Lately I’ve been feeling like the management at my gym has been adding some sort of substance to the pool water that makes it especially viscous. It’s really the only explanation for why I’ve been training and training, and still feeling so sluggish in the water. I’ve been busting out Total Immersion drills and interval workouts twice a week for months now, with no visible payoff. Yes, my strokes-per-length have decreased, and I’ve seen a few other minor improvements, but it’s been a long time since I’ve had a major swimming breakthrough. Until today, that is.
This morning was Superhero Day at my son’s preschool, so I bundled him into his Batman T-shirt (complete with cape) and dropped him off in the company of Ironman, Superman, a Transformer, Catwoman, and, inexplicably, a fairy princess, then headed off to the pool. (Okay, there was a latte stop, some Facebook and Twitter time, a load of laundry, and a kitchen cleanup in-between, but you get the point.) I faced my morning swim with my usual reluctance and grudging resignation, but guess what, folks? Today, it DID NOT SUCK!!! In fact, today I finally had the kind of revelatory experience that my hardcore runner friends annoy me by bragging about: a runner’s high! Except it was while I was swimming! (I’m still waiting for it to happen while running, actually.)
I’ll spare you the details of my 700-yard warmup and just say that when I started what was supposed to be 500 yards at moderate effort, and then some 100-yard repeats, I began to feel like a superhero myself. I was gliding through the water effortlessly, painlessly, (but not slowly,) breathing easily…Even my flip turns were smooth! And at 500 yards it felt so good I decided to keep going until it didn’t. 800, still great. 1000, no problem. 1200, I could keep going forever. 1400…My swim cap, which had been creeping a little further back with each flip turn, finally popped off my forehead and tangled itself around my ponytail like one of those little bun-covers the Mennonite women wear, leaving me with a swirl of blonde bangs obscuring my view. That’s where I finally stopped. 1400 yards continuous swimming, a flip turn at each end, and a heart rate that never went above 130, at a pace under 2 minutes/100 yards.
I’ve swum further than that without stopping before (though it’s been a while). I’ve swum faster, too. But it never felt that easy, and I always WANTED to be done at the end. Today, I really felt like I could have gone on for miles, blissfully. Rather than welcoming an excuse to stop, I was truly annoyed that I had to. (Swim cap issue aside, I had to go pick up my little Batman from school.) But with no time or wardrobe constraints, I would really have liked to see how long I could have kept going.
I’m under no illusion that my next swim will be so easy, or that this was anything more than a lucky day where things just came together right. But I might be a little more excited to head to the pool for my next few workouts. In any case, I should probably send a letter to the gym’s management thanking them for altering the chemistry of the water to make me, finally, a good swimmer!