Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Aquaman

I'm an aquathlete!

Everyone knows that I'm not a strong swimmer.  I have struggled so much in the last year to improve my dismal performance in the triathlon last year.  This time a year ago, I couldn't even finish a 400m swim without stopping to breathe or switching to a sidestroke.

The decision to participate in the Fort Bliss Team Aquathlon was easy, but that was when I was pretty sure that I could find someone else to do the swim portion.

What's an aquathlon?  It's just like a duathlon, but with the bike portion replaced by a swim event.

What's a duathlon?  It's a relay or individual event consisting of a run event, bike event, and concluding with a final run event.

Any other questions?

Turns out, that even as bad as I am, I was the best choice for the swimmer on our team.  Great.  Really.

So, not even a full week after I finished the Death Ride Tour, I'm in the pool prepping for 400m of pure suffering.
Here's a sight that used to terrify me.
My first couple training sessions had me exhausted and not feeling at all confident about being able to complete all 400m without stopping for breaks.  It had been almost a month since I was in the pool and I wasn't sure if I could regain the confidence and ability I'd developed over the last six months in such a short amount of time.  At first I could only swim a single strong lap before heaving and choking along the side of the pool with a death grip on the edge.

Not a good sign at all.

My final training session in the pool changed all that.  I jumped in, started my stopwatch and took off for a warm up lap.  I was finally feeling very relaxed and took my time.  At the end, I checked my watch, 2:45, and realized that I was feeling quite strong.  I made the decision to keep going and see if I couldn't go ahead and finish up a 400m right then.  I ended up with a 12:26, a decent time for me, and knocked out a few more laps to round out a 1000m workout.

The morning of the Aquathlon arrived and I did my best to stay calm.
Warming up before the safety brief.
I waited near the transition area, watching for a sign of the lead runner coming in.  Our lead runner was admittedly out of shape and very slow, so there was no pressure to win anything or place anywhere near the top.  We were just competing against ourselves and to show our unit pride.  After 29 minutes he came stumbling into the transition area trying to unpin his bib.  We slapped hands and I trotted into the pool to begin.
Here comes the lead runner for our team.

Tagged, now time to swim.
I had expected the rush of cool water to cause me to seize up and panic.  Instead, I slid into the water, kicked off the wall and immediately relaxed into a steady stroke.

That is, until I swam headlong into someone going the wrong way.  I pushed around her, coughed a little, then kept on.

And swam into another person going the wrong way.

Ok, so you're supposed to swim in a serpentine pattern.  You swim to the end of the 50 meter lane, duck under the lane line, and come back down the opposite direction.  Do this eight times and you've swam 400 meters.

Halfway through my second length I ran into another swimmer going the wrong direction.  Now I was fighting mad, ready to pop the next one in the face, until I heard the lifeguard blowing on a whistle.  Someone was finally paying attention and getting these dangerous and incompetent knuckleheads moving in the right direction.

As I finished the second length, one race coordinator even tried to stop me to explain how to swim in the right direction, even though I was obviously not the one swimming badly.

I continued on, after a slow restart, and although I continued to get more tired and out of breath as I swam, I was able to keep plodding along.  I even passed another swimmer!  (this one was swimming in the right direction, just slowly)

Last fall, in the Iron Soldier Sprint Triathlon, I had trouble passing anyone slower than myself.  I couldn't maintain a steady freestyle stroke and had to switch to a sidestroke which was slower and more awkward when negotiating around other swimmers.
Slowly gaining, very slowly.
This time, when my hands brushed against feet, I just swam off to the left and kept my steady pace.
Past the halfway point.
When I hit the turn of the final lap, I was ready to start celebrating and almost did a quick fist pump before kicking off the wall to sprint (sort of) to the finish.  I could hear people screaming and was sure some of it was for me.
Just the final stretch to go.
When I hit the finish and climbed onto the steps to clap hands with the anchor runner, I can honestly say I had given it all I had.  My head was throbbing, I was dizzy, my chest heaving.  Much more and I would have been vomiting into the pool.

Just tagged the anchor runner, and trying not to throw up.
 Our team finished somewhere in the bottom half of all teams that day.  Together, we clocked in at 1:00:44.  Most importantly, we each faced a challenge that day to overcome and did our best to push ourselves past our limits.
The Cobra Strike Aquathlon Team
And that's what it's all really about anyways.