Thursday, March 29, 2007

Then Again Maybe I'll Need Directions

Google has posted directions to swim the Atlantic. Had I known, I would have packed these before I started (see my goals to the left of this post)!

Swim Farther Underwater - Lower Your Heart Rate - Penguins Do It

I was channel surfing last night (as close as I'll ever get to the real thing after an unfortunate experience in Malibu some twenty years ago) and came across a documentary on PBS on of all things - penguins. I've become somewhat drawn to the creatures since taking my kids to see the movie, "Happy Feet", earlier this year. Anyhow, the show was about emperor penguins and it mentioned that they can stay underwater for up to twenty minutes by lowering their heart rates. Since I love swimming under water (even more than on top), I tried the concept out this morning. No I didn't jump in a frozen lake. Before doing my 25 meter underwater routine - something I do each AM to get my heart rate moving before I start my laps - I usually try to pump myself up to make it across. Today, I did the opposite. I just relaxed and focused on lowering my pulse - a trick I've learned to do when someone in a white coat says my blood pressure is high. The result? I got across the pool and still felt totally relaxed when I touched the wall - not winded at all. Try it out at your preferred distance and tell me what you find (show-offs will be penalized).

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Martin's Swum 1000's of KMs - Now the Hard Part

Martin Strel is fast approaching the Atlantic Ocean in his quest to swim the complete length of the Amazon River. Amazingly he's done this all since the beginning of February '07! As you might imagine, he's become something of a living legend to the people who live along the world's largest river. That's Martin in the middle of the crowd - the guy without a shirt on - signing autographs. When in the water, Martin's daily distance has slowed as he now must battle waves and currents. Once again, I refer you to this awesome summary of waves in the Amazon (hint: among others, there is a surfing video). Also, more threatening, Martin's tracking site is reporting that they are now coming into areas high in piranhas and have confirmed sightings of same.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Michael Phelps Sets New World Record

Michael Phelps has a new world record! These times always make me wonder if there is some untapped force out there. I just can't imagine swimming 50 meters in just under 27 seconds (my average is closer to a multiple of that)!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Saggy Suits - are you ready for a new swim suit?

Most people who hang out pool-side use the warming of the seasons as their cue to consider buying a new swim suit. Unfortunately, those of us who swim daily can't use the movement of the planets to gauge our decision making. The sad fact is, a lot of year-round swimmers don't really know when they should consider buying a new suit and they can embarrass themselves without knowing. My wife once told me that some women in her water-exercise group told her to get me a new suit. Needless to say, I was extremely embarrassed when she told me why (my suit problem rhymed with rude). Since then, I've paid particular attention to the age of my suit. I now use a hard and fast fabric deterioration rule. It's clear to me, a lot of folks - do not know the rule. Saggy-suits are a sure sign. These are the suits that when dry look fine, but look like old loose skin after the wearer exits wet. Sometimes these people just don't realize it since the sag is often off their back-side. One way to determine if your suit is aging is to hold it up to the light. A drag suit I currently have is showing signs of wear. Holding it up to the light, I see distinct places near the seams where the opacity of the fabric is much less (remember I said, my own suit problem rhymed with rude). A lot more light shines through these places. There is also a buildup of what looks like dandruff around these less opaque areas where the fabric has literally deteriorated and left a residue. I won't be wearing that suit any longer. If you don't want to wait that long, just notice if your suit is no longer fitting tight (if water isn't flowing past unimpeded by flowing fabric you are ready for a change). New suits are comfortably snug. Warn suits increase drag in the water.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

AmazonSwim Team Update - Fascinating!

The following is a brief summary regarding the past few days of Martin Strel's swim down the Amazon to the Atlantic. This news is entirely gleemed from which I encourage you to visit for the pics and news from the team itself. This post like all the rest is because I am still and will continue to remain in awe.

This week Martin and his small support boat got separated, then out of contact with the larger team boat. They fortunately found each other at 3am downstream somewhere along the banks of the great river. Martin and his crew were taking turns sleeping and fighting mosquitoes. One confusing, scary and exciting adventure concerns not Martin, but a physician on the team, who reportedly had a near fatal allergic reaction but got treatment and is now apparently back in the saddle so to speak. The next report has her successfully treating a young woman who fell from a tree and was tragically impaled (a warning, the description of the wound is not one you'd ever want on your worst enemy). I guess the physician is better - yeah! Maybe there is really a reason Martin is doing this crazy thing?! Martin of course, continues to amaze. He has now broken his personal distance record for river swimming and capped it off in amazing Steve Irwin fashion by escaping a spinning whirlpool that had both him and his support boat spinning round. Here's the link again if I've now got you intrigued. Reports have it that the next phase of the trip will be MORE dangerous. Will keep you posted.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Pride - Swim Team Movie Clip

I saw a short clip of this advertised during the NCAAs tonight and was intrigued enough to seek out the trailer. I never thought I'd say "Bernie Mac" and "serious swim team" in the same sentence but there it is! "Pride" is a movie based on a true story about some city kids who are introduced to swimming and become a team. Looking forward to seeing it. Here is the clip (external link - of course).

Friday, March 16, 2007

Is this Swimming or what?

