That pro triathlete Lionel Sanders has struggled in the swim portion of triathlons is no secret. He would often come out of the water 3 or 4 minutes back from the leaders after a good swim, and sometimes double that on a not so good swim day. That Sanders can make that time back up on the bike and run portions is also no secret, his strategy to win 70.3 and full iron distance events is always a come from behind maneuver. But like all maneuvers, do it enough times and your competitors not only learn your strength, they learn your weakness, and adapt. Plus, for Sanders having to make up lost time early in the event may cause him to burn a few matches to ‘catch up’. May not seem a major physical effort to make, but its energy expended nonetheless as the mental and emotional drain of being left behind can take its toll. Many a pro has given up the lead at Ironman World Championships because they pushed too hard too early in the event; many a pro has been able to claim the lead only to fade, again from pushing too hard too early.
Now Lionel is doing something that only a handful of non-club swimming triathlon pros have been willing to do (another notable exception is fellow Canadian pro triathlete Taylor Reid: you can read a blog he posted on the subject at the C3 website by clicking here). Sanders and Reid both joined a swim club, and swam not with athletes of their status (i.e. pros), or even athletes their age, but athletes of comparable ability. Sanders and Reid had to start their skill development with tween and teen aged athletes. Its a humbling experience, but an experience I believe will leave a lasting memory for both of our pro tri guys, and for all the kids who witness adults willing to drop the ego long enough to learn new skills, properly, from the beginning, in order to progress to experiencing their fullest potential as athletes.
We forget that sometimes to move forward, we have to take a step backwards, sometimes a couple steps backward. Why do it? Because in all cases, it is worth it. The period of awkwardness, discomfort, ego swallowing, the “why am I doing this” moment passes quickly, and is replaced with eureka moments – just like Sanders shares in his blog – where the athlete finds inspiration, motivation, and vision for an entirely new level of their potential to be expressed and experienced.
So, what are you waiting for? Join a swim team. Learn proper technique, learn to develop skills through repetition of specific drills, learn to become an efficient swimmer, and you will experience swimming in an entirely new way. You will improve your swim split, you will experience swimming in an entirely new way… a way which will offer you the opportunity to enjoy the sport, just as much as you enjoy biking and running (maybe even more)!
“So what are you waiting for? Join a swim club and learn to club the invisible ladder! I am starting to believe that it is possible to improve; however stagnant you may feel.”