Thirsty (for knowledge) Thursday: 4 Swim Drills

>> Thursday, March 05, 2015

Sara McLarty, a pro triathlete and fantastic swimmer, wrote an article for about 4 swim drills that can help your weakness. Check out what she has to say:

Your problem: “I don’t move forward when I kick.”

Vertical kick: Focus on a small and quick kicking cadence that originates at your hips.
- Novice: Keep arms underwater and use a small sculling motion with your hands for added buoyancy.
– Intermediate: Lock arms at sides and do not use hands.
- Advanced: Hold hands above surface of the water.

Kick with fins: Use long, pliable rubber fins. Fins will allow you to feel the correct kicking motion and help you build muscle memory.

I've only used fins a few times, and I'm not sure I like the feeling. However, I *have* done the vertical kick drills (NEVER the advanced version - maybe I should drown try that).

Your problem: “I feel out of breath after one lap of the pool.”

Humdingers: Hum your favorite song as you swim a length of the pool. This will force you to exhale out your nose and reduce the buildup of carbon dioxide in your lungs.

Breathing pattern: Establish a pattern of breathing every second or third stroke. Don’t wait until you “need” to breathe.

When I had breathing problems as a "young" swimmer (back in 2006-2007), one of the first things a swim coach looked at was if I was exhaling underwater. It turns out I was and that my problems were elsewhere. Most of you are probably beyond this one, but it never hurts to bring it up.

Your problem: “When I try lengthening my glide and taking fewer strokes, I go slower.”

Quick turnover: Stop doing Catch-Up Drill. Instead, remove the pauses in your stroke by increasing your stroke rate, and focus on a stronger pull instead of a longer glide.

Swim Golf: Swim a 50 and add your number of strokes with the time in seconds. Try different stroke rates to achieve the lowest total number, which will determine your most efficient stroke.

OOOh, I've never heard about this idea of "swim golf." I like it. I'll have to try a few 50s with different amounts of gliding and different stroke speeds to see what works best for me.

Your problem: “My hands cross the center of my body during entry or pull.”

Stick Drill: Swim Catch-Up Drill using a 12-inch wooden dowel or PVC pipe. Keep one hand on the stick at all times in front of you, holding it at the edges to prevent crossover.

The “?”: Think of drawing a question mark as you catch and pull under your body. Slightly sweep away from your body at the beginning, sweep back in toward your body in the middle of the pull, but then push straight back to your thigh to finish the stroke.

The idea of making a "?" is good advice. I remember a long time back when people said to make an "S" underwater, but that could lead to shoulder problems because you're crossing the center line.

So try some of these drills if you know you have a major weakness in the pool. I need to work on my kick (#1) and my glide (#3). I'll report back when I've tried these.

For more "Thirsty Thursday" posts that highlight workouts, body science, and all kinds of interesting information, CLICK HERE.


Support From My Friends

>> Wednesday, March 04, 2015

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm about 90% sure I'm going to be beaten at our SHOWDOWN this weekend. I picked the wrong person to challenge. (Which maybe explains my lack of smack-talk this time.) After we agreed to race, the 2014 overall age group triathlon rankings were released. Out of over 1,700 names in the 30-34 female age group, Lisa was 84th:

She was the 4th 30-34 Minnesotan female, behind her speedy sister who just turned pro and was ranked #1, Suzie, and Bridget. (If you're from Minnesota and are reading this, you probably know these names.)

Former pro and current BFF Devon just posted about this showdown yesterday:

That "mug shot" of Lisa is from when she earned some Peace Coffee
after winning one of her 2 indoor triathlons this year.

Devon had some flattering comments on that photo of me that he uploaded (which was from our Best Friends relay at the Waconia Triathlon last year):

One of the least awkward photos of me ever.

Between now and Sunday morning, I'm doing all I can to gain a competitive edge on Lisa. Charlie needed some new pacifiers, so I got him some aerodynamic ones this past weekend with "speed holes" so that my day-to-day life can be faster:

Four days until a victor is crowned.

Related posts:
- Announcing the showdown
- Recent training
- My predictions for the race


Predicting the Outcome of the SHOWDOWN in 6 Days

>> Monday, March 02, 2015

I've been running the numbers for the big SHOWDOWN at the YWCA Indoor Triathlon in 6 days. It doesn't look good for me.

