On Sunday, I had the most amazing opportunity to attend a special swimming session at a pool only 15 minutes away from me with one of the people who I am most inspired by in swimming and openwater swimming - Cassie Patten - Olympic Bronze Medallist in the 10k openwater swim in Beijing, 2008! Swim Tour is organised by Total Swimming to bring professional instructors and Olympians to venues around the country in association with Speedo (the swimming manufacturer) and Decathlon (the multisport store, which is opening in Oxford this week). I found out about it quite by chance when I saw a tweet from Cassie about it and couldn't pass up this opportunity. So I quickly signed up and persuaded Claire to come along with me too!
The pool was already very busy when we arrived with people from the previous session and people arriving for the session that we'd signed up for. We were warmly welcomed by Stephen Parry (Olympic Butterfly Bronze in Athens...) and given the option of doing something more pool orientated or something more openwater/triathlete orientated. Since Claire is training for a half ironman and I'm training for Windermere, and since Cassie was leading that session, we went in that lane.
We had a good basic set of instruction where we focused on different aspects of the stroke in turn - breathing, head position, rotation, catch, and although this was nothing new to me, it is always good to take the time to think about your stroke. I was very pleased when Cassie asked if I'd been a club swimming when I was younger because I thought that was quite a compliment! We then went onto doing some openwater drills which was fun, as well as practising sighting, which Cassie recommended was done a bit differently to how I usually do it. Cassie also talked through how focusing on breathing could help if anxious in openwater which I think was something for both Claire and myself to take away. This all took about an hour, and then there was a bit of free time, so I just made the most of being in the pool for a bit longer. We then did a relay race against another lane and were then given the option of either getting out and doing some stretching or going and doing a bit of butterfly with Stephen (see above...quite a good person to learn butterfly from). Of course, we couldn't resist that and it was very entertaining. Neither Claire nor I can really swim butterfly, but we were told that it needs to be driven by the leg-kick, which we were not much good at, kicking from the knee rather than from the hip. However, we were both given fins and it made it a lot easier! We would both like to have butterfly lessons now.
That was the end of the session, but I couldn't leave without getting a photo with Cassie. She had brought along her Olympic medal for us to see - it is a big chunky thing! She was really nice and we talked about broken wrists - she broke hers coming off a bike in May 2012 - and about my hope to swim Windermere this year. I said that I had always wanted to meet her, so I am very happy that I got a photo as well as the memory of a great morning out.