In the meantime, I've been continuing to go to Dr. Degis for physical therapy. As I wrote last week, he has shifted the focus of my PT from my hamstring to my piriformis. Each session consists of about 20-25 minutes of using the ultrasound machine to deeply penetrate the muscle with soundwaves, and about 20-25 minutes of active release / stretching that, I think, breaks down the scar tissue in the pirformis so that new muscle can grow.
Unlike the electrical stimulation machine that I've used in the past, which sent shocking electrical pulses into my butt, the ultrasound machine is barely detectable, except for gel that has to be rubbed everywhere so it glides more easily. But the next day, I always feel an immense achiness right in the area where the ultrasound was applied, which makes me feel like it's working. Looking back, I think it may have been the ultrasound, and not so much the running I did at the 2x2 relay, that put me in such pain and made me limp last Friday. But I'm still taking some time off from running for awhile.
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Sunday I went with a bunch of the Front Runners Multisport athletes to Avon-by-the-Sea in the Jersey Shore to do the Avon Ocean Mile Swim. It was my first ocean swim since the Metroman Triathlon last year (where I came in second to last in the swim after I freaked out and then got off course). And I was determined to confront my fears of ocean swimming at this race.
I knew I could do it. The fact that I did the two-mile Hudson River Swim last month gave me the confidence that I needed. But the day before the race, Jeff, Chris and I went to check out the water. The waves were HUGE! Even bigger than they were at Metroman last year. There was NO WAY that I was going to get into that water! Jeff and Chris immediately went into the water, dove through the six or eight foot high waves, and started swimming around having fun. I couldn't even get past the first wave; it just looked too scary. I didn't know how I was going to do the race the next morning.
Chris then came back out of the water, grabbed my hand, and helped me get in. I started out with the smallest waves, putting my head under the water and letting the crest of the wave go right past me. After a few more waves went over me, I was feeling somewhat comfortable, tried to calm down, and got myself into a good mindset for the race the next morning.
Sunday morning came, and the waves did not get any smaller. When we arrived at the start, I could see that pretty much the entire field looked like they were serious swimmers. Not only that, but practically NO ONE was wearing a wetsuit. Maybe five or ten people out of 170ish swimmers. There were about 25 of us Front Runners there, and even most of the Front Runners decided not to wear a wetsuit. Granted, the water was about 75 degrees, but I couldn't imagine doing an open water swim, particularly in tides as big as they were that day, without the added buoyancy. Even with my wetsuit, I was nervous, and was seriously considering not doing the swim at all.
Rachel talked me into doing it, though. She made me realized that a one-mile swim was not particularly long compared some of our workouts, that I was properly trained and ready to do this swim, and that the nerves were just in my head. So I decided to go for it.
I made a point of testing out the water before the race--putting my head in it, feeling the temperature, getting comfortable with diving through the waves. I think doing this really helped me out.
When the starting horn sounded, I just went out. I dove through the waves and I swam. No freaking out whatsoever. I actually was quite calm throughout the whole swim. Which isn't to say I was exactly comfortable. Even swimming way out into the ocean past the tides, the ocean swells were still pretty intense. And each time I felt myself immediately lifted up and falling down, I felt my heart in my throat. But I just concentrated on my stroke as best as I could and kept going.
Unlike the other open water swims that I've done, this one was only marked by one buoy, at the turnaround point. So for half a mile, I had no idea if I was going straight or zigzagging all over the place. People were swimming across me both left and right, and the buoy was so far off you couldn't even see it for most of the swim.
There was a moment, though, when I got a little nervous. I was maybe 3/4 of the way to the turnaround, when the lead swimmers were on their way back. As they were all coming towards me, en masse and really fast, I was bracing myself for a head-on collision. But luckily, they were spread out wide enough that I didn't run into them. And as they were passing me, I saw the sole buoy floating in the water not too far from me, and it gave me some confidence to know that I was almost halfway done.
After I turned around at the buoy, though, I think the swim got a little bit more difficult. Since the waves were coming from my right and I breathe from my right side, I felt several times that I was going to get flipped over in the water. And by this time, my wetsuit was badly chaffing the back of my neck, so I felt I had to adjust it every few strokes. And the sun was in my eye. And all the thrashing around was starting to make me feel a little nauseas (I was really glad I didn't have breakfast that morning). And I was just plain tired. I think the waves were pushing me to go towards the shore, because at one point a lifeguard floating in the water (there were many of them, which made me feel very safe) had to point me and some others in the right direction.
