This is a guest post by TI/OW enthusiast Christian Miles of Washington DC
Back in January I’d registered for the 3-mile open water swim event– part of the Kingdom Swim in Newport, VT–scheduled for July 6th. At the time it struck me as a good challenge and a great adventure which I could share with lifelong friend, and fellow TI enthusiast, Cab Grayson.
But by late May–following several demanding months at work that left insufficient time or energy for what I thought was the necessary training–our 3-miler no longer seemed like a lark. As I hadn’t yet swum even two miles in a training session, my commitment to swim three miles in just a few weeks nagged at me. Ever since I learned TI, I’d loved swimming. But now–not so much.
Worries about endurance had displaced the pure enjoyment of slipping through the water TI-style. I knew I needed to stop obsessing over distance and, once again, focus on making every stroke feel great–to replace the uncertainty I felt about my endurance with confidence in form that would let me swim as easily as I pleased.
I enlisted Cab’s help. Cab’s stroke is as smooth as butter, and lightning fast to boot. Even better, he has a waterproof camera. We began to regularly record and critique each other’s technique, above and below the surface.
My main goal was imprinting a clean Mail Slot entry of my perennially obstinate right hand. Video also revealed I could better align my head with my spine; this would reduce drag and make each breath easier. As I swam, I also visualized Shinji’s superhumanly smooth stroke–which I’ve watched so often, I can call up as a mental movie at will.
Cab and I had been attending Master’s workouts for conditioning. We cut back on that to spend more time focusing on form. Instead of breathless speed sets, we were cultivating a sense of swimming tirelessly.
We upped the fun quotient by inviting friends to join us for ‘synch-swimming’ after which we discussed stroke refinements. Cab even allowed me to don fins on occasion, because he knew how much I enjoyed the feeling of greater length in my stroke and the thrill of speed. (I needed every knot I could get in order to keep up with him!)
My stroke improvements seemed to consolidate in May. One day, while practicing solo, I swam a silent mile, eliminating bubbles and splash. This proved to be an exercise in focus, which seemed to produce effortless endurance. One week before the Kingdom Swim, I extended my silent swimming to two miles feeling fresh throughout. From that point, I knew I could swim three miles.
It turned out to be a great swim indeed. I used my ‘silent stroke’ and really stretched. My kayaker was a champ and gave me plenty of encouragement. I finished 3 miles in 1hr, 35 minutes. What a victory. Cab finished in 1 hr, 27 minutes.
For next summer, we’re thinking about making the jump to swimming the Kingdom Swim’s 6-mile event, but this season we still have “Save The Bay” in Narragansett, RI (1.7 miles) and Alcatraz in San Francisco (1.5 miles) in September.
Postscript: Since sending Terry the account above, Cab and I had another great experience doing Save the Bay. Save The Bay was more confirmation of the soundness of TI’s philosophy of focusing on enjoying every stroke, rather than results.
During the middle leg of STB, we faced a strong head-on wind, which drove swells and chop into our faces. I slowed my pace, emphasized the Patient Lead Hand, and tuned my breathing to the rhythm of the waves. My leisurely rhythm may have cost me a little time on that leg, but I gained invaluable confidence from knowing I can ‘tune’ my TI technique to challenging conditions, while feeling relaxed, calm and in control.
In the final leg, we had the wind and waves at our backs. Saving energy–by not fighting the forces of nature–on the previous leg helped me take advantage of them on this leg. It felt fast, easy and fun!