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Posts Tagged ‘Swimming’

Ascending Athlete #2: KK!

September 25th, 2009

kk-and-jimmy-climb-stratham-hill-5-09-023I’ve started a series called “Ascending Athletes”, which features people achieving great things in their lives and/or impacting the lives of others through athletics. I’m featuring athletes of all backgrounds, sports and skill levels. Everyone has a story to tell– whether a recreational or beginner just starting to work out or a hardcore athlete who is competing at an elite level. The goal of the Ascending Athlete series is to capture these stories and inspire others to seek similar challenges and rewards. If you would like to share your story or would like to nominate someone as an Ascending Athlete, please let me know. For more information about Ascend Sports Conditioning, visit our website.


Some people are just meant to inspire and make you laugh. Kristin K or KK (what she prefers to be called) is one of those people. I’ve known KK for a number of years, and most recently had the opportunity to work with her as one of my clients. I’ve helped her learn the freestyle and breaststrokes in swimming. She went from not knowing how to swim one length of the pool to being able to swim several hundred yards without a problem. Along the way, she’s proven to be a true inspiration. Despite her physical challenges (described below), KK has made being active an important part of her life and finds a way to overcome her challenges. You might say “perseverance” is her middle name. KK not only is an inspiration because of her own dedication to an active lifestyle, but also to her dedication to others, namely those who are fighting mental illness. KK works for the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester, in Manchester, NH and is a true leader in fighting the disease. She and a group of her colleagues do the “Psychling for Mental Health” ride as part of the Seacoast Century Ride to raise money and benefit The Manchester Mental Health Foundation Endowment.

KK will be doing riding the event for the 3rd time. You can learn more about KK’s efforts and donate to The Manchester Mental Health Foundation Endowment by visiting the endowment website.

KK was kind enough to answer some questions and share some of her thoughts on what makes her an Ascending Athlete:

Why are athletics important to you?

I’ve been involved in some form of organized sports or activities for as long as I can remember. I started in dancing when I was 3 or 4. My parents sent me to dancing school because I was a total klutz! I would trip over myself all the time, walk into walls, etc. After more than 10 years of competitive dance, I could dance like a champ, but was still as clumsy as ever. I also did gymnastics as a child and began team sports (field hockey, winter track and spring track) once I hit high school. At first I did these things purely for the fun and social/ team aspect of it. But as the years passed and I’ve had some pretty serious health issues, I have found that I participate in athletics more to prove to myself that I am resilient. There’s nothing I hate more than not being able to do something, or worse, someone telling me I can’t do something. That makes me want to do it more. There are some activities that I would like to do but it would be foolish for me to try due to the danger and possible adverse consequence of doing them. But there are many things I CAN do, and I love filling my time with these activities. I routinely bike, walk, weight train, kayak, and swim. One of my favorite quotes says that, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain”. That about says it all.

What is your major athletic goal(s)and/or events you are participating in for this year? Why have you chosen this goal(s)?

My major athletic goal this year is a 75 mile charity bike ride in late September. I was never much of a biker until a few years ago when I suffered a serious back injury that resulted in significant nerve damage/weakness in my lower extremities. This makes it hard for me to walk any sort of distance. I love being outside and was frustrated by my lack of stamina for walking. That’s when I thought of biking.

I got myself a very ergonomic bike and have participated in this charity ride called “Psychling for Mental Health” for the last 4 years. I began with a 25 mile ride in year one, then proceeded to do 50, 63 and this year a 75 mile ride. Because of my back and leg troubles I can’t sit for as long as it takes me to ride this distance, so I will do it in 2 days. It is important to me to participate in this ride because it benefits the Mental Health Center where I work, and the money we raise goes to help people who have no way of paying for needed mental health services.

Are you riding in the name or memory of someone you know who is fighting mental illness?

I’m not riding for anyone in particular. I’m riding in honor of the many people whose lives are impacted by mental illness. Their strength amazes me. I’m so fortunate to be able to work with people who keep fighting to achieve recovery despite many physical and psychological barriers. I draw a lot of strength from the clients we serve and others who overcome disabilities and lead very fulfilling and productive lives. If they can do it, then so can I!

What are some future goal(s) or event(s) you’d like to participate in?

I would eventually love to be able to do the full 100 mile ride (Seacoast Century) with the rest of my “Psychling for Mental Health” team all in one day. I would also like to become a more proficient swimmer and hiker. Frankly I’m just happy to be able to stay active and find things I enjoy doing that are good for my health.

Name one interesting fact or story that makes you unique and interesting

I’m not sure if it’s interesting, but I suppose it’s a bit unique that at the age of 17 I collapsed in the hallway at school (on the day of my junior prom!) from a cardiac event. Turns out that I have a congenital heart rhythm disorder called Long QT Syndrome. This is the type of disorder where you see perfectly healthy kids, often athletes, suddenly drop dead while playing sports. Luckily I made it through and now have an implanted pacemaker/ defibrillator. I do have some activity restrictions from this as well, but I have been able to make modifications and remain active to the extent that I am able.

