Race Report: 25m Butterfly

A lot of good things have happened over the past couple of weeks! On 17 October I hopped over to England to see my folks for a few days … and while I was there I laid a few ghosts to rest 👻.

The Pingles, Nuneaton

As I was due to race (run) a very demanding 10k on the Sunday, I decided to go for a recovery swim early on the Friday before the race. This swim, however, would not be any swim. This swim would actually be in the pool where the slow-clapping incident occurred in my teenage years – when I’d been volunteered to swim in a butterfly race, even though I couldn’t swim butterfly!

The pool opened at 7am (which is a lovely time to swim and I really wish our local pools would open this early) and I was faced with a very busy ‘fast lane’. Undeterred, I managed to complete an 850m swim (front crawl) and I got a real confidence boost when I realised how fast I was going! My very last length was  25m all-out-effort butterfly: 40 years after attempting to swim a length of this stroke in this pool, I actually managed it! It felt like a defining moment.

On Sunday 20 October I ran with my dad in a hilly 10k race in the Cotswolds. There was, as promised, a very high hill content – and I can’t say I took in very much of the beautiful scenery 😆. My sortie into the world of track and field has meant that my ‘long runs’ have been at around the 3 mile mark. Couple that with no actual 10k-specific training for this event (and the race organiser’s glee as he kept mentioning the HUGE hill) and I wasn’t feeling that optimistic about getting around in a good time.

In spite of my doubts, I managed to cross the finish line in 50:36, which I was pleased with (and I reckon all that squatting and deadlifting must have kicked in #literally 😆). I was the 7th lady finisher in the 45-55 category : I was also pleased about that as normally I’d be in the 50-55 category and competing against ‘vintage’ runners closer to my own age! (You can see the start of the race here. When the video goes into slow motion, you’ll see me in my blue headband and knee-length blue socks.)

Getting ready to race.

Once the 10k was done that was me settling into my taper for the butterfly race with Samantha. The race had originally been scheduled to take place in my local pool, but the roof fell in! I’ve had to travel to the next town to train (Coleraine) and the staff (and my new fellow swimmers) have been brilliant.

I’ve been very much welcomed into the Coleraine morning swimming community, and I have to say it is quite riotous in the changing rooms in the morning. Patricia, one of the Duty Managers, at the leisure centre has been particularly helpful and made sure the race could take place on the right day at the right time.

Pre-race sportswomanship

On Tuesday 29 October at 11am, the race took place. It was lovely to see so many supporters come along. Special thanks go to my fellow CrossFit athletes who came to cheer us on (Cheryl, Janine, Marcella and Diane); to Siobhan, my Coleraine morning swim buddy, who popped in to see the race; and to Richard Lappin (one of the coaches at CrossFit Causeway) who officiated. Thanks also to the ‘Crawford Sisters’ (Coleraine swimming legends) who have given me such lovely (and kind) feedback about my butterfly; and to Sybil and Raymond at the Ballymoney pool who have kept me in order since January (and given me feet to follow in the early morning). Oh – and a BIG thanks to Samantha for coming out of her swimming retirement to race me!

I managed to complete the 25m in 25.1 seconds. I needed to get under 25.6 to reach Swim England Bronze standard, so I’m please about that. I’ll need to get an affiliated swim instructor to time and verify my speed in order to secure the award, but I’m still thrilled to have achieved that standard from a ‘standing start’ in 3 months. Samantha beat me by a good 8 seconds, and I spent most of the race chasing her feet. You can watch the whole race here:

Post-race hugs!

I’ve really enjoyed this particular adventure, and swimming is something that I’m going to keep doing, mostly because it feels so good to be in the water. I’m going to try a pool-based  aquathlon (swim and run) in December, and next year will be the year of mastering open water swimming 😱 (just a little bit worried about this) so that I can compete in an open water aquathlon. I’m also going to continue work on my fly with a view to competing in the masters championships here in Northern Ireland next summer. I’d love to knock a good 8 seconds off my 25m time. It’s a huge ask … but I’m all in 😎… I’m totally going for it … I’m going to give it my very best shot!

Patricia (Duty Mgr) and me with my silver medal!

And so my final official adventure of the year moves into focus: learning the tango. The first lesson is at the end of November – and I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, I’m just going outside and I may be some time 🙂 . (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂

Pulling it all Together

It’s been a while since I checked in and lots has happened. The big pull-up challenge has taken place and the results are in! I’ve also had my final pre-race swim coaching session with David at Trinetic and I’m moving into the speed phase of my training, ready for the  #ClashOfTheTitans race on 29 October.

In spite of training pull-ups three times a week for six weeks, the final results don’t really reflect the promises made by most of the YouTube videos I watched. I’m glad I did it though, and I expect my butterfly will be helped by my new-found pull-up prowess 🤣🏊‍♀️.

As for my swimming, it’s still going really well and I’m completely in love with it (in spite of it being gruelling much of the time 😱). You can see how I got on at the last coaching session in the short videos below. The first is me trying for a wider hand entry with butterfly. The second is me working on my ‘roll’ for front crawl.

