Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Finding My Own Pattern

I missed my Friday morning swim last week because I had a wedding on Friday night in Toronto and didn't think I'd have the energy to go from 5:30am until 1am without sleep.  Lack of sleep is my kryptonite and is always recipe for disaster.  I do not pull all-nighters.  I tried it once in four years of university and that was enough to teach me not to procrastinate.

So, long story short, I did not go swimming on Friday morning.

Which meant that, by Monday, I was craving the smell of chlorine.

So, while the rest of the city was asleep...well, except for the lone jogger I passed...I drove to the pool.  And yes, even though I was excited for my swim, part of me ached to pull on my running shoes and join her.


When I got to the pool the swim team was there in full force but the length swimmers were few and far between so I snagged my own lane.

Those are the BEST days.

I slipped into the water, armed with Jeff's novel-worth of swim tips from last week and a deep motivation to swim without having to stop and catch my breath.  The first few lengths went well but it didn't take long for me to start gasping for breath again.

I swam about ten lengths like that, panting at the end of the lane  trying to catch my breath before swimming another two lengths....

...and I thought, this is RIDICULOUS!

No one else is stopping.  Some people swim much faster.  Some swim much slower.  But, as far as I can tell, they all seem to just keep swimming.

So I decided to switch it up...again.

I used to breathe every second breath but that was a little too frequent and it was causing my shoulder to hurt.  Then I switched to every third breath which did wonders for my shoulder but left me constantly out of breath.

I like patterns so I decided to create my own.

I would breathe twice on the right and then twice on the left.  Then back to the right again.

In other words, I would breath on stroke 1, stroke 3, stroke 6, stroke 8, stroke 11, stroke 13 etc.

It's only the first trial but it seemed to work.  It had me alternating constantly between breathing too much and breathing too little.

I still had to stop but not as often and I managed to pull off 60 lengths in just under 45 minutes.  That's a new record for me.

During my last few lengths, I looked up and spotted a new person coming out of the change room.  She looked strong and fit and was saying hi to everyone.  Ah, a regular that I haven't seen before.

Then she said "hi CĂ©line!"


Cathy is one of those absolutely amazing people who both humbles and inspires.

My goal one day is to have a 42.2 sticker on my car.  She has a 100.2 sticker on hers.

She has twice(!) finished the Comrades Ultra-Marathon in Africa.  She has run 50+K races.  She's run Boston several times - in fact, this year she used it as a training run.

She cycles.  And when she joins us on Sunday morning rides, I have no hope of catching her.  

She swims.

And she's the most down to earth, unassuming person going.

We chatted for a bit and then swam a few lengths.  I gave her a few to warm up and then timed the start of my to start at the same time as hers.  It was probably a bit childish but I just wanted to see if I could compete.  I don't know if she knew I was 'racing' but I managed to keep up - barely.  We started at the same time and reached the other side at the same time.  This may be a good time to point out that, when fully stretched out, I am probably a good foot longer than she is.  So I probably should have given her a wee head start.

As I was leaving, two more of her friends walked in.  Tall, thin, muscular swimmers.  She introduced us.  They smiled, shook my hand and asked "are you training for the ironman?"

"ummmmm....no"  (but thanks for thinking that I could be)

Trying to get good at running, swimming, cycling is such a humbling experience.

But it's the people you meet along the way that make it all worthwhile.

Because whether they are training for their first 5k or their 3rd ultra marathon, they understand how it feels to be humbled.  You only have to look them in the eye to know that they understand.


  1. I am still upset that I didn't get my STICKER!
    This was a great post. The more I read about your swimming adventures, the less I really feel like doing it! It just seems... hard. I'll stick to running and cycling for now.
    It does seem like you are learning a lot along the way though, I'm glad you are motivated.