Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Hawai, the Big Island

I am in Kona on the Big Island. Our instructors are all very knowledgeable and we will learn a lot this week. They are videotaping us so that we can clearly see our mistakes.

In Total Immersion swimming there is three principles. The first is to be balanced in the water. We worked on this aspect yesterday. I tend to lift my head up and have started to over compensate and actually pressed my chin down to my chest. This mistake was corrected and I learned to just relax in the water so that the water supports me.

The second aspect is streamlining. That is as Dinah explained to balance the water around you. To master this we practice the correct skating position. I have already realized that I was stacking my shoulders when doing this and that the rotation should be less. I was aiming for a 45 degree rotation but Dinah said it is even less. She helped me to get the correct rotation. We also worked on a relaxed arm recovery and a lengthening of the body forward with the leading arm.

This afternoon we did a long swim focussing on these aspects. Where I was spinning wheels yesterday I was really shooting through the water today. This is why I came to this Open water camp. I realized that I needed help to improve my technique. I am overjoyed that I can already feel a difference in the ease that I move through the water.

The underwater sea life is so distracting. There is the most beautiful variety of fish in the coral. I saw a small snake curling around and under some rocks in the water. It is difficult to concentrate on our focus points when one has this beautiful things to look at.

When I arrived here I had a day off before the swim camp start and went on a tour of the island. We went to the vulcano sight were there is smoke coming out of several places. We also saw beautiful rainforests and waterfalls. I would like to show the photos I took but my technical skills to do this is lacking.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

I am off to see the Wizard.....

I am leaving for the USA on Monday. I signed up for an Open Water Camp ran by Total Immersion in Kona Hawai. When I realized I will fly Over the USA to reach Kona I decided to combine the swim trip with a quilting trip. My two passions in one go- how lucky can one be.

My husband was invited to join me on the first part of the trip in Hawaii, but he decided to stay home instead. Luckily two quilting friend will join me on the last quilting part of the trip.

I will leave on Monday night and will arrive in Lancaster PA  on Tuesday evening. There I will stay at a hotel with a heated outdoor pool- how lucky can a swimmer be. I believe it is still winter in the USA so although I like a chilly swim- the after effects will put a spanner in my wheels.

In Lancaster I will attend Quilt Week, a quilt show organized by AQS. I will have the opportunity to visit surrounding Amish Towns. I have made an in depth study of Amish quilts and there lifestyle. I could see many similarities with the Afrikaner way of life.

On the 15th I will leave for Kona. I am there a day before our training start and will use it to go on an Island tour, visiting the vulcano as well.

Then it is CAMP. Two hours of swim training and swimming in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon. I have swum on average 2 km every day for the last month. The problem is I am swimming very "leisurely" so I am not tired after a swim session. Now I will have to keep up with the rest of the group. I am scared that they will all be younger and fitter and that I will be left out.

I have realised that I am rotating to much. I also did not place my hands out wide enough so I wasn't stable and balanced enough. (Wide tracks) Since I corrected this, it feel as if I am flying through the water. I had my Garmin forerunner fixed (why I am so unlucky with my devices, I do not know) and will hopefully recieve it before I leave. Then I can check if this sensation that I move at a high speed in the water is indeed so, or just a "feeling".

If I can manage to blog from my iPad I will do so and show how Hawaii look.

I took part in 1SOMS on the first Sunday in March. The wind was blowing the buyos away and two paddlers marked the route. Most swimmers was in wetsuits. Some swimmers left the water early. I managed an hour and 6 laps in the stormy sea. It was thrilling and another opportunity to built confidence. (The after effects got me, but my down duvet and hot water bottles, stored in the car, saved me)

MariƩ

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

My Sea swim

The mile swim at the Mountain Mill Mall was done in the roughest water I have swim up till now. I could not rotate properly because the waves was just throwing me in different directions. I realised later that the best thing I could do was to try to be as balanced in the water as I can be. In my effort  to be streamlined I just concentrate on reaching far to the front and not to lift my head unneccessary. Once I stop trying to rotate and relaxed, I enjoyed my swim. I sometimes felt like a rag doll in a washing machine. Still it was very exciting.