You might remember that Sharron Davies gave me some lovely words of advice about succeeding at butterfly a few months back. I’m thrilled to report that she took a look at my most recent swimming video and gave a little more advice: to slow down the catch and to undulate a bit more!

I talk a bit more about how my adventuring has panned out over the last couple of weeks in today’s video blog (below). I also give a few hints about the direction I’ll be heading in next year 😎.

Right. I definitely need a lie down somewhere, so I’m just going outside and may be some time 🙂 . (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂

When you have it, you have it all over!

Elvis Presley apparently once said ‘Rhythm is something you either have or don’t have, but when you have it, you have it all over.’ Fortunately, I was channeling ‘The King’ last week when I went for my third coaching session with David Graham at Trinetic 🤣.

The third session marked 7 weeks of butterfly training – and that third session changed everything for me. David said ‘Just focus on the rhythm. Forget everything else. Everything else will come if the rhythm is right.’ So I did what he said and this is what happened:

The rhythm changed everything! The week before the coaching session I had been managing sets of 4 x 25m of fly, but each length was taking me a good 35 seconds. When I returned to the pool last Friday, I was managing 25m at well below 25 seconds for most repeats!

David gave me a new training programme to follow, and I have to say it’s pretty challenging – but I’m going for it! I talk about my butterfly adventure and my swim training in today’s video blog. You can find details of the book recommendations I make below the video.

Right, then. I definitely need a wee lie down, and after that I’m going outside and may be some time 😉 .

JT 🙂

Clash of the Titans

I’m 5 weeks into my butterfly adventure and I have to say that things are going rather well. I’ve progressed from being able to do not a single stroke to 4x25m of full fly over that period of time.

With my other adventures I’ve always had an end goal and that has really helped me to keep motivated. For this adventure I’ve set myself 2 goals:

1. To swim 25m full fly in a race by the end of October.
2. To swim 25m of fly fast enough to qualify for a Swim England award by the end of the year (but October would be good too!). That means swimming the distance anywhere between 23 and 25 seconds. The good news is that my swim coach, David Graham, thinks this is completely possible. I completely trust him, so I think it’s completely possible too 🙂 .

With 8 weeks to go until the end of October, I’m thrilled to announce race details! I’ll be racing against Samantha Russell-Morelli at 11am on Tuesday 29 October at my local leisure centre.

Sam has come out of retirement especially for this event 😱. Here’s her athlete profile:

1. She swam competitively in New Zealand between the ages of 11 and 17.
2. During this period she  held several regional records for freestyle, butterfly and individual medley.
3. When she was 16 she placed 3rd for the Women’s Open 100m Individual Medley (that’s out of everyone in NZ) and 8th in the Women’s Open 200m Fly.
4. She’s currently a Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt and a CrossFit athlete.

So …. I’ve got 8 weeks to get my act together! At this stage, if I were you, I wouldn’t be placing any bets on me winning. If I could swim a PB, though, I’d be pleased. A sub-25 second 25m would be brilliant!

Right, then. I’m just going outside and may be some time 😉 . (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂

It’s All Going Swimmingly!

My front crawl is improving!

I’ve just entered the 4th week of my butterfly training programme and I’m pleased to report that it’s all going rather well!

Last Wednesday, after 3 weeks of following David Graham’s programme, I went back to Trinetic HQ for a progress review. I was quietly confident that David would see a marked improvement in my front crawl and in my undulating capabilities🤣 . I’d followed his programme to the letter and upped my training from 2 sessions to 4 sessions a week. On top of that, my body was showing me that it was adapting quickly to the demands of training: my back had grown an inch and my waist had shrunk an inch. (I put the shrinkage down to the kick drills which are extremely demanding on the core  😱.)

The first part of the session with David was a review and fine-tune of my crawl. My body was sitting much better in the water, but my pull was a bit wide. I tried pulling closer to my body, my palm facing backwards, and *WOOSH* (bit of a technical swim term there 😉 ) the game changed. Everything felt a bit odd but so much easier than before: much less ‘efforting’.

Actual butterfly, folks! Actual butterfly 🦋🦋🦋

The main part of the session was dedicated to developing my butterfly stroke. This session the arms were added. I have to say that when David mentioned arms and kicking at the same time, I was a bit frightened. I had my second ‘WOOSH* of the session as I was transported back to an experience I had at a  swimming club in Mildenhall (East Anglia, England) when I was about 10. Suddenly I was being told by the swimming instructor that I had been promoted to the next group up (the second promotion in two weeks) and I knew I wasn’t ready.

