Jumping back into the pool for a 200 BK and 400 IM after a 6 year hiatus

Upon getting back from an adventurous rendezvous spent at the crown jewels centered in the middle of the mighty Pacific, I was feeling healthy like a tiger in his prime, i.e., ready for some rigorous exercise.  With three weeks of prep time Ryan and I decided to sign up for the the Boise Y Swim Team’s Thanksgiving Invitational meet.  At the time we decided to do the meet I had pretty low expectations and was just excited about swimming something besides the open water mile (which I love).  We just signed up for Saturday and my two best events from college happened to be on the agenda.  The 200 backstroke and ,gulp, the 400 IM.  The 400 IM is the event that requires the most training and due diligence for a successful race.  You’ve got to have endurance, strength, speed, a strong kick, great turns and each of these in all four stroke disciplines.  I do like to do a lot of IM training but it is much less than it used to be.  But not only do you need to do the IM training, you need to do main sets that are focused on just butterfly, or backstroke, or breaststroke.  Training for the 400 IM is much like being a triathlete, there are a lot of variables and training can get complex in a hurry.  And it is a wonderful challenge, there is always something you can work on to make improvements. 

I swam 4 and maybe 5 times a week to get ready, rarely going longer than an hour or more than 3000 yards.  My backstroke was a bit of a worry starting out the training.  I just didn’t swim it much anymore unless it was part of an IM set.  Plus, my splits were way off what they used to be.  By the end of the three weeks, however, I had found a rhythm and improved my splits, giving me confidence that I could pull off an OK swim. 
I wanted to break 2:05 in the 200 yard Backstroke and be as close to 4:20 in the 400 IM. 

Back splits:

    Name                           Age       Team                             Finals       
  1 EVERETT, KEVIN R          31 BOISE Y                        2:02.73 ZONE  
       28.82  1:00.29  1:32.77  2:02.73    

  2 MCCAN, TRAVIS S           18 BOISE Y                        2:02.86 ZONE  
       28.90  1:00.37  1:32.23  2:02.86                                   

I saved up too much on that 3rd 50, but as rusty as I am for doing 200’s I was real happy with this swim.  With some more speed work I think I can break 2:00 pretty easy.


The 400 IM:

    Name                               Age          Team                             Finals       
1 EVERETT, KEVIN R          31 BOISE Y                        4:27.39 ZONE  
       27.62    59.55  1:34.72  2:08.60  2:48.06  3:26.93  3:58.31  4:27.39
2 GRIFFEL, ETHAN E          15 IFY                                 4:28.08 ZONE  
       28.41  1:01.32  1:36.08  2:09.91  2:49.27  3:30.58  3:59.87  4:28.08
1 MCCAN, DOUG D             14 BOISE Y                        4:28.21 ZONE  
       28.01    59.88  1:36.83  2:12.49  2:49.36  3:26.92  3:58.99  4:28.21
3 MCCAN, TRAVIS S           18 BOISE Y                         4:34.19 ZONE  
       28.29  1:00.99  1:37.40  2:12.48  2:52.58  3:32.34  4:04.15  4:34.19
4 STRATTON, RYAN E          29 BOISE Y                        4:36.05 ZONE  
       29.33  1:01.65  1:38.50  2:15.33  2:52.69  3:31.43  4:05.34  4:36.05

I was hoping to be out a couple seconds faster in the fly, part of it was a poor dive, but it was mostly due to lack of speed work.  The back split was really bad, spent too much time recovering from a 100 fly that should not have been so taxing.  And the breast split…well, it’s slow but I can’t complain there.  All in all, it went pretty well for being so early (in the training season) and the quick 3 weeks to prepare.

The 400 IM was painful but I enjoyed it and it reminded me how much fun this event can be.  I am now eager to break 2:00 in the backstorke and get into the low teens in the IM thru some smart training.  All the while, this will help speed me up when it comes time for triathlon season.  And for me, it is a fun way to train.  .

