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!
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!)
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!