Six months off from swimming through the ultrarunning season plus sub-standard swim workout frequency in the past few months is a formula for mediocrity. Yes, I know I’m lucky that this minimalist approach breeds something greater than suckiness, but I put in my time during my teen years. Get over it.
A few weeks ago, I still wasn’t feeling very confident in the pool. By confident, I mean willing to subject myself to the wrath of the time clock by attempting a timed set. What? That’s right, peeps, I’ve been swimming mostly laps. After a while, I would build in the occasional up-tempo 200 or 300 freestyle and see what my times were, but I wasn’t challenging myself to back the effort up with another timed 200 or 300 or whatever.
This was mid-June and I was beginning to worry that perhaps I was a tad bit behind the eight ball with my swim fitness. But lo and behold, the thing that does the very most for my swim speed occurred. Yes, due to over eagerness with regular running speedwork and a fair bit of racing, my right heel stopped just “talking” to me and proceeded to “talk pretty loudly.” It wasn’t screaming at me, because thankfully age and experience have taught me not to go that far. So I didn’t run for about a week and a half.
Towards the end of that week off from running (and not a lot of biking for that matter), I finally made it to the pool and figured what the heck, if I may as well get in a solid workout while I’m here. It hadn’t been happening in my other two triathlon sports, so let’s see what I can get done. So I queued up one of my standard main set workouts and had at it.
On the first 100, I felt great. I felt like the old me. But I didn’t want to get excited. Just because I felt stronger, didn’t mean I was moving any faster. Yet, when I touched the wall and looked at the task-master clock, it told me good news! The kind of news I might see when my swim is in good shape. Not great shape, but good shape according to my triathlon swim fitness standards. The set went great! Hallelujuah.
Confidence boosted, I arrived at the pool the following week determined to do another standard main set, but one with a little more challenging interval. Yes, I’m running again by this point, but low volume and slow. As I finish my warm up, who should walk onto the pool deck but Kelly McLaughlin.
Now, for those of you who don’t know Kelly, she’s been on the local tri scene for at least as long as I have and generally wreaks major swim havoc on all but the very best swimmers. A reasonable goal for me would be to stay on her feet for 3 strokes before the gap opens up. I know I’m prone to hyperbole, but I’m not exaggerating in this case.
So Kelly jumps in and we share the lane. After she warms up, she joins me in my long freestyle set. Except. She does I.M. That’s individual medley for you Ironman focused people. Thankfully, she leaves the wall 10 seconds after I do, which is good because if she left only 5 seconds back, she would have overtaken me within 50 yards. Girl’s got a mean butterfly. Heck. Girl’s got a mean swim everything. When I got to the challenging back half of the set, it was a big help having someone swimming behind me doing IM. It makes it much harder to buy into the mental excuses the lactic acid filled body starts sending to the brain when I’m in that position.
Again, the set was a success. A bit harder to execute than it will be in a couple months, but I should be just fine. Plenty fine in time for Worlds in November.
Yesterday, I swam open water with Linda at Ebenezer. The lake was choppy, so that was good practice. Only 30 minutes, but it was primarily parallel to the chop– the most challenging direction in my opinion.
For a final swimming related note, Gary shared a sudden realization that you don’t have to think about breathing to actually breathe. Yes, of course I laughed. Then I reminded him to think about his heartbeat, but this brings up an important point. He can’t be the only one that thinks it takes some semblence of effort to remember to breathe while swimming. Imagine what it would be like to expend that kind of effort thinking about little things that would happen perfectly well on their own? Exhausting!
I remain fast in my assertion that learning to relax in the water is the most– no most-est important thing you can learn with swimming in triathlons.