Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I can't swim so I dog paddle...

Okay, so it's not quite that bad, but still.

I learned how to swim pretty young the same way most kids do who grow up on the River. The older kids threw me into deep water. Since then, I was in the water all the time. However, that doesn't mean that I learned how to swim any better. Feel for the water? Sure. Get from point A to B as quickly as possible? Not so much. An that's how it was for the first 23-ish years of my life.

After graduating college, I was desperate for a job--combination of lots of competition (I knew I wanted to be a biologist. I didn't know everyone else did too!) and a crappy economy in 2002. So, I was happy to find a job anywhere in Arizona; even Ajo. In Ajo there is Reservation to the East, Air Force Property North and West, and more protected land south. BUT for four short months a year there is a public pool. So I lifeguarded in my spare time. First time ever swimming laps. Easy enough follow the stripe until you run into the wall, then turn around and do it again-and again... Kind of like a treadmill--work hard-make that painfully hard-and go nowhere.

Then, a year and a half ago I finally started swimming with a purpose. Get in shape for triathlons. At first my gains were awesome. After four months, I posted a pretty decent time in my first sprint. Then I swam some more and raced the same sprint six months later. I felt awesome in the water. Climbed out of the pool, and...8 seconds slower. Wait, what? Okay, I'll train more. Six months later, a hundred thousand yards or so in the water, and...exactly the same time. AGAIN?!!

So, I finally decided to get some help. I got a recommendation for a local swim coach, and signed up for three lessons. My early goal was to see what I could do to improve my time in the local sprint by next time (yes, I'm giving it another shot in March). My first lesson was tonight. Part of me was hoping that my form was bad; or at least not good. At least that would mean there was room for improvement. So, I was asked the expected list of questions: background, goals, etc. "Have you had lessons before?" Yes, I was five. I think the goal then was not to drown. Don't worry, I've got that covered.

Then there were the unexpected questions:

"How old are you? 30?" - Um, no, but thanks. I must look mature.
"So you're on TriCats? Are you the coach?" -Negative. Just old-looking apparently. In fact, I know I'm too old to be on a college team. What's your point?

So, we got past that, and I decided to overlook the unnecessary, possibly offensive questions and jumped in the pool. After a couple laps, the verdict was apparently clear-"March is not going to be a good month for you." Wait, what? He went on. "We are going to work on a major hitch in your stroke." The recommendation? Swim with the slowest people possible. Nothing anaerobic. In fact "what would be best is if you let your swim fitness go to hell for awhile. You will be slower for a while, but after you get the new technique down you might get faster. Unfortunately, you really have to develop your kick. And you need to totally re-develop your stroke which you can't do when you're dying during your set."

Wait, I "might" get faster? What am I here for again? Kick? Didn't I tell you I was a triathlete? Can you bill me after I cut at least a minute off of my sprint swim time?

So anyway this is where I'm at for now. I am apparently destined for some slow swimming followed by hopefully some gains in time for Vineman in July. In the meantime, you'll see me at the pool. I be the one at the shallow end trying to keep up with the freshman frat boys in boardshorts who are "going to get in shape in time for spring break".

I'll be swimming ridiculous kicking sets. Am I willing to work? You bet. Will I let my fitness go to hell? Um, no... My short-term goal: Get in shape for spring break...for Lake Havasu...but for the triathlon. Not so that I can strut my stuff on the beach.


Jen Rife said...

I just started swimming last April... also for sprint tri's. I was told I have a crummy kick too. I've got another swim evaluation on Monday, so I may be joining you in the slow lane this spring! :)

Andy Suter said...

Matt G-Bau, that is awesome but remember, the swim is only 3% of the triathlon. Just think if you put all the time you put into swimming into the bike. Just sayin... hahahahha