Sunday, July 15, 2012

Mach Tenn Swim

I don't know when I'll learn to write up everything I have to say about a race immediately afterward.  When I wait to do it I lose a lot of the ...euphoria... surrounding it.  However, most of the time it's not that I don't want to write it up, it's that I don't have the opportunity.

You would think after almost FOUR WEEKS* of not working out and having two of those off work** I would have had a lot of extra time on my hands.  I don't know why, but that has not been the case at all.  ((*I had my first taste of working out Thursday when I did a portion of the Spin class I was teaching, and then again on Friday when I did more of the same.  Yesterday I did a little bit in all three disciplines-emphasis on LITTLE.  **I feel guilty calling what I do "work" but I do have a job teaching preschool swim lessons at the Y; nI ended up taking four days off because of my knee and then we had the week of July 4th off as well.))

As I am sitting here thinking about my planned workout for today (a swim), I am reminded about how I teased you with the promise of a write up about the Mach Tenn swim.

So...I told you I entered the wrong time for my estimated swim finish when I registered for the race.  When I looked at it, I thought it was 6 HUNDRED but really it was 6 HUNDREDTHS (of a mile) (.6 not 600).  So I put down a guess on how long it would take me to swim 600 instead of 965.5 meters...bit of a difference!!  Because of this little mistake, instead of having a starting number in the 300s, I had a number of 42.  I was more than just a little freaked out. 

Okay...for all my non-swimming/triathlete friends/readers who might be asking why this matters, let me take just a minute to try to explain. a staggered start everyone lines up according to their race number (which is based on the time you enter when you register for the race as your estimated swim time).  The faster swimmers go first so they don't have to worry about maneuvering around people who might wind up doing the doggy-paddle/breast stroke/zigzag-like-a-drunkard thing some very courageous non-swimmers resort to in order to get out of the water alive so they can complete a triathlon. 

Now...there are any number of reasons having a low number might be upsetting.  As I was talking to friends the most common thought everyone had was that I wouldn't LIKE being passed by the faster swimmers.  That wasn't it at all.  I don't necessarily mind being passed...I just didn't want to be in the way.  It would have been obvious to anyone I had entered the wrong time down.  It would be like lining up at the Tour de France in a Huffy, or trying to start the Indy 500 in a Prius.  I didn't belong in the 42nd spot...I belonged in about the 309th spot.

Thankfully,  that's exactly where I was allowed to start.  That whole mix-up worked to take my mind off the fact this was going to be my first race in a wetsuit.  That distinction should have belonged to NOLA 70.3, but we all know how that turned out (cancelled swim).  Although I had done some practice in it, racing is just not the same so I was a little nervous.  Interestingly enough I don't remember being nervous about the swim.  I had prepared my mind for a 600 yard swim so finding out it was really 1056 yards was a tad shocking, but only for a split second because I had been doing over double that distance in workouts for a while.  (That was a GREAT feeling!)

When I entered the water, I had to remind myself to relax.  I remembered my commitment to RACE the swim portion to the best of my ability and set out to do just that.  I started swimming fairly fast and straight, for about 50 yards.  Nothing really fell apart, I just did what I usually do (my mind started working against me) and I had to bring myself back to positive thoughts.

After it was all said and done, I think this was the first time I could say overall I felt confident in that leg of the race.  Not confident in my ability to go the distance, but to be "competitive" with others in my category.  Here's the thing, I don't put myself in the same category of swimmer with the people who have been doing it their whole lives.  I also don't put myself in the same category of swimmer with the ones who are still afraid, the ones who wind up doing the back stroke, the ones who (right or wrong) believe they have to hold on to a canoe in the middle of a race to catch their breath.  It would be unfair for me to have any sense of accomplishment about passing people who are out there simply trying to survive from point A to point B.  It would be just as wrong for me to beat myself up when I am passed by the ones who have been swimming like a fish their whole life.

There are some people who say, "just do your very best and let the results be what they may."  Those people have more confidence in their own abilities than I do (although I am getting there).  I am still in the stage where I gauge myself based on others.  There's also something else going on in me.  I truly am a competitor.  If you listen to any fierce competitor, they aren't usually saying, "well, I'll just do my best and see what happens" they are saying, "how far do I have to dig in to win".  This is why elites/pros all toe the line together and don't use chip timing to determine the winner of the race.  It's not about who can complete the event in the fastest time by themselves, it's about who can beat out all the other people who are there trying to do the same thing.

I'm going to say most of the time the winner is determined in the mental game.  All of the competitors in the front of a race are really fast/strong.  They are also all hurting.  Whoever can dig the deepest when they know everyone else is doing the same thing wins.  I have had plenty of races where I start off thinking I want to compete, but then give up mentally and allow myself to let up because it's hard.  I'm not about to say that completely changed in this race, especially not in this swim.  However, the thing that was very different is that I kept coming back to one thought the whole time, "I CAN race in the swim."  Don't go thinking I'm delusional.  I'm not talking about coming in first in any category (gender, age, masters) least not for a while (hey, if I keep working, I think I can take those 70 year old women on!!).

Now...even though I kept coming back to that thought, I didn't do well at all.  I feel like I should have been able to do that distance in about 19-20 minutes, especially with the help of the wetsuit.  I could tell you how stinking HOT I got out there (wetsuits might help you have better body position, but they also keep you warm in cold water...mine works very well).  I could also tell you I could not see because of fogging goggles.  But those things don't matter.  Even though my time wasn't good (22:14 9/13), it was one of the best race swims I've had mentally.  I was able to continually bring myself back to positive thoughts fairly easily.  (That might be thanks to swimming so slow, but that's okay, I think it's still a step in the right direction!)

That's a wave to my friend who was cheering as she was snapping the picture!
My swim just keeps getting better.  I don't know what taking four weeks off will do to me, but Wet Dog is next weekend so I'm going to find out. 

Thanks for stopping in, come again soon!!


  1. Sounds like you have got the mental game confidence. I disagree a little with the categorization that people who lay on their backs are afraid. Take it from someone who can go the distance in a pool, but is afraid of open water swimming. (I would be looking for the canoes)Some of those people who swim and tire and then rest on their backs are some of the bravest people I know. I consider you pretty brave also.
    Hope to see you at Wet Dog. I may be on the bike course in a devil suit taunting the racers.
    Good luck next week.

    1. Oh gosh!! I re-read my post and see how my sentence was constructed poorly!! Those are all different categories. I agree with you--the ones who tire/take a break/keep going, the ones who are afraid but are still out there, the ones who do whatever they have to in order to keep going---they are the courageous ones!! I'm just saying I'm not "competing" against them. My hope is to inspire people to get out there and overcome whatever is holding them back!! I'm coaching several athletes now who have that one thing that keeps them from realizing how strong they really are. Most of the time it's based in some kind of fear. At the same time, not everyone WANTS to do an open-water tri, just like I have no interest in doing a "Warrior Dash" type event. And, not everyone registers for a race to RACE. BTW, You are one of the main people who inspired me to tri!! You told me how great cross-training would be for my running....I just happened to fall in love with it!!

      Please come out and chase me in a devil outfit...I think it really would make me go faster!!

      Thank you for calling me brave....I can honestly say I feel like I'm getting there!!! :D


Don't hold back, tell it like it is....