I did the MINI sprint distance a year ago (Here's my race report from that race, where Pharmie raced as well when she was 32 weeks pregnant!) Lisa (the woman I'm trying to beat so she has to watch my boys for 2 hours as I get in a workout sometime) has done 2 indoor tris at the Y already this year. She's done the MEGA sprint distance - the distance that we will be racing this weekend.

I'm much faster in the pool this year than I was last year, so I THINK I can hope to hold the same pace this year for 600 yards that I held last year for 400 yards. So that would look like this:

LAST YEAR: 6:08 for 400 yards (1:32/100 pace)
IF I HOLD THE SAME PACE THIS YEAR: 9:12 for 600 yards
1:14 - 1:29 slower than Lisa's 2 races

This year, I have no reason to say that I'll be FASTER on the bike, but last year at the MINI sprint, I noted that I was "more nonchalant on the bike." So I'm pretty sure I can hold the same pace I did last year for 8 miles over the 12 mile ride this year simply by pushing more. (But the "X-factor" here is that Lisa and I agreed to keep the resistance sent to 12, so I don't know what that does to my prediction.) Here's how the bike looks:

LAST YEAR: 13:03 for "8 mile" bike (97.88 secs / mile)
IF I HOLD THE SAME PACE THIS YEAR: 19:35 for "12 mile" bike
1:53 - 2:25 slower than Lisa's 2 races

So based on my times from last year compared to Lisa's 2 races this year, I'd expect to be about 3:07 - 3:54 behind Lisa as we come off the bike. That's a big deficit. And I know what you're saying: "But Steve, you're such a good runner. That won't be a problem for you." My strength may be running, but Lisa's strong there too. In her 2 indoor tris this year, she did the 25 lap 5K in 20:16 and 21:30. Can I beat those times? I hope so. Can I beat those times by 3:07 - 3:54? No. Even if I could beat her slowest time by 3:07, that's still an 18:23 5K. I can't do that coming off the bike.

In the spirit of fairness and complete transparency, here's what I'm hoping for at the race this weekend: I want to be within 2 laps of Lisa when I hop off the bike. At 6:00 pace (I'm not SAYING I can do 6:00 pace), 2 laps on the 200 meter track is 90 seconds. I think I can make that much up on Lisa. If it's 3 or 4 laps, I'll be depressed. If it's 5 laps, I'll probably just lay down and cry. The goal is to hit the track within 2 laps of Lisa.

Oh, and in related news, guess who's announcing the race?...

CLICK HERE if you don't know about this showdown or our wager. Sunday's the day. Wish me luck.


Good Week of Workouts Leading up to Next Weekend's Showdown

>> Saturday, February 28, 2015

The last 10 days have been productive. I've been doing a little less strength work and a little more swim / bike / run:

• WEDNESDAY, FEB 18: 51 mins on the trainer, then 4x400 in the pool. Not a hard spin. Then 4x400 (with about a minute rest) later in the morning in the pool averaging 6:01.25 (last time I did that workout, I barely dropped below 6s, but this is the 2nd faster I've done it).

• THURSDAY, FEB 19: moderate 6.33 mile run in 45:51. It was below 0. I just ran a bit. No biggie.

• FRIDAY, FEB 20: 45x50 in the pool. I like this workout: it's broken up into sets of five 50s with different goals. (CLICK HERE for the workout details.) I did 9 sets of 5, and I had to take a longer break between #3 and #4 because one of the babysitters at the Y was standing in front of me with Charlie who had a big poopy diaper. I changed him next to the pool, handed him back off, and went on the way with my 50s.

• SATURDAY: 40 mins of Spinervals on the trainer. After having not touched my bike since my last race in September, I've now done 6 Spinerval workouts in the last 4 weeks. Not stellar, but it's something.

• SUNDAY: 6.4 moderate miles on the treadmill.

• MONDAY: 2600 yards in the pool. It was lots of 100s with a total of 800 of pulling as well. (First seen in a post here 5 years ago.)

• TUESDAY: 7 mile run with the middle 3.5 at a descending tempo pace. I didn't want to kill myself running too hard, but I wanted to try something a bit harder. My "fast" miles were 6:41, 6:35, 6:16, and then a final half mile of 2:49. (It was windy, and the first mile was into the wind, and the last half mile was helped by being pushed by the wind.)

