I'm not sure what the official criteria is but I have made up my own set of fairly strict standards and I now meet some of them - most of the time.
- I can swim across the pool without drowning or requiring third party intervention of any kind.
- I put my goggles on right side up most of the time. I don't know if there is a real difference when they're upside down but the Nike logo looks funny so that's enough to make me double check when I put them on.
- I no longer forget things at home (like my underwear or shampoo) and I no longer leave things at the pool (like my goggles, flip-flops or bathing suit)
- I now know how long I've been swimming without needing to look at the clock because I have figured out the lifeguard rotation. They rotate chairs every 15 minutes. Every time they move, I have to have swum 20 lengths of the pool. It keeps me moving!
- Other swimmers recognize me even with my goggles on and when my friends arrive they stand at the edge of my lane because they recognize my swim style. Kind of like knowing a runner by their gait. (the fact that there are juice boxes at the end of my lane may also be a clue to who I am but still...)
- People who were faster than me a month ago are no longer faster than me.
- I can breathe! Back and forth across the pool I go and I hardly ever lose my breathing rhythm anymore.
So I am officially a swimmer.
The other crazy thing I've discovered - and by crazy I mean that it just confirms the fact that my body seems to thrive on things that other people find kinda painful - is that I think I'm a long distance swimmer.
I know I'm a long distance runner. I dislike running pretty much any distance under 10k because it never really starts feeling good until then. After 10k my body just magically changes from forcing myself to run to not wanting to stop. My favourite distances are 12-25k - anywhere in there makes me happy.
Every morning when I start swimming things feel kinda hard. I'm out of breath, my arms and legs feel sore and tired and I'm stopping every 50 metres. The first 20 lengths of the pool are like that. The next 20 start feeling better. During the final 40 my body suddenly finds its rhythm and my mind actually starts to wander. I don't think about breathing - I just do it. My body no longer feels tired, it just swims merrily along and no longer wants to stop.
Did you do the math in that last paragraph?
Yep, I'm now swimming 80 lengths of the pool. That is 2000 metres my friends - 2 kilometres! I tried it last Friday and it went really well. I did it again yesterday and managed to finish in 55 minutes. I could hardly do 60 lengths in 55 minutes a few weeks ago.
Just in case anyone was wondering, most triathlons require you to swim 750m.
The half ironman swimming distance is 2.0km.
I know I can run a half marathon.
So now I just have to triple the distance I can do on a bike and I'm all set.