A Goggle Quest

I’ve had some goggle drama lately.  I’ve mentioned to a couple people that finding the perfect pair of goggles seems tougher than finding a bra that fits.  It is hard to find shops that carry a wide range of goggles in house, so online shopping seems to be the way to go.  That has led to plenty of orders, exchanges, returns, and missed opportunities.  I’m now pretty much right back where I started, but I learned an important lesson along the way.

I’m not really sure when I started wearing Speedo Vanquishers.  My guess is that they were the goggle that was available from REI that I liked the best when I signed up for my first mini tri back in 2004.  A pair seems to have hung out in my swim bag ever since.  I’ve never had problems with leaking, and until I started swimming earnestly this past year, I had no specific issues that I could point to with these goggles.  Around the time my workouts neared the 1-hour mark, the problems began.  Removing the goggles would be painful; it felt like I was digging glass out of my skin.  Goggles marks?  Yeah, they lasted at least until lunchtime.  Visibility was also a problem, since the tint wasn’t conducive to outdoor conditions.  With Reston and open water on my mind, I decided to try some different options.

Spoiler Alert - I wound up with mirrored Vanquishers

Spoiler Alert - I wound up with mirrored Vanquishers

ROKA Sports has been adorning the faces of many ladies I look up to on social media, so I decided to give them a go.  (Well done, ROKA – your social media game is on point and your marketing strategy worked on me!)  I’ve written before about how sad I was that the R1 didn’t fit my face.  I had an exchange with Kecia on Instagram, and she mentioned that the R1 didn’t fit her, but the X1 did.  Sadly, my face didn’t agree, and I had leaking with the X1 even more than the R1.  Both of these styles have a flexible uni-body nose bridge, which doesn’t seem to be a good match for me.  My next step was going to be the F1.  In addition to having multiple nose bridges, it looks to be a dead ringer for the Vanquisher, but hopefully with more comfort plus the excellent optics and clarity that ROKA seems to be so good at.  However, I ran into some issues.

I’m spoiled.  I’m coddled by the likes of Zappos and Amazon Prime, and the idea of paying for shipping and returns is something I’m not really down with.  ROKA is only sold directly from their website or through SwimOutlet.  At least, near as I can tell.  Please correct me if I’m wrong!  While ROKA has free shipping on large orders, my goggles weren’t big enough.  And although I have a deep love for SwimOutlet’s grab bags, their return policy leaves much to be desired.  Pay for return shipping?  Or forfeit a portion of my cost so that they provide me with a return label?  Really?  No.  So while I’m sure one day I'll have a bigger purchase to piggyback the goggles on, this time I was back to Amazon.

I should mention that this was all playing out during the Olympics.  As it turns out, not only does the local pool become quite crowded with new swimmers during the Olympics, but goggles sell out, too.  After reading several positive reviews of MP Michael Phelps goggles as having excellent visibility in open water, I wanted to try a pair out.  Sold out!  Even simple items like TYR Sockets and other standard goggles were selling like hotcakes.  I started to feel like I was running out of time.  My pool was scheduled for maintenance and would be closed starting from August 27th, and I wanted to have at least a couple swims in the new goggles before race day. 

It all seems so silly now, but at the time, it felt very much like I was in an episode of 24.  Time was ticking by, and without the new goggles, my race would surely be a failure!  This is bearing in mind that I’d already done Harbor Fest with my old Vanquishers, and while the sun was a bit bright, I had successfully finished.  I ended up with a new pair of Speedo Vanquishers.  This new pair is mirrored, with magenta trim.  They don’t leak, and they are excellent in bright light.  I’m pretty sure that means I’m going to have an overcast race day.  With all this manufactured drama, I want to highlight to myself what the takeaways of this experience are.  Mainly, that I need an adjustable nose bridge.  Also, that just because all the people in my phone are wearing a goggle doesn’t mean squat.  At the end of the day, my swim at Reston is going to turn out well because I’ve put in a lot of work at the pool this last year, not because of what gear I pick for race day.

