The Training Diary Commences
Monday 25th February Training Session One
I was told that there would be no crowds in the swimming pool in the mornings. So it was an alarm set for 7:30 on this cold Monday morning with adrenalin running high on the thought of starting training in earnest. Breakfast of muesli, banana and mint tea. As normal first things in the morning there is one hour piano practice, (fitness for fingers) whilst breakfast was being digested. I could see a regular routine forming already with this sequence. The thought of now training with swimming on top of existing and ongoing activities such namely jogging, cycling and gym work made me quite taken aback with the content when thinking about it. Was there a triathlete in the making now or will something have to drop? Well, not at this stage. I had been advised by many people here not to over things at my age, not least myself, but then the advice was coming mainly from a sedate band of inactive beer loving Bulgarian smokers!
Meanwhile at the high school complex and having to walk across the students play area, the swimming pool block was entered. A fee of 3 lev was paid to the lady manning the little cash desk cubical who after asking me whether I had a swimming cap, showed me where the changing rooms, shower, toilets and pool was. She quite obviously knew it was my first time here.
The changing rooms had the far end wall with a multi row of wooden lockers but they were all open and all the locks were broken. I did wonder whether ever one had been broken into when seeing this. So it was natural to have become a little nervous about leaving my wallet and mobile phone there I wrapped them, up in a plastic bag and took them to the pool with me but felt a little self-conscious about it for some reason. There was another set of clothing hung up on a peg with shoes and bag on the floor so I knew I wasn’t going to be alone in the pool.
Trying on the swimming cap was quite alien to me having never worn one before, it felt quite uncomfortable, so much physically but from a psychological stance. My thoughts were that I’d get used to it eventually. When the goggles went on that just compounded the discomfort and now a sense of feeling claustrophobic kicked in. Again, having never had to don this equipment it was a new sensation I wasn’t relaxed with at all. It was off to the pool carrying this burden with me.
On entering the pool area there was indeed one elderly swimmer in the water going up and down in various strokes. There was also a young female lifeguard on duty, who was in fact for the most time occupied in conversation with a young man, no matter though. This was the start of something I thought I would enjoy, but not for long.
When I was young it took ages for me to build up the confidence to put my head underwater. There was an inherent fear of deep water. Then there was the time in London’s Hampstead ponds I nearly drowned trying to save a friend who was struggling. These times suddenly appeared in the pool and a sense of anxiety began to kick in.
On vacations which had pools I always did a gently breaststroke for a few short lengths and on occasion an odd length of freestyle with bad technique only being able to last at most 15 to 30 metres as seemingly running out of breath. Now I consider myself quite fit and I just cannot understand why I get into a state of exhaustion only after a short time swimming.
After a very slow couple of lengths breaststroke designed to be a warming up session, I was knackered. After a few minutes rest and recovery I tried the freestyle and couldn’t even manage a length of 20 metres either from exhaustion or panic not being able to breathe and then from that the feet were on the floor and recover my breath. This was extremely worrying in view of the distance I am meant to cover in September in deep open water with crowds of other swimmers. My thoughts at that moment was what the hell have I let myself into? With all the payments made on the event, plane trips, hotel fees, all non-refundable, I just couldn’t give up from this. My only salvation was that this was the first day and it couldn’t get worse next time around.
I finished the session with a few more breaststroke lengths with lots of breaks without a return to freestyle, knowing that my confidence would sink lower if I did. After only 25 minutes in the water I decided to shower and go home with my tail between my legs. What made things worse was that a couple of other swimmers joined us in the pool and they glided along in a speedy freestyle fashion as if there was no effort to it at all without any breaks length after length. How do they do that? How can I replicate their style? Can I overcome this return of the fear of deep water and panic not being able to breathe? Lots of questions without any answers on this first day, but for sure it will now become a bigger challenge than the marathon and 100 mile bike ride on terra firma.
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