Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us. ~ Abraham Lincoln
I so want to love Masters swim. I mean, I don’t think you can love it like you love little kittens or fresh from the oven pumpkin spice donuts, but you can love the benefits in spite of the suffering. The coaching, the camaraderie, the hard workouts that take 10s of seconds off your race pace. And South Charlotte has one of the best programs around. I don’t know enough about swimming to quote any interesting stats that prove it, but I know enough to know it’s true. The coach is a legend and her high school kids win important titles every year. Triathletes from her group are constantly getting on the podium and despite all their bitching about the insane workouts, the proof is in the pudding.
I was super blessed to work with Coach Patty after my ankle surgery. We had a unique bond because of our shared ankle surgery experiences (same amazing surgeon even). And everyone said once I started to swim that I would be a triathlete. 10 months later when I crossed my first triathlon finish line, I felt a little silly using the title. I had practically doggie paddled my way through the 400m OWS in wind and rain and mud, taking almost 13 minutes to exit. I had learned to swim but I hadn’t learned to swim in terrible conditions with people climbing over top of me while I choked on nasty lake water. So I decided to go to Patty’s Masters class to get some more pointers and see if maybe it was something I could add to my training schedule on a regular basis.
I made the mistake of showing up on a “fast friday” and it was someone’s birthday so there was some crazy workout for whatever age she was turning and Patty told everyone to get in a lane with people they didn’t know or at least that they didn’t normally swim with. Well, somehow I got stuck with my friend Jeremy who has swam his whole life whose average pace for a 400m swim is likely faster than my all out 50. So I put on some fins to try and get through the workout but all that accomplished was rubbing some nasty blisters and I still managed to be the last one to the wall, every – single – time. I honestly don’t really care that I’m slow, but it isn’t fair to anyone to have me circle swim workouts with anyone faster than me (which is essentially everyone). And workouts aren’t supposed to make you feel that bad about yourself, right? I’m not one of those people who are driven by sucking at something. I need to enjoy it, at least like 80% of the time. [I am entirely too old and too fat to ever be anything more than a mediocre swimmer and I rather enjoy training alone, indulging in the naive notion that I’m really not all that bad. Sometimes we need that bubble to protect our self-esteem and prevent us from quitting.]
Needless to say I didn’t go back. And the fact that my coach was fine with my decision affirmed that I just wasn’t ready for that kind of swim training.
So now here I am, 18 months later, an official Ironman. Apparently I swam enough, decently enough, consistently enough in the past few months to get through a 2.4 mile OWS and tack on 142.2 miles afterwards (and I didn’t wear a wetsuit, core shorts, or even a swimskin!) But I have to be realistic in setting goals for 2016 because there’s only so much one can focus on at a time. Where can I see the biggest short term gains? The bike. Do I want to be a better swimmer? Absolutely! I want to flip turn, learn other strokes, be able to drop in at a Masters practice and not completely humiliate myself, and maybe even one day get that liposuction to even out my dimensions so I can wear a one piece swimsuit. I must still be riding the wave of post-Ironman I-can-take-on-the-world euphoria because I was fairly easily talked into attending a practice this morning, which is pretty silly, since my schedule only called for 1500m and just some light drills – a recovery workout, if you can even call it a workout. But I wanted to see some of my friends so I gave it a whirl, warning Patty when I walked in, that I would be cutting it short, whatever “it” was. She kindly assigned me a lane with EB, a fellow IMCHOO finisher, and another guy who also did the race. EB generously shared some of her toys with me since mine are back in Seattle. [It’s nice when your friends support your attempts at not drowning.]
I don’t know what it is about that pool or that practice, but damn if I don’t get totally overwhelmed every time I go. (Okay I’ve gone 3 times ever, but still). I can share lanes at the Y with a dozen people doing workouts and be mildly annoyed but not anxious or overwhelmed. But this morning, circle swimming with my friend and the perfectly nice gentleman, I was practically panicking. The many stares from other swimmers made me uneasy from the get go. [Who is that girl? Why is she in a two piece? Where is her mesh bag of floaty toys? Will I be stuck in a lane with shamu?] The hieroglyphics that explain the workout are also fairly intimidating. I’m a numbers gal – but whatever that crazy code language is on the little plastic sheet at the end of the lane makes me want to cry, truly. Getting lapped over and over isn’t exactly a confidence booster. It’s like I walked into a job interview for the wrong position and am trying to pretend I know what I’m doing when I should really just excuse myself to the ladies room and flee the building. But even though I have the wrong background, the wrong body, speak the wrong language, wear the wrong clothes, and have obviously shown up completely ill-prepared, for some reason I still want the job so I fumble my way through it with a brave face and pray they don’t all talk crap about me the second I leave.
And in one hour, I went from cloud 9 back to what-the-hell-am-I-doing?