Still dealing with some off-and-on nerve pain in the ball of my right foot, which cropped up around the third week of August. It’s close to the same area where I had a neuroma back around 2016-2017, and while I can’t rule that out, the symptoms aren’t quite the same. In 2017, when I saw a podiatrist, I got a cortisone shot in that area, which I don’t think did me any long-term favors. Oddly, it seems to bother me most when I’m sedentary, and in particular, in bed when I wake up in the morning. It’s just a generic kind of aching pain, and the nerve feels kind of “weird” when walking barefoot and when swimming. Running does not bother it at all, but I’ve aggravated it a couple of times while climbing. On Monday, I did a bunch of lead climbing, and I could tell I tweaked it on the first route I climbed. This morning, I climbed 6 routes on top rope, and had no problems. I was really careful with the foot, sticking to mostly overhanging routes with juggy holds, using the bad foot mainly for balance and trying to avoid putting too much weight on it. I also wore a metatarsal pad on the right foot, which I think helped. It definitely helps while walking on the treadmill and with static standing. It looks like I can keep climbing for now, but I’m going to need to baby it like this until the issue clears up. I suspect I’m going to have occasional issues there for the rest of my life, and the key is going to be to manage it to prevent flare-ups. The silver lining here is that the whole experience with the neuroma is what convinced me to start wearing minimalist footwear and “Correct Toes”, which was a long, tough transition from conventional footwear, but absolutely worth it in every way.
Notwithstanding our current September heat wave, pool season will be winding down for us in just a few short weeks. According to Apple Health, I took my 48th swim of the season this afternoon. That’s about 20 fewer than this time last year, but I never intended to match last year’s total. My first swim this year was June 2, so I’ve managed to average about one swim session every other day this season. That average will drop a bit, as I’ll be missing a week this month due to travel, but all in all, I’m pretty happy with how the season went. I’m swimming more strokes per session this year as well (703 strokes for 2023 vs 651 for 2022). One really weird statistic: for the first time in the 22 seasons we’ve owned the pool, this is the first year that nobody outside our immediate family has been in it. Times have definitely changed since the days when we used to throw a massive pool party every summer…
It’s that time of the year where I’m wondering where summer went. I figure we have at worst 4 weeks of swim season left, and at best 6 weeks. Our record for latest swim of the year (October 9), was set in 2007, and still stands after 16 years. Will it ever be broken? We’ll have another shot at it in a few short weeks.
I would guesstimate that I have been getting in the pool and swimming laps about 4 days a week on average this year, which seems like plenty to me. It’s less frequent than I swam last year or the year before, but I’ve got more going on nowadays than in 2021 and 2022. I am still swimming with a tether, and tracking the workout by counting strokes. I typically do 720 strokes, which consists of 3 sets of 60 breaststroke, 60 freestyle, 60 butterfly, and 60 backstroke, in that order. It takes me a little over 30 minutes. This is the first year I’ve swum backstroke regularly, and it is still decidedly a work in progress. For some reason, I struggle with coordinating the arm movement and the leg kicks. It reminds me kind of like trying to pat my head and rub my stomach at the same time. I also occasionally splash water into my nose, which is not the most pleasant sensation, and staying straight (with the tether perpendicular to the pool wall) can be a challenge. I expect that I will improve over time, but it may take a couple of seasons.
We have a new winter safety cover this year. The old one lasted a long time — I installed it in fall 2002, and we used it through this past winter. It was in rough shape by then, and we really should have replaced it last year, but I’m not going to complain about getting 20+ winters out of it. The covers have more than doubled in price since 2002, but with any luck, this will be the last one we have to buy while we’re in the house. Next season, it’s looking like I may finally have to replace the pump. The current pump is a 1hp Hayward Super 2, and the previous owner installed it, so it’s at least 22 seasons old. It’s on its second impeller and second or third shaft seal, but now, the motor is finally starting to go, so I’m going to have to replace it before it gets loud enough to annoy my neighbors and then eventually freezes up. I may try to take care of that in the early spring, but I first need to decide if I want to swap out the entire pump, or just the motor, and then there’s the question of whether to go with a variable speed (VS) motor. Lots of stuff to think about there.
Day 3 of the heat wave: after skipping Thursday’s run in favor of the pool, I wanted to run today, even if it was only a short one. I hit the road at 8:15am, when it was still below 80°, and although it was plenty humid, it did feel slightly less oppressive out than it did yesterday or Thursday. It might just be that I’m getting acclimated to it. Whatever the case, I ran 4 miles at 10:00/mile, and felt pretty good. When I was finished, I put on my swim gear and ran for 30 more minutes in the pool. It was the first time I have done regular running and pool running in the same session, and I think it worked out well. Four miles is long enough that I felt like I got a decent run in, but short enough that I didn’t overheat and lose a ton of fluids, and the pool was a great way to cool off afterwards. Ideally, I’d like to get out about an hour earlier, but I didn’t wake up until close to 7 today. I must have needed the sleep.
