Monday, December 22, 2014

Swimming Keeps Me Sane

Say what?   The title of this blog even makes me pause and look again.  Did I really just say that swimming keeps me sane?  Am I truly no longer a "swammer"?  (I love that word--it's a person who used to be a swimmer in high school or college, but no longer is a chlorine addict!) 

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I decided to undertake a most unusual challenge--one in the pool.  I heard about this swimming distance challenge from someone in a local triathlon group. It was being put on by a local triathlon coach, Tracy Hendershot of Swim With Tracy.  Swim for 4 hours... okay, a bit crazy.  Set a goal of 5K, 8K, or 10K yards... oh, now you've got me.  A goal. I do love goals!  And only one person did 10,000 yards last year?  Hmmm... now you've got my interest piqued!  It didn't take much for me to push the "register" button and sign up for the challenge. 

Honestly, I didn't know what to expect from myself.  I hadn't swam for more than an hour since I was 20 years old.  I hadn't swam any further than 4,000 yards since then, either.  I wasn't sure how my body would respond once I got past the 2,000 yards or so that it was used to doing.  But I was willing to give it a shot.  I recruited one of my favorite people, Steph, as a counter/support person.  Two of her other friends were also doing the challenge, so it was a perfect chance for her to sit and watch people swim lap after lap after lap. Sounds entertaining, right?  Only a true friend will do that for you.  Steph showed up with her A-game, toting coffee for everyone and wearing a super-awesome supportive t-shirt!

The challenge started promptly at 8 AM on December 14; swimmers started arriving at around 7:40 to get ready to get in.  I had brought various types of fuel, as I was unsure of what I would need.  Back in high school, we did 10,000 yards in practice at least once every week or two, and fueling was never spoken of.  Now, though, I wasn't sure.  I would never dream of running for 4 hours without fuel... so I packed GU gels, bananas, Clif bars, water and GU Brew (electrolyte drink).  I figured I'd try whatever sounded best as I swam.

I had pre-planned how I was going to do the swim. I wanted to take it 1000 yards at a time, so I brainstormed several 1000-yard sets that I could do (e.g. 10x100 alternate freestyle and backstroke). I knew this would make the time go by much more quickly than just doing lap after lap after lap of freestyle.  I wasn't married to my plan, though, as I wasn't sure how many people would be in my lane and what their plans would be.

As it turned out, I shared my lane with a female triathlete who was around my age and an older male who was a former collegiate water polo player.  Both were a bit slower than me, but not much, and both knew proper lane etiquette, so we all did our own thing. They were done much earlier than I was, as they did 5,500-6,000 yards each, so I actually had my own lane for a good deal of the time that I was swimming.  Every so often Tracy would put someone else in my lane for a bit.  I just kept circle-swimming and trucking along.  My favorite set (which I did twice) was 10x100 on :10 rest, odds free/back, evens free/breast.  I also did 5x200, 400-300-200-100 ladder, 2x500.  Fuel-wise, I ended up using a GU about an hour in.  I sipped on GU Brew throughout.  I had a half of a Clif Bar about halfway through, and a banana about 3/4 of the way through.  I never felt like I needed energy... mostly I just felt bored!  Yep, swimming for that long was B-O-R-I-N-G.  I lived for the breaks I would take every 1000 yards, short as they were, just so I could chat with Steph for a couple of minutes.  

With 1000 yards to go, I decided to go ahead and try a challenge set of 5x100 free on 1:30, a set I can barely do during a one-hour workout, let alone after swimming for almost 3 hours already. Not sure what I was thinking, but after two repeats I scrapped that idea and just swam whatever for the final 800 yards.  I think the chlorine was having a weird effect on my brain or something!

The full swim of 10,000 yards ended up taking me 3 hours and 10 minutes.  I was pretty pleased with that time, and if I do this again, I'll definitely have a time goal of sub-three hours. (What, are you surprised?  I gotta have goals LOL!)  My "prize" for this swim: a certificate and a swim cap.  At least I'm not a huge bling person!  For me, this was more about doing something that I just wasn't sure if I could do. I knew when I ran my first 5K, my first half, my first full, that I would be able to finish. This swim, I just wasn't sure about it, especially given the time limit.  I love proving things to myself :)

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