and out before putting on

After leaving the water:
Carefully remove swim cap
Rinse hair thoroughly with water - enough to remove all of the conditioner
*Shampoo or conditioner wash (co-wash) hair as normal
Deep condition 1x week minimally

*Conditioner will help reduce snagging when removing the swim cap post-workout. It will also help to protect the hair shaft from being penetrated by chlorine if some water does sneak in. It won’t completely block it, which is why washing thoroughly afterwards is important to remove all traces of chlorine.

*At the pool I rinse my hair, then pull it into a ponytail and head home. At home I shampoo/co-wash my hair in the comfort of my own home.

I moisturize and seal with the hair milk and oil in between visits to the pool. I also prefer a lycra swim cap versus a latex cap. I've tried a latex cap and lycra is is more comfortable to me. NO, LYCRA IS NOT COMPLETELY WATERPROOF. So, if you can stand a latex cap, that's the way to go. But, in my experience this particular cap does nearly the same job as the latex cap I tried. It's not like jumping into the water with no cap at all. Don’t let the fear of breakage keep you out of the water this summer! Washing and deep conditioning regularly with quality hair products can keep hair healthy during your workout and training routines.
To address a reader's concern, of course shower before entering the pool. And wearing a swim cap creates a barrier keeping conditioner from creating an 'oil slick' in the water.
Happy swimming!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Ohio Street Beach first impressions

It's been so relaxing taking this week off from running. I felt fully recovered from the half marathon Tuesday.

I swam three days this week and I feel pretty good. Yesterday a friend and I did some open water swim practice in Lake Michigan. This was my first time ever getting into the lake! I've never so much as dabbled my feet in the water. We met at Ohio Street Beach which is a very popular practice spot in the Chicago triathlon community. There are two lanes that run parallel to the shore. There is one lane divider which runs a quarter mile and a half mile.


I was anticipating a crowded beach and lanes with a bunch of professional swimmers yelling at me to get out of the way. But everyone seemed pretty cool. There are lockers there, but not enough. I locked my bag against the railing, and it was fine. Next time I will come emtpy handed. It's been like 100 degrees here lately, but the water was freezing. There are a couple of guys at the beach that rent wet suits for $10, but I really just wanted to jump in and get a feel for the water. The water is shallow enough to stand at anytime to take a breather. I could see to the the bottom of the lake which for me, helps me keep my bearings. There is also plenty of space in the water to spread out.

Wile swimming the only issue I had was blowing air out of my nose. In swim lessons we learned to breath in through our mouths and out through our noses. I felt it was harder to push the air out of my nose in the lake versus the pool. As if the lake water is more dense than pool water. Not sure what's up with that. Breathing is what I need to practice most. My stroke and kick are great.

My head looks huge in this picture! I'm now in the market for a tri suit like the one my friend is wearing. Next visit to the beach I may try a wet suit to get a feel for it. They are not required for the race, so I may just roll with a tri suit. I'm looking forward to practicing more in the open water. Dealing with the waves, other swimmers, and learning to sight along the way are all great practice for race day.