Monday, December 1, 2008

Can you Hackett?

It never ceases to amaze me how much harder I work when swimming with Masters. Yes, I know how to push myself in the pool, and at times enjoy the solitude. But noting spells M-O-T-I-V-A-T-I-O-N and S-W-I-M-Y-O-U-R-G-U-T-S-O-U-T like 7 super speedy lane mates, chomping at the bit to finish the workout on pace.

Base Pace.

What is that you may ask. Good question. Because I really didn't know until I started swimming with Carlsbad Masters.

Each lane is assigned a specific swim pace to base all workouts off of. The really really fast guys (and gals - today I found out that Michellie Jones is a member!) swim here. Lane 2, 3, 4 etc etc are all 5-10 seconds slower per 100 meters.

That's another thing: the pool is metered, so my 100 yard times no longer apply. Sianara fast 100 times! Hello slower metered times!

Deep down, I know its good for me, I know its exactly what I need. A dose of humble pie while I hang out in lane 3, doing my best to keep pace and hang with the Big Boys in Lanes 2 and 1 (I peek at them under water while swimming my sets. Admit it: you do it too! I am SO excited if I can "hang" with one of the Lane 1 studs for 25 meters before they take off on their flip turns. And then I'm left looking at a pair of feet disappearing into the gloom).

But back to today.

Due to some, er, oversleepage on my part, mostly associated with a post-holiday-induced Turkey coma, I choose to attend lunch time practice. Great for tan lines and warmer air temperatures. But the water feels downright hot once we get going. Sure, in the morning the air temps are freezing on deck, but at least the water doesn't feel tepid once you go fast.

Or try to go fast. As one does when swimming with people who swim with Michellie Jones.

Immediately upon walking on deck, I noticed a packed lane 3. There were at least 3 people in the water and another 4 on deck, chatting before practice began in earnest. Being the new gal in town, I didn't want to step on anyone's toes, so I quickly jumped in and warmed up.

Apparently I'm not all that subtle. No, it wasn't the bright green suit or black cap. It was the semi belly flop/half jump that caught their attention. Sweet.

I think I may have tripped over my pull buoy, but I can't be sure.

Warm up completed, we congregated at the end of the lane to get our workout. I was spotted and introductions were made all around.

"Hi, I'm Marit. Ma-rit. Like Marshmellow...But I'm not one. And I don't really even like them. It's just how my name is pronounced."

I trailed off. Not sure if they could give me more dubious looks or not. I decided that going into the heritage of my name (Norwegian) or what it means (Pearl) would be a tad overkill.

Luckily Coach Jeff came along and passed out the workout. It didn't look that bad. Then again, the last time I figured a workout "didn't look too bad" I nearly shat myself. And that's not very polite in a public pool.

He quickly explained, "I got this workout off Team Australia's website. This is what Grant Hackett does when he's training. He's more of a distance swimmer, but this helps his raw 100 times."

Ah - he had spoken the magic words. He's a distance swimmer.

Yes, I can bike up Mt. Palomar, run for miles on end, and am willing to swim 5000 meters in the pool - but sprint and kick FAST?!?! I can not.

Give me 300s, 400s, 500s, 1000s over 50s any day. Add fins to the kick sets and I may weep with joy. Just don't make me sprint or kick. I don't go nowhere fast (so grammatically incorrect, but perfect sentiment).

I figured I had a chance at survival with this workout. I could be consistent, I could hold the assigned pace, and I could do it for the entire (gulp) 2000 meters.

Our pre-set consisted of 10 X 100 swim with paddles and pullbuoys off bace pace. There were many eager volunteers to lead the set, the eventual "winner" being the gal who had been chatting on deck the entire time. She simply strapped on her paddles, wrestled the pull buoy between her legs and dove in.

For the life of me, I have no idea how she managed to get through the set without a "proper" warm up. Then again, she was pushing 50 and conventional wisdom seemed to go out the window. She put the boys and girls in lane 3 with her furious pace and great strokes.

Then onto the mainset.

It quickly became apparent why so many people were willing to lead the pre-set. It meant they wouldn't have to lead the main set. The biggie. The REAL swim. Yeah, NOW I understand.