But I finally finished, in about 37 minutes, in 135th place (out of around 170). Not particularly fast, but not the slowest. And I did it without freaking out, so I was very pleased.
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This weekend I'm doing the Metroman Triathlon in Asbury Park. I did it last year, and had pretty much a disastrous swim. So I decided I had to do it again this year to redeem myself. Unfortunately, because of my continuing butt injury, I've decided only to do the swim and the bike, and Anthony is going to do the run for me. Still, I'm excited to have a chance on improving on my swim. I wrote a race report last year before I started this blog. It's pasted below for your reading pleasure (along with a picture of me exiting the water, delirious):
I completed the Metroman Triathlon in Asbury Park, NJ this weekend with some FRNY/Tritons friends. Onesimo, Chris and I did the Intermediate distance (1500m swim, 21.08 mile bike, 5.8 mile run). Ryan and Jeff and did the Sprint distance (500m swim, 10.54 mile bike, 2.9 mile run). It was Chris and Jeff's first Triathlon, and me and Ryan's first ocean swim. Joe Lim came to cheer us on and take pictures.
The swim had a beach start. And unlike Ryan and Jeff, I wasn't smart enough to go into the water beforehand to test it out. Big Mistake. When they sounded the start and I ran into the water, I pretty much immediately started to freak out from the cooooold water, the rough waves, the saltiness and the low visibility. Luckily I had waited for most of the people in my wave to go before me so I avoided getting trampled. But still, I couldn’t bear to put my face into the water. I distinctly remembered thinking that Les Jones had said to dive UNDER the waves, not over them…but as the waves kept crashing into me, it was just too scary to dive into them. As a result, I kept getting pushed back to shore and fighting harder to go out.
And despite all that we’ve learned about technique in the swim clinics, I pretty much doggy paddled all the way out to the first buoy about 75 meters away from shore, where we turned left. Once I passed that buoy, I decided that there was no way I would be able to doggy paddle for the whole mile, so made myself put my face in the water, just a little bit at a time. For the next quarter mile or so, I alternated between swimming a few strokes of freestyle, and a few of breast stroke / doggy paddle / back stroke. I finally started to settle into my stroke somewhere around .3 miles, but I felt I had a really hard time sighting, and was zigzagging all over the place. They said were five total buoys that marked the course (with a turnaround at the last one), but I somehow lost track of them.
Around .4 miles was another episode of swim panic. The swimmers in my wave had already turned around and were coming directly at me. The swimmers in the wave after me had caught up and were coming directly at me. I would lift up my head and see swimmers in all directions. To make matters worse, the two major landmarks on the Asbury Park boardwalk are both similar-looking huge brick structures with green trim, which made me confused about which direction I was going in.
Somehow I made it to the turnaround point. The swim back occurred mostly without incident, until I reached the fourth buoy. We were supposed to turn right (back towards the shore) at the fifth buoy. Because most of the swimmers had already passed me, I didn’t really have anyone to follow. So I turned at what I thought was the fifth buoy. It turned out I was one buoy too early. After several minutes of swimming towards the shore, a swim marshal on a kayak came up to me and asked if I was ok. My response was something like, “Um, yeah, the finish is that way, right?” His response, “Um, well, No…you made a hard right at the fourth buoy. There’s one buoy left.” I looked to where he was indicating, and I saw that the buoy I skipped might as well have been a million miles away. Disappointed, but still determined to finish, I turned around and swam to the buoy and then to the shore.
The bike and run were less eventful, except that I narrowly missed crashing my bike into a flock of Canadian geese.
My final time for the 1 mile swim was 45:47…about six minutes slower than I had done the Hudson River 1.3 mile swim in May. Out of 190 people who did the Intermediate Distance swim, I came in 189th. But I was glad I finished, and I’m looking forward to my next ocean swim (August 23rd in Long Branch, NJ). I was able to make up some time during the bike and run, where I ended up passing 24 people to finish in 2:43:35 (165th place). My next Tri is West Point, on August 16. Fortunately, the swim is in a lake.