Monday, April 1, 2013

Total Immersion Swim Camp

What I’ve learned about myself after a week in Kona…
1. I always thought I WASN’T a warm weather racer, but after swimming, biking, and running on the Big Island for a week I have a new love of the warm weather. 
2. I like WIND…the wind makes it harder to swim, bike, and run.  One thing I know for sure about myself is I like race conditions to be a little harder.  Bring on the wind it only makes me stronger mentally.  One day on my climb up to Hawi I thought to myself…this is brutal…yes…this is very hard…this is a perfect bike ride. 
3. Mental strength is more important than physical strength.  I’ve always talked about importance of being mentally strong, but after one week I’ve realized even more than before how powerful the mind is and how mental training is a HUGE part of being successful.  On my last ocean swim the water was very rough.  The afternoons out there the wind picks up and the swells can be crazy.  I remember trying to sight and just doing face plants in these big walls of water.  For a moment I became scared and my heart rate picked up.  I decided right then and there that would be the last time I allowed myself to be scared out there.  I relaxed found the edge of the tree line and began swimming again.  Trying to become one with the water rather than fight against the water.
What I already knew about myself, but a week in Kona made it even clearer… 
1.       I love coffee…really good coffee…KONA coffee is the best
2.       I really love good fresh healthy food. Thanks to Island Naturals for being the most amazing market/deli in Kona.  Part of the reason I was able to get up each morning and train hours like I did was I was making an effort, a point, to really put good quality food in my body.  I can’t stress enough the importance of high quality foods.  These foods don’t come in packages in the grocery stores and they aren’t foods with shelf lives of years.  I want my body to run like a high performance engine and I will put the highest quality of fuel in my body as I can. (except on the occational party crash days with my boys…see below)
     Things I learned....
     I disliked flying with my bike.  It’s about the same price to use Bike Flight and Fed Ex my bike from Trailblazers in Baxter to Bike Works in Kona.  I will be doing this in May and again in October.  I took my bike with on the trip there and used Fed Ex on the way back.  No headache!  I highly recommend Bike Flight.  I learned more than just the bike issue as you'll see below in how my week went.

Here is how my week on the Big Island went…

Sunday: Travel day

I was up by 2:30 am to be on the road for the airport by 3:15.  Before I left I went in to each of my boys’ rooms and kissed them goodbye.  I think I received a groan of some type from each of them.  They each had orders from me to text me something…anything…even if it’s just a “hi” each day.  (I’ll post some of their texts to me I received during the week later in my post).  This is the longest I’ve been away from my boys and Lee.  I missed them like crazy!  Thank goodness I was either swimming, biking, and running all day each day. 

I made it to the airport with some time to spare.  The GPS doesn’t work off the speeds I drive; which was a good thing because getting the bike box out of the back seat of my car was a workout all by itself.  I was literally sweating by the time I made it inside the airport with my suitcase, bike box, and carry on.

Thank you Jarrod McKinney for letting me borrow your bike box.  It is VERY nice and I really appreciate you letting me borrow.  Also, all of your tips on watching the TSA go through it and then putting the zip ties on were so smart.  They were all things I would have never thought about doing with the bike. 

It cost $200 for the bike plus $35 as a second bag charge along with $25 for my suitcase.  Needless to say I used Bike Flight to Fed Ex my bike back home and will use Bike Flight again…no headache of the airport and I think it’s cheaper!!  2 day air back home was only $202.

Finally made it to the hotel by 5:30 pm (Hawaii time and 10:30pm MN time).  I was shot, but wanted to get a run in before the day was over.  I headed out for an 80 minute jog up Ali Drive and then hit Lava Java for fish tacos and a Lava Java shake (ice cream and espresso) to go for dinner.  I was in bed by 8pm.

Day 1 Monday:

Plan was to get up at 5:30 am, but I was up at 2:00am when my boys all sent me texts before they went to school.  This was the process all week – waking up at 2am from the sound of my phone beeping with good morning texts from my boys before they left for school.

5:30am – still dark outside, but I headed out for a run.  I got a beautiful run in as the sun came up and then had coffee and fresh fruit overlooking the ocean.