Sunburn, Sand & Smiles: My 1st Open Water Swim

I’ve talked before about how hard it is to find open water swimming in my area.  Seems like you either have to drive quite a ways, pay a decent chunk of change, or both.  Just to get a feel for open water?  Really?  I knew I didn’t want my first time to be race day at Reston in September, so I signed up for HarborFest.  Even still, I really wanted the opportunity to swim in calm open water by myself before I had to do it with loads of others around me.  I talked with my parents about it a bit, and we hatched a plan.

As a side note, we paid for both our parking and our beach fees at the entrance gate. I believe it was $4 to park and $3 per person for the beach. We could have paid our beach fees at the snack shack on the beach. However, no one ever asked to see our payment bracelets, and no one else on the beach seemed to be wearing them. I’m thinking you could totally get away without actually paying the beach fee. I want to be really clear that I’m not actually advocating that, as State Parks need the revenue generated by these fees to run.

On Thursday Mom & I both took the day off work.  (Dad the new retiree didn’t need to make such plans!)  We headed down to Lake Anna State Park, and for a nominal set of parking and beach fees, we had ourselves some lifeguarded water, a strip of sand, and a pretty fun day.  Lake Anna is great for families, and there were plenty of kiddos with all kinds of floaties and toys in the water.  I was the only one sporting a tri kit and swim cap, that’s for sure!  The lifeguarded area includes two buoy lines.  The first indicates where no floats are allowed past, and the second indicates where the guarded section ends.  The area between the two lines was virtually empty, so after verifying the rules with the guards, I knew my plan was going to be to swim along the second buoy line.  The water there started about chest deep, but dropped off to over my head rather quickly.  We unpacked the car, set up our umbrella and chairs, and I left my parents behind to face the water.  As my dad later commented, it was a classic day at the beach, because the kids always spend more time in the water than the parents.  Nice to know that holds true 30+ years after my first beach trip.

On the subject of beaches, I have played in open water before, just not tried to really swim anywhere.  I have been in the Santa Rosa Sound and Gulf of Mexico in Florida, along with the Atlantic Ocean at various points along the East Coast.  I had also been reading a lot about open water swimming, and understood that lakes in particular are often dark and hard to see in. Standing on the sand, the water looked light and clear.  Nothing prepared me for being underwater at Lake Anna.  Once you get in, the water is sort of light brown.  You can see your arm in front of you, and then some swirling beneath you, but that’s about it.  Quite the change from my usual black line on the bottom of the pool!

So much bigger than I imagined it would be.  Open water sure is....open.

So much bigger than I imagined it would be.  Open water sure is....open.

The swimming itself was pretty fun!  The first few minutes were all kinds of awful, of course.  The hem of my tri top started to float up, and as I swam it sort of swished around me, like I was a washing machine agitator.  I don’t think I could size down in this top without extreme and uncomfortable compression, so I decided to just ignore it.  I believe the designers at Coeur were assuming I would either be wearing a wetsuit or swimskin.  Not this season!  Besides my wardrobe, I was initially freaking myself out with my own imagination.  Every swirling bit of shadow was the tentacle of some creature that was going to drag me down to the bottom!  Pro tip: don’t reread Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire before open water swimming.  Grindylows will occasionally eat humans! Fortunately, those crazy thoughts subsided after my first pass on the buoy line.  It took me about three minutes to swim the whole line.

I spent a lot of time just going back and forth along the buoy line, getting used to being somewhere besides my usual swimming safe zone.  At times jet skis or boats would go past further out in the lake, and the wakes they created would come through and bounce me around a bit.  I’m sure a real current is much more of a challenge to deal with!  The bobbing made me feel pretty nauseated, despite the fact that I had taken Dramamine and was wearing ear plugs.  Even just trying to swim faster, with a stronger body rotation, made the nausea come on stronger.  Of course, I am the girl who got motion sick learning flip turns, so none of this is a surprise.  I think the jet skis and boats were also responsible for another phenomenon I discovered: a faint petrol taste that I would occasionally get.  Blech!

