What is the monster swim, you ask? Even if you did not ask you should know. Because I think everyone should do a monster swim at least once in their life for a variety of reasons; mental toughness, muscular endurance, confidence, to build character, just because you can.
55 swimmers participated in the monster swim. Some did 100 x 50. Others 100 x 75. And then 3 lanes of us did 100 x 100. The catch – all of it done on the 100 interval. In swim speak that means every 1 minute and 40 seconds you send yourself off.
The first year I attempted this I survived 75 of the 75s. The next year I survived 75 of the 100s. Last year I broke through to survive all 100 of the 100s. This year – again – I was going all the way but you see last year I made a deal with myself:
10 of them would be done as IM
More on that later.
Now, 100 x 100 on the 100 is not a hard interval. Not in true swimmer-swim terms. But what is hard is doing that interval 100 times while pacing and fueling yourself. But you can do anything for an entire day as long as you pace and fuel yourself. So I showed up with my little gels, sports drink and a pace in my head. I would hold 1:20 – 1:25 pace to get enough rest to keep doing it over and over again. This is not a game of how fast – this is a game of survive.
Usually my safe place is in Chris’ draft – but not today. He is not in my lane. By some torturous mistake he has been placed in lane #1. That would be the fast lane. That would be with the swimmers holding around 1 minute pace. PER 100. Oh poor Chris. He looks at his lane assignment, looks at me and I can tell in his eyes he is ready to retreat to his spirit cave.
10 second countdown: 3, 2, 1….welcome to the monster swim!
1: I come in at 1:26 and think to myself this is going to be a long day at this pace.
2: Someone announces we have 99 left.
3: I feel the urge to slap that someone but realize I should save my arms instead.
4: Settling into a 1:23 pace and thinking – this might just turn out ok.
5: I have found my happy pace around 1:22.
6: I tell myself I can do anything on 10 seconds rest, what can I do with 18?
7: I’ve reached the point where I found my stroke and all feels fluid.
8: And then I realize there is 9200 yards to go.
9: Dave and I make a deal that he will lead the next 10.
10: The first 1000 is down and so is my first gel.
11: Only on 11? In no time it will be 99. All I have to do is wait for the time to pass.
12: Thank you to my friend draft I am coming in at 1:21 comfortably.
13: I think to myself what an unlucky number this is.
14: In the time it takes me to get through 100, 3 guys in the next lane catch up.
15: Which means they are holding a sub 1:10 pace.
16: I see Chris at the wall & suspect he has cramped or soiled himself from the pace.
17: I could draft like this all day.
18: The coach announces that Coach Dave won a free rectal exam in the raffle.
19: Coach Dave didn’t hear it but I did & I’m still trying to master the underwater laugh.
20: Dave who's leading my lane announces it’s my turn to lead again.
21: I decide to make these 10 x 100 the fastest of the day.
22: 1:20, seriously I can do better than that.
23: 1:18, not bad.
24: I start bargaining with myself – can you hold it?
25: I can.
26: Time for another gel, scratch Vanilla Orange off the list of gels I like.
28: My arms inform me there is a big difference between cruise & threshold pace.
29: "SNAP!", this is my cue today & reminds me to snap my arms to pull water.
31: Thank you for your draft.
32: I make a deal with myself that I will swim the first 50 naked.
33: And by that I mean without pool toys.
34: I think to myself everyone should swim overdistance at least once a month.
35: All of my athletes will love me for what coach thinks about at 3400 yards.
36: Dave is the only guy I know that slows down with fins.
37: Still I’m not complaining nor giving up his draft.
38: We are now past the 1 hour mark.
39: Which means there are…nearly 2 more hours to go.
40: In things like this it is really not best to think too far ahead.
41: I will lead the last 10 before the 3-minute break.
42: 1:22 feels like clockwork now.
43: Last year I could hold 1:25, I’ve worked my ass off for those 3 seconds.
44: I realize we have swam just over an Ironman.
45: I bet you I could drop 5 seconds per 100 if I wore my wetsuit.
46: I bet you I would also get dropped from the team if I did that.
47: 3 more to go, 3 more to go.
48: Goggle malfunction.
49: One more one more one more one more one more...plus 50.
50: TIME FOR A BREAK!
While everyone else makes a beeline to the bathroom, I head straight to the COFFEE! Before I know it, there are 20 seconds before we have to start again.
51: No time to pee but always time for coffee.
52: Which means I put the P back in the word Pool.
53: I do the math & figure 5 bathrooms & 30 women means I’m not the only one.
54: Did I mention I was in the lead again?
55: I'm still swimming sans pool toys & decide to keep it up through 60.
56: 1:22 is the new pace.
57: Coach Dave won another rectal exam!
58: Time for another gel.
