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As is so often the case in my life I’d over estimated my abilities dramatically, but how did I do it again? My 50 meter swimming badge was in the bag before my 7th birthday and I’d picked a brick up from the bottom of the pool* before anyone else in my class. It was just a fact, I was a good swimmer.
In fairness I never really validated that fact much more thereafter but I never needed to, the badge was sewn onto my Speedos, I’d been there and got the
So when I signed up for the Ironman triathlon, I knew I could do the marathon because I’d already done a couple and, although difficult, I knew it was possible. The 112 miles of cycling was ‘meh’, I mean I didn’t have a bike and I hadn’t ever ridden a road bike but I could almost do a wheelie on my BMX when I was kid – plus when you go downhill you don’t even have to pedal, so no worries there. And like I said, I was confident on the 2.4 mile swim too, swimming badge and all.
When I began training I learned two things immediately, 1) it was 20 years since I had got my 50 meter swimming badge and I will freely admit I had lost a bit of the fitness I had at that time, I was well rested shall we say. And 2) 50 meters is not 2.4 miles.
Not to worry it is just fitness. I clearly had the mechanics down from an early age and swimming is like riding a bike, except giving your mate a backie is a little more challenging. I’d seen how fitness can develop as my first ever run for marathon training was 1 mile and I had to stop twice. So no problem, keep swimming, keep the faith and it will come.
So I asked a friend of a friend who was a swimming teacher if he could help me. I’d show him my flawless technique and he would realise he just needs to draw me up a training plan to hit the distances and we are golden. He later commented however that I reminded him of a documentary he saw when an octopus suddenly attack a particularly feisty crab.
A bit of work to do then.
Work we did, and 6 months later I finished the Ironman swim in 1 hour 33 minutes, which is about how fast a standard issue house brick would float around Lake Zürich if dropped in the water… but I did it. The erratic octopus with a 50m badge did it.
It is for this reason that on days like today I had the opportunity to swim at work and took it with both fins. It wasn’t two miles of lengths but more; throwing a kid around a pool, pretending to be a shark and noodle jousting*. Doing the training and figuring out my technique though gives me confidence, it is quite liberating, like being conscious of the exact moment you learned to walk as a child. The surroundings are the same but so much more is possible. That is how I feel.
Everyone and their grandmother will tell you exercise is good for depression and I can say that during Ironman training, which lasted a total of 7 months, I never had a bout of depression, or mania, or anxiety. Since I stopped exercising due to injury a couple of years ago I haven’t had the same mental health since, so I am currently looking at and beginning to organise the next big challenge, this time with the involvement of a mental health charity. I can’t reveal too many details at the moment but watch this space*.
*which I later came to surmise that given the demographics of my home town was in fact just to help the cleaners
*Not a euphemism
*Well not this space exactly, I won’t go back and edit this post, I’ll write a new one. Look at the as yet not finished future posts I post.
P.S credit to the little known but wonderful artist David Hockney, I’d encourage you to go check out some of his other stuff – he’s really one to watch.
P.P.S oh, and I added in the octopus, not sure why David didn’t put one in originally. Saved his piece really.