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Learning to be a swimmer. Or maybe a runner who can swim.

Usually if I tell someone I’m training for a half Ironman, they assume I’ve done triathlons before and tell me they’ve never done one. Well, I haven’t either.

Usually when I tell someone I’m training for a half Ironman, they tell me they are terrible at swimming and they’d do one if it weren’t for the swim. Well, I’m terrible at swimming too.

ME TOO, ME TOO People. (not to get all worried and stuff, I’m doing a sprint & olympic in the next month before the half)

This is a work in progress. When Glenn started training for his half Ironman in 2011, I jumped in the pool with him a couple of times. The swimming consisted of 1-2 laps, stop, 1-2 laps, stop again. Kick board a couple of laps… you get it. And it only happened 3-4 times.

It brought me back to when I was 8 or something like that and my sister and I joined the Bloomington Swim Club. I don’t know how long I was on the team, but I know I was always in the slow lane and was in awe of the kids who could actually swim and swim fast. They had meets and not once did I participate because I didn’t think I could even do a full lap without stopping. See? Swimming is not my thing. In middle school I wanted to be on the swim team, because I wanted to be on every team for every sport I possibly could, because that’s what kids do in middle school. So I joined the diving team instead. I was still pretty terrible, but much better at diving than swimming.

As soon as I decided to train for this race, I started swimming. I started swimming slow and not very far. Distances I could grasp. 500 yards, that’s 10 laps in the pool at my gym. (lap being down and back- at least that’s what I call a lap) I literally had to take a short break every 3 laps. The first time I swam 5 laps without stopping was a huge accomplishment. Last week, I swam 2,000 yards (40 laps) without stopping. That was huge for me. I didn’t do a workout in the swim, I just swam. It was slow, but I did it.

This week, I swam the farthest distance I’ve ever swam- 2200 yards. I also did a “speed” workout in that swim. 3 X 500 yards. It was really hard. I had to break up the last 500 into two sets of 250 because I felt like my arms were going to fall off and now that I look back, maybe I was being a baby. I could have hammered out the last 250 without a break, but I thought it would be a sorry effort.  I was only scheduled for 2,000 yards that day but cooled down an extra 200. Never thought I’d be the point where I actually wanted to do an extra 4 laps of cool down.

I imagine these big moments and accomplishments in my swimming are similar to how a new runner feels. To a someone who is a “swimmer” the 500 yards that I started with is their warm up. I’m not sure I want to venture much further than 2500 yards or so in the whole swimming thing, but what is that compared to? Capping out at a half marathon in running? 50 miles on the bike? Anyone know?

When I get in the pool and know that 40 laps await me, it seems long. Although I know I’ll be done in less than an hour, the end of the workout seems really far away. But I get there, I just start and I keep going. And, much like running, warming up is VERY important. I always feel rusty those first 5 laps, but it gets better. And I kind of like it. It’s kind of refreshing, the whole no impact thing. I like that I’m using my arms- although I don’t feel like they’ve toned up much, I had a really good dream last night where I had amazing arms from all the swimming. That’s something. (I should probably actually do some weights if I really want that)

I still can’t even fathom the 2.4 miles in a full Ironman. I think back to Glenn’s Ironman, (seriously click that link if you haven’t read his race report yet. It’s a good one. Dude knows how to put work in to get it done.) when all those people just plowed in the water. (IM, WI does a mass start) We ended up watching most of the swim from way up high. It was freaking nutty. So many people. Such a far distance. The swimmers all spread out and we had no idea idea where he was in the sea of people.

This is about 2 minutes after the start of Glenn’s IM in September

Are you new to swimming? New to running? To these feelings sound familiar? 

What’s the farthest distance you’ve ever swam? (Is swam even the right way to say swim in the past tense?)
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