Main image for Summer Swim Training Time to Read: ~7 min

The 2018 Cayuga Lake Triathlon is one week away! Today I availed myself of their 750 yard lake swim lane for the first time. I usually swim from my friend Kathey's house all summer long. My focus is on getting the full distance (or half of it if I'm only up for one out and back from her dock) but this summer it just hasn't worked out very well. I want to remember this rather unusual summer of training so I'm including it in my blog.


I planned to pay the day rate at Island Health and Fitness this spring and start to swim once or twice a week beginning in April. Unfortunately, it seemed like every day was booked after work with baking or kid activities and I just didn't make it down there. Then, Scott surprised me by purchasing a one month membership for me at Island at the May Day 5&5 Auction. I was really touched that he thought to do that, but it also put me in a position of trying to figure out when it was most "worth" it to start the one month. I realized that toward the beginning of June was best. School should be winding down by then. The trouble was that it just wasn't. Every night was still booked and I was so busy with my baking for Emoticakes. I finally managed to start it on June 25th. The trouble with that? The pool was scheduled for 5 days of closure starting on the 28th. Oh well. I reasoned I'd be in the lake soon enough and just forced myself to get there as much as possible.

Getting back into it proved not bad. Even after a full year devoted to lessons I'm still just a slow swimmer BUT I can swim forever if I need to. I seriously thank Shane every time I start and end a swim (and plenty of times during it too) for teaching me how to swim in his Total Immersion class. Thanks to him I can swim a mile or more, I can breath on both sides of my body and I am really relaxed in the water. These are amazing things for someone who used to barely be able to swim down and back once.

I went 2-3 times a week, taking care to swim a full mile each time I went. During this time I killed my waterproof Tom Tom twice and it miraculously came back to life a few days after both times. I learned not to bring it in the water though!

Learning to count laps properly was a side benefit of killing the watch. I figured out a counting technique - 123, 123 for lap one, 223, 223, for lap 2 and so on. I counted by 10s and then started over for another set to help not lose count. I seriously wondered why it took me so long to figure this out.

After many luxurious sessions in the pool (sauna and hot tub of course included), I felt happy that I can still swim comfortably. Thank you Shane!!

Kathey's House

When I headed down early in July on a hot summer day I never realized it would be my one and only lake swim from Kathey's for the summer. Elizabeth and I were struggling to mesh our schedules but we had picked a day that worked. We went down thinking it would be the first of many like all the other summers. It was the first and last.

Because I thought I'd be there all the time I only did an out and back. I wasn't feeling especially scared but I wasn't feeling especially motivated either. I wasn't enjoying myself after the pool swimming (I rather like pool swimming now thanks to Shane) and I just wanted to be done. We finished and quietly drove up the steep driveway.

We tried heading down a few days later. I had just been to an AMAZING Bikram yoga class and had left feeling like anything was possible. But, then I got some bad news about something and I was near tears for the rest of the morning. Instead of greeting me with compassion, Elizabeth just didn't get my frustration. Her response was to tell me shake it off and get over it. Everything would work out. I knew she was right but I wasn't in the mood to shake it off. I felt like wallowing. So, when we arrived at the lake and it was really choppy and Kathey was surprised that I was going to get in it was all the nudge I needed to bail. No lake swim. Elizabeth and I drove up again. I could tell she was disappointed in me. I was annoyed with the day in general. I wanted to be back in Bikram with my amazing teacher who made me feel that I could do anything. Suddenly I never wanted to be in the lake again.

Saturday Open Swim

A few years ago I went to a swim clinic at the lake. It was sponsored by the Ithaca Triathlon Club and Scott and I were excited about it. Their focus was mass starts. Unfortunately I wasn't ready for this. It freaked me out and in the tri the next day I had a panic attack at the start of the swim. I almost bailed on the tri that year. I was training for Green Lakes 50K and I almost convinced myself to quit and just run a long run instead since I needed to train for running. I am grateful I chose to be strong!

Today was a calm day at the lake. I almost asked Elizabeth to kayak for me from Kathey's, but then realized it would be better training to go to the swim lane. In this way I'd be stuck in seaweed for the entire time and I'd be forced to do the hardest portion of the swim for the duration. For me the most challenging piece is putting my feet on the bottom and walking out there and looking down at the life below me. When I swim from Kathey's I only have to do that at the start and at the end but here it would be for the back and forth. Plus, the water is murky and I'd periodically get covered in seaweed. I'd also be around other people and have to be dealing with the embarrassment of being a slow swimmer.

