Late to the long-swim game, but not too late

Hi, readers. It’s Allison. As you may have seen, my posts about distance swimming this winter have been absent. This past weekend, after 9-and-10-hour nights of sleep, I finally had the motivation to get over to the pool and get in some real distance. (Depending on how you define distance, of course.) As I write this, my shoulders and triceps are mildly burning, and I’m satisfied with my weekend progress.

While my Bay Swim peers have routinely been getting in 5000-7000 yard workouts, my longest this season has been around 4400. My fairly consistent weekly workouts have consisted of three-to-five weekly swims of 3500 and 4200 interval-based yards with the NOVA Masters. (Rumor has it that those practices are the toughest in Richmond. I’d concur, except I haven’t really swum with anyone else.) I practice yoga, which is probably the biggest factor in maintaining my flexibility, once a week, and have been getting a full-body (90 minutes; upper/lower body and abs) weightlifting session in once a week, which most coaches would argue isn’t enough, but has helped. And I’ve been sleeping. A lot.

In February, after almost five months of lethargy and fatigue, my smart mom and my doc figured out that I was (very) low in vitamin D. Aha! It all makes sense. I’d wake up, go to the pool in the dark, go to work in a windowless office, and leave for home in the dark. I’d be outside for a total of 10 minutes a day, bundled up in a coat, scarf and gloves. Last fall, I overslept more morning swim practices than I would have liked (though a 5:15 wake-up call is tough for most people). I was so busy that when I would come home and sleep for twelve hours on Friday nights, it seemed normal — as if I were simply recovering from a long and busy week. If only I knew…

If you’re health conscious, you’ve probably read that everyone who lives north of Atlanta is low in vitamin D. Upon Google searches, I was surprised to find out how critical D is in essential body processes.  Why is it so important?  D primarily helps your intestines absorb calcium — so if you don’t get enough D, your bones won’t get any stronger; if you’re past 30, they’ll get weaker. Lack of D has also been linked to an increased risk of colds and obesity, and a 26% increased risk of death. Yikes. Dr. Michael Holick gives an excellent talk on D deficiency and treatment in a recent People’s Pharmacy podcast.

Most obviously, as I said, I was feeling tired all the time, falling asleep sometimes at 8 or 9 p.m., not able to make it through an evening movie, and struggling with the motivation to do some of the things I loved, including swimming and taking extra steps to keep current with my line of work.  Though (fortunately) I was still pretty happy, my mom suggested SAD (seasonal affective disorder) as a possible culprit. I wasn’t sure, since my moods have been positive, I haven’t gained weight, and I’ve not craved sweets at all this winter; SAD symptoms can include simple-carb cravings, weight gain, and depression. Whether I had moderate SAD or not, the problem has been diagnosed. I’ve been taking 1,000mg of D daily (in addition to a women’s multivitamin, fish oil, magnesium, and biotin) for the past month. And the extra D is helping, slowly but surely! Getting out of bed in the morning has been easier; I’ve still been able to sleep a lot, but a more reasonable 7-10 hours rather than 12!

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations, go get your D tested if you’ve been feeling under the weather this winter, and be thankful that spring is here. 🙂

Now, on to swimming. Yesterday, I swam 5000 yards; today, 5100. Some may encourage a rest day in between (yes, tomorrow is a rest day); my stubborn mind argues that I did 6000-7000 yards six times per week in high school. I was (not that much) younger then, but I’m stronger and faster now. I’ll tell you briefly about my workouts, which I supplemented with plain old water. I suppose as they get longer I’ll start using the same GU that I’ll take during the Bay Swim (and Nanticoke River Swim on May 3). I didn’t feel like I needed any food during the workouts.

Saturday’s swim was broken down into a 1000 warmup (500 free, every 4th lap stroke; 10 x 50s alternating free and dolphin kick on back); 3 x 600s separated by a 200 back or breast, with a minute or so rest in between; then a 500, 400, 300, 200, 100. Oh, the joy of descending! At first, I was a little frustrated. I got bored with the 600s and used the 200s as a “reward.” But I began to get into a groove, which motivated me to persist. I left the pool looking forward to the next day’s workout.

Sunday: I ran into a teammate and we did a set of 400s together. I did a 500 warmup, then we did 3 x 400s (one straight, one broken by 100 with 20 seconds in between, one broken by 50 at race pace with 10 seconds in between). Talk about getting your heart rate up! I repeated the first two 400s, then swam a timed 1000. By this point, my arms began to feel like lead, as they should have. I switched to some breaststroke kicking before two more 500s to complete the workout.

Am I ready for my distance races yet? No. I comfort myself with the fact that the Bay Swim is nearly three months away, but when I think about where I was in my training two years ago (I think I did 44 miles in March; thus far I’ve done slightly more than 25), it’s a little frightening. After two long swims in 26 hours, I’m feeling the burn. This is what it felt like two years ago after I finished the Bay Swim and the Smith Mountain Lake 5K. This is how I’m going to feel during the Bay Swim, probably regardless of how hard I train, but whatever I can do to build up my endurance in the meantime shall be done between now and June 14.

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