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Saturday, January 5, 2013

Love is not a victory march... (Jennie swims twice in one day. She used to swim twice a week.)

   There were no fireworks that went off when I finally touched the wall on the last lap of my second swim of the day yesterday.  No giant "Jennie nailed her double swim" banner unfurled; no trumpets played a fanfare.  No one draped a medal over my neck and handed me a hat.  Instead, I was surrounded by a child's birthday party, one other open swimmer-a woman in a skirt bathing suit whose cap was pulled on over her down hair (winter hat style), and the Webster Bluefins, a youth swim club consisting of 8-17 (or so) year olds all likely swimming more quickly than I just had.  No one knew (or cared) that I'd had some sort of small personal victory in the pool that evening.  I pulled myself out of the pool, albeit slightly more slowly than usual.  I took my first couple of steps on deck somewhat gingerly, fearing that the foot cramp I'd been just barely warding off in the water might fire up on land (it didn't).  I wrapped myself in my towel just before I started to shiver.  And, I smiled.  Just a little.

   As a self-proclaimed anti-swimmer, by principle I just can't bring myself to outwardly admit that sometimes, somehow, swimming can have some redeeming qualities.  That's like admitting defeat to myself.  When I slipped up earlier and texted to Mary that I love our normal pool (as far as pools go, I had specified), she proclaimed victory that I had used the words "love" and "pool" in the same sentence (Foiled!  Jennie loses!).  So, although I knew that the day of my first double swim session would come sooner or later, when it finally appeared on my training schedule, I took it upon myself to unceremoniously dread it, with a practically mandatory facebook complaint previewing how I was about to sort of become something resembling a legitimate triathlete.  In reality, though, I was sort of looking forward to finding out what would happen when I attempted as many swims in a day as I used to do in a week.  Now or never, I supposed.

   Swim session #1 went well.  It started well before it even started, actually, simply because "Checkers" (the cute old man who counts his laps with checkers) had returned.  He'd been gone for some time (months), and Dave and I had been discussing him last week.  I had since become concerned about his absence.  Anyways.  In some rare reversal of the norm (the planets must be aligned in some new formation), I found myself trying to slow down to avoid swimming faster than I was supposed to on my initial set of 200s (the rest of your day consists of hill bounding, work, then more swimming-slow down, you idiot!).  When I was finally supposed to swim the last one all out, I ended up swimming faster than I ever had-and found myself oddly unfazed.  I also swam some sort of broken 500 thing as 2x (50 easy/200 hard) with a 5 second "reset" in the middle-and that was faster than any 500 I'd ever swam, including the rest.  I laughed a bit at how awful my swim times truly have been throughout my career.  Swim workout #1, which hadn't been that difficult, had nonetheless been successful.  No matter what happened later on, I'd at least have a couple of good splits in there to give me some hope.

   After the pool, I took to the streets for 10 miles, with some hill bounding in there.  If I was going to give swimming any satisfaction, I'd admit that the swim workout felt better than the running workout.  But, swimming is all smug, so I'll continue to claim that bounding my (offseason weight) self up a hill into a 30-40mph wind at strikingly slow speeds was the best thing I did all day yesterday.  I headed off to work feeling better than expected after the morning's workouts, though.  Mary had been planning to meet me at the pool later on; Dave said that he'd give the double swim a shot, as well.  Mary's presence also meant that I'd have a possible out later on-if I was too fatigued to swim well, she'd said, we'd just turn the workout into a drill session.  Not to mention, company always makes swimming slightly more tolerable.

   Well, as the day progressed, Mary's parenting duties were called upon, and Dave's breadwinning duties (aka, his job) kept him in Buffalo longer than he had planned on this morning, so I was on my own.  This also meant that I no longer had any hope of my swim being changed into that drill session-I was stuck with a set that wasn't killer, but would still test me to some degree, especially given that my Friday evenings normally consist of coming home, not moving, beginning to fall asleep on the couch at nine, and finally going up to bed at ten.  Plus, our normal Irondequoit HS pool isn't open on Friday evenings, so I was being taken away from the bright confines that have become my home away from my home away from home (I figure that work technically would be my home away from home, because I spend more time there than anywhere else that isn't home, but after that, it's probably the pool), and thrust into the new environment of the Friday evening Webster aquatic center (a worthy alternative, albeit one that runs the risk of patients seeing me in my bathing suit).

   When 5pm rolled around, I was encouraged by the fact that I wasn't feeling like I was ready for bed.  I headed to the WAC, fully mentally prepared to get the ball rolling, walked in, looked for the sign in...and was informed that the pool didn't open until 6.  I was briefly concerned that the 30min wait might kill my non-sleepiness (and strange pool motivation), and I could hear the swimming gods laughing at me.  I waited it out, though, and was rewarded with free entry into the pool for my patience (what does it say about people that I was rewarded for not freaking out over my own schedule reading mistake? Thank you, pool sign in lady!).  Open swim lanes were limited, but luckily enough for me, no one wants to swim on a Friday evening (other than the previously mentioned skirt bathing suit lady, and another skirt bathing suit lady who water walked for half an hour), so I was all by my solitary self in the lane.  Within the first couple of laps of the workout, I had some sort of swimming revelation-I was just...doing.  I wasn't obsessing, I wasn't dreading what was to come, I wasn't thinking about how fast I was(n't) going, I was just putting in the laps-it wasn't necessarily mindless, it was more just automatic.  Something was switched inside of me-I just got "it".  By "it", I mean how swimmers can tolerate the monotony of just continually moving back and forth in the water, lap after lap, hour after hour.  You  I think I can do this and not go nuts, I thought, and I didn't mean the workout at hand; I meant all of the increased yards in the pool that are to come.

