Washington Post reporter Paul Tenorio will train with a swim club over the next few months and chronicle his journey as he attempts to transform from regular guy/sports reporter to competitive swimmer — everything from his waistline to his best times.
I’m not sure what was worse – The fact that I woke up every hour on the hour from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. fearing I would miss my second practice, or that when I finally did wake up I saw my awful times, weight and waistline in the newspaper this morning.
Both were pretty bad.
Practice, however, was not as bad as I thought it would be. Sure, I woke up sore and a little worried about how much my coach, Jeff King, would push me. And yes, he did push me more today than yesterday, but I think I handled it well.
The practice today involved more straight-up swimming, and thus, more stress on my arms. I definitely tired more quickly and more easily. But after the practice ended I felt more satisfied than ever with the work I put in.
My discouragement from yesterday was a distant memory.
The memories of yesterday afternoon’s poor times started to fade right away. I told Jeff about my adventure at Stratford Landing, and he asked me not to tell him my time because he wanted to guess what I did in the 100.
“1:38.00,” he said.
“Nope, 1:26.95,” I said proudly, with an assist in remembering my time from Curl-Burke swimmer Sean Heffernan, who will swim next year for Boston College.
“Well see,” King said. “You’re already ahead of where I thought you’d be.”
The low expectations based on five years of inactivity, on top of the comments of encouragement on yesterday’s blog and from co-workers, made the worries about how crappy I was suddenly not so big. But enough about my feelings. On to practice.
This morning I started with a simple exercise. I would rotate between swimming and kick-only in increments – 100 yards, 75 yards, 50 yards, 25 yards. In other words: 100-yard swim, 75-yard kick, 50-yard swim, 25-yard kick.
The first set was with fins on, and it went smoothly. Then I did the exact same thing without fins. That’s when I started to really feel it.
I appreciate that Jeff is trying to ease me into full-on swimming again. I can certainly see and feel why. By the end of the 100 I was feeling the burn. I thought the kick would help my muscles relax and my lungs catch up, but without the fins it wasn’t so easy. I crept along with my weak kick and felt the burn in the legs and the whole time was waiting and hoping for the swim.
Upon finishing, Jeff was waiting to talk to me.
The warm-up had also been the first time Jeff had really seen me swim, and so he had some pointers. First: I picked my head up when I breathed, which caused my legs to sink and that’s just not good. Second: My flip turns were horrible.
Ah, the flip turn. I knew this was coming.
One summer during a summer soccer camp at Catholic University, when I was around 14, I hit the pool to continue my swim training and asked a Catholic U. coach for pointers. The biggest suggestion: Fix my flip turn. So it was no surprise that I needed to work on what I was doing there, specifically focusing on using my hands to help myself flip.
It was exciting, however, to get my first technical help from a coach. I finished the warm-up with one more set of the 100-75-50-25 rotation, again with fins, then waited for what Jeff would say.
“Well, you’re a fast learner,” he said. “That’s what comes with age. You use your brain. When you’re their age, 17, 18, you don’t really do that, you have the physical tools but not the brain.”
I had immediately kept my head from picking up, Jeff noticed, and my flip turn – while still not right – had shown that I was trying the new techniques he taught me. It felt good to do something right.
Next I continued working on my technique, swimming four 25-yard laps to work on my stroke efficiency.
I would count my strokes on the first lap, then try to decrease those strokes by one each time. If I ended up short, my final stroke would have to stay out in the water and I’d have to kick my way to the wall.
My first lap was 20 without fins. Then 19, 18 and finally 17. I ended up a little short on 18 and 17, and could feel the difference as I extended my arms in order to lengthen my stroke. Then I did it again with fins. Now I really started to feel the efficiency. And after nailing my second lap with 13, one less than my original 14 I felt good. I was starting to get it.
But now it was time to do it tired. Jeff told me I had to see how I’d respond to some work.
“100 hard kick, 50 swim with flip turns,” he said. Count your strokes.
Yea, that was a bit harder. I had 16 on the first lap with fins after my kick, and 18 on my second lap. The same result when I did it again, without flippers, this time 20 on the first lap, 21 on the second.
Jeff’s explanation was simple: “You have that nice streamline on your first lap and that horrible flip turn and weak push off on the second one,” he said.
Darn that flip turn.
I finished practice working on just that, though, with some help from Pat Sullivan, who will swim next year for UC-Irvine. After a few tries, Sullivan said he was impressed with how quickly I was picking stuff up.
Some quick pointers he gave me: Feet on both sides of the cross in the middle, use your hands to pull back up and flip you and then go right into the streamline, and a little toe trick that helps you get over.
After a couple of tries it already felt faster and more natural. Now I just have to work on it on my off day tomorrow, where I’ll do some dry land training.
Oh, and check out Comcast SportsNet tonight at 5 PM, I’ll be talking reachforthewall.com and this Diving Back In blog. I’ll also try to get the clip from the producers to put up on the blog tomorrow.
Thanks again for the comments, emails and support!