It’s early June. I’m with my uni mates and we’re having dinner round at a friends. I explain to a couple of people what Doug and I are doing. A 2km swim, without using our legs (they’ll be tied together). My ever forgiving uni housemates are in hysterics as they tell these people “the funniest thing is that PJ can’t really swim”. The problem is that it’s sort of true.
I mean of course I can swim, it’s just that I am pretty terrible at it. My technique is awful, I get knackered really quickly, I can’t keep my breath underwater long enough (ie. 3 seconds!) and I find it REALLY REALLY BORING. But that’s part of the reason I agreed to the swim. To finally tackle the event that I have used as an excuse to not do triathlons all this time. Give me a duathlon any day, I’m fine with that.
I started off with group lessons at the local leisure centre. I had a choice between “Beginner” or “Adult Improver”. First night of lessons I turn up. I mean I know I’m not a great swimmer but some of these people can barely actually stop themselves from drowning. Does this make me feel good or even more depressed that this is my level?! I do a few of those and I’m gradually able to get up to 4 lengths without quasi drowning and needing a long rest!
Everyone tells me to do an individual lesson as it’s a big help. My ex-colleagues all recommend a guy in Canary Wharf. So I sign up for lessons with Ray Gibbs at Swim Canary Wharf (it’s not cheap but it is really worth every penny). I go to my first lesson and he breaks down my stroke and films me on a sort of pool treadmill. He shows me one of his other clients in his first lesson who is now a top triathlete. I say to him “I reckon I’m better than he was then to be fair”. And he agrees. I leave with some drills, a basic stroke and a shedload more confidence. I go to the pool a few days later and swim 1.5km. And I actually quite enjoy it most importantly! I take it from there.
We go to Norfolk for a training weekend and I swim in openwater for the first time. That was an “experience”. It’s so different to a pool and I’m knackered pretty quickly. Luckily there’s a really strong tide so am sort of able to float most of the way I need to go. Doug’s on his home turf (!), and he’s a pretty competent swimmer, he’s yards ahead. But this isn’t a competition.
10 days later I go to the Stoke Newington West Reservoir for their induction. It’s 7am on a Saturday morning - what am I doing here? My friends have just about abandoned me, and I’ve become a hermit. First time in a wetsuit in open water, on my own: disaster. I do 200m and almost faint! Don’t know if it’s the open water or the wetsuit, or both, but it's a complete nightmare. I take a break and do another 200m and then have to get out. I feel really sick. Back in the Serpentine Lido the next day to face the demons! It sounds pathetic, but it’s just one discipline I’m evidently pretty terrible at!
Over the past months it’s been really gradual progress, and it was from a very low base. The injury has been a nightmare and really took out a key 3 weeks (5 including where I wasn’t able to train properly). But there’s still time…I hope.
Published by: Douglas and Patrick Athletes in Training