Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Just Because it Looks Easy...

It’s week two of our fall Masters class at the pool and I’m back to swimming three times per week. No more open-water swims until late spring for this girl. 

Every time a new class starts we get a few more recruits. Some come once or twice and are never seen again. Others struggle to keep up for the first little while until they get their feet wet. They stick around long enough to build up their endurance and strength and, soon enough, they’re helping the new recruits arriving for the next session.

On Monday morning, a fairly innocent looking workout was written on the board.

200m swim
10x50m breast stroke with fly legs (which means do breast stroke with your arms but do a dolphin kick with your legs – very tiring as it turned out!)
Main set – to be repeated three times.
9x75m (first 25m easy, second 25m medium, last 25m sprint)
2x25m drill

Most of our workouts fill the entire whiteboard. This one had four lines. How hard could it be?

Lesson 1: don’t judge a workout by the number of space it takes up on the whiteboard.

Lesson 2: don’t judge your strength by the person next to you.

We divided up into three lanes. I shared a lane with Mr. 70.3. A strong, fast, consistent swimmer who just finished a fabulous half ironman 8 days earlier.

We started into our first 9x75m and decided to swim side by side rather than one after the other. I was ahead during the first 25m (slow), stayed ahead during the second 25m (medium) and finished a few seconds before 70.3 after the last 25m (sprint). My goal was to stay even or just ahead of him. It was tough but I did it for all nine.

At which point he announced that he was taking it easy because he was still recovering from his race.

We panted at the wall for a minute or so and then headed into our second set of 9x75m. This time, I stayed even during the first 25m, struggled to hold position during the second and worked my butt off to not let him get more than half a body length ahead by the end. It might sound funny but his black bathing suit became my focus. I did my darnedest not to let his waistband get ahead of my hands. We finished all nine and I was exhausted.

At which point he announced again that he was feeling pretty tired and not going as fast as he normally would.

When we started the third and final set, he took off like a bullet. Actually, he probably took off at the same speed as before but I was getting slower by the second so he just looked like a bullet. I struggled to catch him but could not do it. My standard quickly lowered from keeping up with him in the first set, to keeping up with his waistband in the second set to just keeping his toes in sight by the third.

Our coach told me to watch my arms as my form was starting to fall apart. “I know, I can feel it” I replied. “I can’t believe how tired my arms are getting”.

“It’s a tough workout” she replied.

No kidding! It sure didn’t look like it on the board!

I focused on my form and on keeping up with 70.3’s toes. I may have slowed down but I continued to work on building my speed throughout the 75m and always finished with a sprint. Albeit a slower one.

Apparently, as I learned afterwards, this workout helps train us to push when we’re tired. It helps train our body to keep working hard and gets us to practice keeping good swimming form when our muscles are flagging.

I high-fived 70.3 at the end and congratulated him on maintaining his pace throughout the workout. 

And I didn’t tell him that I had spent the better part of the hour and a half focused on his bathing suit.

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