To be honest… I was getting weary of pool swimming. Part of it was the combination of two 50 degree weather days in a row. I knew I was scheduled for a sea swim at the end of the week, too, and all I could do was long for the open water. I heard, over and over in my head like the mindless chant of a tuneless song, “I must go down to the sea again.”
I must go down to the sea again.
I tried not to despise this madness, but to embrace it as, simply, a yearning for spring and summer. It wasn’t out of season to dream in green. Not at all! Every time it snowed, I was grateful – it would keep the water colder longer, after all. But it was disheartening to me to be locked in my concrete box, mostly alone, in the vaulted ceiling prison, with the huge window showing me the blue sky but keeping the glass between me and my adventures.
So, when three-mile Wednesday came along, it was little surprise to me that I got in the water and felt disenchanted with the notion. I waltzed across the pool deck to my lane and slipped in and stared the 25 yard distance down.
I know I want to swim. I always love swimming! I know I love the water. I know all of that. It just… wasn’t romantic at the moment. And in my life, I make it a point not to fall out of love with anything I do. If it’s not exciting or interesting or fun or moving or challenging, then it just seems that it should be. And there isn’t any reason why it couldn’t be, now is there?
So… what do I do?
I investigated my repertoire of workouts. How could I shake this up enough to make it fun? Or a challenge? Or just something different? Nothing struck my fancy as list after list of freestyle workouts scrolled through my head.
I sighed. I wished I had a friend to swim with. I thought of the folks in the Masters group over at Glens Falls. They always make me smile! They just love swimming, too! It’s always challenging and fun and interesting and exciting to swim with them.
I remembered one day, in particular, then. Dennie, the coach, had been giving instruction to a group in a lane just next to mine. There is sort of an understanding in Masters over there; if you lollygag or take your time in starting the set, the workout will become more difficult. Dennie will make you do it IM order, or she’ll make you do it with some crazy breathing pattern, or something fun like that. It’s best not to take your time getting going. But, on this particular day, as Dennie was assigning the lane to swim four 75 yards of freestyle, I can remember overhearing somebody ask:
“Can I do them IM order?”
Oh yes, IM order. One of each stroke. I kind of hate doing sets in IM order at Masters… because I am not so super fast at backstroke or breaststroke. It’s not that I can’t do all the strokes – I can! And I have gotten better at them, too. It’s just not ever been my favorite thing.
I smiled to myself, remembering that day and that question and how excited Dennie had been to hear somebody ask her to do a set in IM order! “YES! Yes, you can!”
Man, I wanted that… that feeling! That motivation! That excitement! That energy! That… whatever.
Can I do them IM order…? I laughed at the thought, smiling to myself.
And then, I was suddenly asking myself the same question.
So… what if I don’t do three miles? What if I do four? Can I do them IM order?
Oh now, this! YES – this was an exciting thought! I mean, can I?
…but I wasn’t prepared! It would take me longer than two hours to do that and it’d been a while since I’d eaten and I had nothing to keep my energy up. I quickly reasoned that that’s what I’ve got fat for.
Was I actually thinking about doing this? For real? It seemed… unconventional, to say the least. I’ve never just changed my mind like this before. Will I hurt myself? What if I can’t do a mile of butterfly today? Well, I thought to myself, nobody said you had to do the miles continuously. Just do what you can. You do a mile of butterfly once every 10 days or so, you could probably handle it. The backstroke doesn’t hurt like it used to, and if the breaststroke kick bothers you, just do a dolphin kick instead.
And then, I had thoroughly, entirely convinced myself that I could do a 4-mile IM.
So I did!
The butterfly went along fine in sets of 100, 200, and 300s until I reached 1800 yards total. I then switched to backstroke. I was interrupted a couple times during my backstroke mile, but the second half mile of it went along continuously in a smooth, flowing groove that I had never found in backstroke before. I just felt good through the entire thing, in and out of flipturns easily and back into a consistent stroke for stroke glide back and forth across the pool.
The breaststroke mile did hurt my knees some. But I made adjustments as needed and did my best to get through. I couldn’t tell you how long it took me, but it doesn’t really matter. By the time I got back to the freestyle stroke, every muscle in my body felt warm and happy – tuned to a bright note of exertion. I felt so good and so strong.
I smiled when I finished, feeling energized and tired all at the same time. I knew it! I knew I could find something fun and exciting! Sometimes, it sure looks like a boring pool with empty spaces and unforgiving lines… but really it’s just a blank stanza for you to write whatever song you want on it! Sometimes you just need a little creativity and the right inspiration.
Can I do them IM order?
Why, YES! Yes, you can!