After about 30 minutes, I swam in and spent some time with my family on the beach.  Can I say again how lucky I am to have such a supportive family?  It really can’t be said enough.  After lunch and some relaxing, I headed out for another swim.  This time I was joined by my dad, and we bobbed around for a bit, enjoying the water.  We also played around with goggles.  Despite having experienced leaking with my R1s, I brought them anyway, just to see how they fared.  Oh, man!  I am SO disappointed that they don’t fit my face.  My other goggles are my Vanquishers, and it was like night and day comparing them to the clarity of the R1s.  Sighting with the Vanquishers was an exercise in futility.  I had to pick my head up pretty far to get a glance, and everything seemed slightly blurry.  It was like looking through smudged glasses.  The R1s, on the other hand, were amazing!  My dad made a comment about RainX, because the water just came right off the lenses like you would not believe.  If you’re on the fence about trying out ROKA goggles, give them a go.  If they fit your face, you will be a very happy camper.

Such a great day.  I can't wait to do it again!

Such a great day.  I can't wait to do it again!

My second thirty-minute swim went by quickly, and I was feeling more confident in the water.  That being said, I think it is really important to mention that at no point was I worrying about my stroke.  I may not be a fast swimmer, but I am confident.  Like everyone, my stroke could use some work, but I have no concerns about actually making forward progress or running out of endurance.  This, I believe, is vital for having a positive first open water experience.  There is so much new stuff going on when you’re in open water for the first time.  Irrational anxiety and fear, visibility, sighting, equipment, and environment are all things your brain is occupied with.  Actual swimming shouldn’t be something you need to think about.  Rather, your stroke should be on full muscular auto pilot!

I am so grateful that I had a good first open water swimming experience.  The only blemish on the day was the rather spectacular sunburn I picked up on my back.  Despite multiple liberal applications of a supposedly waterproof spf 50, my shoulder blades and back of my arms are quite red.  Clearly I need a better sunscreen.  Even still, that was just another lesson to learn before race day.  Speaking of race day, I’m really looking forward to HarborFest.  I know I can swim, and now I know I can swim in open water.  Yes, HarborFest is going to have a current, not to mention crowds of other swimmers.  Good things happen when you leave your comfort zone. I say, bring it on!

week in review: Olympic Distance Training, Week 3

Another big volume week, leading into a nice three day weekend.  I did a spontaneous LT test for the bike so I could set my zones properly.  The weather this summer has been so mild!  Here’s the details of the week.

My totals:

Swim - 3:14:04, 7000 yards

Bike - 4:34:24, 71.08 miles

Run - 2:08:43, 9.83 miles

June lilies after a weekday run.

June lilies after a weekday run.

Monday

  • Swim - 1:08:32, 2500 yards
    • 300 swim
    • 200 pull
    • 100 kick
    • 12x50 :30 (kick, drill, by 25)
    • 4x100 swim :60
    • 8x50 :15 (drill, swim, by 25)
    • 4x100 pull :30
    • 100 c/d

I wish I'd made the decision earlier in the workout to cuts the rests in half. :30 after a 50 and a full :60 after the hundred was eating up so much time. Even with cutting the rests, I got out of the pool later than I wanted, and skidded into work a couple minutes late.

Workout wise, I concentrated on really reaching and extended my forward warm, which is turn had me noticing my rotation.

  • Trainer Ride - 1:00:06, 2x20 Tester Workout
    • 10 min warm up
    • 15 minutes RPE 7/10
    • 10 min recovery
    • 15 minutes RPE 7/10
    • 10 min cool down

This workout actually calls for 2x20 minutes at RPE 7/10, hence the name of the workout.  That’s a bit too much for me right now, so I went with 2x15.  That gives me room to grow in this workouts.

Tuesday

  • Run - 32:52, 2.49 miles

Icky and humid. My calves were still tight from Saturday's big effort on the LT field test. Getting going was tough, but it never really hurt. Just...tight. Z2, so I was walking up most of the hills. I changed my Garmin display fields to show only elapsed time and HR, no distance or pace, which helped me focus on the point of the workout.  No way to feel bad about being slow if I don’t know my speed!

  • Functional Strength - 44 minutes
    • 1/4 mile walk warm up
    • ankle/foot routine
    • pedestal 1
    • myrtls
    • 1/4 mile walk cool down

As usual the ankle/foot routine is challenging from a balance perspective. The planks are maybe the tiniest bit easier, except for the back plank, which is crazy hard for me still. One more day of this routine and then next week I move up to the next level!

