Tuesday, February 02, 2010


That's what I thought anyway. Technically, yes I can swim. And I can swim long distances. And I can swim every day if I wanted to. And I have been swimming for 18 years. But apparently, according to the master's swim instructor, I don't do it very well.

Over the years, I have swam with probably 5 different master's swim groups. For those who don't know what this is, master's doesn't refer to an age group thing like it does in running. I don't know what the actual description of it is, but to me it means people who get together with or without a coach to practice swimming: drills, flip turns, different swim strokes, etc. Some of it is intended to be used for competing in "master's" swim meets: meaning, out of school adults trying to stay competive.

Its been probably 5 years since swimming with any organized group, but I figured it would only be a tuneup when joining this year, with the goal of becoming faster than ever before. After all, I just did an Ironman swim, after spending an entire year working on that swim, along with several triathlons over that year and in the past 13 years. I could always lap people in my regular pool, but without any concentrated speed work in the pool, I wasn't all that fast in the tris, and I was finding myself only getting slower.

So I joined this group this year with the intention of getting super fast. Three weeks into this, I'm not sure if I'm getting any faster, but I do know everyone else around me is. I can be thankful at least that all my last place finishes in races have prepared me well for the humiliation of being last every single time in our drills.
For me, the hardest part after killing myself on the drills to not be so slow everyone waits for me every time is swimming with all these crazy people! Its just like a triathlon, so I guess that's some good experience. While I do not have trouble getting through the water in a triathlon, I do hate the body contact involved and have developed some pretty bad swim habits to avoid getting whacked or running into others.
Last night was particularly difficult because, even being in the "slow" lane, one new person got mixed in with us and another sort of fast guy. I made body contact with someone on every single length (not lap--apparently "real" swimmers do not swim laps, just lengths), and I don't think it was always my fault. In circle swimming (where you go down one side of the lane and circle back on the other), there were two groups doing two separate things. That amounted to 8 people in one lane. The "faster" of the slow people had one side of the lane, and that left me and new girl to take the other side of the lane. I'm not sure how wide these lanes are, but they are definitely not as wide as 8 people standing shoulder to shoulder. So it was going to be tight.
New girl apparently either did not understand the concept of circle swimming or she didn't realize she wasn't doing it. We collided on every single length, and if I didn't get it from her, I got it from the fast guy in the slow-fast group. I know some of it wasn't intentional, but I have to wonder if some was. I lost track of the number of times I scraped my knuckles or whole body against the wall trying to stay out of everyone's way. So it was no surprise when each of my "descending 300s" actually turned out to be ascending, meaning slower. The first two were almost exactly the same; the last was a full 25 seconds slower, but I guess I just got tired from trying to stay out of the way of everyone on each length I did. That in itself probably took up some extra energy I could have used to hopefully speed up.

But progress does seem to be happening. Last night I actually hit the 1 mile (1600 meters)cumulative distance in the 1 hour practice (not straight through swimming and with kick board and rests between drill sets). And to think, when training, I used to do 1.5 miles in an hour.
I am trying to stay positive and not talk myself out of quitting. While it is not "hard," it is definitely a learning experience. Every week I learn something new that I'm doing wrong.


ShirleyPerly said...

Yes, it is TOTALLY different to swim with others in the same lane. I've only done it a few times with as many as 4-5 and had difficulties maintaining focus and form and often ended up going slower too. I'm sure with 8 it would have been even more difficult. Good for you sticking things out. I'm hoping to work more on speed and swim with others this year now that I'm not having to swim so long training for an IM.

RockStarTri said...

I've always found that once you get past 5 people in a 25m lane, you are doomed. I've never even tried splitting a lane with groups - that seems to me like a recipe for disaster.

It is great that you are still learning with this group. When that stops it is time to find another group. Sometimes I bounce from group to group for different emphasis.

Once of the masters class that I go to offers video analysis every once in a while. While generally frightening, it is eye opening as it does make you see your flaws.

Keep at it!

Christie said...

I can't imagine sharing a lane with that many people. I get thrown off when I have to share with one person. I can never get into the zone and just swim. So I usually end up cutting the swim short.

I thought about joining masters swim just to practice. But right now I am so slow and my cardio, as far as swimming goes, is not up to par. Maybe another time.

Anyway, hang in there. Hopefully, you see some improvements soon.


I hate sharing lanes for the same reason.. the feeling you are fighting others in a triathlon. Maybe that's why I only do one a yr?(2 this yr)

I don't know why I feel this way. At 190 I usually do the most damage....
27F on your local thermometer?.... BRRRRR

Marlene said...

Just reading this makes me claustrophobic. :p

Good for you taking on this masters' class/group to become a stronger/swimmer faster. Sounds like it will be a good learning experience!

Just_because_today said...

maybe that body contact is not so bad afterall. Kind of like running shoulder to shoulder with other sweaty runners.
I keep thinking of joining a swimming class. I would definitely be last.

Fe-lady said...

you are brave to join a master's group...I bet there are few 50+ ladies in it! I would cop an attitude if someone tore apart my stroke-so good for you for swimming masters for me! (I hate not having my own lane and will NOT circle swim if I am sharing...!!) I know I am a spoiled brat!
Now...go swim FAST! :-)

SWTrigal said...

Who says triathlon is not a contact sport? Sounds brutal!