Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Houston, We Have a Problem

Here's the thing. I can run for an hour or more without stopping, easily. I can bike for an hour or more without stopping, easily. I can swim for twenty minutes, tops, and that includes a lot of breaks for hanging on walls and panting.

It's been a week since the triathlon training officially kicked off with a moderately humiliating group swim last Wednesday. Our swim instructor is perky and young. Her name is Anna. "Get in the pool," she said, "and just warm up with an easy 100." Easy. Ha! We did that, we did drills where we just kicked on our side, we did things called Zippers and Catch-ups and 50s of stroking with just one arm all the way down and back. Since then, I've gotten in the pool two other times, once to swim 10 laps, alternating freestyle and breaststroke, once to use a pull buoy to try to work on my arm strength and a kickboard to work on kicking from my hips.

The second time, I got to the lane just as another swimmer was getting there. He was tall and muscled and be-goggled and looked like A Real Swimmer.

"Want to share the lane?" he asked.

"Sure!" I said. I actually wanted to rip my swim cap off and go hide in a corner, but it was a cheerful lie.

"Do you want to split the lane or circle swim?" he asked.

By the grace of God, I had done enough Googling to know what those terms meant. "I'm the slowest ever," I said, "so we should probably split the lane so you don't have to pass me 85 times." I laughed. He didn't laugh. I was mortified.

Afterwards (again: AFTER TWENTY MINUTES), I am shaky and exhausted. I am ravenous. I feel like I could pass out if I get up too quickly. I have to sit down in the gym lobby and pretend to be making a list or looking at something on my phone before I go collect the girls from the kid's area.

I keep asking - begging! - people for help. I instant message people on Facebook (people who swam competitively in college) and ask them for advice. I march out to a friend standing on the pool deck watching his daughter's swim practice (an Ironman, no less) and ask him to be my swim coach. I Google things during quiet time, things like "beginning swim for triathletes," "swimming for exercise" and "adult swimming tips." People think I am exaggerating my feebleness. I'm not.

I know I'm only a single week in to this 10-week training process, but I'm still truly unsure if I can swim 1/2 mile AND THEN do the other two things. It's humbling. It's scary. My right shoulder hurts, the swimming has turned my legs into mush when I try to do my usual runs, and I'm thirsty all the time. The upside so far has been discovering that I love the biking, and I'm seriously considering getting (or borrowing) a road bike to see if I can push myself even faster there. Best-case scenario, I don't come in completely last because I can rock the bike and the run. Worst-case scenario, I take longer than the alloted 35 minutes to complete the swim and I'm disqualified.

Tomorrow night, back in the pool.


  1. Some points to note here.....
    A. I enjoy that you and J use the word "feeble" regularly. I am starting to adopt it myself.
    B. Week ONE of TEN. Come on now, Consistent Cathy....so it doesn't come eeeaasssyyy week one. You said yourself the running and biking DO, right? At least you have a challenge on your hands! Otherwise, what would I have to cheer about come Sept. 11th? :)
    C. Need I remind you of the mental state we are in during road races? You've got this. Of course you do.
    D. Bye.

  2. Stephanie Freriks Doublestein - You are NOT giving yourself enough time, sweetheart! I could hardly swim 4 laps without dying the first week or two. I slowly built up (swimming 2-3 days a week) to 16 (and it wasn't easy even then...) but guess what... if my chubby butt can do a tri, your super-runner, body shred, yoga self can TOTALLY do it. Seriously. Give it some time. Yes, it's hard. Yes, it's possible. You will be UNBELIEVABLY proud of yourself after this - and what a great mental obstacle to conquer... GOOOOOOOOO Steph! ;)

  3. Hmmm...I posted a comment that didn't go through, so I'll try again.

    Tip # 1: Don't kick! Or just barely kick! Do not waste your legs when you'll need them later. Really, just kick enough to keep your legs up. They really don't propel you all that much.

    Tip # 2: Have your coach show you a good stroke out of the water and practice. Then watch your arms under water until you get it right. A good stroke can really help.

    Tip # 3: Not a tip, so much, just a note of encouragement. 10 weeks is long enough to build up to this.

    You're going to do great! We'll do a nice, long swim at the spa in August!

  4. I'm always aghast when I attempt to swim in my parents' pool. I think, I'm in good shape, I'm a runner, swimming several laps will be easy! It is EXHAUSTING, and I fail.

    However, you can do this. In late May I was ecstatic because I ran six miles and never thought that would be attainable. Last weekend I ran 11. You have plenty of time, and I think time is the key. You can do it!

    (My half is on 9/12--big weekend for both of us!)