Butterfly Progress

I’ve been trying to get a butterfly lesson every  6 weeks or so, in addition to Friday night stroke development classes. I’d like them more often, but the coaches aren’t always available in the evenings so it has to be when I can get a day off. I’ve been making steady (but slow) progress.

I booked an hour lesson today. We did lots of drills – lengths of just kick on my front, on my back, kick with single arm, kick with alternating arms followed by both arms, kicking underwater and coming up and doing a big pull as I reach the surface, sculling with a pull… And then we finished off with 15 metres of no fins no paddles, managed to keep the timing ok, managed to breathe, kept in rhythm, full-stroke butterfly! Twice.

 

Butterfly

At my stroke development class, we do butterfly maybe once or twice a term, and only for a small part of the lesson. Most of us, me included, have never learned it, and all of us struggle with it. I’m confident with my front crawl now, although there is still lots of room for improvement, and we’ve started doing a bit more back stroke at class and I feel like that’s starting to improve. I’m the only one at class who really likes back crawl; I love how long and stretched out I feel when I’m doing it. But, my butterfly remains nothing like a butterfly and more like a human-sized caterpillar thrashing itself into a watery grave.

I want to be able to swim a reasonable butterfly. Not for any lofty athletic achievement kind of reasons, but because it’s difficult and when it’s done well it impresses people, and I want to be one of those people showing off doing butterfly. I realised pretty quickly that the time we spend doing butterfly in class isn’t enough for me to learn it, so I asked about booking some one-to-one lessons with the Edinburgh Leisure swimming coaches. They don’t have much availability just now, but we managed to get an hour lesson today.

I was expecting it to be tough but I wasn’t expecting to have to sit on a cubicle bench for ten minutes afterwards before I could find the energy to get dried and dressed!

After a front crawl warm-up, I started by practising the dolphin kick, which I find quite difficult because I’m not very wiggly. After lots of kick, I added in arms, one at a time – one way with one arm, back with the other arm. I got a lot further even with just one arm than with just the kick – but butterfly kick is more about stabilisation than propulsion. Then we tried some catch-up arms with kick. Catch-up is a drill we do when we’re practising front crawl – you do one arm, leave it in front of you, then do the other arm, leave it there, do the first arm, and repeat, so that you’re always bringing your arms together in front. Couldn’t do it with butterfly arms at all; I just kept rolling onto my side and couldn’t keep myself stable at all.

So then we tried one arm at all, but trying to keep to the right rhythm. Kick the arm in, kick the arm out, kick the arm in, kick the arm out.That was much easier for me than catch-up so then we moved onto full stroke. Ahahahahaha.

It’s safe to say I won’t be butterflying to Olympics glory any time soon. But, coach did point out that I was too deep under the water and that was making it harder to get my arms out. Being a bit more level in the water made it easier. Once I was getting the hang of that a bit more, we did some work on how to move my arms under the water rather than just flailing them around, and then tried to add in breathing. I haven’t yet got to the point where I can breathe and keep going without losing the rhythm/my stroke/my last tiny grasp of what was going on, so I was going as far as I could without a breath, which obviously made me tire much more quickly.

Coach said I’d improved in the session, but I’m not too impressed by that. When you can’t do something at all, it’s really easy to improve in your first session. The difficult bit is going to be consolidating what we did today, and then improving on that. I think one-to-one coaching time will be in short supply over the next few months but if they can make time available, I’d love to do more. (Coach says she’ll work a bit more butterfly into class but the rest of the class will kill me if she does!)  But, I did come out of the session feeling like butterfly isn’t completely impossible for me to learn. It will be difficult, and it will take a long time, and I will probably suffer in pain and hurt my shoulders and maybe my back, but I think it is something I can learn to do. And I want to.

Commonwealth Games Glasgow 2014

I enjoyed the London 2012 Olympics so much, and I don’t think a month has gone by since then that I haven’t thought “I miss the Olympics.” So when the tickets for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games went on sale, I was keen to see as much as I could get tickets for (within what I could afford, which wasn’t as much as I would have liked).

