Currently Browsing: Swimming

I’m the Benjamin Button of Swimming

I swear, I must be the only person alive who seems to be getting worse the more she tries to swim. I’m like the Benjamin Button of swimming — the more time I spend in the water, the crappier I seem to get. My good swims are at about a 25-33%, meaning one out of every three or four swims actually feels decent. On the rare chance I”ll have what I think is a “good” swim workout (meaning I was just tragically slow instead of abysmally slow), the next 2-3 swims will be freaking awful and I’ll beat myself up over how hopeless I am until my body throws me a bone with a semi-decent swim again. Take today’s workout for example. Teresa persuaded me to do the “postal swim,” which is an hour-long time trial. The rule is simple: see how far you can swim in 60 minutes. She pestered me via email and asked if I was going to sign up, and I sighed and responded with, “I don’t really want to do it, but I will if you think it’ll be good for me.” By the time I stopped dragging my feet and committed to doing the workout, there were only a couple slots left. Teresa cheerfully jammed me into the first of three waves. Wave #1 started at 7 am. On a Sunday. FML. As if getting up at the ass crack of dawn on a Sunday morning for a bullshit swim workout wasn’t bad enough, I scanned the list of folks who were swimming in Wave #1 and realized that I was woefully outpaced among my fellow teammates. All of the fast assholes on my team were swimming at 7 am. I needed to be in Wave #3, which started at 9:30…or Teresa needed to make a separate “slowest of the slow” wave that started at noon and consisted of me and a no armed, one legged drifter named Hobo Joe. Also making the swim worse was the fact that I was out of town this past week for work, so my weekend workouts were especially heavy duty to make up for my travel time. I spent the weekdays in Denver before flying home and forcing myself to do a swim workout on Friday. My swim wasn’t great, which gave me a glimmer of hope that, by the Law of Transitive Beccas, my Sunday swim would be better. On Saturday I had a “Welcome back to Ironman training you lazy bastard” workout that consisted of 3×1 hour bike intervals with a 15 minute brick run after each set. By the end of my 3:45 workout, I was exhausted, my legs were aching, and I was dreading the early morning swim that would end my weekend. This morning I woke up at a soul-crushingly early 5:30 am and puttered around as nervous as I would be if it were an actual race. I was irrationally anxious and agonized over what to eat for breakfast. I even sucked down a cup of coffee, something I only do on race mornings. Jason and I hopped into the car (he didn’t want to do the postal swim either, but I nagged him into Band of Brothers-ing it with me) and drove over to Mercer Island. It was stupid and dark outside–as in “dark enough that I should still be in bed instead of driving to a turdtastic swim workout.” The island has no streetlights and the pool center was dark too, resulting in a supremely paranoid left turn into the parking lot since I was worried about missing the driveway and careening down an embankment (which, admittedly, still...
read more

