Back in the Pool

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If I owned a Magic 8 Ball, and had I asked yesterday if I should go swim laps, and then shook it shook it shook it, the answer that would have appeared would’ve been “All signs point to yes.”

Here were the signs:

  • When I turned on my TV yesterday morning, my TiVo was recording the episode of Will & Grace where Jack taught Will how to swim. (Jack: “They’re opening a new pool at the gym, Will. C’mon, you should come with! It’s full of cuties – it’s like hot guy soup! Well, except between 12 and 1, when Paul Sorvino does laps.”)
  • While going through the mail, I saw this postcard, for an open water charity endurance swim event:

More on that postcard later.

My point is that the postcard and the Will & Grace episode got me thinking, and I couldn’t remember the last time I swam laps. I like to think that swimming is a regular activity in my workout arsenal, but it’s been over three months since I’ve been in a pool (I had to look that up – so thankful I make note of every workout!).

So yesterday afternoon I got in my car and drove to the pool. It felt good to do some hardcore cardio – my first solely cardio workout since my foot injury – and over the course of the next hour, I swam:

  • 5 x 200 yards warm-up (200 free, 200 IM, 200 kick, 200 pull, 200 IM) = 1,000 yds total
  • 500 yards free (focus on consistent pace, 70% exertion)
  • 6 x 100 free + 50 free (the 100s were at 80% exertion, the 50s were all-out sprints) = 900 yds total
  • 2 x 200 yards cool down (200 IM, 200 free) = 400 yds total
  • Grand Total: 2,800 yards.

A wonderfully tiring workout. The smell of chlorine on my skin as I write this brings me back to my competitive swimming days growing up. And I felt more aerodynamic (or hydrodynamic, I suppose?) in the pool than every before, thanks to my spiffy, pool-friendly haircut!

For a lot of the workout, I was thinking about that postcard. It’s promoting the American Lung Association’s Distance Swim Challenge in August – an open water swimming event in the Pacific Ocean. I’ve never swum for exercise in the ocean (I’ve only frolicked and gallivanted) and the idea is very intriguing. The ALA sponsored the skyscraper stair climb I completed a few weeks ago, and their events are well-organized and well-run, so that part doesn’t concern me. It’s the actual swimming.

Open water swimming is quite different than pool swimming, and by ‘quite different’ I mean ‘much harder.’ Pools don’t have waves to contend with (sure, there are little ones made by other swimmers, but the lane lines break them up). Pools also have walls, so every 25 yards you can push off and gain momentum for the next length. Oceans lack both walls and lane lines, but they do have currents and waves, so addition to moving your arms and legs, you gotta pay attention, so you’re moving in the right direction (or risk swimming way off course or in giant circles). Plus, the lack of walls and the presence of currents (which may be working with or against you, depending on where you want to go) means it’s quite difficult to gauge how far you’ve swum (and how much remains), and that can really challenge your endurance, pacing, and stamina.

Oh, and have I mentioned that oceans are salt water, whereas most pools aren’t?

There’s also sharks. I’m not afraid of sharks, but the list of differences between pools and oceans would be incomplete without them.

Yep. Open water swimming is a whole different beast than pool swimming. And I’m considering registering myself for this event. Right now I’m just considering it – I don’t think I’ll make a decision for another month or so. Right now I have my upcoming stair climb challenge to focus on (have you donated yet? It’s goes to a great cause!), and then, after that, I have another fitness challenge already lined up at the end of May that I have yet to mention on this blog (one challenge at a time, folks!). So if I make a decision in early June, I’ll still have over two months to train and prepare.

I’d also have to pick the distance. The event offers 1.2 mile, 2.4 mile, 4.8 mile, and 12 mile swims. My gut says go with the 1.2 mile, since it’s my first open water event. 1.2 miles is very doable for me in a pool. It’s 2,112 yards – that’s almost 700 yards less than I swam yesterday. But I have a feeling 1.2 miles in open water would feel a helluva lot different.

So, I’m thinking about it. Have any of you done any ocean swimming, either as a stand-alone event or as part of a triathlon? How did it go?

Meanwhile, I just calculated that yesterday’s swim was 112 lengths of the pool, which is a hair under 1.6 miles.

Keep it up, David!

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6 Responses to Back in the Pool

  1. Sarah says:

    Hi David, As you know I love to swim and have done serveral races in lakes (not an ocean but still open water). It’s really fun! I think you should do the 2.4 mile race, the 1.2 mile is too short! It will probably take you between 15-17 minutes for each 1/2 mile in open water so you will finish in less than an hour and half. But before you start training for this you have to start training for our 10K!!

  2. Alton Welch says:

    No pool pictures????

  3. Coco says:

    You should totally do it! I started swimming again recently with a masters team and it definitely takes me back to when I was a kid and age group swimming was my primary activity. There are several members of this team that swim in open water events as well and I have been talking with them about signing up for one of them. I share all of your concerns though, because swimming in the dark and cold open water kind of scares the crap outta me…but in a good way.

    • David says:

      “Swimming in the dark and cold open water kind of scares the crap out of me…but in a good way.” – That’s a good way to put it, Coco!

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