Mike Brown’s Story

In January, 2016, Coach asked Tri-Dawg Mike Brown to write about his experience with the DSF Tri-Dawgs.  We wanted to share his story with the Ironman Foundation who gave the Tri-Dawgs a $500 grant to enhance our OWS training. Here is Mike’s story:

Hello, my name is Mike Brown, I’m 57 years old and in 2015 I signed up to complete my first full Ironman, Ironman Maryland (IMMD).  To be honest, I’m really a marathoner (having run over 20 marathons and several Bostons) who only recently has gotten into triathlons.

When I signed up for IMMD, I realized that the swim was my weakest event and so I looked for some help in this area.  That is when I found the Delaware Swim and Fitness TriDawg club.  Some of my running friends are also triathletes and they suggested I join.  What a great club!  The club meets every Saturday for a pool swim and in the spring and summer they have open water swimming (OWS) at Lums Pond.

I have completed several shorter distance triathlons and the swim has always caused my blood pressure to rise the most.  It is the only event I actually worry about dying in.  In my first triathlon (a sprint distance), I made the mistake of being in the front of my age group when the race started.  I didn’t realize that swimming could be a contact sport until almost everybody in my age group, swam over me as we headed out to the first buoy.  It is very disconcerting when you turn your head for a breath of air and somebody else’s arm hits your face or splashes water into your mouth.   Also, there are no lines in a lake or river you can follow to see that you are swimming in a straight line.  Apparently, I tend to pull to the right when I swim because every time I looked up, I was about 50-100 yards to the right of where I thought I was.  I think I swam about 0.75 miles for a 0.5 mile swim.

That is why I was excited to go to the open water swim practices at Lums Pond.  Here I was able to recreate swim race conditions in a more relaxed environment.  This allowed me to become comfortable swimming when I can’t see or feel the bottom, it enabled me to learn how to site better so I swim straight toward a buoy instead of zig-zagging toward it, it also enabled me to deal with leg cramps on a swim without freaking out.  While we didn’t have as many people as you typically have during a race, it also enabled me to swim around people or to realize that I’m being passed by somebody without bumping into them.   An additional bonus was I could see the types of wetsuits other triathletes own and discuss with them the advantages and disadvantages of each.  After my first OWS practice, I purchased a full length wetsuit from XTERRA.  Now I could practice putting my wetsuit on and more importantly taking it off quickly.  Wearing a wetsuit helped to calm my nerves because the additional buoyancy of the wetsuit meant that I could stop swimming for a minute and not worry about sinking.

By the end of summer when the OWS practices stopped, I was feeling very confident about completing the swim portion of IMMD.  Gone were my fears about dying in the water.  While swimming is still my weakest event, I did notice that my siting had improved dramatically to the point where I was completing a loop quicker than several people who swim faster than me in the pool.

In October 2015, I successfully completed IMMD!!  While the swim portion was still my slowest, once we got in the water, my nerves settled down and I didn’t experience any of the fear that had marked earlier triathlon swims.  My siting was much improved, I successfully dealt with a leg cramp at mile 1.5 and I was much better with both passing people and being passed by people.  I credit the TriDawg OWS practices at Lums Pond with these improvements.   Now I just need to work on speed improvements in the swim and bike and it’s off to Kona.