Stop Trying to Make Flip Turns Happen, Teresa

I’ve been forcing myself to go to the group swims held every other weekend in an effort to improve my swim splits this coming season from “abysmal” to “passably mediocre.” I went to the first one on dead legs thanks to two hours of workouts beforehand, then missed the second group swim because I was running on empty and needed a rest day. The third class was this past weekend, and as always, I dreaded it because it involved me getting into a pool and using horrible form to propel myself through chilly chlorinated water. For this particular swim class, however, Teresa decided to torture me further by announcing that we were all going to work on flip turns. Unsurprisingly, this mediocre athlete don’t do flip turns. I very obviously lack the coordination and skill to pull off a graceful somersault in the water and push off the wall in one fluid motion. Once I went to a flip turn clinic that Teresa was teaching at the Seattle Athletic Club, and not only did I burn out my sinuses from the military-grade chlorine that flooded my nasal passages every time I contorted my body underwater (Teresa’s shouts to “Tuck your chin!” did not help, as apparently I am incapable of scrunching my head in that manner), I would more often than not attempt to flip at the end of the lane and end up in the one next to me, having somehow maneuvered myself underneath the lane divider and crookedly emerging in some other swimmer’s personal space. “Just practice doing flip turns during your warm ups and cool downs!”, Teresa would tell me. Uh yeah, if I can’t even stay in my lane during a mostly empty swim clinic, I can’t imagine a pool full of lap swimmers would appreciate my flailing appendages slapping into them while I repeatedly apologize and insist to their bruised faces that practice makes perfect. So yeah, flip turns aren’t for me. It’s not a big deal–I’m slow and crappy enough as it is, so adding a flip turn into the mix isn’t going to be the deciding factor in me suddenly becoming as fast as Dara Torres. When I get to the wall I just turn around and push off, so it’s not like I’m taking a five minute break at each end. I’ve accepted the fact that flip turns and I will never have a future together in a pool with a yard and a white picket fence and 2.5 kiddie pools, and that’s okay. Or so I thought. Here T was trying to force flip turns on me once again. She’d have us swim for a bit and then do something dumb like somersault in the middle of the pool. Fortunately, she exempted those of us who “got dizzy” when trying flip turns, so I feigned vertigo and opted just to swim a couple laps instead. The next step was to have people swim to the end of a lane and attempt a flip turn, but I opted to splash around in the middle of the pool and daydream about the day when the swim portion of a triathlon would be replaced with something more practical like light stretching or cookie eating. After the flip turn nonsense, as the workout came to an end I thought I was in the clear. And then T did something especially dastardly: she combined my two most loathed swim activities, flip turns and relays. Teresa is a fan of concluding the swim classes with some relay bullshit, which I hate because it makes me irrationally stressed. She breaks us into groups and gives us some...
read more

The First Open Water Swim of the Season is Always Gloriously Awful

For me, the first open water swim of the season is always incredibly crappy. No matter how much pool swimming I do, once my toes touch lake water for the first time in several months, what little swim ability and athleticism I had is left on the shore alongside a fresh little pile of grassy-colored duck poop. Last week was no exception; in fact, throw in some shitty weather along with the customary flailing and you’ve got what (I dearly hope) will be my worst open water swim of the year. I checked my workout schedule and saw that Teresa assigned me a 2,000 yd swim or the option of swimming with the group at Greenlake. I wasn’t thrilled with either choice, but no matter how many times I closed my eyes and opened them, expecting the workout to change to “Eat a cheeseburger, fries, and a milkshake — hard effort!”, the stupid swim workout never went away. Jason, being the annoying training partner that he is, was all “Herp derp let’s go to the group swim!” I wasn’t crapping myself with glee at the thought of yanking on my wetsuit and trudging into water that was marginally warmer (56 degrees) than the air temperature (54 degrees), but I figured I’d have to get in the lake eventually, and since I want to improve my swimming, it’s a necessary evil. It was raining when we arrived at Greenlake, and my teammates and I made futile attempts to shield our dry clothes from the precipitation. I pulled on my wetsuit and, anticipating how cold the water was, yanked on a thermal swimcap in addition to a regular cap. The water didn’t feel quite as cold as I thought it would be, but it was still a bit of a shock to the system. Jas and I took off with our friends Brent and Jes. I made my way to the second orange buoy from the shore, huffing and puffing the entire way and stopping a couple times to catch my breath. By the time I made it to the buoy, it felt like I had been swimming forever. I looked at my watch. Three minutes and nine seconds. Son of a bitch. Jason and Brent opted to swim across the lake and do the full mile, but since my first open water swim of the season is always spectacularly awful, I headed back to shore with Jes. It felt hard to breathe, like the chin strap from the thermal cap was restricting me. We went out to the buoy again, and when I got there I flagged down Thomas and his son, who were in a canoe keeping an eye on those of us who were foolish enough to be swimming that day. Me: “Can I give you my thermal cap?” Thomas, joking: “Man, you’re that warm?” I yanked off my goggles, then my regular swim cap, then my thermal cap and handed it over to him. His son, meanwhile, offered some tough love to Jes. Declan: “Want a swim noodle?” Jes, politely: “Uh, sure!” Declan handed her the noodle, then said in a grave tone, “You have to give it back,” as if Jes figured he was gifting it to her permanently. We all laughed and they paddled away. I felt better not having the too-tight thermal cap choking me (although, weirdly enough, I swam with it fine when I raced Boise last year; I know I’ve gained weight since last season, but I didn’t think it was all chin weight). Then I realized something: it’s pretty damn difficult to put on a swim cap when treading in deep...
read more