The importance of rest and recovery


Overtraining: Avoid the Dangers of Pushing Too Hard

If you are an endurance athlete, you’ve probably had days where your legs feel dead, your heart rate is stuck in low gear and you just can’t seem to break free of the constraints of fatigue. When these symptoms persist, athletes and coaches alike start to wonder if they’re overtraining.

Whether you’re a journeyman competitor striving for a personal best in your next marathon or triathlon, or an elite athlete gearing up for a shot at the Olympics or world championships, prolonged periods of persistent fatigue undermine your ability to train and compete. These symptoms are frustrating for any athlete. For the elite or professional athlete, the resulting inconsistent or poor performances can have dire, even career-threatening, consequences including loss of coveted sponsorships and failure to be selected for an important competition.

The Basics of Overtraining Syndrome
Overtraining syndrome is a condition that follows a sustained period of excessive exercise training. The most obvious symptoms are a persistent sense of fatigue that you just can’t shake and poor athletic performance despite the fact that you are continuing to train. Other noticeable physiological changes associated with the syndrome include difficulty performing high-intensity exercises and a drop in your maximum heart rate. Overtraining is also characterized by mood changes – you are more likely to feel irritable, depressed or lethargic. Your appetite may wane, your muscles seem like they are chronically sore and the quality of your sleep can decline. As if this isn’t enough, over-trained athletes experience more frequent illnesses, especially upper respiratory tract infections.

During a training cycle, athletes commonly intensify their training. This increase in training load provides the impetus to get stronger, faster or to improve endurance. A defined period of intense training combined with appropriate periods of recovery can produce a super compensation effect where athletic performance is enhanced.

Overtraining syndrome occurs when your body is no longer able to adjust to the cumulative fatigue, which results from day after day of intense exercise training without sufficient rest to balance it out. Not surprisingly, you won’t find a cure for the condition at the corner drugstore. Instead, recovery from the debilitating effects of overtraining syndrome can require months of complete rest or greatly reduced training.

Overreaching is a term sports medicine specialists use to describe a condition with similar, yet less severe symptoms. Researchers can induce a state of overreaching after 10 days to 4 weeks of intense training, and it can usually be resolved within days or weeks of instituting complete rest.

Contributing Factors
The precipitating factor for both overreaching and overtraining is a large and abrupt increase in training load. The change in load can be an increase in training volume and/or training intensity. For example, distance runners who suddenly doubled their training volume experienced muscle soreness, fatigue and a 7% decline in athletic performance. In the same study, runners who maintained their training volume but gradually increased intensity did not experience these symptoms. Among elite swimmers already training at a high intensity, progressively increasing training volume by 10% per week for 4 weeks produced sleep disturbances, fatigue and a fall-off in athletic performance in a third of the athletes.

Thus, it appears that athletes already training at high intensity can’t tolerate sudden increases in training volume for more than a few days without exhibiting signs of overreaching. For ethical reasons scientists aren’t able to extend these studies beyond a few weeks, but it is logical to assume that maintaining these types of arduous training regimens without adequate rest is likely to lead to the more serious overtraining syndrome.

Other precipitating factors include a heavy competition schedule, a monotonous training program and lack of periodization or planned recovery during training. Periodization is the process of varying a training program at regular time intervals to try to achieve optimal improvements in physical performance. An effective periodization program includes recovery periods to allow the body to recover from and adapt to the demands of training.

Interestingly, stress appears to be another important contributor to overtraining syndrome, and it isn’t necessarily stress related to training. Athletes experience stress from a number of sources including jobs, school, relationships, finances and time management. Regardless of the source of your stress, if you’re feeling it, it can be a contributor.

