Wednesday, January 23, 2008


(Read the title, and then imagine a HUGE explosion. With lots of fire, flames, smoke, and then even more reverberations.)

Can you see it? Can you hear it? Can you feel it?


Because now you know what happened to me today.

No, not in a fiery-explosive sort of way. This was a mega-blowout from within during today's swim workout.

However, through the pain, through the agony, I learned a heckuva lot about myself. It wasn't pretty, and by the end I made quite a spectacle of myself at the pool. I made the old folks with chronic smoker's cough in the lane next to me look my way in concern (my wheezing matched theirs). And afterwards, I thought a lot about what had transpired. But it was really during the final 2000 that I grew the most...

First, I read another of Elizabeth's great entries - today it was about finding your own personal wizard. And then she gave helpful instructions on how to do so. It ended by a hilarious description of her personal wizard:

"When I think of a wizard I think of a mystical man in a large robe with cavernous sleeves, a tall hat, and crystal globe. A man that can make magical things happen in very secret ways." (Elizabeth Fedofsky)

So immediately, I think of "Dumbledore" from Harry Potter, the famed headmaster of Hogwarts (Wizarding school for all you non-readers: Jen!).

She ended her blog with the following, incredibly inspiring message:

"I think sometimes this is how we look at training – as if there is one magical secretive way to achieve great results. But if you are brave enough to look deeply into those sleeves you realize the magic is made in yourself. By pushing your own legs, pushing through your own limits. There is no magic formula, no crystal ball. It’s all within yourself."

"Find your wizard. Go on."
(Elizabeth Fedofsky)

After reading this awesome passage, I headed to the pool.

I know that finding the wizard for every workout, is downright stupid, let alone unrealistic. However, recently my coach commented that he really wanted me to work on my swim speed. I've been doing lots of technique, 300s, 500s, and some shorter stuff. Every week, I'll have endurance sets, sometimes 1,000 repeats, sometimes 1,500 repeats... and (gulp) sometimes both 1,000 and 1,500 repeats.

While I enjoy the longer sets, recently I've began to have some great times for the shorter stuff. I don't know if its so much of a leap in physical strength, but instead better technique combined with learning how to push myself in the pool . In the past I haven't stuck with my T-Pace, simply because it seemed "too fast".

My coach quickly laughed off that notion, and told me that I needed to focus and hit those numbers.

And lately, especially for the 100-500s, its been happening. Hurrah! My times have been getting faster. A week ago, I swam a 4 X 300 free at what I used to swim my 300 paddle/pull buoy! Hurrah! This pushing thing really works! My longer sets have been more challenging. I force myself to look at my splits every 100, and then try to keep on track from there (it also has proved to be a very accurate lap-counter!)

But for some reason, during the 1,500s and the 1,000s, I've found myself deliberately slowing down and saving myself.

Saving myself? From what??

After reading Liz's blog, it hit me. I was afraid: I was afraid to push myself, push beyond my comfort level for the longer work. Just because it says 1500 yards, it doesn't mean that you have to dawdle along at a snail's pace the entire time. During a taper, or during a period of high intensity, it's easier for me to justify pushing myself, really laying it on the line.

But why not now? My coach gave me the green light - so really, why not?

I don't want to spend my life, my adventures, my time that I have on this earth wondering "what if...?"

Me, talking to God at the Pearly Gates of heaven, after a long life: "What if I had only pushed harder for my 1,000 and tried to hold, say... a 1:20 split?"

God (looking - oddly enough - like Dumbledore): "You would have succeeded. But you never tried."

This vision flashed through my mind as I drove to the pool. And it was then and there that I decided I would swim a 13:20 for my 1,000s. (Now, I know this isn't incredibly "fast" compared to a lot of the people out there. But, its 8 seconds faster than my 1,000 pr - which I swam 2 weeks before Clearwater. I wanted this set, wanted this time, and convinced myself this was the way to go, that if I only applied myself, didn't shrink away from the fear, from the pain, that I could make it happen.

I was confident that I could do it. Or at least I would go down trying (prophetic, very prophetic indeed).

Got in the pool, without the usual dawdling on the pool deck. I didn't even sit on the side and complain of the cold temps - I wanted it to be cold, as I knew I would be working my butt off. After delving in, I warmed up, stretched, grabbed a few sips of water, and was then on my way.

The first 100 felt great. I came in at 1:19, felt solid, felt smooth, felt easy. Then again, the first 100 in a 3 X 1,000 SHOULD feel easy, feel smooth, feel easy. Because... you've still got another 2900 to go.

I stayed on track through the first 300 or 400, and then my watch check at 500 read 6:43.

6:43? No - I'm supposed to be at 6:40. And wait a sec... my legs are beginning to feel tired. And my shoulders are a little tense. Okay okay - relax. Then you can get back on track. Just 500 left to go, and you're done. (With the first set).

