I feel like mine is the bike.
I'm a really good swimmer. I'm competitive in my age group. When I line up at a race, regardless of the conditions, I am confident that I will be 1, 2 or 3 out of the water.
But I am not a "gifted swimmer". I have absolutely NO competitive background in swimming.
Like many people, I learned to swim when I was young. It actually consisted of lessons. No one threw me in a pool and said, "This is how you learn."
That was it though.
For whatever reason, I always loved swimming. When I went to college, I was running. Then one day, I started swimming laps. The only thing I knew was what I learned when I was a kid.
But I swam.
As time went on, I stopped swimming. At the time, pools weren't as abundant as they are now (where I live).
When Mr. Tea and I got together and Googs came along, I found myself at the pool again. Thinking back now, I was swimming 1500m in an hour.
ONE HOUR to do ~ a mile. (For those of you who do not swim, I now swim 1500m in the pool, in about 25 minutes; 22 minutes in open water).
I always loved the water. A friend of mine used to say it was because I was a Scorpio (water sign). That might be. All I know is that water is about the most calming thing I know.
When I started triathlon, I just swam in a pool, doin' my thang.
Then, I had to go to open water. THINGS CHANGED.
The first time I swam in open water was a horrible experience. I didn't know anything about open water swimming. The water was cold. There was a thunderstorm with rough water. I swam without a wetsuit.
I was terrrified.
I remember seeing Mr. Tea standing on shore. I could see the terrified, helpless look on his face.
I got out of the water, shaking. I thought to myself, "It shouldn't be like this."
As badly as I was shaking and honestly thought I was going to die out there, all I wanted was to go back and prove that I could beat this thing.
For my first triathlon, I swam 750m in 25:14. I had a wetsuit,and it was still a horrifying experience. I had held onto one of the canoes for awhile. I got out....once again....shaking.
After that, I was hooked on triathlon. I thought swimming on my own, doing drills, watching total immersion videos....I thought that was enough to make me a better swimmer.
It was for a very short time. My swim time dropped from +3minutes per 100m to 2:45.
Can I tell you something? At 2:45, I thought I WAS THE WORLDS BEST SWIMMER.
I kept hearing about Masters swimming. What I thought masters was and what it actually is....are two completely different things.
I thought masters was where the "pro's" went. I thought it was for retired Olympians and collegiate athletes who need a release for their competitive side.
What I found out later.....was that masters swimming is for regular people, like you and me, who want to swim for fitness. Some people are swimming as a means to stay healthy; some use it to train for triathlons; some ARE former Olympians and collegiate athletes; some people want to learn how to swim; some people do swim meets like runners do 5ks.
In other words, there are ALL levels of abilities at masters swim practices.
The first day that I showed up for Masters, well, it was hard. I didn't know anyone. I didn't know how to read the board. I was put into the slow lane.
I was hands down the slowest swimmer in the slow lane. I didn't understand swim etiquette.
That first day, I got my ass kick. I was EXHAUSTED at the end of the session.
But, I went back the next day. I knew this was the only way for me to see my potential.
Was it scary the first time I went? Yeah. I think I remember being nervous, but I set that aside in order to do what I had to in order to become a better swimmer.
I spent 4 or 5 years at that masters. My swim times dropped from 2:45 to 1:50 per 100m.
Then my swimming stagnated.
I had heard excellent things about the Masters team at DU. I also knew that they were crazy fast. They repeatedly win state; have people compete at Nationals and Worlds. I knew they had one of the top coaches in the state.
I was in need of a new masters team. This old one wasn't doing it anymore.
I can't stress this enough. When something stops working, you need to make a change.
I contacted the coach at DU. I was put into the slowest lane. Over the coming weeks, I was moved to the second slowest lane. That's where I swim today.
Within months of joining the new team, my swim pace dropped from 1:50 to 1:25 per 100. Even more importantly, I can hold that pace for a long time, which is important in triathlon.
What masters will teach you:
1.) Correct form: If you want coaching, just ask.
2.) Clinics: learn to swim all the strokes
3.) Pacing: Learning to swim with faster or more experienced swimmers is always the best way to learn pacing.
4.) Open water swim techniques.
5.) The opportunity to compete at swim meets. And guess what? You are seeded by your times. This means at a meet, you will be racing people who are the same speed as you. How cool is that?
6.) Strength training: Just like tri training, USMS coaches use a periodization training that includes strength training. You'll sprint 25m/yds, get out of the pool, do strength work, get back in, swim back...repeat up to 8 times.
7.) It builds your confidence in the water.
I'm writing this today because I know I'm a good swimmer, but not everyone knows what it took to get me here.
I've worked incredibly hard at swimming. I work on my form. I ask for help. I go to masters 3-4 times per week. I swim with people who are faster than me. I take lessons (outside of masters).
I am not a gifted swimmer. I got this way because I've put in the time and energy to get good at swimming.
In triathlon, swimming is about conserving energy. Triathlon swims are by far longer than just about any single set you'll do at masters.
Masters swimming teaches you how to be efficient, how to move yourself through the water, expending the least amount of energy. Regardless of the tri-swim distance. The swim sets up the rest of your day. If you expend less energy over a distance, you'll race better the rest of the day.
Besides all that, you learn one of the most important tricks ever: How to hold a conversation in 10 second intervals.