Are You at Risk?
Your risk of developing overtraining syndrome seems to vary based on the sport you are involved in. Sports like swimming, triathlon, road cycling and rowing have claimed their fair share of victims, but most “at-risk sports” are those endurance sports that involve frequent bouts of high-volume, intense training. If you are busting your tail for 4-6 hours every day, 6 days a week for months on end without appreciable time off, you are at risk. Also, overtraining and overreaching don’t seem to discriminate. Virtually any athlete exposed to an overly rigorous training regimen long enough can eventually exhibit symptoms. Distance runners are also susceptible, but they seem to be less affected. This may be because running is a full weight-bearing exercise and risk of musculoskeletal injury limits training volume and intensity.

How to Avoid Overtraining and Overreaching
Keep a daily training log and record the details of your training such as distance/duration, intensity and performance times. Just as important, also record your perceptions of how you are feeling and how you are adapting to training. Positive comments like ‘feeling strong’, or negative ones like ‘heavy legs’, or ‘feeling flat’ are important to record. Also, record your fatigue levels, how you are sleeping, your level of muscle soreness, and how stressed you’re feeling. Your log will serve as an ongoing record of key measures related to overtraining syndrome. Reviewing the daily logs regularly can help identify a brewing case of overreaching or overtraining before it takes hold.

Work with a qualified coach to develop a carefully planned training program and review your daily training logs with your coach. The goal here is to gauge how you are adapting to training over both the short and long term and to identify early on any indications of overtraining.

Utilize periodization training to program recovery days into your training cycles. A good rule of thumb is to make sure that in any seven-day training period, two days are rest days. Exactly when and how to rest is going to vary from one athlete to the next. Full recovery may require complete rest with little or no activity. Or, perhaps one of the rest days can involve riding a stationary bike at a low level of difficulty. Experiment with different recovery approaches to see what works best for you. A couple of other general resting rules to consider: follow a couple of days of vigorous training with a rest day, and vary the intensity or difficulty of your workouts. Instead of exhausting yourself every time you workout, follow a day or two of strenuous exercise with an easier workout day. Finally, avoid the obvious causes of overtraining such as sudden increases in training load or competitions that occur to frequently.

“Is It My Diet?”
Athletes often look to their diets as the cause of their fatigue or fall-off in athletic performance, and for good reason. What you eat and drink is extremely important for athletic performance. But if you are on track to develop overreaching or overtraining syndrome because of an imbalance between training load and recovery, sports nutrition won’t prevent the impending train wreck. Proper diet and balanced training go hand in hand.

You can make sure that your diet is working for you, instead of against you, by paying attention to what you eat and drink before, during and after training and competitions. Dehydration and suboptimal consumption of carbs can definitely compromise athletic performance. So don’t let these factors hold you back or increase your risk of overtraining syndrome.

For information on endurance sports nutrition, check out Optimal Strategies for the Three Phases of Endurance Training from PowerBar. The information covers what to do before, during and after exercise in terms of hydration, muscle fueling and recovery. The information is all based on recommendations from the American College of Sports Medicine, and it’s very practical and easy to apply.

If you want to go to a level deeper, PowerBar has a powerful yet easy-to-use online tool to give athletes individualized sports nutrition information needed for endurance training and events. Check out PowerBar’s Event Nutrition Planner. The Planner will instruct you on a simple method for determining your own individual sweat rate. In addition, based on your specific event, you will instantly get an individualized nutrition and hydration plan for Daily Training and for your Event Day. Topics covered include everything needed before, during and after exercise to help you achieve your best, including:

  • Pre-hydrating and checking urine color
  • Pre-exercise meal and snack
  • Individualized hydration plan based on your own sweat rate
  • Target hydration zone
  • Individualized performance-boosting fueling plan based on your own body weight
  • PowerBar product combinations individualized to your own hydration and carbohydrate needs during exercise
  • Muscle recovery strategy and rehydration plan after exercise.

Putting It All Together
Proper training, adequate rest and recovery, and a strategic approach to sports nutrition are all crucial to achieving your personal best. They work together. PowerBar provides the best of sports nutrition. You supply the sweat and hard work. Proper rest is the window of opportunity that enables these two ingredients to help you achieve your best..

