Swim: 1,500 m/35,400 m
Bike: 0/102.2 miles
Run: 0/53.7 miles
If you’re a real swimmer, you might want to skip this post. But if you’re someone who’s worked hard to teach yourself a new skill, only to meet with stuttering progress and frequent frustration, you might appreciate what happened during my latest swim.
I swam 300 meters. Non-stop.
300 meters is the distance of the swim portion of the sprint triathlon that’s coming up in May. Before yesterday, the farthest non-stop swim I had completed was 150 meters, which I did only once. Usually I am forced to stop, even if just for 5-10 seconds to catch my breath, every second or third length. I felt like my form has been improving, but the breathing was not coming along at the same pace. No matter how good I felt while traversing the pool, I always found myself getting short of breath as I got into the second or third length.
I was starting to get a little worried, and wondered how I would swim in the sprint race (not to mention the 1,500m open-water swim in September). Would I need to take short breaks every few lengths during the race? I also questioned my cardio fitness – was I so unfit that I had trouble breathing after so little swimming? If this was the case, it seemed like I had a lot of ground to cover to build that fitness before the May race, and an unfathomable task ahead of me to be able to complete 1,500 meters non-stop later this year.
But yesterday I had a workout that was nothing less than groundbreaking. I’ve been reading more of Total Immersion, and started the workout with the same drills I used last time. They were much better this time around – maybe a few days of thinking about them had paid off. I even added a few new drills that I hadn’t attempted last time, and they went well.
After 300 meters of drills I turned over and started my normal freestyle workout. Immediately I felt a difference as a result of the latest drills. After a couple laps I thought of one more tweak to make, and then another. And, suddenly, I was swimming so smoothly that I reached the end and wasn’t out of breath, and then I reached the other end and still wasn’t out of breath, and then a third time, still feeling fresh.
After about 200 meters of this, I thought, “This feels so good, I bet I could tackle all 300 meters of the sprint distance right now.” So I did it. And it felt great. I didn’t stop a single time – just immediately turned and pushed off at the end of each length. I had the pool to myself and started in the far lane, snaking across the pool for six lengths and then retracing my path to the start. And I still felt fresh at the end of the 300!
The form tweaks I made yesterday finally pushed me across the threshold. My swimming world is now open to so many more workout variations. I’m so hungry to get back to the pool and swim like this some more, like a kid with a new toy who just doesn’t want to put it down for days after receiving it.
Again, for “real” swimmers, this probably seems pretty insignificant. But it’s actually been a huge mental hurdle for me, imagining how I’m going to fare in a race situation when I couldn’t even string together more than four lengths at a time. Yesterday’s swim was a huge victory for me in that regard, to learn that it wasn’t my fitness, but my form that was holding me back.
For the first time since stepping into the pool more than two months ago, I actually felt like a swimmer.