I like to troll the net for interesting things having to do with swimming. Here's a patent that I came across for a machine that allows you to swim without getting wet. Of course you'll want to check this out. Personally, I don't like anything pressing on my torso when I swim.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Relax and Just Lie Still

Have you ever watched a good swimmer from the pool deck and noticed how they don't appear to be using any more effort but they are continuously lapping nearly everyone else in the pool? Don't think what you are seeing is wrong. Those people zipping through the water are relaxed. In fact they are probably more relaxed than most everyone else and that is why they are moving faster. What?! Yes, relaxing as you swim can make you go faster - important note: I'm not talking about competitive swimming here. These faster swimmers have found a trick and relaxing is a big part of it. To explain my point, let's examine the opposite premise. Suppose you watch someone struggling with their stroke. It seems like nine out of ten of these people are fighting the water. The better swimmers on the other hand do not. They relax. They stretch out and lie still after each stroke (to quote the title here) and allow that stroke's inertia to continue to propel them through the water until friction slows them down again. What are they doing during all this time? Relaxing my friend, catching their breath and getting ready to pull hard again when the time is right - not before.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Martin Slow Down Mawn!

Slow down Martin! Giant waves are apparently common in the Amazon River in March. Check out this site for some awesome pictures of the waves.

Switch Around Your Muscle Focus

I confessed in a post some months back that when I'm doing freestyle, I occasionally will imagine that as I reach and pull the water, I am pulling the rungs of a ladder, yanking myself along the line in the bottom of the pool. There are of course alternatives. Late last week, I found myself unusually fatigued during my swim. My arms were inexplicably aching. To ease the fatigue - I didn't want to quit - I tried focusing my attention to different muscle groups at different times. First I tried focusing on my shoulders. I straightened out my arms and allowed my shoulder muscles to do the pulling. By doing this, I found my arms relaxing - my upper body took over the work and my arms took on an unintended relaxed, almost whip-like motion that still propelled me sufficiently but lessened the fatigue (it was nice). Next I tried focusing on my elbows. Pointing my elbows back toward my feet, I pulled through with the upper part of my forearm. This didn't lessen my fatigue much, but pulled me through fairly efficiently. Last, I tried focusing on my hands, putting as much pull as I could into the stroke by grabbing and holding the water so little slid past. This promoted the greatest feeling of fatigue but seemed most fast for the short period of time I could support it (remember, I was tired). I suppose a combination of these three approaches is best, but when a muscle group gets tired it's nice to switch around. Experiment and see what works best for you.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Update on the "Feeesh Mawn"

The latest posts about Martin Strel's marathon swim down the Amazon River are both frightening and inspiring. The official site is reporting that there have been river pirates in their area. These are not your Johnny Depp "Pirates of the Carribean" types. These blokes are known to occasionally pose as police and go especially well armed. So far so good for Martin's team though. No hassles yet! Keeping our fins crossed here on dry land. On the inspiring side, the site reports Martin has a new name favored by his new Brazilian fans, "Feeesh Mawn" (try pronouncing it slowly). Go Mawn go! By the way, the pictures from the web site are simply beautiful and amazing. Spend a moment and check'm out - and no, Splash Dog isn't being paid to say this - just is very envious.

Friday, March 09, 2007

How to Extend the Lifespan of a Swim Suit

When I took up daily swimming, I became distressed at how quickly my suits were wearing out. After what I considered to be a short time - about three months of daily use - my suits were becoming saggy and no longer hugging my finely tuned physique (ha ha). To make matters worse, the fluid dynamics of the suit would fail at the same time making travel through the water more of an effort. Thus, I would have to plunk down cash for what I considered to be a pointless expense. The products should have been designed better (these were name brand suits you all know). In my effort to extend the length of wear, I have since tried to follow all instructions (e.g. rinse with cold clear water, don't twist, dry flat, etc. etc.). I'd even gone so far as to swap out suits to every other day. Even so, they still fell apart within three months. What was that about? Nothing seemed to help, until I started using a suit-spin dryer on a regular basis. Since I started using it, I've seen the lifespan of my suits extended to six months and still going. I must conclude that length of time a suit is wet is what primarily leads to the degeneration of the material. Drying the fabric minimizes that time that water can damage the fabric. So here's my gripe. It's pretty simple ... why would any swim suit designer design a suit to break down in water? Come on guys! Make a better product! In the mean time dear reader, follow my advice and use the spin dry machine. If you don't have access to one, lobby your swim club. They should be in every pool locker room.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Milestones Achieved - Progress toward Goals is Important

If you've scanned this blog's format much at all, you've probably noted the set of personal goals I've set up to the left of my posts (English Channel, Gulf of Mexico, Lake Michigan, LA to Honolulu, etc.). Sure they are silly, but they keep me going and give people who know little about swimming laps, some perspective. Maybe one day, I'll actually do one of these for real (yeah, right!). Still, I've found these goals a lot of fun. Tracking my progress daily and seeing my numbers climb has been especially stimulating. Today I hit a milestone on my tracker I started keeping in January '07. Today, I broke the 100,000 meter point, the 2,000 circular lap point and the 4,000 lengths point. Seeing this makes me realize that I am making progress and is pushing me to keep this up. Besides all that, 100 kilometers looks kind of cool. You can do this too. Set your own goals and track your progress. You'll be amazed how fun it can be.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Sub Aqua Hockey - Talk about a Cool Game!

Here's a link to a Reuters story about sub-aqua ice hockey. What's ice hockey have to do with swimming you ask? Didn't I say "sub-aqua"? Check it out. Bubble bubble, he scores! Don't try this at home kids.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Martin Strel Streamcasts Now Available

You can now check out Martin Strel's Amazon Swim in a streamcast! Visit Martin's official web site to see some great stills (also a great way to check out what the Amazon communities and culture really look like, today). His site is reporting that he's half way now and reportedly cranky at the end of some of his twelve hour, 75+ km swims. Who wouldn't be? Keep your chin up Martin! We're with you guy - all the way!

I'm adding the streamcast link to the blogroll here so you can check out Martin's progress whenever you visit.