Friday, June 18, 2010

TV interview about TI & fitness swimming

Here is a nice interview about how efficiency through TI paves the way for the best fitness swimming experience!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Below is an email from a recent participant in a TI workshop:

This is Chuck Holder from the workshop May 29 and 30. I swam yesterday for the first time since the workshop and am excited about the improvements. I have been drilling and working on technique a bit since the class, but no actual swimming until yesterday. I did a 500 in 9:30, which was a best for me.

What's great though is the ease I used and the way I felt when I finished. I felt like I had not done anything and that I could have continued for a mile. My heart rate was low and so was my breathing. My previous best 500 was about 10 min, but after doing so, I was about to pass out and was completely gassed. To feel like I did yesterday at the finish for my old swimming style would have resulted in about a 12 min. 500.

I am very excited about the future and know that more improvement is to come. I was worried about not swimming since the class and only drilling with a 1500 swim leg of a triathlon coming up this Sunday. I wanted to do some swimming to ensure that I have not lost any fitness. I did about 2000 total and was amazed that I felt better than I have ever felt swimming after close to two weeks with out swimming laps.

Prior to the class, I was looking to TI as a last resort. I had about decided I was stuck where I was as a poor swimmer, and that I was not going to get any better. I now feel like I have the knowledge and tools to go forward.

Thank you for your help, Chuck Holder (Georgia)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Reflections from Alcatraz

Wow, what an experience. I am still absorbing the reality that I swam in the Escape from Alcatraz! It was the most challenging swim I've completed to date, even borders on an "extreme" swim. It is rewarding to be the first heart transplant recipient to swim the Escape. Thanks to everyone who helped make it possible!

Here are some thoughts post-escape:

1. Wetsuits have limited benefits

Yes, I wore a full wetsuit in this race. TI founder, Terry Laughlin, is known to never wear one, regardless of the temperature. He's not the only one, a TI swimmer who lives in San Francisco, swims 6 days a week in the Bay w/o a wetsuit. But, for me, when you're talking 55 degree water...right.

This is the first time I've worn a full wetsuit, having donned a sleeveless in lake swims. It is now crystal clear to me that the extra buoyancy that so many triathletes crave from their Blue Seventy, is a significant barrier to feeling the water. I found myself frequently through the 1.5 mile swim not feeling my patient catch out front, leading to difficulty in engaging core drive for propulsion.

TI really emphasizes swimming through the water, not on top of it. What a difference. Neoprene actually inhibits a swimmer's capacity to swim efficiently. Fish swim through the H2O, not on the surface, why shouldn't we? A good question.

Therefore, if the water is cold enough, bring me my Vortex LJ. If frigid cold like at Alcatraz, my Nineteen Tsunami will do the trick. Last week, I swam in Falls Lake at 74 degrees w/o a wetsuit, and it was a piece of cake. Hopefully, the cold water experience will enhance my tolerance and ability to swim well in cooler temps.

Ideally, I'll just take the water and TI. Yet, the wetsuits stay in the closet.

2. Becoming a "finisher" is worth the sacrifice.

Everyone who competed at the Escape received an Alcatraz medal, proudly worn by the 1800 competitors after finishing. Engraved on the back of the medal is the word, "finisher." Awesome word.

I had heard how big an event the Escape was, but could not truly appreciate the gravity of the race til I was there. Triathletes were there from 30 different countries, and no telling how many states. I was fortunate to be invited to swim on a relay, which was sponsored by IMG, the company who owns the race. Many athletes had to wait several years for the privilege to participate, and many people traveled from one of 30 different countries. The financial sacrifice was not minimal.

While times are important for any athlete, whether a personal best or Hunter Kemper's winning time of sub 2 hrs (sick!), finishing rules the day. For me, I was pleased w/ my time of 31:48, yet take more pride in knowing I achieved the goal. Being the first heart transplant recipient to successfully swim the Escape from Alcatraz really makes all the cost of preparing--open water training and races, anxiety & time away from home--worth it.

What are you planning to "finish" this season? No matter how small the goal, be an achiever and finish strong!

Alcatraz pics

Friday, April 30, 2010

Flew safely into OAK airport yesterday, and have been going non-stop since I got here. On the way home from the airport, saw many kiteboarders out in the water, which was pretty cool. Ray Velasco's parents had us over for dinner, and surprisingly enough, good ole comfort food dinner like back home. Finished the day checking out the view from UC Berkely.

Today, I was taken on a serious tour of San Francisco, and it was amazing! Fisherman's wharf, sea lions, Golden Gate Bridge, Presidio, Ghiardeli chocolates, trolleys and cable cars, etc. Very very impressive and beautiful. Will bring lots of pics. We swam in Aquatic park, to get used to the mid-50s temp, and some waves. It was a decent swim, not losing too much breath and getting warm enough to keep going. Though Ray left me behind, it has helped my confidence for Sunday. When coming out of the water, I jogged a short ways to prepare for the 1/2 mile run to the transition from the water's edge. Fish (snapper) for dinner and gift shopping.

The Sports Basement was the place for one of many pre-race meetings, getting advice and many questions answered. Well worth the time. The store is a triathlete's dream! Now I'm back at the house and will hit the hay soon. It has been fun sharing w/ many locals and fellow Escapees that I am proudly swimming on the World Transplant Team. Being a heart tx recipient has its advantages, one of which is the ability to impress some of the toughest athletes on the planet.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

One day til takeoff

OK, I've prepped as best as I could. Broke in the new wetsuit up at Falls Lake on Sunday, in windy conditions. I figured if I can swim into the current against the wind, I'll manage the river-like Alcatraz swim. Big issue for me is the cold water, brrrr!

