June 12, 2024
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June 12, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Part II: Learning to Swim

I kickstarted my training for the Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon with a New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge.

Because it was the start of a new year or because the Escape from Alcatraz swim is freezing cold?

Yes…and yes.

Didn’t you do that last year?

Yes, I swam laps for almost four minutes.

How did you do this year?

Not as well. With a water temperature of 37 degrees and an air temperature close to that, my swim was about 30 seconds long.

How did it feel?

How did what feel? Everything went numb immediately, but I had a support team waiting for me as soon as I left the water.

How did you really start training for this new event?

I was unhappy with my swimming last year at Ironman Lake Placid. I knew something was wrong with the way I’ve been swimming, so I enlisted my mentor Neil Cook to help me figure out what was wrong. He came out to New Jersey with his GoPro and filmed me for ten minutes.

Just ten minutes?

Ten minutes was all it took for Neil to film my swim from every angle. It has been said that swimming is not a sport; it is a way to keep from drowning…and boy did I look like I was drowning.

You are just being hyperbolic.

Every triathlete thinks they swim like Michael Phelps, because they can’t see how they look in the water. You can look down at your feet when you are running and when you are biking; your feet are locked in place. The fact is, swimming correctly is one of the most difficult things you can do. Proper swim form requires the athlete to be aware of every single bodily movement…all at the same time. Here’s why:

There’s no gravity in water.

Um, I took physics in high school. That’s not true.

Ok, so I embellished a bit. When you are swimming, you don’t feel gravity because you are being buoyed by the water. Your body parts are free to move in any direction they want to go. Result:

You appear more like a drowning cocker spaniel than Michael Phelps. In my head, I was Michael Phelps, Mark Spitz and Dave Scott, all in one.

Dave who?

Google him. The video showed that I was creating drag in the water because I was lifting my head to see where I was going.

Umm, isn’t that a good thing?

No. You should be looking down at the bottom of the pool. Here is why:

When you swim front crawl (freestyle to you non-ALS swimmers), your back is floating on the water.


So if you lift your head up, you force your feet to sink and they become anchors in the water.

Still not following you.

When you walk, do you look straight ahead or at the ceiling?

Straight ahead.

So why don’t you do that in the water?

Point taken. So how do you know where you are going when you swim?

To be continued…

By David Roher

David Roher is a USAT Certified Level 1 Triathlon & Marathon coach. He is a multi Ironman finisher & a veteran special education teacher. He can be reached at [email protected].

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