In spite of my fear, I (quite literally 🤣) dived in and got on with the first new drill: single arm butterfly arms with fly kicks. I found this drill hard to do on my left-hand side – it’s going to take a bit of work to develop a better feel for the water on that side, I think. Here’s me doing the drill on the right-hand side:

The next drill was 3-4 kicks and then one full double-armed pull. I liked this a lot more than the single arm drills, I can tell ya! After this drill, I had my first go at the full stroke and here’s what it looked like:

On Thursday afternoon I received my updated training schedule from David, ready for my pool session on Friday morning.  The programme is certainly far more demanding and I have to admit that I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t be up to the job. I needn’t have worried, though. Once I was in the water, I was completely in my element. The front crawl portion of the session felt like a breeze, even though repetitions for some of the sessions are now at 100m (something I couldn’t have managed 3 weeks ago). The drills were challenging but doable. My favourite drill was working the arms and legs together: it was gruelling in a good way – very physical, requiring total presence to the experience. While I was doing that drill I felt completely alive!

So, I’m on my way. I’m making progress. In 3 weeks I go back for another review and I’m feeling quite confident. Powerlifting has taught me that as long as you’re consistent and follow an intelligent training programme, you will progress. I trust David and his programme, so – all being well – progress will happen!

Here’s a short video blog about my swimming progress:

Right, I’m off to do some pull-ups. (No, I actually am because, well, there’s another wee adventure brewing, which I’ll tell you about shortly 😉 ). After that, I’m just going outside and may be some time 😉 . (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂

Off to a Flying Start!

Having a go at the first of the fly drills! It’s all about the undulating 🙂

Well, I’m certainly not one to let the grass grow under my feet! My fourth #OldDogNewTricks adventure is already well under way 🙂 : learning to swim butterfly.

On Wednesday 24 July I went to Belfast to meet David Graham of Trinetic. My first session was all about establishing where I’m at right now with the front crawl (the initial programming is very much crawl-based); making recommendations about how I can improve this particular stroke; and then learning some fly drills to support my butterfly adventure.

This goes for any kind of flying 🤣

Just to be clear: when I arrived at Trinetic I knew I did not have the requisite skills to swim any butterfly at all! To be honest, I thought this might be the adventure where I completely failed (although I knew I’d have fun trying to succeed 🤣). If you remember, I’d had a bit of a traumatic experience with this stroke as a child (there was a last place, a considerable amount of flailing about, and quite a bit of slow-clapping involved 😱) and I wasn’t quite sure why this adventure impulse had presented itself.

David Graham in action!

The session took place in David’s infinity pool. Swimming in this pool was an adventure in its own right! You basically swim in a tiny pool against a current – and the speed of that current can be varied. David took video footage of my front crawl and also of the butterfly drills he taught me, showing how I’d progressed even within the space of an hour!

David’s an excellent coach, full of good humour and brilliant at keeping things as simple as they need to be. He reckons that it’ll take about 3 months for me to be able to swim 25m of butterfly in a competent fashion. Even him saying that filled me with confidence – and even though I had arrived thinking I was likely to fail, before the session was over I was pretty certain that the 25m goal was doable!

After the session David sent me a progressive training programme to follow. Part of the programme is all about increasing the efficiency of my crawl and building up to swimming length-after-length of this stroke (at the moment, I swim alternate front crawl and breast stroke). The programme also includes 4 butterfly drills (no arms at this stage!). I’ve committed to going to the pool 3 mornings a week and in 3 weeks I’ll go back to David to see what progress I’ve made.

You can see how much work my front crawl needs here:

This is my favourite of the four butterfly drills. I love the movement!

This is the drill I find the physically toughest:

I went to my local pool on Friday morning and did my first structured session … and I completely loved it 😍. Normally I swim 1600m (I’ve been doing this twice a week since 31 December 2018) and sometimes it can get a bit boring – I feel like I just want to get the session over and done with (and get my breakfast because I’m absolutely starving!). On Friday I swam 1200m, 900m of which was front crawl. That’s the most front crawl I’ve ever done in one session in my life 😎. And you know what? I really enjoyed it. I kept my mind on the job, making sure I was kicking from the hips (before there was a whole lot of knee action going on), making sure my hands were entering the water in the right way, and making sure my rolling was symmetrical. I didn’t get bored once, I wasn’t as tired as I normally would be and I actually started to overtake other swimmers!

I’m completely going for it!

The butterfly drills were pretty tough but doable. In fact, they were my favourite part, and I had a lot of fun overtaking some breast-strokers while I was doing them! By the fourth drill I was quite tired and this tiredness caused a bit of ‘pool drift’. I’ll have to keep that in check, otherwise I’ll get myself a bit of a reputation 🤣.

So now I’m thinking about concrete goals and ways of keeping myself motivated. It’d be great if there was some kind of award that I could do for 25m fly. Swim England offers two awards, both at bronze level (here and here), which would require me to complete the distance in either 25.6 seconds or 23.20 seconds respectively. Given that Caeleb Dressel has just broken Michael Phelps’ 100m world fly record (completing the distance at an astonishing 49.50), a time of 23-25 seconds for 25m still seems rather fast! Anyway, I’m going to dig around a bit more to see if there are similar kinds of awards in Ireland. (I’m also thinking about racing someone. More on that in the future!)

Right then. It’s been a big week so I’m just going outside and may be some time 🙂 . (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