I swim with an awesome times amazing master’s programme in an outdoor 50m pool in the summer. It is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It’s far from home and the hour long bike ride there (and then back) to practice gets me warmed up. I love the dark ride through the city and the chance to get to see sunrise after sunrise over viaducts and the lake. It’s pretty great. I really love my team mates and they tolerate me yelling and bouncing around because I’m so happy to be swimming outside. And the coaches are seriously the most adorable humans of all time. They just really love swimming and want everyone else to love swimming. It’s a great vibe.
I had a bit of a spotty summer though. My training was interrupted by vacations (I know, poor me) and my back was still all messed up and then I had a bit of a mishap with my bike that left me sore in crucial swimming joints (back, shoulder, more back, rotator cuff, shoulder, arm, wrist, hips, both hips, everywhere . . . . gawd I have to eat Advil for breakfast). I was also tired. I’ve been busy and getting up at 5:15am for 3.5 hours of cardio every morning of the week was starting to wear on me. But it’s okay, because it’s just for fun.
Today was our last day of the summer, and because it’s Friday it was a sprint day. I’m no sprinter. Never have been, probably never will. I’m an endurance animal. I’d a thousand times over rather have Coach Bob throw down a 5km continuous swim than any short sprint set. Seriously.
Our set this morning had four rounds. Each round had a 50m sprint in it. Okay, two, but the second one always is a little leisurely because you’re wiped out. Anyway, four chances to be fast. The first one out was my fastest time of the summer. I was surprised. I didn’t expect that. Second one out was a second faster. One whole second. For swimming this is serious. In the Olympics this is the amount of time that separates the Gold Medal from the 31st place. So that surprised me again. Third round I sat out on the kicks and easy 100s to save a bit of juice for the sprints. I never sit out anything, but I was starting to think I could get down to where I was pre back injury. And I did. Third round came in almost a second faster again. Right where I was for my best time last summer. Now I was excited. I was in the third heat in my lane and was racing with the faster woman in the lane to the left. If I kept up with her, I knew where I was at. And, eff, she was fast.
Pause: let me tell you about the 50m sprint. Imagine sprinting. Then add the resistance of the water. Then consider that your time drops the less you breathe, the more you keep your head down. You need to enjoy the pain.
Anyway, fourth round. Here we go. I had the fast woman to my left. I thought I botched it around the 20m mark, it felt a bit clunky and I went too deep when I pushed off, but I didn’t want to quit (i.e., ease up and spare myself a bit of pain) because Coach Bob had called out the time I was going to break. And I do not quit when the coaches tell me to do something. Apparently I had a look on my face that said “I’m going to die trying for a PB on this round.” I stopped breathing 15m out and kept my head down and just told myself that I can do anything for 30 seconds. I ploughed into the wall.
Because the coach is tracking 4-5 lanes at once there are lots of times being called out. It’s kind of confusing. I had to check twice to make sure the time I thought was mine actually was. And it was. Another full second gone. Another. Full. Second. And that was it – a personal best. I have never in my whole life been faster than I was on that fourth round of our last day of the summer. I was amazed. Because I have next to no self control I totally jumped in the air and pumped my fist and some of my swimming people high fived me and congratulated me. It was really nice. They’re all so nice.
Honestly, I have had a long and sometimes complicated affair with swimming, but this outdoor group and especially the coaches is something really special in my life. This last year when I have been having hard time coming back from a back injury, the sport, the pool and the people in it have been such a balm and refuge. I’m so very grateful.