I’m my own number one

19 10 2015

Swimming is still my nemesis. One of the hardest things about it is you’re so on your own, it’s hard to know when and what’s going wrong.

As my swim coach Jenny told me, you have to be your own number one coach because you’re the only person there most of the time. So you have to be aware. Which means you have to know what’s right and what’s wrong in the first place.

Even though I was asked to change only a couple of elements of my stroke (at the moment!), every time I get in the pool, I have to be so aware of what my arms are doing, when they’re doing it, what my legs are (or aren’t) up to, and how I’m breathing. It’s the true definition of multi tasking.

But when you’re focusing on one thing, often another part of your stroke isn’t going so well. And sometimes, well, it’s all just one big epic fail.

That happened to me on Friday. I went for an early morning pre-work swim to get some practice in. Now, let me create some context here. The previous day I’d instructed Group Power and completed a 1.5hr run – my longest run in well over a year. The day before that, a colleague and I had tackled three big Wellington hills on the bike.

It’s fair to say my body was a bit tired.

The night before my swim, after I’d got home from my run at about 7.45pm, I didn’t want to eat a proper meal. It was too late. So I had a smoothie – full of good fats and protein. I thought it would be enough. I didn’t drink much water though and noticed I was REALLY thirsty when I went to bed. But I didn’t want to drink then worried I’d be up half the night!

And our new kitten decided to annoy us several times during the night, leading to a very restless sleep (or lack thereof) and a very tired me on Friday morning.

I didn’t realise it, but I’d probably just created a perfect storm for a crap swim sesh.

And crap is probably a massive understatement.

Every length I felt I couldn’t breathe, that I was gasping for every single breath. I felt my stroke was completely off, that I wasn’t getting the efficiency and I was just flailing around in the water. It felt like an incredibly hard workout and I quit earlier than I’d wanted to but felt I really was only going to make things worse.

I immediately got in touch with both of my coaches, thinking the worst and desperate for advice. But as I mentioned earlier, people can’t tell you what you’re doing wrong if they can’t see what you’re doing wrong. So until I can get another time with my swim coach, I still have to be my own number one coach. And that’s pretty hard when you’re trying really hard but seem to be going backwards.

I knew I hadn’t had the best prep for a good swim, but that still didn’t explain everything. Then I saw this article about swimming faster and further posted on a friend’s Facebook page and some things started to click.

I was failing on the first two tips. I didn’t have to go any further. I was trying too hard and I was holding my breath under the water.

So with an inkling of what I may have been doing wrong, I was more determined than ever to try and make it right. So I got back in the pool two days later to give it another go. OK, yes, I was better prepared in terms of fuel and a bit more sleep, but I’d still done a big ride the day before so I wasn’t exactly in a different place. But it was a whole different experience.

I took my time. What was the rush after all? Yes, OK so there’s a cut off time for the half ironman swim that I have to aim to beat, but that comes later. I need to get the technique right before I can focus on speed. And by swimming in a more relaxed way, I didn’t need to take such long breaks between lengths. Which makes your overall swim time about the same anyway.

And my breathing was a lot steadier and consistent. Still not perfect but I was way less out of breath – probably helped by the fact I wasn’t trying as hard.

It would be so easy to back out after a(nother) bad day at the office, but maybe this is where my competitive instinct is working to my advantage.

I’m determined to beat this. To overcome my nemesis.

Like Chrissie Wellington says in the article above:

Many triathletes are non/weak swimmers initially and have overcome their fears to develop their skill, strength and speed at this discipline. Take pride in how far you’ve already come.

Another colleague commented, after I told the story of conquering Brooklyn Hill on the bike for the first time, that she loved my “never say die” attitude. I’ve never thought of my competitive instincts like that before. But it’s good to know that they’re now coming in handy.

Never Say Die

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20 10 2015
Things only triathletes understand | A little old blog, by little old me

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