Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Swimming stuff.

Remember this? My inordinate desire to run, bike, and swim myself to yet another ignominous race finish? Yeah, that.

I am super excited for this triathlon. Most triathlons go in this order: swim, bike run, but the one I am doing is backwards, which I know will make things much easier for me. Mostly because I am not any any way a swimmer. My whole life I've sported a mean doggy paddle. Using it I've managed to get back to the boat after waterskiing hundreds of times. But putting my face in the water, wearing goggles/swim caps, breathing from the side? Nope, never ever ever. On the day in May that I decided to do the tri, I jumped in the 50 meter pool at the local rec center and did 4 laps of what had to be the most awkward swimming in the history of the world. My face never went in the water once. I flailed around for about 10 minutes, knew I could get from one end of the pool to the other, and I called it good.

I went to a master's swimming class one morning with a friend. I told her that I would embarrass her (and I probably did) but she still went with me anyway. She was super kind and brought me some goggles to borrow and a swim cap to keep. The most awkward moment was when the master's coach asked me to swim for her. I knew I had zero technique. I knew I was awful, but I didn't know any better so I set off in a repeat of my Memorial Day swimming experience, except this time I knew someone was watching. I think I would have rather sang a solo for her rather than have her watch me swim (I don't sing any better than I swim. And it's likely to stay that way.) Luckily, the coach was super kind and she started with the basics. I learned how to breathe. I learned how to kick off the wall. I learned what position to keep my head in for optimal results (notice I said "learned" - have not mastered this. I'm sure I still look rather flail-ey in the water, but oh well.)

I think I went about 300 yards that day. In an hour. Pathetic. But, I have learned a lot since then and improved a little, too. Let's explore my thoughts on swimming (you know you want to.)

  • I prefer long course (50 meters) to short course (25 meters), even though I tire out after 30 meters. I feel like it makes me stronger.
  • I have to breath out my nose under water. I then suck in as much air as humanly possible through my giant open mouth when I come up.
  • I forget to turn my hips to the other (non-breathing) side. I'm all about the air....
  • I know I'm supposed to be looking straight down so my hairline is in the water, but I know it isn't.
  • I have to remind myself to bend my elbows and drag my fingertips along the water.
  • When I make my hand into a blade when it enters the water, I have a better stroke. But the concentration involved in making my hand do this makes me forget how to breath. I then suck in a lot of water. 
  • I probably kick way too much. But it's a reaction to the tiny amount of panic that is in my heart most of the time I'm swimming.
  • I cannot stop mid-lap. If I do, I have to dog paddle the rest of the way because I almost drown trying to get started again without the aid of the wall to push off of.
  • I am out of breath the entire lap. I have to breathe on the wall after each lap. I wonder if I'll ever have an opportunity or need to learn the cool little turn the real swimmers do at the end of their laps.
  • One positive: I think it will help my breathing when running eventually. Being out of breath for a half hour straight has to make my lungs stronger, right?
  • On Sunday I swam 500 meters. It is the longest I've ever swam (swum?) in my life. And 150 more than I need for the tri - whew!

But, this is the kicker: I like it. Even though I'm not good at it and it makes me tired and I feel 1 breath away from drowning the entire time, it's satisfying. It takes up all my brain power to swim. I can't think about anything else while I am doing it, and I love that. It's related to what I love about any intense physical activity - when the brain screams at my body to go faster and my body obeys, despite tired legs and lungs and blisters. That moment when your mind is only focused on what the body needs right then. It's wonderful. It happens when I run, it happens in yoga, it happens when I body rock, and it happens when I swim. It is incredibly satisfying.

I am looking so forward to August 4th. The date itself is significant. Thursday August 4, 2011 was my day to spend with my dad before he passed away. It was the day I ran in my hometown, and it was the last full day of my dad's life. I like that I am celebrating something I've never done before to mark that anniversary. It will be a good day!

(And, notice I say nothing about biking? Yeah, I've been on the bike 3 times - the longest ride I've had is 4.5 miles. The biking aspect is not going to be pretty, people. Not pretty at all.)


Amy Sorensen said...

Oh, my. I have nothing but admiration. I suck at swimming! You're ALMOST making me want to try. Almost.

On a related note, I think I am going to buy this book:

Want to read it after me??