A Tale of Two Swims

Matilda the dog, swimming

Matilda offered to demonstrate some swimming to help me see how it should be done.

It was the worst of times, it was the best of times.  Yes in that order, sorry Charles Dickens.

Last week I did two swimming training sessions, as usual.  Ideally I should probably do more because swimming is definitely my weakest link, but I also have to squeeze in running, cycling, a mash-up session (which I have brought into the training mix earlier than I originally anticipated, following the disastrous first attempt) as well as strength training.  So basically I have found that for now, two swims is my limit.  Maybe when I’m good enough to do more mash-ups I’ll be able to increase the swimming because I’ll get my running and cycling done in one hit – stay tuned on that I guess.

[Incidentally, I did my second ever mash-up last week and the best way I could describe it would be to say that it was like I had turned into a chicken trying to climb a tree.  Leg coordination = non-existent. Approximate distance gained = negligible. Hilarity factor = medium. Oh who am I kidding, hilarity factor was high. There is muchos work to be done on this element of my triathlon training; it aint pretty.  Look out for a report after next week’s attempt.]

So anyway (last week, two sessions of swimming, stay focused Lauren) my first session of swimming was – how do you say? Sh*thouse.

I got out of the pool on that day and I could see no light at the end of the tunnel.  Or maybe there was a light, but it was a headlight.  On a train.  Coming straight for me.  And frankly I was prepared to lay my ‘swimming career’ down on the tracks and walk away.

I couldn’t work out why it had gone so badly wrong – I didn’t try doing anything fancy or different, I just tried to swim and failed miserably – it was chaos.  Arms and legs were flying in all directions.  For some reason a random old dude was there videoing the pool (is that even legal?) and it’s possible that the embarrassment of failing once in front of an onlooker and the ensuing criticism I inflicted upon myself (you effing idiot, what the hell was that, you are not getting any better AT ALL) snowballed into a self-fulfilling prophecy of the bad kind.

Whatever the cause, I was convinced it was my worst swim ever.

Eventually I had survived 50 minutes of it and was able to get out. I went to collect Shane from the treadmill, dripping that special mix of chlorine and urine all over the gym floor and not caring at all because DAMMIT I CAN’T SWIM.

And needless to say, thanks to the Triathlon Gods and their cruel sense of humour my old mate Kirk was there pumping iron.  He came over and asked how I had got on in the pool.  Because unfortunately the aforementioned trail of chlorine-urine along with the rings around my eyes from my goggles (oh, and the fact I was dressed in a swimming costume and a towel) is a dead giveaway to a swimming instructor that someone has been swimming.

I tried to sound more positive than I felt, and said that I’d done 12 messy lengths with the float and 3 without.  And I’d kept my head looking straight down the whole time, I added.

‘That’s fintastic!’ he said.  He is a New Zealander so that is genuinely what he said.

I stared at him, confused.  What part of that mayhem I just committed in the pool was fantastic? Forget the 12 lengths cheating with the float, I only did 3 without it!

’12 lengths is 600 metres – you only need to do 300 metres for your first triathlon.  Next time you’re in the pool, try to not stop between your first 6 lengths.  Don’t worry about a tumble turn or anything flashy, you wont be doing much of that in the ocean.  Just do a length, quickly turn around and head straight back again.  You’re doing fintastic.’ Kirk enthused.

I nodded and said something that hopefully sounded grateful and appreciative of his support, and went home.

It took a few hours for my tantrum to subside, but I replayed Kirk’s words over in my head. They were so different from the words I had been saying to myself.  Maybe I’d been a bit hard on myself, I realised.  I don’t need to be swimming perfectly yet and swimming with a float is OK; literally 6 weeks ago I couldn’t swim freestyle at all.  I remembered that I have to be prepared to start slowly and be kind to myself.  Even if I get to the Bribie Island Triathlon and still can’t swim ‘perfectly’, when I entered this triathlon game the deal was simply that I will count it as a success if I can get from one end of the 300m course to the other without doing breast stroke.

So going into the second swimming session of the week, I didn’t set myself any particular goals.  I was resolutely unperturbed when my legs started kicking in the wrong directions in a a rhythm that varied between 2 kicks per cycle (a cycle is every two arm strokes, one left arm stroke and one right) to 8 kicks per cycle within the space of 10 metres.  I took no offence; I let it happen.  I said good things to myself and was happy to be simply continuing to move forward, maintaining a good stroke and breathing properly.  Looking after the things that I could control that day, until my legs get used to not having a float between them to hold them up.  There is still enough time for them to improve.

And you know what?  I did 12 freaking lengths without a float.  It was probably hilarious to watch and an absolute disgrace to the swimming pool, but I did it.  And for only the second time, I had a vague sense of enjoying myself.  The best of times? Well yes, it was the best swimming session I have done yet.


4 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Swims

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