Flailing is my favourite swim adjective

Waking up at 5am in the dead of winter for a swim workout is fun. Nothing really beats shuffling down the icy driveway towards my frosty car as the chilly breeze freezes me to the core. It’s like a second alarm clock that jolts me awake.
I am nearing the seven month countdown until my half-distance tri in August and two-a-day group training sessions have begun, which means, chilly before-the-rooster-awakes morning workouts. For the past year, I trained alone, which has allowed me to set my own schedule, find excuses to miss workouts, and otherwise avoid early mornings in the winter. But this year I decided to get some coaching to help guide me through more focused workouts, and with group training sessions I now have company and a motivator for getting out of bed, even at 5am in the dead of winter.photo(12)
I find my group on the deck, and my coach looks at my goggles and cap, and says, “Do you have an ankle band?” Staring blankly back at him I shake my head as I look down at his thick black elastic-band and then to the rest of the group, who are all carrying swim bags loaded with training aids. In just the last six weeks, I have seen tempo trainers, pull buoys, hand paddles, and now ankle bands. Gone are the days when a cap and goggles are the only swimming gear required.
As we hop in the pool, Maurice lays out the workout, four sets of 15’s, including free swim, ankle band, pull buoy and pull buoy with paddles. Four sets of 1500 metres? That can’t be right. We haven’t even started swimming, and I’m already confused. At least I know how to swim; I figure I’ll just follow their lead.
As I finish my first set of 15 minutes, not 1500 metres, Maurice, offers me his ankle band. “Here, just loop this around one ankle, figure-eight it around and put this end on the other ankle, it’s meant to make your legs sink.” Oh sweet, you want me to tie my legs together. “OK,” I reply, “I’ll try not to drown.” With a somewhat serious expression, he responds, “Yea, there are a few lifeguards around if you need help.” Oh, so drowning is definitely a possibility. OK. I wasn’t about to tell my coach I didn’t want to do it; I don’t think it was an option.
So I proceeded to literally tie my ankles together and pushed off the wall. At first a mild panic rose within my chest and my heart began to beat faster as my legs sank behind me. This is how I imagine it feels after walking the plank, at least my hands weren’t tied behind my back, but for a brief moment, I wonder if that’s an exercise for next week. I picture myself writhing around like a worm through the water, and then realize I already look like a drowning seahorse or a floundering walrus, so it probably can’t get much worse. While pulling through the water with my dragging, useless legs I found that if I focused more on the swim than on my bounded feet, I was surprisingly OK and in fact not drowning at all, minus some flailing here and there.
Next set, and it’s on to the pull buoy, which I have maybe used once in my life, but I gave up because it felt like a balloon pulling my ass towards the sky. Once again I have no idea what I am doing, so as my swim mate stops by the wall, pops in her buoy and asks if I want to go first, I reply, “no, you go on.” She doesn’t know that I need to first watch what she does before I make a fool of myself. As I look under the water at the placement of the buoy, I follow suit, and carry on. And just as last time, my ass floats skyward. Buoyancy is definitely not an issue for me, so when you stick a flotation device between my thighs, well naturally things will go up. At this point, I wasn’t sure what looked better, my drowning seahorse act or my giant floating bum. I longed to just swim normal laps without the hindrance of an elastic band or a piece of foam wedged between my legs.
For the last set, I grab my hand paddles (the only other piece of swimming gear I own besides my cap and goggles) and continue pretending to be the pro that I am not. With the buoy still firmly squashed between my legs, I keep motoring along through the final 15. At each end, as I attempt to grab the deck with my flipper-like hands for my open turn I can’t quite get my grip, and end up just kind of bobbing like a child on a pool noodle before turning around and setting off again. The ensuing laps are reminiscent of an overweight seal with a slightly dysfunctional back end. Seriously, only I could manage to resemble three different drowning sea creatures in just one morning swim. Maybe it doesn’t look as funny as it feels. At least that’s what I’ll tell myself anyways.
At the end of the session, my head is full with new knowledge and my body has learned a few new ways of getting from one end of the pool to the other. It still never ceases to amaze me just how much there is to learn and that it’s a constant process. Who knew something as simple as swimming, biking and running could be so complicated? Nonetheless, I am grateful for the stories, and even more so for the chance to laugh at myself as I continue on the road to one hundred forty point six miles.


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