Please Note: – This blog is based solely on my personal experience and it could or could not be useful to any other swimmer. Every experience is different as is every swimmer.
It’s been precisely eleven months and five days that I have had no training whatsoever. I spent a good chunk of last year trying to enjoy my six months of house arrest. I had another major setback shortly after I was back on my feet and that took another bit of recovery time (three months). I have never been an athlete, and not an aspirant one either. I was quite happy being bookish instead of training. I spent most of my early days being sickly and this didn’t change until I moved out of my old place.
This year, with all optimism and grit I decided to take part in the Goa swimathon 2018 organised by Enduro Sports. Now comes the training part. I was supposed to start on the 1st but then I got sick and I was out for two weeks. So what? I still have ten days! Ten days should be okay… for someone who is and has been fit. Here I am, hoping my stamina goes from 0% to 100%. I started my training on the 13th of March and Race Day was on the 25th.
Day 1 – I could barely make it to the 50-meter mark and I’m not even joking! I had to stop twice while going and then I took a minute’s break just for my wheezing… breathlessness… to settle down. Heading back to complete the first lap and I had to take another break, panting worse than my dogs after they’ve had a run in the heat. The second lap was a rinse and repeat. I was about to throw in the towel (pun intended!) and quit but no that’s not me. I moved on to the third and fourth lap with ease. By the time I completed the 10th lap I was fine. The next day was better. Progress was made by day 4, not the amount of progress I would have hoped for but considering that I have not been training for almost a year I thought it was decent.
Day 5 – The open water swim with The Goa Open Water Swim Club. Let’s do this! A group of us met at the venue where the race is going to be held. We paired up, there were two kayakers. I was all set! I started swimming! 10 meters in or barely, I ran out of breath. I was stopping every 20 meters or so trying not to wheeze (did I mention I am asthmatic? I’ll come to that part in a bit!) and no, I wasn’t carrying my inhaler. I kept fidgeting with my goggles just to see how far I had managed to swim. Yes! I had made it to the 500-meter mark! Being a swimmer I had never swum so far out in my entire life. I have swum deep, I have swum in the open ocean jumping and diving off a boat (and no, nothing like a scene from the Titanic!) but 500 meters into the sea and back! Nope! not done that. I have to say I was overwhelmed. I started freaking out only because my mind went astray with ideas of sharks below my feet and around me and maybe some dolphins come to save me and hey! that’s me riding a dolphin… oh where am I? Yes, I was freaking out. I calmed my nerves down a bit and now it’s time for the long swim back.
The tide was coming in, and that was a good thing. It was pushing me towards the beach and that was also a good thing but it wasn’t pushing me towards the area I was supposed to swim and that couldn’t possibly be a good thing. Swimming towards the destined spot I was trying to swim against the pull and make it to where I was supposed to be. Yup, that wasn’t happening. I felt like I wasn’t moving. I removed my goggles to check for the millionth time. I could’ve sworn I was in a movie where the scenery was moving and not me. By this time I was battling fatigue, my arms felt like lead and my legs refused to cooperate with my brain or anything else. I had a SLAP tear in my left shoulders, nine years ago and that still troubles me every now and then, this was one of the “every-now-and-thens”. Every possible ache was surfacing.
Yay! I made it to the other end of the beach in an hour and ten minutes! The cut-off time was 45 minutes, I was 25 minutes off. Now I was seriously doubting my capabilities. The cut off time was 1 hour and I was off by 25 minutes. The jitterbug bit me hard.
At this point, there were two clear choices.
Option 1 – QUIT!
Option 2 – Get my act together! Improve! Swim harder! Train harder!
I opted for the second choice and continued.
Day 6 – Almost disheartened but not quite ready to give up, I dragged myself to the pool. I trained harder. I managed to do fifteen laps within that hour and I was feeling as pleased as punch! That’s 1.5 KM in one hour! I can totally nail this… completion wise… speed wise… let’s not talk about that one!
Day 7, 8, 9 and 10 – Were the same as Day 6 with my speed increasing little by little along with my confidence.
Race Day was on March 25th. I took one day off from training on March 24th and decided to rest. I got good advise from friends who race competitively and friends whose children are in the state swimming team. Following instructions of resting and diet, all I could do at this point was hope for the best.
