I’d like to argue that the #1 barrier to entry in the triathlon world is swimming. Hopefully, for many of us, running and biking are second nature even if you’ve never raced in either event. You can successfully get from point A to point B by either biking on your sweet, turquoise cruiser bike (with basket) or running in flip flops from the couch to the freezer to get a scoop of ice cream between commercial breaks. Hey, we’re all friends here, I’m not judging. Good. So we’ve established that most folks can run and bike somewhat successfully.
Swimming, however, seems to baffle most folks. While the pool doesn’t prove to be as much of an issue, it’s certainly open water swimming that has most people shying away from triathlons. Sharks, murky waters, slimy lake bottoms, fish, amoebas, temperature, waves, tides…all reasons I’ve heard for avoiding open water swimming. I know this because, well…I was one of those people. My main issue being the disgusting, squishy, slimy, muddy bottoms of the Texas lakes. I managed to get over it. Mainly because you should be swimming…not walking around in the lake. Henceforth, you can minimize contact with the bottom of the lake…if you get really good at swimming.
And herein lies the point of this post: my need to get better at swimming. As with most of my “events” in triathlon, I pretty much have 1 speed: get to the end, quickly and without dying. This worked pretty well for me in the beginning but it pretty much always insured a last place finish. If your “training speed” is the same as your “racing speed”, you’re most likely not going to win…unless everyone else in your age group drowns – your chances drastically increase at that point.
Last night, I tackled my lack of speed in the swim. An endless pool, as it turns out, is a magical thing. You can set the “speed” and therefore, force yourself to swim at that pace. In the course of an hour, I managed to strengthen my kick, increase my arm turnover, and breathe more efficiently. (Disclaimer: I have a kick-butt coach.) I was swimming a whole MINUTE faster on my 100 meter pace than I normally do, proving that I can, in fact, vary my speed (now that I’ve learned how).
I’m looking forward to testing out my new-found swimming skillz this weekend at our Open Water swim workout. Sorry Brendan, but I don’t think I’ll need to be drafting off of you anymore.
Just keep swimming…just keep swimming…just keep swimming…