Swimming Along

I have stupendously bad eyes.  They are also “weird” in that I need prisms in each lens to reflect the light correctly and I see double without glasses.  I also have very poor depth perception, even with glasses.  It became noticeable when I was 7 and was having problems reading the chalk board in class. I also fell a lot and tended to walk into doorways but everyone thought I was just klutzy.  When I was finally fitted with glasses, my eyes continued to change so quickly that one doctor told me that I would be blind by the time I was 18 – a great thing for a 9 year old to hear!

I didn’t go blind but I am legally blind without my glasses.  I used to become quite panicked when I wasn’t wearing them.  Because of this, I wore them all of the time, even to swim.  I took a few swim classes when I was a kid but I would never put my head under the water because I always wore my (quite expensive, especially when we didn’t have insurance) glasses.  Needless to say, I never develop any sort of form. I can, however, float like a champ 🙂

When I decided to seriously consider triathlon, I knew I needed to learn to swim with my head down and that would require prescription goggles.  Unfortunately, my crazy prescription made that no easy task.  I finally did find one company that could handle them, Liberty Sport, and had them ordered through the ophthalmologist office. They were shockingly affordable!  Which just shows what a racket prescription eye wear is…


I tried them the first time at the tri clinic that I took last March.  While the class was helpful, the pool segment started out rough.  I was one of the last on deck and everyone else was already in the water by the side.  I assumed that the water was shoulder height so I slipped over the side… and went straight down!  The surprise and cold water almost sent me hyperventilating!  Honestly, I had a hard time focusing the rest of the hour because it shook me so much.  That combined with the problems I was having keeping one strap tight – which caused leakage and fogging and hey, I’m blind again! – made for a stressful time.  So, the goggles came off and they sat for nine months.

Finally, in January, I decided I was ready to try again so I signed myself up for a level III swimming class at the local rec center so I could learn to get my head down and breath.  The morning of the first class found me in a panic!  I was beside myself with nerves and I was convinced it would be an utter failure!  I seriously considered just sitting in the parking lot for an hour and lie to everyone that it was fine.  But, I forced myself out of the car and I’m very glad I did!  The instructor immediately picked up on my nerves and put me at ease.  I pushed through the first lesson and left with the knowledge that I could improve.

My strap was still a problem so I found a bungee cord system that has since proved to work well and drops to help with the fogging (no, spit, dish soap, water, etc. did not work).  Two problems solved!

Game changer!
Game changer!

I had my first “long” swim session last week and I was given 1100 yards.  Oh boy. I bulled through it but my breathing was bad and I was going on sheer will power rather than any form.  I did it in a very long 45 minutes.  My jaw ached when I got out from clenching my teeth so hard!  Okay, one week down.

I had my second class this past Saturday and we really worked on breathing drills.  Somewhere toward the end of class, I finally learned to relax and I actually breathed semi-properly!  I wasn’t prairie dogging!  I was really excited to see how that would translate into my weekly solo swim!  Last night, I did the same distance as last week but with a 10 minute improvement!  My jaw didn’t hurt afterwards, either!  I did sputter and mess up for the first 100 yds or so but then I did some kicking drills to calm down and all was well after that.  I definitely need to learn how to quickly relax in the water.  I’m reading the second book by Andy Holgate and I just finished a section where he was describing some giant jelly fish he saw in an open water swim at one of his races so I imagined that I was swimming above the jellies, too, and just tried to relax (yes, I know they sting but the are so pretty!)

Baby Moon Jellies at the National Aquarium in Baltimore
Baby Moon Jellies at the National Aquarium in Baltimore

I know I still have a ton of work to do on my form but I also know I will eventually get there.  I may be blind as a bat but I’m also as stubborn as a mule!



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