I have found that my swimming training sessions are far more entertaining than running or biking. Unless of course there are epic crashes or run-ins with parked cars, but generally speaking, between near drowning, floundering, and sea creature flailing, swimming doesn’t require epic mishaps, it’s just an adventure every time.
On this particular morning, but not unlike every other freezing cold winter morning so far this year, I am draped in a titanic sized towel staring at the motionless water of the pool. I’ve become accustomed to the morning swims, but until I am fully submerged and awakened by the cool water, I usually just stand on the deck like a dumb donkey awaiting the crack of the whip. Sometimes I’m still waking up, other times I’m enjoying the calmness of the empty pool, and sometimes I’m quietly praying that my coach hasn’t brought those arm braces (Fulcrums) he keeps talking about or asks me to practice my sculling, tie my legs together, or swim another 800m time trial. I’m starting to learn that there are certain training sessions you come to loathe. The ones that result in me spitting up water, screaming in agony with each exhale, wishing my arms would fall off instead of continuing to propel me through the water, and puking in the pool. Most days I think that my coach is trying to kill me. In any case, of course when you wish things away, it seems that they always magically appear, as did the bright yellow arm braces on the pool deck, and the workout sheet which included ankle band, sculling, and 800m TT. I think my body may have instinctively turned towards the door as if the flight or fight response had suddenly kicked in.
As I hop in the pool with my bright yellow, awesomely awesome arm braces I feel like the special kid in class who doesn’t know how to swim and therefore needs special help. Not only am I the only one out of my group wearing these dumb things I also look like a dolphin who has its flippers caught in a six pack ring. And I thought that strapping my feet together and swimming like a demented sea horse was bad.
After managing to flounder through the first 400 with the Fulcrums and then bob like a seahorse through 300 with the ankle band, I still can’t shake the appearance of some off-the-rails sea creature. With a pull buoy squashed between my thighs I am now ass up sculling my arms back and forth as I motor along like a dying whale.
I know there is a method to the insanity of all these pool drills and that one day I will swim like a graceful mermaid torpedoing through the water, but in the meantime, I shall remain a hysterical spectacle for all to admire.
By the time we are lined up for the time trial, I am mentally preparing myself for inevitable agony. In a TT I’m aiming to hit a time that my coach expects out of me, but my interpretation, in a nutshell, try to keep up to the toes of your training partner and if you start to lose them then swim harder. Usually I see those toes for the first 100 metres or so, then they move slowly inch my inch out of my grasp. I always try to reach out and grab them with so much desperation that my forehead crinkles, but it never matters how much I pull and kick or how hard I try, those toes stay out of my reach until they disappear out of sight and I am left with nothing to reach for anymore. It sounds horrendously defeating, but it’s actually extremely motivating to always have something to chase. Whether I can see it or not, I know it’s there, and it only drives me to be better.
By the time we are finished I am exhausted and sputtering up water. There is barely enough time for me to catch my breath, swim a few cool down laps, clamber out of the pool, and shuffle off to the dressing room where I am practically into transition. I peel off my soaking wet bathing suit, attempt to wring my hair of excess water and suit up in three layers of head to toe clothing. As I choke down a Power Bar, it’s off to the great outdoors where the harsh chill that I remember from this morning greets my lungs and whips at my face. Without much hesitation I silently yell some words of encouragement and we are off for a wintery 11 kilometre run. The workout in the pool is finished but my legs still have to carry me for another hour and 15 minutes through the snow. This is just another day of triathlon training; swim, bike, run, but sometimes all I hear is go, go, go.
At the end of the day I am chilled and beaten. I slink into a scathing hot bath of epsom salts and practically fall into a deep sleep. Sometimes these training sessions sound border line torturous but I love it. In some sort of twisted way feeling beaten and defeated makes me feel stronger. It really doesn’t matter how many sea creatures I resemble in the water or how many kilometres of snow you tell me to run in, I will always keep propelling through. Yes, it can feel awful when my lungs are screaming and my muscles are aching, but there is a brilliant satisfaction at the end of the day knowing that I survived one workout and I am that much more ready for the next one. After all, every step, or peddle, or stroke that I make, takes me that much further away from where I was and that much closer to where I want to be.