I waded out with no fanfare and started. I chose to stay along the inside buoy because someone was already on the outer one. That meant I could touch but since I don't like to touch the bottom of the lake I wouldn't actually put my feet down. I started to count .. 123, 223, 323 and so on. I needed to do 20 laps to complete the intermediate distance. Early in the swim I had a head on collision with another swimmer. Sighting is a good idea. Yes. Then I zig zagged all over the place. Strong right side and weak left. Hmmm. Yes this is why I always ditch the alternate side breathing in the race. When I breath on the buoy side at least I swim straight!

After I had gone 14 lengths Scott stopped me and said, "is this 16 for you?" I hung my head and said, "no just 14. Should I stop at 15 or are you ok with waiting for me to do 20?" He was fine for waiting and I was fine to let him (a year ago I wouldn't have been ok with making him wait for me so this is growth).

Soon we were done and home with Elizabeth. It was the very last day of her brother being gone at camp and she wanted to finish a movie as "the originals" before her little brother was again in our midst.

Summer Swim Summary

By the time the tri hits I'll have been swimming 12 times. Each time (except one), I swam at least the full intermediate distance. I can thank Strava for that data. Thank you Strava!!

I don't feel worried about the actual swim. I feel worried about being slow and embarrassed that despite practice I'll still probably be last or close to last in my heat.

One thing I've learned from swimming is that even when people don't look like they are moving very fast they are usually 2x as fast as me. I went last week to Island and Shane had a class going on. "Cramming for the tri?" he asked. "Yes. But I've been swimming a fair amount." I saw my friend Steve in a lane. I know Steve is a good swimmer and saw that he didn't look like he was moving quickly. I shared his lane and quickly realized he was going at least twice my speed. Yup. Slow swimmer. When I try to be fast I'm even slower, so I just focused on staying calm and relaxed.

Later, Steve got out and a new person shared with me. I passed by her. I was swimming faster than her. Yay!! I was faster than someone. When I got out of the pool I noticed that she was alternating between breast stroke, side stroke, back stroke and freestyle. She wasn't really putting her head in and well.... I was suddenly not so impressed with myself. I wasn't even that much faster than her. Oh well.

So with those two stories .. I guess my point is that I just get stressed on race day. My kids know I'm slow. My husband knows I'm slow. But people who don't know me and how hard I have worked at this and even some who do know often raise eyebrows about how someone can be such an inefficient swimmer. It is just embarrassing. And since I'm not a fast biker I can't make up the time later. The run is my only hope and with the intermediate distance it isn't quite as easy to make up time there because I'm more tired than after the sprint distances. I have grown to be ok with it by considering the morning to be a workout, not a race. I try to just shake it off when 2 or 3 waves of swimmers pass me in the water (that is really scary by the way).

Thoughts for next year

Mr. Money Mustache just had a post called The 20 Dollar Swim that gave me a new perspective about swimming; specifically paying for it. He reasoned out that if you own a pool yourself each swim essentially ends up costing 20 bucks. This is interesting for a lot of reasons, most particularly my plan with Scott to buy an Airstream Nest sometime and travel the west. His argument is that we'd be better off getting a Prius and using a tent. I can see the merit in this plan.

But, how is it relevant to next year? Well, I actually recently stopped dying my hair (a bit over a year ago) because I could never get the color to be what I wanted and the chlorine in the pool messed with it. I found that I was avoiding swimming because of my hair. I was also spending too much money and frankly I felt like I was always either looking like my hair was just dyed or was just needing to be colored. It looked "normal" for about 5 minutes. I would rather have gray hair and look the same all the time. So, now the only barrier to swimming is money. The day rate is expensive and I hadn't been willing to pay it. Mr. Money Mustache put that in perspective for me. After all, I'm no longer paying over $100 for hair frequently and the pool swim is improving my body and my mental health. I get to sauna and hot tub and swim. So, next year I plan to start swimming sooner. Less cramming.

I have one last opportunity to get ready for the tri this year. Shane is holding a refresher clinic on Wednesday evening and Scott and I are going to have a date night!! We'll swim and enjoy the hot tub together. Plus, we'll get to see Shane and get refreshed on things like "patient lead arm" and a whole mess of other things.