There...you have been forewarned. I feel like doing a creative little piece on what each component of the triathlon sport means to me, using metaphors to best describe my relationship with each sport. It's an indulgent endeavor that will probably bore you to death or at least make you gag, unless you're as nerdy as I am.
I did a swim at the intercity pool today and as always, I stopped upstairs to visit the Inca Princess- the law offices above the pool serve as her work cave, although exceedingly less cave like than my cave; a swanky office cave with a window and a large poster of George Clooney serve as cave art. I wanted to peg down a date to do our sprint triathlon. Last year, I did the triathlon two weeks before the Road Runner and it was just too much. Mid-summer would be better, so we think we'll do one on Lake Erie the end of July. I need a tangible goal to strive toward, with a tangible date inked on the calender to make it real.
With my TYR triathlon suit, my swim cap, and a brand new set of Speedo Goggles, I set off to do my laps--I don't bother counting them anymore and just swim for time. I do mostly free-style crawl, but I'll throw in a few laps of backstroke and breaststroke to keep it interesting. It took me about six months to refine my swim stroke and breathing, but now, it seems I can swim all day. I just don't get tired of going back and forth, especially after I've gotten the first 10 laps out of the way and my muscles are warmed up. Of the three sport disciplines, swimming seems less of a sport and more of an art to me. Non-swimmers might find this hard to believe. A triathlete I met at the pool told me that swimming is 90% technique and 10% aerobic strength. I think he's got something there. Swimming was so difficult at first; I'd flail through the water several laps, but then I'd be gasping for breath. I was trying to conquer water with my body. The water always won. Then, one day, over the winter, I landed serendipitously on the magic technique, like I suddenly learned the rhythm to the dance I'd been previously blundering through with two left feet; because I started paying attention to the music. Swimming has come to be like stolen moments dancing in twilight with a handsome man that thinks I'm a goddess, where the water and reflected light blot out extraneous distracting noises of reality. The other sport disciplines enhance my swimming: running gives me the aerobic endurance to literally swim all day, strength training at the lab lends power behind each stroke and recovery; each part of the swim like carefully choreographed dance steps. I don't have bad swims. I get out of the water supremely happy. I adore the smell of chorine.
Now, I realize that come triathlon day, the swim isn't going to be so waltz-like in the twilight with a handsome man that thinks I'm the bomb. There's a monumental difference between doing laps in a crystal clear pool with lines to guide you and swimming in a herd of massive shouldered women in a murky lake. They could easily pass for men, if weren't for the faint swell of breasts and hips under those sleek tri-suits. They'll all look alike wearing skin tight swim caps and goggles. They lose the distinction of individuals and become "the competition" that wants to kick my ass. Once the whistle blows it will be like waltzing through a hurricane with a bunch of broads trying to butt in on my dance--steal my handsome man. This is the real challenge of the swim--trying to stay with the melodious rhythm of the waltz, done a million times before, yet now with the distraction of nebulous elbows and feet in your face, your heart beating in your temples, and the shore so far away.
Last summer when I competed in my first sprint triathlon, it was not waltzing at all. At that point, I still had not discovered the rhythm of the dance. The swim portion of my triathlon was a panicked desperate flailing toward the shore in water so cold I was surprised my blood didn't thicken like tarry sludge and stop flowing. I was disoriented from my fogged up goggles and all those arms and legs. I made it though, in a respectable time for a first, but this year...It's going to be the flawless waltz with my man who thinks I'm the bomb. And no one is cutting in.