Pool season is finally upon us here in the Flinders. Without the luxury of a heated indoor facility the Quorn and Hawker pools both lie dormant until around about now each year. Last season, my first in the Flinders, I fell into the job as a casual pool supervisor and enjoyed the community and regular interaction that came with it. Didn’t swim much myself, never really have, but I did splash around a couple of times when it was baking hot and when friends visited.
This season though things are looking different from the get go. Having only just eased back into running this past week I was looking for some other way to spend some energy. I can’t just jump back into 160km weeks on the legs or they’ll break. So, I’ve jumped into the pool instead.
As a primary school student I learnt to swim and could hold a good technique. But, I would go from being placed in the ‘top group’ with all these frickin squad swimmers to somewhere in the middle because my speed was never there. A little bit demoralising but that’s just the way it went. I also cried a lot in my early lessons. It’s pretty clear then why I’ve never really taken to swimming when running, playing footy or tennis, climbing, riding a bike is all a lot easier and I wasn’t going to embarrass myself.
Starting with low expectations of my swimming ability my first session was on pool opening day (free entry on opening day was a great way to motivate someone like me to jump in the pool). Being a Sunday afternoon the lap swimming game wasn’t really appropriate but I did it anyway. What else was I going to do? Float around as a 28 year single male on my own in the pool surrounded by ten year olds and their parents? That would’ve been more embarrassing than swimming laps around them. Taking it in 50m or 100m efforts I managed 600m. Pretty good. Furthest I’ve ever swam. My breathing was pretty cooked each lap but at least I made a start on the second coming of my swimming career.
A couple of days later, Session 2 was on. This time it was morning laps and I was amongst some regulars so the environment was a bit more settled. I could focus on my laps without worrying that I was looking like a goose. Using the same strategy as I did for Session 1, I put in some 50m and 100m efforts to bring myself up to around 500m. My heart rate was never going nuts but my breathing was hard to control. Do I hold my breath under water so the oxygen I’ve breathed in has time to be absorbed? Or do I breathe out the whole time under water to get rid of the waste particles of the respiration system? Breathe every stroke? Alternate? Yeah yeah this isn’t Google and I could just watch Youtube to get an idea but it’s more fun to experiment on yourself. From the 600m mark of my swim I decided to try and swim as relaxed as the other ladies (my swimming compatriots are all ladies past their physical prime but still giving it a red hot crack) in the pool looked and push on past the 100m barrier.
I made it 200m and was finding a rhythm for the first time. Maybe, the first ten minutes of swimming is just like the first ten minutes of running. You feel kind of shit, you’re all clunky and your breathing jumps up. But then after you break on through everything settles down a bit. Proving it wasn’t a fluke I swam out another 200m effort to get to 1000m. A full km! Decided to end it there.
Now, the reason I’m in the pool is for a bit of extra training and surprisingly to me my heart rate has actually been quite low during these sessions. My breathing, which is getting better, is going nuts but my heart is doing fine. Therefore the best adaptations I might be getting from adding this extra string to my bow is that I’ll learn how to breathe better for running, get a full body workout and develop myself as a more well-rounded Outdoor Athlete.
Outdoor Athlete you say? Swimming in an outdoor pool doesn’t make you a badass outdoors person. Swimming at Goose Island, 11km’s off Port Victoria between two sailboats does though. For Session 3 I stepped up the environment a bit and went swimming whilst on a recent work trip. The ocean is where I’ve always held myself back with my swimming. Most people go to the beach, muck around in the waves have a great time rah rah rah, but I’ve always been kind of weary of it. I enjoy it as far as I can touch the bottom, beyond that, my sphincter tightens up. That’s why I enjoy sea kayaking, I can master the ocean and it’s coastal opportunities while being on top of it! But I can’t really call myself an Outdoor Athlete if I neglect activities in the outdoors that I’m no good at it right? Hence, with some motivation to visit one of the sailboats to tidy something up, I jumped in for my first ever real ocean swim.
With more confidence in my breathing and my Suunto watch tracking my distance I was able to comfortably swim about 500m between the two boats. It was a bit more annoying having to look up every now and then to ensure I was on track but the actual swimming was just as straightforward. Why not go further then? Well, I wanted to get one in the bag first and give myself something to build from. A real badass move I’ve always been impressed by is people who can swim around Goose Island (or any large stretch of open water). It’s about 1.2km around, not too difficult, maybe 30 minutes or so of swimming, but far out it’s a pretty boss move. So that’s what I’m building towards.
Unfortunately the weather shat itself the rest of the trip and we ended up bailing early. My original plan was to hang out down on the Yorke Peninsula in between camps but with an extra day up my sleeve I pushed on back to home. Because home is where the nice outdoor pool is.
Back in town and back following the nice white line up and down I smashed out the easiest 1000m I’ve ever done for Session 4. Again, heart rate was nothing big, breathing was under control the whole time and I even swam out a 600m rep. Wowsers. I’m glad I am motivated to swim for extra training and to round out my Outdoor Athlete mindset because the hardest part of swimming in Session 4 was deciding whether to just swim another lap or stop and take a rest.
When I’m running I’m running right. There’s no stopping every 25m and going back the other way. I just settle into the rhythm and keep going with a podcast or some music on. With swimming, every 25m of my session I’m reminded that I could just stop and get out. Therefore, every time I decide to turn around and go again I’m consciously reminding myself of my effort to keep improving. It’s easy when I’m thinking about my goal of being able to swim 1.2km around Goose. Or it’s easy I guess if you love swimming and it’s nice and hot outside (which it isn’t up in Quorn yet). The struggle for motivation to get in and swim would be real then if you didn’t have these things. Recognising this, it makes me aware of all the other activities in life or even life itself that can just as repetitive as swimming. Wake up, do something, eat something, go to bed, do it again. Why turn around, or turn up, each day? Because of some purpose that you believe in or the hope that things will improve is usually why. Life gets shit when you don’t have either though I guess. Good to see this swimming caper is teaching me more than I thought it would.
That’s four sessions in for the season and a goal in mind for the next couple of work trips to keep me going. Who knows where I’ll go with this swimming after that. I’m really just freestyling it. It was pointed out to me over the weekend though that I could probably complete an Ironman (3.8km swim, 180km ride, 42.2km run) quicker than I ran Heysen. Now that would be something. Or maybe swimming TO Goose Island. But that would be putting the horse before the cart. But (double but) isn’t that what we do with Superannuation? Prepare for life after we’ve ticked most of our hopes and dreams? Retirement plan after focusing on running Option #23 sorted I guess…