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.