Coincidentally, the other day I was watching The Ellen Show, and she had on a very inspiring non-celebrity guest. 13 year-old Talia Castellano is suffering from, not one, but two aggressive forms of cancer. Ellen (who is the voice of Dory) had seen Talia's videos on You-Tube where she gives make-up lessons to other teenagers. Because of her engaging videos, Ellen asked her to come on the show to be a special guest. The thing that struck me the most about this young girl was how upbeat she was despite the double life-threatening diagnosis. There she sat in the large interview chair with a brilliant smile on her face, wiggling excitedly throughout her conversation with the TV star. Ellen, too, was amazed by this and asked her how she kept such a positive, sunny outlook. Talia shared that when she started to feel down she would think of Ellen's Dory character from Finding Nemo, and she would repeat the mantra, "Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming," and she would feel better. I have a lot to learn from this inspiring young girl!
The funny thing about these two experiences is that as soon as I got into the water to swim with Karrie early Wednesday morning, I turned to her and said, "Have I told you how much I hate swimming?" As soon as I hit that water I suddenly lose any positive impulses--it's as if they just float away and I am left with this feeling of dread. Luckily, Karrie just turned to me and she started singing, "Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming." and then she swam off to do her laps. I had to laugh, and it reminded me that life is too short to be so negative about my swimming, it is, after all, only swimming. Now I am not saying that I will not dread swimming next week, but instead of just complaining, I am putting plans into place to help me finally make the kinds of gains I am hoping for.
I think there are a couple reasons I am so hard on myself about swimming. First, I have been swimming for three months, and I am not seeing the results I had hoped for. Shouldn't I be able to see some good progress by this time? Shouldn't swimming be just a little bit easier? Instead, I still panic when I hit the water and have difficulty with my breathing throughout my entire training time. In addition, the reason I love running and biking so much is that I can actually spend the time talking and hanging out with my friends. With swimming, that is not so easy. Karrie and I have been know to kick board for 500m or more just so we can catch up on what has happened in our lives over the week. And even though I have been consistently doing about a mile of swimming during by pool training sessions, very little of those meters were what I would consider "pure swimming (swimming without tools like a kick board, flippers, and paddles)." I was using them as crutches, and that may be why my swimming progress was stagnating.
Now that I have admitted to myself, and to you, that I have not been putting my best effort into my swimming, I also want to admit that I am changing my ways. I have joined a Masters swim group at the rec center where I have been swimming. My new coach holds me accountable, gives me tips for improving my form, and he makes me do most of my swimming without any tools. After two session with this coach, I already feel like I am actually floating higher on the water and making it faster from one end of the pool to the other. And on Friday I actually swam a full 1000m without one tool to distract me--I was completely exhausted, but so proud of myself at the same time.
The other resources I am continuing to tap to improve my triathlon sports are web-based. Karrie sent me a link to a beginner triathlon site that just so happened to have a couple great articles on swimming this week. My favorite article was written by a man who chose Ironman as his first triathlon (First Ironman? First Triathlon!). Just like me he felt pretty confident about the running and biking legs, but found the swimming more of a challenge than he expected. As I read this man's story, I could not believe how much his experience was similar to mine--I have found my kindred spirit, especially when he clings to the side of the pool wall in humiliation. In this same triathlon resource, there is also a great article on the most efficient hand position for swimming (Freestyle Hand Position). As I work to refine my form, little tips like the ones offered here are invaluable.
Hopefully in future blogs I will be sharing that swimming is no longer an issue for me. Until then I need to keep Dory's mantra running through my mind, "Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming," to remind myself that it doesn't help to be a "Mr. Grumpy Face," like Marlin. I need to be a Dory and remember that nothing is gained by focusing on what I cannot do. The only way I can improve is by focusing on one stroke at a time, one meter at a time, humming my happy tune.