Wannabe Swimmer

It’s funny; shortly after I post about not swimming, there are some water-related updates to share.  Go figure.

With the offseason in full swing, I eased off the structured training, reflected on my races, and pinpointed areas for improvement.  Based on results, it’s no secret my bike needs the most attention now. (And a new tri bike only fuels the fire, right?) My run calls for improvement as well.  And what about my swim?  It can be summed up in one phrase:  wannabe swimmer.


Centered on proper technique and muscle memory, swimming requires years of experience spent honing form to be as efficient as possible.  When I joined the triathlon world, I figured this portion of the race would be my Achilles heel.  After all, I had zero competitive swimming background and simply thought I’d be joining the pool party too late.  My mantra was even “survive the swim.”

However, since logging one official season of training, my swim improved a lot.  Granted, I’m nowhere near being a fish, but this discipline has proven to be a strength.  During my first few races, I attributed my swim time to being a fluke.  Sure, I passed folks whose waves began before mine and exited the water in the lead group, but this was due beginners’ luck, right?


My first race with Full Throttle EnduranceNautica South Beach

It looks like that isn’t quite the case, though.

Growing up in Central New York, I took swimming lessons as a kid and spent plenty of time in pools and lakes.  My hometown has a lake as does my alma mater.  In fact, during my senior year, my room overlooked Seneca Lake. (And a half-Ironman takes place there too.  In case you’re curious, the run course goes through campus.  Just throwing that out there.) Basically, for almost as long as I can remember, I’ve had a view of a body of water.  Maybe because I spent so much time in the water as a kid and maybe because I’ve always been around it, swimming in the open water doesn’t intimidate me.

Also, according to the book Racing Weight: How To Get Lean For Peak Performance by Matt Fitzgerald, I have some characteristics that prove beneficial in the water.


Let’s see:  Swimmers are typically tall—check.  Swimmers typically have long torsos and arms—check.  Swimmers have large feet—check.

So the combination of my water background and body characteristics have led to some OK performances in the water.  As the season progressed, I got moved to the fast lane in my original training group.  And like I mentioned, I usually do well in my age group in terms of the swim.  You don’t win races during the swim, but there’s an adrenaline rush when you come out of the water in the lead packs.  That’s pretty cool.  Plus, I need the time cushion to offset my bike!

Anyway, I haven’t been spending a ton of time in the pool lately.  And I’m OK with that.  The bike especially and the run need those workout hours.  However, I’m pumped to have finally reached an elusive wannabe swimmer’s rite of passage—I learned how to flip turn!

Back during the season, one of my coaches broke down the process into four phases, and I made it through the first two.  We never revisited the concept, but two weeks ago, one of my teammates gave me a flip-turn clinic.  Not going to lie, I feel pretty legit throwing down those turns—even though I can only do it for 200 yards right now.

As the real swimmers know, doing flip turns eliminates the extra breath you can take before pushing off the wall.  Plus, you’re not only missing that breath, but you’re also blowing out through your nose, which means you’re using more oxygen.  Basically, this means you get gassed quicker.  Ah, another triathlon learning curve.  But that’s what the offseason is for, right?

Finish this statement:  I’m a wannabe _________.

24 responses to “Wannabe Swimmer

  1. I love that Matt Fitzgerald book – it’s the best sports book I’ve read 🙂 I think you are doing awesome at swimming – I think you’re right that spending time in the water as a kid is beneficial even if you didn’t join a swim team then, i think that applies to me then. Being comfortable in the water seems to be a big issue for a lot of triathletes.

    • Yes, being comfortable is crucial. That’s the biggest concern I encounter when talking with hopeful triathletes–they don’t know how to swim, or simply being in the water seems scary. And even for those of us who have done several tris, the swim causes a lot of mental concern.

  2. A triathlete… and I am working on it! 😀

  3. Swimming is the best! Another reason to be thankful for height and big feet 🙂

  4. Coming into this year I thought swimming was going to be the toughest leg for me as well. Although I’m nowhere near the level you are and wouldn’t consider myself to be a legit swimmer, I’ve learned to really enjoy swimming and in the past 70.3 I did the swim portion actually felt great. I’ll definitely never finish in the lead pack but I know I’ll also never be at the back either.

    Funny you mention how flip turns really wear you out. I got back into the pool after a 3 week break and could only make it 100 yards doing flip turns before I went back to open water turns! Its definitely a breathing drill.

    • Same here–I’m enjoying the swimming a lot more than I thought I would originally. Looking back on the season, there are several favorite moments that come to mind that occurred during the swim: being in the water early in the morning, sort of watching the sun rise … it’s really therapeutic.

  5. I’m a wannabe weight lifter. HA.

    Anyways, I love that book by Fitzgerald. It has helped me through a lot of training and I just find it such a fascinating read. Anyways, I’m glad your pool time is going decently. UGH I just have no interest to get into the pool (especially now that it is cold)…

    • LOL–I try to throw around weights in the weight room too. Sometimes I feel legit, but other times–like today–I think why do I bother? 😉

  6. Runner! Even though I’ve been at it for a little while, I still feel like I’m a wannabe!

  7. If you can believe this… I actually cannot swim, and I am terrified of the water!

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  9. I’m definitely not the typical swimmer: short, small feet, and I’m pretty sure I have normal arms and torso. But I worked hard and it paid off!

    I am slacking on the swimming aspect this off season, but I have a few more yards more than last December (no swimming at all) and I will hit my mile goal for the year (50 miles) so I should be alright!

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