My Achilles Heel

SR Tri pool entry

I was never a swimmer. I mean, I swam as a kid in that I eventually let my parents remove the floaties, took some lessons,  and was capable of saving my life. I even took swim “tests” in the school swimming pool during the 3 weeks it was warm enough in England to be in an outdoor pool without getting hypothermia, passed them all (one involved demonstrating 4 strokes and, since I couldn’t do butterfly I did “sidestroke”…perfectly acceptable) and so was allowed to swim/splash around in the deep end.

I swam with my head above the water. Didn’t like wearing goggles, never got the breathing right, and so swam every stroke like a turtle. You can probably guess that I was most proficient at backstroke.

So it’s not really a surprise that swimming is my weakest of the 3 events in triathlon (4 if you count transition, as I like to do, since I’m pretty good at that). My swim is so weak, in fact, that I spend the remainder of the race passing people in order to catch up.

On Sunday I participated in my local tri, South Riding Triathlon. I was 2nd female overall. Yay me! But…I ranked 32nd on the swim. (2nd on the bike, 1st on the run.) The 1st place female swam over two minutes faster than me for 400m. And beat me by 48 seconds. Yeah, she’s a former pro triathlete, swam and ran for Stanford, won the Foot Locker High School Cross Country Championships, so I should be elated I ran faster than her, but I’m just bummed I couldn’t swim 50 seconds faster.

SR Tri out of pool

Next year I’ll compete on Team USA at the ITU World Championships in Edmonton, Canada. I have the slowest swim time of all the qualifiers in my age group. By 45 seconds.

I had told myself that if I didn’t qualify for the US Team, I’d quit swimming and focus on duathlon. But I did qualify. And there really aren’t that many duathlons in my area. Triathlons are much more popular.

So. I have one year to work on my swim. One year to the World Championships. I do not want to be the last person out of the water. And I don’t want to lose another tri by 48 seconds because of my swim.

And I know this goes against what I’ve been saying for some time: that my swim really doesn’t matter (because clearly it does) or that it would take too much work to take off a few seconds, or that I don’t care.

Because I do care. Of course I care.

And that’s my Achilles heel.

Many thanks to my husband for taking these pictures of me even though he was racing too….he won his age group! In case you’re interested, he beat me on the swim. By a second. (Crushed me on the bike. Thank goodness I still have him on the run.)


  1. I am so excited to see you crush it in Edmonton, in fact I’d like to come and cheer you on… I hope I can make that happen. Thinking about give me the chills, I know you can do this, I know you will put your heart and soul into the training and one year from today, you will achieve your goal. xoxo
    Lisa @ RunWiki recently posted..Getting Ready for Hood to Coast with Nuun Team WatermelonMy Profile

    • Alison Gittelman says:

      It would be wonderful if you could be there, but even if you can’t I know I will still hear you!

  2. Congrats on the awesome finish at the local triathlon! I am sure you can shave down your swim time with the timeframe you have for the World Championships. Can’t wait to see you do it throughout this year!
    Cynthia @ You Signed Up For What?! recently posted..We Drove 4 Hours To Swim 10 MinutesMy Profile

  3. You did great and raced your heart out. In a different swim (non-pool) your time would have been better but I love your dedication and commitment. You are already on your way as you’ve just completed a swim class as I type!

  4. i think you should come down here and let my husband coach you in the swim. He’s an awesome swimmer and swim coach. Actually, feel free to email him. I know he can help!

  5. I’m telling you, you’ve got to look into Total Immersion style swimming. It works.

    The entirety of swimming is technique and confidence. Technique for efficiency, confidence for not being afraid of the water. You can do it!
    Rob recently posted..END WET Part 2: The Long SwimMy Profile

  6. Unfortunately I think you’re at a level where the swim can’t be ignored anymore, if you want to stay a weaker swimmer, there’s always the mid-pack/back-of-pack age group crew! Otherwise… IN THE POOL! IN THE POOL!
    Axel (@apkussma) recently posted..NEXTMy Profile

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