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Rookie Triathlete: Part 5: Graduate

Time to graduate from the safe pool to the open waters of Barton Springs

Image of Deep Eddy Pool.

Deep Eddy Pool.

Just a few days ago I wrote about swimming being as difficult as I’d imagined. All of my swimming, except one swim, had taken place at Big Stacy Pool. I was comfortable at that pool. There were familiar faces. My routine was consistent: change clothes, swim, shower. On April 9th I show up for my regular lunchtime swim to find out Big Stacy is closed until the end of the month! What?! Doesn’t the City of Austin know I’m training for my first triathlon?! And to think, I was getting more and more comfortable in the water. Now what do I do?! Graduate.

I knew of a few other pools, so I skipped across town to Deep Eddy Pool. The adjustment took time out of my swim workout, but I had to get in a swim. The switch made me get out of my comfort zone. New location, more traffic, different showers, $3 entry fee, etc. This was a baby graduation. I had to learn about a new (to me) pool and all of its nuances, including the temperature difference. The water temperature was closer to that of Barton Springs (~68 degrees). Deep Eddy isn’t free to use like Big Stacy, which added to my process. Side note – Deep Eddy pool is the oldest pool in Texas, built during the Depression Era.

By now, swimming laps has honed in my stroke and breathing. My familiarity with swimming and level of comfort in the water has grown exponentially since my first swim. Less time is spent on each end of the pool catching my breath. What’s next? Graduate.

Become comfortable with the uncomfortable

This graduation will be bigger. At first, I was uncomfortable swimming longer distances. I’ve since become comfortable. Now it’s time to revisit being uncomfortable again.

graduate

Barton Springs.

I’m planning my first open swim (since my mock Rookie Tri championship) in Barton Springs. The lanes aren’t 25m or 33.3m. They don’t have a black line guiding me under water. There aren’t lane lines to keep other swimmers from swimming in my direction. Basically, all comforts of the pool are gone. But, this is essential and I need to swim in open water before Rookie Tri. Afterall, the swim portion of Rookie Tri takes place in Decker Lake, not Decker Pool.

If you’re just starting out like me, don’t spend 100% of your time in the pool. Become comfortable with swimming in the pool, then branch out. Being as prepared as you can for Sunday, May 6th, will ensure a much better experience!

Rookie Triathlete: Part 4: Swimming

Swimming is coming along, slowly, but surely

Swimming has been more difficult than I imagined during my Rookie Tri training. I knew swimming would be difficult as it’s easily my weakest discipline. It feels like such a foreign concept to me, continuously inhaling above water and exhaling below water, all while trying to keep my hips/legs from sinking. As difficult as swimming has been, the progress I’ve made has been tremendous. I’ve dedicated more energy to the swim than I have the bike and the run and it shows.

When I first started I was doing everything I could to get from one end of the pool to the other, expending way too much energy. Barny, my coach, likened this to learning to run long distances using only speed workouts. There was no pacing, no patience. The improvement stems from using a pool buoy and kickboard. The pool buoy helps your hips stay elevated in the water so you can focus on using your upper body with minimal kick. The kickboard gives your upper body a rest so you can focus on tiny kicks and keeping your feet below the water’s surface. I also feel it working my core.

swimming

Incite Elite goggle set, with nose plug!

My first swim workout took place with a co-worker at the Townlake YMCA. Every swim workout after that has taken place at Big Stacy Pool. That place is a hidden gem and not many people use it during lunchtime (when I normally go). The facilities are nice, the water is cool, and you can take a quick shower after your swim before going back to work. Big Stacy Pool is 33.3m long. Each swim workout has gotten progressively longer for me, working on form, breathing, and endurance.

Full disclosure, my first swim was without a nose plug. I tried swimming without a nose plug, honest. No matter what I did, water would get in my nose. For Valentine’s Day, my wife got me this sweet Incite Elite goggle set that came with ear plugs and a nose plug (YAY!). The nose plug is a lifesaver. I’m not sure if this is normal for beginner swimmers or not. For me, the difference between using a nose plug and not using a nose plug is night and day. I have noticed that it slid a little bit during a few laps. It might still be in an adjustment to my nose process. I’ll keep an eye on leading up to race day.

I’m going home for Easter weekend and will attempt my first open water swim in Lake Mexia. I’m not sure what to expect or how far I’ll go, but it’ll be a nice gauge for me to see where I am outside of the pool.

What were your first swim experiences?