Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Farther Than it Looks

Monday morning dawned cool and crisp with a beautiful sunrise...

... I think anyway. I was in the pool so it's hard to know. But it was dark when I got there and lovely and sunny when I left so I'm assuming that the transition was note-worthy.

Since I don't swim on weekends, there aren't many mornings when I have time to spare at the pool. On Easter Monday, the pool was open but I didn't have to work so I could afford to drag things out a bit.

Experiment as it were.

I swam my 80 lengths as usual but, as I neared the end of my workout, I noticed that the pool was pretty empty. Like two lifeguards, one lady five lanes over, and me kinda empty. And my brain decided for me that today's workout was going to end a little differently.

The first thing it wanted me to do was to change my breathing as I swam. Normally, I inhale every third stroke. For the last few lengths, I switched to every fifth. The switch is hard and during the first length, it was all I could do to not panic as I counted five strokes. The second length was a little easier and, by the time I finished, I was easily breathing every fifth stroke - meaning that I was breathing three times per length.

Normally when I finish my lengths, I stop at the end of the pool, remove my goggles, sink underwater for a few seconds to enjoy the feeling of a good workout, lift myself out of the pool and head for the shower.

This time, I kept my goggles on and leaned back against the wall.

I'm going to try it!

I'm going to see if I can swim the length of the pool underwater.

I had seen another swimmer do it and I've wanted to try it for months now. But I'm always in a hurry. The pool is always busy. People might look at me. And I don't want to look ridiculous.

This time, there was no one near me and I wasn't in a hurry.

Now or never.

So I took a few really deep breaths, sank underwater, pushed off the wall as hard as I could and started swimming. Stroke, stroke, stroke...

omigod I'm not going to make it...

...stroke, stroke, stroke...

omigod, I'm not even going to make it halfway...

...and lunge for the surface.

Probably about 12 metres.

That's pathetic.

I swam the rest of the way and hung on to the wall until I caught my breath. I inhaled deeply again several times, popped down, pushed off and swam. This time I decided the hell with the frog kick, I'm going to do the breast stroke arms but just kick my legs - hard.

I popped up again and, perhaps I'm being overly optimistic, but I think maybe I did 12.5m the second time. I paddled back to the side.

This is ridiculous! Now I'm eyeing the other side trying to figure out how to get there in one breath. Maybe if I don't exhale. Maybe if I hold my breath the entire way, I'll have more oxygen in my lungs to keep my body going. That could be sound logic or it could be completely crazy logic but it was worth a try.

Down I went, off the wall I pushed and off I went. I held my breath and got a few more strokes in before I beelined it to the surface. Fifteen metres maybe?

I was now eyeing those flags that hang from the ceiling. You know, the ones that tell the backstroke people when they're getting close to the wall. I wasn't sure how far they were from the end but I guessed 5m.

Let's try one more time.

Inhale, push, swim. Don't exhale, kick hard, pull hard. Must. Breathe.

I didn't get to the flags but I got a little closer. (a quick google search afterwards says that flags should be 5 yards (4.6m) from the edge of the pool). If that's correct, I didn't get to the flags but I got close enough that I"m guessing I swam about 18m underwater.

Funny how something can humble and motivate you at the same time.

I pulled myself out of the pool and headed for the showers, thinking all the while.

What do I need to work on? Is it my technique, my speed, my lung capacity, my body's ability to work in anaerobic mode? Am I working in anaerobic mode if I have a lungful of oxygen? Guess I should look that up. The fact that my legs and arms were tingling just a bit by the time I broke the surface made me think that I definitely need to get more oxygen into my lungs - or get better at using it.

Whatever I need to do - I will swim across that pool underwater dammit!

Update: I did some research after writing this blog and discovered that the trick is to glide underwater rather than kick like a maniac. It's the buildup of CO2 rather than the lack of O2 that's the main challenge so don't use muscles any more than you need to, particularly the legs. The best way (apparently) is to do the breast stroke and then glide, stroke, and then glide. Apparently that will make things easier. Stay tuned! 

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