Sunday, February 15, 2015

Me and Swimming

Why would someone who has several blogs start another one?

Mostly to avoid boring the living daylights out of anyone who isn't interested in swimming.  While I have other blogs, most of them range all over the place with my various interests and obsessions.  This blog is going to be about swimming.

My swimming resume is less than impressive. I was on a swim team as a child.  I quit because I disliked the current coach.  To my grade school mind he was mean. Certainly he was harsher than any coach I'd had up until then.  So, I bolted.

I didn't really swim very seriously again for many years.  That didn't mean that I didn't pretty much live in the water most summers. All  my life, recreation has mean being in rivers and on beaches.

When I was about thirty, I moved quite far north and much further inland than I was used to and lived in a situation where beaches and water recreation was much more rare.

I got back into swimming as exercise when I realized I needed something to do that would be easy on my joints.   I worked for a college that had a swim team, and you could get a membership to the pool.  Since there was a deal with the insurance plan that if you worked out a certain number of times a week over a three month period, you would get a reimbursement to the membership, it seemed like the perfect plan.

I didn't realize until that time how important being in water was to my well-being. Swimming got me through tough emotional times, and enhanced the joy of the good ones.  Being in the water regularly was not only strengthening my body, but soothing my mind.  While I've never been one for sitting in lotus meditating, yes, like many people who swim, swimming is when I order my thoughts, recenter my emotions and let my mind run free.   I get writing ideas and work on refining them in the water.  I come up with ideas of sweaters I want to knit, or solutions to professional problems while swimming. For all that it's a physical activity, it's  my time to think.

For nearly eight years off and on, though, swimming was a workout I loved, and not really a serious athletic endeavor.  Whether or not I swam was more driven by whether or not I was presently being careful to get in my workouts for health purposes.

That changed last summer.   I was physically out of shape and a little ill from a seriously draining professional project and I needed to get back to exercising.  Wanting something pleasant, I did get back into the pool.  As I was working up to longer distances, I joked to my husband that I was thinking it would be fun to swim from Alcatraz Island to shore.  People do it all the time, after all.

My husband, who really wants to get out to San Francisco, said, "Yes, do it!  Next summer?"

Well, our travel money for 2015 had already been committed to other trips, so I suggested 2016.  He agreed.

And I realized that maybe I ought to do a little research to see what sort of training was really necessary for the swim. While I knew that I could swim the distance (it's only about a mile and a half), I figured that chances are good that the distance had little to do with the challenge of it.

Which is true, of course.  It's about currents and water temperature---- oh, wetsuit.

I'm 5'2" and quite heavy. I'd have to get a custom wetsuit if I really wanted one that fit me. AND that would cost a gut-wrenching amount of money.

Well, as it happens, I found a community of completely insane people who do these sort of swims just in bathing suits.  There are well-documented methods to condition oneself to cold water tolerance. Yes, I could earn the money for a wetsuit in the time it's going to take me to train, but something about the purity of "Channel Rules" appeals to me.

So training...

To keep myself from being lazy because that Alcatraz swim was two years away, I signed up for another swim -- the 2015 Boston Sharkfest.  That's only about 1500 meters across the mouth of the Charles, but still... I have to train to keep from embarrassing myself. 

In researching, I read Lynne Cox' Open Water Swimming Manual, then Swimming to Antarctica, then went on to read the blogs of some open water swimmers.  This lead me to wonder if maybe marathon swimming really is the sport for me, and signed on to a marathon swimming discussion board.   It was there I learned about some local open water and marathon swims in large lakes near our area.  So, in a fit of insanity, I signed up for one of the two mile swims.  This focused me even more and is keeping me on track and in the pool.

If the wisdom is that one can swim in a day what one swims in a week, I'm... well, I'm overtraining by a factor of three. But I doubt anyone has ever been sorry to have overprepared for a swim.

Oh, the name of the blog?

My name is Noël.  And I'm a slow swimmer.
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