8:30 – meet and greet with the total Immersion Crew.  They are a fantastic group.  So diverse and so cool!  We did some swim videotaping and were broke into groups.  We did some longer swimming and then headed back in to review the video.
I was put in the advanced group along with Jennifer, Margie from New Zealand, Sandra and Karen both from Hong Kong, and Tom from Georgia.  I felt like I was a kindergarten who was picked up and put in middle school without any of the elementary basics you need to survive middle school.  Total Immersion type of swimming is completely new to me.  I first took a lesson at the start of the year.  The others in the group were either TI coaches or have read every piece of information out on TI in books and the internet.  Throughout the week there were times I was lost and had no idea what was being asked of me.  I had to ask a lot of questions.   

After our morning session I took my bike to Bike Works for them to put together and then headed to Island Naturals, and organic deli/market.  The food was delicious and full of goodness I needed to fuel my body for the week.  Thanks to David, Jen’s boyfriend, who rented a car and carted my bike around for me all week.  He offered to carry the towels all week for Jen and I, but taking care of my bike was a much better deal.

2:00 – back to swimming…I thought our coach, David Cameron, was joking when he said how far we were swimming.  Then we would make it to the buoy and he would say let’s swim to the next.  It was hard for me to focus on my swimming because I kept thinking, “Holly shit…I have to get myself back to the pier after this”  I have never swam that far in the ocean or swam in waves that big. 

5:00 – first bike ride!  Man I love my bike and being able to be outside.  I was told by the bike shop I needed to be off my bike by 6 because when it gets dark it gets dark FAST!  No joke.  Seriously, its light out and then you think…it’s getting dark out and a minute later you better have lights on your bike or be off your bike.

Day two Tuesday:

5:30 – up and ran

8:00 – swim

10:00 – bike out on the Queen K (60 miles)

3:00 – back swimming

5:30 – I am beat!  I’m so tired I managed to get up to my room, shower, eat and was sleeping before 7pm.  I think the time change finally caught up to me.

Day three Wednesday;

5:30 – up and ran.  I run up Palini hill every day at least one time and each time I put myself at mile 12 of the marathon getting ready to head out on the Queen K and I focus on my form and calming my breathe and using my power to climb the hill.  I LOVE PALANI.

8:00 – swim

10:30 – bike – much hotter and windier!  Wow!  The wind was crazy…when people talk about being blown off the road I now know what they mean.

3:00 – LONG SWIM…I was shot by this time of the day and was nervous to make the longer swim of the afternoon.  The crazy thing about the TI way of swimming is I feel more relaxed swimming than ever before and my arms aren’t falling off at the end of my swim sessions.

5:30 – headed back out for another run to get the opportunity to be out running at another time of day.  Each day I fell more in love with Kona and training on the Big Island.  I love the humid warm air and feeling the sweat run down my back and seeing the ocean off in the distance. 

6:30 – grabbed a pizza, took a shower, and was sleeping before 8pm.  I knew the next morning was going to be my biggest training day of the week.

Day four Thursday:

5:30 – I was up and running when it was dark out.  My favorite time of the day is right before the sun comes up and being out running or on my bike as the sun rises.  No matter where I am it is so quiet this time of the day. 

6:30 – grabbed some breakfast from Lava Java before heading out on my bike.  I needed to be up to Hapuna Beach by 9 – 9:15.

7:00 – I headed through town and then out on my bike.  I was enjoying the views and sitting upright for the first hour.  Then I realized…I better get going if I’m going to make it there in time.  I put my head down and got down on my aero bars and rode.  The wind had shifted from yesterday and was blowing much harder. 

9:00-11:00  swam with the group at Hapuna Beach.  Beautiful beach and the location of the Hawaii 70.3 race I’m doing in June.

