I have never been a strong swimmer. Nor have I particularly enjoyed swimming. Between wearing contacts and never really being taught the proper way to breathe while swimming, being in the ocean or pool was sometimes a struggle. I mean, I am a champ at the side stroke and backstroke…mainly because both of them do not require me to put my face in the water. But, I don’t think either of the would be successful in a race. So, the idea of a triathlon seemed insane. Until I had a conversation with Leighann.
Leighann is the wife of one of my friends and former colleagues. She operates a swim school by renting pool time at various hotels and colleges. We started talking about marathons, half-marathons, and triathlons one day. I told her that I couldn’t swim well enough for a triathlon and her response was, “Well, I just happen to be able to help with that.” So about two years after that conversation, I signed up for classes with North Jersey Aquatics. At this point, I have been swimming on Monday nights for 7 weeks. Tonight was by far my best class yet. Why? Because, I set some goals for myself over the weekend.
1) Do not hit my hand on the side of the pool. (It has happened almost every week, and my hands are looking pretty sad.)
2) Do not be afraid of the other guy in the class running into me. (There will be a lot of bumping and hitting during the triathlon, so I need to be prepared.)
3) Work on slowing my pace so I can go further without having to stop to catch my breath and lower my heartrate.
I successfully accomplished all three of these things tonight. I’m making progress and have plenty of time until my July 22nd race to continue to improve. Tonight we did 10 minutes of endurance, and I was able to do 18 laps. This was much better than last week. But, I still have a long way to go to make it to 500 meters. (In the smaller pool, we figured 500 meters would be between 25 and 30 laps.)
So, what I’ve learned about swimming so far:
1) A lap is down, two laps is down and back
2) Anyone can wear wetsuits if the water temperature is 78 degrees or lower. You can wear a wetsuit if the water temperature is between 78.1 and 83.9 degrees, but you are disqualified from awards. No one is allowed wetsuits at 84 degrees or higher.
3) A good beginner wetsuit is the Orca S6. I’m still trying to decide between sleeves and no sleeves.
4) There are suits that are not wetsuits that can be worn over my tri kit and taken off after the swim.
5) There are also tri suits that can be worn for all 3 stages of the race.
6) The water temperature for my race is traditionally high 70s to low 80s.
What I’m still figuring out about the swimming:
1) I have no idea what to wear! Do I actually think I will place in my age group? NO! Do I think the wetsuit will help with buoyancy and therefore be beneficial for me? YES! But, what if the water temperature creeps up? I need to be prepared for anything. I think I’m going wetsuit if I can, even if I’m disqualified from awards. It’s my first race, so I’ll take any advantage I can get to finish. But, I’m still not sure. And, sleeves or no sleeves?!
2) I know which wetsuit to buy (once I figure out the sleeve issue), but I’m still trying to decide what to wear if the water is above 84 degrees.
3) Swim cap! How the heck does that thing go on? I need to start practicing at swim class with it so I’m comfortable wearing one on race day.
4) I need to do some open water practice once the weather gets warmer. I need to practice sighting, getting in the water, getting out of the water, and getting out of whatever suit I decide to wear.
5) I need a better sealing pair of goggles.
Surprisingly, I am not the most afraid of the swim portion of the race. I have confidence as I continue my swim lessons through June, my instructors will help me get where I need to be. Once the weather gets warm, I will have more opportunities for outdoor swimming to practice and improve. Next week’s goals…20 laps, protect my hands, do not fear the 16 year old thrashing around in the other half of the lane, and put on that darn swim cap!