Total Immersion Level 3, Class 8

It has been 2 weeks since our last class. Typically I try to write within a week so that I can really remember things. This is an opportunity to remember, and think back fondly on that last class.

The Start

We talked about bikes and bike fitting this week as we were waiting for class to start. We also talked about the year wrapping up and looking forward to summer. One of my classmates is a senior at Cornell this year and will be graduating very soon. She’s coming back for the Cayuga Lake Tri this summer! Several of us are signed up for it, so we talked about lake swimming for a little while as well.

Pretty soon it was time to get into the water. It was bittersweet knowing it truly is my last class at least for now. My next step is to take the Ithaca Tri Club boating class so that I can participate in the lake swims. I do have my wetsuit from my friend Allie that I’m ready to use as I begin to move to swimming freestyle in the lake!


Shane started with our now familiar Dry Land Drill sequence. He talked about the shoulder/scapula and also about our pelvic core rotation. I’m sad to admit that I’m so spatially challenged that I still struggle with the Front Quadrant walk if someone isn’t in front of me. I can do the proper elbow movements if I’m watching someone very carefully, but I don’t have it imprinted yet.

When we got into the pool we worked on swimming relaxed as we started the evening off with a 300. I think it was a 300, but it could have been 150. Whatever it was, I felt relaxed but aware of how far behind the others I was falling. I think that this is my biggest hang up; worry about being the slowest. I am certain that if I can manage to drop this thought from my mind that my swimming will improve. It is almost as though the thought manifests and then that is exactly what happens – last to finish.

He asked us to observe our rotation and pointed out that too little will result in inadequate shoulder clearance and trouble breathing, while too much will cause drag and also challenge our breathing stroke. One thing that was key here was that he pointed out (probably for the 100th time, but it was the first time I processed it) that if you don’t rotate enough it is challenging to skim the fingertips because the entire arm is too low above the water surface. This is definitely something I’m dealing with. However, tonight, every other stroke or so I found the “a ha” moment of doing it properly and then it vanished.

Then a Brilliant thing happened

Three of us planned to participate in the 27th Annual Tri for the Y coming up the Sunday after our last class. When Shane asked us to swim a 2×200, Anne (one of the Tri for the Y folks) decided to swim faster. She wanted to see how it she’d do in a race situation. Shane called her out on it and asked what was going on. She shared and then Shane made a brilliant move.

Now you see, every time I try to prepare for the Tri for the Y (it is only 400 yards so you’d think I could relax about this) I lose all ability to swim in any semblance of proper fashion. I try to race and ultimately revert to my very poor swimming self. This is what happened to me this summer when I made the unfortunate choice to attend a swim clinic the morning before the CLT. The coach recommended that we swim very fast for the first 100. He advised “staying in the fray” and “seeing the bubbles” to get a good spot in the race. Then, we should settle into a comfortable pace. Well, I had been practicing swimming and felt reasonably confident so I tried it. I completely panicked at the first buoy and the rest is history: backstroke for the entire swim. I did seriously consider dropping too, but had too much determination.

Shane got the pace clock and asked us to swim a 2 x 100. We’d swim the first one at a fast pace and note our time. Then, we’d rest a bit and do the 2nd 100 with good technique and composure. Most of my classmates were about 10 seconds slower on the 2nd one (so 40 seconds over the Tri for the Y distance). I didn’t really process the clock but estimate that I was about 30 seconds slower.

In this short 100 of fast pace in a 4.5 foot deep pool, my mind flashed back to last summer when I felt like I was going to drown in Cayuga Lake. I panicked, knew I couldn’t sustain it past 100 and felt scared. For the 2nd 100, I settled into a happy pace, calmed down and enjoyed the swim.

I say that Shane was brilliant because if he hadn’t done this, I very likely would have raced out of the start in the Tri for the Y. I wouldn’t have gone crazy fast because I know it doesn’t work for me, but I would have started too fast. Because of this last drill, I went into the Tri for the Y knowing that I’d pick a pace and stick with it. I was really grateful for Shane’s ability to read Anne and adjust our class accordingly.

The Video

The video does tell all. I’m still working hard at getting basic technique. My shoulders aren’t articulating properly and I’m not gliding through the water like my classmates. But, as with all learning, every person has a pace and everything does have a learning curve. I like to think that I am on the bell curve, just sitting at the very far left right now. I hope to move myself more to center over time and practice.

IMG 1720 from Scott Dawson on Vimeo.


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