I was advised to eat a banana before the race which I didn’t do because I do not like the fruit. It makes me feel quite squeamish. I prefer to fuel up on liquids rather than with food. That’s a personal choice and not necessarily the right one. You need to figure what works and won’t work for you.
I was so nervous I couldn’t sleep a wink. My heart refused to beat normally. I had everything packed and ready. I knew who was at the baggage claim. I had everything planned out except the swim itself. The only thing I was confident about was not going to be able to finish before cut-off time.
At the venue now. It was meet and greet time. My nervousness had skyrocketed, my legs felt like jelly. This was my first competitive race. I got my number, swimming cap and race band. I had an energy drink before beginning.
The participants gathered together for the 1 KM race. I had selected to do the entire race with breaststroke because that is the most painless stroke for endurance. I didn’t want to deal with my shoulder out at sea.
The race began, I walked into the ocean, more like ambled, and only because I couldn’t and I still can’t run. My ankle hasn’t healed completely. I swam, taking short breaks every ten meters because I was wheezing. I finally got to the boat, called my name and asked how much time had gone by. Twenty minutes! I made the 500-meter mark in twenty minutes! Of course, I am not proud of that timing but it was a colossal jump from my 45-minute timing during the practice swim. Without wasting much time I headed for shore. Now, not as nervous about not finishing before the cut-off time.
I had to stop several times because of my wheezing. The next hurdle was the incoming tide. I kept going off course and I had to be guided back. A lot of the time went there. I finally put my feet on the ground and headed out of the water. Then I heard I wasn’t the last one to finish but then… good girls finish last! I was over the moon at this point! I got one miniature goal scratched off my bucket list!
(Photography by Hypercube Technologies)
If you know me then you know I never say die…t! I’m allergic to that word. All I did was cut down on sugar and everything sugar related (UGH! that damn near killed me because I like my sugar fix!) which meant no aerated drinks, no chocolates, no hot chocolate, no sweets, no rice, no junk food! I made sure I had a balanced diet that was mostly fresh veggies and fruits minus bananas and papayas. No fried food either. I dropped 10 KGs. Another reason to rejoice!
What to expect in the open sea
To get nervous if you haven’t trained an insignificant amount unless you have nerves of steel! (This is mostly aimed at me in a humorously sarcastic way!)
You may have to swim against the tide so it would be a good idea to have some open water swims done. (You can contact The Goa Open Water Swim Club on Facebook).
Dehydration after the swim so make sure you have a lot of water once you get out of the sea.
What to not expect in the open sea
Sharks! No! There are no sharks in our Goan waters! There’s a very high improbability that you’re going to face any other aquatic creatures either. There’s no need to fear anything. Just stay calm and keep swimming.
The importance of training
Regular training is important. Ten days are just not enough for endurance swimming.
Choose a stroke that works for you. Most swimmers prefer freestyle but I find it rather painful after a few meters. I would have probably chosen it over any other had it not been for my SLAP Tear. Breaststroke worked fine for me. I just have to train harder before the next Swimathon.
Diet? NO SUGAR! That is all I avoided and it worked well. No junk food either. Nothing deep-fried. Pig out on Salads (minus those fancy dressings), fruits, Cashew nuts and almonds.
I have to admit I went bonkers on chocolates and all my favourite food items as soon as I was done with the race. That was the end of my training! I was back to my “bingey” self!
Swimathon 2018, organised by Enduro Sports, was well planned, well organised. The safety was excellent and overseen by Drishti. A must-experience for every passionate swimmer. An absolute fun event. I’m definitely “planning’ on taking part in the Swimathon 2019.
The event is held at Bambolim Beach, Goa. One of the safest beaches in Goa. The water is almost always still and the waves are barely noticeable. The sea does get a little choppy in the afternoons when the winds pick up. The event is over by then though you might find a bunch of us splashing around in the water.
Every Finisher gets their timing displayed on the website and an E-Certificate!
Sea you there!
(I was disappointed with my timing but I was happy that I successfully managed to complete this race within the given timeframe considering a year hadn’t gone by since the surgery. I was still in recovery, still am to some extent.)