Thanks to KK for all her dedication, hard work and inspirational story– she truly is an Ascending Athlete!

To learn more about Ascend Sports Conditioning, our mission, focus and dedication to helping people ascend to new levels through athletics, please visit

Getting in Touch with Your Inner Penguin- How to Race in Cold Water Temperatures

July 18th, 2009

refridge-not-freze1 All swimmers need to be in touch with their inner-penguin. Sometimes the water temperatures are more artic-like than tropical-like and swimmers need to be prepared.

How to approach a swim on race day when water temperatures are very cold is not something triathletes and swimmers give too much thought to. Cold temperatures definitely impact race strategy, as I learned first hand this past weekend at the Blackfly Triathlon in beautiful Waterville Valley, NH. This was the first ever Blackfly tri put on by Keith Jordan of Endorfun (although it was not the first time Waterville Valley was used as a venue– the first Mooseman tri was held there a few years back). With all the rain and cool, cloudy conditions we’ve had this year in New England combined with the fact that the pond for the swim is mountain stream-fed, water temperatures for the swim were a balmy 53 degrees. That’s a few degrees colder than most folks are used to swimming in this time of year (at least in fresh water– the ocean in New England can remain quite chilly throughout the summer).

So, what should you do when the water temps for the swim are icy cold (besides pray that they cancel or shorten the swim– in the case of the Blackfly this year, the swim was shortened from two loops to one)? Let you inner penguin come out! Namely:

  • Don the ‘ol tuxedo– Penguins have built-in insulation and buoyancy. You need the same when the conditions are cold, so slap on the wetsuit (full sleeve preferably). Wet suits are legal in USAT-sanctioned and most other sanctioned triathlons (pure swimming races can vary– check with the rules for the event), so wearing a wet suit should be at the top of the list. Not only will the wetsuit protect you from the cold temps, but also provide you additional buoyancy, which will help you complete the race faster. Also, wear a neoprene cap (your race cap can go over this) to protect your head from the cold. This is especially true for the hair-challenged people (like me). Finally, get a pair of neoprene booties that will protect your feet. Neoprene gloves also exist, but are not legal at USAT races and most other tris and swimming events, so leave them at home. Finally, practice ahead of time swimming with the wetsuit, neoprene cap and booties, especially if you know you will use them in race conditions. You want to be sure you are used to the swimming motion with this gear (especially the wetsuit) and not have any suprises on race day.
  • Flap around a bit– When you first enter the water your body is going to go into a bit of shock– your heart is going to try work harder to push blood throughout your core to help warm up your body, which will cause you to feel a bit out of breath initially. It takes a few minutes for this to effect to wear off as your body adapts. In the meantime, it can be a bit uncomfortable to swim. Use this time to gather your bearings– try breaststroking a bit, which will keep your head above the water (freestyle keeps your head under making it a bit harder to breath). You can also try flipping over onto your back, which will expose your face upward. The goal is to keep your face out of the water so you can breath better and get used to your environs. I needed to do this last week at the Blackfly. It not only helped with my breathing, but also helped my face warm up a bit, which was ice cold from the water. After about 30-45 seconds I felt a lot better and swam onward. The few seconds you take to do this will make up for any time you would have lost had you not done it.
  • Get your feathers ruffled– Before you even start the swim, it’s a good idea to get your muscles warmed up a bit (pre-race warm-up should be part of your routine in any case). Warm, loose muscles will perform better when you enter the cold water, helping your body avoid any initial shortness of breath when entering and priming it for a full swim race effort. I would recommend warming up outside of the water by running or biking a bit (probably about 10 minutes until you have worked up a slight sweat). Ideally, you’d do this about 10 minutes before you have to enter water so you don’t cool down prior to entering the water. You could also try warming up by swimming in the water itself– not a bad idea, but it probably won’t be as quick as going for a run or bike.
  • Don’t waddle, but run- When coming out of the water, don’t waddle like a penguin, but rather run! Do a strong run to transition (T1), which will help keep your body nice and warmed up as you get ready for the bike, especially if it is a cooler day. Some races will provide a warming tent where you can get warmed up coming out of the water and before going to the transition area (they did this at the Blackfly). However, unless you are super-cold and see good reason for it, don’t spend the time getting warmed up in the tent. Rather run hard directly to your gear in transition to generate heat as you go to T1 and onto your bike.
Finish line at the Blackfly Triathlon

Finish line at the Blackfly Triathlon

Hopefully it will be rare occasions when you have to swim in water temperatures that are in the low 50s or even lower. If you live in cold weather environments, like anywhere in the northern part of the US or Europe, you need to be prepared. It may not be Antartica, but it is helpful to act like one of the best swimmers from that part of the world, the penguin.