The first half of 2012 was, like the curate’s egg, good in parts. On one hand, there were lots of improvements in the pool, but on the other, there were a couple of injuries which were worrisome. The first was almost certainly my own fault. As I started to boost the distances in training to 4 km, my right shoulder started to give me quite a lot of pain. Probably a combination of overworking a shoulder not accustomed to such long shifts, and poor technique. I have always been rather asymmetric in front crawl, only breathing to the left, and with a flat and swingy right arm. I have always had to be careful not to deal out a right hook to swimmers passing innocently in the other direction!
My doctor listened to the various clicks going on in my shoulder and told me to “have a rest”. Very sound advice. I did as I was told, and stayed out of the pool for a full week. I also told myself that I was going to teach myself to breathe bilaterally. Maybe this would iron out the asymmetry, while making me a better, faster, and more versatile swimmer? The week of rest seemed to help, and was easy to achieve. Bilateral breathinig on the other hand has provided much more of a challenge.
42 years I spent breathing to one side only. Trying to learn to breathe on both sides makes you empathise with non-swimmers trying to learn how to swim while adults. Beginners usually complain of being out of breath while swimming front crawl: the reason for this is that their method of breathing is inefficient and therefore not enough oxygen gets through. The same applied to me. I was only able to swim a couple of lengths bilaterally before getting totally winded and reverting back to breathing every two strokes. I got there gradually though, adding more and more bilateral breathing into my training. The real breakthrough came though when I stuck a pullbuoy between my legs, allowed myself to forget about ‘the back end’, and concentrate on breathing smoothly to both sides, and thinking about technique. All of a sudden it clicked, and I was able to go km after km bilaterally. I am still weaning myself off th pullbuoy though, as I know it is a bit of a cheat…..
The second injury came out of the blue. While climbing the stairs at work, my back suddenly siezed up, accompanied by immense pain. I ended up being taken to hospital in an ambulance that day. A few days on the prescription panikillers though and things got a lot better. Another week out of the pool and all was well. A couple of weeks after that I was taking part in my first ever open water event, The Great East Swim in June 2012.
This was only the second time I had ever been in a wetsuit, and the first time I had ever swum with the human salmon run that takes place at the start of these things. This, and the chop, and being totally lousy at sighting/navigating, meant that I only managed a time of 1 h 1 minute for the 2 miles, which was disappointing. I would have preferred to have been under an hour.
Next time I will try and get down where I am now, what I would like to achieve in swimming, and how I would like to set about doing it.