‘The Washing Machine’: Summit locals prep for Ironman triathlons with Breckenridge Master’s Swimming
Breckenridge local and U.S. Master’s Swimming coach Jaime Brede calls it “The Washing Machine.”
It’s that feeling — that spot — while swimming in a competitive race when air bubbles cloud your vison underwater, splashes skew your sight above the water line and, generally, your nerves spike a bit — or a lot.
For anyone who has been in a triathlon similar to today’s Ironman Boulder, The Washing Machine is that familiar, helter-skelter feeling and place to start off a daunting 140.6-mile swim-bike-run race. That’s why Brede makes it a point to simulate, as best she can, the psychological pressure, conditions and necessary energy output of a chaotic triathlon swim environment when she hosts her Master’s Swimming class at the Breckenridge Recreation Center each Tuesday and Thursday morning.
“It takes you from survival mode all the way to enjoyment,” Brede said, “to where — and I think that’s the goal of all of this — you come to enjoy open-water swimming. Because open-water swimming, I call it backcountry swimming. It’s a beautiful style of swimming. And if you can use all of these experiences to get comfortable and go swim in some high-alpine lakes, go swim in the ocean, go swim a couple miles when on vacation with family at beach, I think that’s the beauty of swimming. That’s the essence.”
In a recreation-crazed place like Colorado, there is certainly no shortage of triathlon or swim coaches. Brede’s Master’s Swimming students, though, feel there is an added benefit to training with others in the Master’s Swimming environment. For a swimmer like Carolyn Wyborney of Dillon, who will race at Ironman Boulder Sunday, there is the camaraderie of your lane mates. There is the innate competitive encouragement to keep up with those around you, and there is The Washing Machine.
“Being able to swim in close proximity to others at a pace that they may not be comfortable with is invaluable for triathletes, because that’s triathlon,” Brede said. “You don’t have your own lane. It’s not quiet. It’s rough and rugged.”
Wyborney said her weekly attendance at Master’s Swimming was the primary reason why she felt confident heading into November’s Ironman Florida that she would do well in the race’s intimidating ocean swim. Wyborney’s mental approach to the swim was a world away from where the former ultra-marathoner was just five years ago. Back then, she couldn’t even swim across a pool before putting her feet down out of fear.
“My first sprint (triathlon) I did I had to dog paddle and the kayaker followed me across the water,” Wyborney said. “My first two half Irons, I did with a snorkel — which is no longer legal. Before that, I couldn’t make it across the pool. In fact, I had my oldest son try to teach me, and I just about cried. I thought, ‘I’m athletic, I do weights, I run,’ and I couldn’t make it across the pool without standing up.”
Now Wyborney does much more than that. Last year she succeeded at Ironman Boulder in besting her swim-leg goal of 90 minutes by 2 minutes. This year, she’d like to see that number dip to 1 hour and 25 minutes. If it does, she’ll credit Master’s Swimming and Brede with continuing to push her.
“She walks the talk,” Wyborney said of Brede.
Brede breaks down the Master’s Swim class typically into four different lanes, furthest to one side are beginners like Wyborney. On the other side, there are some of Summit County’s top, competitive endurance athletes. Tuesday classes are more sprint-focused, skills that can help a triathlete separate themselves during the beginning of a chaotic race or, say, to maneuver around clusters of swimmers or around a buoy in open water. Thursdays are more endurance-focused, stretching swimmers to, week-by-week, get used to the demand of such events as an Ironman Triathlon’s 2.4-mile swim.
For swimmers like Wyborney, the workout itinerary can seem daunting. But, a short time later, the team of lane mates has pushed through it together. Brede dubs that positive benefit of swimming with others as “athletic Darwinisim.” It’s an element of rising to the occasion simply because others around you share the same energy of a mutual goal.
“I just remember thinking, ‘I can’t finish all of that. That’s way too much.’” Wyborney said. “But as you break it down into small pieces, your lane mates encourage you to sit out and push hard whenever it’s time for each. Everyone is there for their own athleticism, but they are encouraging.”
One of Wyborney’s old lane mates is Michelle Lyman of Breckenridge. Like Wyborney, Lyman has competed in double-digit Ironman events and will compete at Ironman Boulder today.
Lyman credited Master’s Swimming with helping to continue to push both her body’s limits and her mental toughness on a weekly basis. Lyman knows how crucial discipline, self-belief and mental toughness is for Ironman triathlons. Last year she suffered a mechanical breakdown on her 112-mile bike leg that would have made many competitors quit on the spot. Unable to shift gears, she gutted out the bike and walked the 26.2-mile marathon running-leg of the race to finish the Ironman despite triple-digit heat in Boulder.
This year, conditions will be much different for her and Wyborney. With the lingering cold temperatures and continued spring runoff, the water will be much colder than last year. But Lyman is confident she’s ready for whatever Mother Nature throws her way. And much of that confidence comes from weekly attendance at the Breck Rec Master’s Swim which, for many, is the best triathlon-preparation swimming program in a county where outdoor swims are simply not an option.
“Jaime is a tough coach but I think that’s what you need when you are not getting the outdoor swims in,” Lyman said. “I’m training at kind of a higher level than I was training before when swimming by myself, because of the people pushing you. Last year in Boulder, I was real relaxed. I remember that morning sitting and thinking, ‘Everything that had to be done is done.’ I was sitting there on the ground waiting for the race to start with a real calm about me.”
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