5:30 in the morning has been my wake-up call. Starting a new job, commuting, training, and trying to balance it all has been interesting, challenging, sometimes overwhelming, and wholly amazing. The hardest part is sleep. I hate being exhausted- at work, on the bike, or anytime, really. But getting enough rest to compensate for the emotional, mental and physical taxes can be a job in and of itself. This sometimes means I get to bed at a reasonable hour, reasonable now meaning 8 or 9. It also means that when I have a day "off," I usually try to sleep in, but that now means I'm up by 7. It also means that if I want to take up a new sport, like say...swimming, I have to get up even earlier, at say, 4:30.
That has been the case for the last couple of weeks. On most Tuesdays and Fridays I'm up at this ungodly hour, dragging myself and Benji to the pool and shivering as I tiptoe across the cold concrete in less clothing than I wear to the beach. The pool is heated... so they say, but my sleeping body feels no more warmth coming from the water than from glacial drip.
When I started this endeavor, I could claim that I'd been swimming (and by swimming I mean laps in a pool, not learning the basics in swim class when you're a kid) a few times. I tried twice to pick it up and found it nearly impossible. My legs sink, my body sinks, my breathing is all messed up, I get scared and think I'm going to drown, I can't figure out how in God's name you can work out and not just breath however you want to; I swim a maximum,.....maximum..... of 3 lengths (that's a "75" for all you non-swimmers like me), and have to stop for a break. Meanwhile, all sorts of folks are effortlessly gliding back and forth in the lanes beside me, gently turning over their stroke like beautiful windmills breaking the water. It is hypnotic, I am entranced, and I am amazed at how difficult it is. On some level, I fancy myself a bit of an athlete, or at least an athletic type, yet swimming I simply cannot do.
One of two things happens when I can't do something: I give up or I try harder. I guess those are the two options one would have. With swimming, I tried harder, quit, tried hard, quit, tried really hard, then quit and then came to all kinds of conclusions about my swimming abilities (non of them good). But, determined to learn, having been told that swimming is quit technical (requiring proper instruction).........and fully enamored with one of the best swimmers in San Diego..........we went to the pool a couple of weeks ago, and under his strict supervision, I flapped across the pool a couple of times and hoped for the best.
I stopped after 1/2 lap (yes, one-half lap!!) and noticed Benji-the-best-swimmer-in-the-world was ready to give me some feedback. Sweet, I thought, I can catch my breath and maybe I won't ever have to show him how far I can't swim. To my complete and total surprise, he did not tell me I should hang up my goggles and move on. Instead he gave me some really awesome tips.....Keep my body more horizontal and streamlined- put my head down a bit, float my hips, stretch my front arm forward like I'm reaching for something. It was a lot to think about and I couldn't do it all at one time, but somehow it still made sense.
I started doing single lengths (yes, half-laps) and thinking about one tip each time, focusing on a different aspect of the stroke or my body position. Then I noticed I was getting to the wall faster and with enough energy to keep going, so I extended my swim to a complete lap before a break. I couldn't believe I was actually feeling good in the water, but was amazed that with all the effort I was putting out, I still couldn't do 4 lengths consecutively-100 meters. Then I did the real math, and learned I would have to do 70.4 lengths, 36 laps, or 18 "100's" to do a mile.
And let's suppose that I ever want to try to do any sort of event or competition in which swimming is an aspect- most of them start at 1.2 miles and go up! It's a good thing I like a challenge, because these numbers seemed pretty daunting! Then I realized that the first few times I went surfing, I could only stay out for 30 minutes or so, then an hour, then a couple of hours depending on conditions. Chances were good that if I stuck with it, I would be turning laps in no time.
So far, so good. I went to the pool the other day and did 20 "100's." With stopping. I keep track of what number I'm on by taking off my spoke bracelet and moving it alone the tiles on the side of the pool. There are twenty tiles lining the edge of the length, so after each 100, I stop and catch my breath while I move my little metal bracelet along my makeshift abacus. What am I going to do when I start stringing together 100's?? Probably I'll be so stoked that I am making progress that I'll forget to keep track....sweet!! Who wants to bet my next race report has something to do with Xterra? OK, that may be a bit ambitious, but I'd put money that there will be one up sometime this year. Is is too late for a New Year's resolution????