Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Baby strokes: small dividends of persistence

Pic lifted from Fun Stuff Cafe
So, I consider myself a "newbie" in this discipline. Lots of the tri folks seem to be former HS or college swimmers. Me, I had good instruction at home, time to play in the water and have applied myself a wee bit in recent years during the winter months. Therefore, it was with trepidation that I viewed the 1.2 mile swim for the half-Ironman.

That sounded really long to me; probably akin to what an 80 mile road ride sounds like to a city trail cyclist. I mean, seriously, just two and a half months ago I was having to rest about every 25-50 meters because my arms and shoulders felt dead.

Sometime in early December I made it 800 meters. Mind you, that's not 800 meters of solid swimming, that's 50 here, a 100 there, rest on the wall, another 100, maybe a lap of backstroke - you know, that sort of thing. 800 meters of swimming total. It felt like the first time I rode 50 miles on my bike. No time was kept, just distance and I was proud.

Week by week, I've worked to swim more laps before I took break. Mid-January I began to do 5 minute intervals and worked my way up to 3x10s. Then, my friend, Molly, showed me how to do flip-turns, and though most of the time they could have been described as an attempt to drown myself, increasingly there were instances of smooth and quick. Thus, I figured it was time to test myself. I set a goal of 45 minutes of non-stop freestyle using flip-turns Saturday. Not really knowing if I could even swim 45 solid minutes, I chose to use a lower level endurance pace so I could put my mental focus on form. Back and forth, back and forth, crap, that turn didn't go so good. But, it turns out there's no reason to stop even if you do accidentally suck a bunch of water up your nose. You can swim and cough or snort or whatever and then get back into your rhythm. The minutes flew by. Pretty soon there was only 10 minutes left. I started checking my lap times. Then 8. And, then, "I got this! I could probably do an hour!" But, I didn't. Instead, I decided to embrace the personal win and then just play a little -- see if the last couple of weeks of form focus and drills made going fast feel any different.

Boy-oh-boy did they. I didn't start with a sprint, I increased over the first 25 m, flipped, and then just went as hard as I could. Egads! It felt AWESOME. The muscular development, which recently relegated a cute pink dress shirt to the giveaway pile, pulled me so smoothly through the water. It felt fast. Strong. Exciting - like those moments on the bike when it feels like flying. You know what I mean. In any case, it was a wonderful pay-off for the time invested. If I hadn't been out of air at the wall, I might have giggled.

Much appreciation to Viktor, Jen, Molly, Eric and the collegiate swimmers who have generously answered my questions and patiently critiqued my form.


Nancy Brown said...

Good, good for you!!!! Way to go!

Molly said...

I can't wait for my biking to feel like your fast swimming experience. Once you get the feel of the water and have an efficient, powerful stroke , it is a wonderful thing.