I finished in 41 minutes 22 seconds according to my friend. The official time for the winner was 26:20 and I think that was Ryk Neethling. He handed over the prizes and did swim with but I am not sure that his time was officially taken. The 10 th person's time was 39:49 and there was 35 people taking part.

This coming Saturday I am swimming my first 3 km. I am trying to increase my distances because my goal is to swim from Robben island to Table View in 2015. The main reason I need to swim quicker is the danger of hypothermia when you are to long in the cold water.

On Sunday 2 February I had my first sea swim in many years. As a child I wanted to swim behind the waves but my parents warned us that the sea is never your pal. You must always be cautios. With Total Immersion I know that I can swim for long distances without getting tired. This was proven with my mile swim. (This swim was in a dam although the wind cause very big waves)

I needed to start swimming in the sea to make sure that a swim from Robben Island can become a reality and will not just be a dream. I know the biggest hurdle would be the cold water. According to the magicseaweed website the temperature was 19 degree Celsius.(I got myself a thermometer now to verify the temperature.) I know Loneswimmer say this is not cold. For me it felt like freezing temperatures. I walked up and down in the shallow water till the pain in my ankles became numb. I carry on like that till I only need to put my head in. I turned on my back and start to float. Then I start swimming.

This was one of the most exhilarating experiences in my life. To be all alone behind the waves swimming in this cold refreshing water. This, after I thought when I entered the water that I will have to shelf my dream swim from Robben Island. I felt the water was just to cold. Over coming this negative reaction and enjoying the water so much reminded me that I some times give up to easily the things I want to do after the slightest resistance that I experience.

This victory helped me to be able to focus more on the things I want to do and to not let things stand in my way. Swimming does not only make me a better swimmer but also let me grow as a person in many ways.

I have followed up on this sea swim with two more sea  swims the last week end and I will try to do this every weekend that we are at Melkbosstrand. (I do art classes twice a month there so I will be able to swim 2-4 times a month in the sea.) I am thinking about the wonderful experience I was missing all these years that I had the opportunity. (We have a holiday home at Melkbosstrand) Without TI swimming where I have the confidence to swim on and on as well as the fitness to do that - the experience would have been far less satisfying, though.

I do suffer after effects. Once I get out of the cold water I am still warm for 5 minutes and then I start shivering and become very cold. A hot cup of tea, a warm water bottle and the sun do the trick to warm me up again, but it take an hour or two before I feel "normal" again. This is a small price to pay for this utter enjoyment.

Friday, 31 January 2014

I will swim a mile

Tomorrow a real milestone on my swimming adventure. I will swim my first mile in a competition. This is called the Mountain Mill Mile.

On Wednesday I wanted to know how far I can swim in 30 minutes. I swam 4 times around the dam in 33 minutes. That is about 1400 m depending on how close to dam walls I swam. So I expect to swim the mile in 38 minutes or less.

I swam with the tempo trainer yesterday swimming 150 m at a setting. I started at 1.15 and went down to 1.11. I am still focused on my style of swimming, making sure that I rotate sufficiently, not pulling with my hands but rather trying to hold the water. I do however want to stroke a bit faster without losing the correct technique. This is what competitive swimming do to one. Your attention are shifting to the time it took to swim.

I try to keep a balance between swimming faster but still stay efficient. What is most important is that I enjoy every swim session and get out wishing to keep on swimming.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Second Competition

My second competition at Eikenhof dam was a glorious day. We could not ask for a lovelier day and all the families enjoyed the day next to the beautiful dam. My brother from Canada swam the 1 km and we finished together in 22 minutes 26 seconds. He swam without practicing. Another young woman(who did not practice and decide at the swim to take part) who also swam the 1 km did it in 18 minutes. I want to be jealous of them to swim so well without hours of practice but when I thought about how much I enjoyed my swimming practice- I actually feel sorry for them for what they missed out on.
My Brother and Brother in Law and the rest of my "team" resting under the trees
The dam is in a beautiful location. The life savers were on duty and it is really comforting to have them nearby. The water was clear and when I got into rythm again (after sighting that broke this) I was seeing how the bottom was "fleeing" below me. It is still difficult for me to swim straight and I had difficulty with sighting. I need to practice this in the next week.