The Big G

Sadly for me, I couldn’t get tickets for the diving, which is a) my favourite and b) being held less than a ten-minute walk away from where I live. We couldn’t get track cycling either, but we did get one session of badminton, one session of athletics and one session of netball. Then one of my cousins who lives a couple of hundred miles away let me know they had decided not to attend, and she sent me all her tickets to dispose of. I used one set of athletics tickets, sold another set (and gave the money to my cousin) and I still have a pair of badminton tickets for Friday, if anyone wants them.

On Saturday we went to the badminton at the Emirates Arena. Before it started we amused ourselves by trying to name the countries represented by all the flags around the venue; we did better once we realised they were in alphabetical order.

Badminton Commonwealth Nations Flags

I’ve never played or watched badminton, and know next to nothing about it, but I enjoyed every minute of it. There were four courts active during the session, and it’s pretty difficult to concentrate on four matches at once. We were a bit too far away to comfortably watch the Scotland games, so I concentrated on watching the country of my birth.

Badminton, 26/07/14

Badminton, 26/07/14

We were watching a mixed team session. Each country had to win the best of five games, made up of a mixed doubles game, a solo men’s game, a solo women’s game, a men’s doubles game and a women’s doubles games. As soon as a team has won three of the five games, their session is over, so if a country won its first three games, it wouldn’t have to play the other two, or it might go to four or the full five games. Singapore got through, and although Scotland put up a very strong fight, they weren’t good enough to beat eventual champions Malaysia.

Malaysia v Scotland

Badminton played at this level is incredibly fast, and the players are astonishingly agile and athletic. It was a great evening.

Monday was a long day. We had our own athletics tickets for the morning session, and my cousin’s tickets for the evening session. We spent the time in between eating a somewhat pathetic picnic scraped together from what was left in the big ASDA at Hampden, and sunbathing. (Dear ASDA, if you are the only supermarket near to a venue which is hosting major sporting events all day, please order a lot more sandwiches than you usually do, and keep restocking them through the day. Kthnxbye).

Our seats for both sessions were more or less behind the hammer-throwing cage so we had an excellent view of the hammer and discus events. I must admit, if I was watching athletics on the telly and hammer throwing came on, I’d probably stop paying attention, but watching it live was compelling. One of the nicest things about the Commonwealth Games is that the para sport is on at the same time as the mainstream sport. I know people think that it would be too difficult to do for the Olympics because it would just be too big, but for the Commonwealth Games, it works really well.

One of the things I most enjoyed on Monday was a men’s para discus final. I think it was T42-44 – it was for athletes with lower limb amputations. Most of the competitors wore prosthetic legs but Richard Okigbazi managed to balance on one leg and still get enough oomph to win bronze. I don’t want to sound like one of those “oh, the para athletes are so inspiring” wankers, but seeing someone manage to throw a discus on one leg was one of the most incredible sporting things I’ve ever seen.

Richard OkigbaziRichard Okigbazi throwing for bronzeOne of the nicest things was how generous and appreciative the crowd were. Obviously the UK nations got the most support, but the whole crowd were genuinely cheering for other nations too – not in that “we’re clapping politely because we have to” sort of way, but with genuine pleasure at seeing people do well. The decathlon was going on throughout the day, at the other end of the stadium from where we were, and the crowd was cheering for everyone who managed to get over the bar in the high jump. There was a real sense of joy and delight at seeing athletes doing well and achieving new – er, achievements. Biggest cheer of the day was for Scot Libby Clegg who got gold in women’s para 100m, but pretty much everything was greeted with huge applause, and standing ovations for every gold winner’s lap of honour, as well as for the silver/bronze medal winners who walked around the track, and, really, for any athlete who had completed their event and walked around the edge of the stadium. Lots of the athletes stopped to high-five kids and give autographs, and not just the winners, the losing competitors too. Monday was a very long day – we left the flat just before 8am and didn’t get back until just before 1am on Tuesday. Of course, that didn’t stop the cat waking us up and demanding food at 6am. Even though there was food in his bowl.

Yesterday we went to the SECC to watch the netball. I hated all sport at school but once I left school and started 6th form I played netball for a local league. We weren’t great but we enjoyed it. I was thinking about getting back into it until I knackered my hip – it’d be too high impact for me now. I’ve only ever played at a very basic level, and I was even struggling to remember all the rules. Watching it played at this level was an education in what sport can be like when people are really really good at it. We saw South Africa v Wales (Wales got gubbed)

South Africa v Walesand Malawi v Scotland (Scotland got gubbed).

