Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Basics - SWIM

I will profess, going into this, I thought I had, what I considered to be, a basic knowledge of the triathlon.

I knew that you rode a bike, ran a bit, and swam a little more.

I knew that it was an endurance challenge.

I knew of the Ironman.

It turns out, there's a bit more to it than that - go figure.

Believe it or not, there's an order to the chaos; it goes like this: swim, bike, run. It is my assumption that this order is based on the sport with the greatest opportunity for bodily harm to the least.

It could be argued here that propelling oneself across road at high speeds on nothing but two VERY thin wheels and a (aluminum in my case) frame could be considered more dangerous than moving the body through deep expanses of open water, but that would only be if you assume a certain proficiency at swimming.

And there's the rub.

I read once that a newborn child is a very proficient swimmer. The concept being, that having floated about in the womb for nine months, the infant takes naturally to an aquatic environment. I don't know how factual that is, but I can tell you this... it is so not true once we're grown.

There is nothing remotely aquatic about the lopsided panting windmill that is me in the dark waters of the lake - nothing.

I've been training now for nearly two weeks, have a fondness for "stuff" and feel thusly qualified to fill you in on what you need before you ever dip toe into water.

The Equipment:

First and foremost, you need a good pair of these:

Around the House of Stink, we call these "giggles". (through personal error, I can advise not calling them such in a training situation - nobody "gets" it, and these things are considered sacred tools.)

For my first swim, I arrived with an old pair of 'somebody's' giggles. They were sort of yellow with age, but they're just giggles, right? WRONG.

Do not do this! They fog up, fall off and otherwise make swimming VERY difficult. Trainer Bob, advised to purchase a new pair.

"Look" he said, and took the strap of his high-tech eye wear off his head. "Your goggles should stick to your face without the strap. (Here he pushed them onto his face and they slurped up a good strong seal).

"Insist," He advises, "on trying them on. Fit is imperative, and everyone is different."

Here, several other tri-ers show me that their goggles also suction tightly to their face without the strap. Wow.

La Stink and I head to the Sports Super Store and warn the sales staff that we'll be "trying on", and then proceed to open case after case of goggles, sucking them onto our eye sockets to see if they stick. Sometimes, one goggle sticks and one dangles, sometimes they both fall off. Occasionally, one will stick and then fall off when the other is pressed on.

This is a sort of time consuming process and not for the faint hearted. It's sort of like trying on masks, or enormous hats, or stiletto heels - in the middle of a very busy public street! Take a friend for support.

These triathlete people are hardy folk. Aside from the cross training in what can be near frigid temperatures, they have acquired some interesting practices employed to increase the speed of their race. They generally try to wear the same gear for the whole race. So.... you need one of these clever things.

A tri-suit is a bathing-biking-running short with equally versatile top (either attached or unattached) these are TIGHT with a capital T, triathletes call this being aerodynamic.

In addition you need this:

not the hammock, silly friends, the pond or some other sort of open water. Pool swimming is VERY different from open water swimming.

Further, if you live in the House of Stink, you also need a nice older gentleman named Tom to come with lots of metal cage-like traps to escort these surly party crashers

from the training grounds.

Since the beginning of training, I've logged 4 hours of open water swimming (an estimate of 3000 or so yards in addition to lap swimming in my inlaw's 20yd pool) I swam 600 yds there, but at 20yds each lap, I think I deserve bonus time for the dizzying number of flip turns (30!) I had to do.

To put that in perspective, on race day, I will need to swim nearly 1,760 Yards - over half of what I have done in two whole weeks.

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