Inspiration!

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I first met Luke Whitcher in 2008 when he came along to a ‘2 Hour Taster’ back in March of 2008. Recently he contacted me with a progress update: 

Just thought I’d mention to you that post the Taster training from yourself, I am now able to swim in choppy open water for Ironman distances without any problems (thanks for all your help). I am training for the Ironman this March within 2 years of my first Triathlon. I couldn’t even do a lap 2 years ago. Kudos for you and TI for this turnaround. 

I love Luke’s tenacity, especially when it turns out he only qualified with 9 mins to spare in the half-ironman last year! It is no small challenge that this bloke has taken on…

… and yet there is a whole lot more to this story. Luke has an 8 year old son called Joshua who has moderate to severe Autism. This condition means that normal communication is impossible. Luke likens it to being in a foreign airport where you can’t understand a thing. It is hard to imagine a more challenging situation for a parent as you will see if you read more.

Take 15 minutes to read Luke’s story (click here for Mank’s article on Transitions) and let it sink in. WARNING – A BOX OF TISSUES IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!! This is a is a story that will move you deeply…

In short, Luke has taken on the challenges of Ironman to raise $20 000 to help Autism Spectrum Australia’s South East Sydney School buy specialist equipment that will be used to help Josh and other children to engage life more fully.

If you would like to contribute, click here to donate online – your messages of support mean a lot to Luke.

I was curious to know more about Luke’s Ironman training and in particular his swimming. I was delighted that he agreed to answer some questions. Read through to the bottom to find out how you can add your support and get some free TI coaching at the same time.

DB: How is your training going and especially the swim?

LW: Training is beginning to take shape well. My friend / mentor from work has similar views to TI on how to swim and has been coaching me with drills on Wednesday nights – lots of 1 arm, kicks than switch, fist and zipper, multiple breathing reps (i.e. 2 strokes breathe, 3 strokes breathe, 4 strokes breathe, 5 strokes breathe, then back down sequentially to 2), and touch hands prior to pulling back. I do a lot of time trials which is probably against policy, but I do them out in the open water and concentrate on different things each 100m lap (at Ramsgate) e.g. head position 1 lap, then kicking from hips next lap, then gliding for longer (stroke length) etc. I did 3.2k long swim (no wetsuit) last w/e and am doing 3.5k tomorrow morning (again no wet suit – it is in for repairs). I’m obviously more comfortable on land, but interestingly, I have less fear of the 3.8k swim then I do sitting on my rear for 180ks then getting off the bike to run a marathon. So naturally, I’m doing plenty of riding and running as well – this is the biggest week before I go for the race – 7h20m cycle & 3h40m run this w/e then recovery next week, quality for the next 4 and taper for the final 2 weeks. Any ideas for swim ‘Quality’ sessions would be appreciated.

DB: How do you apply TI in your training? What differences have you noticed? 

LW: TI has been great. I’ve used the Open Water swimming book by Terry and applied your own Aussie/British style from our Taster session. The best thing was the feedback from the underwater camera. I was swimming well in terms of the horizontal, however I created a lot of bubbles which suggested a level of jerkyness / rigidity. I had to learn to flow more and relax. I have been using the drills discussed above to help me get through the required stroke improvement. One of the best things is the tracks – I learnt from yourself to swim in the tracks which makes me quite a straight swimmer and less needy of the black line at the bottom. I also used TI to learn to let my head go for the ride. This really helps to keep my breathing strong and reduce neck soreness. 

DB: What are your aims for IM and especially the swim leg?

LW: Its a bit embarrassing that I am such a slow swimmer, but when I consider that I have only been able to complete 1 50m lap of the pool for just two years, I am pretty happy with where I am. My average pool 50m lap time over a long time trial is generally 1:15. So when I did 44m on my 1.9k Half Ironman swim at Port Macquarie in November (closer to 2k seeing I started at the back of the field) I was absolutely stoked. The only thing was a bit of cramping near the end but this was more a result of recovery from a major knee issue after stacking on the bike 5 weeks beforehand. 

DB: Is Josh interested in your training and does he swim?