Honestly, I didn't understand what the big deal was: so you lead the lane, big whoop. Throw in 7 or 8 overzealous swimmers queuing up behind you and the pressure cooker begins to boil. But in the end, everyone swims off the same pace, off the same base pace.

Perhaps it was the triathlete-in-me-who-is-used-to-swimming-alone. But while everyone was bickering about whose turn it was to lead, I volunteered.

All conversation ceased.

Great. Now I was the green-suited belly-flopping new girl who is crazy enough to lead the Grant Hackett set.

I peered up at the workout, and discovered - to my horror - it was 20 X 100 at +10 base pace. But - and here's the kicker - with each 100, we were suppsed to finish at least 10 seconds under base pace.

My lane - the 1:35 lane - would be going off the 1:45. But our goal became to finish each 100 under 1:25.

Is it as confusing to you as it is to me?

Great. I didn't have the heart to tell my new lane mates that 1) I had a problem keeping track of competed sets and 2) I wasn't sure I could do the math to figure out when to start the next set while starved for oxygen.

But (to quote the great ELF), I pulled up my Big Girl Pants and announced, "I'm going on the bottom..." and took off.

Apparently it was enough, and my 7 other swim friends followed, approximately 5 seconds apart from each other. Then again, they could have all waited as I came around after my first 50. But to my delight, they had followed suite. And I was determined to keep them (and myself) on pace.

With great power, comes great responsibility. (Yes, I thought it time for a Spiderman quote. And totally corny, I admit).

The first few 100s passed uneventfully. I hit my target pace with a few seconds to spare and felt powerful in the water. A few times my right hand slapped the guys in lane 2 or 4 as we crossed over, but it wasn't too bad. My bones weren't broken, although I've got a great red welt to prove my nettles.

By the 5th and 6th 100, I could feel the fatigue begin to set it. And I knew that THIS was the spot where the workout would really start to count. This feeling at this time - wondering how you'll push through, wondering if your lungs can stand the lack of air, if your legs can push off any harder from the wall - is what makes us stronger, is what makes us the athletes we are.

If it was always easy, everyone would do it.

But I didn't join Masters, didn't volunteer to stay in the back of the lane to take the easy way out. I wanted to work for it, to earn my speed back bit by agonizing bit.

Could I hack it? Hackett?

Now wasn't the time to question, wasn't the time to back down and head for the back of the lane. No - now was the time to push through, to believe in myself, to discover what I was made of.

7 and 8 rolled through, and with each pull, with each rotation of my hips, I reminded myself that THIS was what I wanted. I wanted to place myself in these exact situations: to climb Palomar, to lead a tough set, to sprint up big hills - because in the end, at times like these, we grow and we learn. And we discover who we are.

9 and 10 came and went, and I was happy for our mid-set break. 100 kick easy. I didn't push it. Trust me.

During the second 50 of the pull, I contemplated briefly having the girl behind me lead the second set. But a little voice inside of me rejected this thought.

Why her? Why now?

Is it really that hard that you have to go to the end of the lane?

And a louder voice responded with a resounding NO.

At least, I figured, I could lead for the first 5. And if I was falling apart - form especially - I could head for the back. Enjoy the draft and cruise the final few sets. At that point, I had certainly earned it.

But a funny thing happened: the more painful it became, the more determined I was to not back down. To hold my spot, hold my position through the entire set. Come hell or high water, I wanted this, wanted to show that I didn't need someone else's draft to hit my times.

I knew it would be tough - but I wanted to HTFU for a few more sets.

This was, after all, the Grant Hackett set. And my favorite HTFU video was Australian. Perfect fit. So it stood to reason that I remained where I was.

I watched the clock, put my head down, and swam my heart out. It wasn't easy, nor was it pretty. And I'm sure that at times I looked like some odd and flailing creature. But I did it.

Surprisingly, the second set passed a lot more quickly than the first. Not sure if it was because it was the second set, or perhaps I was in so much oxygen debt that things really didn't seem to matter as much as they had a few minutes prior.

By the time 18 and 19 rolled around, I was already dreaming about 20. Planning my final sprint towards the wall. My lower back was tight, but I focused on keeping my head down and my heels as close to the surface as I could. I may have muttered a few words of encouragement under my breath during our 20 second respite, but I'm not sure.