Wednesday

  • Swim - 1:07:27, 2500 yards
    • 3x300 :60 (some BR, some back, some pull)
    • 4x50 :30 drill (catch-up, Tarzan)
    • 4x100 :45 (breathe 3/5/3/5 by 25)
    • 3x [100 swim strong:20, 50 kick hard :20, 50 EZ swim :60]
    • 3x100 :30 (swim/kick by 50)
    • 100 cool down

Today was the day I realized that I'm going to need to start getting to the pool earlier. Now that my workouts are heading towards 1:10 time-frame, I need to get IN the water at 7am, rather than pull into the parking lot then. By the time I walk in, check in, get through the locker room, etc...the minutes just add up. I barely remember anything about this workout. I was fussing with my goggled pretty much the entire time.  That's a bad sign, when you think more about the equipment than the technique or effort.

  • Trainer Ride - 1:00:07

On a whim, I decided to try to do a trainer LT test. I wasn't feeling confident about my cycling zones, and now that I have more structured workouts, I wanted to make sure I was doing them to the best of my ability.

I don't think I was as successful with the cycling LT test as compared to my running one. Maybe I'm not as good at pacing myself, or even pushing myself. At the end of my run test, I felt completely spent. With this cycling test, I feel like I could have kept going a little longer. Even so, I'm glad I did this. Looking forward to doing another in about six weeks, and hopefully being better at it.

Thursday

  • Run - 42:48, 3.21 miles

So nice out: sunny, low 60s, and not humid. I could do with more runs like this! My shorts were a bit of a mess, though.  I dragged out some regular running shorts with pockets to see how I liked them. They rode up the entire time, and I remember now why these were banned to the back of the drawer. Back to my usual chafe free compression shorts!

  • Functional Strength - 45 minutes
    • 1/4 mile walk warm up
    • ankle/foot routine
    • pedestal 1
    • myrtls
    • 1/4 mile walk cool down

The ankle/foot routine isn't easy, but it is getting easier. I had some issues during the back planks with my elbow sliding out from under me. It felt like the mat was sticky, and I really didn't want to think about that too much. Ew.  The Myrtl routine is also starting to be….well, routine.  It is feeling more comfortable. Next week I move to the next level!

Friday (Active Recovery Day)

  • Swim - 58:05, 2000 yards
    • 4x200 :60 (150 swim, 50 kick)
    • 4x50 :45 (odds kick, evens sailboat)
    • 4x50 :45 (odds one arm, evens 6/3/6)
    • 4x50 :30 descending
    • 8x50 :30 (odds sprint, evens easy)
    • 200 cool down

Finally Friday, and yet another swim with really long rests. The descending and sprint/easy were both written with :60 rest, but I really didn't want to spend that much time at the side, so I made it :30.

Descending 50s went well: 59.3, 56.2, 53.1, 49.2. The sprints had me working, but I really liked having an easy 50 between. I was able to refocus my form, and then carry that into the next sprint. I managed TWO 48.2s in my sprint, so that felt pretty good.

Saturday

Saturday morning before 4th of July at the Farmer's Market.  It doesn't get much better!

Saturday morning before 4th of July at the Farmer's Market.  It doesn't get much better!

  • City Bike
    • To - 22:04, 3.81 miles
    • Fro - 25:05, 3.81 miles

Got the bright idea to ride Peggy out to the Farmer's Market before it opened, lock her up, and do my long run out on the W&OD.  On the one hand, it was a stupid idea to ride my bike, go for a long run so I’m starving, buy a bunch of heavy produce and eggs, and then have to haul it all back home up the hills.  On the other hand, this was such fun!  I can’t wait to do this again, and just a little bit of planning should make it go more smoothly.

  • Long Run - 53:03, 4.13 miles
My turnaround point on the W&OD

My turnaround point on the W&OD

Sunny and breezy; this was such a lovely day. I do wish I had brought a handheld bottle, as this was quite a ways to go without water, and I couldn't see any readily apparent water fountains on the W&OD. I headed out toward Arlington. The W&OD is a rail conversion, and the flat nature of the trail meant I kept my HR in Zone 2 without ever having to walk. My lower back on the right side started to feel a bit tired/achy in the last mile. Nothing really bad, just....tired. That is the side where my hip has been bothering me a bit.  My stomach started growling pretty hard as I was making my way back, and I had no food on me. Fortunately, the Farmer's Market was opening up, and the samples were plentiful.