My experiences with running in the heat and humidity this summer have convinced me that I’d like to pick up a running-specific hydration vest, but there is a mind-numbing variety of them to choose from, so I’m going to have to do a little bit of research. I’ll probably hold off on buying anything until REI has their next sale and 20% off coupon (maybe around Labor Day).
Here’s something that has never happened to me in 22 years of pool ownership: I walked outside earlier and saw that the Polaris tail sweep hose had come disconnected from the main unit. I retrieved both of them, and nothing looked broken. I was able to easily push the tail back onto the ferrule, but it was kind of obvious that whatever secured it there was missing. I found a parts diagram and saw that there’s a plastic clamp that’s supposed to go there, but it was nowhere to be found. I’m guessing it just broke. A new one costs about $3.50, but I jury-rigged it with a zip tie for now, which seems to be working. I don’t expect it to last too long, but who knows.. maybe it will surprise me.
Update (9/13/23): The zip tie fix lasted until today, or just over 6 weeks. I just put a new one on, and will add the $3.50 clamp to my list of items to buy for next season (it might be cheaper over time to just keep sacrificing zip ties, but it would be much more annoying 😀).
With our first real heat wave of the summer upon us (fortunately only forecast to last 3 days), I took my first pool run of the season this morning. I was considering trying to get out early for a “regular” run, but quickly decided against it when I stepped outside. I find pool running to be excruciatingly boring, so I usually only do it on extremely hot days when I don’t feel like doing anything else outdoors. Last summer, I only recall running in the pool once or twice.
In contrast to swimming, which I typically do in the late afternoon, I like to get my pool running in by 9:00am, when the water is coolest, and before the sun starts hitting the water surface. I don’t go underwater, so instead of goggles and earplugs, I wear a flotation belt, hat, SweatHawg headband, and (occasionally) sunglasses. I also usually put my airpods in to have something to listen to, which helps with the boredom.
Today, I hit the water at right around 8:00, and ran for 30 minutes. The pool water was a comfortable 83°F, but I still worked up a good sweat. It was my first time running in the pool with my Apple Watch (which I bought late last summer) so I was able to get a sense of how much I was exerting. It was about what I expected: my heart rate mainly ranged between 100 and 110 beats per minute, which is faster than I average during a brisk walk or a swim, but slower than a conventional run. The biomechanics of pool running are similar to regular running in many ways, but different in others. The water adds a lot of resistance to leg movement, which works different muscle groups; and there’s no impact to the lower body, which is why it’s a popular activity for people recovering from injuries. It probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to do it once a week or so during the summer as a cross-training activity, but I’d need to invest in a better flotation belt, as the one I have is not the most comfortable.
Anyhow, based on the weather forecast, I suspect I may be doing this again on Saturday.
On July 6, I noted some recent issues with tightness in my right calf, which has been a recurring issue with me. I’ve suspected that poor kicking form while swimming freestyle and backstroke might contribute to this. I did not swim at all while we were on vacation last week, and had no tightness issues for the entire week. However, I’m noticing that a little bit of tightness is back today, also in the right calf, and I have not yet been in the pool. It just occurred to me that both days I’ve had the issues were right after I took long drives. On July 4, we took a 6-hour day trip to Pennsylvania, and yesterday was a 4-hour(!) drive home from Bethany. My right leg, of course, is the side I use for the accelerator pedal. Could there be a connection here?
While at the shore, I picked up a few half-pound bags of coffee beans, including some light roast (breakfast blend) from Local Coffee Roasting Co. in Roxana, DE. Today was my first foray into brewing anything lighter than medium roast in the AeroPress. I followed the James Hoffmann recipe pretty closely:
- 11 grams coffee, ground at 42 clicks on the JX (1.5 turns minus 3 clicks)
- 200 grams water at 99°C (1:18.1)
- Two paper filters
- 20 second pour
- Steep 2 minutes
- Take off scale and swirl
- Wait 30 seconds
- Press 30 seconds
The end result was OK, but lacking in flavor, which tells me I’m probably not getting enough extraction from the beans. In his video, Hoffmann recommends adjusting either the grind size or the water temperature to address this, instead of upping the amount of coffee, which you might do with a darker roast. Next time, I may try going a little bit finer with the grind, and possibly heating the kettle water to a full boil and pouring directly off that.
Something is definitely up with my right foot and calf, as I’ve been getting some discomfort in the rear of the foot towards the heel while walking on my treadmill desk. My right calf also seems really tight, which is an issue I’ve dealt with a lot over the years. As I wrote yesterday, I suspect that it is an ankle mobility issue. It has gotten a little bit worse since I started swimming backstroke a few days ago, and I do think my kicking technique needs a lot of work. For the time being, I am going to stop doing backstroke and probably cut down a bit on freestyle, focusing more on breaststroke and butterfly, and see if it calms down. I’m also going to focus a little bit more on exercises to improve ankle mobility. I found this page, which seems like a pretty good resource.
