Saturday, November 18, 2006

My Enemy is Now My Friend

I used to hate using the pull buoys when I swim. A lot of my swimming stroke is in my legs, with a very efficient and strong kick, and as a woman my upper body strength can't match that of the guys I swim with in my Master's group, so whenever the pull buoys come out, I fall behind. When I first started swimming with them, I couldn't go more than a couple of hundred yards with a pull buoy before the men lapped me or my arms gave out.

Then I started training for the Ironman. Swimming for a prolonged period of time in a wetsuit in open water is different than swimming in a pool. The wetsuit gives you buoyancy, and also takes away some of the leg and ankle flexibility that makes for an efficient kick. So when you swim with a wetsuit on, you rely on your arms much more than you do in your regular pool stroke. In short, it's a lot like pulling with a pull buoy. I started increasing the amount of pool yardage that I used the pull buoy for, until I could easily pull over 2,000 yards without my arms getting tired. In retrospect, given the wild waves of Ironman Florida, that was a very wise move. After that first leg of the Ironman I didn't feel like I'd swam 4,000 yards, instead I felt like I'd gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson. It really took a lot of arm strength to muscle your way through all those waves and chop, so I was grateful for my time with the pull buoy.

Now, of course, the pull buoy is my friend. I still can't kick or push off of the wall with my right foot, so the pull buoy lets me swim when otherwise I'd be grounded. Since I can't run and can barely cycle, the pull buoy is saving me from complete and utter madness. And I think those guys in my Master's group are in for a surprise when I finally get to return to practice. They won't be lapping me again!

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