Duck Out of Water

A progress report of sorts.  Not quite six months, but four months after I dipped my toe in the water and TRI'ed to expand my horizons by taking up swimming.  I had lunch with my Mom this last weekend (Ahhh!) and after I told her I took my first ever swim lesson this last summer, she begged to differ.  I grew up in Kings Point in Littleton, Colorado and apparently I lied...I had swim lessons when I was 6-8 years old.  It must have been a repressed memory because I don't remember it.  I do remember what I thought was my first ever swim lesson at SwimLabs in Highlands Ranch this last July.
I look like I'm up to no good...

Feeling I knew nothing about swimming, and seeing the benefits of coaching and education with my marathon training, I was eager to take the lesson.  I learned a lot and learned how little I knew about swimming,  I recalled it was much like golfing in that there are several things happening at once and screw up one and you could look like a prop on a cheap boat.  I'd highly recommend these folks or taking something similar.  They filmed the lesson and made comments on your take-home DVD with what to work on.  I posted the video and veteran swimmers and triathletes were either complementary or told me I'd swim in circles in a real race--that was pretty harsh. 

My swim times were suspect because I either had pools with crappy wall clocks and I didn't know what a regulation length pool was...meters or yards?  I actually brought a tape measure to my 24 Hr Fitness to measure the indoor lap pool because I was confused.  Imagine the looks from the other swimmers...what's he doing???  Near as I can tell my times posted on DailyMile were up in the 40 minute range.  I had no idea what that meant either and whether it was fast or slow--I figured the later.

My initial distances in a given session were typically 400-500 yards at most.  I wrestled with breathing, and had to incorporate breast strokes into the laps since I couldn't do the whole workout in the faster freestyle.  Even though I knew better, I could only breathe out of one side as I felt the need for more air.  So much for 4-5 years of marathon training and conditioning.  I felt like a duck out of water.

As you may have read here, my type A slightly aggressive self jumped into Triathlons (I didn't know how to spell it and misspelled it here.)  My first race was near disaster as I tried an open water swim at elevation in a wetsuit.  I wrote that I nearly got sick in the swim--in over my head as I wrote in the race recap panicking like Gus Grissom.*  After catching some hardware in my first three races I'm hooked.  More mockery..."is everyone slow in Colorado?"

Fast forward.  As a runner, everyone has that great race or training race where everything went right.  You weren't hurt, you had huge lungs, you didn't bonk, and you felt fast.  I had that swim last week.  It was ironic because I was traveling on business (a lot of that this year,) and plotted my workout to a 24 Hr. Fitness in Mountain View, California.  I'd packed my shorts (albeit my beach trunks...not my fast Speedo at home,) goggles, cap, and used a Marriott Courtyard plastic linen bag as my gym bag.  Classy!

Running on poor sleep and too much rich food and wine, I wasn't expecting much, but this was my best swim ever.  I did three sets of 500 followed by a 250.  As posted on my DailyMile I swam a 29:35 pace, but more importantly, it felt somewhat effortless.  Even better?  My first swim ever where I was able to alternate breathing out of both sides.  A breakthrough.  Apparently, there is one metric that is known among swimmers, and that's being able to swim a mile under 30 minutes, which I can now do.  As a runner, that sounds trivial, but believe me, it's not.

Below is video this week of my stroke.  I'm sure I'll catch crap from the primarily swimmers and triathletes, but I'm feeling much better about things.

I'll continue to swim a couple days this winter and as I enter January beginning to train for my first marathon in a year--May at the Colorado Marathon.  According to my FIRST training plan, this will make me a better marathon runner, and it will build my swim chops for triathlons again next summer.  I guess that would make me a duck in the water...

* Gus was an astronaut who flew in Project Mercury. Upon landing in the ocean, he was accused of panicking in the water, blowing the capsule door hatch, and sending a very expensive piece of gear to the ocean floor.  I'm not that old to have witnessed Project Mercury, but I did see the Ron Howard Film.


  1. Great post about starting out swimming! They are hard to come by I have been finding.

    I have been swimming for about 2 years now, though I still consider myself a beginner. I find it really hard to get my distance up and have trouble with flip turns.

    That swimlabs website was really interesting and I am now considering signing up for some sort of lessons...

  2. I'm sure swim lessons for a child compared to an adult are loads different.. I don't know. Either way, a swim lesson now was a good move.
    That is hilarious that you measured the pool, and actually, I think I want to do that at mine now!
    I've been swimming for a year and I think it's really improved my running. I don't know how, but I'm pretty sure it did.


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