For the month of April, I had set myself what I considered to be a lofty goal of around 35,000-40,000 meters each week. The aim of this goal was to prepare myself for both physical and mental aspects of the upcoming EndWet swim.
Let’s start with the physical
In the first 3 month of the year, I was procrastinating for many reasons already discussed in prior blogs, however this also has to be put in perspective that at the end of March with my “lower mileage”, I had still covered over 850,000 meters (528 miles) over the prior 12 months. This at least means I was going in with a good base, however there is a difference in going from the recent months of 30-35 miles to my April aim of 80-100 miles. In setting my goal for the month, I did look back at my records of previous swim highs since I returned to swimming, a little over 5 years ago, and the high point was 82 miles in March 2017. So if I did 82 miles, in a year in which my longest swim was 18 miles, I needed to exceed that, so in my head I set a goal of 100 miles for April.
There are 2 distinct challenges to meeting a goal like this, one being physical elements I can control and then the things I can’t control. On the items I can control, increased stretching is needed and an approach to ignoring aches and pains is needed. Some of this requires bravado which is not my strong point though this is helped by the reality that there are lots of faces I know at the gym and the amount of time I have been spending in the pool has been commented upon.
On the elements I can’t control, the biggest physical challenge, is an ability to make it to the pool with sufficient time and finding lap lanes in which other swimmers have the ability to share or circle swim. For those not of a swim background, there is etiquette involved in sharing lanes, there is etiquette involved in entering lanes and as with most pools there are lanes that are “stolen” from me for swim classes. In addition there is also the challenge of timing when to get out of the lane to go pee, so that I have not lost the lane when I get back (come on open water so I can just pee while swimming). I use this period in the pool to also start testing out my feeding plans, this year I again plan to stick to last years trusted approach of a calorie drink plus some chewable items.
I also discovered some new issues with spending so much time in a pool, in the past I have had occasional issues with physical side effects to long pool sets, these usually manifest in runny nose, runny eyes, sneezing and they pass by the next day after a good night’s sleep, that I usually spend in the guest bedroom due to the additional night noises these side effects create. I have over time discovered some measures to combat which include nose clips and snorkels. However April brought a new issue, really bad sections of dry skin which itch like crazy and leave section of skin (mainly forearms) very red and raw looking.
I should add to this physical side, that there are days when leaving work or weekends when lying in bed that all I really want to do is either go home to bed or stay in bed. Half the physical battle is moving to the pool rather than lying down.
I constantly get the question of is all that swimming in a pool not really boring and the clear, unambiguous answer is that on certain days “YES” it is cloyingly boring.
Looking at the same black line on the pool floor for hour after hour lacks in certain mental stimulation. There are some ways I try to combat this, one is that generally the people who swim are somewhat consistent and for many of these I have “nicknames”. As an example there is the “foot of thor”- This guy has this crazy left foot in his kick that just pounds the water and sends massive splashes all over the swim area, there is also “crab lady” (who is a really sweet old lady) but she swims with her arms and legs somehow going sideways and reminds me of a crab, there is the “masters sprinter” (again really nice guy) who has US records and my aim most days is for him to only lap me every 8-10 lengths versus a bad day of 6 lengths .
Then I do the math in my mind, no matter the distance the first 2 miles are always the worst for me, I hate the starting point. I know some people rely purely on their watch to do the tracking but I will admit that I use both the watch and I also count. The counting is also a way to stay focused and I am prepared for the occasional watch meltdown.
However, even with the above activities, I cannot escape the reality that some days swimming in a pool just plain and simply “sucks”. There are days I get to the pool and literally spend 10 mins at the edge looking into the water before building up the ability to get in the water and sadly I really don’t have the time to spend 10 mins staring at the water. However, I believe some of these days are the most important days I will swim in the entire year. During a long swim event there will be periods when the boredom will become incessant (pretty sure I fell asleep during an event last year), there will be times when I will be in the “dark place” and the easiest option is to just quit but during training I tell myself those times I am struggling and wanting to get out are the times that get me through the events.
In addition on the mental side, there is learning the difference between actual pain that may cause injury and just the general aches and pains from swimming too much. There are days I actively worry about my shoulders and arms, there are times when changing out a smoke alarm and my arms angled upwards for too long (not that long) will start to hurt, there are days when turning a door handle does not feel quite right and there are days when I am just sore, some of this is mental, some of it is probably true muscle pain but I have learnt most of it generally goes away.
So back to the point of the post what did I do in April, well I swam 100 miles, I spent about 50 hours in a pool and I convinced myself a little more that I can attempt to complete a 36 mile swim.
A somewhat Adequate swimmer