Race Tri swim clinic at the Manila Creek Pond

I almost didn’t go to the Black Ridge Reservoir triathlon clinic, tonight, because I woke up from a nap and found the time was getting short.  When I couldn’t find my swimming jammers, I almost bagged it.  But then, realizing I wouldn’t be satisfied with a half-effort, I started looking through my triathlon bag and found (dang it) my tri shorts.  Good enough.

So I jumped in my trusty truck (which, frankly, doesn’t get enough props in this blog) and headed to the Manila Creek Pond in Pleasant Grove.  I’d never been here before, but when I arrived, I knew that I’d found another great place to spend quality swimming time.

Arriving only four minutes late, I walked down to the shore where a group formed to learn from Heath Thurston, a competitive swimmer, who has had some Ironman experience.

Before entering the pond, Heath covered several topics:  Group starts, sighting, warming up before races, buoy turns (wanna corkscrew, here), etc.  I knew that sighting and breathing was going to be my focus, tonight.

When we finally got into the water, I noticed how much cooler this pond is, compared to Utah Lake.  MUCH cooler, in fact.  It made me really look forward to some cooler weather, because, frankly, the lake is way too hot, these days.  Noted:  I’ll be hitting this body of water from time to time, because it’s quiet, has ducks (this is a bonus, but I can’t explain why), and has cool water running into it.

The first thing that I tried to incorporate into my stroke, was a new (to me) breathing technique, while sighting.  When sighting, I’ve been using my arm to push the water down, as I bring my body up to sight.  Also, I’m taking a breath before I sight.

Heath threw this concept out, stating that the best thing to do is to keep one arm in front of you as a stabilizer, which lifting your head slightly out of the water.  Take your peek, turn your head to the side while breathing in and blow out into the water, again.

Putting this all into practice, we swam and sighted across the width of the pond.  The first time across, I nervously swam fast, not even trying to put this new lesson into my stroke. It was weird.  I still have a lot to learn about calming down in groups (or when I’m scared of buoys or sharks or whatever.)

On the way back, I let everyone start in front of me, so that I could do my own thing.  Within about 3 cycles, I started to get it.  Stroke, leaving my stabilizing arm out, slightly raise my eyes out of the water and take a “snapshot” of what’s in front of me, turn my head to the side as I take a quick breath, and my head goes back into the water to continue on.

By the time I got back to the starting shore, I felt like this was something I could incorporate into my stroke in time for Saturday’s Deer Creek Open Water Marathon Swim.  This alone, was worth going to the clinic…and it still had more to give.

At the end, we practiced group starts, in close quarters.  It’s one of the most feared parts of a triathlon for beginners (and sometimes for those of us who have done a tri or two.)  In the swimming part of a triathlon, sometimes you get bumped, swam over, swam under, or worse.  We did a couple more group starts and then the clinic ended.

This clinic was well worth the time.  So thanks, Heath and the guys at Race Tri, for taking some time out for us at the Manila Creek Pond.  A lot of Black Ridge triathletes (and one Deer Creek open water swimmer) will be better off this Saturday, for the lessons we learned, today.  Good luck, guys.

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