Monday, July 1, 2013

June 24-30: Making Life Simpler by Necessity

Following my breakdown this spring, I’ve been trying to find as many places as I can to cut back on stress, and every doctor I see emphasizes the importance of this to me. Stress only exacerbates several of the issues that my bloodwork and physical symptoms indicate, and at this point, I don’t have a choice. This has meant skipping out on my team’s training camp in Lake Placid because of how it lined up against with my work schedule, saying “no” to a lot of things I’d like to do, and just trying to live as simply as possible.

It has also means that I’ll be giving up the work I’ve been doing as a head coach for a synchronized swimming club effective today.

I’d been growing a little bit sad about this as the team competed at nationals last week and registered the best finishes our club has ever seen – the best swims and scores and placements we’ve ever had by a long shot. And performance aside, it really is an outstanding group of young women. We had a series of travel mishaps including delayed flights, a mid-meet hotel switch, and a record-setting heat wave, and they all adapted without complaint. Try getting that out of any other eight teenage girls. I dare you.

But then I got sick on Saturday. Really sick. Sick enough that I skipped my workout and missed going to the beach with the team. And this reinforced to me that I can’t possibly keep up with the demands of my full time job and the coaching work.

When I took on the work as “temporary” head coach with the club in 2006, there were 5 swimmers, and the team competed at local meets. But now, we have about 25 swimmers, including junior and senior national qualifiers, routinely register podium finishes at zone meets, and are the most successful club in the mid-Atlantic. As you can imagine, this is a MUCH more time intensive proposition than it was seven years ago. Add to that the fact that my day job changed dramatically after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, and the combination of the stress and time demands from both jobs was bound to take its toll. This is part of why I’m currently sitting here with an iffy thyroid and God-only-knows what else wrong with my body.

And it simply isn’t sustainable. I realized this in the fall of 2011, knowing that my workload at the office would only be growing, and told the board of directors for our club that the 2012-2013 season would be the last for me. I will miss a lot of the rewards of serving as head coach for this group, and it’s been amazing to see them grow from almost nothing to a national-caliber team. But I cannot do justice to what the job entails. It’s not worth getting deathly ill after every long travel meet.

That story out of the way, the trip to nationals in Riverside, CA last week, along with the mystery illness that knocked me down all day Saturday, definitely impacted my training. There was minimal time on my bike, and not a lot of swimming or running.

But on a positive note, you know those 10 pounds I gained in a week this spring? Well, a few came off in the last couple of weeks with increased training volume, but after being almost deathly ill on Saturday, the rest is long gone.

If only I could patent this and sell it as a “miracle seven pound weight loss formula.” I'd be rich.

Monday: 40 minutes of strength training and an hour on the bike trainer with a 15 minute interval building up to Z4.

Tuesday: 3500 yards of swimming before getting to Dulles at 7 am to travel with the team, only possible because Ida Lee in Sterling, just a few miles from the airport, opens up at 5 am. This worked out perfectly, because our flight was so delayed that I wouldn’t have had a chance to swim after we got in.

Wednesday: Found a treadmill at a nearby gym for a speed workout at 5 am. Did just over 5.7 miles with the main set alternating 0.25 miles at 7:30 pace with 2 minutes of jogging at 9:30 pace.

Thursday: Rest day, needed after spending a lot of Wednesday outside in the sun while exposed to 100+F temperatures.

Friday: Another treadmill session, this time, it featured a tempo run. 5.72 miles total, including 20 minutes building from 8:20 to 7:35/mile. Later in the day, 3000 meters of easy swimming to loosen up before judging in the blistering heat for several hours.

Saturday: In theory, I was going to swim. In practice, I woke up in the morning very, very sick and didn’t manage to get myself vertical until 4 pm. I was not sure how I was going to drive 70+ miles to the airport for the redeye home, but the athletes need me to drive, so I managed to make it happen.

Sunday: Still super dehydrated, I slept a lot and finally got onto the bike trainer for just under 2.5 hours of steady spinning. I was supposed to do 50 miles out flat riding outside, but wasn’t willing to risk getting sick on the road, because that’s just dangerous.


  1. I don't have nearly as much going on as you do but I can relate to being stressed out. I can't imagine the wonders you have done for that program as how much it has grown. I hope that you are able to find more time to do everything you want with training and living stressfree.

    I really cannot imagine on top of your job training.

  2. It sounds like you took over the program, built it from the ground up, and developed a dynasty. I'm sure the girls will miss you, but you're making a smart and necessary choice. I definitely don't have as much going on as you do, but I've been feeling really stressed and out of it lately too. Here's to hoping a holiday--with lots of open-water swimming--will lead to some quality R&R.

  3. It must be hard to give up coaching, especially considering that you built that team to be so successful, but it sounds like it is definitely the right decision at the moment. Hope that you can take care of yourself in the next few weeks that lead up to IM.

  4. It's amazing how many illnesses and disease processes are exacerbated by stress. Kinda just makes me think maybe the way we, as humans, live right now is not the way we are meant to be living.

    So sorry you have to give up coaching -- it sounds like you really have ownership in that team. You have to do what is necessary for your mental & physical health, though, and I'm sure you can continue to be involved in the team in smaller ways.


  5. I must admit, whenever I get really sick I always think that at least there's the upside of potentially losing some weight...ah, the life of having a royally screwed up metabolism, eh? But I'm sorry to hear you're still so ill all the same - by the sounds of it you have indeed been under a huge amount of stress. The growth and success of your team is obviously a testament to your hard work as a coach, but I think you made the right decision in terms of realising that it's not humanly possible to do everything you have been doing - there are only so many hours in the day.


  6. Boo. I always wish there were more hours in the day- so many things I love to do, but I simply cannot do it all. Although I try. And I fail. I hope you're able to get to a good place, and then find some balance where you can get in some coaching again, I know you are awesome at it! I am trying to slow down, too. Sleep has been getting the short end of the stick and thus I'm sure my training could be going better... trying to adjust my priorities as well!