The Road To Quakerman: On Being Bad At Things…

“Get your swim down and the bike and run will come naturally.”

Easier said than done.

Dallas had one piece of advice for me when I  told him I was interested in jumping into the Tri world: get your swim down.

Dallas is an athletic dude and is definitely used to being good at things.  I’m fairly certain he’s been good at 90% of everything he’s ever tried.  (99% of all things sports related)   He’s totally one of those people you want to hate at first, but can’t, because on top of being good at everything, he’s also a really nice guy and all around great person.

The 1% of sports-related things that did not come easily for Dallas though was swimming.  It’s still mind blowing to me, because when I met him for the first time a year ago, he had just completed an Olympic distance triathlon where he basically doggie paddled his way for 0.75 miles down the Schukyll River.  And now, a year later, after many hours in the pool, he swam his way through the 2.5 miles that kick off an Ironman Triathlon.  If Dallas can get there, then so can I… I hope.

I really hope so, actually.  Because as it turns out, swimming doesn’t come so naturally for me either.

It was my first time in the pool, so my plan had been to take it easy, do 1000 yards and call it a day.  Yeah. Right.  I made it a total of 800 yards before needing to call it quits.  If I’m being truthful, it was definitely one of the more humbling athletic experiences of my life.  I was feeling pretty good about myself, coming off of a recent PR in the Pittsburgh marathon, so I wasn’t very intimidated by the idea of the pool.  Whelp, that was my mistake because I may be able to run a marathon in 7:25/mile pace, but that first day I could barely swim 50 yards without stopping to take a breather.  I was a total mess of flailing arms and legs, just trying to stay afloat, not to mention my heartrate was skyrocketing.  I was sore and winded when I got out of the pool, but I was also annoyed.  I hate being bad at things.  I really really hate being bad at things.  And I certainly never quit at things.  But here I was, sliding out of the pool defeated.

I was faced with two choices.  I could silently slink out of the LA Fitness and wallow in my inadequacy, or I could march right over to the membership desk, pay my money, and come back the next day for another round of humiliation.  I chose the latter.  I paid my money, clipped by official LA Fitness swipe card onto my key ring, and came back the next day.

I also chose to admit my weakness and reach out to absolutely everyone I knew with absolutely any experience in the pool.  My friend Amanda, a previous all american swimmer, met me at the pool one day after work and gave me some suggestions on my technique and mechanics.  My co-worker (hi Margie!!) has a daughter my age who is a swimmer and has sent me some lengthy emails full of advice for transitioning to open water swimming, as well as some great sample workouts.  I even reached out to a fellow LA Fitness swimmer (who it turns out was a former UNC athlete) to get his input on my form.

Slowly (when I say slowly, I mean very slowly) but surely I started to improve.  I got my breathing patterns down.  I increased my yardage.  I noticed my speed and my strength starting to build.  While I surely still don’t look like a swimmer in the pool, I’m starting to feel more like one.

What started out as one of my most humbling athletic endeavors, has turned into one of the most rewarding.  There’s something about tangible progress that I really need in my life.  Its all too easy to get caught up in the humdrum repetitiveness of our every day world, and totally miss the transformations.  The improvement I’ve seen in the pool, has challenged me to look at the ways I’ve been developing in other facets of my life as well.  For example, I feel like I’ve grown a lot socially over the last couple of years, coming into my own and transforming into a more confident and honest version of myself.  I’ve learned so many new skills and have been pushed to adapt at work over the last year, helping me realize that I am on a career path that, although is far from glamorous, makes me proud.  On a lighter note, I love looking back on my early blog posts to see how far my recipes and photography have come (and be reminded of how far they have to go!).

Being bad at things is actually kind of a good thing.  Painful, but good.  It reminds us that improvement is possible, that hard work pays off, and just to be grateful for the things in our lives that do come naturally.  Afterall, when we’re bad at something, there’s nowhere to go but UP!


Tall One

PS: Since this is a food blog afterall, check back tomorrow for a sorta-healthy pancake recipe!

PPS: Like this Road To Quakerman post?  Check out the others!


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