Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Full Circle - On Giving Swim Advice to Strangers

Back when Shelly and I were fledgling triathletes, we taught ourselves how to swim using a Total Immersion book. That is, we read the chapters and then showed up at the pool and tried to do what it said. After a few weeks of this, we started "swimming" laps and experienced the learning curve that happens when you're teaching yourself something totally foreign. "Does this look like the picture in the book?" we'd ask each other, and then shrug and say "I think so."

I won't speak for Shelly, but I remember how I felt like a total weirdo in the pool, totally self conscious about what I was doing, how I looked, whether I belonged there. I mean, we weren't even 100% sure we were wearing our caps and goggles correctly, and we were swimming in fashion suits with skirts because we thought the competition suits were too tight.

On one of these first occasions, a man that we had seen multiple times at the pool - a "real" swimmer - who glided effortlessly through the water, lapping me repeatedly, who had a beautiful stroke and wore the right attire, stopped me and provided some feedback about my stroke. "You're holding your head up too high," he said. "Look at the bottom of the pool while you swim, don't look forward. This will bring your legs up." Lo and behold, the next 100 I swam was effortlessly 20 seconds faster than any that had come before it.

It's been 5 years since that day, and Shelly and I both were lucky to take to swimming and get pretty decent at it right away. Every time I'm in the pool I observe the people swimming in the other lanes, noting the good form of some and thinking of the advice I'd give to others. But, although I was grateful to the man who gave me that unsolicited advice, I'm just not bold enough to proactively critique the form of other swimmers.

I've really been loving swimming lately. I just feel like something has clicked and I'm starting to feel like "a real swimmer." I was enjoying a swim workout today and noticing the people around me, as usual. Today there was a guy I'd never seen before in the lane next to me, struggling with his head up and his feet dragging behind him as I lapped him repeatedly.

Finally, at the end of my workout, he was sitting at the wall resting, and he spoke to me. "I just have to ask you, how much do you swim?" he asked. I told him that I swim 3 days a week, and he commented on how fast and effortless I looked. Then he asked if I had any tips for him. So I told him, "Well, I did notice that you're holding your head up pretty high, and that makes your legs drop down. So concentrate on pointing your nose and your fingertips at the bottom of the pool." He thanked me and told me that he's new to swimming; he's a runner trying it out as cross-training. Just like me and Shelly 5 years ago! Maybe one day we'll see him at a triathlon swim start.

It felt really weird to give that same advice that I'd received years ago. It also feels really cool to see how far I've come, and to be reminded of what it was like to be a newbie. Love it!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Monica's Mile 2014

I love that my first post of 2014 is identical to last year's first post - a report about Monica's Mile. Once again it was great to get together with so many people in the swimming and triathlon communities to support a worthy cause. The fundraiser provides swimwear and goggles to children supported by SAMMinistries, and all additional proceeds go towards Monica Caban's continued physical therapy.

For this swimming event, each participant could choose to swim one mile or swim for one hour. Last year, the event took place only a few short months after the bicycle accident that resulted in Monica's severe spinal cord injury. This year, only one year later, Monica swam the event - and she didn't just settle for swimming a mile! She swam the 1-hour event and crushed her goal, swimming just under 2500 yards. I stood on the sidelines to cheer and watch her swim and she just looked so strong and beautiful (in her Smash kit and "Super Star" cap) - it was truly inspiring to see how far she's come in a year and how far she is so determined to go.

Just like last year, the event took place in 3 heats: 8:00, 9:15, and 10:30. The girls and I picked the 8:00 heat and were able to cheer for Monica at 9:15. Another thing about today that was super cool was that SHELLY WAS BACK! This was Shelly's first swim post-baby and we got to share a lane together, just like old times, *sniffle*.

Orissa and Aixa shared the lane next to us, and Linda was way over in the other pool by herself (boo) being timed by Dawn (yay? Apparently one of the drawbacks of having your coach as your timer is that she'll scream at you if you stop to take a drink of water. Poor Linda - haha!).

We couldn't help dressing alike in "Super Star" swim caps and pink, donut-emblazoned swimsuits that read "will swim for donuts" on the back. The donut thing was a little joke for Dawn, who is always trying to break us of the habit of stopping for donuts on our long weekend rides.

We softened the blow of the donut suit by getting her a personalized suit with COACHIE on the butt, which she rocked!

A few minutes past 8:00, we started, with the digital clocks reading 24:00. This meant that we'd swim until we saw 24:00 again. Last year, I lost count immediately and didn't look at the clock at all, so I didn't know how long we had left and it was torture. So this year I was determined not to do that. I decided to break the swim into 200-yard segments, so I stopped at the wall every 8 laps to press the lap button on my watch and look at the time. It also helped to pay attention to the clock at the beginning of the swim. With an idea of how fast I was going and how much time was left, this year's swim flew by.

At the end I was SUPER STOKED (Linda's phrase, I feel I can use it because I'm talking about swimming) to see that I had hit my goal of eighteen 200s, or 3600 yards. This is 150 yards further than I swam last year and I am soooooo happy to see the improvement! I don't know if I've become a stronger swimmer (I think I have) or if it's because I used a strategy (maybe it was half and half) but I am so happy with that result!

AND Shelly the rockstar got 3000 yards, a month and a half post-baby and no swimming for like 2 months! Yeah!!! Orissa and Aixa were speedy too, with 3400 and 3475 yards respectively, and Linda hit 4200...we are all just going to have to keep chasing her! Herb got a new personal best too. It was a good day for the Iron Whiners. It was also awesome to see practically everyone else we know from triathlon - Marco and Lorena, Todd Erickson (our former Masters swim coach), Lexa and Jamie, who videoed and cheered, the list goes on, it seems everyone I know who swims in San Antonio was there today. Pretty cool.

Afterwards, minus Shelly who had to get home to family, we headed out for a fantastic brunch at ZTejas and a celebratory trip to Lululemon. Couldn't have asked for a better day...if I get to lie on the couch and nap for the rest of the day, this may be the perfect day.

What a great way to start the year! A huge thanks to Coachie and Susan Ingraham for putting on the event, to Robert for photographing it, and especially to Laura Reyes and her son Brody who timed us (afterwards, Laura asked Brody if he wanted to go for breakfast, and he replied, "Sure, anything but donuts. I've seen enough of those for a while!").