Sunday

Getting ready for almost two hours on the trainer.  Breakfast of champions.

Getting ready for almost two hours on the trainer.  Breakfast of champions.

  • Trainer Ride - 1:47:02
    • 10' warm up at 75% LT
    • 30' at 75%
    • 30' at 80%
    • 30' at 85%
    • 7' at 65%

It was raining when I woke up, and with a race the next day I didn't want to push too hard. I took to the trainer, keeping it aerobic. Estimated distance: 27.3 miles.  Took in: two bottles nuun, one cereal bar, one honey stinger waffle, and two episodes of Doctor Who. It felt a lot easier than I'm used to, which was kind of nice. There are so many hills around here that I feel like my HR is constantly spiking into the red zone when I ride outside.  I’m actually looking forward to building my bike aerobic base on the trainer this winter.  For now, though, I need to keep riding outside whenever possible to improve my handling skills.

Last week was a big one, and I’m enjoying the structure and challenge.  On the goggle front, I still don't know about the R1s. The visibility is incredible, and I want them to work so badly because of that. The sad reality is that I just don't think they suit my face. After a few adjustments, I didn’t have as much leaking as the first week.  They don't have an adjustable nose bridge, and they just aren't quite the right width, so things aren't sitting as nicely as I like.  Finding goggles that fit is harder than finding a comfortable bra!

week in review: Olympic Distance Training, Week 2

This second week of Oly training also turned out to be my biggest week ever, volume wise.  I guess that means most weeks will have that distinction, as I move towards race day.  I bumped up my swim workouts to 2500 yards, put in some good hard workouts on the trainer, and did my very first LT field test.  Let’s dig in, shall we?

My totals:

Swim - 2:58:48, 7000 yards

Bike - 3:28:26, 51.67 miles

Run - 1:55:53, 9.18 miles

My time at the REC this week was marked by some fun decorations in preparation for the All Night Graduation Party

My time at the REC this week was marked by some fun decorations in preparation for the All Night Graduation Party

Monday

  • Swim - 1:01:46, 2500 yards
    • 500 warm up
    • 5x100 (kick, swim, thumb drag drill, swim by 25) :15-:25
    • 3x100 pull @2:00 (negative split 50s)
    • 6x50 @60 pull strong
    • 4x100 swim @2:00 descend
    • 4x50 @1:05 (3/5 breathe by 25)
    • 4x25 @60 shooters (streamline and kick, then easy)
    • 200 cool down

This was my first swim of 2500 yards, AND my first swim of over an hour. Milestones: I'm checking them off! This workout was challenging, as it also marked the first time I had a series of sets where I left at a particular time, rather than specifically counting out my rest. By the time I was getting to the last sets of 100s, I was getting barely 5 seconds of rest.

I did get my negative splits on the 100 pulls, but didn't have success in descending my 100 swims. Guess I need to file this workout away to try again sometime!

  • Trainer Ride - 50:02, 20/40 Sprint Workout
    • 10 min warm up
    • 3x (5x 20 sec all out, 40 sec rec) + 5 min easy pedaling
    • 10 min cool down

These sprints started out deceptively easy, but the longer I went, the harder it got. Not as big of a sweatfest as last week’s LT or Aerobic Intervals, but still working hard all the same.

Tuesday

  • Run - 29:45, 2.13 miles

72 and quite humid. I thought it was going to slay cloudy, so I didn't bring my sunglasses, and then of course the sun started peeking out. This was a Zone 2 fail, as I accidentally had my watch set to buzz at the top of Zone 3.  Whoops!

  • Functional Strength - 48 minutes
    • 1/4 mile walk warm up
    • ankle/foot routine
    • pedestal 1
    • myrtls
    • 1/4 mile walk cool down

By the time I got to the end of the ankle/foot routine, I was really feeling it. My balance needs some work.