All I knew, is that I WAS hacking it. Hacketting it. Tunnel vision aside, I powered down my lane for the final 25 meters and touched the wall.

It was done.


And I had survived. No worse for the wear.

And the really cool thing? Now I knew I could do it. When push came to shove, I would push harder, demand more of myself, prove to myself that I wouldn't back down.

I had hacked the workout. One down. And many more ahead. Oddly enough though, I'm rather excited, looking forward to the challenge. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go search for my lats. They are somewhere in the Carlsbad High pool, lane 3 to be exact. Hopefully I'll find them before Wednesday, my next swim. And if not, well - it should be interesting. Another opportunity coming my way.


rr said...

You are fitting right into the Cali tri scene already, swimming with the best!

Meters is the best way :)

Kim said...

WOW! What a blog.. loved every second of it, felt like I was there. I did not say TAKE me there because I am quite sure I could not Hackett! However, you my friend, did awesome! Way to not back down!

Shan said...

Love this post, Marit!! I feel like I was right there with you during that 20x100, complete with major oxygen debt!! It makes my workout yesterday (butterfly development week) seem like peanuts!! :)

But tell those lane mates that in meter set-up, they should leave the wall 10 seconds apart...otherwise it's a huge draft fest! ;)

If I see your lats, I'll give you a ring. I'm sure they're with mine getting a secret massage...hehe!

Pedergraham said...

Great for you, Marit. Nice nice swim set!

Trigirlpink said...

OK Cali girl you go from one warm state to another one.How fair is THAT??? heehee. Hey! Your closer to CdA now too!!!! Good on ya for leadin' the lane. Sounded like a tough set. I just started back swimming this week. Talk about a hot poker in your eye.... sending love to the felines xxxxx

GoBigGreen said...

Hey awesome post! Gave me some ideas for masters at the Hot Y pool in your old 'hood!
Miriam says hi, and yes she did correct me when i said "MAIR IT" not "Mar ( as in Marshmallow, which you are not! ) it"

Charisa said...

Awesome swim - glad you enjoyed our lunchtime masters too :)

Molly said...

OMG Marit, that made me hurt just to READ. Glad to hear you are enjoying the new masters swim. You are a total speed demon!

Mer! said...

I LOVE this post..I love the cheesy "I'm hacketting it," and the guy whose hands you kept hitting--I don't know what it is about hitting someone's hands in the lane next to me in masters that gets me irritated and it's ALWAYS a guy =0.

You totally called me out---I watch people in the lane next to me and wish that my feet were "flipperish" like theirs!!

WAY to rock the swim..BRAVE annd..FAST!! You are going to kill IMCDA!!!!

OH!! And I can't wait to meet you too---you, me and Sass Master must ride....i'm ready!

Beth said...

Dang that's a tough workout Marit!! Way to get through it. You are absolutely right - the harder it is, the more determined we get to master it. YEAHHHHHHH!!!!! After reading this I want to go swimming RIGHT NOW! :)

Bob Mitera said...

20 x 100 is my most and least favorite set.

I set base pace via a 1000 all out for time and take the pace/100 and use that for sets. I can send you a chart...

Thinking late March/early April for San Diego.

Maijaleena said...

Great swim! Way to tough it out!

Bruce Stewart (施樸樂) (ブルース・スチュワート) said...

If you swim too well in Lane 3, the other swimmers will kick you out and put you in Lane 2. At least then you will be able to swim alongside Michellie.
I have not been able to swim Masters in a long time, but I recently have almost every day been replaying the 2008 Olympics swim coverage on a largish TV screen, carefully analyzing Grant Hackett's and Rebecca Adlington's strokes and trying to visualize myself swimming like them. Way to go!

Greg Remaly said...

awesome post, marit like marshmellow! ;-)

glad you've found a good group of swimmers to train with - keep up the good work!

Ryan said...

You had me at "shat," Marshmallow!

Train-This said...


Mel said...

Sounds like you are really liking you new home:) all these bloggers talking about the long swim sets they are doing and here I am still having a hard time keeping track of counting a 2oo...I so want to love swimming..but I don't:(