Thursday, July 23, 2009

Swimming Like a Fish. A Slow Fish, Perhaps, but a Fish Nonetheless

As you may or may not know, the crawl and I have been reluctant friends. I grew up on the breaststroke. Wait, even better: the German breaststroke where your face never touches the water (as you see in the wikipedia shot below). I mean, it was good and all. It got me from one side of the pool to the other, but it was certainly never going to be anything I'd do much for exercise.

As a child, I would wail if any water touched my face without me planning on it. Even then, I would tightly hold my nose before getting my face wet. It wasn't until I met a very patient instructor in sixth grade camp before I learned how to blow bubbles and bob under the water while clutching for dear life at the edge of the pool. But that was it. The heads-up breaststroke and bobbing at the edge of the pool. (Yes, I did grow up in San Diego. Why do you ask?)

A few years ago I decided I wanted to learn the crawl. I bought what I'm sure is a good book... designed for improving proficient swimmers. I taught myself what I thought was the crawl. After being told that I looked like I was being electrocuted, I bought a book and DVD on the Total Immersion method and started reteaching myself the crawl from the bottom up. It's been an on-and-off journey (as has nearly everything), but I'm starting to really "get" the crawl.

Yesterday, I crawled 500 yards without a break. Twice. Add in warm-up, cool-down, and interval laps, and it was a swimmer's mile, despite planning on less.

Did you catch that?

No, not the 500 yards nonstop.

But, yes, that was a first-time event.

The other thing.

Yes, intervals!

Ye Gods!

Even better: 50 yard intervals.


What posessed me? Well, I was noticing that, while my laps were becoming more and more (and more) comfortable, getting to a point where I could almost feel myself falling into a groove, requiring very little conscious thought to complete each stroke, my laps were also becoming slower. I wouldn't really have thought it possible. In the earlier days of "full stroke" crawl swimming, I would hit around a 1:12 per 50-yard pace. My record was something like 1:09 per 50 yards. In fact, attempts to swim faster would backfire, and I would actually go slower.

But now, I was averaging something like 1:16 per 50-yard lap. I was more comfortable, but I was slowing down. I'm sure the one fed into the other, but it wasn't the direction I wanted to go.

Was I getting too comfortable with the crawl? Was I getting, in a way, lazy? There was only one way to find out.

I decided to do a 50 yard "sprint". Actually, I think I had only intended to do a single length, but I continued on to the full lap out of habit.

When I completed the 50 yards, I checked my sportcount and was amazed to see the time. 1:03 and change. Wow. (OK, maybe you wouldn't be excited about shaving off six seconds, but I sure was/am. That's like... wait a minute... carry the one... almost a nine percent reduction in time!)

I caught my breath (something I once had to do in the middle of a length 25-yard crawl) and went on a slow recovery lap. Rinse, lather, repeat. Well, once. That was enough for the first time.

I'm certainly no Dana Torres, but I'm definitely becoming more fish-like. In my thirties. Who woulda thunkit?

No comments: