When I went to the Paratriathlon Talent ID last October my swim was alright. I did a 750m in 14.32, when the fastest in the world in my category are swimming it in 15+ minutes. So compared to them I was swimming quite quickly, but my stroke was all over the place and my swim fitness was pretty dire as I was only swimming for about 30/40 minutes three times a week. Over winter whilst on triathlon camps in Loughborough I’ve had some brilliant coaching that has changed my stroke completely, which puts me in a position where there is scope to get a lot faster over the next year. Everyone else on the squad is a lot more experienced in everything really, but definitely in the pool, so it has been wonderful to swim and learn alongside them. Especially alongside Kerry who is new to triathlon, but her swim is probably the fastest in the world in womens paratriathlon at the moment. Swimming alongside her gives me a goal and it shows me just how good you can be. And there is always, always someone to chase! (And drafting her is pretty great when I can stick with her!)
My first swimming related drama was just about figuring out how to swim again. Kicking gently with a foot is great and keeps you upright. Take that foot away and it’s much harder to keep that leg up and therefore your hip, then body and your alignment goes very wrong and it’s harder to keep balanced. The drag from not being streamlined slows you down and that isn’t fun. I was put into a regional academy (South Central – we have the best kit…) and Scott, one of the coaches there and one of the Paratriathlon coaches, got me some zone3 swim shorts (https://racezone3.com/product/neoprene-buoyancy-originals/). These were great for a while and helped my swimming a lot, but quickly became too big and would fill up with water… Not so helpful.
I then had pretty major skin issues after reacting to the liner that I use with my prosthetic leg. It was all a bit of a mystery because I’d been wearing the liner about 6 weeks before it started, and it’s a liner that is much better for high activity levels than my current non-allergy inducing squidgy one, but I’ve got some allergy testing in August so I’ll know more then. It randomly healed one day about a month after going back to the old liner, but steroids, antibiotics and antifungal creams all didn’t make any difference to it. This meant that I had from the beginning of January to mid March unable to swim because getting it wet made it worse and chemicals in the pool stung.
I got back into the pool again when it had finally healed and my swim fitness was gone. 100m and I was struggling for breath. Sadly I knew that there was no quick fix and the only way to get over this is by swimming through it, then taking some time to recover, then going again.
I’m now up to doing around 3km swim sets and unless it’s really, really not happening, I don’t get out until I’ve done at least 2.5km. When my form starts to slip, I use a pull buoy to keep my body stabilised so I’m not wasting energy chugging away with my legs. All paratriathlon racing is in open water and wetsuit rules are different, so wetsuits are allowed in warmer water than in abled bodied races. As soon as I’m in a wetsuit everything gets easier because it increases my buoyancy hugely so I’m looking forward to some consistent swimming and getting into open water in a wetsuit hopefully once a week over summer!