On Saturday afternoon, I gave myself a taste of my own medicine and did a T-30 for the first time in the 8 years since retiring from competitive swimming. It didn’t disappoint and was every bit as painful as I remembered…
While my husband was driving, I sent a text to my fellow water bloggers that basically read, “I’m about to do a T-30. Almost at the pool… stupid threshold blog posts! lol”
Vicky was the first to respond, “Funsies.”
Sliding into the water, I debated whether or not I’d wear my snorkel. I have some old shoulder injuries and the snorkel helps me keep my stroke even because I’m not putting pressure on my shoulders when I breathe. While I love my snorkel, I decided not to wear it because T-30s should be swum without equipment. I was here and I was going to do it right.
Back in the day, my club team usually did a T-30 in the early part of a season to establish our threshold pace. We’d also do them at the end of a season to see how we’d improved. We’d all swim a group warm up and then my coach would put us into groups of two. The athletes in group 1 would get in the water and begin swimming when my coach whistled and wouldn’t stop until he whistled again.
The athletes in group two would be sitting at the end of the lane with a kick board, sheet of paper and pen. Their only job was to keep track of their swimmers laps while the swimmer’s only job was to sustain their pace. But they also had another job: cheering like crazy.
After completing the T-30, we would switch places and start again. It was fun and horrible and something we experienced together. Yes, we all completed different distances but we all hurt the same at the end. In a weird way, these shared experiences are some of my favorite memories because we were all in it together. Who says swimming isn’t a team sport?
Today, I was alone with my watch. Well, my husband and son were in the stands, but I was alone in the pool. On the car ride in, I told my husband I’d be lucky to go 1500 meters. He didn’t know what that meant, but I’ll tell you. It means I’m starting over at the very beginning.
I didn’t see the point of delaying things, so I pushed off the wall and thought my streamline felt pretty good. I settled into a good rhythm and thought to myself, “I feel great! I could do this forever!” And it went like this for a little while… until the piano dropped. At the 150.
“Ack! Why did I lift arm weights yesterday? What was I thinking?” Fatigue was setting in. Early. This was no good.
“You can do this” my subconscious, the perpetual optimist, said. “It’s not going to be pretty, but you got this.”
I continued moving forward. Thinking about finishing my strokes at my hips and wondering why I started so fast.
Starting too fast is a problem for me and I’ve never learned. The sprinter in me is addicted to the pain and the speed. The sprinter in me needs to know I’ve left everything in the pool. I guess some things never change. The sprinter in me is crazy!
I got close to the 500 mark and I had a negative thought, “What if I can’t finish?” It was the first time I’d really considered that option in a T-30. “Alright,” I told myself, “If it is really that bad, you can do one backstroke lap on the last 25 of every 500 but that is it. No matter what, you’re not stopping.” Deal.
I flipped at the 475 and pushed off on my back. I was worried it was going to really affect my pace so I tried to pick it up. It hurt the way an IM hurts. Once you’ve hit failure in one muscle group its time to move onto the next. Refreshing!
Oh no! I was already at the wall. I flipped and pushed off feeling renewed. Assuming I was anywhere near pace for that 1500, I was a third of the way and few strokes done. YAY! My moral improved until I realized, “what if I’m going faster?”
I had no idea how much time had passed. My lats and my triceps were aching with every pull. I tried so hard to keep a steady rhythm. Breathe every three. Breathe every three.
“Don’t breathe into the, Ahhh!” This was no good. I started taking cheat breathes into and out of the wall. Suddenly my streamlines didn’t feel so good. Have you ever tried to hold a streamline when your arms are shaking?
I willed myself to stop. I told myself I was stronger than the pain. I told myself that if any of my coaches could see me now, they’d make me swim it again. I told myself if I kept this up, I’d make myself swim it again.
I flipped at the 975. Delightful backstroke. Killing my average but feeling so good. “Savor, savor, savor. Oh no! Why am I already passing the flags?” I flipped. Time for another 500.
It’s time to focus. I’m better than this. No I’m not. Yes! I am. I tried to work the technique. I focused on my breathing. I remembered the “elite average.” I dug deep.
Then it happened. Somebody fast got in the lane next to me. I say fast, but I’m sure anything would have been faster than me at this point. She pushed off the wall just after I did and I could see her out of the corner of my eye. “Oh no don’t,” I thought and pushed harder. “You’re not passing me.” I tried to pick up my tempo, I’m sure losing stroke length in the process. But I held her off. We continued like this for about a 200 when she finally stopped for a break at the wall. I kept going.
All of the sudden, it was time for my backstroke leg. My watch hadn’t beeped yet. Oh my goodness! I realized I must be going a bit faster than 2:00 per 100. Unless of course my watch died? Or it beeped and I didn’t hear it? No, I knew that wasn’t the case. I was ahead of the time I thought I’d go even with the backstroke 25s. As much as I wanted to savor the lap, I couldn’t. What if my watch beeped before the 12.5? I passed the halfway mark. I wanted to flip.
The flags looked beautiful. I went into my flip turn and pushed off the wall. I knew I had to be getting close to the 30 minute mark. I mean, if I went passed it, my husband would try to stop me, right? Too much thinking. The wall. Another 25 meters under my belt. Now to get this one too. “I can do this!”
I passed the halfway mark and then I heard it, “Beep! Beep! Beep!” Muted underwater but unmistakeable. The sound of a goal accomplished. I was done. I finished it. I rolled over onto my back and glided into the wall.
I put my hand to my pulse, wanting to get my heartrate. But the man in the lane next to me interrupted. “Man, you made that look smooth. For me, its not so easy.”
I put my hand down. I could barely breathe and now I had to talk. “I swam in college but I took a long break,” huff huff, “I’m just now getting back into the pool,” huff huff, “It’s never easy.” He nodded his head in understanding and pushed off the wall.
“It isn’t ever easy,” I thought, “Its just different.”
I moved over to the shallow end and my husband congratulated me as he handed me our 10 month old (who loves the water). It was time for the funsies to start!