Rolling with the punches

IMG_2519At the pool the other morning I was adorned with my first battle wound of the season while simply swimming routine laps. Normally I’m reminiscing about stories on the battlefield of bike rides where traffic, curbs, pebbles and even painted lines seem to jump at you and threaten a good bruise, laceration or road rash. Usually injuries in the swim come from either a severe lack of ability to remain afloat, severe lack of ability to judge when you’re going to literally hit the wall, or, and more likely so, during a race when thousands of other arms and legs are seemingly flailing all at once. Swimming routine laps on a training morning with clearly marked lanes and significantly less flailing bodies, usually means you’re pretty safe from injury. That is until I get in the pool.
On this morning, the pool was unusually packed and at first glance it almost looked like a race of jumbled bodies. There were slow people in the fast lane, fast swimmers swimming on top of slow swimmers, some would start with the front crawl and randomly switch to the breast stroke, some were sculling down the ropes at a turtles pace while others were working on speed work – it was a mess. For triathletes, we welcome chaos in the water. Most people, would prefer to leisurely swim up and down the pool, back and forth without waves or disruption, but we like to churn things up a little bit. It’s good race prep and besides we’re all used to having fingers tickle our toes, arms punching us in the head and bodies literally swimming on top of us. This is more or less what an open water swim entails.
For most of the morning, I was situationally aware and good at sensing a slower swimmer ahead of me, quickly checking for oncoming traffic, then slithering my way between two bodies to make a safe pass. That is unless you have crazy legs in the pool. This guy has the most unusual swimming technique I’ve ever seen. I have described some of my swimming techniques as reminiscent of a dying sea creature but this man has an incredibly interesting way of propelling himself forward in the water. I can’t quite describe how he manages to get from one end to the other, but he does, and I would willing to bet he is the hardest working swimmer in the pool on any given day. That being said, he is one of the best obstacles to try and maneuver around if you’re looking to simulate a chaotic open water scenario. Most of the other swimmers know that you don’t attempt to swim within a 5 metre radius of him, even with a rope between you, because there is a good chance one of those wide-spread flailing arms will swipe across the water and take you out, as I learned the hard way.
On one of the final drills of the morning set, I found myself coming up behind a slower swimmer, so as I had done all morning, made a quick look before picking up speed to propel between the swimmers on either side of me. Just then a flash of human flesh came surging towards me and with no room to move or react my arm, already moving at full speed flew into the air and the hard knuckled fist of the oncoming swimmer slammed into the inside of my arm. A sharp pain shot down my appendage and into my armpit. It was a brief moment of churning water and at one point there was another body beneath me. As I sorted myself in the right direction and away from the other bodies, I saw the concerned onlooking lifeguard, before, doing what any triathlete would do, and settled back into my rhythm. What I’ve come to learn from swimming with packs of people is that collisions happen but you must never stop. I’m fairly certain the other swimmer, after punching into my soft flesh, immediately stopped and probably bobbed at the surface for a confused moment trying to make sense of what happened. All at the same time, I was continuing on swimming with a shooting pain running down my bicep.  In my own strange way, I was proud of myself for doing what we’ve always been taught – to just keep swimming even after taking a punch. Every moment in training is for the greater good of preparing for the big day and I’ll even thank crazy legs for teaching me how to take a hit in the water.


2 thoughts on “Rolling with the punches

  1. Fun articile to read!, I recognize it to.
    It’s not nice when you got hit in your swim, it happens me to in my swim training. But it learns you to keep on swimming just the same what you need to do in a triathlon.

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