59: I have mastered the art of spit & breathe with all the water I am taking in.
60: It strikes me that I am gargling in a vat of chlorinated pee.
61: If I did 60 without toys can I do 70?
62: Drafting feels as good as 62 as it did at 12.
63: I ask Coach Dave how fast he’s going, “I’m trying to hold 1:05 but keep coming in at 1:06.”
64: One day I will swim these in 1:06.
65: And the next day I will probably die.
67: 3 more to go until I decide I can pull with paddles.
68: #71 will feel like Christmas to my arms.
69: 1:25 – I’ve fallen a little off pace.
70: But I’m right back on it because relief is in sight.
71: I LOVE PULLING WITH PADDLES!
72: I think to myself I could stuff paddles in my wetsuit & totally rock an IM swim.
73: I think to myself – I can barely fit myself in a wetsuit.
74: At some point my arms should feel tired.
75: I probably shouldn’t think that too loud or else my arms will hear.
76: I AM OUT OF GELS! I grab a random banana off the diving block.
77: Turns out a banana is not easy to eat while swimming.
78: And that is how a few banana chunks ended up in the pool.
79: And why it also took me 300 yards to eat a banana.
80: I realize it’s now or never to start doing 10 x 100 IM.
81: I also realize I will never survive a 1:40 IM interval without fins.
82: For the first time in months I have put on fins.
83: And I will pay for it in currency of my anterior tibs for the next few days.
84: 1:24? Really? With fins you better do better than that.
85: I am racing myself at the 100 IM. It works! I make it in 1:16.
86: And I can do better than that.
87: It’s probably not wise to race yourself doing IM at the 8700 mark.
88: It is also not wise to swim nearly two Ironmans.
89: I may not be wise but I did hit 1:13 in the 100 IM.
90: I cannot wait to take these stupid fins off.
91: I’m going all the way – naked again for the last 10.
92: The coach suggests we do the last 8 at max effort.
93: No one takes her up on that.
94: I wonder why I am feeling good & can come up with only one reason: banana.
95: Then I figure out the real reason: coffee.
97: Someone screams THREE MORE TO GO!
98: Are we really almost done? I am sad. It is like reaching the bottom of the coffee cup.
99: Do I have to wait another year to do this again?
10,000 yards, 2 hours 50 minutes and my arms are not feeling that bad. Until of course I try to lift something above my head. I will probably change my mind about that. I swam 8000 yards without toys and next year I am upping the ante to two Ironmans – 8500. And what I do with the other 1500? Well, I suppose there is always 15 x 100 IM.
Why do I do this to myself every year? Listen, I am not a fast swimmer. I know that. But I keep getting better. I go to masters week after week to get lapped, dropped and have my ass canned. But I realized long ago the only way to get better is to keep putting yourself in challenging situations and to keep falling all over yourself. Each time you pick yourself up you get a little faster. Three years ago if you had told me I could swim 100 x 100 on the 100 I would have laughed. I could barely come in at 1:30. Since then I have worked my ass off. I have had coaches tear my form apart. I have been videotaped. I have gone to clinics and tried anything and everything to get faster. Why? Because that is what it takes. And I always expect more from myself. I realize that the day I give up or choose to ignore what needs work is the day I will stop making progress.
It is not easy. Progress is never fast enough. And I am not convinced that there will ever be a day when I won’t get lapped. But each year I will get a little closer. I’ll keep chipping away until I get it down to maybe 1 lap between me and the fastest swimmers. Until then, the space between here and there – to me – is very challenging. And the challenge is exciting. It is why I do sport in the first place – because there is always an exciting new challenge to be set.
Rather than swim against the current with swimming, I realized it is easier to turn around and swim with it. So many athletes get so quickly frustrated because swimming is something that takes so long for progress. But sometimes the harder you work at something, the sweeter the reward. The bigger the pay off. But you have to want it and keeping raising the bar for yourself. Maybe it’s not 100 x 100 – start small but think big.
Always think big for yourself!
When you start thinking small you tend to stagnate. Thinking small is playing it safe. Playing it safe doesn’t lead to very much. Those that take risks and think big are rewarded in sport. Here’s a quote about thinking small versus thinking big that was posted on the pool office window:
And then I found yet another quote posted on the window of the pool office. It was about releasing your fears. Perhaps you are scared of swimming, scared of progress, of swimming with masters, of swimming over 5000 yards, or simply scared of yourself.
Always go big and be unafraid! When you risk everything you stand to gain something in sport. Do not fear your own failure. Do not fear what others will say. And never play it safe. If you had to me last year I could swim 8,000 yards unaided by pool toys I would have said no way! 10 of them IM - fins or not - NO WAY! Think big, try it and either prove (or refute) yourself.