I have mentioned earlier that at the start swimming was my weakest of the three disciplines as I wasn’t very good at front crawl but I was determined for this to change (it is now running by a long way!). For my first two triathlons I downloaded a swimming training programme off the internet designed for swimming the sprint distance triathlon. Lots of drills and exercises that took the boredom off swimming lengths in a pool and I ended up doing quite a distance. And then I did one open water introduction session before the event which I thought was sufficient. It wasn’t!
Open water swimming is very different – there are no lanes to help you go in a straight line, you can’t see the bottom and the water is colder making it harder to breathe properly. If doing a triathlon, the day of the event is not the best time to get over that and after two events I realised I wasn’t helping myself in that the wetsuit I had was two short in the body for me making it harder to swim.
1500m is quite a long way to swim so this time I was going to train properly for it and found a local open water swimming club (RG Active) who run coaching sessions as well as just swim sessions. And the fact it was just down the road from me was perfect (as it started at 8.30am on a Saturday morning!). The first session I joined I went into the beginners group as I was so nervous. This was focused mainly on getting used to the wetsuit, learning technique and how to swim around buoys. This was very useful but I found myself thinking that it was a bit too easy and I needed to do more distance but the other group scared me – they seemed to be a big gap between the pace and experience of the two groups. At the end both groups come together and practice a mass start and there is a lesson on how to get the wetsuit off quickly.
The next time I went I was chatting to the instructors beforehand and was persuaded to try the fast group – they said I could always swim back and join the other group midway through if I wanted to. I tried to persuade one of the other girls who I thought was a similar pace to me but she wasn’t having any of it. The whole point is to push myself out of my comfort zone so I joined them.
We swam to the end of the lake for our drills and then noticed the smell! The lake is surrounded by farmland and the farmer had been muck spreading that day. Unfortunately for us it had rained just before we got there and washed some of the muck into the lake. The one corner of the lake really smelt and consequently so did we – but somehow it didn’t worry any of us.
I think in that session with all the different drills we did we must have covered getting on for 2km – and yes I was one of the slowest (but seeing as there were only 2 girls in the group that was to be expected) but there was one guy slower and the instructor broke it up so no one was waiting around and everyone got to push themselves. I came back exhausted but I was very pleased I had joined that group. One of the drills we did was learning how to sight (how to swim in a straight line) which is much harder than it sounds – on one of my wayward zigzags I swam into a particularly stupid duck – you would have thought the bright yellow swim hat and the mad splashing of arms would have frightened it away!
Since then I have been to every session I can –I think I am starting to get quicker (if for no reason than I am going straighter and covering less distance!) and I am certainly more confident in the water with no problems breathing anymore. They are a really friendly group of people and there are some very inspiring people among them. One guy only has one arm but now does ironman triathlons – and he can swim in a straighter line than me! And although with two arms I am slightly quicker than him when we do the one arm drills no one can catch him – shows just what a strong swimmer he is! I am definitely rapidly developing a love for open water swimming something which two years ago I never thought was possible and have been looking into various Swimtrek holidays to do more. I’m not sure how I will cope going back to the confines of the pool for the winter but luckily there is still a fair bit of the open water season still left to enjoy 🙂