Last year I joined the Walnut Creek Masters swim team. It's one of the most decorated masters programs in the country. The coaches are tremendous, the group is great, and the workouts are challenging. I was excited to swim at a higher level in hopes that I would shrink my deficit to the leaders out of the water in races. I put in the time and yardage all winter and spring, but when it came time to race, my swim wasn't that much better. I was getting onto the bike a ways behind the leaders and I was usually exhausted from pushing water around in all the wrong directions trying to propel myself forward. In Los Angeles last October, reflecting on my 2010 season, I knew something had to change if I was to keep going and be competitive in this sport at an elite level. I would have to take a step back in order to hopefully take two steps forward.
Good form trumps distance in any discipline in order to get faster, but it is more relevant in swimming than anything else. My coach, Brian and I decided to dissect my swimming technique and totally relearn the stroke...the right way; Build strength in the right muscles involved in swimming instead of the little weaker ones I used to use with my old form. Instead of writing long, tough workouts and swimming everyday with the masters team, Brian wrote on my calendar "Get in the water, work on technique. When it falls apart, you are done".
I've also been getting help from training partner and one of the best swimmers in triathlon, Kyle Leto and his former UC Davis teammate Trent Richardson, now a swim coach. They have taken me under their wings twice a week having me swim drills and work on nothing but technique. I've been spending a lot of time in the water, but haven't been swimming that many yards.
As a result, I've already hit a few PRs this year. I've swam 100 yards faster than I ever have (1:00.02). Yeah, that was Trent on the watch. He might have a slow finger...I've also swam 400 yards faster than I ever have. I haven't done many intervals past 400 yet, but I'll get there. Come race season, even if I swim the same times as last year, I will swim those times taking less strokes and using less energy because I'm swimming the right way. If I swim the same times as last year, I will be getting on the bike not feeling exhausted, but ready to attack and make up the deficit I created for myself in the water. Of course, with all that being said, I hope I won't be swimming the same times as last year....
I grew up a runner. I've had great successes as a runner. I feel I know how to train as a runner to get the most out of my ability...but I'm not a runner anymore. I'm a triathlete. With that comes new philosophies on training, new right ways to train, and new angles to take. Sometimes, with the long season triathlon has, taking a step back in order to take two steps forward is worth it. I've already seen evidence of this in small doses. I hope that in a few months, when race season is underway, I will see my "hard work" pay off!