I can’t tell you how many people say they would never do a triathlon because they can’t swim. I don’t think this means that they literally would drown if they got in the water, but more that they feel they have no technique and ability to swim well and for more than one lap. Yeah, I get that. Here is my lengthy swim history:
- Learned to swim around age 5 or 6, but have no memory of that. It probably involved my dad throwing me in the deep end and letting me figure it out.
- Joined the neighborhood swim team around age 10. Stopped around age 11. I had a very long swim-team career.
- Ages 10-15, I swam at the local pool for fun. Perfected my “Marco Polo” skills and got very good at doing cannonballs.
- 16-20 went to the beach and tanned with baby oil.
- 20------------------------->40 years old. Blank spot.
- Age 40-something, decided to do a triathlon. I wonder if I can swim. Let me see if I can at least fake it. I can always tread water, float on my back, grab onto a kayak or if worse comes to worse – DROWN.
I don’t think I’m the most horrible or slowest swimmer out there, but I’m certainly not gifted. My Ironman swim time was 1 hour, 24 minutes – this is a 2:11 per 100 yard pace, about 20 seconds off of my race goal of 1:48 – but you may remember there was a bit of current and waviness to the water that day (not that I’m making excuses, but I’m making excuses) -
Like anything I do, there is major room for improvement. So – when Fast Forward (the Ironman Triathlon group I’m working with) offered for us to go to the Swim Lab for a video analysis, I thought it was the only responsible thing I could do.
Let me tell you, it was cool. This unassuming “lab” is in a strip mall in a suburb of Denver. You walk into a small waiting area where three large TVs are positioned for your viewing. Each TV corresponds to a swim tank where a swimmer is getting analyzed/scrutinized.
The tank is one of those endless pools that cost millions of dollars and that you see in Sky Mall. Basically, they turn on the current and you swim into it. There are a series of mirrors at the bottom of the pool and you have to stay over that to get filmed. This allows you to be video-taped from different angles in the water.
After swimming for a minute or two, they would stop the current, play back the video and give pointers. This happened 5-6 times.
I cannot even tell you how helpful it was to be told what I am doing incorrectly, then to see it in action. Things to work on:
- Keep my elbow bent and then push back, using my power
- Avoid letting my hips drop
- Wait a second or two longer at the top of the stoke until my other arm comes to reach out front.
- Peeing before I get in the pool
(more great tips on swim form HERE)
Here is my action shot. I may look naked, but I am not that ballsy.
I don’t know that I will ever be a super fast swimmer, but I do think I can cut off some time in my races. Every minute counts, right?
What is your swimming history? I told you. See above.
Does your lack of swimming ability keep you from doing triathlons? Nah. I just went for it.
Do you even like to swim? It’s my least favorite of the three disciplines, however I learned during my Ironman how much I LOVE to swim in the ocean.
PS: Thanks Wendy for your professional photo and video-tography.