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.