By Profesional Tri-athlete Raquel Tavares-Torres
Swimming is not my favorite part of the triathlon. For me, triathlons “start” when I hear the click of my helmet. I love to bike and I love to go fast, but at this level, if you want to race like a pro (ITU races), you’ve got to draft with the pros. In other words, I need to get out of the water with the faster competitors because they are also the fast-moving cycling pack.
Despite my parents desire to raise swimmers, I rebelled by falling in love with cycling, specifically, mountain biking. It’s what I did for fun as a teen. While I tried triathlons then too, it wasn’t until nearly 2 years ago that I returned to the event. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for me to race at the Elite level. While hard work and good fortune got me here, I continue to learn and get stronger and more confident in my skills.
After some experience racing at the Elite level, I realized I needed to be a better swimmer and put aside my mixed feelings about jumping in the pool. Though everyone saw me as a strong swimmer, it never quite felt that way to me. Why? I believe it’s because I never fully committed to training in the water.
In order for me to bike with the faster athletes, I also needed to become a better open water swimmer. So, a few months ago, I committed myself to being the best swimmer I can be by concentrating on my weaknesses and I have, thankfully, found lots of room to improve!
First – Get in the water as much as you can. Time in the water is time in the water. Despite my busy schedule, some swimming is better than none. That means that if I need to jump in the pool with my daughter, and she is diving and trying to play with me in between my main set, it’s better than no water time at all.
Second – Listen to a coach’s advice on technique. Athletic Mentors’ Coach Belco’s advice has made me focus on this element of training. Before, my swimming style was a seemingly natural stroke, kick, breathe. However, close attention to technique and a focus on smooth, fast, strong, relaxed is making a huge difference. I no longer “fight” with the water, but move through it, smooth and fast. Coaching matters. Technique matters.
Third – Enjoy the water; learn to love it. Since I’m a very passionate person, I have learned that the best way to excel at something is to have it come “naturally.” The more natural it feels, the easier it becomes. The easier it comes, the better I am at it. If I am better, I love it more. So swimming becomes natural and enjoyable the more time I spend in water and the better my technique becomes. Because fish are natural swimmers, I simply try to imitate them. Smooth and relaxed inevitably, for me, leads to fun. It also leads to speed. Remember, I love to go fast. Fast is fun.
These three things mean I come out of the water with the faster swimmers and, in turn, I hit the road with the faster cyclists. Speed wins. This is my goal. Currently, I average 1:10 in 1,500M workout. My goal is to average 1:07.
While I’ve isolated swimming here, I hope to also improve my transitions, cycling and running. Not only has it been fun to discover room for improvement, but also to discover it was as simple as changing my attitude towards being in the water. Refocus. Examine. Improve.
Raquel Tavares-Torres is currently working towards earning enough individual points to qualify for the Dominican Republic’s 2016 Olympic Triathlon Team.