Today is exactly 20 days before my first triathlon race.
I have absolutely no doubt that I will complete my 30km bike ride given all the mileage I’ve covered doing 60km practice rides on weekends plus the fact that I’ve been riding bikes since my childhood days. All the more with regard to the 5k run segment given that I’ve completed 2 marathons, several 21ks, 10ks and 5ks over the years. It is the 900m swim that I worry about. Which is why this is where I find myself investing the most time and focus at this stage of my training.
To be sure, I’ve achieved quite a number of modest learner milestones over the past couple of months of my swim training. I used to rest a lot in between my 25m laps even while wearing a center snorkel. I don’t do this anymore. My legs used to sink even while wearing a snorkel which was why I was advised to wear fins. I no longer am as dependent on fins as I was months back. I used to struggle with my breathing and my hip rotation. These past few weeks I seem to have hit pay dirt as I surprised even myself that I could actually already turn my head without lifting it even as I learned how to rotate from the hips. Subsequently, my rest interval in between my 25m laps is now down to 1 min 30 seconds from 3 mins. Equally noteworthy today is the fact that I actually pulled off swimming 1,000 meters with no snorkel and no fins.
And yet, I feel I’m not there yet. The actual pool which will be used for my sprint triathlon is 50m long. This means I need to figure out how to get used to resting only after 50m. Which in turn all the more firms up my resolve to move heaven and earth to practice swimming 900 meters daily.
There is a very vivid phrase that I chanced upon in my college years that perfectly describes where I am now as June 18 nears. In via et in patria. On the way and at home. Meaning, I’m not there yet, but I am already there. Stating the thing broadly, pay the price and enjoy the ride no matter how far your destination point might appear to be. If you program your mind enough to achieve it, you will eventually get there. But first you need lots and lots of pool time as my coach would put it.
Consider Malcolm Gladwell’s now famous 10,000 hours. In his book entitled The Outliers, Gladwell deftly shows how the Beatles and Tiger Woods kept honing their craft for 10,000 hours before hitting pay dirt.
Alas, that is not all that there is to Gladwell’s 10,000 hours. The path to perfection is not linear. Along the way you will come across hurdles and detours. How you handle these is as important as putting in the time to practice your craft. This is by no means easy especially for someone who has never been that comfortable in the water. I have lost count of the number of hurdles and stumbling blocks that have accompanied my journey as a swimming student.
And so it is in this precise context that I rediscovered a poem in an entirely different sense what I used to read to myself when I was struggling in high school.
“When things go wrong as they sometimes will
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,tirE
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile but you have to sigh
When care is pressing you down a bit
Rest if you must but don’t you quit
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns
And many a fellow turns about
When he might have won, had he stuck it out
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow
You may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man;
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor’s cup
And he learned too late when the night came down
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out
The silver tint in the clouds of doubt
And you never can tell how close you are
It might be near when it seems afar
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit
It’s when things go wrong that you must not quit.”
Enough said. Just keep swimming.