You may recall that my swim team has been participating in the Postal Pentathlon. Back in late October we did the sprint distance, then in mid-November we did the middle distance. I did not blog it at the time, because I kept waiting for our coach to send out the results, which, thanks to Thanksgiving and the chaos of the shut-down pool, never happened. The middle-distance swims went OK, but I was a wee bit disappointed in my performance. I did not have the word for it then, but it was the gibestkt rearing its ugly head. I finished the swims fine, but my times were horrid, my body was tired, my get-up-and-go was nowhere to be found. Needless to say, the PP trounced me on the 100 free.
All this to say, last night was the Ironman: 200 butterfly, 200 backstroke, 200 breaststroke, 200 freestyle, 400 individual medley.
I had been planning to spend the better part of this week in New Jersey, visiting with a certain new addition to my family and his lovely parents. But thanks to the gibestkt, I postponed the trip. I am very sad not to be hanging out with my little cousin, even if he is in constant spit-up mode. I am also sad that I suddenly found myself without my excuse for why I could not swim the Ironman.
But I am proud that I did it.
The PP and I decided that we needed to approach this the way we approached our first triathlons and first long running races: just finish it. I pushed the swimming a bit, but I certainly did not treat these as races the way I would an isolated 200 or 400 in a meet.
For me this was the very first 200 fly ever. I have dreaded this event. There is a postal competition called the "check-off challenge," where, over the course of the year, in official meets or in your own pool with your coach timing, you try to swim every single event: that is 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, 1650 free; 50, 100, 200 of breast, back, and fly; 100, 200, and 400 IM. None of those ever kept me from signing up for the check-off challenge except the 200 fly, which is appropriate, since their t-shirts a couple years ago read, "I am not afraid to swim the 200 fly." I have always been free to admit that Yes I Am Afraid. Very. So I had been relieved when the date that Coach announced for this particular postal event was a time I'd bee away. Too. Bad.
The 200 fly was bad, yes, but nowhere near as bad as I feared. I did not take it particularly fast, and I did take a few extra breaths on many of the turns. (My coach friend who got me ready for Nationals last spring advised me and PP to think of the 20 fly as 8 x 25 of fly. That did help.) But miraculously my hips never sank during the swim, and I was able to breathe every other stroke for the entire thing--thanks in part to pauses on walls, and thanks to a bit of drill (extra kicks between pulls) along the way. I looked up to breathe during my cool down, and I could see Coach standing on the side of the pool, looking at me and clapping.
After that it was not so bad. This was also my first 200 back, but I have swum plenty of backstroke in practices: it is not impossible--it is just not pretty. Coach says that when I swim backstroke I look like a turtle on its back. I'd be offended if he weren't right.
I was a little dreading of the 200 breast, because I was not sure if I could ease off enough to do it at a pace befitting the Ironman, but it was fine. Something like a 3:06, which is quite a lot slower than my regular competition time. I did manage to swim very long strokes, though, averaging 7 strokes per length.
And the 200 free was even fun. The PP was swimming in the lane next to me, and he started like a shot. Dang, I thought, I cannot keep up with that. But luckily for me, the PP does not sustain a fast pace all the way through a 200, so, to use Coach's words, I "torched him" at the 100 turn. Luckily the PP is cool about this. The woman in the lane next to him on the other side, who is quite the distance swimmer, was gaining on him at the end. "I think she would have had you at the 300," I said. "I would have had him at 210," she said. Nothing like a little competition among friends. Bicycling magazine had an article several years back titled, "Why do we only care about beating our friends?"
The 400 IM went just fine, too. Again, the fly felt much better than I expected, and swimming 100 of it went smooth and although I was out of breath at the end (let's just say not the longest streamline ever on my first length of backstroke), my stroke held together all the way through. I even pushed the breaststroke a little, and had enough to pick up the second 50 of free.
I would like to note as a p.s. that I did all this while suffering a bit of, shall we say, intestinal distress. Nothing serious, but irksome--and in the bathroom was not my first choice about how to spend the time between events. But it does make me certain that I am an Ironwoman, at least in the postal sense.