Malawi v ScotlandI really enjoyed watching people play with competence and some idea what they were doing. I could see clearly how the Malawi (in particular) were able to anticipate, and position themselves so as to make space and create opportunities. Netball at this level is fast and skilful, and deserves more respect than it usually gets. The Malawi goal shooter, I think her name is Mwayi Kumwenda, was particularly good.

Unfortunately, that was the last of our Commonwealth Games trips. I feel quite sad we won’t be there to see any more, though to be honest I’m knackered and glad of a few lazy days before I go back to work next week.

From what I’ve seen, the Games are very well organised. They’ve clearly thought hard and put a lot of work into the public transport arrangements, and it worked very smoothly for the three venues we attended. Security checks were quick and thorough – airport-style screening machines, but the armed forces personnel doing the screening were much friendlier and pleasanter than any airport security staff I’ve ever dealt with. All of the volunteers we saw or spoke to were friendly, polite and eager to help, as were the train and station staff. My one gripe, and it’s a pretty big one, was the venue food. At the Emirates, I bought a cheese ploughman’s sandwich, nothing special, just a triangular packet of cheese sandwich with pickle and a bit of tomato, for £4, and a ham and cheese for £4.50, plus a bottle of water, a bottle of Irn Bru, two muffins and two caramel logs. Total? £19.40. That was the last vegetarian sandwich they had, so if we’d been any later, I’d have been going hungry. At Hampden, there was a choice of fried food, fried food, extortionately-priced anaemic falafel wraps, £1 pieces of fruit, £2 bars of chocolate, pies or fried food. We gave up at the SECC and took sandwiches. Scotland has a huge problem with dietary related ill-health, and lack of exercise ill-health. If they’re hoping that the legacy of the Games will be better health in Scotland they could at least have tried to set an example with cheaper, healthier food. The pricey, unhealthy food is the one thing I think they’ve really got wrong with this Games (well, that and the embarrassing opening ceremony). Even the lowest-achieving athlete here would baulk at a meal of potato wedges and a £2 giant Twix washed down with fizzy mango juice – why should spectators be fobbed off with that? They could have put a bit of thought into it and showcased cheap, tasty, healthy food from all the Commonwealth countries – it would have been much more inspirational than pies and burgers, even if they did have haggis in them.

On the whole though, we had an amazing 3 days at the Games. If I had more money I’d have loved to have gone to more sessions of any number of different sports. As it is, I’ll be spending the rest of the week glued to the telly to watch the diving! Well done Glasgow – and if any of the volunteers/transport staff/police etc see this post, thank you so much for the hard work you have put into the Games – we really do appreciate it.

Grebbies and Eech

The Commie Pool is now closed until mid-August because of the Commonwealth Games, so today I went to Warrender. Warrender is a Victorian, 25 yard pool, with the tiles shaped to make sloping surfaces where the walls meet the floor. I know I’m very lucky to have an Olympic-standard pool less than a ten minute walk from my flat, but after swimming at the Commie, Warrender is like swimming in a big dirty bath.  Maybe the Commie is that dirty too and I just can’t see because the bottom is so much further away.

The floor of Warrender pool is on a gradient to make a steady transition from the 6ft deep end to the shallow end, unlike the Commie which is set at either 2 metres or 1.25 metres deep. This is going to sound bonkers, but I found swimming towards the shallow end much easier and swimming towards the deep end much harder – like swimming downhill and uphill!

Also, there was a woman doing head-out-of-the-water, very slow old lady breaststroke – with her eyes tightly screwed shut! I think she might do better if she treats herself to goggles.

Stroke development class is finished until the end of August. I’ll miss it. It’s defnitely helping me improve my technique and fitness and become a better swimmer. The other week we tried butterfly again, and I found I can do a 25m length of almost competent butterfly kick, as long as I’m wearing pool fins and have a float under each arm. 😀 For our final lesson of the term, we spent some time doing porpoising. I hadn’t done it before – it’s when you sort of duck dive to the bottom of the pool and put your hands down on the bottom and then bring your head and your top half down and through and then push off from your feet up and into another dive. It’s ace fun, and I was so good that teacher asked me to demonstrate to the rest of the class. 😀 #teachers’pet #waterupthenose I think teacher missed the bit where I got so carried away I forgot to breathe, turned purple and thought I was going to die. It’s such good fun I want to do it again, but you can’t really do it in a lane for public swimming!

