Thursday, July 2, 2009


Last weekend in Mariposa I went on a ride with a varsity distance swimmer, whose kid was in the same bike race Alistair was in. Inevitably we discussed triathlon and my poor swim results. I braced myself for another onslaught of the swim technique and body position speech, but to my surprise he did not go there. Rather he said, swimming is all about breathing.

It is something I have remarked on before and I immediately sensed that this guy might have some useful hints. He was also prepared to listen and he started out by asking how often I took a breath and whether or not I was breathing bilaterally. Then he asked if I kicked and how much I kicked. He recommended I kick slowly and only enough to keep my legs up. That is something someone told me years ago when I asked about freestyle (and before I knew how to swim freestyle).

He told me buoyancy was key and I needed to control my buoyancy with my lung volume and with a slow and steady kick. He recommended that I breathe only every third stroke and told me if I could not keep that up I was working too hard. He also said I should be able to swim a pool length (25m) without breathing. Ironically enough I can do that and I always start out my swims that way. I also noticed that this first lap is really my fastest lap of the day.

He advised me to learn to breathe bilaterally so I would develop equal amounts of strength in both arms, and so I would go straight naturally instead of doing so by making subtle corrections with my one arm (and wasting energy in the process). He also said breathing slows you down and when you breathe out completely you sink, which is not good.

Since that day I have gone to the pool twice and tried to follow his recommendations. It is not easy. I can't seem to get into a good rhythm and I never get enough air. So far, I totally fail at breathing on the left side and I run out of air quickly, plus it appears my legs sink deeply every time I try to breathe on that side. I realize this will take time, but so far the experience has been a dismal failure.

Monday, a one hour swim, mostly focused on "technique," i.e. breathing on the left and swimming while breathing every third stroke. Not a great success.
Tuesday, a 10.5 mi hilly run.
Wednesday, a 30 mi bike ride to the top of Redwood Rd.
Today (Thu), another hour of thrashing around in the pool trying to breathe on both sides and/or to breathe every other stroke (I decided to take it one step at a time and even that is not going so well).

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