Thursday, May 15, 2014

Lapping it up

(The prompt for today is to write a story in the first person. I do that all the time, and pondered writing the story in a non-human voice, in, for instance, the voice of my cat. However, I had a really good swim so I decided to keep the triathlon thread rolling.)

I finally broke the 2,000 yard barrier today.

In the swimming pool, that is.

2,000 meters (or 2 kilometers) is the swim distance for a half-Ironman. The Olympic Distance triathlon is just slightly shorter at 1,500 meters so I feel that if I'm swimming 2,000 yards comfortably and consistently, I'm training well for the swim. Usually this is not a problem. Swimming and I are good friends. Swimming was the first sport I took up as a child and even though I think it took me about three years to learn how to float, once I got that basic skill down I was fearless in water. Swimming relaxes me, and loosens my muscles. When I'm swimming at the Saratoga Springs YMCA, I particularly like the little bout of self-pampering that swimming allows me to indulge in: five to ten minutes first of getting warm and toasty in the whirlpool, the swim, followed by a little more time in the whirlpool, the steam room and sauna.

This year, however, swimming has presented a bit of a challenge. I seem to have a pinched nerve in my left shoulder blade, which leaves my left arm feeling a bit achy around the deltoid. While swimming often eases the pain, I also seem to experience intensified bouts afterwards. As a result, I've been swimming a bit less and cycling and running more, hoping that rest, self-massages, and light stretching will help the problem take care of itself. Since mid-March, the strategy seems to have worked. I have been waking up without any pain and the sudden shoots of throbbing aches have eased considerably.

But it has felt that I'm lagging in my swim workouts.

On the surface, I've reasoned that it doesn't matter too much. A long-distance swimmer who has watched me swim at the Y has pronounced my stroke and my movements "smooth and fine", and a 60-year-old man who is a veteran of several half-Ironman events and is training for his first Ironman watched me swim in the pool and commended my strong stroke. He in particular encouraged me not to invest too much training time into the swimming since I already was strong in the category, and to work on my weaker events, particularly cycling.

Still, with all this good advice, I know my body better than others, and know that while I can bounce back from a respite in a particular sport, it does seem to be a bit harder to immediately regain speed and endurance loss in swimming than other sports. So I have tried to swim at least twice a week, and have tried to make my workouts a little bit longer each time.

I wasn't going to swim long today, but when I walked out of my office building and into the parking lot, I was hit by thick, warm, moisture-saturated spring air. It was about 75 degrees and muggy. Most people might consider those conditions unpleasant. I do, except when I'm contemplating yoga or swimming. In both cases, that kind of air seems to help warm my muscles and make them loose and flexible. As a result, feeling the thick humidity seep into my skin got me excited. It was a perfect day for a swim.

I spent my mandatory ten minutes in the whirlpool, then headed for the pool. Conditions were even more pleasant than usual there, too. Not only were there just three or four others in the pool but all eight lanes were open for lap swimming. That's a rare treat for those who share pool space with many other persons and purposes. I swam 700 yards, then added some kicking and pulling. At the 1,200 yard mark, I decided to try eight 100-yard sprints. Well, I should qualify the word sprint: I am enormously gentle on myself when it comes to speed work. It takes me about 2 minutes and 10 seconds to swim 100 yards. So I did these intervals in a way that was aimed at maintaining the same pace but decreasing the rest time with each interval. I got to rest for 50 seconds between the first and second interval, which means I did the interval on the 3 minute mark. For the next round, I reduced the rest time to 45 seconds, then 40, then, 35, 30 and finally 25. Interval number #7 seemed absolutely crazy. I stopped, shook the water out of my nose, glanced at the pace clock and gasped. I had go immediately. I did, but then took a good rest between intervals #7 and #8.

I ended the workout with an easy 100-yard cool down and climbed out of the water feeling satisfied. I was a little slower but not crazily so. I didn't feel any aches and I felt a great deal of pride. Two thousands yards, I found myself thinking. Just a day's work. Do-able to the nines.

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