Like many triathletes who never learned to swim competitively as a child, I have spent years trying to build speed and efficiency in the water. Five years to be exact! Torturous swim sessions have been my penance for a lack of early pool training, and hours of make-up work have been required as a result of my early absence.
Upon moving from New England to Boulder in 1995, I was immediately taken aback by the diversity and incredible quality of its swim programs. I found myself in an ideal situation for confronting my fear of swimming with anyone other than my own sinking self. Having heard of the legendary Jane Scott (sister to Dave) and her famous Boulder Aquatic masters program (could you really get a masters degree in swimming?), it became obvious I was in the right place to foster better swimming as one of my primary goals.
Up to this point, my swim style kept lifeguards forever on their toes. The looks on their faces seemed to say, This girl looks athletic enough, but whats with all the frantic splashing? While in Boulder I was introduced to Jane, and little did I know she would eventually become my swimming guru, the one who forced me to become faster and more confident in the pool. I will forever thank her for this.
On day one she told me to jump in and get started. As usual, I wanted to chat with the others, but it was time to get busy. After learning the ropes I soon became a Master's regular (although I am still waiting for my degree). Jane became an integral part of my swimming improvement, which was necessary for me to achieve the goals I passionately began formulating in my mind and heart. Jane knew how badly I wanted to make it in triathlon, but she also knew we had lots of work to do. Her approach, as painful as it was, proved to be a great success.
She would throw me in a lane way faster than my ability dictated, and I would gasp in horror, all the while refusing to be humbled. Jane would point her long, crooked finger at me, shake her head and growl. That was motivation enough. She would then tell me to hang in there as long as I could. I did just that. I would swim my heart out until my chest would feel as though it was ripping open, at which point I would stop at the side of the pool, push my heart back in, suck it up and get going.
My speed continually improved. The hard work and continual focus on Improving my technique was paying off. Two years later, I was swimming in the fastest lane! Thanks to Jane's great tutelage and guidance, I had the courage to head off to Australia to graduate to the next level. In Australia I swam with some really fast swimmers. I was fortunate to be staying with Michellie Jones, who took me to her Aussie swim squad, coached by an amazing guy named Kim.
I had no idea what I was in for. Despite my improvement, I was by far the slowest swimmer in the whole group and got my butt kicked every day. I was absolutely amazed by how much we swam each practice. For someone accustomed to 3,000 meters a workout, doing 5,000 to 6,000 was hard to swallow. But I kept my head up, a technique still a challenge due to the example instilled by my mom, a renowned swan-like swimmer.
In Australia, I would be lapped by a group of 12-year-old little speedsters who seemed to be attached to some kind of missile. Falling behind was so frustrating but I didnt let it get to me. Instead I got motivated. I swam harder, faster and with more determination than ever, and eventually I was able to keep pace. My fast and furious stroke method was put to rest. I adopted a new technique that somewhat bettered my already faltering image with my superior pool peers. By the time I started racing in April, I knew all of my hard work had paid off nicely. What a relief; what a blessing.
Swimming will remain a huge challenge for me. I still have a long way to go but am confident now that with a lot of hard work, dedication and determination, I can do it. And so can you! As long as you have the courage, the belief in yourself and a desire to get better, you can and will improve with persistence. The fact that I am swimming as part of my profession has stressed to me the importance of never stop believing. Anything is possible.