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American Past Time
A novel by Len Joy

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Swimming: Can Old Dogs Learn New Tricks?

When I started this blog back in July, I wrote that one of the purposes was to chronicle my efforts to achieve a top-ten finish in the USAT Age Group Championship in 2011 when I inexplicably turn 60.

Soon after that I competed in the 2009 National championships in Tuscaloosa. I figured that would be a perfect way to frame my quest. When I triumph in 2011 I could point back to 2009 and show how much I’ve improved. In that sense I guess the 2009 race was a huge success, as I have amply demonstrated how much improvement is needed since I wasn’t able to even finish that race.

My problems all started with the swim. It was in the Black Hawk River – a lovely eight-four degrees and eighty percent of the course was swum against the current looking into the sun. I had expected (maybe hope would be a better word) to finish in thirty-four minutes. It took me fifty-eight. My legs started to cramp from dehydration before I finished the swim and by the time I got off the bike I couldn’t run.

If I am going to be competitive in two years I have to make huge improvements in my swim time.

In October I resumed taking Masters Classes at the Y. Each week we would work on different drills. A couple of weeks ago the drill was “one-arm freestyle.” Nobody liked that drill until the following week when we did “no-arm freestyle.”

Actually both drills are much worse than they sound. I figured waterboarding might be next so I stopped going to the classes.

Instead, I’ve been doing research. My tri coach, Craig Strong has written a series of articles called “Take Your Swim to the Next Level.” As I read the articles I found myself nodding my head as he described various problems. It turns out I am the perfect “before” swimmer: Float-challenged, poor balance, no rhythm, weak ineffective kick, improper breathing technique. I’m not even sure I’m wearing my goggles correctly. Maybe they’re upside down?

So next week I’m going to go back to the pool. The first step will be to learn how to float. According to Craig everyone can float. He says the key is to become               
                                                                                     a kayak:

not an iceberg. 

We'll see.