Photo: Alberto+Cerriteño, Flickr Creative Commons
I took my first couple of laps Sunday as part of my triathlon training. To put it kindly, it was a humbling experience. I'm using my parents' pond, a long rectangular body of water that is largely free of weeds or debris, as my training center. One length of the pond is roughly 130 yards, making four lengths of the pond the perfect training distance. If I can swim that continuously, I can easily make the 1/4-mile distance of the race.
Stepping into the water Sunday I realized that the water temperature was cold enough to elicit a gasp when I first went under, but not so cold that I felt chilled after the first moment of adjusting. I know that some of you may be jealous that I can go swimming when it is still technically winter, but even accounting for the weird snowstorms that reached fairly fair south this winter, it's been a mild one and a very short one as well. I haven't had the heater on in the house for almost two months now and we've kept the windows open for most of those two months. We've had several days already this year when we saw 80 degrees, and we'll have at least five of them in a row coming up.
Despite the relatively comfortable water, that first attempt at swimming was an embarrassment. I was a distance swimmer growing up as a kid. I even swam laps in this pond as a kid when the public pool in town was condemned. It was easy, at least until drought hit and the oxygen-starved catfish swarmed the freshly oxygenated water around my thrashing limbs. Now, I couldn't even sync up my breathing with my strokes to keep my head down because I was out of breath as soon as I started. My arms were so tired halfway down the pond that I couldn't even finish my strokes. My kicks were powerful and my legs never got tired, but using my arms left me gasping for breath and treading water or breast-stroking to keep my head above the water while I caught my breath.
Luckily, when I got back into the water yesterday, I finished the first 130 yards without a pause. Strokes were clean. Breaths were good. I kept my head down and I paced myself well. I needed this. Running and biking came relatively easy for me. The rewards were quick and helped keep me motivated to improve. I'm not the type of guy who refuses to give up. I actually usually just quit when things get tough. After that first lap, I ended up doing four lengths of the pond (about 0.3 of a mile) in about 18:30. I couldn't do the other lengths continuously and I struggled during the third and fourth lengths to keep my breathing synced as I started to get too tired to keep my rhythm going, but the significant improvement was reassuring. Things should go well for me by May.