Wednesday

  • Swim - 1:03:46, 2500 yards
    • 400 warm up, kick every 4th 25
    • 8x50 :30 (drill/swim by 25)
    • 4x25 :20
    • 4x50 :30
    • 4x100 :45
    • 4x50 :30
    • 4x25 :20
    • 6x75 pull @1:30
    • 1x150 (100 ALL OUT, 50 EZ)
    • 100 cool down

New suit today, new goggles, and a very tired me. The suit is a new TYR polyester grab bag, and I lucked into some decent looking red flames. For goggles I splurged and got some ROKA R1s. The visibility is incredible, and once I’ve put them through their paces I do a full review.

For drills I did half catch up and half fist. Right around the 75 pull sets is when my shoulders started to complain, and I was losing my form trying to get enough rest on 1:30. I switched it to 1:35 to avoid practicing a sloppy stroke. As for 100 all out, right at the end of the workout....no. That did not happen. Is anyone surprised?

This started out feeling kind of easy, then by the last set I was really cooking. Tough, but I would enjoy doing this workout again. I’m not switching to velodrome or anything, but Katie Archibald knows her stuff!

Thursday

  • Run - 38:06, 2.63 miles

Quite steady rain for this Z2 run.  I walked my HR back down to the bottom of the zone when it buzzed too high. My right hip started feeling a little bit cranky towards the end, but nothing bad. This was super slow and sopping wet, but still felt like a good run.

  • Functional Strength - 49 minutes
    • 1/4 mile walk warm up
    • ankle/foot routine
    • pedestal 1
    • myrtls
    • 1/4 mile walk cool down

My balance is awful, no wonder I fall down all the time. Not so much violent shaking in the side planks, so some progress there.

Friday (Active Recovery Day)

  • Swim - 53:16, 2000 yards
    • 300 warm up
    • 4x75 :30 (kick, drill, swim by 25)
    • 6x50 : descend 1-3, 4-6
    • 200 pull :20
    • 150 build :30
    • 100 fast :60
    • 50 sprint
    • 100 recovery
    • 400 (kick, swim by 50)
    • 100 cool down

I forgot my bottle of nuun on the counter when I left the house, so I did this swim, showered, and drove to the office before I could have anything to drink. Do not recommend!

I had a bit of leaking from my goggles.  I was fussing and adjusting my straps a bit, so hopefully once I get the fit dialed in, I'll be okay. It is mostly when I push off the wall. My swim cap also kept coming off for no particular reason. Such a comedy of errors. At least it was a recovery swim.

  • Foam Rolling

Full body, with lots of attention on my calves and thighs. I'm happy to say that it didn't hurt as bad as last week. I need to keep this habit up!

Saturday

  • Run - 48:02, 4.42 miles

This was the day of my very first LT field test.  I have a whole separate post on it, since it felt like such a big milestone for me.  TL;DR - I think I paced pretty well, I didn’t puke, my LT came in at 183, and I have my zones set.  Success!

Sunday

Looking a bit gritty and urban here.  Such a big change in so few miles!

Looking a bit gritty and urban here.  Such a big change in so few miles!

  • Bike - 1:38:22, 18.65 miles, 822 ft gain
    • Highlights: A planned easy ride, I decided to investigate Custis trail, since I heard it had fewer at-grade crossings.  Turns out it has a lot more climbing, and I wound up working harder than I meant to.  I had to walk my bike a couple times, muscled up some unexpected inclines, experienced panic at my first steep S-curve descent, dropped my chain twice (user error?!) and struggled with sun glare until I hit the turnaround.  I also managed to get up more hills than I thought, didn’t crash, got my chain back on quickly, and still was having tons of fun.  I will conquer my fears!
    • Nutrition: What with the climbing and sun blind descents, I didn't really get to practice drinking the way I wanted. Maybe once or twice? I did get down most of a bottle of Skratch lemons & limes (yummy and not too sweet) and a strawberry cereal bar (generic brand Nutrigrain) when I paused at the turnaround. (48g carbs)
    • Health: A teeny bit of back pain and some slight undercarriage soreness, but no chafing or broken skin this week.  

I am quite pleased with how this week went.  There was a lot of new stuff going on: new suit, new goggles, LT test, Custis trail, but I was enjoying it.  I’m usually a person who gets anxious at the thought of new things, but I spent this entire week really looking forward to each new thing I had on my plate.  Beyond the fact that this was a good week with nice volume, I’m most happy with the growth I’m seeing within myself.