I am not a swimmer. Regretfully I never did swim team as a child. Don’t get me wrong, I’m water safe. I just never knew how to do a proper freestyle stroke, breath under water or swim for fitness, until my wonderful boyfriend rescued me from my non-swimmer ways and helped me become the triathlete I am today. I can only imagine what a freak I must have looked like struggling for breath, head bobbing up and down and barely making it 1 lap. But Preston liked me, so I got lucky!
I’ve been doing this “swim” thing for a few years now and while I’m far more comfortable and can go the distance, I am very slow. The last few months my yardage has increased drastically in preparation for the Ironman and I’ve managed to tie my left tricep into knots and seriously stress out my upper back, neck and shoulder. Pretty much everything BUT my lats were hurting. This was an indication that I was doing something very wrong and could quite possibly also explain my speed, or lack thereof.
While Preston was fantastic about teaching me, he’s too busy with his own training to give me lessons, that and he doesn’t have to try and impress me anymore. So I visited one of my teammates, Amy, over at Golden Gateway Tennis and Swim Club, the beautiful pool featured above. For 30 minutes she had me focusing on something that felt so awkward – keeping my left arm straight and reaching. As Preston so kindly described my stroke from before – like a special needs person in the water. I took Amy’s instructions to my next swim workouts and tried it out at Wildflower. Despite not swimming in a very straight line, I did something better, as I managed to cut nearly 6 minutes of my previous 70.3 swim time. Woo hoo!
But the work is not done. I’ve been told that I need to suck it up and join a masters group. Uhh, me in masters? Yeah, I don’t know about that. One person even said that the only way to get better is to suffer in masters for a while. Suffer? Yikes. So I joined this beautiful outdoor pool, one of the few in San Francisco and prepared myself for some “lite” suffering on Wednesday evening. Fearing that the true Masters crew would laugh at me if I attempted to join, their slow lane is full of fish swimming a 1:40/100 pace. I would seriously get in the way of their circle swim. Wednesday evening has a Masters Lite group that is “less intense but still a good workout” according to my membership representative. So Wednesday evening I headed to the pool, as the clouds parted and the evening sun came out. This is going to rock, I thought.
I shared the lane with a friendly woman who was fast, but still had patience to put up with me. During the main set we were to do 9×100’s, on the 1:50. So wait, let me get that right. Swim a 100 and come in before the 1:50 so you can head out for the next 100 on the 1:50? Uh oh. Every three we were supposed to drop 5 sec, so we would end up at 1:40’s by the end. Yikes. So I gave it a go and after the first 100 eyed the clock to see how bad it was. 1:50. What?! How is that possible? I looked again and as the red arm moved forward, it had to be. I did the next 2 and same result. I swam, giddy with my performance yet baffled at the how. Of course I didn’t get any faster through the remaining 6, but was still pretty stoked to be where I was. By number 8 I was hurting, or rather “suffering” and I knew this is exactly what I needed.
The next set in the workout involved a 400 IM. Uhh a what? I suspected it involved something other than freestyle. I’m fine doing back and breast but that other thing…yah no thanks. The coach sensed fear in my eyes and kindly asked if I knew how to dolphin kick. I laughed. He said just give it a try and gave me a friendly reminder that this is why I came, to try something new. Off I went in an awkard giration of legs and hips. I’m not a mermaid. The coach commented later that I had it, but my hips were a little stiff, I should try loosening up a litte. So, hump the water basically? That seemed to work better. Then I attempted to throw my arms into it. And came smacking down in the water like a complete idiot. I can only hope someone was entertained by my ridiculous performance. Will stick to the other 3 strokes for now.
We wrapped up our main set and ended up doing some 25 sprints which then turned into some relays for fun. We all stood at the end of our lane, and that is when I noticed it. The friendly woman who was so much faster than me was at least 6 months preggers. Of course. I can only imagine how much faster she moves through the water without that giant bun in the oven. Back to that whole “suffering” thing. Post workout a bunch of us hopped in the hot tub and chatted about random things. All in all nice people and great workout.
This morning I even attempted to swim with the “real” masters people. Another tough workout, I think they somehow completed 3600 yds in an hour. I “suffered” through it and made it to 3400 in 1 hr. 15 minutes. But my muscles felt tired and I wasn’t able to come in on the 1:50 today. Perhaps I was tired for a good reason? Maybe it’s just part of becoming a swimmer.