Monday, May 20, 2013


I sit at the edge of the pool with my feet gently swirling the cool water.  The pool is quiet, with no other swimmers present. Just the way I like it. There is only the lifeguard perched in her chair, her face pensive. She is probably wondering if I'm ever going to jump into the water. I ignore her and return to my thoughts, my legs continuing the slow circles. I have a 3800 meter workout ahead and I intend to take my time. My swim time is precious. The long lengths of the pool are measurements of my gratitude, time to reflect on my day/week, time for decision making or to simply sort through my jumbled thoughts. I pull my goggles over my eyes and slip into the pool. As I glide through the water I relax.

Prior to beginning my transformation into a triathlete several years ago, I was a runner and a cyclist. I got my start in multi-sport by competing in the duathlon, which is a run-bike-run race. I was soon itching to take multi-sport to the next level, the triathlon, or swim-bike-run.  How hard could that be? I just had to re-aquaint myself with swimming. Which I thought would be a piece of cake.

I swam competitively when I was younger. My stroke of choice: the backstroke.  To me, everything about gliding through the water on my back was poetic.  Rhythmic, fluid motion sluicing through the water, eyes to the sky. When I raced, I loved the adrenaline. I thought translating that, even after all these years, to triathlon would be a natural progression.

Boy was I in for a surprise. Triathlon swimming is a world apart from straight competitive swimming. The tricky part about swimming in a triathlon is, one has to swim forward as throngs of other swimmers are volleying for the same spot in the same body of water. You do not have a lane to yourself, but you are in a pack.  There is kicking, splashing, and on many occasions you either swim over another swimmer...or they swim over you. The only time I would utilize the backstroke would be if I was in a panic and needed to catch my breath.  Fast freestyle is the name of the game in triathlon.  

This is where I was immediately humbled.  I had to learn how to correctly swim freestyle. Basically, this meant I had to start over. Learn the basics.  I sought the assistance of a swim coach, and for $30/lesson I did just that. She put me in basic training. Drills, drills and more drills. To say it was frustrating wouldn't do the experience justice.  Once again, I was asked to be patient.  I hung in there, did the drills, and eventually swimming freestyle became natural to me. Breath and movement. I likened it to practicing yoga.  I graduated from the pool to open water swimming, then three years ago I took on the triathlon.  I was immediately hooked. I am content when training for a race. And it all starts with the swim.

When I swim today, it is a pleasure. It relaxes me and stretches out my tired muscles.  Of course there are days, like today when the swim is only relaxing for the warm up and cool down, and sandwiched in between is hard work.  But I love it.

It is a metaphor for life.  Sometimes I just have to get back to the basics.


  1. I've seen triathlon swims, & they're not a pretty site.

    But I can certainly see the attraction on being in an empty pool & setting out on a few laps of backstroke - quality time to sort things out.
    Cheers, ic

  2. Swimming would definitely be my weak spot if I ever dared a triathlon. One can only admire your persistence and dedication.

  3. I love how you describe your swim time - that it is precious it was like a little poem!

  4. If I've said it once, I have said it 1000 times: You are so inspiring, Michelle! I always marvel at people who have the strength and mindset to compete in marathons. Amazing.

  5. wow.. loved this post! I am not a swimmer and I don't know how to swim. But the way you are writing about it makes me feel like taking some swimming lessons so that I also get to experience what you get while swimming. Thanks for sharing. It was a wonderful read!

    1. Thank you! Swimming is similar to yoga for me, in how soothing it is :)

  6. Good lord Michelle. Swimming too. I understand a few meters but how many? 3800? You are a super hero for sure. Once again I am knackered just reading this.

    You truly are a determined woman with great stamina and staying power with a fit and healthy lifestyle to match, muscles included. The way you describe things always makes me want to get up and get some exercise but I think I'll pass on the swimming part because I can't swim :(
    Loved the post and don't stop.

  7. Thank you RPD! I rode yesterday with a chap :) from England who recently settled in the states and thought of you! I loved hearing his stories about the beauty of the UK. I wrote about swimming because it is my often-neglected discipline that I must put more emphasis upon. Keeping myself accountable!

  8. I'm a true blue water baby; swimming was my first sport. I don't get to swim often anymore, but I sure do love it. I didn't realize that triathlon swimming was so treacherous! BTW, how far do you swim in a triathlon?

  9. Amen! I've grown to love swimming. Although cramping while swimming has proven to be more challenging than when I cramp in other disciplines! :)
    You are awesome!