• WEDNESDAY: 50 mins of Spinervals on the trainer, and a PR swim in the pool. My legs were heavy late morning in the pool from my early morning sprints on the trainer (and some 90 sec efforts), but I still set a personal best in my 3x500 workout. I looked back over a few of these 3x500 workouts over the last 2 years, and it really seems to be my barometer for my overall fitness. Here are some of my average 500s from that workout:

March 2013: 7:53.33 (noted it was "fastest 500s in a long time" in my training log)
June 2013: 8:01.33 (not swimming much)
July 2013: 7:48.67
Sept 2013: 7:54.33 (right after sacrum/hip injury)
Dec 2013: 7:58.00
May 2014: 8:16.66 (yikes - a month after sprained ankle)
June 2014: 7:52.33
Aug 2014: 7:59.00
Oct 2014: 8:09.00 (REALLY eased up on the swimming after tri season)
Feb 2015: 7:44.05 (after hitting the pool a lot for 4 months)

That last "Feb 2015" time was from 3 weeks ago. When I did it this time, I had a 7:32.05 average!! Yeah, really. I descended them too, with my final one being just under 7:27. Just 12 months ago at my last swim meet, I did a 500 free in 7:26.08, and this past week, my final 500 of 3 was just about that speed. Wow. Nice.

• THURSDAY: 2x2 mile intervals in sub-0 weather. I know - I just did a harder run 2 days before. But my hip/sacrum/ankle were all doing fine, so I thought I'd have one last hard push before the race next weekend. 2-mile intervals were a good idea: I still get to run hard, but it's not as fast as 1-mile intervals. (They're a good "distance" runner interval, good for 10K through 10-mile training. I'm hoping they help for my sprint tri training too.)

My first interval was 11:58 (6:00, 5:58), and my second interval was 11:53 (6:00, 5:53). Not bad for my first intervals in about 5 months. I was plenty warm on my slower cool-down from all the blood flowing, but I still had a bit of frozen ice on my stubble when I got into the house post-run:

• FRIDAY: 14x100 in the pool. I had planned on 16x100, but I was feeling tired (maybe from a good week of training) and my times weren't great. So during #10, I told myself I'd just do 4 more. I averaged 1:25.39/100, and closed out the month with 19,400 yards.

These last 4 big months of me "recommitting" myself to swimming have yielded a total of 80,500 yards! That's more than double of what I swam all of 2012! That's also more than my yearly total from 4 out of the last 7 years!

Stop back soon for my predictions on the indoor triathlon SHOWDOWN happening next weekend! Hint: it doesn't look good for me. Really.


Friday Funny 881: Instructions for the Game of Life

>> Friday, February 27, 2015

I'm stuck on #10 right now. Probably will be for a while.

Stop by for funny stuff posted all week long. Happy weekend! (I'll maybe see you at my art exhibition tomorrow night!)


Friday Funny 880: What Your Food Says About You

Lots more funny things posted all week long on!


Friday Funny 879: Workout Without Exercising

Here are 10 good tips on how to LOOK like you're working out at the gym without actually exercising:

Check out more funny things posted all day long on

p.s. I've haven't mentioned anything about this here, but I'm in a exhibition that's opening tomorrow night. The show was the idea of CVA Action, a non-profit (that I'm the vice president of) that is working to keep the community of artists together from the recently closed College of Visual Arts. It's a juried show, so I wasn't just let in because I'm the vice president. We'll be hosting an opening reception tomorrow along with an after party at a wine bar right next door. If you're a local and want to stop into downtown Minneapolis near Sex World tomorrow night, then check out some details on my Photo Blog. I'd love to see you there!


Friday Funny 878: Engineering Fails

"This is what it says on the blueprints."

"That makes no sense."

"Not our job."

Lots more funny things posted all week long on


Thirsty (for knowledge) Thursday: Butt and Lower Back Exercise

>> Thursday, February 26, 2015 recently showed an exercise that I need to start doing. It's called a "Bird Dog," and it's for stabilizing the muscles around the hips and lower back, "thus reducing the risk of injury to those areas" as it says on their site.

