I've had a bit of a breakthrough in the last few months when it comes to swimming. All along with swimming I knew that the big problem with my lack of progress had to do with my lack of LOVE for the water. This wasn't due to feeling uncomfortable in the water, I feel safe, I can breath, really I'm a pretty good swimmer for someone who didn't know how to swim as a kid ("swim" as in the strokes....I had a wicked doggie paddle though). In 2007 I learned "freestyle" and now, I would say I'm a pretty decent swimmer for having learned as a 28 year old adult. But the process was a painful one. Every year since 2007 I have spent all winter busting my butt to crank out the yardage. I would do anything I could to get myself into the pool. I would promise myself post swim treats, beg other people to show up with me, buy new suits, new caps, new water bottles, new toys, new bags. I never resorted to the swim-mp3 player, but the only thing stopping me was ego on that one. And honestly, I thought about it a few months ago. Every year was a new tactic and a new motivational strategy to get in the yardage (err meterage?). And I made progress this way...I think...sorta. Okay, my Kona swim never got faster but I would have glimmers of hope here and there.
I would drag myself there all winter and then my swimming would slowly peter off as the season got underway and biking and running took priority. That may happen again this year, I don't know, time will tell. By Kona that winter swim fitness seemed to be gone, and then I would swim the same crummy times in Kona and get all "motivated by negativity" and would get back in the pool all winter trying to find the secret sauce.
Well something started to happen a few months ago. I was doing my typical back in the pool behavior because I swam 1:10 in Kona, one of my slowest times, blah blah blah...broken record. I started going to Masters a little more regularly simply for motivational purposes. I love the Swim Smooth program (I love the Beeper) but that means I have to swim on my own. And sometimes swimming alone means I won't go swimming. So masters it was.
Well magic happened for me this winter. I found the secret sauce I think...
I found my dolphin pod. And I must thank Jessica really for being pod-mother (like den-mother but for dolphins) and uniting us. For some reason, and I've never seen it in all my years of swimming in different Masters programs, but we have this absolutely phenomenal lane of women (there are occasional guys too, but we have mostly scared them off). Jessica and I are the SAME EXACT SPEED and she's a long distance swimmer (like 13 mile swims, and a go at the channel some day..2019) and we take turns leading.
Our pod started with a main little group but throughout January the pod got growing, now there are like 8-12 of us. Not all in the same lane, but close enough in speed that we can all swim "about" the same intervals. And the ladies come from such a variety of backgrounds. Some are still expanding their swimming boundaries, and some have been lifelong swimmers. We have all types! Some swim 3X a week and some swim 10X a week! And...I am the only triathlete in the pod!
I look forward to Masters every day I go now, which is pretty much every day. I have had so much fun in the pool over the last few months, it doesn't seem right. There have been hard sets, really hard sets, where some of the dolphins almost puked...(not me) and there have been slow cruiser days too. No matter what mood anyone is in, they are accepted. If I want to put on my fins and swim in the back of the lane, that's A-ok. If I've had a flat-white from Starbucks and I need to lead the lane to GET OUT ALL THE ENERGY then that's welcome too. There's no competition amongst the pod, just fun and positivity. YAY SWIMMING!!!!!
A few fun things the pod has been up to:
A few people in the pod (ahem...yes me) signed up to keep track of our mileage for the year in the US Masters "go the distance challenge" and now we are constantly swimming a little extra here and there to jump up in the daily rankings. So bad, and yet so fun. I have swam (swum?) 80 miles this year so far!
On January 1st we swam 100x100 and it was A BLAST. Different lane leaders, a great set, and Nicole made brownies! Then after doing the Go The Distance challenge for January, I thought it was nice to start the month out with 10k, so I asked if anyone wanted to do 10K on Feb 1st. They were like "you are crazy" then the next day 4 of them were like "we're in!" Do you see what I mean....dolphin pod!!!!
Feb. 1st we swam 10K, and I loved it. I felt much stronger than Jan 1st and the set was a really good one that was broken up nicely. And Jessica made chocolate chip muffins, and I brought YAY! Swimming car magnets! Is there one on my car?....um yes...there is one on my car. YAY....SWIMMING!
Naturally on Feb 1st the pod started thinking about 10K on March 1st, but half the pod was headed to San Diego to have fun (swimming included) so the pod asked if I wanted to come and we could swim 10K from La Jolla Cove on the 1st! I booked a ticket on Southwest. Because...Ummm....yes!
Lastly, and this is so far out of my comfort zone, but here we go. I'm going to swim in a meet. The state meet is in about a month. So I have spent quite a few sessions over the last few weeks learning the legal way to swim the different strokes. Again, learning to swim as an adult, I don't know the proper legal turns and starts for the strokes, and diving off the blocks is a HUGE work in progress for me. But the dolphin pod is teaching me, and I am so thankful to learn new things. I swam the 1650 in the state meet a few years ago, because that seemed like what a triathlete would do, but this year I'm going to swim actual EVENTS, like the 50 fly.... maybe... I still have to figure out what events, but I'm GOING for it. It's all part of the fun.
Making Swimmer Muscles!!!
This post is mostly silly, because I'm just really excited and happy about swimming, but if I get a little more serious for a second I want to talk to those of you who toil away at the swim leg of triathlon. My athlete Ellen said to me recently (she is on her own swim quest because it's needed if she wants to visit the Honu in Hawaii) "I never liked swimming because I never though doing more of it made me any better." It's a really common sentiment. Swimming is one of those things that you can do a lot of and not get better, you can do a little and not get (much) worse. I've done that and everything between. I asked Ellen a few weeks ago "where is the motivation?" because I have learned that even if you are swimming the big yardage, if it's coming from a place of "my swim sucks and I'm losing races because of it" that yardage isn't going to get you far.
The athletes that I see who are making progress in their swimming, or who are swimming at a high level in the open water....well they are swimming a lot. But, it's not just that. They love their swimming! They love their swim buddies, they love the programs they swim with, they love their hard crazy workouts, and they really love the water. I think there are different ways to find that pure love depending on your personality, but finding it is the main objective if you want to get better. So rather than toiling away and upping the yardage this winter, instead I would suggest you take a personal journey and try as many things as you can to cultivate a deep love for the water.
We all know triathletes that excel in one discipline over another, and when I look at them I usually see that they also enjoy that discipline. Ellen loves her bike, Mikki loves to run, Mo loves the pool, etc etc. But it can seem like a chicken or the egg situation. Is Mikki good at running because she loves it, or does she love it because she's good at it? I know the answer. She's good at it because she loves it. Bottom line. I'm willing to go out on a limb and state it as pure truth. Love it, and you'll make progress. Don't love it? Well, roll the dice, the odds are against you.
I know a dolphin pod full of ladies that are going to get a ton faster this year....