May 16, 2008

Taking the Plunge

I had my second swimming lesson today. Let's pause to remember that I'm not referring to my second lesson in the past year or so, but rather my second lesson in my entire life. I didn't have a chance to practice between last week's lesson and today since I didn't yet have pool access. But that will change on Monday, when my membership kicks in and I can swim to my heart's content. It was another rainy, miserable day, just as it was last Friday when I went swimming. It's actually the perfect weather for swimming. It frees you to walk around the city with no umbrella and no need to stay dry.

I had to share the pool today with a few five-year-olds, who were no doubt doing better than I. I couldn't help but think how much I wished I had learned that young when everything is easier. But then I would be missing out on this great sense of empowerment that comes with tackling something new, something a bit scary, as an adult. I was pleased to discover that I retained all that was learned last week. I was not pleased to discover that I still have very little endurance in the water. I end up hanging on the side of the pool, totally winded and exhausted after just a couple 25 meter laps. But starting any new sport is difficult and I try to remember what it was like the first time I tried to run, when it would have been unfathomable to run five miles, 10 miles and eventually a marathon. Running is different though. You can slow your pace, you can even walk, but what do you do when you're face down in the water and tired and out of breath? I found out today. My coach wanted me to try to swim four consecutive laps with no breaks. I've been doing a lot of drills in an effort to perfect my form, which has made it difficult for me to remember to breathe properly or often enough. With the laps, she said to forget about the form and just relax, swim and breathe. Sounds easy enough, right? I made it three laps without stopping, then crashed on the fourth. I was almost there, it was within my reach, but I simply didn't have the energy. How can this be? I've run four marathons and biked hundreds of miles. Swimming is just different. It's a new challenge that I'm quite anxious to conquer.

When timed, it turns out I'm swimming about 50 meters in 50 seconds. Apparently this isn't disgraceful, but after hearing about the guy floating the mile in 37 minutes, this clearly isn't good enough for me, so I'm hoping to improve. But I'm glad to know that I'm starting at a decent pace and that I'm taking the time to learn how to do it right.

Near the end of my lesson, we attempted the breast stroke. I've heard this is an easier stroke for many than the front crawl so I was intrigued. Ok. This stroke requires actual coordination, something I do not naturally have. Why do you think I run and bike rather than play a complicated sport? I can see how it might offer a nice rest during the tri, but first I'd have to figure out how the hell to actually do it. If there is no one else in the pool next week, I might try again. Otherwise, I'm content to suck it up and practice, practice, practice the front crawl so I can survive the full mile with this stroke. Because as they say, practice makes perfect.

Sport - Swimming
Distance - Who knows!
Time - 1:00:00

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