Old Ladies Think I’m a Big Deal

Yeah, yeah, I hate swimming. It’s no secret. But in my constantly short-lived commitment to improve my swim times, I’ve intermittently tried hitting the pool more frequently. While slumming it in the ghetto YMCA pool that’s kept at a face-punchingly awful 86 degrees, I’ve realized something. I am freakin’ fast. Wait, let me clarify. I’m not “fast” in the traditional and logical sense, like “Oh, she can swim 1.2 miles in 25 minutes fast.” Hell no. Right now my measly swim goal for this season is to break 45 minutes at my next half Ironman race. What I mean by “I’m freakin’ fast” is that old ladies marvel at my mad swim skills. To the wrinkly, blue-haired women rockin’ the water wings and snorkels at the pool, I am Natalie muthafuckin’ Coughlin. It all started earlier this year when I was huffing and puffing my way through a stupid swim set, trudging back and forth in the pool. At the end of one set I stopped to rest, and the senior citizen who was sharing the lane with me and had been breast stroking slower than I was kick boarding said, “Are you in a master’s class?” When I said no, she beamed and exclaimed, “Well I think you just look great! So fast!” Confused, I narrowed my eyes, suspicious that this old woman was trolling me. Ultimately, though, I decided to respect my elders so I politely thanked her and continued with my workout. As the year progressed, however, I’d continue to get compliments from geriatric swimmers. I’d be doing my workout when two pale, varicosey legs dangling out of a skirted one-piece would plop into my lane, and the equivalent of Betty White with a swim cap and flippers would meekly ask me if she could share the lane with me even though she was “so much slower” than my blazing fast arms and pow-pow-power legs.¬†Holy crap, I thought, maybe I am getting faster. Sure, it’s always some old lady who marvels at my mad swim skillz, but still, they’re pretty wise, right? My newfound confidence was shattered, however, when I did a swim workout in Colorado while I was in town for work. I was minding my own business and doing my workout when a gym employee made me shove over into a different lane because some stupid middle school swim team needed to practice. My irritation quickly dissolved into deep and profound shame as these little brats proceeded to hand my ass to me in the water set after set after set.¬† How could this be? How could these kids who can’t even get into a PG-13 movie by themselves be owning me so effortlessly? These old ladies are lying assholes. When it comes to speed, it’s all relative. To a pre-teen I’m slow as shit, but to the old lady snorkling next to me during my swim workout today, I’m “so fast!” and am merely a Costco-sized bag of Werther’s Originals away from being regarded as the most awesome human being to have ever lived. I may not be speedy in the traditional sense, but as long as I keep swimming in the nearly 90-degree pool alongside water aerobicizing septuagenarians, I’m a pretty big...
read more

Clearly It’s Been a While Since I’ve Swum

Clearly It’s Been a While Since I’ve Swum

Last week was the first time I swam since doing Ironman Canada at the end of August. There’s nothing quite like a 3 1/2 month break from doing something to really make you feel like you royally suck at it when you pick it back up again. I maintain that giving swimming the cold shoulder isn’t entirely my fault — when my coach puts “45 minute swim or bike” on my schedule, which option do you think I’m going to go for? The one where I can waltz over to my bike and do a spin while laughing at the poor decisions of the latest 16 and Pregnant girl, or the one where I have to dig out my swimsuit, drive to the pool, jam my crap in a locker, rinse off, hop in the pool, and swim back and forth while fighting off the limbs of Old Guy McLane Hog who’s frog kicking next to me?

read more

« Previous Entries Next Entries »