Tri Rambling: I can swim!


I haven’t done a triathlon for more than 10 years now. But lately, I feel like I need to put some of my thoughts down on my experience with triathlon and endurance sports. I am not a pro or age-grouper. I participated between 2005 to 2011. During that time, I did an Ironman and raced in multiple sprints, Half Ironman (70.3) and marathons. My favorite distance was 70.3. A full Ironman requires a lot of commitment. Whereas with a 70.3, I can compete in the morning and be back home by the afternoon.

I am going to write a few more blog posts about my experience and lessons I’ve learned from triathlon. My main goal is to jot it down before they faded away from me from old age :P. I also hope that someone new in the sport will find this helpful.

When it comes to triathlon or endurance sports, it can be very complicated. There are so many science and technology involved. Lactic acid, training in wattages, carbon bikes, nutrition, and what not can get your head spinning. The reality is that the sport is straightforward. It is not complicated. It looks complicated with three sports in one, but it is not.

The first point I like to make is that triathlon is for everyone, and I do mean everyone. I am never an athlete. In high school, I was the kid who is always picked last. I couldn’t run for more than one lap in the track (400 m).

So how did I end up going into triathlon, let alone doing an Ironman (3.8 km swim, 180 km bike and 42.2 km run) and loving it?

The most important aspect is the mindset. For some crazy, more like naïve reason, I really thought I could do an Ironman when I first started this incredible and crazy journey into endurance sports. 

 Instead of telling myself, “I can’t do it,” I asked myself, “how can I do this.” When I first started triathlon, I could not swim freestyle for more than two laps (that’s 50 meters). I remembered after surviving the two laps in the pool, still huffing and puffing and asking myself, how can I swim 3,750 meters more in an Ironman? At that point, I knew I need help. I found a coach who helped me learn how to swim freestyle in a method known as Total Immersion.

There were five of us in the class. The coach split us into three groups: the fast, the slow, and me. While the coach critiqued the other’s swim technique, I was learning how to kick. My hips and my legs were so stiff that whenever I kick, I went backward. 

I didn’t give up or feel rejected. Instead, I worked even harder. I went to the local swim pool before and after work. All I did was drills. I wasn’t even swimming. I took every opportunity to go to the pool to practice to the point where I showered more in the local pool than at home.

 After about four months of practicing to swim and meeting with the couch once a month, I swam 1 km for the first time. At that moment, I knew swimming 4 km was not impossible, it is very possible. Of the three sports, swimming is my weakest, but it doesn’t matter. I’ve learned freestyle!

By Cliff

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