11:30 – biked the rest of the IM bike course.  The only word I can think of to describe my climb up to Hawi (the IM turnaround) is epic!  I have never rode my bike in winds like that….I was blown from the shoulder of the road across the rumble strips and into the middle of the highway.  I wasn’t able to go over 10mph on the last 5 miles to Hawi.  A few points I just laughed out loud to myself because it was completely unreal to me how strong the wind was.  My Garmin it 98 degrees on the ride.  I stopped in Hawi and had some Macadamia Nut ice cream and filled my water bottles.   Leaving Hawi was the best!  The wind was at my back and was going downhill.  I didn’t even have to work and I was flying at 40 mph…mainly coasting.  I did get a little nervous a few times when I would hit some crosswinds in an open area.  Once I made it back on the queen K I was still moving pretty good.  It was amazing how fast the same section went on the way back vs. the way there.  I made one more stop on my bike to fill my water bottles.  I drank some coconut water and couldn’t manage thought of any real food.

4:30 – brick run off the bike.  As I was coming back into Kona I could tell I was getting a headache.  I took my bike to my room and changed into some run clothes and headed out for a run – right up Palani hill.  At this point in the day it felt like I was climbing a mountain.  I made it up and back out on the Queen K and then did a short loop back to the hotel.  I was TIRED.

Day five Friday:

My last day…the camp goes through Saturday, but I wanted to be back to be with my boys for Easter so I took a late Friday night flight out.  Lee was golfing in Nashville until Sunday afternoon.  The boys and I planned a “party crash” for Saturday night.  We started these when they were little and Lee would go on hunting or fishing trips and only 2 or 3 could go.  It made it much more appealing to  stay back with mom if we were having a party crash.  These days we all go hunting and/or fishing so it has been years since we have had a party crash, but they all remember them.  We get movies and go to the grocery store and pick out our favorite junk foods.  Then come home and line all our junk food on the counter and stay up as late as possible watching movies.  Then we all crash in the living room in our forts we made.  Now that the boys are older there wasn’t any fort making…just staying up late watching movies and eating junk.

5:30am – run…I took it all in!  I created mental images for those hard treadmill sessions on this last run. 

8:00 –   This morning was one of my favorites of the whole week.  We were in groups of 2 or 3.  My partner was Margie from New Zealand.  She is fantastic.  I’m guessing she is mid 50’s or so and I can NOT keep up with her.  She is graceful and beautiful in the water.  I ask her questions just to listen to her accent.


1:00 – swam IM course 2.4 miles
I have to say I was nervous for this one because the chop really picks up as the day goes on and after 5 days of some pretty crazy intense swimming I wasn’t sure my body could manage.  The swim didn’t go as planned and we were off course and didn’t quite swim the actual IM course.  As with everything that doesn’t go as planned…I needed to find the positives of my experience.  I’ve learned when I’m nervous or scared about something I have two emotions which come out...being quiet and angry.  So I may not say much, but what I say may not be too nice when I’m nervous or scared.  I was quiet and angry in my final swim at TI camp.  At the time I was upset about my experience I was having, but once I made it back to shore I realized this is probably the toughest conditions I will have to swim in….there were no buoys out that far and there was only 4 us together…no kayaker or paddle boarder…the winds had picked up and I had a hard time even sighting shore.  My experiences over the week, and especially the final swim, made me a stronger and more confident swimmer in the ocean.    

Thanks to Jennifer Imsande for showing me the Total Immersion style of swimming and inviting me to lessons with her.  I may not be faster…yet…but I’m relaxed and confident in the ocean and now know I will get out of the water in IM and be ready to lay down an amazing bike and a fast marathon because I didn’t waste any mental energy being nervous in the ocean. 

Thank you to Dave Cameron.  He is amazing TI coach and I feel very fortunate having him be in Minneapolis so I can keep taking classes from him over the summer.
I use to talk about how much I disliked swimming, but now I love…really love  swimming in the ocean with the waves and the salt water.  Swimming the TI way I don’t feel tired after swimming for hours every day.  By the last day I was able to get in the water and just swim without realizing I was in salt water. 

Did I get any faster at the TI swim camp?  I don’t think I got any faster at my week of TI camp, but that wasn’t my goal.  My goal was to be confident in the water and not waste mental energy worrying about the things I have no control over.  I reached my goal and I feel this new level of confidence will equal a faster time on race day because the mental energy I will have saved in the swim.
One last thing…the junk food from the party crash…it never enters our pantry.  When the party crash is over we throw what’s left in the garbage and get back to our normal (healthy) eating style.  We all feel like junk and say…it will be a long time before we do that again!

Happy Spring everyone!