Floating in the ocean

This morning me and my dad made our way out to Central Coast Kayaks in Shell Beach. We signed ourselves up for a 2-3 hour guided tour which cost $70 bucks a head and included kayaks & equipment, wetsuits, booties, etc. We lucked out and got the guide all to ourselves; in summer they run up to 10 people at a time.

We walked down to the beach from the shop and they had our kayaks waiting in the sand. The guide gave us a quick lesson on paddling and how to get back in the kayak if we were to fall out. We launched our boats into the surf and paddled out into the kelp forest. The kelp was really thick in parts and there were all kinds of animals floating around. We saw all kinds of birds, pelicans, seals, and sea otters. It was very cool.

The tour we chose was the “cave tour.” The coast in Shell Beach is full of all kinds of interesting caves and geologic formations. We paddled through one of the more open caves without any incident. Our second cave didn’t go quite as well. My dad we first and almost made it through but the surf had other ideas. A pretty strong set started pounding through the cave and bouncing dad’s kayak off the back wall. He fell off and the guide went in to help him. The guide did ok until his kayak t-boned the side of the cave and he fell out of his kayak. Eventually they both pulled themselves and their kayaks to shallower water and got back in. Dad promptly fell back out. We cumulatively decided that paddling through caves is an awful idea. The ocean was churning a little more than we had expected and we skipped going in the rest of the caves.

Up to this point I was still pretty dry. We made a tight turn around one of the bigger rocks out there and I got tossed into a rock and got dumped by my kayak. The shock of the cold water was amazing. It knocked the breath right out of me. I swam the kayak away from the rocks and when there was a break in the set I got myself back into the kayak.

After we all had taken an unplanned swim we paddled further from shore where the water was calmer. We made our way down the coast for a while and then paddled back to the beach that we launched from.

I had a lot of fun and hopefully I can get out there and do it again some time soon. Kayaking is excellent cross training for swimming, it uses a lot of the same muscles. Central Coast Kayaks is a good little operation and I definitely recommend checking them out. The tour guide took pictures while we were out and I put some of the good ones into this blog post. I had a waterproof disposable camera with me too and I’ll post some pictures from that if I got any good ones. (**Update: you can see the rest of my pictures here)

at the shop before we took off for the ocean

paddling out

the kelp was really thick near the shore

turning into a swell

me up front, my dad in the back


I think that seal was mean mugging me

our successful cave passage

I could have floated around out there all day

happy to have made it out alive!

Anyone interested? I’ve been looking to hook up with a group that swims in the ocean locally with no luck. There used to be what looks to have been a pretty active group out here up until 2003. There was even a 6+ mile pier to pier Masters sanctioned swim from Pismo to Avila for a few years. If there’s still a part of that group out there I’d like to find it. Otherwise I have an interest in getting a new group put together.

If you know of a currently active group or would have an interest in forming one please contact me at rob@robaquatics.com -Thanks!

**UPDATE: I found them! Sundays at 11 on Avila Beach. I set up a website for the group at SwimAvila.com with more info.

I realize it’s still a little more than 2 months away, but where are you going to stay is a pretty good question to be asking yourself right now. Some area hotels are starting to sell out, especially the ones that have a shuttle to the pool. I finally made my reservations for USMS Nationals today. I looked at the available hotels a while ago and figured I could wait awhile… I checked again today and my first choice of hotel had sold out so I realized that I needed to get my name on a room in a hurry!

You can see a list of hotels near the pool and which hotels are offering shuttle service here.

As it stands right now I am swimming Friday and Saturday for sure. If I hit some q-times I might find some events to keep me around on Sunday. I do want to swim the 1 mile open water event on Monday but I don’t know if I can justify that much time and money to hang out in Fresno.

Find more info on the USMS 2009 Short Course Yards National Championships here

The most obvious problem with my swimming to anyone paying attention is my head position. I look dead ahead when I swim instead of keeping my head down and eyes on the bottom. When I swam at the Belmont Pool in Long Beach everyone was complaining about the weird “T” on far turn… I never even saw them!

Tonight I spent a lot of time trying to get used to swimming with my head in the correct position. It’s really awkward for me. I feel lost when I can’t see where I am going. Plus my body moves a little differently, it kinda feels like I’m fishtailing. I did have a few moments of brilliance where it was dead on and I could feel why keeping my head down is the right thing to do. When I got it right I felt smooth and crisp, now I need to work on repeating that sensation for more than 5 yards at a time!

Here’s tonight’s workout:

Warm Up
400 free
100 kick
400 free
100 kick

10 x 50 IM Order
100 Kick

5 x 100 IM

200 cool down

2300 yards total

I love getting stuff in the mail… and today was a good day for that! First up, as you can see in the picture above, I got my suave United States Swimming Foundation Towel. Very Cool. It’s a super nice towel and you can get yourself one by making a $100 donation to the USA Swimming Foundation. If you’re looking for for an opportunity to be philanthropic check it out, you can make a donation here

My other exciting package of the day was my TYR Tracer Light!!! I was surprised at the texture of the suit’s material. It’s hard to explain. It’s not a silky smooth type of fabric like my other speedsuit, it’s got a dry, rough type of feel to it. I was worried that it wasn’t stretchy but it does have some give.