I will arrive tomorrow afternoon, then swim on Friday at Aquatic Park as prep for Sunday's swim. Lots of race meetings, strategy sessions, and networking to do. I am excited and nervous at the same time. There is a fine line between them.

Here's two pics from the event.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Preparing for Alcatraz--Overcoming Anxiety

Anxiety. 7 letters, enormous implications for open water swimming. It seems to me swimmers at any level may encounter issues w/ this emotion. I plan to address this in more detail in a later post. For now, just how it plays into my swim at Alcatraz.

I am an anxious person, admittedly. When pursuing a new goal, the heat gets turned up so to speak. I had a great deal of anxiety last year at the World Tx Games, especially before my first race, the 400 m freestyle. Being on the other side of the world, competing w/ the best transplant athletes on the planet, while representing our country, big deal. As I have entered the world of open water swimming, a different form of anxiety arises.

For me, the Alcatraz represents pushing my limits farther than I "think" I should. Why would I want to swim in mid-50s water w/ current and chop for over 1 mile w/ 1800 other swimmers? The pack can be crazy, I could lose my breath, get dizzy, my heart takes forever to raise its rate for what my body needs, etc. Yet, the nonsense of it makes the most sense. Why do it? b/c I can. A man decided before he died that he wanted his heart to be given to someone who would die w/o it. He chose to give life, so it is my obligation, and delight, to live life.

Since the decision is made, and not worth dwelling on anymore, how to overcome anxiety. Well, good preparation is the first step. I swam a 1 mile race at Beaverdam 2 weeks ago, at 68 degrees, then swam off HWY 98 w/o a wetsuit in 66 degrees. Then, today in 67 degrees at Beaverdam. I purchased a full wetsuit, a Nineteen Tsunami, and broke it in this afternoon. I've been talking to others who have done the swim, and read articles on how to successfully escape.

I also have a plan on what to focus on in my swim. I have been aware of some technique areas that seem to be more work than they should when I've swum open water. Core rotation, arm recovery early, and utilizing a 2 beat kick, to name a few. After I jump off the ferry, I will get several deep breaths, before proceeding w/ freestyle. I've also committed myself to enjoying the swim, my goal to avoid the temptation to compare myself w/ faster swimmers and better athletes. And, I plan to stop to do a few moments of breaststroke, and enjoy the view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Denial is considered the way not to overcome anxiety. However, since the swim is next Sunday, I don't have time to worry over the sharks! What is a shark, anyway?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Preparing for Alcatraz as a Heart Recipient

One of the issues as a heart transplant recipient w/ exercise and competition is denervation, the cutting off of a nerve supply. What this means is that my brain is unable to communicate to my heart to increase my rate in anticipation of physical activity. For example, if you are about to climb a set of stairs, your heart increases its rate knowing the demand for increased blood flow is forthcoming. For me, the increase in heart rate is delayed, since the nerves around my heart were cut when it was removed. The new heart went in, but those nerves do not re-attach. Therefore, my heart gets the message to pick up the pace after I have climbed that set of stairs, b/c the muscles have been screaming for help. This caused breathlessness at the top and some time for my rate to be on par w/ my physical needs.

This has been one of unique challenges I've faced each time I have competed in swimming. In a sprint race, I attempt to get my rate up before I get on the starting block, then just go for it. After the hitting the wall, I am really panting, while the officials are telling me to get out of the pool for the next race. The pic above tells the story.
So, when swimming for endurance, I feel better later in the race, and the first leg is usually a chore. Or, a better word is a stressful experience! Muscles ache, out of breath, anxiety increasing...yet knowing it will get better if I can keep going.
The key for my oen water swims--Know and respect my body's limit & swim through it!!!through it!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Preparing for Alcatraz

As some of you know, I am swimming in a triathon relay in the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon in San Francisco, This is a 1.5 mile swim in mid-50s water, w/ a good chance of some chop, as well. Two-time heart recipient, Bill Wohl, offered me the privilege of leading off World Transplant Team #1. Bill, along w/ Ray Velasco, played a key role in my joining Team USA at the 2009 World Tx Games in Australia last year. The significance of this event cannot be understated, so I am recommitting myself to regular blogging on this race.

While I never stated my goals this year, they include swimming open water rather than competitive pool racing, such as Masters. Last year in OZ, I got a huge dose of sprint racing, and it was awesome, even scary. However, my heart longs to achieve in a new venue, and I believe it relates to my role as a certified coach for TI swimming. I spend so much time training folks for open water, that I feel driven to enter the fray, or pack. It only makes good business sense, too :-)

The first step to completing the Alcatraz swim was to race in the 5280 at Beaverdam yesterday. This one mile swim had 59 participants, racing in 68 degree water rounding buoys in Falls Lake. I am pleased w/ my results, 23rd overall, 3rd in my age group, and feeling stronger in the 2nd half than the first. The last part is thanks to TI. Time of 28 min, 9 sec.

What I am taking from the swim is the belief that I can swim the 1.5 across the SF bay in colder water than I've ever swum in. Yesterday was colder than ever before, so it can be done again! Regarding technique, I often found myself not kicking, instead of effectively utilizing a 2 beat kick. I also need to practice sighting, as I veered to the right a time or two, or five. My arm recovery, head position, and tracks felt right on.

Welcome to heart2swim

Thank you for visiting my blog! You will find the latest on the development of TI in the Triangle area, as well as well as my own personal jouney from a heart transplant to competitive swimming. TI Swimming is more than simply a business, it is my passion! I hope you enjoy the posts and pics, and freely add your comments.

I currently coordinate the Adult Swim programming at Rex Wellness Center in Wakefield, and private and group lessons are available to members and non-members. Easy Freestyle Workshops are co-sponsored by the FS series,, and are offered in Raleigh and Charlotte. You can reach me at or 919-757-1230.