LW: He finds it hard to communicate at all so teaching him how to swim is nearly impossible, however he did go to specialised classes (Rainbow School) for a few years where he learnt to dog paddle and effectively stay afloat. When I get into the pool with him I try and show him how to go horizontal rather then vertical through the water and sometimes he switches, but his comfort zone is the vertical position. He did watch the TI video with me a couple of times but not sure if he took it all in. He does love me going in the water with him and seems keen on watching how I swim, but not sure what that actually means to him. 

DB: What is the best way for people to support your cause? 

LW: Any donation, no matter what is fantastic from my perspective. We have a current range of $5 to $500 on the fundraising site at the moment and it doesn’t matter, it is just the fact that they have supported me that really matters. Have a look at the comments and see how beautiful people are – I will be carrying these words of encouragement with me on the long journey and believe me when I say, they will help me get over the line. Other ways are really what you are proposing – I would love for challenges to other businesses / organisations from people like yourself and Nashy (the Port Macquarie Picture Framing guy) – your networks are obviously better then mine – I pretty much exhausted my own networks in the first few weeks (still happy to be over the $3k mark, but a long way to go).

If you would like to get involved please leave a message for Luke at the bottom of this article and head over to Luke’s page on gofundraise.com to donate.

If you leave a message here and contribute $200 or more you will be offered a place at our brand new 6 hour / 1 day ‘fast track’ workshop valued at $300. Please email booking@tiswim.com.au to let us know. We haven’t announced this course yet and are working to a March / April launch.

We are also hoping to fit in a 1 hour ‘tune up’ session for Luke to help Luke to get his day off to a cracking start on Sunday 28th Feb. We also hope he can come along to the pool and tell us his stories from race day!

Luke Whitcher, we salute you!

Dunstan Bertschinger (on behalf of TI Australia)

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4 Responses to “Inspiration!”

  1. Dunstan Bertschinger Says:

    That is absolutely brilliant – I can’t thank you enough. Really appreciate this and would definately love to come down as a guest at the April Workshop, so count me in for that.

    I’ll email Sarah Anne directly for a time to meet you – from memory you have to go interstate a lot but if we could meet at North Sydney one lunchtime, that would be awesome. Also looked at Sarah’s response and would be great to have a session with her when you are not available. This is really great of you both – I can’t thank you guys enough.

    I hope you don’t mind, but I am passing the link to the page on to my fundraising coordinator at Aspect to show how a business like yourselves can be such a huge support. Hopefully other businesses can copy your fantastic example.

    Just also want to say that I can’t thank you enough for how much a simple 2 hour session made sense to me enough to make swimming my number one choice in recreational exercise – it has even taken over cycling which I also love.

    From Luke via emal

  2. Dunstan Bertschinger Says:

    Luke wrote

    That is absolutely brilliant – I can’t thank you enough. Really appreciate this and would definately love to come down as a guest at the April Workshop, so count me in for that.

    I’ll email Sarah Anne directly for a time to meet you – from memory you have to go interstate a lot but if we could meet at North Sydney one lunchtime, that would be awesome. Also looked at Sarah’s response and would be great to have a session with her when you are not available. This is really great of you both – I can’t thank you guys enough.

    I hope you don’t mind, but I am passing the link to the page on to my fundraising coordinator at Aspect to show how a business like yourselves can be such a huge support. Hopefully other businesses can copy your fantastic example.

    Just also want to say that I can’t thank you enough for how much a simple 2 hour session made sense to me enough to make swimming my number one choice in recreational exercise – it has even taken over cycling which I also love.

    message from Luke via email

  3. Dunstan Bertschinger Says:

    Sarah Anne wrote

    Such an amazing story of selfless determination inspired by an amazing little boy.

    Let’s help Luke however we can. I’m all for supporting people achieve their goals and it’s worth an million dollars to see them get there knowing we’ve helped in a small way. After all, we can help him swim better but it will be his attitude, determination and love for his son that gets him across the finish line.

    Let me know what I can do to help. Happy to dedicate as many free hours coaching as he needs, or just meet him for some swims.

    Sarah Anne Evans is our Administrator, a qualified TI Coach and the founder of Karmea Fitness, a lifestyle fitness coaching company.

  4. Port Macquarie – Aussie Ironman Champs « Swim all Day Says:

    […] overall. He has been really grateful for the opportunity to share his story with the TI community (you can read it here to read the article if you missed it) and I know that your messages of support and encouragement helped him to dig deep through the […]

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