Once I finally got home I decided to try and wriggle myself into my fancy new suit just to see what would happen. Getting my feet in and getting the suit up towards my knees was way easier than expected… that’s about where the easier than expected portion ended. Getting the suit up over my quads was a challenge. It probably took me 10 minutes of carefully pulling on the seams to get the suit up to my waist. Once we got there I had some pretty serious doubts about this thing making it all the way to my shoulders. I pulled as much of the suit up around my thighs and over my butt as I could. Then I thought skinny and worked on getting a shoulder strap in place – not easy dude. I was really worried that this thing was going to explode. I took another deep breath and got the second strap in place. Now for the hardest of hard parts… zipping. It took Heidi a while to figure out how to pull the suit together and zip at the same time without hurting me and destroying my Tracer Light.

After 20 minutes of struggling I was in and zipped. The suit was really tight (obviously) and I could feel how supporting the structure of the suit would be of different muscle groups. I’m going to break this out for the meet at CalTech and see how it feels in the water.

Just in case you all were curious… getting out is waaaay easier.

In other me-getting-stuff news, my awesomized swim parka is getting shipped Thursday. I am very stoked to see what my buddy Fred at TooMuchMetal.com has in store for me!

the Rob D MiiHeidi has been trying for ages to get her hands on a Wii Fit… she always manages to just miss finding one in the store. Well she recently managed to catch one and tonight we finally unboxed it and got it all hooked up.

It’s fair to say that the Wii Fit does not care for me. It made my Mii all chubby, called me fat, and then told me that I have no sense of balance. Oh and my Wii Fit age is 45… I’m 27 by the way. Yikes dude. I wonder if masters will let me use my Wii Fit age to enter swim meets. I’d finally be able to hit some qualifying times for nationals!

Some of the activities are a little harder than I would have thought and they all make you look stupid out of context. I highly recommend never using a Wii Fit near a camera or a cell phone. I’m going to keep playing with it for a little while but I think I much prefer my Guitar Hero and Rock Band.

Before I was made fun of by a video game I went to the real gym for about an hour. I’m really sore from swimming yesterday so I decided to give my swimming muscles a day off but still go work out. I put in a little more than 30 minutes on the elliptical machine and then lifted weights for a while. This week I want to work really hard and then ease up a little next week before the pentathlon at CalTech. I want to swim fast at that meet!

**Update: Results for the FAST SCY Meet have been posted here

Today I swam in Fullerton at the Janet Evans Swim Complex. At a distance it looked like a pretty nice pool, but once I got inside I was alerted to the fact that it is only 4 feet deep! Ahhhh! Even my pool in Pismo is 4 1/2 feet deep. It was very weird to dive into and race in such a shallow pool, I never really felt like I found a good rhythm in it.

In warm up I took a bunch of practice starts to get used to starting in such a shallow pool. I basically flopped right on my chest each time and then dolphin kicked the bottom of the pool right after. Ahelee from NOVA tried to help me get my dive right for this pool but I just couldn’t put it together, I kept over correcting and smacking on the top of the water. I’m very self-preservatory in nature and I think I was reflexively sabotaging myself. I resigned myself to the thought that I would either get to break a rib or a toe today which is preferable to cracking my head on the bottom of the pool, luckily I did neither!

My first event was the 100 free. I went 59 seconds in San Diego last week and I was pretty confident that I could shave another second or two off my time pretty easily as long as I didn’t make any big mistakes. My start went ok but I didn’t get in as much underwater dolphin kicking as I usually would. At the surface my kick was feeling really strong and all my turns were clean. On the last 25 I managed to swallow some water which wasn’t any fun but it didn’t slow me down. For whatever reason I can’t breath to the left when I’m sprinting, I always choke on water. Anyways, I managed to bring it in 58 seconds. A full second off last weeks time and a new best time as an adult!

Next up was the 50 fly. I’ve been chasing my national qualifying time in this event and I just can’t quite hit it. I swam a 27.7 in Vegas, and a 28 at UC Irvine and again today in Fullerton. I felt like I was really pushing myself in the 50 but I wasn’t getting any traction. There’s a definite difference in feel between a deep water pool and a shallow pool when butterflying. Shortly after I was back on the blocks for the 50 free. This one went decently, I swam a high 26 which is a second slower than my time at UCI. I didn’t feel like I did anything particularly right or wrong in this race, I just didn’t go as fast as I wanted to.

To cap off the meet I swam the 100 fly. This race was semi-disastrous. The meet itself went very quickly, sub 2 hours, and I was exhausted at this point having swam a bunch of events right on top of each other. I’m glad I didn’t sign up for a bunch of 200′s like some of the people there. I put up a 1:03 which is my second week in a row of time increases! Yikes! I went 1:01 at UCI, 1:02 in San Diego and now 1:03 in Fullerton… not cool.