The 40-minute round trip to Warrender is going to be a pain compared to the 15-minute round trip to the Commie, and I’m slightly concerned that 2 months of a 25 yard pool will decondition me for a 50 metre pool. As much as I’m looking forward to the Commonwealth Games, I’ll be glad when the Commie opens again.

 

Another fast swim (well, for me)

I did 1200m tonight in 30m19s, with the first km completed in 25m08s. My average time for 50m was 1m15s, and I think for the first time ever, none of my lengths, not even my last length (always backstroke, always much slower) took over 1m30s. In fact, only 2 of the lengths took over 1m20s. I was taking longer rests between lengths; when I just go at a slow steady pace I try not to stop until I’ve done 500m, but still, I’m getting faster overall.

ariel

Wacky Water Races

The past few times I’ve been for a swim in the evening, there has been no slow lane, only open water, medium lane, fast lane, and club swimming. Open water is awful if you want to do lengths so I have been promoting myself to the medium lane. Most of the time it’s been ok; it’s been quiet enough that there has been plenty of space to overtake, and I’ve said to people “I’m usually a slow lane swimmer but there is no slow lane tonight, so I won’t get the hump if you overtake me.”

Tonight was horrid though. It was much busier, and there was a horrible woman who was barging past people and pulling in too soon – she barged me into the lane rope at one point, and other people were muttering too. I tried to swim as fast as I could so as not to hold people up, and managed what I think is my fastest yet – 1km in 24m35s, average 1m10 per 50m length – but I needed much longer recovery periods at the end of the lengths, so it ended up taking me longer! It really hurt my sore shoulder too. I hope they bring the slow lane back; it’s needed.

My first attempts at butterfly

I’m doing a stroke development class at the Commie pool on Friday nights to improve my swimming. I’m enjoying it, and my swimming is improving, and I like that the teacher for this term is Annette, who was my coach when I was having one-to-ones to learn crawl in 2012.  She mixes it up a bit – some weeks are all about technique, some weeks are about fitness and distance, some weeks are predominantly breaststroke (I do the arms but with a crawl kick), some weeks are front and/or back crawl, and last night we tried butterfly.

I think some of the others had done it before last term and in previous terms, but I’d never done it. Well, last week we spent some time doing the legs (but it’s not really legs, it’s more of a whole body thing, even without the arms). Doing just butterfly legs with no arms is really hard because at no point does your head break the surface, so you have to half stop and force yourself up to take a breath and then resume the legs.

Last night was the first time I’d tried doing the full stroke. I have never been less like a butterfly, unless somewhere in history there has been a human-sized butterfly thrashing wildly against the water (not through the water, you understand), flailing cluelessly and gasping for breath with no idea how to make it better. I seemed to slip into crawl legs and had to consciously bring it back to butterfly legs, I couldn’t get my arms right (my left arm is still bad after my flu jag, but my right arm wasn’t doing any better) and I couldn’t get the breathing right. Annette had advised us to try not to breathe, because when you’re learning it throws the rhythm out and it’s better to concentrate on getting the rhythm right and keep breathing to a minimum. But, still, it’s a start.

I am totally channelling Fat Larry’s band tonight

Swam 20 x 50m lengths in 26 mins, 1s, an average of 78s per length. I would have been faster but there were many, many numpties in tonight. But anyway, it’s my fastest ever kilometre over long lengths. My fastest length was 73s (I managed 73s twice).

What made me faster? I concentrated on really exaggerating my rotation in the water.

 

Long swim today

My target for November was 10km, which is lower than my usual targets but I knew I wouldn’t manage as much this month because of various other commitments. Last night I was at 7950m for the month, so I had to do 2050m today to make the target. I could have just not hit the target, but I think I missed it last month too, so I decided to do the lot. (I only swam twice in the first two weeks November because of a bad reaction to my flu jag so I had a lot of distance to make up latterly). I did 2100m today, which is the biggest distance I’ve done for a while. It took me 57m50s, with an average speed of 1m22s per 50m. I’m quite pleased with that – it;s not fast, but I managed to maintain a steady pace all the way through, no slowing down over the last 500m at all. I am tired now though, and need to go to bed.