Imagine a beautiful swan, gliding through the water effortlessly. So graceful. So peaceful. So majestic. Now, imagine the complete opposite of that.
That was me in the pool when I got in the first time and decided I would be a triathlete. Becoming a triathlete meant I needed to learn how to swim. How to really swim.
I remember having a pop-up 3 ft pool in my backyard as a kid. I’d get in there and splash around and “swim”. I taught myself how to SURVIVE in the water. As an adult, I could tread water, swim around, and have fun out in the lake while boating. None of that required REAL swimming, though. As I’ve spoken with other adults, I’ve realized MANY of us do not know “real” swimming that involves putting your face in the water and breathing properly.
I also realized that I had dropped the ball and my (then) 7 year old son didn’t know how to swim, either. Whoops. I looked around online, and found Greenwood Gators Swim Lessons.
I signed him up and we went for the first lesson. I asked the coach if I could also get into the water while he did lessons. I had a swimsuit, but no goggles or cap. I probably looked quite ridiculous that first day. Yep, right in front of all of the other parents watching their kids. Pride was out the window.
Luckily, I met Coach Haylei there that day. She explained that she also teaches adults and has worked with triathletes. What? Great!
I only had 8 weeks until my first triathlon. Somehow, I thought I would train for my first tri in 8 weeks. I also thought “oh, 500M isn’t far at all, I can totally do that”. WRONG! I couldn’t make it halfway down the short 25 yard pool. Seriously. I even bought a snorkel. I was convinced that I would be laughing stock of the triathlon.
At my first swim lesson, Coach Haylei had me start where the 4 year olds started: blowing bubbles in the water. Yep, that’s how bad I was. And I thought I was going to be a TRIATHLETE?! But, she believed in me. There were times that I didn’t. There were times I thought of quitting (several times!). She didn’t let me. She gave me the encouragement I needed to keep going. So, I did.
A few weeks into training, we decided to do an “aquathon” together.
It involved a 500M swim and a 5K run. I dreaded the swim and she dreaded the run. I got there and was immediately intimidated. There were people who were obviously very experienced and I barely knew how to swim. It was embarrassing. I ended up doing the side stroke (think of a drowning person just trying to get to shore). I was the last person out of the water by at least 5 minutes. You know what, though? I didn’t quit.
I finished the race. It wasn’t pretty, but I finished. What happened next was a game changer. I met Dick Sider.
If you are a triathlete in the Midwest and you don’t know this man, you need to. He said a few simple words to me after the race:
“We need to work on your swimming.”
I thought, “duh”.
He’s an open water swim coach. His website is amazing with tips and advice. If I ever thought I was going to be a triathlete, I needed to get into the lake. I kind of needed to learn how to swim, first, though.
Coach Haylei helped me with my base and foundation over the next few weeks. Coach Sidner helped with that as well as building my confidence in the water to build up to getting into open water. My first triathlon was coming up fast. I had given up the snorkel! I was actually swimming. It wasn’t fast. It wasn’t pretty. But I was swimming!
I went on to do another sprint at Go Girl and an Olympic at Tri 32 that year then the 70.3 and IRONMAN in 2015.
To think that I didn’t know how to swim only a little while ago is crazy! All thanks to people who BELIEVED in me when I didn’t. I cannot say THANK YOU enough.