I think all the traveling and driving and racing I’ve been doing this month finally caught up with me. Friday night I fell asleep fully dressed at about 8PM when I normally can’t fall asleep until around 1AM. I think this was my body’s subtle hint that I need to slow down for a little bit. I don’t have any meets to worry about until Cal Tech’s Sprint Pentathlon in March so I can try and rest a little bit. If nothing else I can try and stay in my area code for a weekend!

Heidi wanted me to point out that she took some really good pictures this weekend that actually have me in them and above water :) Here you go…

Rocking the Hotel Pool Saturday Night

The Competition Pool

100 freestyle

Finishing the 100 Free

50 Fly

Getting off track during the 100 fly

Green Goggled Eyes of Doom!

**Update 11MAR09: I have now raced in this suit and published a review here.

I’ve been wanting to buy a new, fancier speedsuit in preparation for the Masters SCY Nationals up in Clovis this May. I’ve been using a TYR Aqua Shift Short John on and off since the SPMA SCM Championships in December and I’ve been pretty happy with it so far. Today I decided to take a shot at another TYR product and buy a Tracer Light. I wanted to try out a full body style and I already wear a TYR speedsuit so I’m hoping this should fit me in a similar fashion. Plus my buddy Tony over at the SCAQ blog is a big fan (read his full review here).

I have an interest in trying out the Speedo and BlueSeventy equivalents but I’m really not sure how I fit into their sizing schemes. Frankly that’s probably my biggest complaint when it comes to speedsuits is figuring out how big they really are. I’m a fairly big dude but I’m not that tall. I’m about 5’9″ and 220lbs and if you read the sizing explanations you can see my problem… according to most suit manufacturers at my weight I should be at least 6’9″ to enjoy their products. This wouldn’t be as big of a problem if I could try this stuff on, but basically the only place I can even get a speedo or a jammer around here is Big 5 or Sports Authority in SLO when swimwear is in season. I usually end up buying all my swim gear online from swimoutlet where I can’t try anything on or at swim meets where it’s usually left overs that aren’t in my size.

Anyways, I am very excited to get my new suit! Hopefully it 1) fits 2) is $318 worth of fast. All I can say is that I’m doing my part to stimulate the economy this month… 3 swim meets in 3 different towns all 200+ miles away, 4 nights in hotels, a speedsuit, and a parka… there should have been a competitive swimming tax credit built into the stimulus bill!

If you don’t feel the need to drop $300+ on a speedsuit you can always try your luck at TYR’s winatracer.com. I entered a while ago and I’m pretty sure I’m not going to win so I decided to just buy one since I want one. However now that I bought one I’m probably going to win one… If you enter the win a tracer contest you do get a 20% off coupon for orders over $75 at the TYR online store, unfortunately this doesn’t apply to Tracers which I think is kind of lame/comical. Fair warning, the contest closes on the 28th of February.

Now that I’ve paid my taxes and I know how much of my money from last year I actually get to keep I’ve started to look for good things to do with it. I decided to make a donation today to the USA Swimming Foundation. The foundation supports swimming and provides learn to swim programs which I think are a pretty worthy cause.

As a kid I was scared to death of the water, but I was lucky enough to get to go to swim lessons every summer growing up. One day when I was around 11 swimming kind of just clicked for me and I’ve loved being in the water ever since. After I had my aquatic epiphany I joined a swim team, I learned to scuba dive, I learned to body surf, I taught swim lessons to kids and adults, and now that I’m older I’ve found my way into Masters Swimming. Swimming has really enriched my life and there are a lot of kids out there that will never get a chance to learn how to swim without some outside help. I want to help give others a shot at learning how to be safe in the water and maybe find the same joy I do in swimming.

If you want to make a donation to the USA Swimming Foundation you can do so here. If you need a little motivation, right now USA Swimming is giving away some fancy towels to people that donate $100 or more to the cause.

Get a Beautiful Foundation Towel from Mel Stewart on Vimeo.

I’m not typically one to push a cause, but I think this is a good one and I thought I would let you guys know it exists.

The other day I did 3 100′s of fly with a 100 free in between each one to give me a chance to recover. Today I did 3 100′s in a row. I felt a lot stronger through the set than I would have expected. The last 50 of the 3rd 100 was pretty rough though! I want to work up to being able to do a 5 x 100 fly soon. I will admit that in my 3 x 100 the rest I took was pretty liberal between 100′s. I decided to add one more 100 fly at the end of my workout just to practice swimming it extra tired. I want that sub 1:00 time really bad! I’ve got a 50 fly national qualifying time that needs to happen soon as well…

Anyways, here’s tonight’s workout:

Warm Up
500 free
100 kick
400 free

3 x 100 fly
100 kick

50 free
100 free
200 free
100 free
50 free

100 fly

200 cool down

2200 yards total

I’ve got one more swim tomorrow before Fullerton and then Saturday I’m going to keep my feel for the water via the hot tub in my hotel!