Check out this short video to help your hips and lower back:

Direct link:

For more "Thirsty Thursday" posts that highlight workouts, body science, and all kinds of interesting information, CLICK HERE.


Vote for Steve's "Coolest Bike in Triathlon!"

>> Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I submitted a photo to a Triathlete Mag contest a number of weeks ago and forgot about it. Then I got an email yesterday saying I was in the "top 50." (Probably out of about 52 entries.) Now the public needs to vote me into the top 10 to get into the next round!

Here's the link to the top 50 "Coolest Bikes in Triathlon" contest. In the 52 pages of bikes, I'm way back on page 47. But you don't even have to scroll through to find me - you can just vote for "Steve S" at the bottom of this link. Here's what page 47 looks like:

If you can't read the text, it says: "I have a seven-year-old gold Specialized named 'Goldilocks.' A bike mechanic friend offered to redo my bar tape a few years ago, and he promised to make it 'real nice.' Goldilocks came back with four different colored bars: pink, yellow, orange and sea-foam green. She seems to clash horribly with bright tri shorts, but no one seams to mind - I've been racing that way now for years."

Here's a bigger pic for your ocular enjoyment:

Top: 2014 Trinona TT and 2014 Lake Marion Tri.
Bottom: Waseca Triathlon (2012 or 2013?) and 2013 Lake Marion Tri.

So CLICK HERE and cast your vote for STEVE S!! And big thanks to Sean "Easy" Pease from Gear West Bike and Tri for making Goldilocks "real nice."


New "Friendly" Showdown!

>> Monday, February 23, 2015

I recently called out a friend to race. You might remember seeing this blurry photo of Lisa at the 24 Hour Relay for Aaron:

Over those 24 hours and 194 miles (total) around the track, she had the 3 fastest female mile splits: 6:18, 6:22, and 6:27. She's fast.

She's been doing the YWCA Indoor Triathlon "series" this winter, and she's been winning all of them. In fact, she was 3rd overall and 2nd overall in her first 2 this winter. She cranks out the 600 yard swim in sub-8:00 (which I could NEVER do), puts down a speedy split on a spin bike, and then runs a 5K on the track between 20 and 21 minutes. Beast.

So, I figured I'd politely challenge her to the next race on March 8:

Well, it turns out she has a big half marathon coming up the week after the indoor tri, so she told me she couldn't race me. Dang.

But then when I got out of class, I saw these 2 text message from BFF Devon just 11 minutes apart:

I logged back into Facebook to see what he meant. This is what had happened:

We set some rules (well, 1 rule for the bike), had the race director (Nicole) chime in and relieve Lisa of her volunteering responsibilities, and we decided to race:

As Lisa's final comment mentions, we will spin with the bikes set at a resistance of 12 (on a 0-24 scale I believe). The bikes just count revolutions as "distance," so most people just set it super low and spin their brains out at like 120-150 RPM. We'll tone that down a little to keep from blowing out our legs and to make it a *little* more like actual cycling.

Then other people started weighing in, and someone mentioned a wager (not seen in these comments):

I really had no idea for a wager - I was just in it for the race. But then Lisa's sister had a great idea for the 2 of us (who each have 2 kids):


I suppose the "smack talk" started yesterday when I saw Lisa's sister swim at a Masters meet. I Instagrammed this photo:

"Took the boys down the street to creep on @hlendway at the
Masters meet at St Thomas. Henry didn't want to leave."

We never got to talk to Heather, but she told me via Instagram that we just missed Lisa and her kids. I commented back "Shucks. Would have been nice to have the kids meet before she has to come over to babysit my boys."

I'll be polite. But there might be smack talk. Might.

Stop by the Midtown YWCA of Minneapolis on March 8th to see the race. Better yet, click here to register as a volunteer as you watch the race unfold. High stakes, people. High stakes.


Big Breakthrough in Running (Only in Japan)

>> Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Tokyo Marathon was earlier today. And luckily, this was invented in time:

"A Japanese food manufacturer has invented a wearable tomato dispenser for runners at the 2015 Tokyo marathon. The device allows runners to consume up to seven tomatoes on the go, all at the click of a button. Designers from Kagome, a tomato-based food manufacturer, says they wanted to find a way to incorporate tomatoes into running."

It's about time.



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