Archive for June 6, 2011

Two months is a long time.


1/6 of a year, 56 days +/-.  A lot can change over that period of time.  I’m hoping so right about now anyway, as we are just now 61 days away from our first Triathlon.

I’m feeling super great about my bike and my run.  I will definitely be spending some additional time in the saddle over the next few weeks, and a whole lot more in the month of July, but right now I feel like I could execute a very solid 13.8 mile ride and 3 mile run if Jack’s Generic Triathlon were tomorrow.

The 500 meter swim however?  Another story.

To be fair I have the same amount of time left to prepare (8 weeks), as I have been swimming thus far.  I just had my 8th weekly lesson on Friday with Coach Claudia.

The improvement that has been made over that period of time has been pretty remarkable.  But when you are just starting out at something and are willing to work hard at it, the gains come very quickly.  The real question will be when do those gains slow down, and do I have enough time left to enter the water on July 31st with a fighter’s chance of swimming the entire distance without turning over on my back to catch my breath and loose precious time.

I have a lot of confidence in my coach, and I know she is going to put me in the best possible position on my birthday for success.  But the thought of swimming in open water, in a crowd with other athletes kicking and clawing their way over and around me makes me feel a little bit uneasy.

This past Friday however, fate conspired with our training calendar and I got my first taste of swimming in a crowd.

My swim lesson coincided with the last day of school for the Leander School District.  The kids were let out at 11:00 a.m., and they filled the neighborhood pool where only two weeks before Coach Claudia and I had our choice of lanes for me to swim in.  This week however I could not swim a single length of the pool without navigating through and around kicking legs and flailing arms.

In addition to very choppy water, the starting and stopping nature of the laps were great practice for Jack’s Generic.

After a series of laps we did pulls (where your legs are immobilized with a small buoy placed between your knees to isolate the shoulders and require you to swim 100% upper body), kickboard laps with fins to work on strengthening my legs and refining my kick, as well as our first attempt at bilateral breathing.

Starting from scratch 8 weeks ago, Coach Claudia simply had me learning to swim breathing on every other stroke on my right side.  Getting that breathing pattern down has been the most difficult aspect of the swim for me, but has finally gotten to the point where it feels automatic.

Stroke on the right with my head in the water, rotate my body to the left as my left arm shoots forward to stroke while I grab a quick breath, then pull forward with my right arm as I blow out my air underwater.  All done in a rhythm as I glide perfectly through the water.  Length after length, 25 Meters at a time.

There are a lot of differences between pool swimming and open water swimming.

The water temperature.

The water clarity.

The lack of a line to sight on the bottom of the pool to sight.

The chop in the water.

The lack of an edge to push off from.

The fact that you can’t just stand up if you are tired.

But one of the things I needed to start to work on was breathing on my left side as well as my right or bilateral breathing as its referred to by swimmers and triathletes.

This comes into play in the open water swim during the triathlon as other athletes or weather conditions can make breathing on one side of your body or the other not only preferred, but sometimes required.

If the wind is blowing strongly from your right and you have a fellow swimmer immediately to your right throwing off his or her wake, when you rotate to breathe you may only get a mouthful of water instead of that precious gulp of air.

By being able to breathe bilaterally, you can simply switch to left side breathing of vice-versa based on the water conditions.

Another benefit will be when we are moving toward longer distances for the half-ironman swim training of 1.2 miles, I will be breathing on every 3rd stroke or every 5th stroke, which will require me to alternate between right side and left side breathing.

After a few akward attempts at starting, as my swim stroke after just 8 weeks has become so ingrained into my muscle memory, I was able to push off with my right arm extended instead of my left, pull forward, grab a breath on my left side and swim the length of the pool.  Then another.  Then another.  Then another.

As far as “firsts” go, I was able to handle this workout very well and will now be swimming alternate laps right side and left side this week before our next lesson to further hammer home the new technique.

Only 8 weeks to go, it still sounds like a lot of time to improve, but if this training cycle is anything like the final 2 months of marathon training, race day is going to be here before I know it.

Swim on.