Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Swimming: weirdly good.

For the last 4 years, I've participated in a triathlon in my local area.  While, I'm not much of a triathlete in general, I really enjoy participating in this particular event.  Here's what I wrote about it on my facebook wall a couple years ago:

Today I saw women who were considered 'too' by societies standard. Too old, too fat, too poor, too boyish, too bossy... but luckily they were all too strong to let that stop them. I saw women dog paddle all 500 m of an open water swim. I saw women her 70s biking 15.5 miles on a dated looking huffy. I saw a visibly pregnant woman running the last leg (a 5K) in. I spoke to a women who had recently dealt with an abusive relationship, and then I saw her pass me on the bike. 
My participation in the YWCA tri has always been a positive one, but today I felt shaken by the influence of these people who weren't living up the expectations that society had chosen for them, and were simply being 'too' awesome! 

Anyway, back to me, myself and I... So Swimming.  Here's the thing, I like to run, and every year a toss in a little time to swim and bike so I can do this tri.  On the bike, I'm as you would expect, mediocre.  However, for the swim, I rank into the top third, which doesn't make me ultra competitive or anything, but that's really pretty good considering the level of effort I put in.

Again, let's compare.  Biking, I hardly do at all, and wind up towards the back.  Running, I pour my heart and soul into and it is a dire fight for mid pack standing.  Swimming, I approach with even more lethargy than biking, and I'm in the top third.  This is such a confounding result that I didn't even notice until late last year, when my dear friend kept mentioning how strong I look out there (thanks J!).  Anyway, I riffled through old results, and yes, I always place the best during the swim.  Even in the year I was running my fastest.

I share all this because I have a theory on it.  My parents weren't real into signing us up for sports, we did between zero and very little of that.  However, we did swimming lessons all the time.  My susceptibility to colds with wet hair in MN winter encouraged us to skip the winter months, but I recall taking swimming lessons at least twice per year most years between the ages of 3ish and if you include school lessons, probably 15.  After that, I didn't do anything serious, but was still spending a lot time in the water at the lake or community pool.  When I signed up for the first triathlon, I didn't think much of knowing how to swim.  My theory is this:  all those early years of swimming ingrained some skill in me that I was easily able to tap back into when I was 26 and looking to try a tri.

The larger point.  I loved swimming lessons as a kid, but I obviously didn't sign up or take myself.  However, I ,quite possibly, am benefiting now.  It's seems like many things are this way, we get rewarded or punished for decisions that were never made by us.  This encourages me to withhold judgement for the performance of myself and others.

It also encourages me to swim more!  hah!


  1. Yeah, I bet your cerebellum still has all that info stored back there about how to swim from all those lessons.

    1. Yeah.. I was wondering if anyone had scienced this yet.

  2. I have had similar thoughts about myself and running.... Just years and years of soccer created some kind of tolerance for slogging it out at a moderately fast pace.