Freestyling (Andrew)

People say that golf’s a “good walk spoiled” but, as I like golf, I prefer to say that swimming’s a “good drowning spoiled”.

Swimming is a silly sport.

Think about it. You don’t have running events where we move our legs in different ways. We don’t have the 100m normal run, the 100m bandy leg run – nor do we run 100m backwards. Yet, swimming thinks it’s perfectly okay to have umpteen different ways of thrashing your arms to make you go forward – or backwards.

Shouldn’t the person who swims 100 meters fastest be the person who… you know… swims 100 meters the fastest? Stop giving gold medals to people who are clearly not fast enough to swim fast enough.

And swimmers know they shouldn’t reward second place. There’s a hierarchy in swimming. At the top they have ‘free style’ and at the bottom they have ‘doggy paddle’ a stroke so poor they don’t even call it a stroke, they call it a paddle, a name which comes from having to use a boat because you can’t swim. And this hierarchy is clear because although swimmers have free style events where swimmers can swim any of the four main stokes – freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly – they all swim freestyle because it’s the fastest.

You wouldn’t race Uisean Bolt by jogging not sprinting, so you don’t race free style by using any stroke other than the fastest.

Yet, still we celebrate Michael Phelps even though he’s not actually got as many gold medals as you think because many of those medals are for events where, even though he came first, he was still not the fastest man to swim from one side of a pool to another.

Perhaps my views on swimming are based on the fact that I’m just jealous. Swimming is hard. I enjoy it, but it’s hard.

For years I could only swim breaststroke. But, when I entered my first triathlon, I knew I would have to learn to swim free style – and I struggled.

The first lap would be okay, the second not bad, the third was when my lungs gave out, the water leaked into my goggles and into my eyes and, by the time I’d reached the fourth lap I was knackered.

It took a few months to become even vaguely confident about swimming and, even now, a few years later, while I’ve grown to like swimming, I don’t love it the same way I love running and cycling.

Swimming is a silly sport.

But it’s part of triathlon and a major part of Celtman so, to help with getting ready for this year’s race, I’ve changed gym (more on that next time) and joined one that’s easier to get to first thing in the morning. And while I’ve been unable to train the last few weeks I have made one major change to help when I start again. I’m now getting up at 6:15 rather than 7:00 so that I can train in the morning before going to work. And, a major part of that change will be to go to the pool at 7am.

No wonder I hate swimming. It’s made me get up early in the morning.

Damn you swimming!

However my new gym has one advantage over all the other gyms in Glasgow (no, it’s not that the pool is only 21m long so it makes you think you swim a lap faster than anywhere else) , it’s the fact that it has a policy of only allowing one swimmer a lane.

The bottom of the pool has lanes marked on it and, once you’ve picked one, no one else can use it until you’re finished. No more sharing a land with someone really, really slow. (Or Iain, as I call him). No more sharing a lane with someone who wears indecent running shorts instead of swimming trunks. (Or, again, Iain, as I call him). Instead, you can swim back and forth free and uninterrupted swimming any stoke you like – even if you know there only one stroke that really counts.