I quickly pushed aside thoughts of my second and third sets. They were partially to blame for my lesser-than-speedy performances in the past. If I didn't push now, how would I ever learn?

So I swam like there was no tomorrow.

By the 700, I was breathing every 3, instead of every 4 strokes. My kick felt non existent, and I marvelled at how fast the previous workout's 300s passed. I still had 300 left to go, and I felt like I was about to go down.

But I kept hope alive, kept going as hard as I could. I didn't want to give up, I was going to go down trying.

200 to go, and I felt like something jumped on my back. My stroke felt slow and I felt stupid - for lack of a better word - in the water. But I didn't think about anything else, except finishing, aiming high, and the last, agonizing 200 of my set.

The final 50 passed in the most painful blur. I hit the turn around and thundered home as though there was no tomorrow, as though it was my last set. I didn't want to get beat, had held my time - or at least been so close for so long - and was determined to set a new record, if not break 13:20.

I hit the end, hit my watch, and then hit my wall.

My legs were burning, my head was pounding, my eyeballs felt as though they were being squeezed into my goggles, and my chest heaved. I couldn't feel my shoulders, and it was difficult to bend my elbow while pointing it towards the ceiling of the building. The triceps were seizing up, from forcefully pushing the water away at the end of each stroke. My watch read 13:26.

Wow. Not where I wanted to be, but a new pr for the 1,000.

And then it hit me: I still had 2 more left to go. And I had just set a pr.

Oh Sh*t!

After replacing my goggles, taking a sip of water, and restarting my watch, I was off. But something was seriously wrong. My pace check at the 100 read 1:25 - but I felt I was working my hardest, swimming with greater energy than I had just put forth. My limbs felt tired, felt unfamiliar with the water. But I kept going - feeling broken - but kept swimming.

"...Just keep swimming swimming swimming...What do we do we swim, swim, swim..."

It wasn't fast.

It wasn't pretty.

And I managed to salvage myself with a semi-decent time on the third set. So it wasn't all bad.

It could have been a lot worse

But I finished.

I had blow up, blown myself out - big time. Ka-POW!!! I felt every painful inch of the pool, felt every one of those last 2000 yards. And all the time I was swimming - at turtle speed (Turtle Power!) - I kept wondering why had I done what I had done?

Was blowing up worth it? What was I trying to prove - what was I trying to do? Was I trying to find the wizard? Was I trying too hard to find the wizard???

First thing's first: I learned a lot about my pace, effort, and personal capabilities. There's no doubt that the wizard was at the pool with me: I'm pretty sure that he jumped on my back during the final 200 of my first set. But I didn't break him. I didn't drag him with me, lap after lap. I didn't show him!

He broke me. But that's okay: because its the first time I've ever experienced the wizard on a long set. In the past I was too afraid. A 500 is short, a 300 even shorter. A few minutes of wizard dueling doesn't seem all that bad, all that impossible. I will put my head down, kick my hardest, and pull my ass off for a 400 (HTFU!) - but have been (until today) too uncertain, too fearful, too afraid to repeat this during the longer stuff.

I crashed, hugely. Ka-POW!!! I learned that I can't go out for 3 X 1000, set a new pr for the first 1000, and then expect to hold the same pace for the entirety of the workout.

Not YET, anyway.

Again, rationally, I know this. Had I been told before the swim what I was about to do, told before reading Elizabeth's entry, I would have laughed.

"Please!" I would have said. "You can't be serious! That's just stupid. Better to swim 13:40s and 13:50s, and keep it there."

Perhaps - but that was the old me.

And that, my friends, is the key.

The me that was afraid to make the longer work hurt. The me who didn't know she had it in her to swim a 13:26 and then keep swimming. For another 2 bloody sets.

So while I may have set my goal time a little too high...the point is - is that I set goals in the first place. I challenged myself, challenged what I've done in the past, challenged myself for the future. I went well out of my comfort zone, didn't let up for fear of the pain. I went until I was broken, and then, stroke after slow stroke, kept going.

The wizard my have claimed me for the second and third set, but the point is this: THAT I CHALLENGED HIM. I SOUGHT HIM OUT! I FACED MY FEAR! And in doing so, I bettered myself.

Sure, I was slow in the second set, but I redeemed myself during the third.

And next time... Next time I do this workout, setting a new pr will be at the back of my mind (it always is). But I'll have a new focus. While in the past I've been comfortable with swimming 13:40s and 13:50s, after today's pr, holding 13:30s seems pretty reasonable.

And you never know, for that final 1,000, I may just chase that 13:26. And afterwards, Dumbledore and I will have a lot to talk about.


BreeWee said...

