Wednesday, 21 March 2012
I attended my second Swim Smooth clinic yesterday, at Corby International Pool, to brush up on my Freestyle stroke technique and see the innovative new Huub suit which will be released next month.
Paul Newsome was amazed that I had arrived without a pull buoy, as last year I was unable to swim even one length of the pool without one. The confidence that I gained from my last Swim Smooth workshop has meant that I have now competed in Disability Swimming competitions at both Regional and National level and in April I have my first International level competition. The disability swimming classification system is based on functional ability and ANY movement the swimmer is able to make to complete the recognised stroke must be attempted. This has meant me having to relearn to use my legs (I am classified S8/S7/SM8) but has had tremendous positive benefits to both my fitness and my body shape-I proudly told Paul that I had put an inch on my hips and now had a bum again! My size 8 jeans are no longer shapeless...
The pool and theory lessons were excellent as usual, but I was itching to swim in a wetsuit again and compare the Huub to my top end Blue Seventy Helix and Zone 3 Vanquish suits. As a TRI1 paratriathlete, I use upper body strength only throughout the swim, so it's really important to get as much flexibility as possible in this area of the suit, but still retain core stability to keep me straight in the water and allow good body roll. Putting on the suit was amazingly easy, the supersoft and flexible 3mm Yamamoto neoprene in the women's Aura suit felt great and didn't give me that 'thunder thighs' look of other wetsuits. The arms and legs were not overly long or big in the Ladies small size either. I am a petite five foot, 51kg, 'lean' athlete (thanks Adam for that lovely comment!) so this suit was almost a perfect fit, although had a bit of excess around the midriff that the size smaller would eliminate.
The all round even buoyancy kept me floating confidently on the surface of the water and the suit did not feel constrictive at all. The neck seal was smooth and high enough that I also didn't get that flush of water down every time I tried bilateral breathing. I am naturally buoyant and have good body position in the water and this suit is designed to complement that.
Adam set me off on a paced 100m swim against one of the faster female swimmer's in the group, who I hadn't have been able to match without a wetsuit. My swimming felt surprisingly effortless with my less than perfect core supported and kept straight by the 'X-O skeleton' of firmer material. I didn't seem to cross over with my weaker left arm either due to the over-reach system built into the back of the suit. I experimented with a straight arm recovery, 'windmilling' aka Harry Wiltshire to finish with almost perfectly matched splits and loads of energy for a sprint finish. I then used a tempo trainer and upped my stroke rate. When Adam asked how fast I thought I'd done the 100m, I was absolutely astounded to discover that I had surpassed my previous PB by a whopping 10 seconds and I wasn't even at maximal effort!! I had also already gone well beyond my swim target race pace for this year, which I thought would take many more months to achieve!
I've decided to up my race distance this year to Olympic as it is an Olympic year for us in GB, and am heading to the New York City Paratriathlon on July 8th, which is the first competition ever to offer prize money for paratriathletes. The 1500m swim was a daunting prospect as I thought the longer distance would increase my shoulder fatigue and cause me problems on the hand bike and wheelchair run. If I can get my hands on one of these new Huub suit's, I'm looking at new PB's and swimming faster than I've ever dreamed of...
Now, if only they would allow wetsuits at the British International Disability Swimming Champonships, I would be in with a chance to medal :-)