Tuesday, 8 January 2013

From Drowning to Swimming!!

Eighteen months ago I decided to undertake my first triathlon to raise money for 500 miles, a charity which raises money for the supply of prosthetics and orthotics for people in Kenya and Mali who have missing or deformed limbs. I wanted a challenge to encourage lots of sponsorship and thought this would be one, especially since at the time I couldn’t make it through 750m of swimming with any stroke!! My first triathlon was Stirling Try-a-Tri Sprint distance in June 2009.

I worked hard for several months making sure I could make 750m breaststroke to at least complete the swim. However, I knew this was not really the best way to complete the swim for my overall tri performance. At the same time I have been trying to learn to swim front crawl. My first attempts were interesting, to say the least. Having had the usual school tuition for training – get in the water and get to the other side of the pool without swallowing all of it – I didn’t really have much idea of what I was supposed to be doing. As a consequence I tended to avoid swimming crawl as it involved an awful lot of splashing, not much forward movement and an ever present danger of a lifeguard jumping in to rescue me!!

In fact I was so bad that when a friend tried to teach me to swim her first suggestion was that I use a float and kick for a pool length. The result was that I went backwards, then couldn’t swim for laughing. So, I obviously needed help. This came first from Andrea, a colleague and friend who as an open water swimmer who has swum the English Channel knows lots about swimming technique.

She very patiently watched my efforts, gave me great advice and spent time helping me get a reasonable technique. Then I joined the TOD team, and one of the huge benefits has been regular training sessions in the pool.

For the first session I almost turned up with a rubber ring and arm bands, but wasn’t sure that wouldn’t get me into more trouble than I was already in. When Brian asked me to swim a length of crawl it was the last thing I wanted to do as I knew my technique was still very iffy, but I knew it had to be done. He was very kind (well, he didn’t laugh) and from that first session has given me great advice and tips. In addition, he gave me a couple of tough swim sessions to do regularly.

When I first saw them and realised the sessions were 80 and 100 lengths I nearly died. The warm up session of 30 lengths was about my total swim distance at the time, but swimming the longer distance regularly has really helped my swim fitness.

My main goal has been to swim the full sprint race distance front crawl without stopping. It has taken me some time to get my breathing together and relax enough in the pool to string a number of lengths together, but a couple of weeks back I managed two sets of 10 lengths in my local 20m pool.
Then it all seemed to come together, I did twenty lengths in one go last week, then yesterday for the first time I completed forty lengths without stopping.

That last length was amazing, it was a bit tricky to swim with a broad grin on my face and the guy in the Jacuzzi did wonder why the lone swimmer was whooping at the end of the length, but the feeling of finally getting the rhythm and having the strength to get the distance is amazing. At 800m this is slightly over the sprint race distance, and at over 23mins it is 4mins slower than my breaststroke time, but I know it will get quicker.

I can now call myself a swimmer at last!!


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