Ending the Laps Lapse

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Swimming. I’m always amazed by triathletes who feel it’s not the most difficult leg of a race. Open-water swimming is an animal of it’s own, but then add in a hundred other swimmers around you, who you may or may not accidentally swim into, or who may or may not accidentally swim over you or grab your leg, and you have what I like to call organized chaos. But it’s really not all that bad either. It’s kind of a rush. It’s an obstacle that once completed, you know it should be downhill from there, in a good way.

This month, I finally got back in the pool after a few months off. I never planned to take that much time away from swimming, but that’s usually what happens anytime you say you’re going to take a break from a routine. You see, I’m not a great swimmer. Sure, I know the basics of swimming. My parents had me in swimming lessons as soon as I was old enough. And I grew-up spending my weekends on the Mississippi River. But now that I’m trying to be somewhat competitive, I realize I still have some work to do.

Last summer, I got into a habit of swimming at least twice a week – and it really helped me prepare for the triathlons I did. Last May, I could barely swim more than eight laps before feeling exhausted and needing a break (the .25 mile swim at Trinona is equal to about 16 laps in a lap pool). I got a little better with each swim practice, swimming a few more laps each time without a break, and was ultimately able to make my way through Trinona ok. I was exhausted when I got out of the water, but I made it through.

I stuck with the twice-a-week practices. I mean, I had to, especially knowing the MPLS Tri sprint distance was .47 miles, almost twice that of Trinona. It would be my longest swim yet. Somehow, during the swim leg of the MPLS Tri, I became comfortable keeping my head under water and using rythmic breathing. Somehow, someway, something just clicked. Not only did I feel more confident in my ability, but I also noticed I was swimming more efficiently than with my previous doggy-paddle form. This was a turning point. I was getting faster and more comfortable with the distance. Oh, and using a wetsuit didn’t hurt either. The buoyancy gave me the mental piece of mind that helped me relax in the water. I realized open water swimming was something I could actually do and not be scared of.

At the end of the year, I told myself I was going to keep that swimming routine and be an even better swimmer this year – never letting up. Well, as I already mentioned, that routine fell off.  But I’m back at it. A few weeks ago I went for my first swim since October and was pleasantly surprised to knockout 32 laps (just a tad longer than .47 miles) in about 15 minutes without a rest. I didn’t lose much of a step, which was quite a relief. I took a short break and then swam eight more laps just for good measure, making the total distance 1,000 meters, or the length of a football field just under eleven times.

I’ve been back to the pool a few more times since. Realizing that my first race of the year is only three weeks away, it’s definitely time to step it up a notch. Or a couple notches for that matter.

What are most focused on heading into tri season?