This weekend was jam packed for us. It was DH’s birthday on Friday, and to celebrate we decided to swim 5k and then head out to dinner with friends. Saturday was the family party, and Sunday was a recovery day / visit to the London Coffee Festival. A packed weekend!
We signed up for the Swimathon 5k swim as it seemed like a great early season test for both of us.
DH has been working through a series of niggles and then a minor bike spill, so he dropped down to the 2.5k swim. Seeing as we have both been swimming about one time a week, he was pretty happy with a 54 minute result – he did it as 2500m hard continuous effort, and when he was done he announced that he gave it his all and couldn’t have done more. That is an awesome feeling. And it is a fantastic way to start birthday celebrations – feeling good about oneself by doing a nice swim!
I haven’t been swimming much either, as any time I’ve had I’ve been on the bike, trying to improve my leg strength and stamina in advance of the MS150 Houston to Austin ride (which by the way is this coming Saturday!). I’ve been doing about once a week, but knowing that the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim is around the corner, I decided to use the 5k as the kick off to my training for this 4.4 mile endurance effort. I decided to break the swim into sets of 1000m, and my aim was to hold 20 minutes for each 1000.
My first three sets were pretty good, and I was feeling rather strong – I did 22 minutes (warm up), 21 minutes, 20 minutes (feeling great) and then started on my fourth set. I felt strong and was catching the water well, although the lack of training started to manifest in my shoulders. I had a lot of movement in my right shoulder – if you have loose joints feeling things slide around is not something you like to experience. At 3500m I started to feel leg cramps. I was worried that this would happen as I have been spending time on the bike and knew my calves were tight going into the swim. Fourth set was 25 minutes as I slowed down to manage the onset of cramps. My fifth set saw a full blown leg cramp descend – I hopped out of the pool at 4100m to manage my foot contortion (my whole calf and foot had siezed) and then used the pull buoy from 4100m to 4500m until I was confident that the cramp had diminished back to a manageable tight level. I went slow and steady to the finish, at about 27-28 minutes for this set, and then did another 200m backstroke to relieve my shoulders after 5000m of freestyle, and to cool down.
I think I take a lot away from this swim.
First, I think it is incredible that swimming this distance does not scare me – nor does the idea of 7k. I know I can do this, even undercooked when it comes to training. But the lack of training shows up in ways that I do not like. My shoulder joints had a lot of movement throughout Friday evening – the muscles were tired and not really holding things together well. So I will be working on strength some more – lateral lifts and shoulder presses, to work on major muscle groups as well as rotators.
Next, the time has come to focus on the Bay Swim. The Swimathon was my mental kick off for the prep that I will do to successfully swim across the Chesapeake Bay in early June. From next week, with my completion of the MS150, it’s onto a 3 swim a week programme – one to focus on strength (paddles), one for fitness, and one for long endurance, I will be ready to go. I’ll also be making sure to hit my strength work in May to enhance my joint stability.
Third, I did not like the cramps. I am pretty sure that my bike focus has not helped my legs to be loose and happy for distance swimming. But that is no excuse. I need to be more diligent about stretching (my calves in particular). It is something I should do anyway as a way to manage atrophy from CMT. But I am a slacker. That will be changing.
And speaking of slacking… I am also very aware that I have slacked off on my nutrition. I have been complacent and not had a cramp to manage in about a year. I have slacked off taking my Green Vibrance and magnesium supplements. And I have not diligently paid attention to making sure that I am eating leafy vegetables at least once a day and protein at every meal. Change is in the air. These are easy habits to get back into as I have not strayed for too long – just since February. So time to refocus and be prepared for “the season” – summer and triathlon!
Finally, I think the Bay Swim will be different with regard to cramping because I will be in a wetsuit. I think around the 3000m mark, the sun had set and I was starting to feel cold. This may be down to poor nutrition and hydration on the day – but it is also because I have not swum 5k without a wetsuit since last April. So I am confident that my wetsuit will help. I am not sure yet which wetsuit I will be wearing – the new Aquasphere waiting for me in Florida (thanks Dailymile and the contest I won at the end of 2010!) or if I will be wearing my trusty BlueSeventy Helix. But I look forward to trying both out and training in cold water in May to make the right choice.
Now, the birthday celebrations. Everyone knows that I love a birthday – especially other people’s birthdays as I love giving presents. Friday was DH’s birthday, and I did my best to make it special.
On Friday evening we went to Brawn on Columbia Road with friends. It was delicious. I highly recommend a visit. Lots of tapas sized plates of wonderfully prepared French food, excellent wine, and happy conversation. The perfect start to a birthday weekend.
On Saturday, we had a family bbq party. The weather was ideal, and the food… One word: magnificent. We designed a menu that was perfect, and with a family of foodies doing potluck it was just the best homecooked feast you could hope for! To start a giant platter of gravdlax – salmon in dill. With pine berries. Amazing. Then the main course was veal chops on the bbq, served with German Potato Salad (excelled recipe from Cook’s Illustrated), lemon couscous, fennel salad with chili, and a tomato salad.
The desert was an olive oil polenta citrus cake. I made my first attempt at a dairy free cake this weekend, although to satisfy the dairy lovers I did make a cream cheese orange butter cream icing for half of the cake. I was nervous as I had not made an olive oil cake before – but after a good amount of research I settled for a cake that veered from using only polenta to one that used a blend of polenta and plain flour. And lots of orange zest – 5 oranges worth. It was a fantastic first effort, and one I would definitely make again. I think the cake would be good with vanilla beans and essence, or lemon and poppy seeds, or citrus as per the recipe I found. It is a great solution for people seeking dairy free. Note it is not a vegan cake as it still uses eggs. And it is not gluten free as it has plain flour – but I am sure you could do this with polenta only, or a blend of polenta and rice flours.
The fennel salad recipe was simple and delicious – and one we learned the weekend before at the Fishworks Cookery School.
Fennel Chili and Herb Salad
Ingredients: Whole fennel, red chili, lemon, mint, olive oil
Instructions: Thinly slice the fennel. De-seed and thinly slice the chili. Add chili to fennel, and shred mint leaves and add to fennel and chili mix. Qqueeze in the juice of 1 lemon, adding olive oil to taste, plus a pinch of sea salt. Squeeze and mix the salad around (to soften the fennel as well as to dress the salad). Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, and then serve.