Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Swim

The alarm on my phone went off at 4:45. I didn’t need it as I was already up, but that’s an entirely different story. Today was the day I had decided to retry the distance for the swim for the Pumpkinman Sprint Triathlon, coming up in less than 9 weeks. The swim is only .75 Km which is 750 Meters which is about 820 yards. Since I now know that the pool at the Whitney Ranch Aquatic Complex is 25 yards long, that translates to doing 33 lengths of the pool to go the distance.

I wasn’t in a hurry to get going. I took my time making sure I had everything I needed to shower and head straight to work after my swim. Its great that the pool opens at 5:00 on weekdays so that I can get my swim in in the morning. By the time I double checked that I had everything and made it out the door, the clock said 5:00.

It’s a short 3.1 mile drive to the center and for some reason I actually made all 4 of the lights with perfect timing – not having to stop at all. I grabbed my bag and headed into the building. The parking lot had 5 or 6 vehicles and it was still very dark outside.

I checked in at the desk and the person stationed there marked off 2 spots on my punch card. I have to say the use of the pools and the recreation facility next door are true bargains. I went into the locker room and put my bag, with my clothes in locker 430 and deposited my quarter and took out the key, knowing my belongings were secure.

I then walked out through the doors to the actual pool area and say that there were 7 people in the pool. 4 older individuals in the shallower end of the main pool and 3 swimmers in lanes farther down towards the deep end. I headed towards the deep end intending to simulate the environment of the open water swim as closely as possible by selecting a lane with a depth preventing me from standing on the bottom. I found a lane at the 6’6” mark, and put my towel and glasses on the chair near the open door, looking out towards the activity pool. I took off my watch and started the timer.

Knowing the timer was running I wasted no time. I turned towards the water, took the 3 steps to the edge and dove in. The water was plenty warm and no shock to my system. It welcomed me and I came up and started swimming towards the far end. It felt good to be in the water. I tried not to swim too fast and get winded. One thing I know is that I have terrible technique when it comes to swimming. I am not coordinated enough to do 3 things at once. I did my version of freestyle down the pool, trying to work on exhaling into the water and turning with my strokes to take in a breath.

As I said I am not coordinated and I have to consciously think about what I’m doing with my breathing as I’m moving through the water. As such I tend to forget to kick as well. I can usually manage 2 of the 3 required actions for swimming, but not all 3 at once. I can stroke and breathe (sort of) or I can stroke and kick with my head sown in the water. Its all 3 – stroke, kick and breathe that I have trouble with.

When I got to the far end of the pool I taped the wall and turned. I made it a point to not push off the wall nor hang on the wall at all in order to feel like I was in the middle of a lake. I swam back to the other end and had completed 2 lengths of the pool. I took a quick rest (only 5 seconds or so) and turned to swim to the other end of the pool. I continued struggle with my rhythm and coordination and I’m sure it was not a pretty sight! I was quickly getting winded as I wasn’t breathing properly and I know my water position was horrible with my feet dragging very low behind me in the water.

One thing I did discover is that I was much faster and felt better swimming on my back. It eliminated having to concentrate so much on my breathing and actually allowed me to catch my breath while making progress because I could kick and stroke at the same time. Of the 825 yard I did, I would say that at least 200 were done on my back. I got to the 16th length of the pool and I know I was actually significantly better than my last attempt (where I thought the 16 lengths were 800 not 400 yards) and I kept going. My rests were getting longer and I was spending more time swimming on my back, but I was determined to finish the needed distance.

20, 24, 28…I kept swimming. As I took my quick rest breaks, I noticed the sky was getting lighter out the windows. I continued until I hit the magic number of 32. I knew I just needed one more length of the pool. Determined to finish strong I turned and swam for the other end, putting my head down and actually kicking some. Of course this didn’t last long as I ran out of breath and had to go back to my horrible heads up style as I gasped for air. I did make it to the other end in a decent amount of time. I touched and then moved towards the ladder 3 lanes away. The others who had been swimming in those lanes had finished and gotten out during my swim.

I climbed up the ladder feeling the weight return to my body. That is one reason that I think I like swimming so much – I feel lighter movement is easier in many ways. I walked over to the chair with my towel, picked up my watch and pushed the stop button on the timer. I wondered how I had done and I struggled to focus on the numbers on its face: 42:25.

I had completed the required distance in just over 42 minutes. I was tired. My muscles had definitely felt the swim, but the majority of the effort had been done with my arms and not my legs. I realized that my legs felt almost nothing from the swim as I had used them so little during it.

I considered this a very successful swim. Sure I found out exactly how terrible of a swimmer I am technically speaking, I was pretty slow for the distance when looking at the times from the last Pumpkinman, and my eyes were really burning, but I had actually improved over my last effort. I had done the 400 yards in about 24 minutes. Realizing now that it was half the distance and if I double it I get 48 minutes for the required 800 yards. I had beat that time by over 5 minutes. It also gives me a true baseline for where my swimming skills are so I can measure my progress as I swim more and more.

Feeling pretty good I took my towel and glasses and headed into the locker room to get showered and dressed for work. I approached the locker and went to take the key out of the little insdie pocket of my suit that was supposed to keep it safe. I pulled the pocket out and there was no key in it. Thinking I might have mistaken where I put it, I checked the other 2 pockets on the outside of the suit to no avail. I no longer had the key to locker 430 and all of my clothes, phone, keys, etc were locked inside.

I went back out to the pool area and mentioned to the lifeguard that I was going to look for the key to my locker as I had lost it in the pool. He recommended I go talk to his boss who had a master key for all of the lockers. I tracked him down and explained the situation. He said he had to head over to the rec center next door where the master set of keys were and would be back in a few minutes. Not wanting to waste any time, I decided to head toward the lane I had been swimming in to see if I could see the key. I wondered aloud to the lifeguard if the key would float seeing as it had the orange plastic at one end. He said he didn’t know. As he was walking to the station at the far end of the pool (they were rotating positions as they tend to do every 15 minutes or so) he looked down and found a key on the floor.

Apparently my key hadn’t fallen out in the water, but when I was out of the water and walking over to the chair. I hadn’t noticed and no one else had walked through there since. Fortunately a potential disaster was avoided. I was also able to intercept the manager before he left the building as he was assisting an elderly lady into the pool before he left.

I then showered, dressed and was on my way to work by 6:20. The sun had just come up and it was a beautiful morning.

All in all it was a great swim with several lessons learned:

1) I need to really work on my swim technique
2) I can swim the required distance in a reasonable (for me) amount of time
3) Never trust the inner pocket
4) Goggles – I NEED GOGGLES

The last is due to the fact that my eyes have been bothering me for most of the day having swum without them this morning.