Friday, July 24, 2009

Thank you, Rachael

I had a great swim last night, largely thanks to Rachael, who happens to swim almost exactly the same speed as I do. With the Lake Placid Ironman looming this weekend, our numbers were down for the swim, which meant no kayakers to accompany us. I'm okay with that, having made the swim twice, I'm gaining confidence. Rachael and I were the only non wetsuited swimmers, which makes us, coincidently, the swimmers most at risk. Have you ever swam in a wet suit? It's virtually impossible to drown. If you are in trouble, all you need to do is turn over on your back and let the wind blow you to shore. Even your swim cap, which traps some air, affords you some bouyancy. Rachael and I started out together, with an unspoken agreement between us, that we wouldn't lose sight of each other. As always in open water, my first few minutes are a bit frantic, my stroke count is high and I go into O2 debt pretty quickly. Somewhere around minute 5, I realize what I've been doing and make a conscious effort to increase my glides and relax. However, when I did that Rachael would pull away. I am, at heart, a competitive person, and I love a chase, and to be chased. It makes me work harder. Now, everyone's first impulse, when trying to go faster is to move faster, and work harder. In running, people tend to move their legs faster, in swimming, they increase their stroke count, in skating, the tendancy is to revert to shorter quicker strokes. I have found, though, as I age, it's better to work SMARTER, not harder. A theory I try to apply to every sport I participate in. So, fighting the impulse to start flailing away, I tried to remember all the Total Immersion drills, and made an effort to swim more quietly, and really make sure the weight transfer with my hips was timed to match the dive of my incoming hand. Did you know there is weight transfer in swimming? There is, and it makes a huge difference.

Even after practicing this in the pool I still find it hard to put into practice in an open water swim, especially in a race situation. But, as much as I could, I swam very consciously and purposefully, trying to make the most out of every stroke. I could feel the surge ahead as I lengthened out. I am graced with a long body and arms, and although I am not lean, I am "leaner" than I was a few months ago. This, I believe, was the sole advantage I had, all other parameters being roughly equal. Rachael was about 8" shorter than I was.

On and on we swam, at times I pulled ahead, and at times she led me, until we got to the island, our turnaround point. It had taken us 17 minutes, with no stops. We paused briefly, then headed back. 17 minutes to the shore, 1 stop when we collided with a group heading out. Oops! The swim was beautiful, because neither of us wanted to get left behind, yet neither of us could pull that far ahead, so we kept each other going. I swam steadily for 35 minutes, about 0.9 mile. Very nice for an evening workout. Top it off with a Saranac and a chicken salad with friends at Tinney's and it made for a great time. Thanks again Rachael, hope we can swim together next week too. Today is a rest day, as I'm tired from pushing the mower up and down our hill and my swim.

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