People tend to think of me as a swimmer and I think I've said this before... I'm not really a very naturally gifted swimmer. But for years, I have trained often, I have trained consistently, and I have trained a lot (and often times very hard) and therefore my swim race times don't tend to suck.
But just like most everyone else, if/when I miss swim workouts (and therefore my volume and frequency go down), my swimming skill temporarily disappears. One nice thing about the deep background I have though is that typically, with a few weeks of resuming solid training, it comes back. So that's nice. Don't think I'm 'lucky' though in that regard. I have put my time in and I have earned that. :)
Anyway, I am currently once again training for the Double Roughwater swim and if you've been following my blog at all over the years maybe you'll remember this one. It's ~7K or so and this will be the 7th(??) year I've done it. What I like about training for it sort of gives us license to do all sorts of the craziest swim workouts you can imagine. I can't say my swim fitness has been very high this fall BUT it is finally coming around now so that feels good.
Last weekend we did the Double course with a small group and a kayaker. It was cold, super windy, choppy, with jellyfish, etc. I was NOT fit enough to swim it well so essentially I got my ass kicked by everyone on the way home (for the 2nd week in a row actually) and it did not make me happy. At all. I got out of the water at the end and didn't speak to anyone just went and got changed and went home and plopped down on my couch feeling sorry for myself. I had all sorts of thoughts like screw it I don't even like that damn swim WHY am I doing this I suck at swimming, etc. (And no- not even PMSing! Ha!) I was conflicted though b/c I *knew* that if I ever want to have a shot at keeping up with the swimmers in that group I need to buck up and swim more and bailing on those long swims was not going to help me in that regard... But going through that ass kicking every weekend wasn't really sounding like a great idea either. Blah.
So if you know me at all, you'll know that instead of throwing in the towel, I put my head down and kept working at it. Wednesday we did a 5K w/o that involved 3 x 1000's descend 1-3 w/ 1' rest. This is actually kind of a staple in our world so not a huge deal... But I made it more challenging this time around my putting on paddles. Have you ever tried descending with paddles? It's crazy hard. Mostly b/c paddles wear you out muscularly in a way that regular swimming does not so in all honesty, I was not sure at all that I would be capable of descending. But why not try?
Long story short, I managed to do it (descend) but I will tell you- on that 3rd one I had to focus like no other time and really make sure I was swimming correctly. My goal was to make sure I was continuing to engage my lats (vs getting lazy and dropping my elbows on the catch) so I consciously widened out my stroke a little, anchored my elbow up high toward the surface upon catching, then reached deep in an effort to generate as much propulsive power as I could with each stroke. It was freaking HARD but so cool b/c I just felt like an animal and I knew I was hitting my target pace the whole time.
Fast forward to today I was in the ocean with Nalani doing the Double course again... granted the conditions were 100x nicer today than they were last week... no wind for the last few days meant the water was clear and glassy which makes it easier to swim correctly for sure... BUT the interesting thing to me is that when the pace picked up on the way home, I was there. My power was there. I totally recalled the animal feeling I had on Wed with the paddles and went back to that type of effort... widen it out, anchor the elbow, reach deep, feel the power. It was hands down the strongest swim I've had in a very long time and felt sooo good! I'm sure doing the long ocean swims 3 weeks in a row also had something to do with it, but I'm calling that 3K with paddles The Animal Set and 100% for sure I will do it again b/c I just LOVE the strength it gave me. Actually, while I was out there today I was thinking even better strap bands on too and try to descend that. 3 x 1000's descend 1-3 with 1' rest with paddles and bands (no buoy)? Holy crap. Totally not sure that is even possible but don't put it past me to try it. Maybe I'll start with 3 x 600's first though. ;)
Anyway, the inspiration for this post sort of came about after seeing the swim splits from Ironman Cozumel this morning. Clearly some swimmers were able to swim that course well today (top 3 women swam 54') but then looks like no one else (female) was even <1:02?? HUGE split for sure and a lot of relatively 'slow' times which indicates the conditions were suitable for the strongest of the swimmers but either the currents or the chop (maybe both?) were enough to separate the weaker ones out in a way that a lake swim would not. If you live near an ocean where you're able to train, then getting better in the ocean is a no brainer (duh- get in the ocean more!) BUT that is not an option for most people. So your next best bet is to get strong. And to get strong in the water, correct your stroke technique and then strap on those paddles and focus. Widen it out a little, anchor your elbow, reach deep, feel the power. There you go!