Monday, June 19, 2006

Like a Fish

In preparation for the Duxbury Triathlon, I threw myself into the Atlantic Ocean.

I can't recall the last time I swam, save for a few drunken forays into the waters off of Miami last year. My lack of skill was pretty obvious.

I kayaked out to a large rock, and swam the 600 meters back to the coast with Sam at my side. She thought she was there for moral support--I was keeping her around in case I took on too much water.

I bet drowning sucks.

I tried the crawl, since it's what most of the guys on TV seem to do. I swallowed about a gallon and a half of seawater, and reverted to the breaststroke. From there, it devolved into some kind of half-ass sidestroke/dog paddle. Michael Phelps, I am not.

No matter how hard I pulled, I couldn't go faster. In fact, the harder I pulled, the slower I seemed to go. I was doing that thing they tell you not to do when you get caught in quicksand--I was struggling.

It turns out that all the strength in the world doesn't mean a thing if your technique resembles a drug-induced seizure.

I made it back to shore, with some new respect for the hairless and the Speedo-clad.

When I got back to my laptop, I followed up on some advice given to me by veteran triathlete Eugene Allen. He told me to check out Total Immersion.

Since they're selling coaching services I can't afford, I logged onto the Crossfit message boards, hoping for some free counsel.

Guess who popped up? Eugene. He summarized the whole damn thing, and then followed with the suggestion that one pay for an actual coach.

Total Immersion (TI) is based on the idea that graceful and efficient swimming will lead to speed through the water. In a nutshell, TI teaches us to minimize drag by lining up the body, getting tall in the water, and spending as much time as possible on our side.

Keeping the body aligned involves pushing the chest into the water, and keeping your head submerged. When the head and chest come up, the feet naturally sink toward the bottom, creating drag.

Getting tall in the water is achieved by always keeping a hand out front. This means you don't paddle with the in-water hand until the recovering hand is almost back in the water. By keeping your body "long", you minimize drag and maintain speed.

Spending time on your side minimizes drag because the water offers comparatively less resistance when your shoulders are perpendicular to the surface. When your shoulders are parallel to the surface, you present the water with a more area to push against, slowing you down.

The theory is easy. I imagine the hard part of TI is actually doing it.

When I came up for air in the Atlantic, I swallowed water. Waves buffeted me sideways, turning the idea of gliding into a sick joke. Getting tall? I was just trying to stay alive.

It seems that swimming a decent time in the Duxbury Triathlon is going to be a weighty task. GPP won't prepare me adequately for the swim portion of the triathlon, although it will carry me through the bike and the run.

Looks like swimming practice for me. All the pullups in the world aren't going to help with this one.


Blogger Kim said...

J-linked to your blog through Boston Crossfit's website...well I must say that I certainly relate to your May "Doesn't Count" a brand new Crossfit member, with a marathon and a few triathlons under my belt, I certainly was put in my place at Crossfit...had to check my ego at the door...tough to deal with. My post today on my blog was how humbling that was. Great blog and I will certainly keep reading!

6/20/2006 09:34:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Gilson said...

Welcome to Crossfit, Kim. It certainly can be humbling, although judging from your 6 mile jaunt just to find the Facility, you've got the willpower to be a badass Crossfitter. 90% of the population would have turned around when they hit Roxbury.

Don't worry about everybody beating you at the WODs to begin with--it's just kind of how it is. You'll get a hell of a lot better quickly.

No matter how long you're with us, somebody always beats you at something. It's what keeps me going.

If you've got any Tri advice, let's hear it! I have a feeling I'm going to be humbled pretty quick...

6/20/2006 10:14:00 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

alright, some tri-advice...for swimming...keep your entire body under water the entire time. im talking duck your whole head down in the water. when you kick, make sure you are not kicking water on top of the water surface. no splashing. i need to breathe on the same side, so i would breathe every other stroke. rotate your torso under water with each stroke, taking your time with each stroke. like you had said, play "catch-up" with your hands...don't move your hand in front until the other hand touches it. SLOW and STEADY wins the race. i had a lot of trouble with the form at first, but once you get it, it will always stick to you (although it's been 2 years since i participated in triathlons and could only swim like 2 straight laps right now). PRACTICE bike to run (bricks). a complete nightmare every single time. no matter how hard you practice, your legs are going to drag and ache during the first mile of your run. where do you swim by the way? let me know if you have questions.

by the way, i got back up on the perverbial crossfit horse yesterday. deadlifts and kettleballs, not TERRIBLY painful. leaving the state for the next few days, but will be back in there next week!

6/21/2006 09:36:00 PM  

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