When I look back over the year since I started swimming regularly I can see and are amazed about the progress I made. When I start I could barely completed 40 lengths (1 km) in 40 minutes. At the end of the summer in April 2013, I could swim 60 lengths in 40 minutes. Middle December 2013 I could complete 100 lengths (2,5 km) in just over and hour.



More pictures of the beautiful dam and festive atmosphere at the Open water swim at Eikenhof dam

On Saturday 1 February I will swim my first mile in a competition. After the mile I hope to swim in a 3 km race before the Open water swimming season end. Then it will be over to swimming in the cold see water, if I can manage that.


Friday, 17 January 2014

My Audience

I swim for an audience. They do not cheer me along the way although some times it does sound like that. When I get ready for my swim, my swim companions take to the water and make sure that I know it is actually there dam and not mine.
It is not only the wild geese that claim the dam but whenever I turn my head to breath the birds are also staring

My audience is very disciplined and none of them scratch in my bag. They do keep their eyes on me to make sure I don't do anything I should not.

When I get out they stand nearby making sure I am not taking one of there little ones with me.
The only companions at the dam that do not like me is the insects. I am full of sting or bite marks that itch a lot. Everyday I can count on a new sting.

Then I leave and the dam is theirs to enjoy further.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Peace of Mind

One of the reasons I have enjoyed swimming since I started last year, was the mindfulness I experienced. I focus on my technique, concentrating every stroke on the execution of it. This brought me a peace of mind and feeling one with the water. After every training session I felt sorry I had to get out of the pool- Life was waiting and not always something I looked forward too. Swimming was like a safe place for me.

Then I lost it. In the last couple of weeks I was so focused on trying to swim faster. Yes I was still concentrating not to loose the proper technique but the tempo trainer was chasing me, my disappointment in the times I swim fluctuate between happiness of getting my time for 50 m from 60 seconds to 50 seconds (on the pace clock- yes I have learned to read it, just). (I know it is still very slow) My new hydro tracker (which give me a lot of problems) though, show that my time over the distance around the dam is on average 70 seconds per 50 m.

Then I read Lone swimmers' blog this morning. His very reassuring advice made me think. Last year when I started swimming it was a milestone when I could swim 20 laps of 25 meter  (still, when I first went to swim in a 50 m pool I could barely swim 2 lengths). Later it was a victory to complete 40 lengths (25 meter) in 40 minutes. At the end of the season I could swim 50 lengths in 40 minutes and now I can swim 100 lengths in an hour rest times included.

When I read Coach Emmett Hines

Be Part of Your Personal Coaching Team

I realised that if I kept my training diary as my intention was- it is in my swimming bag but I never wrote in it, I would have realised what was busy happening. I was throwing my own peace away by being frustrated by the lack of instant results. I looked back and saw I have already made a lot of progress. When I read about other swimmers who swam 6 km in an hour it feel like it will forever be impossible for me- and it will, lets face it I am 56 but it does not mean I will never improve.

At the moment I feel that I am already swimming to fast for me to "enjoy" it. I realise I will not become fitter and better if I don't do interval training. I must stretch myself and accept that every swim cannot be a relaxing stroll around the dam. Even so it is not necessary to destroy my peace and the enjoyment I have experienced with my swimming.

I am claiming my joy back. Tomorrow I will swim with the purpose to make every stroke as good as I can without rushing it but neither be leisurely. I will strive to find a balance between swimming effortlessly and stroking at a moderate pace. I will write about my swim afterwards so that I can read it the next day. If I have done that I would have seen how my "competitiveness" was leading me to an unhappy place destroying the enjoyment I got from my swimming.

(Coach Emmett Hines has a lot of good advice in this article and other articles on his website. I have ordered his book Fitness swimming. It seems this is the book that I need now. )