6 am always seems to come too quickly on a Saturday no matter what time I go to bed.
But it’s time. Alarm goes off. Wake up. Eat oatmeal. Make coffee. REALLY strong – for survival of course. Drive to pool. Stand in dry sauna until body temperature goes from 5 degrees outdoors towards 180 degrees in the wooden hot box with the strange man that has a razor tucked behind his ear and reads the newspaper.
(he does realize it is 180 degrees in there, right?)
Then at exactly 7:29:59 I am faced with the fact that it is time to get into the pool with not one more second to spare. I put myself into my new lane which is becoming my usual lane which still makes me kind of giddy with swimmyness. I miss the first 50 yards standing in the water refusing to submerge my arms because jumping up and down while waving them and shouting COLD COLD COLD is a much better than any 50.
The doctor starts swimming back towards us and I know to get my ass moving before she laps me. The warm up pace is always too fast and anything that says drill, swim or build in warm up is always at the same pace – fast. Near explode. Today we did 4 x 150 of them. Drill, swim, build by 50. Or, in my case, 150 straight in zone 5c.
Can you think of any better way to wake up on a Saturday?
Today the lane is filled with the usual Saturday swimmy friends. The doctor. My husband. Jack, oh Jack of never will swim an entire practice without DNFing something or taking a potty break, Jack. Beth. The guy with the wicked left hand that always crosses the black line and is known to devour entire paddles in a single THWAP!
I am also in the lane. Just to clarify.
The workout is revealed. Quickly we decide it is pure evil with a thin ‘looks easy’ disguise.
2 x 50 on the :45
2 x 100 on the 1:30
2 x 200 on the 3:00
Those are not hard intervals…so what are we missing here? Ooooooooooh. The fine print that reads, “do the 100s faster than the combined 50s. And the 200s faster than the combined 100s.”
Damn the fine print. Not so easy then.
Leave it to a doctor to plot out strategy. We will do the 50s super easy, she says. We will coast the 100s. She is writing the prescription and we, the lane, do nothing but nod our heads. The 200s will be hard, but only the last one. We are not sure why but who are we to doubt an MD?
The 50s are cake. The 100s are cupcakes. The 200s. Not as tasty. The doctor takes off. I have seen this rocket blast before the last time I tried to follow her on 100s where she decided to come in around 1:10 while I decided to relocate my breakfast from my stomach to my throat. I do not do 1:10. I do 1:15 if I am lucky – like, had my super strong coffee, a good poo, a rest day previously, and a giant draft. But 1:10 – not yet. The doctor can click this off as needed. Do you know swimmers like that? They make it look so easy. Like they can flip the switch from 1:20 to 1:10 with a shrug of the shoulder and a casual how many? I have since learned she has a freakish ability to sprint anything 100 – 200 yards. Beyond that my endurance seems to give me a fighting chance of staying within 5 seconds of her feet.
But today my endurance was no match for the blast.
I realize that as I went anaerobic within the first 10 yards which didn’t do me so well for the next 190. My safety net, husband, left the pool with a hangover (just call him the Drunken Sailor, please, just do it for me) and left me second behind the doctor. No one else will step up and instead they hang perilously on my feet which are now kicking as fast as possible while my arms reach new high turnover rate records (low stroke count is highly overrated, as are flip turns, breathing bilaterally and anything else that screams efficiency when you are trying to move along anaerobically down the lane).
It's good to note that about 20 yards into the 200 I also regretted my overzealous “I wonder how much I can bench press right now” moment at the gym on Thursday.
Some things are better left unwondered about.
We finish the second 200 and all announce it was “hard”, harder than it should have been and wishing the 200s were on the 4 minute so we could stand around and breathe for a little longer. But no dice. Back out and time to do the second time through. Which goes well except for the guy with the wicked left arm who decides to do breaststroke for the 200s – and we lap him but he doesn’t quite get it so I end up with feet in my face while he glides his way to the wall.
Third time through and I get a free pass. Why? I was supposed to swim 1 hour today (thank you, rest week). I was at the 1 hour mark. But we had 1 more set. So I made a deal with myself. I can swim the last set with paddles and pull buoy. This should be easy, right? A cool down? In theory yes. When you are then leading the lane because you are voted new lane leader by way of being aided by personal flotation device – no.
The first 200 was a load of fun. I have since abandoned “I will do the last set easy” the first lap of the first 100 when I realized if I worked a little harder I could race the guy in the lane next to me or at least dangle in the corner of his eye and since I never get to torture anyone like that –I take the opportunity. The first 200 makes my arms scream and then we arrive at the last one.
I tell the doctor to go ahead and tell her she needs to break a certain time for the 200. I was half joking but then realized within 10 yards (yet again) that she took me quite seriously. And the biggest paddles in the world would not have helped me get within 5 seconds of her.
I am ready to die. Do you know that point where you stomach is churning and your biceps are ready to burst and your legs are starting to kick WITH the buoy just to stay in someone’s draft? Breathing every other stroke is not enough. Breathing every 5 strokes is faster but you fear your eyeballs will pop out your head. It is that moment of desperation where I love to listen to what happens in my head. I hear myself saying, boldly, something I always say, stupidly, to myself when I feel like it’s too much…
I can do anything on 10 seconds rest.
Because sometimes I feel like I can. Ever notice that? 10 seconds in the pool for rest feels like eternity. 7 seconds is the point at which it becomes hard and 5 seconds is approaching impossible when you are doing really fast sets. But anything 10 seconds or more and you might as well grab a snack. You can have an entire conversation with your lane mate on 10 seconds rest. You can empty your goggles or get a drink of water. You can put on pull buoy, paddles and then remove said paddles to put on your goggles you originally forget to pull down before you had paddles on your hands - all this after having a conversation with your lane mate – all in those 10 seconds of rest.
But anything more than that? You have no excuse. It’s like taking a nap before the send off. 20 seconds? You could probably make it to the bathroom and back. And so we rested (napped) a looooooooong time before this last 200. But as the doctor tries to beat the time I put out in front of her (remind me never to do that again), I am still furiously paddling down the lane shouting in my head ANYTHING ON 10 SECONDS REST to remind myself how stupid it would be to balk about going hard after anything over 10.
We make it to the wall. The doctor beat the time I gave her. The rest of lane abandoned ship at some point during the last 200. And I tried to remove my paddles which were now burnt into my hands.
The next day I found myself in the middle of a bike test. It’s two tests split by a 4 minute easy spin. As I spun my legs easily after spending the entire first test above my LT and up to my eyeballs in leg shaking I will either puke or combust right now type of pain wondering how I would repeat that effort without crying like a little girl or soiling myself…..I heard myself say…I can do anything on 10 seconds rest.
Oh for the love of being above my lactate threshold. Sometimes I hate the voice in my head. Because - I was just called out – by myself.
Lately I've realized that I’ve been doing this sport for nearly 10 years now and I’ve got no excuses anymore. I’ve done too many races and gone too far. Because of that, you kind of lose the old oh that’s too far/too much/too hard excuse. And then you find yourself feeling you can do anything strung together no matter the interval, no matter the sport. Because you’ve learned unless it’s under 10 seconds of rest, you’ve got plenty of time to chat and catch your breath.
Buck up, camper. (that's me talking to myself)