Get Swimming: Week 9: ‘A monumental fall after being so, so good’

‘A week out of the pool partying like it’s 1999 – thanks for nothing Prince – is met with some serious repercussions’

 Rachel Collins: ‘There’s nothing quite as bonding as four adults gasping for breath at the end of a pool, trying to invent questions for our coach to delay the next round of drills.’ Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Rachel Collins: ‘There’s nothing quite as bonding as four adults gasping for breath at the end of a pool, trying to invent questions for our coach to delay the next round of drills.’ Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Rachel (back on the wagon) Collins

So it turns out the fastest route from A to B (or one end of the pool to the other) is most definitely not via London. Four days in London to be exact, eating everything that isn’t bolted down, and swimming only in champagne and incredibly expensive G&Ts.

I suppose this detour was inevitable. You see I’ve been so good. No, really, I’ve been so, so, so good: Early mornings, early nights, no booze… I’ve even been eating “swimmers’ food”. Yes, okay, I’ve been a pain in the arse.

So after swimmers’ pride? A monumental fall, where a week out of the pool partying like it’s 1999 – thanks for nothing Prince – is met with some serious repercussions. Painful, knackering, lung-burning repercussions.

Our coach Peter had warned us of the inevitable disillusionment that can set in around this time. In the early days the rewards are big, impressive, shiny ones. I’m not drowning! I can do double the lengths I did last week! I’ve nailed the breathing on both sides thing! But then it’s down to the long – and sometimes boring – slog of length after length after length. Setbacks at this stage feel all the tougher when you’ve grown used to moving forward.

A week’s break is all it takes to wind the clock back, and when I return to training, some of the more difficult drills feel like I’m holding lava in my lungs.

We do a particularly evil combination: half a length of front crawl at breakneck speed, half a length at regular speed, then a length of backstroke, quick as you can. And repeat. Ad nauseam…ha! You can sing it. At this point I’m almost weeping with gratitude for my fellow swim-for-a-milers. Swimming appears to be such a solitary sport, but we’re learning just how much we rely on each other, regardless of what skills or problems we working on. There’s nothing quite as bonding as four adults gasping for breath at the end of a pool, trying to invent questions for our coach to delay the next round of drills. I swim further and faster and have a lot more fun when we’re all training together. When I run, I generally run alone, but I’m starting to see there’s a lot to be said for the support system of sports clubs and training groups.

The first training session back after the break was horrible but the next, despite being on my own, was easier. Setbacks are inevitable, and it’s encouraging to realise that if you just put your head down and get on with it you’ll be back on track in no time.

Sign up to our Get Swimming course now at irishtimes.com/getswimming. In association with Swim Ireland, we will have you swimming a mile in 12 weeks.

Sign up for Swim Ireland’s Swim for a Mile challenge in April. For more, visit swimforamile.com

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