I tried making some iced coffee this afternoon. I have a fair amount of pre-ground Wellsley Farms (BJ’s store brand) breakfast blend coffee with a “best by” date of August 2023, so I’m looking for creative ways to use it up. Since it’s ground fine for drip machines, it’s not ideal to use for cold brew, so I decided to try this recipe for iced coffee. I followed the recipe to the letter, using my electric kettle and measuring everything out with a scale. It’s the closest I’ve come to doing pour-over coffee. I don’t (yet) have a pour-over dripper, so I used a strainer and a regular coffee filter, and dripped the coffee into a Pyrex 2 quart measuring cup. Ideally, I need something a little bit deeper for this, as I had to lift the strainer up at the end to keep it out of the brewed coffee. But other than that, it turned out fine, and made about 24 ounces of iced coffee. It wasn’t all that strong, but good for a summer afternoon. I tried mixing some with a little bit of chocolate almond milk, which was tasty, but the almond milk doesn’t mix well with the water, and I had to keep stirring it to keep it from settling. Real dairy milk might fare better. At any rate, I’ll probably try doing this again.
I realized after swimming today that I essentially swam an Olympic individual medley (although slightly out of order) for the first time. I swam 3 sets of 240 strokes each: 60 breastroke, 60 freestyle, 60 butterfly, and 60 backstroke. Backstroke is still decidedly a work in progress. I made it through 3 sets of 60 strokes for the first time, but still feel a little bit uncoordinated at times. At one point, I inhaled a bunch of water through my nose, which forced me to stop and cough it all up. I also noticed some calf stiffness after the swim, particularly on the right side. I am assuming that this is because I’m still not fully relaxing my ankles, which I’m hoping will improve as I get more comfortable with the stroke. I’ve been getting better in that department with freestyle, but I think my kicking could use some improvement with both strokes.
We certainly had weird weather this past spring. Early on, it was wet, and then we had drought conditions for a couple of months. Now, the pattern has changed again, and early summer has alternated between cloudy, humid, stormy days and hazy, smoky days, depending on the wind direction. As a result, the sun hasn’t been really strong at all this summer, so the pool water has stayed pretty cool. Today, I swam in 78°F water, which is almost unheard of on July 1. It’s an almost perfect swimming temperature, though.
I’ve finally decided to try to swim backstroke regularly on the tether. It’s the only Olympic swimming stroke I haven’t really spent much time with. My first attempts a few days ago were pretty awkward. I was flailing all over the place, getting winded, and ending up at all kinds of crazy angles to the pool wall. Today, I was able to get straightened out a bit and complete a full set of 60 strokes without gasping for air at the end. I’ll keep working on my coordination, and hopefully, I’ll continue to improve. My goal is eventually to split my swimming equally between freestyle, breaststroke, butterfly, and backstroke.
I’m back into a regular swimming routine this year, until pool season ends in late September. This past week was an exception, as we had some abnormally cool and dreary weather that knocked the pool temperature down to a chilly 74°. By this afternoon, it had bounced back to 79°, so I got in for the first time in 6 days.
Last year, I was kind of obsessed with trying to swim every day. This summer, I’m toning things down a bit and shooting for 3 to 4 days a week. I’m also trying to focus on keeping my ankles looser, as I was having some issues with tight calf muscles last year, which I think may have been due to not flexing my ankles enough while kicking.
I am still swimming with a tether, and with my Apple Watch. I track my workouts by stroke count rather than distance. Unfortunately, Apple Fitness does not have a setting for tethered swimming. Last year, I used the “pool swim” setting. With this, the watch counts my strokes fairly accurately, but I’d get an inaccurate distance measurement and lap count, because the watch expects me to me moving, not stationary. I’ve always counted strokes in my head either way, so my first thought was just to ditch the watch altogether and go back to recording my stroke count manually in Apple Health. But, then I wouldn’t get a record of workout time or calories burned, unless I entered those manually also, which is rather tedious. To make a long story short: this year, I’m wearing the watch, tracking my swims using the “other” workout type setting, and manually recording my swim strokes after I finish. So far, it seems like a workable compromise.
A typical swim session for me is 720 strokes, which takes me just over 30 minutes. I swim sets of 60 strokes at a time, then switch to a different stroke for the next set. The order I’ve been doing lately is: breaststroke-freestyle-breaststroke-butterfly-freestyle-breaststroke-freestyle-butterfly-breaststroke-freestyle-breaststroke-butterfly. One of these days, I want to start mixing in some backstroke as well.