“No school, no pool.” That’s been the rule for whether the high school pool will be open for morning lap swim. So we were all a little surprised—and quite pleased—when Pool Guy said he was going to open up the pool this morning, even though the kids around town had the day off. And he was going to bring coffee and pastries for afterward? Huzzah!
I knew today, the day before Thanksgiving, was going to be a light one at work, and I hoped that traffic would be good, too, so I decided Tuesday night that I would try to do something I’ve never done before: swim the full Ironman distance. I swam 4,000 yards last year without realizing how close I was. Today seemed like the day to give it another go, and this time I decided to figure out in advance how many yards I needed to swim. The Ironman swim is 2.4 miles long in open water; that’s 4,224 yards (3,862 meters).
Often when I do long distances in the pool, I start out strong (if not a touch fast) and then fade a bit near the end. I was determined to have a strong swim this time. My first couple laps were fast but relaxed. I looked at my watch after 500 yards and didn’t look at it again until after the first mile when Pat hopped out. About an hour in, I had covered 3,000 yards at an incredibly even (almost metronome-like) pace. And then it happened: The little bit of cramping in my feet that I had been able to swim through became a very painful cramp in my right calf. I had to stop halfway across the pool to put tension on the muscle and knead out the charley horse. Twenty minutes later I had to repeat this process for my other leg. And I still had 20 laps left to go.
What did I think about during those 85 laps? Swimming mostly. “Focus on a good reach and pushing all the way through the finish. Keep my hand flat, spread my fingers slightly, and maximize my feel on the water. Keep my legs up and my head down. Only turn my head a little while I’m breathing. Make a tight streamline off the wall.” Of course, I also took in the pool scene a bit, and there were a lot people to look at. After my first bout of cramping I started to think about how to prevent this the next time I swam long, especially during a race. I remembered a story about legendary coach Brett Sutton angrily tossing his athletes’ waterbottles off the pool deck, since there are no aid stations in the swim portion of a race. Clearly, being hydrated before the event is the way to go. As I was counting down the last 500 yards, I also thought about Céline, who had wished me luck the night before. And then I was done and feeling pretty proud of what I had just accomplished.
The post-swim donut tasted pretty good, too.