Do Or Do Not: This Is My Tri

June 12, 2009 at 3:55 pm 4 comments

Esther made it look so easy!

Esther made it look so easy!

Thursdays are long days for me. I teach two classes before 8 a.m., work at my day job until 5:30, then teach another class at 6:30 p.m. So the last thing I wanted to do last night was strap on a bathing suit and goggles and get in a pool.

But I did. Because my first triathlon ever is happening in 45 days. And I’m not ready.

I’m a mediocre swimmer at best. I’m slow. My form is bad. I never really understood how the breathing works in freestyle, so I rely on the breaststroke — which, as my former-swim-team-captain sister recently pointed out, is “the least efficient way to swim.” Did I mention that I use noseplugs?

So you can imagine how out of my element I am in the pool. But does that stop me? Heck no. Last night, I was determined to swim the distance that I’ll have to do on the day of the race. (It’s 1500 meters – almost a mile – followed by a 40-kilometer bike ride – almost 25 miles – and a 10-kilometer run – a little more than six miles.) I had no idea how long it would take me, and I was very glad that I was the only person in the pool. The fewer witnesses to my splashing and flailing, the better. The teenage lifeguard seemed intensely disinterested in what I did as long as I didn’t sink to the bottom of the pool.

I did the math and figured out that I’d need to travel the length of the 25-meter pool 60 times to reach my goal. To get an accurate idea of the time, I’d have to go without stopping. And to approximate at least one of the conditions of the triathlon swim route, which takes place in the Hudson River, I’d have to refrain from pushing off the sides at each end. (There’s nothing to push off of in the river!)

I slogged through. At times, it felt like I was barely moving. But I thought back to when I first started running, when getting to the end of my block took all of my effort. Back then, I never would’ve even thought that I’d ever be able to run for hours. But I can now. I didn’t get to where I am through talent or genetics or coaching. I got here because I just kept at it. With that in mind, I made like Finding Nemo’s Dory and just kept swimming.

I finished in about 44 minutes. I felt like rubber and weaved a little as I came out of the pool, but I finished. The lifeguard, whose name I have learned is Eric, looked up from his book (yeah, I know) and smiled as he said, “Good job.”

Get used to it, Eric. You and I are going to be spending a lot more time together, because I’ve got 45 days to go.

Are you a swimmer with tips/tricks/motivation to share? Are you a landlubber who’d never be as dumb as me? Post a comment and let us hear it!

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Ride In Ramapo! Where’s Kim?

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. brandibenavidez  |  June 12, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    Don’t worry you sound just like the majority of triathletes who were not born with gils. Most of us struggle with the swim and you already know my secret… just keep swimming.
    One race day item that few people realize, it’s OK to hold on to a lifeguard surfboard or kayak during the race if you get tired or stressed out. As long as they do not propel you through the water you can stay there with them until you catch your breath.
    Be safe and happy training!

    • 2. kimberlyroots2009  |  June 12, 2009 at 5:12 pm

      Thanks, Brandi! I didn’t know that about the pit stops. Thanks for the tip!

  • 3. kelleyroots  |  July 7, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    Here are a couple of tips that I learned swimming long distances:
    1. Make sure that you keep hydrated – for some reason when people swim they think that they are not sweating because they are not as hot as when they do other activities- this is completely wrong. Not to offend any of you runners, but swimming is a lot more trying on all aspects of the body because you are engaging almost every muscle and because you are cutting through water instead of air (there is more resistance with water).
    2. Strengthen your core. Your core is what supports your form in swimming. It is really important to keep it engaged.
    3. Cramps happen. When they do, you have some control. Make sure that you take long exhales underwater as you are swimming and breath through it.
    4. Sing a song in your head or think about something else – anything, just not how long it is going to be before you finish. If this is not your strong leg, it is going to be mind over matter.
    5. If you can do the freestyle/front crawl, you should. It is the most efficient stroke, which is why the freestyle events in the Olympics are filled with people doing that stroke. (Technically in competition the freestyle could be anything that you want it to be as long as it abides by certain rules).

    I wish everyone that is taking on this sport the best of luck. It is one of my passions. Just remember that swimming, just like running is one of the only sports where you get better just by doing – regardless of whether you were born to be a swimmer or not. I started out with my nose plugged too. If I can do it, anyone can.

  • 4. Do Or Do Not: This Is My Tri! « Haul Buns  |  August 4, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    […] would run! I would bike! I would (learn to) swim! I envisioned long sessions in the bike saddle and hours in the pool. I’d take lessons to learn how to really move my body through the water rather than rely on my […]


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