By most peoples standards, I had a “good” swim at Lake Placid, 1:17 and change. By my standards and my competitors standards, it’s pathetic. However, I literally swam 4 times prior to the Ironman in Lake Placid and only one of those times was beyond a mile. I did this on purpose. Knowing that my swim would only be 10 to 13% of my overall time. I didn’t want to commit so much travel and training to a portion of the race that was going to be the smallest. And as a result, the swim performance was lack luster. So good for me, I reached my goal. But it doesn’t make me happy. It doesn’t make me happy to think that perhaps I COULD swim under 1 hour and be 17 minutes off of that time. I wanted to use the least amount of energy as possible and simply get through the swim without “sweating” and save energy for the bike and run. Which was over 10 more hours to go. I used all of the tools I had to save and minimize energy expenditure knowing that I hadn’t put in the time to prepare my body for a competitive Ironman swim…and, it worked.
Let’s get one thing straight, cold water doesn’t appeal to me. Cold pools even less. That being said, it is inevitable that one must get into this medium in order to compete in triathlon. And, open water swimming is truly a wonderful experience that I have enjoyed in many locations around the country. Like most sports, technique is critical and swimming is no exception. Changing one’s self or others’ technique in swimming can be a challenge, especially when one is resisting getting into the water. I know a company called “Go Swim” and this is probably the most important directive you can give anyone who is interested in becoming a swimmer. For instance, children swim on teams or at parks and recreation centers for hours, some with technique driven programs, others driven by mileage programs and both tend to create kids who can swim. I am not suggesting that one is worse or better than the other, I am just stating the fact that in order to become a swimmer you MUST go swim. So, I have begun the process of becoming a swimmer again by going to swim. I avoided it this season as much as possible and built fitness around the cycling and running (mostly the cycling) and my plan went well, as my results have shown. However, in order to be a champion in triathlon one needs to be a champion at all three sports.
There are so many great coaches and programs for swimming in the U.S. I have worked with a handful of them; Doug Stern, Terry Laughlin, and Dr. Nicholas Romanov. What I have learned from them is that flexibility, specificity, efficiency, and technique are the foundations of a great swimmer. Yet, each athletic body has to be considered when evaluating and applying these perimeters. For instance, I do not have the flexibility of a great swimmer so I have to do the best I can with what I’ve got. Training prep for a specific event is not difficult for me to do, so that isn’t tricky at all. Efficiency is developed from massive repetition and once it is in you, it sticks pretty well. The technique of swimming in accordance to the POSE Method is where I am today. I have decided to commit to perfect movement in the water which is something I have not done in the past. Practically, it’s about creating support with your hand and body and then breaking that support every stroke by unweighting the support hip. The next step is to repeat this movement over and over and over again until I fatigue which is the time to stop…in basketball, always end on a swish.
Bottom line, my goal is to do what I haven’t done yet…become a swimmer. Of course, this is a difficult challenge since I am now 50 and it is virtually impossible to put in the yardage and experiences that some of my competitors have had in college or earlier. So, I will have to do it with the current engine available and knowledge available that I have learned in the past 20 years of being in the sport. I will swim 3 days a week for about 2500 yards each, which I know makes any “true” swimmer laugh because that is the kind of mileage they would do on any given morning with another session at night. Regardless, I will unify all of my thoughts and energy to this task and see how it turns out by the end of next year.