   Workout #2 was fairly straightforward and simple (disclaimer: I'm about to reveal how much I truly suck at swimming.  Some will think that I'm not as bad as my race times might suggest, others will read this and think, wow, her awful race swims are real!  She really IS that slow!  Look at those intervals she's all excited about-I can swim that with one arm and ankle bands!  My own former swimmer sister laughs at me-rightfully so.  It's not "self-deprecating" wouldn't be a normal descriptor of how I usually describe my swimming abilities, after all.  I'm not going to make any apologies for my lack of swim speed, it just is what it is right now, and I'm encouraged with the gains I'm making, even though I'm still way down on the totem pole.  For a brief history of my swimming career, I refer to this blog post.)  After warming up, the workout started out with 5x200 on 3:15, aiming for 2:55-3:00, then went to 5x100 on 2:00, shooting for 1:17"ish" (that part is freaking hard for me), and finishing with 10x50 on 1:00, aiming for 45ish (easy).  Based upon the morning's workout, the 200s should have been manageable, the 100s were going to suck, and the 50s should be fine, assuming I wasn't entirely broken by that point.  Part of the beauty of the WAC is that, unlike Irondequoit, where digital clocks on both ends sometimes make it impossible to not check my speed, the clocks can't be seen in certain lanes-including the one that I had chosen.  So, I swam the first 200 by feel...and came in on 2:46.  I tried to back off a bit on the second one...and again came in on 2:46.  #3?  Another 2:46.  I had officially entered the "screw it" realm, and finished the set in 2:45, 2:44.  That had quickly become the best set of 200s in my life-and it wasn't even that bad.  Maybe I'd lose it on those 100s and completely miss my goal times.  Maybe I'd surprise myself and be fine.  I was already in uncharted swimming territory, so, well, why not find out how far I could take myself?  Again, another total reversal from my previous attitudes towards were swimming, which generally avoided any of the unnecessary swimming discomfort that I'm constantly trying to force myself to embrace.

   The 100s?  I hadn't screwed myself entirely.  I struggled and hurt, but that's exactly what was supposed to happen.  The water was thickening, it seemed, my arms and upper back were protesting more and more with each stroke, the generous 2:00 interval began to pass all too quickly.  Still...1:17.  1:17, 1:16.  Hold on, Jennie.  1:16.  One freaking more.  Do NOT lose it now.  You HAVE this. 1:16.  Worst is over.  The rest is easy.  And it was.  The 50s passed like nothing- (I even got wild and crazy, and started swimming 40's on :55).  I stretched out my wrecked arms, enveloped by the water.  I let my legs drag along for the ride.  My feet and toes started to cramp here and there.  Flipping over onto my back to cooldown felt fantastic at the time.  I even added a few hundred yards to that cooldown, although I was really pushing my luck with the foot cramp by that time.  

   And when all was said and done, I'd swam just over 2 hours on the day, for a total of 7000 yards, with 200y and 500y prs in there, and my best 200 and 100 sets in there.  A drop in the bucket compared to what real swimmers (and most serious triathletes) do on a regular (daily) basis, but a small victory for my weak ass shoulders, nonetheless.  I realized that I had experienced the sort of fatigue in my arms that had previously been reserved for my legs during long runs sessions, and I loved it.  Maybe that's been my problem with swimming all these years-I've just never been taken to the point of pure, blissful exhaustion, of being pushed towards the brink.  Sure, I've hurt and hurt good in the pool before, but this was somehow different.  Usually, my pool pain had been the sort that's reversible with brief rest, i.e. the lung-searing type of discomfort that comes because I generally like to breathe, and I don't get to while swimming.  What I felt last night was somehow different, and I somehow loved how my body felt as I dragged myself back to my car and plopped in the driver's seat.  Taking a minute to catch my breath wasn't going to change anything by that point.

   So...what now?  Well, yesterday obviously wasn't any sort of finish line, more just like another step forward.  In another year from now, I'll probably look back at this and laugh at how I once thought I was badass for swimming twice in one day, as it'll probably be the norm by then (with longer individual sessions to boot)-just like how century rides became the norm, when the first one had been a revelation for me.  But, sometimes it's nice to enjoy our accomplishments along the way a little bit.  Steps forward are different for everyone, and there's no use in putting oneself down constantly because others might be doing more and doing it faster.  We're all somewhere, we have different priorities and time commitments and hopes and talents-in the end, our victories are our own in this sport.  My biggest victory yesterday?  It's not any repeat or set or time.  It's that I'm just dreading the pool ever so slightly less now.  I'm taking it all with a grain of salt, because swimming for me has always been variable and fickle, often 2 steps forward, 1.9 steps back.  Monday might just suck again.  But, I now know that I have it inside of myself to take it to another level, to make it automatic, to fully leave all of my swim energy in the water.  It won't be pretty, it won't be easy, it won't be the most fun I've ever had in my life, but it'll be worth it.  And I'm ready to go.


1 comment:

  1. Good job today Jennie, This spring. This day won't be remembered. However. For some reason our bodies will. Hammer time !