A rumble in the jungle


I woke up suddenly and knew that something wasn’t right.  It seemed like I had just fallen back to sleep after going to the bathroom and I remember noticing some ominous looking storm clouds on the early morning horizon.  I rolled over to my stomach and lifted up the blinds to peer outside and witness a mighty Pacific storm brewing.  To my surprise, it was very calm outside, nothing more than a gloomy, overcast morning on Maui.  It was perfect for sleeping in on a Sunday morning but I was startled and wide awake and trying to figure out what strange things were happening in this house.


It was our 2nd morning ever on Maui and everything I was experiencing in the dull haze of just waking up seemed to suggest that there were some very strong winds outside.  What else would explain the low rumble and the shaking bed?  Wow, wait a minute, the bed is really shaking, matter of fact the whole house is moving.  And that sound… the sound of the ground and the house and the neighbors house and the street all shaking at once.  By this time Hortense was up and we looked at ourselves with a measure of focus and confusion.  Then, it materialized in my head – earthquake! 

It was my first one and considering the new place and the early morning wake up call I was fortunate to realize, while it was still happening.  It was never a sense of fear but one of awe; the immense power to feel this kind of reverb coming from the ground, to feel the waves and know that all the dirt around you is vibrating, the connection you feel with mother earth as you look around but really only focus on the jostling you feel coming from deep underneath you.  All this, yet a profound sense of peace and serenity as I thought how small I am but still apart of this immense energy all around me.  Then, it was over.  I yearned for more.  To be wide awake with eyes wide open and ears ready to pick up the slightest tremor but most importantly ready to feel; as it is those deep vibrations coming from the earth that astound the most.  I wanted to experience it all again with my senses on full alert.  Strange as it may seem, I was left wanting.  It was a short but long 20 seconds – long while it was happening, short when it was all said and done.  When it was over, one couldn’t help but notice the calm.  It was quiet, the power was off and you were left with thoughts of how to process what just happened.  Your senses were on full alert but there wasn’t anything out there to pick up other than the low ring of nothing. 
We did have an after shock and it was enough to say, “ohh…yeap, it’s happening again”  But then it quickly dissipated and it was over.  I knew for the first time what it meant to feel the ground shake and with this new insight I couldn’t help but wonder what the ancients thought of such things.  For me, I was able to scrutinize this as an earthquake and know that they happen fairly regularly around the globe and they are caused from tectonic plates moving and volcanic eruptions, etc.  This knowledge changed my perception from how, what, and why this is happening to simply just experiencing it for what it is.  But even for me it gave me the premonition that the earth is alive.  For the ancients if must have been a profound sense of being apart of something much larger.  Of believing their god or gods were dancing or angry depending on the outcome. 
It is one of those moments in life were your mind and body merge into a heightened state of awareness.  The endorphin rush seemed to excite the locals for the remainder of our trip; a big topic of discussion.  It is that heightened state of awareness that I think we all seek out through different means.  For me, I seek this state and sometimes achieve it by swimming, or biking, or running (surfing too) for long periods of time.  Sometimes your mind is able to put aside all the usual daily thoughts and simply focus on seemingly nothing and everything to do with your task all at once.  Where your body and mind merge to an elevated level and the task at hand becomes beautiful and tranquil and your mind is saying, ‘thank you’ because it is invigorated.  You’re alive, you’re living and you are experiencing what it means right now.    



We had Black Sand Beach all to ourselves (green photo above).  This sunrise photo from Koki Beach with Alau Island (just down the road from Hana) was taken around the start time of the Ironman World Championship 2006. Looking east towards the Big Island the swimmers are just across the Alenuihaha Channel churning it up.  It was a beautiful morning with some warm rain.  I slept on Koki beach that night and a sneaker wave soaked me in the middle of the night, scary.  Then, just before sunrise a steady rain woke me up early.  I’m glad it did because, otherwise, I may have slept through this awesome sunrise. 

The rest of the Hawaii photos:

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