Swimming has always been my special favourite. As a baby and a wee girl, any water anywhere got my undivided attention. During summer holiday drives, I would force my granny and grandad to stop the car near rivers, streams and lochs and lakes so I could paddle. Water has always soothed my soul. It’s never intimidated me.
As a youngster, I was a wind-up bath toy. Wind me up, pop me in the water, let go and I was off in a cacophony of kicks and splashes and happiness. Proper water baby.
I competed from a young age. Fly was always my strongest and favourite. 25m Fly was my best event until I was 13 when it became 50m Fly. 50m and 100m freestyle (front crawl) were my next best events. 100m Individual Medley came third. And I was on a very successful frontcrawl and IM relay team. Backstroke was fun but I lacked the spacial awareness to nail turns and breaststroke has bored me stupid since I was first taught “frog kicks”. I grew frustrated because I could never nail it, and thus stopped trying. I can swim it, I just hate it.
So. Having entered a 5km swim at the end of August (lets just skip the bit where I thought IT WAS AT THE END OF FUCKING SEPTEMBER) I figured I’d best get a wiggle on and start some serious training. I’d been averaging over 5km a week in the pool, but…um…. I’m supposed to be swimming that in one actual go. Like…. with no cake stops and no chatting at the shallow end. Balls.
The first challenge was to work out what the shitting fuck is wrong with my back. It’s always stood in the way of me actually being any bloody good at any sport. But, as discussed previously, swimming is my special favourite. It CANNOT destroy this too… I persuaded my buddy Fiona to spend some time with me in the pool. She couldn’t see anything that would nip my back but gave me some fantastic advice on my pull and some drills and in one single session took my 100m ave from 1:57 to 1:49 and my 400m time from 7:48 to 7:22. Serious progress from half an hours coaching! And properly ace to spend some time watching her swim. #SwimGoalz
A couple of 3000m sessions later and my back was still being a pain in the…well… back. Physio couldn’t diagnose anything specific so we just decided my back is a dick and she pummeled me to death with her teeny tiny pointy elbows instead.
I am lucky enough to be very close to a local weekly OW session at Lochore Meadows. If swimming in swan shit is totes your fave Wednesday night activity, I totally recommend this. I try to go every week if I can. Mostly to acclimatise to that shit-your-pants moment the water goes down the back of your wetsuit. But also because swimming in open water is so very very different to the pool. You can’t see. It tastes weird. And WHAT THE BASTARD SHIT IS THAT WRAPPED AROUND MY HAND. You get the picture… I’d been enjoying it and getting some good distance practise in, and then a weird thing happened. A good friend mocks me for my “squid lid” (neoprene swim cap) but I forgot it one night and got so seasick I had to stop after a measly 1600m. Puke was actually imminent. I made sure I packed it the following week and hey presto. No puke. They are ridiculous but they work.
Unfortunately, I was still sore. I had become INCREDIBLY fed up. I was being held back by an invisible rope. I was running out of options. I had been pestering my pal IronPugsley for some coaching for-LITERALLY-EVER. He is a proper swimmer and also the most mental person I know and as proof of this is swimming 14km in the fucking THAMES this weekend. Not just swan shit there, my friend. Oh. And 10km in Loch Lomond at the end of August (note: not the end of September). If anyone was going to help me figure out what was going on, it was him. With a similar background to me (sprinter, competitor, 90% shoulders) and tonnes of expertise on hand, I knew I needed his help. Finally he had an idea. “Let’s go swimming, Bean. I’ll figure out what’s wrong.” Once I got my jaw off the floor, we got some lane time and it was brilliant. We swam, tweaked technique, shared advice and I got to race a sprinter. Great fun! Even though I lost (BARELY. BARELY LOST, Ironman….)
In that hour, he gave me a heap of pointers and areas to watch and improve. I have a weird hand thing that I do, apparently, and now I’m aware of it it’s doing my nut in but I’m all off balance if I don’t do it…. my breathing was also requiring attention. Body roll was good, head position fine. We worked out that the best way to proceed was to…… not kick. The Pull Buoy would be my new best mate. Now all my sessions are pull-only. At the 5k I will be kicking as little as possible. (I’ve lost but 4 seconds off my 100m time without my legs….)
Reassuringly, today I bashed out 3125m in a mixed session without kicking once. And I managed it in just over 65 minutes. Not too shabby. This was a few days after my lats decided to go on strike for a day.
Coach has been increasing my upper body work and I’m starting to see some awesome definition in my arms and shoulders. I’m also becoming leaner, despite my best efforts not to track macros. More protein and less sugary carbs have made a massive difference to my weight.
Here’s hoping I can keep the speed increasing and the weight decreasing without sacrificing energy and strength/endurance.
Like any event I enter, it’s never the distance that intimidates me. That probably makes me naive, but actually, I just don’t think about it as A Scary Thing. Running 26.2 miles? Yeah, huge deal but not scary. Break it down into bitesize chunks and hope for the best. 70.3 miles of triathlon? That’s a paddle, a bike and a bit of a jog…. hahahhaaaaa. Hahaha. Yeah. ok. But I did it! And I LOVED it. 5000m is going to be a bit different. I can’t just stop and stretch. I can’t stop for a snack. If I want a gel it needs to be shoved somewhere in my wetsuit. Warm. Squishy. Yum. The chafing on the back of my neck will be awful.
Time marches on, getting closer to my date with the Maid of the Loch, my date with Body Glide. My date with cramp and pissing in a rubber suit. Oh good!