Ahh, sounds exactly like my life in training! BUT you know what... you got a PR and you had to keep working through the final 2... SO, actually you may have done yourself good- you learned to swim tired, you learned to push and hang on tired... and darn it all... YOU TRIED and YOU set new possibilities... I am stoked for you! Keep us posted on those 1,000s! Your blog buddies will be cheering you on as you break that 13:26... we are your new accountability partners... Ka-POW! GREAT swim Merit!

Train-This said...


Pedergraham said...

Great job, Marit. Whenever people ask me what it takes to improve their swimming, I always tell them to do what you just did: push themselves to the max and get out of the comfort zone. (Now, they never seem to follow through. I see them at the pool swimming a straight, steady 3000 with a pull bouy and a trip to the hot tub afterwards...) You are so there and it WILL pay off in your swim performances.

Want some free speed? Rather than checking your watch, see if you can swim in a lane where you can see the pace clock as you push off the wall...that way you'll definitely gain time on each 100. (When I did the 1-hour swim, I did an open turn at each 1000 to check the clock--and it added 4 seconds to those 4 splits.)

Mel said...

Wow, I felt like I was in that pool with you...I am tired now :) I LOVE your determination...I am a horrible swimmer and love to watch other people swim...then I get PISSED...why do they make it look so EASY...why can't I get it down??? Everyone is telling me practice, that is what I am doing....Thanks, you just motivated me to keep trying and to push myself harder!!!

Keep us posted on your we can celebrate with you :)

Anonymous said...

Yahhooo Marit!! I was FIRED UP reading this post for you! 13.26 is a great time for the 1000TT...nice work!! You know, if you swam on a Masters team you could swim that 1000 at the big STATE meet in FL, off the blocks, rested....I just entered that here for April...the 1000 hurts like hell. But you are right, we have to allow ourselves to push thru that wall/ceiling. I was having this SAME MOMENT at Masters last night on a 3 x 500 set and I almost threw up. I surely did see stars. I grabbed the feet in front of me and REFUSED TO LET GO (ok, this guy is a 4.30 500 guy - way out of my league)...but our fastest swimmer. He said, "JEN, just gut it out and hold on for as long as you can!" I tried and tried and tried...and can easily do it on Pull/paddle (of course), but on normal free I have to hammer like 10000X effort...and I hung on for 300 yards and then I settled back in - god knows I can't hold his sub 1 min pace! But, I tried and that made me feel great last night! So, good for you...we both had great days in the water! :) Jen

Kellye Mills said...

One of the things that I think is so cool about triathlon is that everyone has their different goals. So it's comforting for us slower-pack girls to realize that even you super fast girls keep pushing to get even faster!!

Way to Go! Keep up the good work!

Ashley said...

AWESOME!!! I can't wait 'til you all come drowned me in SC ;) What a great workout - congrats!

Marit Chrislock-Lauterbach said...

Thanks you guys! Your comments and support all mean SO MUCH!!! Thank you!
Bree - totally right about the accountability a great way. I get so much from my blog-buddies... you guys inspire and keep me on my toes! I am a better athlete because of everyone!
Thanks Mary...
Danielle - great idea for my 100 split check. There's one pace clock at the pool - in the diving well. NOt so great,but I'll try to move closer and practice off of it. By the end of the set, I'll check my spits every 200 or so... and inevitably I'll loose count, so I'll have to check every 50 3 times until I figure out where I"m at... and get back on track. Your pace clock idea sounds a lot better!
Mel - if I swim in the afternoon, I'll see the 10 year old kids swimming like there's no tomorrow. They are incredible to watch - super fast, teeny, and they just go go go. I wish I could do that - but keep practicing!
Jen - nice job with your workout. You hung on for 300. Holy crap! Wow - I am looking forward to swimming with you. But terrified at the same time. Let's hope that there's oxygen at the side of the pool.
Kellye - I think that everyone has to push themselves, its just finding that additional dimention to go further. You know how we see things in 3D? I always joke about "finding the 4th dimention" (TIME) during a workout - because sometimes everything just seems to stop. Keep working and we'll do it!
Ashley - dude - you just ran a 1:35 half marathon. You rock!
Thanks again for the comments - you guys are all great!

Beth said...

AHHHH Marit!!! This is awesome. I'm going to need to re-read this post before all my long swims because I think I'm guilty of the same "settle for a certain pace in the pool and never push past".
Way to push past - and REALLY push past! Awesome job Marit and thanks for the inspiration! And I'll stop complaining about my 500 and 600 repeats now because...1500 repeats? Are you serious?!?! :)

Have a great day!

Train-This said...

You know what Marit????? I was swimming today and I thought.... while we are at camp HTFU.... I think I will swim right next to Marit. Either split the lane or the next one, and I will swim your T pace for the workout. That way you will get the feeling of having someone push you, help you see that wizard! I get plenty of ball busting sets here at home, I don't need to be crazy! That's my proposal, I will swim right next to you and together, we'll find that wizard of yours!

:-) Mary!