My Ironman Journey: Tackling the Swim

Not long after I took up running, the seed of triathlon planted itself in my head. I’m not entirely sure where it came from, although I do remember one of my friends talking about a super sprint race they did around this time, so possibly I was inspired by that. I always loved cycling and swimming when I was younger, so adding those into my new run program seemed to make sense. I read lots of information on the internet about triathlon and how the format works, and discovered that front crawl is the triathlete stroke of choice. I had swum sporadically during my adult life, mostly a few lengths of breastroke (I remember once thinking 24 lengths was my limit!) but it was a long time since I’d attempted front crawl. Time to learn!

I signed up to adult front crawl lessons at my local leisure centre and began (re-)learning the stroke. We slowly progressed through swimming widths to lengths, and then at the end of term we had a swim test where I officially ‘qualified’ to enrol on the intermediate class starting next term. In the end I did adult front crawl lessons for about a year and finally wasn’t swallowing the entire pool every lesson! I was even bilaterally breathing and at my final swim test, I managed to swim about 50 lengths in 30 mins. Success!

During this first year of swimming, I tried open water swimming for the first time. I went along to a ‘first timers’ course run by British Triathlon at Shepperton Lake, which is a lovely beach-entry lake West of London. They gave us some classroom teaching and then let us slowly (very slowly!) enter the water and start swimming around. It was cold and weirdly restrictive to wear a wetsuit, but I didn’t find it creepy or worried about things touching you like others. I always loved water and playing in seas/rivers on holiday when I was little, so maybe that helped. After getting used to the water, we did some exercises in sighting then course (turns out I naturally swim in circles!) and drafting other swimmers to save energy. It was a really great course and incredibly useful for a total open water noob like me!

So now that I was regularly running and swimming, there was just one last triathlon discipline to try: the bike!


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